For many people, the body we are born in is acceptable. We identify with the way we are perceived, give or take some potential physical insecurities. However, there are countless people who do not have the luxury of waking up every day in a body that reflects who they are.
Growing up, my older sibling and I were different in every way; I liked princesses and tea parties, stereotypical girly things. My sibling, on the other hand, wanted to play soccer in the mud and skateboard, a “tom-boy” you could say.
At times it seemed the only thing we had in common was our last name. We were the only kids on our father’s side carrying on the Goodmanson name, and our dad took pride in that, but for years my sibling resented it.
For Leo, a boy who grew up feeling out of place in a girl’s body, a name that reiterated patriarchal language was a constant slap in the face.
“My name used to trigger me. I wanted to use (my ) mom’s maiden name for so long, ” Leo said. “Now that I have transitioned, I couldn’t ask for a better name, it’s actually affirming.”
It took a long time for him to get to this place of affirmation. Leo had repressed his identity for years, trying to conform to the binary norms that society puts in place so as to not stir anything up.
Wishing that he had a different body played a huge part in his self-worth or lack thereof. He began to dissociate from his own body in an effort to comply and conform.
There were times when the trauma was so bad that he grew ill to the point of hospitalization.
The fear of being judged or facing discrimination prevented him from even entertaining the thought of a change. For years, he would not allow himself to look into individuals who had transitioned out of fear that he would understand or connect to how they felt.
“I didn’t want to be different,” Leo said.
However, despite the continued effort, as time went on choking it down was no longer an option. Without accepting himself and his identity, he would never have true autonomy.
When Leo was 24, he moved out on his own. For the first time in his life, he didn’t have a roommate or family in his space, and he was finally able to take down his walls and truly look inward.
He said, “If I am going to be my authentic self, I need to make this change. Even if I am not accepted by those around me, I have to accept myself.”
The journey to transition is rocky. It is traumatic. It is painful and at times it can feel very lonely.
But despite this, for Leo, this is the most at peace he has ever felt.
“Regardless of who you are or how you identify, it is important to address your self-hatred and hold yourself accountable. We can rewrite the patterns of negative self and learn to embrace our own unique perspective and experiences.”
Leo now feels like he is living authentically, and is, more importantly, living for himself.
“Yes, the change is hard, but it was harder to hold it all in.”
The decision to transition would be scary for anyone, but my brother is one of the strongest and most resilient people I have ever known, and I am so proud to watch him on his journey.
Millions of people in the United States identify as transgender or non-binary. The most important thing for queer people is to feel safe and secure. For anyone struggling with their identity, there are people who can help.
Trevor Project Lifeline: (800) 788-7386
Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for LGBTQ+ Community: (800) 273-8255
Kaysen Goodmanson is a senior studying communication. In her free time, she enjoys munching on Golden Grahams and watching videos of elephants roaming the vast African plains.