Female-to-male alongside pop culture

Year in transition
By THOMAS PAGE MCBEE  |  May 23, 2012

main_ThomasPortrait_220
MR. MCBEE A tattooed guy in glasses, a romantic, a feminist. 

About this time a year ago, I watched Chaz Bono on Late Night with David Letterman try to explain to America what it meant to be transgender. Letterman's hammy reaction made me clammy with fear. Oh god, I thought, terrified.

I'd had chest-reconstruction surgery at 27, and written about living "between genders" publicly. But now, at 30 years old, I was about to begin injecting testosterone.

Going on hormones was scary. I was afraid of being alone, misunderstood, alien. And Bono complicated things for me. I didn't see myself in his story, but he was suddenly my mascot. I watched him tell Letterman, "When puberty hit, it was a difficult time for me. I really felt like my body was betraying me," and thought: fuck. This was the party line, the story trans folks often told to answer a questioning public. Maybe it was true for Bono, but I've never felt betrayed or trapped by my body. I've just always looked like a guy in my mind, and at some point I realized the world didn't see me like I saw myself, and I got sick of it.

Five days after Bono's appearance, I sent the e-mail announcing that I was transitioning, that my new name was Thomas, that as a result of testosterone, my chest would grow broader and my voice deeper. "Some of you may have seen Chaz Bono on Letterman," I wrote to aunts and in-laws, old friends and exes. "He is doing a lot of good for trans visibility. He is also reiterating a story that I don't quite share, so I wanted to emphasize that I don't feel I'm 'a man trapped in a woman's body' exactly." Because I didn't. My gender was more complicated than that, and if I was doing this, I wasn't going to simplify myself for anybody.

In June, as I learned to shave and my voice cracked, transgender woman CeCe McDonald was charged with murder in Minneapolis. McDonald, who said she was defending herself after being taunted with transphobic and racist slurs and sustaining a laceration to her face, ultimately would plead guilty to second-degree manslaughter in the stabbing death of a man with a swastika tattooed across his chest. McDonald's case sparked outrage, and I thought about her often as the months went on and I enjoyed the privileges of not only "passing," but doing so as a white man.

What I mean is: I don't believe there's anything wrong with my body, and I'm not sure if any of us are born in the "wrong" one so much as into a culture that values some bodies a whole lot more than others.

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