This weekend (Jan 3-5), I attended T*Camp.
A friend of mine told me about it sometime in October, so I filled out the application in about 5 minutes and didn’t think much about it. On November 14th, I got an email saying that I was selected to attend T*Camp. There was a deadline (Nov 25) to respond to the email to say whether or not we still wanted to attend. I didn’t really know what to do. I wanted to go, but I would have to interact with new people and talk about things that I may have been avoiding or have never even thought of, etc.
I’m a worrier. Especially when it comes to putting myself into new situations. I almost feel like if I’m going to an established group or social setting that I’m intruding into a space I don’t belong. Those worries aside, almost all of my interactions with other trans* people have been through the safety of the internet. Four days after receiving the email, I went ahead and said that I was still interested in attending.
I put it out of my mind as school (midterms and finals), the Reindeer Games, and traveling for the holidays took up all of my energy and time. But after New Year’s, T*Camp became a reality for me. I considered making various excuses for why I could not go, such as the fact that I was getting over a cold, all the up until I got into my car to drive to campus. I made it though. I drove to campus, parked my car, and carried my stuff to the meeting location on my campus.
There was no turning back.
Fast forward to the end of the weekend. It was an amazing experience for me. I won’t go too much into the details since I’ll probably cover this in later blog posts, but there were many discussions I was a part of: labels and how they have affected us, navigating through life as a person on the transmasculine spectrum, white privilege, and self care.
I thought I had thought a lot about my gender identity up until this weekend, but I realized that I’ve only begun to scratch the surface. I met people from all over the spectra of gender identity and gender expression. I got to hear views that I hadn’t had much exposure to in the past. This has caused a lot of introspection for me.
When I was younger, I strongly identified with being a lesbian. Shortly after I came out to my family, I joined the military. It was during the DADT days, but I proudly wore my rainbow gear. I was as out as I could be without getting kicked out.
I let this label control who I was and who I loved. I didn’t want to be seen as girly at all. I struggled with my attraction to guys. I couldn’t be attracted to guys; I was very obviously lesbian. Being a lesbian gave me a sense of community, and I didn’t want to lose that. On the other hand, people used to call me butch and baby dyke. I hated it, but I didn’t know why.
Years later, I finally was able to let go of this label. I allowed myself to be attracted to people for who they were and not because of their genitalia. I feel like this freed me.
But then, I didn’t know how to express myself. If I didn’t identify as a lesbian, I thought maybe I should try to be more “feminine.” For two years, I went out of my way to buy (and wear) clothes that were made for female bodied people. I’d look longingly at all the clothes that I wasn’t “supposed” to wear. I even went so far as to wear a dress for a more formal occasion (November 2012). I felt like I was in drag. Everyone said I looked great, but I felt terrible. I thought they were just being nice; I felt like some sort of freak in a dress.
A few months after that incident, I came across a YouTube video of someone’s one year on testosterone video. It was like getting hit with a ton of bricks. I must have watched it ten times in one night (while I should have been working on a school project). Over the next couple of days, I watched other transition videos. I knew then that I was trans. Or maybe I should say I was sure. I knew from an early age that I didn’t identify with being female, but I didn’t know what to call it or that there were others, etc.
I am now over 8 months on testosterone. I thought I had my gender identity figured out. I was a male, of course. But then, I attended T*Camp and met and interacted with quite a few people who identify as genderqueer or agender or even bigender.
And the questions began.
What does it even mean to be masculine or feminine? Society tells us what is masculine and feminine, and these things vary from culture to culture even. How can I base my gender identity on interests that are deemed typically masculine? I like things that are considered feminine too. Does that mean I’m not a man? Am I genderqueer?
Now, I had thought about some of this after reading some blog posts written by Jamie, but at T*camp though, there wasn’t life or distractions to get away from my thoughts. I’m not sure I’ll ever have the answer to these things. I know for some people labels can be very liberating, but for me, I could do without them. One thing I have learned though is to not limit myself by adhering to the ideal of a label. I am who I am. I could have fallen prey to the thoughts that I have to act a certain way just because I identify as male, but I will never be a typical guy.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend T*Camp and meet the awesome people that I did. I’m glad I pushed myself to overcome the anxiety I felt with throwing myself into a completely foreign situation. I believe that the people and experience have made me a better person.