❝ I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community. I hope that my being real with you will help empower you to step into who you are and encourage you to share yourself with those around you. ❞
— Janet Mock

As a transgender individual, I used to think that I needed to be the “ideal” man in order to be accepted within society. You know — big broad shoulders, scruffy face, charismatic smile. The older I’ve gotten and the further along in my transition that I get, I realize that “ideal” doesn’t mean squat. I mean, in all honesty what does “ideal” even mean? I suppose to me it did mean — the shoulders, the facial hair, and the smile. However, to someone else it could mean something completely different. It’s not all about that, folks. It never has been, and it is all an illusion. Even for women — being skinny, having a “fat” ass, a thigh gap, or pearly white teeth even. But is that really what makes people happy? Does your thigh gap help you sleep better at night? Probably not.

As an individual living the transgender experience, I have gone through many ups and downs and many obstacles trying to accept my body and see it in a light that makes me comfortable and able to breathe. I’m sure Cisgender people (also abbreviated Cis; describes individuals who agree with the sex they were assigned at birth; Non-trans folks) experience similar issues. No matter who you are, where you come from, or how you were raised, we are all influenced by society in some way, shape, or form to dislike something about our bodies. We are all human, and we are all our own worst enemies.

For me growing up, I always liked me as a person — on the inside. I was always very in tune with who I was, what I wanted, the people I hung around with, etc. Liking myself wasn’t the problem. It was my body that made me feel as though I was trapped in a cage. Like sitting on one of those dunk tanks at the county fair, waiting for someone to throw that ball to hit the bullseye. The seat drops right out from under you, and you’re submerged immediately. You have no control. Most of the time you swallow water, or it gets in your eyes and up your nose. No matter how much you prepare to be dunked, you’re never actually ready. That’s how I felt every minute of every day. Waiting for that one comment from someone that would trigger my body dysphoria, or that one glance in the mirror at a certain angle that would accentuate my hips and cause immediate anxiety. Prior to transitioning, being seen as cis-normative was important to me. Once I began transitioning, I did not want to be associated with being trans, I wanted to “pass,” and I wanted to be read as “just another guy.” Once I started “blending in” I was ecstatic. I wasn’t being bullied or harassed anymore, I wasn’t being judged or given dirty looks in public. I reveled in that feeling for a few years, until I began to realize that I was in fact different than cisgender men. The minute people found out I was trans it was right back to the invasive question hour. “Oh my god, you look just like a guy, I could never tell!” “Well, I look like a guy because I am a guy. Crazy, right?!” Some Cis people think this is the compliment of all compliments. All you’re doing with that statement, folks, is invalidating someone’s identity and gender, so don’t do it. “Oh wow, you accept me despite the fact that I’m trans? How sweet of you. Thank you so much! Because I’m transgender, I don’t deserve what cisgender men do, right? I mean, you accept me, but I’ll never be equal to a biological man, right? But thank you so much, because who would I be without your acceptance.” Cisgender folks: Don’t just “accept” trans people. We are all deserving of acceptance. Each and every one of us. Treat trans people the way you would treat anyone else you meet. That means not asking about what’s in our pants the second you meet us, or telling your friends you met a trans person and using their name while telling people their life story. It is not your business to share. I’m so sure you’d be okay with someone sharing the skeletons you have in your closet. Show trans people respect — respect our bodies and our personal space and business. Some trans folks do not want to talk about their transition. Some trans folks are trying their hardest to live “stealth,” and you outing them could mean exile, violence and so much more.

Gender is a social construct. I don’t know what it’s like to be female; I only know what it’s like to be seen as female. From the time we are all born, based on our genitals alone, we are forced into little categories: Blue box for boys, and pink box for girls. Ever since I was three years old I could hear and feel both my body and mind telling me in its own little kid way, “to hell with that shit.” I refuse to conform. I will never conform. Don’t get it twisted: trans people do not transition for society — trans people transition for themselves. Show a little respect.

info: Jacey Hoffman is a 29-year-old transgender man who relocated to the Charlotte, N.C. area from New Jersey who has been medically transitioning for six and a half years. Hoffman is a writer and advocate for the LGBTQ community. Email jaceyhoffman@yahoo.com for more information.