Our National TRUTH Council works to uplift the stories and truths of trans young people throughout the US. In this project, Northeast member Jayy supported their friend Leoluca in sharing this story. Meet Leo!
Hello everyone! My name is Jessy, I’m a third-year Pro Writing student, and I will be sharing a piece I wrote myself, titled, “Forming My Pride.” A mild warning for a moment of fatphobia.
Growing up, as far back as I can remember, I knew there wasn’t something “right” about me. I felt wrong in the body I was in, and I explained it to myself as if I had had a brother in the womb, but he’d died very early on and I’d absorbed him, making me more male than I should be. I don’t have any evidence of this, but it made sense to me when I was little (3-5, little little). It also made me feel less like I was at fault for being “too much of a boy.” I was comforted by the fact I wasn’t choosing to be “wrong,” that it just was who I was.
I struggled with my identity for years. My dad always told me that he saw himself having a son, always wanted a son, was going to raise me as a son (tough, able to physically defend myself, etc), but I still had to be a girl. I had to like dolls, be submissive, want what he deemed “female.” My mother was someone who confused me deeply. She was allowed to be a “tomboy,” and my father rarely was as harsh with her as he was with me. In fact, he spent more time complaining to me about how he wanted my mother to “be more feminine” than he spent talking to her about it.
Add to the mixture that my father was a terrible homophobe, and I had no access to what trans was, and I was left confused and alienated. “Being gay is a choice against God,” my father said. And, “If you turn out to be gay, I’m disowning you.” What was I supposed to do with that? I was told that being gay was both a choice and something that you could “turn out to be.” I fought hard to try to be who I was, the more masculine person that felt right to me, but my manipulative and hateful father fought back with guilt trips, lectures on who I was “supposed” to be, and abuse. I was told things like, “No one will ever love if you look like THAT.” That being masculine, without makeup, fat, riddled with acne (I was in my teens and stressed, thanks dad). My father tried to force me into dresses, dolls into my hands, and kept up with the mental torture.
My mother and I were constantly fighting, so she was no help at the time. My grandparents never seemed to care about my gender, my roles, and just let me be myself when they looked after me. My grandmother, while she was alive, was my lifeline for sanity. We would watch shopping channels and I could openly say, “I like that dress” without her jumping to buy it. She understood that my complimenting something didn’t mean I wanted to wear it. I could play with and explore her jewelry without being expected to add it to my fashion. She just wanted me to be happy. We’d have long conversations about if I should wear makeup, buy dresses, walk in heels, and her answer was always, “Whatever makes you happy.” Not once did she push me into a corner or a box and tell me who, or how, I should be.
My grandmother passed away the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in high school. She died before I figured out any of my queer identities, but I think she’d understand and still love me. No matter what I did, that was always her answer. My happiness and her love for me. I hold on to that, even now
I began to understand my sexuality before my gender. Growing up in Arizona, you don’t get much LGBT education (meaning, none at all). My high school had a Gay/Straight Alliance, and that was it. I went my entire high school career not knowing of anyone who wasn’t cis (openly). But I did know people who were gay, bisexual, and lesbian. I knew I didn’t just like boys, but I liked girls too. When all of my friends were busy losing their virginities, however, I was more than happy to just be attracted to people. I didn’t want to act on it. Sex seemed so unnecessary, and it held no appeal for me.
Behold me finding my asexuality. For a little bit, I explained away myself as bisexual without much of a sex drive. The truth was, as I’d find out and proudly declare, I wasn’t bisexual at all. I identify as panromantic and I’m somewhere on the asexual spectrum. Some days I feel like asexual fits me, but others I think I lean more toward demisexuality. Either way, finding my sexuality helped bring me one step further into the queer community, and one step closer to finding the rest of myself.
My access to the internet, and to people outside of my little desert sphere, was what opened me to the idea that you didn’t have to be cis. There were pieces and bits of info about transgender, but I wouldn’t allow myself to think it could apply to me. I was a tomboy, right? Answer: WRONG. It took me going to college in Vermont to see that I had options. My friend group widened to include more people who weren’t cis, and I got to talking to them. What did that mean, to be nonbinary? To be something other than cis? Was there something I could relate to?
It was then that I found “genderfluid.” I felt like my world had suddenly made sense. Because growing up, there were days when I wanted to dress like Nana, pearls and all. But most of my days were more masculine, or I didn’t want to exist with a gender. Could I be genderfluid? Answer: YES! I spent more time with it, did more research, and I came out (officially) at the opening ceremony for the Women’s and Gender Center [at Champlain College] . I came out to my mother on my 21st birthday. Everything felt good, better, clear, like it was supposed to.
But then I learned what my terrible feelings of inadequacy and being like a stranger in my skin was called: dysphoria. With a name to the feeling, I felt it more and it troubled me. If I was genderfluid, and I understood that about myself, what else was messing with me?
Dysphoria doesn’t disappear once you figure out your identity. In fact, mine worsened for the first few months. And there was that one little piece of me I was still avidly avoiding: My transness. I refused to believe I could be trans. Genderfluid wasn’t, right? As it turns out, my genderfluid very much WAS trans. It’s why, as I’ve come to accept myself as trans, I’ve combined my labels: transfluid. Even on my girl days, sometimes especially on my girl days, I’m wildly dysphoric and I feel wrong in my body.
As a result of all my time spent exploring other genders and sexualities, I’ve learned how to let myself play with, and explore, my gender. I can be a boy with long hair and cute bras. I can be a girl with boxers and a leather jacket. Seems obvious, right? For the longest time, to me, it wasn’t. It was the constant nagging of my father, who wanted a boy, raised me as a boy, told me I was a girl, that stopped me from giving in to who I was. At times, it felt like I was giving him exactly what he wanted. Was he the reason I was trans? No, he isn’t. And it took a lot of soul searching and reclaiming of myself to understand that. Before he began to teach me my gender, my roles, etc, I knew who I was. I had something that I didn’t know what to call with me, always. It was my transness. My boy self.
Maybe I did have a twin, maybe I didn’t. But I do have a better version of myself now, who is proudly out everywhere, who uses he/him no matter the day, and who’s working to change his name! I’m taking my life back, and I’m making it the way I’ve always wanted it to be. I still struggle with feeling like I’m not trans enough, especially as I watch my beautiful fiancee going through her transition, but I take the time to remind myself that I can be my own kind of trans. I don’t have to transition (I have my reasons) to be me. I’m valid now.
I made an agreement with myself, however. When I feel like I’m not trans enough, I’m going to encourage someone else and tell them that they are. I want to keep helping my trans (and gender nonconforming) friends explore who they are, by whatever means necessary (and that I have). I can’t bind, but I can sure help a fellow transguy find binders that fit him. I may not be into feminine fashion very much, but I can help my fiancee find a bra that fits her, or my other translady friends buy clothing that makes them feel good.
I want to be a resource and a source of comfort for anyone who needs it. I’ve come to call my little group of LGBT+ friends my pride, because they are. They’re all my pride and joy, and I’ll defend each and every one of them with all that I have. It’s what (found) family does. Today, I want to extend that to everyone. If you have no one you can turn to, you do now. Everyone is welcome to join my Pride, any color of the LGBT flag. I’m here to help in any way I can, even if it’s just a shoulder to cry on, or an ear to listen. I suffered for so long because I didn’t have this, and I want to make sure that everyone in the LGBT+ family has me. I want to be that person I needed when I was struggling. I fought so long to get here, and now I’m ready to fight for others as well. You are loved, I promise.
In being true to myself, and to all of you, I’d like to reintroduce myself. On your program, you’ll see it says Jessy Torrance. In fact, I even introduced myself under my given name. Part of the reason I did that is because my narrative is still evolving, and I wanted to include all of you in the process. On March 31st, the Trans Day of Visibility, I finally chose a name for myself. My name is Leoluca, and you can call me Leo. Thank you all for coming out to support all of us, our community, and each other.