This is the last post of the series following Adam’s story. We want to talk about changes, and how people’s reaction to these can be harming, upsetting, or down right annoying.
As a female in the 21st century, I myself have experienced objectification almost every single day of my life since I turned 11. I could bet that many of my readers have, too. If we have all experienced the frustrating objectification at the hands of others, how come we are unable to catch ourselves when we objectify somebody else?
When we started to talk about changes, my inner blogger and curiosity cat wanted to talk about how Adam’s body image and self awareness had affected him. As friends, we had previously confided in each other how we both experienced issues with our respective bodies, so for me it seemed natural to ask, “how do you feel about your body now?”.
In this last post about Adam we will talk about his body image for a little while, but I feel it is my duty as a writer and most importantly as his friend to stress how important it is we focus more on mental health. When an individual is transitioning, the biggest changes, and where they will need most support, happens in the emotional, not the physical.
So, six months after he first started T, how does he feel?
Adam FEELS, AND IS, HANDSOME
Being able to recognise and accept bodily changes is hardly an easy task for anyone. There are some visible changes, such as posture and an increased muscle mass. For Adam, it is a mostly good experience in that he can now see himself, but it is not always so.
“Sometimes, when I look in the mirror I still see my past self. Sometimes I don’t see any progress at all. Most of the time I feel great, sexy. I’m handsome! And I feel much more relaxed.”
According to Adam, it seems like the biggest loss in translation happens with strangers. It is strangers, he tells me, who mainly care about his body and how it changes.
“People seem to forget that I am human.”
Seeing a close friend, a colleague, or even a relative experience such dramatic physical changes can incite curiosity. It is important we remember that we are not the ones experiencing transition, and that Trans individuals are just people, and not objects. A person, is a person. Adam is Adam whether his body is one way or another, and it is understandably frustrating when his body becomes the only attention-worthy aspect of his life.
“To cis-strangers” he half-jokes, “just don’t ask about my bodily changes. It’s so rude!”
“People mistake public notice with public right. Transgender people have to come out publicly, we physically cannot hide our identity. That does not mean that you have right to ask whatever you find curious simply because we have been ‘open and public’ about our transition. We have no choice. Would you ask a colleague about their genitals or their sex-life? Would you ask your friend whether their girlfriend will have a boob-job? Would you tell a guy he should consider penis enlargement surgery? If not, then why would you ask me, my partner or my family about these private matters?”
HE IS PASSING
A funny thing happened the day Adam and I met to start working on this post. We were walking through a park in London, when we agreed to stop a passer by and get our picture taken. You can see it below. A man who seemed to be ready for a rugby match was stretching, so I went ahead with my DSLR and asked him to take a picture of us. Adam had stayed behind. The maybe-rugby-player gleefully obliged to his photographer duties. After the required safety shots were taken, the rugby player approached us and specifically handed the camera over to Adam. Why? My feminist self says it is because of patriarchy and because Adam is the man so he must own the camera. You may disagree.
When talking about more social changes that he has experienced, Adam has a lot to say about how his position in contemporary London has changed. He is listened to, and his opinion is taken into account more often. He is handed the bill when he and his partner go on dates, and he is perceived to be stronger and more independent. However, as much as this might seem a benefit or a privilege, it just goes to show that sexism in society is very much real. For Adam, discovering this changes can be a frustrating experience. He notices that he is taken more seriously just because now he is a man, but at the same time he is aware that when he explains trivia about many topics it is suddenly seen as “mansplaining” and not as a natural curiosity (as it was seen as pre testosterone).
Passing, and coming to terms with it, has not been easy. He used to be wary of claiming his identity as man because he saw many men in society and the way they are portrayed by the media as arrogant, greedy, and ignorant. “When you have never belonged, you are looking for a way to feel”, he says.
“I realised that even though some men are like that, I didn’t have to. Feeling like a man is feeling like a common human being, like being me. I progressively discovered that I had been there all along. I had always been me.”
So there wasn’t an AHA! moment when he finally waved the Manly Flag in front of his friends. There wasn’t a manliness ceremony. “It was a bit anticlimactic”, he tells me. “I am much more emotionally whole, now”.
Embracing his identity as a man has also opened his eyes to transphobia in feminist spaces. Where he was before welcome and included in conversations, Adam tells me that some have confessed that they don’t see him as “one of us” anymore. The argument for this, in my opinion, is quite silly. After all, feminism is the socio-academic movement to fight oppression and discrimination, and as such we must embrace and cherish all trans individuals the same way we cherish all women’s experiences. In Adam’s words: “I didn’t lose my brain when I started T!!”.
HE HAS DISCOVERED HIS AUTHENTIC SELF
“I feel like now I am being my raw self”
Because of this, he is not shaken up by those who can’t understand him or who want to hurt him. He tells me that he has become a lot more selective with his friendships, and that ill-mannered comments no longer take a hit on his self esteem.
“I can’t get hit under the belt any more. I can see who would or wants to hurt me”
The biggest change of all, though, is that he is not so self-aware anymore. He has stopped feeling his own presence in a room. With authenticity, with coming into being oneself, there is inner peace that replaces anger and frustration.
Throughout his life, and especially in the last six months, Adam has experienced life changing moments. Everything moved a lot faster than he thought he would. I asked him how he feels about this blog now in comparison to when we started narrating his story: “I was worried about what people would think, but I have realised that I cannot control it. I can only hope people see it as a positive insight.” When thinking of the trans experience and of coming out, he explains that life is just a staircase we all have to climb. When you are trans, you reach a step in your life that is higher to what others have faced. Climbing it is a lot more difficult but there isn’t any other choice. “Coming out”, he argues, “is a realisation and a necessity – not a choice”. I ask him what are his hopes for the future, what his life will look like:
“I just want a normal life, but I will never be heteronormative – whether I look like it or not in others eyes. My experience so far is that I have had the most queer and unique life.”
And this is Adam’s story as a trans man. This is his story but also the story for many people all across the world. While living in a cosmopolitan city like London and New York can offer a certain level of safety for trans and other queer individuals, we must not forget that transphobia is a real issue. Let’s not forget the law in North Carolina, and that transgenderism is seen as a mental illness (sometimes even banned) in the entire world. As modern social beings, it is our duty to educate ourselves and to step up when we are needed. Society, if you will, is just a big team.
Join me next week to read Arley’s story. Arley is Adam’s partner, and they share their insight into relationships, loyalty, and mental health crucial to understand what being in a queer relationship feels like.