After a long journey, Eli Walker finally has a body that matches his heart’s desire.
When I was in grade school, I hated gym class. But I wasn’t like the kids who hated gym class because they were afraid of being picked last for dodge ball teams (although that was definitely a concern of mine, I’m sure.) I hated gym class because the teachers always made the boys go to one side of the gym, and the girls went to the other. And although my ponytail and pink sneakers screamed femininity, my heart begged me to follow the boys. So I hesitated, every day, at the half-court line. Would anyone notice if I went to the boys’ side of the gym? Would they care?
I sat on that half-court line of gender for years, wondering when the rest of the world would allow me to step over to the side where I belonged. But even as I silently pleaded with society to view me as a young man, I hardly allowed myself to be honest or open about my gender identity. I still don’t know what caused that to change, but on December 27, 2009, at the age of seventeen, I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “My name is Eli.” I repeated myself, just to be sure that I was really hearing those simple words. “My name is Eli, and I am transgender.”
Every day, I stared at my reflection and reminded myself of those two facts. My teachers, my parents, my co-workers disagreed wholeheartedly. To them, I was a girl—a butch lesbian. They ignored my crew cut, my baggy clothes I wore to hide my curves, the chest binder I used to flatten my breasts. They ignored my requests to be called Eli instead of my birth name, “sir” instead of “ma’am,” or “he” instead of “she.” I suppose I could have ignored my own gender as well, but instead, I pushed forward, breaking through gender boundaries and expectations.
And finally, finally, after seeing three different counselors, contacting at least forty medical doctors, and watching hundreds of videos on YouTube of other trans* guys in the middle of their transition process, I found a doctor who was willing to see me. And eight hundred and forty-five days after I called myself Eli for the first time, I was given a vial of testosterone cypionate. “Eli Walker, male,” the prescription read.
This was no easy victory, and I couldn’t have done it without my LGBTQ family and our allies. I had friends who held my hand every time a doctor’s receptionist laughed at me over the phone when I asked if they treated transgender patients. I had friends that helped me find clothes that allowed me to “pass” as male. They cried with me when I was seen as a man for the first time in public. They laughed with me when little kids asked if I was a boy or a girl. And they all celebrated with me when I was finally able to do my first testosterone injection nearly eight weeks ago.
Within two days of my first injection, I noticed an emotional change. I expected myself to cry because of all the excitement, but I couldn’t find any tears. I even tried to make myself cry, and it wouldn’t happen. A few days later, my voice cracked for the first time and I called all of my friends to see if they could hear a difference in my voice. By week two, I was called “sir,” while speaking to a stranger on the phone, and by week four, I had a couple of random patches of facial hair.
Sometimes I don’t recognize myself when I look in the mirror. There are new changes every day, both emotionally and physically. I no longer have to tell myself, “My name is Eli, and I am a transgender man.” Instead, I allow society to remind me of that. I don’t have to worry about nurturing my gender identity, because I’m quickly slipping into the role that seems most natural. I have more opportunities to discover other things about myself. For so long, I focused only on my gender identity and expression; but now, I’m finding new interests and hobbies, as well as new groups of friends and community.
One thing that hardly ever occurred to me before I started testosterone was the fact that my transition is only one small part of my life journey. I don’t really identify as transgender anymore. I identify as a human, and if specificity is necessary, I consider myself a man. It hurts, in a way, to know that I’m no longer a part of the transgender community. But my transition will always be a part of me. I’ll always remember how it felt to sit on the half-court line of that gymnasium.
—Photo credit: Wallula Junction/Flickr