Feature by Tucker Phillips | News Editor
When I was 13, I was first exposed to the idea of being not straight. That idea clicked with me, so I came out to my parents as bisexual. Since I grew up around this area, the reaction could have been better. Looking back, it also could’ve been a lot worse. It’s been eight years since the first time I came out. A lot has changed since then, and there isn’t much I’d do differently.
When I was 16, falling down the Wikipedia rabbit hole let me to the concept of being transgender. For me, that instantly clicked. I’ve never been a terribly girl-ish person. I grew up using pocket knives and helping my dad do home repair tasks. When I learned that I had options, I jumped into research. I first thought I might be non-binary (sometimes abbreviated to NB.) When my sister asked me how I felt each day, however, I realized I always responded by requesting to be referred to as a guy. So, I’m a transgender male — a person born with a traditionally female body, but who does not identify with that.
I came out to my immediate family in 2016-2017, during my senior year of high school, and began hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in September 2018, the fall of my sophomore year at A-State. I went to Planned Parenthood; they operate on informed consent, so as long as you know what you’re getting into, you’re good.
The first change that I noticed was my voice. I went to an event the weekend after my first shot that involved a lot of yelling. My voice got rough from all the shouting, and it just never came back up. Another early change was an increase in libido, along with some sensitivity and growth in relevant areas.
Because this is basically a self-initiated puberty, I did get a lot of acne again. In fact, this one was worse than the first time around. My voice started cracking during the first couple weeks, but it kept settling in deeper then where it had been previously. I started to notice all the hair on my body was getting thicker.
One thing I didn’t hear from other trans people was the fact that starting testosterone shots weakens your immune system. Due to the fact it’s technically a steroid, it did make me more susceptible to illnesses for a while. I compensated by eating a lot of vitamin C. For people transitioning using estrogen, it’s important to have a lot of calcium to maintain bone health.
Over the first few months, my body fat migrated from where it was distributed across my body to mainly being in my torso. This effect goes the opposite way for people starting estrogen.
Building muscle also became a lot easier after I started HRT. I could bulk up a lot just by doing the things I was already doing every day.
I recently noticed that my hairline has shifted from being straight across my forehead to being a widow’s peak. One of my friends told me that they experienced this much earlier, so I may have been late on the uptake. However, everyone reacts differently to this type of treatment. I’ve noticed a lot of similarities to my brother’s teenage years, so family can be a good indicator. My facial hair is finally starting to come in well, something that also took my brother a while.
Now, what is appropriate to ask a person who tells you that they’re trans? Name and pronouns. That’s it. It’s no one else’s business what a person has done or wants to do with their body. Most people wouldn’t ask a random classmate about their detailed medical history, and those who would should reassess their idea of polite conversation.
If you’re like me: I know it’s a tired cliche, but it really does get better. Five years ago, I never would’ve guessed where I would be now. In another five years, I think I’ll be exactly where I want to be. As it is, I’m happy.
Below: Phillips before and during medical transition, followed by resources for trans individuals
Arkansas Name Change Paper (.docx)
Arkansas Name Change Papers (.pdf)
Example draft of an email that could be sent to professors, clarifying your identity:
“Dear Professor [last name],
My name is [preferred name, first and last] and I am enrolled in your [course name] course on [class days] at [time] this semester. I am transgender and have not yet legally changed my name. On your roster is my legal name, [legal name, first and last]. I would greatly appreciate it if you would refer to me as [preferred first name] and use [pronouns] pronouns when referring to me. Thank you for your understanding, and I look forward to attending your course this semester.
[preferred name, first and last]“
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