Figuring out I’m a woman on Berkeley Time

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I sobbed in my friend’s arms at her birthday party a couple of weekends ago. As the people around us continued to play party games and blast music, I admitted out loud, for the first time, that I was a trans woman. 

To my knowledge, nobody else at the party heard me as they were all distracted while I cried on the couch. My friend reassured me that I was loved by the people around me, and she and her partner embraced me while she referred to me with she/her pronouns. They then moved me into her bedroom so that I could have some time to myself.

I finally felt that I could breathe freely; I actually laughed a little bit at how poor my attempts were to suppress my feelings. I also felt incredibly relieved that I could finally release all of the tension that had built up inside me, especially within those last few weeks. Even though I was definitely overwhelmed with gender dysphoria and sadness at that moment, I had never felt happier in my life, not since I was a little kid. It was the culmination of a seemingly endless journey of confusion and frustration.

Growing up, most people (correctly assumed) that I was attracted to men given that I was very feminine in my appearance and personality. As a little kid, people would sometimes mistake me for a girl. This isn’t, of course, to say that gay men are all feminine, but these are assumptions placed on queer people from a very young age. 

Regardless, I didn’t have much gender dysphoria, or any that I could recognize as a small child, but my connection with girls and my femininity formed a foundation for my experiences today.

Fast-forward to this school year, when casual sex surprisingly provided me with some clarity on my gender identity.

I bought my first skirt to roleplay for a second hookup with a guy whom I had already had sex with in a makeshift Playboy bunny outfit. He sought me out for my femininity, specifically mentioning in his bio on Grindr that he preferred femmes, and I was somewhat happy with my feminine qualities being recognized and even desirable — even if it was slightly fetishized. 

During the actual sex, I remember him being obsessed with my body, claiming that it was “so feminine,” to which I felt a rush of euphoria. I loved that my body and its curves were seen as similar to that of a woman’s. I craved more.

While we never had that second hookup, I still bought the skirt and grew obsessed with wearing women’s clothing. As time went on, I wore more and more skirts, earrings and heels, and I grew increasingly comfortable with my femininity. But I was still unhappy. I continued to have casual sex and enjoyed the people who validated or at least didn’t mind my femininity, but I couldn’t understand my gender identity at this point. I decided to identify as nonbinary to slightly ease my confusion.

Meanwhile, I met a guy who would become a long situationship that lasted until the end of the semester. I would still classify this dynamic as casual sex, but we occasionally would just sexually cuddle and hang out as friends. It was during one of these cuddle sessions that I talked about my confusion with my gender identity and how I didn’t feel like a man. He quickly asked a question that stuck with me until today: “Are you a trans woman?”

I hesitated for more than a moment in utter shock, not because I genuinely didn’t think so, but because I had never thought about my gender like that before. Those words pierced me. I felt almost frightened by the realization because it guaranteed a difficult life ahead of me. However, at that moment, I denied it, said I was nonbinary and hoped that I could make that question go away. I even talked about it with friends who innocently affirmed that it was nothing after I pretended as if it didn’t matter to me.

But it did.

Those words ate away at me, and I quickly realized that I wanted to be a woman, more than anything. I tried settling for being a feminine gay man who wore women’s clothes, but I couldn’t hide my gender. Unfortunately, I let it fester while I grew more and more restless.

I continued to hang out with my sneaky link. I remember going to a gay sex store with him toward the end of the semester, only to be confronted by a feeling of alienation. I don’t belong here. That will never be me. I wanted to scream and cry, but instead, I silently sat on the couch while my sneaky link got sized for a leather harness. I returned to my apartment, half in denial but ultimately aware of myself.

It was only in this semester that my dysphoria became unbearable, and I couldn’t bring myself to have more casual sex or to even focus on my classes. 

I had to let it out, or it would consume me. So here I am presenting myself. 

I am scared but happier than I’ve ever been. I can finally be myself. I am a trans woman.

Contact Joaquin Najera at [email protected]