Updated: Apr 15
| This is the 86th story of Our Life Logs |
It’s strange for me to look back on my old self, old photos, and old clothing. It’s like looking at someone else’s life that you’ve been following on TV for years. You know every aspect, every struggle, and every success, but it’s not your life. It’s theirs. It wasn’t until recently that I felt comfortable addressing my life before transitioning. That is, my life as Josh, instead of Katie. So, before I begin, know that my name is Katie, I’m an artist, and this is my story.
Josh was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in the late 1990s. As a child, he was a little chubby, quiet, and extremely insecure. When Josh was about seven or eight years old, he would sit at the dinner table while his parents scolded his extra weight. Even then, Josh knew that his physical form didn’t matter, that his body did not correctly define who he was. Still, Josh began to hate himself.
In school, Josh was surrounded by great friends who were accepting and encouraged Josh to keep talking. He found out that he was a bubbly person who was always trying to make people laugh, that he was sassy, and he just wanted to be noticed, like every young person does.
Josh sensed that he was different from a young age. It was when he had a few romantic relationships with girls in middle school and he realized that he wasn’t feeling any connection to them. He found himself checking out boys instead of girls. It felt normal to him, but he knew others wouldn’t see it that way. It wasn’t until high school that Josh told people he liked men, which was true. However, the term “gay” didn’t feel like the right term for him, either. Josh just used it as a placeholder, just to have some kind of definite identity.
When Josh came out to his family, they did not take the news well. His mother rejected any idea that this information could be possible, while his father asked invasive questions about the homosexual lifestyle. He’d never felt more alone.
As a junior in high school, he decided it was time for a change after years of being shamed for his weight. Josh completely changed diets, started working out every day, and counted calories to a strict standard. Body dysmorphia took over any healthy weight loss tactics. Josh was unhealthy and lost 90 pounds in a year. For some twisted reason, he thought his family would finally let go of their resentment. He was so wrong! He started to believe that they would never like him and began to feel hopeless. Despite these negative feelings, Josh continued to walk out the door with a pasted smile on his face, pretending that he wasn’t crumbling inside.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Josh went through dark periods when he questioned his identity. Though he liked men, he never felt like a man himself. Many of his peers referred to him as a woman or someone with “so many feminine qualities.” Many guys in high school hit on Josh or tried to place their hands on him, awed by how feminine he was. His breaking point was one night when he was becoming intimate with another man. After a few moments, Josh stopped their touching because he knew the other guy didn’t want him. Sure, the other guy wanted Josh’s body, but that fact didn’t settle well for Josh. It was as if the guy had fallen for Josh’s costume, and that wasn’t right. He didn’t know what it all meant. He felt like he didn’t want to live.
After years of being a wallflower in his own home, Josh was able to connect with his family through art, though not in a very healthy manner. Josh had taken a few classes in school and found that he had a knack for creating. Josh’s mother used him as a tool because even though she was crafty, she needed Josh’s illustration skills for her projects. Still, Josh continued pursuing art in high school since it was the one thing that made his family acknowledge him as a person. Thankfully it was also personally fulfilling, and he never stopped.
When Josh started enrollment at a liberal arts college, he took it as an opportunity for a fresh start. Since he was often mistaken for a girl, he decided to embrace it by choosing a different name for the first few years of college.
He went from Josh to Katie, and that’s where my story begins.
Around the time I began college, Bruce Jenner had announced that he was transitioning to become a woman and going under the new name Caitlyn. Before Jenner, I didn’t really know transitioning was an option. I remember being annoyed at the tabloids. I became angry, thinking that somebody couldn’t just change genders. In hindsight, I was just jealous. I felt like that could never happen for me. I thought I was forever destined to pretty-up the costume I was given. Thank goodness I was wrong.
About two months into Caitlyn’s transition, a stunning realization hit me at a stop sign on my way to work. I just froze and realized, “Oh my god, I’m a woman.” People had been telling me for years, but I just didn’t put it together. This was a major life-changing moment in my life. I realized why I had been miserable all my life and I never felt like I belonged to my body. I was a woman stuck in a man’s body. Everything seemed to click in that moment. I don’t look up to Caitlyn Jenner today, but it was through her transition that I learned that the science and technology was out there for this to happen, so I’m grateful for that.
Coming out a second time to my friends and family went more smoothly than I anticipated. All my friends and classmates were supportive. I was so thankful to be enrolled in a college so liberal because I was accepted immediately and given support.
I was a little more hesitant when telling my parents. When I told my mom, I begged her not to kick me out. Instead, she said, “I always knew you were a woman, but I didn’t know what to do about it.” Uh what? I was so relieved. My father gruffly accepted that I was going to transition, because he knew I no longer needed approval. I feel that my parents were okay with it because after the transition, I’d be a straight woman, and therefore, “normal.” So yes, I was happy that they accepted me, but ultimately saddened by their internal dialogue.
I wasn’t able to be put on medication to transition until I was 21 when I had saved enough money to pay for the appointments. During that time, I was sexually assaulted by a coworker that laid his hands on me. It happened when I was so insecure and vulnerable. I had just abandoned Josh and was trying to come into my own. This assault made me want to draw myself in again. I wasn’t that same after it. I closed myself off more and to this day, I’ve been afraid of intimacy.
Before the medication, I did my best to look more feminine. In the beginning, I had a lot of self-loathing for my body while I waited for the changes to begin. Josh always had stubble, so transitioning was hard before I started doing laser hair removal for my face. A girl at school was nice enough to donate old clothes she didn’t need, which helped so much. I had just a few pieces—let alone any bras—that made me feel like myself. When I did go out shopping, I exhausted myself to try to avoid the eyes of others, picking apart my body, because I was so insecure. Online shopping saved me.
In 2017, as my body was changing at the beginning of my transition, one of my professors started sexually harassing me at school. I didn’t feel safe in the one place that had given me safety and support. When I reported it to the school, they drilled me with questions to determine the outcome. In the end, he did get fired, and I was safe at school again.