Family knows best


Himawari by Sugano Manami

Most Americans my age know the saying “Parents just don’t understand” coined by nineties pop culture icon/rapper Will Smith. It’s a phrase that seems to resonate among my generation and beyond. Though what happens when it’s not just parents who just don’t understand, but family as a whole?

My family life was not as positive as it could have been. My parents separated when I was eight years old, and their divorce was not pretty at all as I was frequently put in the middle of it. Combined with all of the quarrels between them prior, I gained my perspective on what a family could be like from visiting my friends’ houses. Summed up, I was generally quiet and awkward around family, not just because of the divide happening within my own immediate vicinity, but something much deeper was causing me to not appreciate them as well as myself.

The two specific kinds of expectations pushed on me, causing an internal clash with my identity, were:

  1. The awareness/attitude/mindset/culture of being black and
  2. Being a [black] man who should follow in the examples of my elders.

My views on this are clearer, now more than ever, after having a long talk with my father. He insisted that despite my individuality, much of who I am has been influenced by my friends, the media, and the American stereotype – a culture that is predominately of European/Caucasian decent. White people. I don’t deny this by any means, but his sense of me being transgender is now largely being attributed to this race indoctrination that I’ve never felt the need to acknowledge unless it was forced on me. I literally told him I couldn’t believe he was using race as a counterpoint for my legitimate need to survive and that, in doing so, was erasing my truth that brought me to this very scary, life-altering decision.

His belief summarized:

White supremacy (yes, he said this) has endeavored to emasculate me as a black man by permitting the idea of me being trans through LGBT culture despite these concepts never being present in black culture prior.

We went back and forth on this, fiercely at some points, for half of the two-hour long conversation. Also, the topic of family arose regarding me not having any male role models and me seemingly disregarding any attempts of adopting the cultural traits exhibited among black people. I was in the wrong for not talking to him or others about my dysphoria and daily disdain of just trying to live a life I didn’t and couldn’t love. Some are close with family enough to do that; most are not from what I’ve seen.

Truth be told, being black has never been something I felt the need to embrace. Being a black sheep in every way possible – from any scholastic accolades I could amass, to my own life experiences – was enough for me. I’ve always done my best to regard people with respect regardless of race, religion, identity, etc. and I have usually been met with mutual respect. I made it my mission for myself to be as far removed from my family as possible for no other reason than to give them a reason to acknowledge me and my uniqueness. That was honestly the only way I felt that I could relate/communicate with them because everything else that was being forced on me just didn’t matter.

Especially being the man they expected me to be.

Now that I am mentally maturing in a proud, black woman who actually loves herself and life while gaining the physical congruency of my gender identity little by little, the idea of having family has become much more tangible for me. My transition has brought about such sense of wonder and self-love to the extent that I no longer need to harbor a conflicted, twisted perspective of my relatives. Except, after having my grandmother shut the door in my face earlier this year, I now know two things firsthand:

  1. Blood relations do not mean shit, contrary to my father’s claim and
  2. For the first time, I just want to be closer to the family that tried to be close to me.

After speaking at length with my father and having a brief chat with my grandparents – both occurring via phone – months later, I am almost convinced that my family may never understand who I am and what I meant to accomplish by “going against nature.” They may never call me by my name, even after I have the means to correct my birth certificate. My father firmly believes that calling me by my dead name is an act of love and to expect him to use any other is a slap to the face, common courtesy be damned. My grandparents claim to love me, but will probably never want to look me in the eye again because they’re too “old school” to wrap their head around gender and sexuality being separate. None of them would even bother investigating the stories of other black transmen and women – we all must be sick or ignorant to accept the medical doctrine of money-grubbing white people after all.

“You can either have my love or have your name,” my father said. “Make a choice. This isn’t a difficult thing.”

At that moment, I came to terms with my pride and my heart. If I am outright rejected by family members, I could live with that and distance myself forever.

Would I relent to the torture of having my gender identity being erased repeatedly if it meant I’d get to use the remaining time my grandparents, father, and other relatives have on this plane of existence to really feel a part of a family who claims to love me?

Yes. Sadly, yes I would.

Trans Ally 101: Are you Mommy or Daddy?


Kancolle art by Hino Taka

A friend approached me about a transgender-related question the other day. For the record, this person has also been very supportive of me and has embraced the woman I am. So there were no logistics regarding myself that were needed before answering her question.

“A parent I know is transitioning [from being assigned female gender at birth to male]. What should I tell their child to call them?

What struck me about this question was that after having known me as a woman for some time and inquired deeply of my need to take this turn, she still was uncertain of how to approach this very sensitive topic with regards to someone else. I kept my answer simple.

“They should call them whatever they want to be called.”

What I found was that the question went deeper than that. My friend was concerned that the single-digit child would become confused by essentially having two fathers. With no way to differentiate one from the other, the use of “Dad” for both seemed to be too much. She made a suggestion on another word to use, but I personally wanted to ensure that the proper reasoning for what to call this transitioning individual – whom I do not personally know – was properly established. For her sake, and the child’s whom she was given the responsibility to provide guidance in the face of a “new” parent.

“I would tell the child to use ‘father’ because that would make his parent feel so very good. If [the father] wants to be called something else, then leave that to them share with their child what they would prefer. I know that I personally would hate to be called anything other than mom, and I assume he feels the same.”

Though I’m not a parent myself, I understand that parenting situations differ from family to family. The goal of me sharing this is moreso for the ally to understand what it means to encounter a family member or a parent who is transitioning. Also to show how important it is to be open and understanding to guide those who seek political correctness. In their attempt to learn and be cautious to trans persons they want to support, they may mistakenly say something that is on the offensive side, depending on the person. Or get bogged down by jargon in their attempt to be a proper ally, which could cause them to miss the boat in how simple it is to just ask and be a sensitive human being.

For example, she mentioned me being “MtF”. Probably because it’s an easy term that she likely picked up in her research to understand me better. Though she meant well, and I knew she meant well, I let her know I personally do not use that terminology to identify myself for two reasons:

  1. I feel it cheapens my identity as simply being a girl/woman and
  2. I feel it does damage society’s progression of differentiating between crossdressers/drag and what it means to be transgender – living a very honest reality in the face of what a doctor has deemed us, not a transformation.

Helping those willing to learn and not getting frustrated if someone does not quite grasp embracing a person’s lived reality is the best thing I feel myself and the transgender community can do to keep pressing onward to general acceptance. Knowing that my existence has changed my friend’s perspective in a positive way, both mentally and spiritually, warms my heart. As I continue moving forward in my pursuit of my goals & aspirations, I hope to do the same for others as well.

Chelsea Manning and Caitlyn Jenner Changed My Cop’s Mind


pixiv @ らつくきのこ: Mirai Kuriyama

Yesterday, while trying to hash out the details of my mother’s disabled car I was using being wrongfully towed – hazard lights flashing and all which led to the battery being completely dead – due to an officer doing their job, the sergeant that was helping me with the paperwork asked me for my driver’s license. This piece of identification which is still, due to lack of funds, from 2012, has strangely enough become ever more common for me to show unsuspecting cis people since I began my transition in 2013. He looked at me flat-out and said,

“Who is this?”

My response?

“That’s an outdated representation of me that I’ve unfortunately yet to have updated.”

Using the paperwork as a cover-up, he proceeded to lead me into the back office, away from my two friends,​ who were thankfully available to come to my aid, and sat me down. Unconvinced, he asked me again, eluding to not wanting me to reveal myself in front of my friends who, for the record, have been with me since my transition began. I said in simpler terms, “That’s me. I don’t know how else to say it.

Still unconvinced, he said something along the lines of, “There’s a discrepancy with the info presented that I need you to confirm. So I need you to be straight with me.”

With that, I finally said, “Well, I’m transgender. It’s not something I like to make obvious, but always a fun game to play whenever I’m asked for my license,” I said with a smile.

Between fielding a few occasional call-ins, he thanked me for saying it outright. Saying, “I was unsure if that was the case. I preferred if you said it yourself.” I totally understood why he would go that route. He then casually asked me a surprising question.

“You happy?”

“Very.” I replied, more brightly than before, though opting for simplicity throughout our conversation as my concern wasn’t educating him, but getting the car back.

After the calls stopped coming in, he proceeded to mention instances in the media where he had heard of transgender people, but had never had a personal encounter himself. He mentioned “that military person who came out, but looked like a man dressed as a woman” (Chelsea Manning). He had the decency to use “her” when referring to them, but now regret not taking the opportunity to share with him that “passing” is not the goal for those of us who walk this path. It’s release, happiness, and self-actualization in whatever form(s) we individually need to obtain it.

He went on.

“You really need to get this changed. You look nothing like this photo.”

“I’d really like to, but circumstances keep me from doing so.”

“..Honestly, two weeks ago, I wouldn’t have believed you.”

“Ohh..because of Caitlyn Jenner,” I said, having mixed feelings about what that implied. That the publicity she received helped wake up this man to the reality that trans persons are real people deserving of the same respect as cis people. That this candid conversation between us could have been much more antagonistic or difficult for me in getting honest help from this law enforcer. Though I took Caitlyn’s reveal as purely the media’s obsession over her physical appearance, I never thought that despite me about to be 2 years old in my transition that her actions would have reached me and this current frustrating situation I was in.

“Before then, I would have just thought this was your younger brother and not bought your claim. …You look good.”

“Oh, thank you!” I beamed, flashing as nice of a smile as I could. I was well aware that I definitely looked and felt like hell. I had stood out in the rain multiple times with various men coming to my aid to push the car to the side of the road, nudge the car back to life with oil offerings, & some just seemingly pleased to have a nice, pretty female to talk to – still in my work clothes having gone to work earlier that day. I was relieved that I had opted against changing, certain these cues had worked in my favor.

Some would say this was a win for me as a transwoman. Perhaps. Well aware of my personal worth & the blessing of having strong, genetic, feminine cues among society, winning in the art of “passing” is hardly where my personal focus as a woman lies any longer. When people say to me “you’re so beautiful”, I’m at a point where, despite my intense humbleness regarding my attractive qualities, I’m liable to take them seriously and feel damn good about it.

What I do know is that I must express my gratitude for Chelsea and Caitlyn’s willingness to take the spotlight and highlight the reality of our existence in whatever way they have decided, or otherwise forced, to do so. They are reaching people like this sergeant who wouldn’t find out any other way than the media latching onto these sensationalized trans narratives of “men becoming female”. It’s never been my way to focus on those over-publicized narratives, but the hard work of those behind the scenes in journalism, community outreach, non-profit sectors, etc. that are telling the real, dark, desperate stories of these men and women that the media are not. However, the hard truth is that it’s the former, magazine-glossed stories that are continuing to wake society to giving respect and rights to trans people like myself. The latter are building the foundation of information for society to obtain once the media has become bored.

Now that I’ve experienced this in my own personal narrative, my perspective of seeing both as powerful, merit-worthy methods working hand-in-hand to reach the hearts and minds of millions has matured. I would be remiss to not say thank you to Chelsea Manning and Caitlyn Jenner for being educational in your own rights in the fight for our individuality as human beings.