Content warning: This post has references to religion.
I came to the realization that I was a trans woman through what I feel is a pretty odd route. I always knew that something wasn’t “normal” (at least according to society) about myself, but I was never able to put words to it. I didn’t know enough about being trans to be able to identify it in myself. I had never met or spoken to another trans person (that I am aware of) and didn’t have access to any local resources or support groups. As a result, my entire process of self-discovery was based on written media, specifically the internet and books. These pieces of media were pivotal in me being able to explore, understand, and realize my gender identity.
The first piece of media that was pivotal to my gender self-discovery was the website “turn-me-into-a-girl.com“. I don’t recall how I found this site, I believe that I saw a link to it on social media somewhere and thought it looked silly. It is a pretty simple website, some text and a button to “turn you into a girl”. I read the text on the website and then decided to click the button. I thought that I wouldn’t mind being a girl and I found that I kinda liked the idea. Besides, it was not like a website could actually change my gender. So I clicked and it took me to a loading screen, where I promptly freaked out. I don’t believe that I have ever closed a browser window that quickly. I was genuinely scared: Why did I want to be a girl? Why was I hoping that the site would work? I would not go back and click on the button again for several months. Even though I didn’t see the conclusion of the web page at the time, it left me with many questions about myself and caused me to seriously reflect on my gender.
My experience with the website “turn-me-into-a-girl.com caused me to start questioning my gender, which led me to purchase the book “Yes, You Are Trans Enough” by Mia Violet. I read this biography of Mia Violet’s life and how she came to transition at the perfect time in my life. This was the first trans-related item that I ever purchased and I was in a very unsafe situation at the time. I would read this book in secret behind locked doors and hid it under my mattress when I wasn’t reading it. At the time, I was struck by how much I could relate to her experiences. She was describing the same fears, feelings, and experiences that I had been unable to put into words. By the time I had finished reading this book, I was fairly certain that I was transgender.
My new belief that I was probably trans created a new issue: being transgender didn’t fit very well into my religious beliefs. I was raised in a pretty conservative Christian denomination, but by this point I was fairly progressive in my faith and politics. However, while I believed that it was fine for other people to be transgender, I struggled with being trans myself. I was torn between feeling guilty that I was trans and seeing it as a sort of divine punishment or mistake. It was during this time that I found the book “Transforming: the Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians” by Austen Hartke (I believe the book was recommended to me on Amazon). His book presented an understanding of how trans people fit into a Christian framework that was radically different than how I had been raised. Rather than seeing being transgender as immoral or a mistake, it presented being trans as something positive and beautiful. Through reading this book, I was able to reconcile being trans and my faith.
One thing that was incredibly harmful to my acceptance of being transgender was Twitter. Before reading any of these other books or websites, I followed several trans women on Twitter. I didn’t know that I was transgender yet, but I could relate to many of their feelings and stories. However, being on Twitter took a massive toll on my mental health. It was a source of much anxiety and depression. The toxicity and downright cruelty that I saw from other trans people during the few months that I was on twitter actively discouraged my gender exploration and ultimately led to me suppressing all my of feelings about my own gender. Since then, I have tried on multiple occasions to get back into twitter, but the negative effects on my mental health always drive me away.
After reading and engaging with these pieces of media, I was strongly certain that I was transgender. They gave me a foundation of knowledge and understanding that enabled me to continue to research. They also gave me the language to reflect on my gender identity and what I wanted to do about it. Even though I was fairly certain that I was trans at this point, I was not ready to transition (More about that here: Why I didn’t transition). It would take several more years until I was ready to take that step.