Mike is an 18 year female to male transman. He is currently studying psychology at The Evergreen State College between making quilts. He someday aspires to be a social worker, and in the mean time, he wants to fix the fact that not everyone is born with an inherent right to be themselves.
I have a cultural inheritance from my mother. She has taught me how to quilt, how to pick out clothes that go well with my skin tone, apply makeup, carry a purse. She has taught me how to be a mother, how to cook my grandmother’s recipes, how to hunt for bargains in both the grocery store and the clothes section. Because of her, I can change a diaper, soothe a crying baby, and perhaps more unconventionally, change a tire and fix a broken computer. My mother taught me empathy, how to care and be a good human being. She taught me all of the things that are essential to know in order to be a good woman, both by society’s standards and her own higher ethical standards. These are things that women have been teaching each other for generations and have been passed down and down until they have reached me. I am proud of this heritage and I am glad that some day, I will be able to pass on so much of what my mom has taught me to my children, who may in turn pass it on to their children one day.
The problem is not what my mother has taught me, however, but what I didn’t learn from her. I am coming into boyhood late, going through puberty at eighteen and learning how to be a man as I go along. There are things that I have missed out on. My father didn’t show me how to shave. There was no play at smearing shaving cream on my face, no process of showing me how not to cut myself. I got a description on the basics from a man in my support group and figured it out while my rather proud roommate looked on and giggled at the funny faces I made. My father didn’t teach me how to tie a tie, with a cute little rhyme or otherwise. It was not something he thought his daughter should know, so I looked it up on the internet. I spent hours trying to tie my tie until I got a knot that was the proper size and was positioned correctly on my collar. My mom was the person who helped me buy my first suit, because my father didn’t want to help me. The sales clerk was very helpful and showed me exactly what I would need in both a jacket and vest. He assumed that my mother was a single mom, because normally fathers helped their sons with this sort of thing. My father didn’t teach me to be a good man, because he could not bring himself to see me as anything other than a daughter.
I would love to live in a world where, when a trans man comes out, his father (or any significant male role model) will take him suit shopping, will teach him how to tie a tie, how to shave. Where coming out would be normal, and the people around the transman would help him cope with the dysphoria and would help to initiate him into the world that is men. Where people would help him catch up to what he missed out on going through puberty the first time around. Instead of being viewed as an intruder, he could be seen as an immigrant, someone to teach the customs and ways of this new land. It is this culture and heritage I missed out on with my father, a break in the chain of inheritance from parent to child. It is a reminder that society will never see me as anything other than a poser, someone who is simply pretending to be a man.
Being transgender is not often a fun thing. I get to deal with all kinds of dysphoria. My brain is fully convinced that I should have a male body and a male chest, despite ample evidence to the contrary. Binding helps with that, but with the fibromyalgia I can’t bind all that often. I spend a lot of time explaining and justifying my gender to people, reassuring them that having or not having a penis doesn’t determine manhood. I live in fear, justified or not, that there are people out there who want to kill me and someday one of them might find me. I don’t see very many people like me on television and I can’t find more than two books with transmen at the library. These things aren’t at all fun and I cope with them as best as I can, but what makes me yearn for the world to be different is the growing up experience I missed out on.