Jay, in his own words: “I was an awkward middle schooler going through puberty the first time that I saw a photo of two men kissing and it immediately made sense to me. I knew by the time that I was 13 that I wasn’t straight, but it took me several coming-outs and a lot of soul-searching to really figure out where I fit into the LGBTQ+ family. As a teenager in Florida the term “queer” as an identifying term was not circulating within my social circles, so I identified as gay. But as a girl dating another girl, people would hear this and say “oh, you’re a lesbian”, but I wasnt. And I didn’t have the terminology or the understanding to figure out exactly why, much less explain that to others. I knew I was attracted to men, but not as a woman. I also knew I was attracted to women, but that I wasn’t a lesbian. When I started identifying as trans things started to come into focus. And when I first hooked up with a cis guy as a male-identified person, I felt liberated. For the first time, all of my bulbs were illuminated at once. My gender and sexuality were finally harmonizing in a way that I didn’t think was possible when I was younger. It’s been six years since I first started going by male pronouns and three years since I started taking testosterone. Within that time, my identity has naturally changed shape as I continue to grow as a person and form new relationships with myself and others. At this moment in time, I identify as a queer non-binary trans-masculine person and my pronouns are he/his/him. I date people of all gender identities/expressions, and identifying as queer has allowed my sexual identity and my gender identity to grow together instead of conflict like they used to. I assume that my identity will continue to shift throughout my life, but I know that my roots are firmly planted in my identity as a queer individual. To me, it’s a term that is as wonderfully ambiguous as my non-binary body and it has replaced those gaps in my identity that I struggled with as a teenager. In short, identifying as queer has made me whole.
I’ve had an incredibly privileged life, even as a queer/trans person. There was a period of time when I first came out as trans (and concurrently started college), where I truly thought that I was going to have to choose between transitioning and having a relationship with my mom, whom I’ve always been super close with. I had a tough couple of years, but I’m happy to say that my mom and I are even closer now than we were before and my entire family (extended as well) have accepted and supported me throughout most of my transition.
I had two major coming-out experiences and a third minor one. When I was 13 I came out to my mom at a restaurant when I realized I had a crush on my friend at the time. I remember being nervous, but it also never occurred to me to not tell her how I was feeling. She and the rest of my family were supportive even when I started dating my best friend just a year later. At 17 or 18 I came out as trans to my mom, expecting the same acceptance I received as a kid, but instead I was met with a lot of push back, rooted in fear and misconceptions, that I hadn’t expected. At 22 my eight year relationship came to an end and I started dating a gay cis man, which required another sort of coming out for everyone who knew my ex partner and I and had assumed that I identified as a straight male. At this point, I’m about as out as I can be and the fact that I feel safe enough to live as an openly queer/trans person is due to my privilege as a white male-passing individual living in a very queer-friendly city. For me, the recent visibility the trans community has received has affected me in a mostly positive way, but for a lot of other trans folks, the extra attention that comes with the preliminary stages of visibility is not always a positive thing and it’s important that we’re aware of the differences in every trans/queer persons experience.
I’m really not super involved in the LGBTQ+ social scene in Portland, but I know that there’s quite a bit going on here specifically in the queer/trans communities. For me, the city as a whole feels very friendly and accepting compared to how it felt living down south, and that’s really what I was looking for when I moved here. I don’t feel like I have to always be going to a group/event or making an appearance just to feel connected to the community.
I wish that I could go back and tell my middle-school self what being trans actually meant. I remember that my mom asked me once when I was about 15 if I wanted to be a boy (she framed it as “You don’t want to become a boy or anything though right?”) and I replied something along the lines of, “No, I like my boobs too much, it would have been cool if I was born a boy, but I wasnt”. I had such a vague/skewed sense of what it actually meant to be a transgender person, that it took me until college to really understand that I could socially transition without having to physically transition and later, that I could physically transition without planning to get surgery. I also would have loved to go back and provide my younger self with the term “queer” since it has given me the strongest sense of community and my strongest sense of self and I wish I had had that under my belt a little bit sooner.”