This #WeBelongWR story comes to us from TK, a sexual health educator with the SHORE Centre. By sharing his own story, TK leads us through the depth of challenges we can face in finding a place of belonging – a place we feel at home. A huge thank you to TK and the SHORE Centre for sharing this moving story. (A version of this story was originally published on queertransmen.org.)
I’m 20 years old and I’m crying into the steering wheel of my rusty, old 95’ Sunfire. I’ve finally said out loud that I’m a boy and I stammer over and over again “I just want to be normal. I don’t want this to be me.”
I’m 21 years old and someone asks, “who would ever want to be with someone like you?” I begin to learn that questions like this will break my heart in a way that no partner ever will.
I’m 22 years old and a cis man tells me that I will never really be a guy. Then another cis man tells me the same thing. Then another… and another… and another. I feel these words burn themselves into my skin and I see them every time I look at my body.
I’m 23 years old and I finally feel a moment of freedom after my top surgery. But my cage is slowly rebuilt as people continue to misgender me. I shake the bars and yell that I don’t understand why people can’t really see me.
I’m 24 years old and I’m so sick of being hidden from, hated or disliked by the loved ones of my partners. I writhe in guilt for the dissonance I feel I’ve created in other people’s families. I wonder if I will ever be acceptable to bring home.
I’m 25 years old and these are snapshots of my life. I keep them stored in a mental album I like to call “Things That Have Tried to Drown Me.” I would like to say it’s a short album, but it is longer than I would prefer. I am lucky, I am privileged—I struggle to even imagine the horrible photos that follow around others. But I have another album, one I try to keep stacked on top. This one includes memories such as meeting the family of my fiancée, who have shown me only love and acceptance from the beginning. As well as the moment I began to love the scars across my chest, recognizing them as trophies which commemorate that I have fought for my body.
I am 25 years old, and I have just moved to Waterloo Region. I struggle with how to share my story as I meet and interact with new people-which album do I pull out? With the first, often my anger and/or sadness pours into my story. Not everyone wants to know that. There are many people who don’t want to recognize or hear about the hard parts. They deny that those moments are rooted in transphobia and make excuses for the systematic oppression that poisons our society. But if I only open the second album, I erase my true experience. Sure people love to talk about the good parts, and to hear “success” stories. But they fail to recognize that those positive mental photos are mostly made from two scenarios. The first are moments where I learned to overcome aspects of my own internalized transphobia and found some form of self-love or pride. The second set of scenarios are moments where others extended to me the same rights and courtesies that they offer freely to cis people.
I find that my only option is to honour my story. I refuse to let the bad moments dominate the narrative, but I note that they are present. I remind myself that my past experiences colour my daily interactions. I give myself the space I need to process how this affects everything I do from job interviews to moving to a different city. My memories have deeply impacted my fears of not fitting in and being accepted in a new community. But I am grateful, that so far, I have been able to find my place here. There are people and organizations who have been mindful and validating of my past, while supporting my identity. Being able to attend social events for trans identified persons, and learning about opportunities such as the Working Centre’s Queer and Trans Bike Night at Recycle Cycle, has made me feel incredibly welcome. Further, working for an organization that is not only inclusive, be celebratory of who I am, has meant that I feel safe and secure in my employment while I adjust to my new surroundings. I know there is a lot of work still to be done in Waterloo Region, but it is clear that are many who have committed to doing what needs to be done to honour and support diversity.
I’m 25 years old and I am normal (okay, I’m weird, but my trans identity isn’t the root of that). I’m 25 years old and I’m engaged, however I don’t balance my self-worth on being wanted by another person, I am enough. I am 25 years old and I know that my gender is mine. I’m 25 years old and I finally feel home.