By: Jean Samick
“Transgender’ is an umbrella term for those whose gender identity, expression or behaviour does not match or conform to the gender they were assigned at birth. Gender identity refers to an emotional state or sense of being, as opposed to gender expression which is the method that a person conveys their gender to others. A person may identify with “feeling’ male or female, while they dress or wear their hair in a certain way to express the gender they want to project to the public differently.
Sara was born a male but has always identified emotionally as a female. She began dressing in women clothes years ago and recently came out as a female. She gave me some insight into the differences between the two concepts of identity versus expression. “I will always be the person I've grown into, I just don't want to be seen as a male.” She says, “acceptance instead of denial made me realize that I truly wanted and needed to live life as a female to be comfortable in my own skin. These realizations came very shortly after accepting that these thoughts and feelings were here to stay. My transition is as much mental and emotional as it is physical, and being at the beginning of this is very complicated and confusing.”
Sara explains she didn’t want to lose the person she had been as a man; she simply wanted to incorporate some of those traits with new, more feminine ones. “I’ve basically just had to re-learn how to be myself, which I'm noticing has always been in me. Once I opened my eyes to this I started to feel more comfortable with girly things and colours in my life,” She says, “I began to consider fully transitioning and began to research everything transgender and what kind of journey I would be embarking on.”
She explains that the transition process, including surgery, is complicated and can be potentially expensive. It’s easy to become discouraged by these barriers, but she pushed past them undeterred. “Every day I became more and more sure that it was something I needed to do. Once I decided to go through with this, I knew in my heart that this was right. My instincts knew and everything inside me told me I was on the right path, but to this day my brain still has its doubts.”
Things like jeopardizing a business, losing friends and potentially a life of loneliness romantically were all on her mind, but in the end she received nothing but support from friends and family. “I've received enormous amount of support and consider myself extremely lucky to have that. From the people I've met online I've received a lot of support to help me get to the point of coming out. Once I started to come out I received even more.”
The relief was overwhelming for her, giving her a newfound peace of mind. “My whole family is being very amazing about everything even though they have a very hard time understanding and even believing that it's real. My closest friends seemed to take it well at the beginning and the support from people I know who are on Facebook has been almost staggering and majorly surprising! I went into this expecting to lose a lot of friends, and in turn I've actually made some new amazing friends.”
“The trans community is bigger than I would have assumed, but it's not huge and there are still many trans men and women who haven't been able to accept who they really are yet.” She says, “I am still going to a PTS (Pink Triangle Services) support group for mainly transgender men and women. It's a slow and hard process in Ottawa; not enough doctors or people who know how to handle this. Waiting lists for doctors and counselling are long and it's hard to get in the system.”
Struggles aside, Sara wouldn’t have it any other way now that she’s out. “I now am in the process of finding who I truly am, which is also very exciting as well as scary. I also have a new comfort in my own skin and even though I'm not fully transitioned, I feel better in my skin. For the very first time in my life, I can honestly say I love myself!”
For those seeking support in Ottawa, check out Pink Triangle Services, Ottawa’s Gender Freedom support group or the CHEO Gender Identity and Diversity group. There is also a list of service on the HealthLine website for the diverse groups that fall into all of the grey areas of the sexual identity spectrum. So if you’re out there and you think you’re alone, Sara assures you… You aren’t.