Trans man says: Call me by my name

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - YOUR DAILY BREAK - Amy Dick­in­son You can con­tact Amy Dick­in­son via email: [email protected]­dick­in­son.com and fol­low her on Twit­ter @ask­ingamy.

DEAR READ­ERS » Like all of you, I am cu­ri­ous about how things turn out af­ter I pub­lish a ques­tion.

The fol­low­ing let­ter is a re­sponse to a re­cent ques­tion from a col­lege sopho­more who signed his let­ter “Em­bar­rassed.”

DEAR AMY » Last month, I de­cided to ask you my own ques­tion.

As a trans­gen­der man, I was con­fused and em­bar­rassed dur­ing the Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day that my par­ents per­sisted in call­ing me by the fe­male name they as­signed to me at birth.

I thought I would let you know how things turned out when I re­turned home for Christ­mas.

My ex­pe­ri­ence with gen­der iden­tity is like this: I was born wear­ing an itchy, scratchy sweater. I didn’t like it. But I looked around and I saw ev­ery­one who looked like me was wear­ing their sweaters, and I had cer­tainly never heard of any­one tak­ing off or wear­ing dif­fer­ent sweaters. Af­ter all, I had been given this! It was a gift!

In high school, I would wake up at 4:30 a.m. to metic­u­lously put on makeup, so I could look fem­i­nine enough to feel pass­able. I was so un­happy.

I be­gan us­ing a mas­cu­line nick­name. My par­ents hated it. But to me, it felt right. I fi­nally found a sweater that fit me, and I was ec­static.

I came out to my par­ents. Cut my hair short. Be­gan look­ing and dress­ing how I wanted. I look like the young man that I am.

Dur­ing my vis­its home, my par­ents have per­sisted in in­tro­duc­ing me to others by my “dead” name.

I don’t think cis­gen­der peo­ple can re­ally un­der­stand what it feels like to be called the wrong name. I wouldn’t wish this feel­ing on any­one.

Your ad­vice was to face the is­sue with com­pas­sion and hu­mor. You ex­plained that my par­ents were also go­ing through a tran­si­tion, but be­cause they didn’t live in my body, they were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it dif­fer­ently than I was.

This made visit­ing home for Christ­mas eas­ier. I could laugh it off, which made other peo­ple laugh, and ul­ti­mately avoided that awk­ward­ness of cor­rect­ing peo­ple. My go-to phrase now is: “I’m a man, just a so­prano.”

When you’re trans, some peo­ple seem to act as though you are both the killer and the slain. Help­ing my fam­ily to un­der­stand that I have not killed their daugh­ter and sis­ter is one of the hard­est things I have to do. But armed with re­sources, hu­mor and love, they’re slowly start­ing to re­al­ize that their son and brother has al­ways been here — he was just wear­ing the wrong sweater.

— Justin

DEAR JUSTIN » Your orig­i­nal ques­tion touched me deeply; your gen­er­ous and help­ful re­sponse touches me even more.

Your par­ents did a very good job. They raised a kind and re­silient son.

I’m happy to call you by your name.

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