Being a trans man among a group of cis-gendered men is an ongoing feeling of discomfort for me that may never go away. Living in Kelowna I feel like I’m in my own world sometimes because I don’t fit in with women and I don’t fit in with cis-men. Don’t get me wrong, I have a great group of friends and I have a lot of love surrounding me, I just get lonely sometimes. Growing up and being raised as a woman then transitioning to a male body in my early twenties has robbed me of a crucial stage in my life that I’ve always dreamed of having: learning the “bro code” per say. Having to go through puberty all over again at a later stage in life without having the men around teach me how to navigate the world as a man is something I still struggle with to this day.
The Handshake: As a woman, I was raised to hug someone when greeting, or greet with a handshake in a professional setting. This way of greeting differs with gender, now it’s all about the handshake. When meeting another man for the first time, or greeting other guys on a daily basis I never know what handshake they are going to go for. How can something so simple be so hard. The fist bump, the classic handshake, the high five and fistbump, the hand grasp and fist bump. Who knew one simple greeting could make a homie feel so dumb.
Body Language: There are non-verbal and verbal ques that I have not experienced before transitioning. These include things such as a guy lifting his head or nodding when passing me on the sidewalk or using terms like “brother” and “boss man” to acknowledge me. It feels like it’s a brotherly thing to do to another guy, almost like affirming your manhood or position of power.
Interests and Common Knowledge: I know this is a subject that depends on the individual at hand, but I feel there is a certain amount of knowledge and social norms that a man is expected to know and embody. From fixing things, to car knowledge or keeping up on sports, I find I can’t contribute to a conversation at the best of times. As a man, it is expected that when something breaks, we can fix it, to a certain degree. Or at a party when guys talk with guys and girls talk with girls I constantly feel like I am on the outside of both groups. I am not a “guys’ guy” and I’ve never been able to talk freely and comfortably to cis men or women, especially in group settings. I feel like I cannot relate, like I’m always hiding my true self. Most of the circle I hang out with are women, who I love to spend time with, but I constantly crave my own connections and friendships with men. While living in Victoria, I developed deep connections and friendships with all kinds of people, who were predominantly queer. I feel most comfortable and most like myself when I am hanging out with other queers. There is no need for social norms or conversations that I struggle to contribute too. That comfort and familiarity is something I constantly crave and I hope to one day find again. The constant fear of being accepted and heard by my peers is something I need to work on. I acknowledge that feeling and I accept that I still need to grow in that area. The feelings of emptiness and loneliness in a room full of people is something I will continue to struggle with. Being able to relate to someone and form a deep connection on higher level is one of the greatest gifts in life. I feel as though I don’t fit into the box of societal norms in terms of how I connect and relate to people, but will continue to work towards that.
Past Life: My past life, as Ashley, the girl who those I grew up with knew me as, still haunts me and comes back into my current life. Sometimes when I see people from my past I notice they still treat me with feminine body language or act weird or distant to my true identity, Ashton. These are the moments that cut deep and bring up negative feelings in my heart and soul, but they are also the moments that make me stronger. Each and every negative or unsupportive comment I receive doesn’t make me weaker. I have made the choice to keep pushing and keep growing. That means I am doing exactly what I need to do. There are always people out there who won’t agree with what you’re doing, because it is not of their “norm,” but how you react to it shows your real character.
To summarize, the whole boy’s club ideal is a real and true thing. Anyone who doesn’t fit into that box is going to feel like they are excluded or on the outside. Socializing among genders is always going to be something different to navigate, but when I find a group of guys that accept me for who I am and act as an ally, then I can begin to form that connection that I’ve been longing for. The connection that allows me to feel safe to be my true self.