LOOK LIKE YOURSELF

THEIR STORIES: Shane

When did you realize you don't relate to your birth gender?

I’m not sure that there was ever one perfect lightbulb moment.  I know it’s kind of anticlimactic but I think that it was more of a gradual unfurling of revelations that lead me to realize that I genuinely was not a cis person.  While, in retrospect, I can realize that being horrified when the other 5-year-old in the sand box laughed at me and said that one day I was going to grow huge boobs was very clearly gender dysphoria I can’t say that my mind then immediately went to “well maybe it’s because I’m this”.  The word transgender, or even the hypothetical concept of being able to exist as anything other than as the girl that the world had seen me as since a picture on a sonogram. 

How did you deal with that mentally & physically?

While I didn’t know the word transgender, what I did know was that I did not like myself.   My depression was severe by the time that I was 11 or so.   However, because I did not know any out trans people or have any queer connections at that time I didn’t consciously recognize that I was another gender, I just thought that I was broken. 

Give me glimpse of the inside you verse your outward appearance.

I always wanted to be one of those beautiful emo boys or flamboyant rock stars.  I saw myself being tall, skinny, flat-chested and everything else that I saw androgynous to be.  It’s honestly taking me some time to come to terms with the fat, short, big chested, crippled body that I call my home.  Part of why I am excited to be a part of this project is because I never really see myself represented and I know how beneficial it would have been to my self-image to have seen a picture of someone like me. 

How would you prefer people to address you? pronouns, preferred name etc

Shane is my preferred name and any gender-neutral pronouns are ideal for me, I do however accept he/him/his ones as well.  I usually present myself as a femme boy. 

What does gender identity mean to you? 

I think that gender is an incredibly complicated topic on which it is difficult to make a blanket statement.  Our gender identities are influenced by factors ranging from neurologic makeup to the systems and perceptions of gender within our culture and/or ethnicity. Even the fact that I am both disabled and on the autism spectrum impact the way that I perceive my own masculinity. For everyone’s sake I will resist the urge to go on a long anthropological rant and just say that gender is complicated and every person has the right to present in the way that they are most comfortable and should have their identity respected.  Personally, I’m not sure that there is another person on the planet who perceives their gender in the exact way that I see my own.  I think that it is less important that we truly understand all aspects of gender than it is that we just recognize and respect each person as whatever gender they tell you that they are. 

Was there someone in your life that helped you start to see your authentic/true self? Tell me about how they helped you/who they are/

There have been a few influential people in my transition journey.  Getting to hear Laverne Cox speak at Upenn a few years ago was an illuminating experience that really made me realize that it was time to address this part of myself.   Laura Jane Grace’s music has also absolutely been lifesaving for me and has gotten me through a lot of the darker moments.  In terms of my personal life I am still grateful to the beautiful, out trans girl that I met at my dorm’s mixer before the start of my sophomore year, who I am still honored to call one of my close friends.   I also will be forever grateful to a few different trans women in the Philadelphia community who were maternal towards me and helped me access the resources that I needed and welcomed me into the trans community. 

Talk to me about your struggles with identity and how you've grown to overcome them.

I think that one of the biggest misconceptions that most people have about transitioning is that there is some magical moment where you inject the right hormone or have a certain surgery and suddenly a switch is flipped and all is right  with the world.  Transitioning is not a linear process.  It’s been exhausting, frustrating, terrifying, depressing and is the best thing that I have ever done for my wellbeing and happiness.  

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