On being trans and having ~the feels~

They say that testosterone makes it harder to cry, but I was never good at crying in the first place.

One night, a few years back, when Nicole was profoundly hurt by something and really did want to cry, she achieved the needful catharsis by curling up knees-to-chest on a futon and looping Eminem and Rihanna’s “Love The Way You Lie” at an unsafe headphone volume until the faucets were unstuck. She thought that maybe the media was right about autistic people and our capacity for actual feeling.

But Norm knows better. He knows that of course he couldn’t cry when he was so dissociated from himself that he thought he was her, and he looks back on the sensitive kid who could cry — maybe even a little too often — before the wrong puberty hit and the estrogen flooded in, mushing things up and graying them out.

Norm is much better now. He tears up all the time, mostly for good reasons.

The whole coming out thing came with a lot of them, and — dammit! — it turns out there are wonderful people and beautiful things in this world, especially in these raw and early days. I don’t want to forget a single one of them.

So I’m writing these moments down. Pardon my sap, but if you’ve been down this road or one like it, you know the feel.

The feel when:

  • The day after holding your breath and emailing your parents and posting that coming out comic, a full-size trans flag arrives in the mail with a message from your longtime friend saying, “GET JUICED, BRO!”
  • That conservative aunt/uncle/cousin you wouldn’t have expected to in a million years hearts the coming out post.
  • That other cousin (whom you already know to be friendly territory) reaches out anyway, and says that she and her husband will always have your back.
  • You finally stop putting off trying on your first binder, and you see your chest for the first time since you were maybe 11.
  • Your hairstylist of multiple years gets visibly excited for you on that awkward first time back, and gets down to business like it ain’t no thing and looks forward to seeing you “next time, my man!”
  • Your grandma texts that although she doesn’t really understand what you are going through, you will always be welcome in her home.
  • Your brother-in-law sends you this:
  • Your brother-in-law’s brother reiterates, quite simply, that you are still “partners, and that’s the way it is.”
A simple drawing of cartoon Norm hugging his partner from behind. Norm is smiling, while his partner has a neutral expression.
I usually draw him making a neutral face since I don’t want to speak for him, but suffice to say he’s a good man and I’m gonna hug him as long as he lets me.
  • A friend or two says that they are happy to know you, or excited to know you, or really anything about knowing you, for real. I don’t know what it is about those particular words, but they get me every time.

Maybe I’m still getting used to this whole feelings thing, but damn.

Trans is hard, but the sheer contrast of moments like this against that baseline — well, you’d have to feel it to really know.

Software developer, autist, and lover of cake (he/him/his).