Matt and Sam are two bright, young people with their entire futures ahead of them. Yet, they've had to face an issue that many people will never understand - rebuilding themselves as almost entirely new people. As transfolk, Sam and Matt have to overcome hurdles that most of us can only begin to imagine.
While Sam transitions into a beautiful woman and Matt transforms into a handsome man, they shed their previous identities and reveal their true selves. I had the pleasure of discussing this experience with both of them. We all agreed to ask and answer the uncomfortable questions we're all dying to know, but no one will ask.
I have to take a moment for the brutal honesty and transparency both Sam and Matt gave me. It took real courage to answer some of these questions so candidly.
Note from Matt: I want to put a little disclaimer here that I can’t speak for every trans person this is only my experience on the world and being trans.
How do you go about dating? how do you tell your interests you're trans? does it affect you dating life at all?
Sam: honestly I find it easier to date other trans people because they understand what I'm going through and don't judge my body. Don't get me wrong, I'm pansexual, so I'm open to dating anyone I have an interest in, regardless of gender, so of course I would date a cis (or not trans) person, but this bring up issues. I've tried forming a bond with a person and then telling them i am trans, and I have also tried being up front. Of course there are some people who are fine with this, but generally no matter what approach I take the person is usually pushed away by this and no longer pursues me. I would say its affected my dating life a lot, I generally pursue other trans people and view my "dating pool" as only other trans people, and those cis people who identify as pansexual.
Matt: Before I was with my partner I was on dating sites like Grindr and Hornet and things like that and I just straight out told people and if they weren’t interested it was like, "ok next." For a lot of people, it’s hard but personally it didn’t affect me very much. I got in a relationship with my current partner a while after I came out and I’ve been with her ever since. She’s very accepting and understanding.
How do you know you're trans and not just masculine/feminine? What caused you to think you were another gender?
Sam: I struggled a long time with my gender. I wasn't sure if I was just feminine or there was actually something going on with my gender. After trying to work out my "identity" for a long time i realised that i was a trans women. Once I worked out that I was trans, there was a number of times where I looked back on my life (as far as 5 years of age) and could remember a number of times where I showed that I was trans and just didn't realise what was going on within myself. This made me feel confident that I am a trans women, as I could see I have been my whole life.
Matt: For me really it was like all these pieces to a puzzle that never really fit until the moment you see a trans person or an article or something. I never fit in with girls, they would love their dresses and barbies and I liked to play hot wheels with my step brothers. I didn’t understand at a young age why I didn’t have a penis which was a bit more than just being masc and people were sort of like oh you’re a girl, and for some time I tried to fit to the standard and then it came to a time in my life where I was really depressed because I wasn’t being me and I had a lot of dysphoria around my chest. I saw a video about a trans man and all the pieces’ sort of clicked together in the end, I think that if you’re questioning your gender in the first place you probably aren’t cis.
Do people notice a lot? When you walk down the street, do you ever get the feeling people are staring and think you're just cross dressing?
Sam: Yes I have this feeling almost constantly. I think it is more of an issue within my own self-view rather than a reality of people actually staring. If my makeup is not perfect or my clothes are a little off, my voice is sounding deep that day, etc. I feel like people are going to notice that I am trans. Being noticed as trans can be dangerous as there are still people in society that wish to hurt or kill trans people.
Matt: I’m generally seen as cis passing, for example at my work I’m nearly completely stealth only my boss and one co-worker know I’m trans and they have never questioned me just thinking I’m a short 12-year-old looking dude.
How hard is it to tell your family that their son/daughter is actually their daughter/son?
Sam: This was honestly the biggest hurdle I faced during my transition. Telling my mother was terrifying as I had heard of parents cutting their children off and other horrible things. She didn't really understand but tried to and accepted this change. After over a year she still misgenders me sometimes but she is generally happy to see me live my life the way i need to. My father was another hurdle but he had a heads up I needed to talk to him and once I told him he immediately hugged me and apologised that I had to struggle for so long, it was very touching.
Matt: It’s really hard. My mum explained when I came out that it was like she was grieving a child and it was very hard to watch and go through it all but it’s all worth it in the long run.
How do you go about sex pre-op? If you're in a lesbian relationship (you're a trans woman dating another woman) wouldn't it technically be unappealing to your partner? If you're a trans woman attracted to men and therefore have straight sex, isn't it gay sex? Is it easier just to date bisexuals?
Sam: I find that it comes down to each person. I know a number of cis lesbians who aren't actually repulsed by penises, they just aren't attracted to males. So the genitals aren't a deal breaker for them because they see me as a women. Straight men are a little harder as they have never really had experience with trans issues. But I also find if they're accepting of you being trans and understand you're a women it can work. But again there are many men who aren't open to dating anyone with a penis and therefore they arent interested and yes it isnt an option for dating. I personally feel its easier to date bisexual or other trans people for who genitals do not matter.
Matt: I know lots of trans men and women in relationships with cis people and they don’t have a problem at all, I know some people that only date trans or queer people. Every individual person is different but in my own experience you can date whoever the heck you want as long as they’re cool with it.
Did you feel as though your birth-assigned gender gave you a whole different identity to who you are now? If so, did it ever cross your mind to run away to start fresh so you can be yourself where no one knows any better?
Sam: Definitely. It may be controversial but "male privilege" is a definite thing. I got treated with a high amount of respect just for being male. Now that I am seen as the women I am talked down to, simply for being a woman and I am objectified by people passing in the street. I've thought a number of times to just leave and move to somewhere that everyone i know doesn't know I'm trans. No matter how accepting my friends are, it's always in the back of their minds and it would be wonderful to just be another one of the girls.
Matt: Yes I do, I think because I’m trans I have a much better understanding of what it’s like to be a woman and how they’re treated and how different their emotions are and I love that. I do want to be stealth in some aspects of my life and for some time I did want to just leave but I wouldn’t anymore.
Do you ever get objectified because you're a minority who fits a fetish? How do you deal with that?
Sam: As a trans women i have experienced this a lot. Especially on dating websites I think there is a large community of males that fetishize trans women. I think this may fit a fantasy of having sex with someone who has a penis, but make them feel "less gay". It makes using dating websites quite hard. I usually just give everyone the benefit of the doubt and judge them based on the things they say to me about being trans, if they say gross things like "I have a t-girl fantasy" and similar i just usually ignore them or block them if i have to.
Matt: Being a transman I think we are rarely fetishized compared to transwomen but there are some people that do. I’ve never experienced it myself.
Isn't it confusing living as a male/female and yet having the opposite genitals?
Sam: It is very confusing. It cause a large amount of gender dysphoria and I often wish I was born with a body that matched my gender. However I am content that this is what I was given and it is part of my journey. Looking down at your body and seeing things that shouldn't be there in your mind is quite distressing. I would personally like to change my genitals to match my gender but it ultimately comes down to money and the safety of the procedure.
Matt: Yeah it’s confusing that I don’t have a penis. Where is it? Who took it? Why do I have to buy one worth hundreds of dollars? Who put these boobs on me?
Which bathroom do you use?
Sam: I generally use the ladies room if I feel that I am "passing" or in a situation where people know and are accepting, but this has been a big issue for me. Early in my transition I went over 6 months without using a public restroom, which could have caused health issues, and did cause a lot of discomfort when there was nowhere to go. If possible I will use a gender neutral bathroom or disabled toilet to avoid the potential of making other uncomfortable or being targeted.
Matt: I use the males bathroom because I’d get some pretty weird looks in the ladies room.
Is it hard to find work as a trans person?
Sam: I have held the same job since before transition so I cant answer this. I did initially face some challenges within my workplace when I first came out. However, I have recently been promoted within the organisation as I still show the same potential I did before I came out. I do know a very large number of the trans people who I know personally are unemployed or underemployed, and I think this is typical for the majority of trans individuals, possibly due to the stigma we face.
Matt: Yes. When I came out I had recently left my job I had been at for about 3-4 years and I was unemployed for over a year on and off because people didn’t want to hire me. I would tell them in the interview because there was no going around it I hadn’t started hormones and my name was legally changed to Matthew. When I was on hormones for a few months my partners mum asked a friend if she could employ me as casual and I’ve been there ever since