Dear Mom and Dad,
Before I really begin writing this letter, I want to ask that you read the entire thing. Some things that I say here may be difficult to process, make you feel anxious, angry, hurt, or even scared. But I’m not writing this letter to make you feel those things. I’m writing this letter because I’ve struggled for a long time now to find the perfect way to tell you what it is that I need to tell you, and this is the best way I can think of that will both allow me the time I need to comprise all of my thoughts, and you the time to process what I’m going to tell you before you respond.
I am a transgender man. I have been living as male and as Ashton since December 4, 2013. I’m sure you may be wondering whether this is my way of fitting in with my friends, especially considering that my best friend, Jay, is also a trans man. Let me dispel that notion from the start. I have more non-trans friends than I do trans friends. I have never felt right in my body. I thought that coming out as gay would fix that, and in some ways, it did. It gave me access to the LGBT community, and I was able to find friends who were more like me. However, even after immersing myself in the LGBT community, I didn’t feel whole. I felt a rush of anxiety whenever I would shower or look at myself in the mirror, whenever I would shop in the women’s section for my clothes, whenever I would even hear the words “she” or “her” in reference to me, and for a long time, I didn’t know where that anxiety was coming from or what it meant.
When I came to Wayne State, I met my first trans man – my good friend, Charlie. However, because he was already out as trans and living as male when I met him, it didn’t ever occur to me that I might actually be transgender – it never occurred to me that trans was something I could “be” (I put “be” in quotes there because being transgender is not something that one chooses to do…it is something one IS). Then, I met Jay. When I met Jay, he wasn’t out as trans. It was almost 6 months into our friendship before he told me that he had always felt like a male, and that he was going to start transitioning. That was the first time I realized that I might actually be trans, but I was far too terrified to even admit it to myself, let alone to anybody else. I spent the next few years denying the feelings I was having. Whenever I would look in the mirror, whenever anybody would use feminine gender pronouns when talking about me, whenever I would introduce myself as a lesbian at the GLBTA Student Union Meetings, I would feel my gut tighten, and I would ignore that feeling of discomfort that comes hand in hand with lying to yourself.
Finally, on December 4 of 2013, I was able to say the words out loud. I told the members of the GLBTA Student Union that I was trans and that, from that point forward, I would like to be known as Ashton, and be referred to by male pronouns. Now, everyone from my friends to my therapist to the Dean of Students knows me as Ashton and refers to me by male pronouns. I have never felt so happy and so complete as I have in the months since I’ve come out as trans. I have also felt an increased anxiety about having to hide this huge part of myself from my family, who literally mean the world to me. I told Amy about a month ago, but I promised her that I would wait to come out to the rest of the family until after her wedding. Part of me wanted to make sure that I didn’t take any attention away from her on her day, because she deserved to have her moment in the spotlight. However, part of me felt that if I had come out in the chaos preceding Amy’s wedding, I would be more likely to get a negative reaction, and that terrified me. Even as I write this letter, I am more scared than I can possibly express that I will lose what means more to me than anything – my family – by telling you this. Believe me, if this weren’t literally a matter of life and death for me – and it is – I would not transition. It would be much easier for me to exist within our family as a gay female than as a trans male. But the thought of living a lie causes me so much anxiety, and puts me in such a deep depression, that I am actually afraid of what I might do to myself if I continue to hide from this.
I am hoping to start taking testosterone soon, so you will start to see some physical changes, including deepening of the voice, increased hair growth, and a general change in body shape (due largely to a redistribution of body fat). I realize this will be a lot to take in, and that it may be difficult to see me looking like a completely different person. I also realize that you may be afraid that I am going to have a more difficult life because of my trans identity. This may indeed be the case. I am not coming out because I think it’s going to make my life perfect. I am also not coming out so that I can get your blessing – I am well aware that this is going to be incredibly difficult for you to accept, and that you only have my best interest at heart when you feel inclined to oppose my transition. I am coming out because I feel that I have no other choice if I am to live a full, happy life.
I am truly sorry for any heartache this likely causes you. Please know that it causes me just as much heartache to know that I have to run the risk of losing my family in order to be true to myself. If it would help you, I would love to set up a session with my therapist – we could speak either over the phone or via Skype (I can easily explain to you how it works, so don’t worry about not knowing how to use it). If you feel that you would be uncomfortable with that, please know that I am always open to answer any questions you may have about this. I also have several resources that may help you to understand both what I am going through and how you can navigate it as my parents. I want you to be informed, but I didn’t include any of the resources I have available to me here because I don’t want you to feel as though I am forcing any of it down your throat – I want to be sure that it is information you are seeking on your own.
Please know that I love you, and that without you in my life, I would be lost.