Transitioning early in life: Traci's advice

(ed. note: I've changed her name to protect her privacy. -A)

Traci is from Toronto and wrote this when she was 18.

She has navigated the shelter system there.

I also wanted to contribute the fact that this story is not like most I have seen on here, at least not the same confusion, but I won’t spoil anything for you.

I grew up in an… interesting way, but probably not to unheard of. I moved a lot, my mom and dad lived together till I was 4, then they divorced, and I lived with my mom and half-sister till 9. And this time, I was an incredibly excitable child, with a few problems. Doctors said I had ADD and then changed it to ADHD and put me on more drugs then I can count, but I didn’t like any of them, and tried to get off anything I could. I never really felt the same as people, but not all too different. I often wondered if I was autistic, because I related in a large way to the book “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time”. But whatever the case, she forced me to go and live with my father because she couldn’t deal with me anymore, and things went well for a while. I was the only person he really had since he couldn’t hold down a girl friend, and so I got treated like an adult all the time, which I loved. I was mature for my age, or so I believed - so this was a natural step. Not much happened in the time I stayed with him, but we moved a lot as well. I went to 14 schools by the time I hit grade 10, and then went from 10-12 in Toronto.

At age 12, I tried on my friends skirt for whatever possessed me to do so, and it felt… interesting, not quite right or wrong just… different. I have never been able to just form emotion to things like right or wrong on the spot. I was a heavily influenced person, almost everything I did or thought was based of someone else. But this… this was just me, and I didn’t know what to do with it, so I never wore her clothes again. After that, my father got remarried, when I went into grade 10 here in Toronto, and that is mainly what killed a lot of what we were doing. We stopped getting along, we fought a lot more, and I mainly took on the role of the child. I didn’t like it after being treated so much like an adult for the years before.

On summer vacation in 2006, between grades 11 and 12 while I was 17, I met a girl online who told me she was bisexual. Well this just blew my mind! I had never heard of that! I had always had a slight attraction to guys, but I assumed it was just curiosity, because all I knew was gay and straight at the time, and I knew I liked girls, end of story. Little did I know that meeting this girl would completely warp my world. After her, I did a lot of self exploration and questioning; I thought first I was bi, and this would rock my world, I had been picked on since a young age and I feared what this would do for me. But, I came out anyway after a few months of considering and going back to school. Shortly after, I met a bisexual man, a good friend of mine, and he told me that he was interested in female, and male, period - no Trans, no interrex, no nothing. That just wasn’t the way I felt anymore! If I fell in love, sex wasn’t going to hold me back.

So, I did some more research, and found “pansexual”, an orientation that included everyone, and I loved it. I identified primarily as straight, because had a great attraction to women. But I always said, no genitalia were going to make me leave someone I loved, and I held my options open! So, hours more research went into this transsexual thing I had heard so much about - a lot of headaches, fears, and everything else under the sun! I attended groups like YAP at the griffin center, and met a lot of new people, and I read books like “My Gender Workbook” by Kate Bornstein, “A Life in Two Genders” by Jenny Boylan, and a lot of online stories and such. The main reason this was so stressful was because I hadn’t had what most Trans have, or at least so I read. I didn’t hate my male body, I didn’t even dislike it, I still don’t, and this casts a large amount of doubt on my case. I just believe I would be a lot happier as a female, more myself, and just better suited. I find being male a bit of an inconvenience at times, but I am sure women find the same problems with themselves as well.

Now this made people pretty ancy about my decision; they believe it should be all or nothing, I should have done it this one way, and all this should have happened, blah blah blah. Well for all I know, I am two-spirited who just prefers female. I realized something in all my readings, and everyone I met, that the title shouldn’t matter. So many people spend so much time finding a title, and people forget titles aren’t destinations, rather titles are names for where we arrive, and we have to get there first. It’s just a lot harder to get somewhere without any heading let me tell you!

Now, shortly after my 18th birthday, I was getting into the swing of trying this all out, make up, being more feminine, and to be honest, a lot of it didn’t fit, which put a lot of doubt in me myself! But I realized something later on, which you will find out later on *grin* Now, I met a girl, my one and only Ex at the end of February, as far as I could tell she was AMAZING! She liked me even though I was Trans which most couldn’t say, and promised to help me transition. She changed my life more then the other girl did…

My father had recently found out about my liking of BDSM (ya know, whips, chains, hand cuffs, etc) and didn’t approve, and he also had found out about me at least questioning being Trans, after first guessing I was gay. Now, he was finding out about Erin, and didn’t like it, he knew she was into everything I was, plus about 8 years older. But she was kind to me, understanding, much more then he was being at the time. So I was handed an ultimatum. Go and don’t come back, or stay. Now by this point, I had been with him 9 years and things hadn’t gone to well. As I said we fought a lot, and when he got over angry he got… a little extra physical. Never anything extreme, but enough to shake the faith and admiration I had for him out. I haven’t really seen him as a parent since; no child should have to rationalize something like this, no child…

So, on these terms, and knowing I was going to be kicked out in the summer anyway, I left at 4 am the next day, a Friday I remember, before a long weekend. I stayed with her for the weekend, and when I prepared to come home and find a shelter, she offered me a place to stay. I figured, why not? I don’t have anything to lose, I am happy here, I have someone who loves me, a home, food, friends, and it was great! Little did I know what would happen. I stayed with her, for a total of 9 days, till the Sunday of the next week, 9 days if I remember correctly. Things went downhill fast, she used me, abused me, cheated on me, told me I wasn’t enough of a woman for her, and that she didn’t want me because I was to much of a man, yet she cheated on me with a guy, wanting me to watch at that. I was ignored, neglected, used only for her BDSM needs, and I did almost all of the work, cleaning, cooking, you name it. After speaking with a friend there for a good chunk of the night, she told me something that made me go home… she said, “You came here to be happy, and you’re not anymore. Why are you staying here, when the only reason you came, isn’t here?” I couldn’t argue it, which is a rather big deal for me, because I can fight anything.

Erin went into my email logs the next day, suspicious of me, and read what I had said. She kicked me out before I could leave, mind you on the same day anyway. So I packed up all the female stuff I had gotten while I was there, the very beginnings of my transition and what I thought was my new life, and moved back home, to a shelter called Covenant House. Never would I EVER suggest anyone queer, Trans, or anything other then 100% cis-gendered and straight, EVER go there! They are prejudice, they are mean, there rules are broken and bent, and they don’t take kindly when you fight against it. And to prove this, I went to prom dressed as myself, a beautiful dress and all. I had to change in a subway station… and change back there as well on the way home. They refused to let me dress before I left, pure insanity!

I have been there currently 10 ½ months, and will be moving out in a few months once I have saved all I can. But when I got there, people could only dress in clothing properly gendered, and the staff decided that. No male could do anything feminine in the great hall *the main hang out area for the youth in the shelter*. Also, very little support was given in the regard, when you were told to go get proper clothes for work, they had to be the gender they told you, and the list goes on. I soon switched programs to something called ROP, or Rights of Passage, they are in the same building, and have many the same staff, but are worse prejudice wise. Whenever I got a call for my female name, it was said I don’t exist and they didn’t save my messages, I had to sneak my female clothes into the laundry room, and forget hand washing before 2 am.

There is one bathroom on the male floor we all share; it has multiple showers and stalls, and a lot of close-minded youth, and once I am on hormones I don’t know what will happen. I have had safe space stickers ripped off my door, and when staff check my room for fire checks or whatever else, my female things are rarely given the privacy they deserve *I will tell the staff what is there, and not to go there, for example a drawer, and they will anyway. Or when checking my closet when I am not home, throwing it on my bed*. So far, I have made one change, and it took 7 months of me being there. People can now dress in there preferred gender. However, the washrooms and separate floors are still off limits.

At this point, I work at the best job in the world, here in Toronto. They are incredibly supportive, and have a number of staff who are Trans, and ALL staff are LGBT friendly and fully supportive! I recommend anyone to come and visit. I have an appointment at the Sherbourne health clinic this month, and if all goes well, I will be on hormones in 3 months. Also, I am getting closer and closer to full time as I slowly build up my wardrobe. Luckily, since I am a little butch, I can salvage a number of my guy clothes, which helps *grin* my mother is trying to come to terms with it as best she can, and my father and I haven’t spoke in some time. I have all my name change papers and am slowly getting the money and nerve to send them out *it is hard for me to let go of my male name, because I was rather fond of it, and learned a lot of the meanings behind it* but it will happen.

What are the five smartest things you have done so far in transition?

1. Was getting out there. When I entered the shelter system, I looked for Trans groups and found the TYT or Trans Youth Toronto group. The facilitators and friends I have made there have been amazing, I wouldn’t be me today if not for them.

2. Would be standing up for what I believe in. fighting covenant house, and showing my dad I was not his to control, and getting out of my old relationship all took showing them I believed I was more, and fighting to prove it, and is probably the only reason I have courage to go out in public today.

3. Would be not going on black-market hormones. I have had them suggested, and I think rushing into it quicker then my head could grasp it could have damaged me, and maybe scared me from wanting to do this. But taking little steps is helping me find myself.

4. Not leaving Toronto. I can’t think of a better place to transition, and I live right near the village. And it has done wonders as well. I feel so at home being there, and often attend things at the 519.

5. Lastly, not rushing was great I think. Although I am happy I am starting young, sitting down and coming to terms with everything I needed to think about, realizing I didn’t dislike myself, and realizing, not every “t-girl” is the same and not all are really femme helped! I realized that I would be happier in a female body, not as a stereotypical girl, and when I tried to be one, I felt like I was being just as fake as before.

What five things do you wish you did differently?

1. I wish I could have told both my parents, instead of them finding out on their own. It created a lot of awkward moments, and I didn’t really get to talk to them about it or explain it, so now it just sort of hovers.

2. I wish I had seen a doctor about the feelings sooner, or gotten on a list sooner, because the wait is kind of crazy!

3. I wish I had saved more as I was growing up. It will now take many years for my transition to be complete, where if I had saved like I was told when younger, it might be easier now.

4. I wish I hadn’t rushed into a relationship with my ex. Although because of her I may be the person I am today, it really tore me up, and caused me a lot of issues, and I have major problems letting go, she didn’t help

5. And lastly, I wish I had been more open minded to begin with, then perhaps this wouldn’t be so hard. Perhaps then, I would have known sooner, and not been so trapped in this male persona.

Andrea's comments

Toronto has some fantastic resources for trans youth, but it also has the worst facility in North America: The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, aka CAMH Clarke Institute. Do not under any circumstances go there.

Instead, start here:

Trans · Youth · Toronto!

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