I was packing a sack lunch for a resident at the homeless shelter where I worked when I realized I was a man. I was twenty-four.
It was not when I asked my mother at age four if she was absolutely sure I was a girl. It was not when I felt infinitely more comfortable in the boy’s clothing department than the girl’s. It was not after one failed relationship after another. Deep down, I knew that there was a disconnect between my mind and body, and it surfaced in dreams—dreams where I was male-bodied, dreams where I woke with such profound sadness that it followed me into my waking hours.
The reason it took me so long to embrace my male gender identity is that I didn’t want it to be true. Now, when trans issues are very much in the forefront of the news, it might have been less traumatic for me. As it was, all I knew about FTM (female to male) transgender people came from the 1999 film Boys Don’t Cry. My outlook was pretty bleak.
Even after I admitted it to myself, it would be several years before I was able to tell anyone else that I didn’t feel comfortable in my body. Even then, I never explicitly said I was transgender. I usually explained my boyish haircuts and clothing by saying that, “I didn’t feel very feminine,” rather than “I feel like a man.” Everything I did to make my body match my gender identity, I did in secret. I bought my first breast binder alone and cried alone in my bathroom when I couldn’t get it off.
To top it all off, I’m married. Although I’m attracted to both men and women, I ultimately fell in love with a man. That would be fine—except that he fell in love with a woman.
That’s one of the reasons I have chosen not to medically or socially transition. Another is that it is cost prohibitive, and, while hormone replacement therapy is surprisingly effective, phalloplasty is not.
Ultimately, however, I have chosen to go through this life in a body that does not match my spirit because I know who and what I am. I do not need the public at large to acknowledge my manhood in order to feel complete. That is not to say that it’s wrong that others do; body dysphoria is a spectrum, and I happen to be on the low end of that scale. In some ways, I feel like a cheat—somehow “not trans enough,” and it’s taken some time to realize that the only person capable of judging me is me.
With all that said, my name is Christina Grande. I’m a twenty-nine- year-old man with PMS.