The Invisible Transman

By Charles Stawowy

The internet has been both a blessing and a curse to the world.

In most respects, the internet has closed the gap on information lag time infinitely and been a preferred method of stealth, hiding, and hate for many individuals of all backgrounds even since the days of its inception. In 1972, though, things were just a bit different; In 1972 when there was a young child beginning to question its existence, its substance as a person, and by definition socially speaking, it’s gender, that child was analogous to an island, isolated with no way of understanding just what it was and why. This child was real, this child was me. Even at a young age, I knew I was not what I was supposed to be and even had the idea that I could stand to pee and did indeed try. The result was not as I had hoped and time was spent cleaning up a small mess on the toilet. Back In that era, information was difficult to find without it at such a young age I was completely unable to articulate to my parent what I was feeling, so I put aside my feelings and got on with life in the only way I knew how.

Foggy winter morning in Toledo, OH

This scenario could have existed in any city in 1972, in any family or any home. Now fast forward ten years to 1982 when libraries are the single most useful place for information right up there with home bought encyclopedias. That child has now become a teen that feels even more out of place in their body, even more, awkward around their peers. Now they are bullied and harassed mercilessly for being ‘different’ not even knowing what it even is that makes them different. With little to no info having been available at that time in 1982 to a teenager, how could they know? The only evident thing was that whatever made them different was obvious to both themselves and everyone around them. It was real. It was valid. It was a personal crisis of epic proportions that nobody knew about because the words were just never there. Now I understand, and it is still just as valid now to me and everyone else as it was in 1982, I am a man. Like any man, except I endured a crucible most men could not in order to become the person I am now because  I am transgender.

Trying to find information on what it meant to be transgender was difficult back then. Libraries purchase books out of need and what they deem useful for the general populace. One sole teenager’s identity conflict was not cause enough to have library purchase more books on LGBTI issues. Personal computers were in their infancy, BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) were mainly how people connected (on 2300 baud over phone lines). Unless you had access there was no way to find others like yourself, or to even begin the search for a true understanding of just how normal “normal” really is. Over the years, I learned to cope, or just explain away with what I knew and understood. “I am a lesbian or I am a gay man,” became a solid response in instances where it was necessary. Understanding that society labels and simplifies things to a point that it is neatly packaged and presented for us, the sheep, to ensure it easier for us to just go with the herd, helped me minimize my feelings and vaguely reference what was truly happening in my head. This is the struggle of many transmen born before the internet when we were invisible because we had no idea what we were, where to begin, or what was even possible. We were labeled “butch lesbians”, “tomboys” or “dykes”. We craved masculinity and male clothes, validation, and the ability to prove that we were men, but due to lack of real hard information, we had no idea how to tell the world that much less show it. It wasn’t until the late 90s, and even into the newer age of the internet, we were able to begin networking and find the information we so desperately needed.

Many transmen head into middle age before starting over completely, experiencing a second puberty complete with acne, facial hair growth and a new sense of who they were meant to be. Learning to revel as our true and authentic selves, leaving our invisible pasts behind us, trusting who we are and who we always knew we should have been, this is our reality. This is a past, many transmen over 35 have struggled with most of their lives, being invisible because they had no information to help lead them on the path to exist as men. Those who claim that transgenderism is a fad and a new thing have no idea the struggles many of us older transmen have lived through before what we were was even given a name. They will never understand being invisible in society, a shadow of a condition vaguely known about, and just how awful that scars you. It is only now, with how fast the internet relays information, that we are no longer invisible.

Charles Stawowy-  Author: “The Invisible Transman”
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Alicia Lewis
Editor in chief at TransHope United