Another decade draws to a close. Did we ever decide what to call this one? “The tens”? “The teens”? “The twenty-tens”? Granted, we didn’t really converge on “the two thousands” for the previous decade until it had already ended, so maybe once we get into the ’20s, we’ll have made our minds up.
One convenience of having been born in a year ending in zero: the decades of the calendar correspond to the decades of my life. This makes New Year’s Eve as good a time as any to reflect on how much my life has changed in the past ten years.
Ten years ago, I still thought I was a boy…well, sort of. “I want to be a girl,” I told myself, “but wanting to be a girl isn’t enough to make you transgender.”
I didn’t know any trans people in 2009. I couldn’t ask them about their experiences. I had only heard about trans people’s experiences through other sources, and as we’re all painfully aware, media representation of trans people is, well…not great. Especially back then.
In 2010, I met a trans person for the first time, on a forum I frequented. She had posted a thread for gender non-conforming people, and I nervously posed a question:
I want to be a girl, but I haven’t taken any steps to pursue this in real life. Do I still count?
Her response literally changed my life:
Of course you count! There are lots of trans people who haven’t started transitioning yet. In fact, I only just now started seeing a therapist who is qualified to sign off on hormone treatments.
This was not only the first time I had interacted with a trans person, but it was the first time anyone had validated my feelings about my gender identity. The feelings I had lived with for as long as I could remember. And importantly, she let me know that even pre-transition trans people are valid, which was something I had never been told before.
It took me a few more months to fully understand my transgender identity. By the summer of 2011, my circle of friends included several other trans people…mostly trans women, but at least one trans man and a couple genderfluid people. It was so affirming to be able to talk through my feelings with people who not only weren’t judging me, but actively understood what I was going through.
In early October 2011, I came out as a trans woman to my online friends. A few days later, with the support of my friends, I overcame my extreme anxiety and found the courage to come out to my family on National Coming Out Day, October 11, 2011.
Before long, I discovered an aspect of identifying as trans that I hadn’t expected: People who knew me as their “trans friend” began coming to me for advice about their own gender identities. Throughout the rest of the decade, I helped several people figure out their identities and begin living their true lives, including my long-term romantic partner—who soon went on to fulfill the “advice-giving trans friend” role when our other partner came out earlier this year.
In 2016, I changed my legal name. Admittedly, it was kind of an odd first step in my transition, as I was still publicly presenting as male at that time, but having my new name formally recognized was an important step towards getting my family to acknowledge my identity. I changed the gender marker on my driver’s license shortly after, which was a surprisingly simple process.
The end of the decade marked the beginning of a new era. With my final year of undergrad studies beginning in 2019, I knew it was now or never: I decided to come out publicly at my university, and adopt a feminine presentation in public. Only a month later, I began hormone treatment. As far as 2019 goes, I have few regrets.
As the 2010s come to an end, one thing is certain: I am a much happier person now than I was ten years ago. And I’m looking forward to what 2020 will bring.