A Longer Explanation

What follows is another tale of a student who took an LOA and wasn’t working for a fancy engineering company.

I try not to publish my own personal stuff on Frankly Speaking and that’s just my own weird thing. I’m not sure at what point I’m over-sharing or just talking about stuff that no one really wants to read.

But when people ask me “how was your LOA” or “what did you do for your LOA,” in most cases, I don’t really want to get into explaining exactly what I did, either because I don’t have time to sit down and walk through the process or because I know that they’ll just be like “oh, cool” without really knowing what I’m saying. I say that it was good and that I took some AHS classes. Sometimes I’ll even include that my parents moved and I had to build a steel cable fence around the entire perimeter of the yard. But I stop there, and I’ve finally realized I’m not doing justice to the last 8 months of my life.

My name is Jayce Chow. I’m 22 years old, I’m a junior majoring in Mechanical Engineering, and I’m a transgender man.

For those of you that don’t know, transgender is the label for when you don’t feel like your gender (typically man or woman) is aligned with your sex (male, female, intersex). In my case, I’m female by birth but feel like a man. Many trans people socially transition by dressing differently, going by a different name or pronoun, and physically transition through hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and/or surgery. One thing to note is that none of these changes are required for someone to be trans.

I began socially transitioning the summer following my freshman year. I sent out a school wide email letting everyone here know what was going on, asking them to use a different name and different pronouns. (For those that are curious, there was no problem with the name, but humans are remarkably steadfast in their pronoun usage).

Anyway, on to the LOA. By March last year, 6 months of hit or miss pronouns had really started getting to me. I began talking with an LGBT HRT clinic near my parents’ house, and found out that they would need me to be frequently available for various blood tests over the course of a 6 month period. That ruled out starting hormones over the summer.

And so it was in a hotel room in Seattle that I called my mom and asked how she would feel about housing me for the summer and then some.

That was the plan. Go home, hopefully be able to start hormones. But I’m also very old for my grade and wanted to graduate before I was 24 (I started preschool a year late because my mom thought I was too antisocial, and I got waitlisted at Olin and took a gap year). The solution was to take summer classes.

Thankfully, one of the colleges near my house had a decent set of summer classes. I took Intro to: Intellectual Property Law, Children’s Book Illustration, History of Children’s Literature, Writing for the YA Reader, Screenwriting, and Creative Writing. I even got my AHS concentration out of it.

While taking these classes, I was cleared to begin hormone therapy. That involves injecting .5mL of “depo-testosterone” into a muscle in my thigh every week. Testosterone can change the pitch of your voice, metabolism, body fat distribution, body and facial hair, blood pressure, head hair, and mood. Any and all of these are fairly arbitrary, but most guys see some moderate improvement in most, if not all, areas.

And it took a few months to see any changes. During that time, I was waiting for September to roll around to meet with a surgeon for a top surgery consultation. Top surgery refers to removing breast tissue from a patient’s torso. This can be done as easily as lyposuctioning out a small bit of fat to a full double incision mastectomy (what I had).

This was the change that I had been looking forward to for the longest, so getting a surgery date was an incredibly happy moment. Aside from having a general fear of needles being in my veins (just needles anywhere else are fine) and my anesthesiologist telling me the anesthesia could kill me, surgery went off without a hitch. (side note: many trans men fundraise to cover the cost of top surgery because their insurance doesn’t cover it. Mine does, but it’s also a “disaster plan,” which means that the deductible is designed for someone going through cancer and is rather high).

The feeling of not having something on my chest was incredible. And it wasn’t strange for me. It didn’t give me pause; I wasn’t self conscious about stand up paddle boarding with my shirt off a few weeks later.

I got to wear shirts that I had given up on for how dysphoric they made me feel. I was able to literally roll out of bed and leave the house having overslept for an appointment without having to bother to take the time and bind my chest.

I finally physically felt like me.

The last big hurdle I crosses on my LOA was getting my name and gender legally changed. If anyone has ever experienced a legal name change, you know it’s ridiculous. There is so much paperwork and so many forms, and most American citizens have 3-4 forms of identification that all have to be handled separately.

Going to court and getting a form signed by a judge was easy. 3 different DMV visits because of unacceptable photocopies and the fact that their website doesn’t give you actual information is hard. Getting a new passport when you can only make an appointment via phone call and the lines are perpetually busy is hard. Updating your birth certificate when you literally have to send away for the form because God forbid you print it off the Internet is hard.

But I did it. That’s the biggest thing, for me. I got through one of the strangest periods of my life, and I came out a lot happier.

People still occasionally use the wrong pronouns. There are still days where I look at my body and wish it was different. I’m still a little hesitant when there’s ‘guys’ and ‘girls’ and ‘me’ and I don’t quite know which group I’m supposed to be in.

These things will become less prominent issues as time goes on, but they’ll probably always be there.

So. What did I get out of my LOA?

I got a new name. I got voice cracks, acne, and body hair. I got a new chest.

I learned that while time waits for no one, waiting for time isn’t an option either. And as many middle-aged adults will tell us (though generally in regard to travel), we’re not gonna have the time to do this stuff later.

I needed to get on with my life without the setbacks of my body. It only took 8 months and some make up school work. Just a really long sick day.

If you have any questions and are vehemently opposed to Google, feel free to come talk with me. I’m happy to tell you about my experiences while reminding you that I do not speak for the entire trans population. What I will not talk about: whether or not I’ll have more surgery; if I’m “done” transitioning; my sexuality. Maybe someday I will, but for now, I’m happy saying that some parts of my life are private. Thank you for reading. I hope some of what I’ve said has at least caused you to think.

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