Seven years ago today, it took watching a series—about a decade after its debut and closure—about gay people to realize I wasn’t gay, I wasn’t a ”transmasculine, agender, gynephilic individual” … I was simply transsexual.
That’s right, I’m talking about Queer As Folk, the American version airing from 2001-2005. Yes, the series doesn’t deal with with people of color. Yes, it was biphobic. Yes, trans people were caricatured. For it’s day, though, it was still ground-breaking. People recovering and surviving with HIV. Some gays were players, but others wanted a “heteronormative” relationship (I really identified with Michael [played by Hal Sparks] on that point). May-December relationships. Gay bashing. Interreligious relationships. Showing how some families were immediately supportive, others would never come around; and other families taking a while but come to at least tolerate on some level their kid will always be gay, will have issues with legal and familial arrangements (like wills and torts, adoption was actively being ban at the time). And the characters came from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, to show we weren’t all “affluent”.
I was watching the biphobic episode where the lesbians Melissa’s and Lindsay’s relationship were threatened by Lindsay’s attraction to a male curator hosting an art gala. In this episode (along with others), I got to see Melanie’s body, who had a very tomboyish build, not unlike mine (minus the fact I was fat). Something inside me just wasn’t clicking, as I couldn’t identify again with being female, with such a physique. I always pictured myself having more a muscular, less-curvy build. And when I saw the characters Ben and Michael without their shirts on, it finally hit me.
I never saw The L Word, because of how it oversimplified lesbianism; Daniela Sea’s character wasn’t even enough for me to want to watch it (because until very recently I didn’t realize her character was “trans”).
I couldn’t identify with my body. While it was very hard for me to keep and maintain a connection to the male side of me, it just finally clicked.
A trip to a homeless shelter again later that summer, this time for women and children, would solidify that truth about myself.
There is something in ourselves, we have an idea of how our body’s anatomy should be. Parts like curves, breasts, lack of facial hair, the gonads I did or didn’t have, it was all finally coming to fruition. After years of putting off exploring this side to who I am—whether because of childrearing, returning to school, trying to find and maintain a steady job—I finally just said “fuck it” to the universe.
It wasn’t all fun. I lost many friends who said I was still “latently lesbophobic” because of years of suffering from conversion therapy (for being both butch and being a lesbian). I didn’t out myself to my boss till the second day I got hired at the next job I would manage to keep for almost 5 years, fearing I wouldn’t get hired. I wouldn’t be considered a “son” till I full transitioned medically. I would have to challenge people who insisted on misgendering me as a woman till my appearance masculinized enough that calling me “miss” would make them look bad.
Hal Sparks’ character, Michael, is my favorite. Despite being gay, he just wanted to marry and have kids, a “normal” life, like his straight friends—I want to find a girlfriend, marry her, have pets, and live something “normal”, too. While rebooting the series to reflect modern themes, I hope the feeling of what made the original great doesn’t get lost. I look forward to watching it.
The story takes a strange turn…
Update on 4/29/2021: Sometimes looking back for something else (in this case something on John Green), showed up some old posts from around the interwebs.
I don’t know when it originally hit. I guess I did identify as far back as 2011, if not earlier, but it just wasn’t safe to openly live as one. This time in my life is somewhat fuzzy because it was a rough time for me, and much of it I’ve locked up. I have spent more time at this point now living as a part of the LGBT community, and even far longer as someone who was always gender variant, both in presentation and role I took in society.