Since I was a child, I always knew myself to be more different than the rest of my biological siblings. At the age of eight years, I find myself feeling sad most of the time, and asking myself questions like, “Who am I...? What am I doing here?” I always felt like I never really belonged here, both in this physical material world but also in this assigned female body. I was born sensitive, not because I was scared, a cry baby, or that I was weak, it was because I sensed things more than other normal people, things that were otherworldly and hard to explain like ghosts, UFOs, and the paranormal while I was undergoing early identity crisis. At age eight, I find myself disliking my being born into the female body. I remember how I would take my shirt off, wore only pants, and pretend that a wide tooth comb was a sword while imagining I was a samurai or a shinobi. I always imagined myself to be a boy or a male instead of a girl or female but back then, I didn’t know why I was feeling, expressing, or imagining myself in this way. I was told that it was not normal and therefore I was always considered to be the different child in my family.
This is my transgender story.
Growing up was tough. My parents were really strict and came from an Asian background. Cambodian parents to be precise. My parents always programmed us how girls should behave and how boys should behave but most of the strict rules were enforced on the girls in my family. My parents made sure that the girls were more controlled than the boys in my family. I felt because of these strict rules, social-programming, social-conditioning, and control, it made me hate my female body more and the coercion into taking on this gender role as a female. I didn’t know why I was feeling this way till I hit my teen years. My two sisters hated the rules that were enforced on the girls because the boys had more freedom. They could do whatever the fuck they wanted! While the girls were taught to cook, clean, and mostly stay at home. The girls were expected to do whatever the parents tell them. The girls could not have any girl friends, no boyfriends, basically no social life, whatsoever!
My parents made sure that the girls were held in this secured box that I was so eager to break out of. We were caged!
At the age of fifteen, I realized that there was more reason why I hated being a female and I developed anger problems because I was an empath. Empaths feel everything all at once and because negative emotions is hard to cope, I couldn’t cope with negativity very well. The anger rose to a boiling point and it wasn’t because my parents enforced the gender role on us as female but it had to do with how I think and feel inside as a person about my own body and identity. I was frustrated with myself and I hated everything about me as far as I was concern. I came to realize that I preferred wearing unisex clothes and expressing myself as freely as possible to be happy. However, I realized that I belonged to a very strict and conforming household. My parents did not approve my boy short haircut because I sported a mullet and had orange dyed spiky hair. I sported multiple ear piercings. I wore a lot of metal chains and rivets that expressed my cyber punk and street goth fashion style.
My clothes were as loud and wild as the way I wanted it.
My parents decided that it was in their duty to conform me to save face. I, refused! Living under my parent's household was like a battlefield every day. So much so that my High School grades dropped and I couldn’t concentrate on my studies. I slipped into somewhat of a depression because my father took to beating me up for the way I was carrying myself on a daily basis. He made it clear to tell me how much he was embarrassed of me, that no one would love me for it, and called me, “Kathoey.” (Gay in Khmer.) It was already bad enough that some of my siblings and my peers turned against me enabling me to get bullied for who I am. There were times where the beating at home and the bullying at school got so brutal that I submitted to this act of oppression as those around me, especially my parents, forced me into female clothes. My parents took it upon themselves several times to go through my entire bedroom and throw away all my unisex clothes, accessories, my journal, photos of me with my gay and lesbian friends in which we were all dressed like boys, oh and did I mention my journal? Because my journal was therapy to me. They tore down my wall posters of J-Visual Kei bands that I admired, poster of sport cars from JDM magazines, female models from Hot Import Nights, and even my artwork with a comic book drawing that I had discreetly worked on for two years. They threw out rare omiyage (Japanese gifts) that I’ve received from my penpals in Japan because to my parents worldviews, most of the items in my possession were too boyish.
You could imagine coming home to everything that expressed who you are, what you are, what you like, and everything about that part of you just gets destroyed by your own parents in a single day.
I got so depressed that I couldn’t really function in school and started skipping class. My grades fell from an honor roll 3.0 GPA to a 1.0 GPA. Of course, I got a physical beating for this when the school called my father to report my absences and failing grades. I got so tired of all the verbal, mental, emotional, and physical abuse, the constant oppression, and being controlled that I decided enough was enough so I resorted to running away. I begun to join a small Asian gang to sell drugs so I can buy the clothes that I wanted to wear, get my haircut and dyed to my liking, and go back to the me that I knew and was comfortable being. I never understood why my parents or other people were telling me what to do, how to have my hair, what to wear, how to behave, etc. One of my concerned teachers referred me to teen counseling and therapy because I would have mental breakdowns. During my therapy sessions, I began to admit that I was depressed as I was coping with gender identity crisis and even questioned my own sexual orientation. Along this discovery, I remember sitting at my parent’s home in my bedroom on my bed, my head was down, I felt deeply unhappy, and I remember that my two sisters were in the room with me just having a conversation when I suddenly blurted out to them, “I think I am bisexual.” I paused for a moment feeling numb saying it but I remembered asking them warily, “Would you hate me if I was?” Their reaction and response was a mere revelation, “Oh, we always knew you were different but we don’t hate you.” I asked, “But would you accept me? Because mom and dad won’t. They hate me.” They assured me they wouldn’t judge me or saw me anything less. That day, I felt comforted by the fact that at least I have two of my siblings who accept me for....well, whatever the heck I was?
I wasn’t sure at that time and was trying to figure myself out.
Later along, after many fights and quarrels with my parents, siblings, teachers, peers, and even strangers about what they called ‘abnormal ways and behavior’, my own parents and peers in school took to spreading rumors about me. My parents were saying that I was acting this way because I was a bad seed while my peers in school were spreading rumors that I was a lesbian who needed to get banged by guys to be straight. My parents convinced the school that I was a bad kid who didn’t obey them, acted out, and therefore I should not be trusted. My peers in school would send others to fight me, beat me up, and get others guys to either try to rape me or save me by trying to convert me to be straight. It seems like everyone around me were knocking me down hard but I fought them all back. I got stabbed during a cross fire gang fight in the Fillmore district and since that day I stopped selling drugs and cut ties with gang affiliations. I considered that a close call and I covered it up so well that not even my parents knew about this incident ever till this day. Since it was Chinese Triad youth gang, it was easy to slip away from this small gang unlike colored gangs like the Bloods and Crypts. I decided to lay a low profile, gave myself a nickname for safety reasons so I called myself Nicky throughout the rest of my High School years. My family never knew why I called myself Nicky but the reason why was not because I was trying to present falsehood about my name but having an alias was the only way to cloak my whereabouts so that the gang affiliations would not follow me or bring me back to their world of death and destruction. Eventually, I got my grades back up to at least a 2.0 GPA. Still, it was hard studying at home because my drunken violent father would barge in my bedroom while I am studying and he would yank my hair, or grab something to hit me with while I was trying to study. And mind, all my siblings went through some form of dysfunction, oppression, and tyranny with my father growing up but my journey or rather experience was slightly different, so for the record, my scars from it will always be different than that of my siblings.
He blamed me for everything that went wrong in the family.
One day during my therapy session, my therapist realized that I was probably an LGBT identified youth who was in the need to reach out to the LGBT community for support because I was suicidal at that time and was then considered a high at-risk youth. So one day my therapist wanted to take me to a field trip to the Castro district to watch an independent film that may answer some questions about my own gender identity and sexual orientation but being underage in High School and having to ask for parents consent, it caused another road block at that point in my life. For some reason, I thought it was a good idea to come out to my parents as an LGBT youth to try to educate them on it in hopes they would better understand me. So I tried to explain to my parents about myself but it backfired. My father got furious, ripped up the consent forms, condemned me from going to any more therapy sessions, and placed me under house arrest. This part gets explicit so if you don’t want to read, than stop reading now.
Alright, well you are still reading so don’t say I didn’t warn you.
What happened at this point in my life scarred me and probably for the rest of my life because I have never felt so much animosity from my own father that I truly believed he didn’t love me at all and went on to believing that he hated me for the next five years of my life. That same night while I was sleeping and mind you, it was a school night, he violently woke me up, dragged me out of my bed holding a pair of scissors and a baseball bat. He told me that if I didn’t listen to him that he’ll send me away. He squeezed my nipples declaring that I was a female (and well, that was the part that scarred me the most). If I didn’t knew what gender dysphoria was back then, well, in that moment I was so aware of my own physical body that my male spirit shooked to the core because then I was hurting in my mind, heart, and soul for it and I knew in that moment that my father would never carry any contrition for me naturally being born this way. He yanked my hair and began to cut it all off and I remembered I fought back. I pushed him away. He took strong hold of my left arm and twisted it so hard that my wrist bone slightly dislocated itself. He never used the bat but he did burn my chest with his cigarette butt which left two small scars. My mother stood by watching the horror of this attack, speechless, and I knew she was powerless to do or say anything because in Asian customs, the wife shuts up and listens to her husband obediently and submissively.
I forgive my mother though. I know that this wasn’t her fault.
I thought I was having a dream where I was experiencing a nightmare till I realized what was actually happening to me and when it dawned on me that my own father is probably trying to kill me, I broke from him, and I ran! So feeling attacked, feeling like my life is in danger, with no shoes, no jacket, just in my pajamas, my broken wrist, burned chest, my hair chopped up, and in tears, I ran outside the house through the backdoor in the middle of the night as I heard my mother’s distressed voice yell out my name in Khmer from the distant, “Khan!” All I knew was that I had to get away and find safety somewhere, anywhere! So I end up running all the way to the end of John McLaren park. While I ran, jogged, and half walked out of breath in the cold, so many things rushed through my mind but mostly the strong feeling of not turning back to that hell hole called home and also wanting to just die! I found a bench and I slept on that bench, cold, sobbing, feeling numb, hoping that I do freeze to death or wishing someone other than my father would actually murder me right then and there. The following morning, my wrist was bruised and swollen, my chest had a burned scar, both my feet bled from stepping on sharp items on the bare concrete. I don’t recall how I even survived because I was so catatonic that it was as if I was not in my own body. I made my way over to a friends house and told them what happened to me. They took me to the Larkin Street Youth Center for Homeless or Runaway teens where I stayed. I’ve never hated myself for being what and who I am than in that moment. I began to resent my own father and slowly, I became bitter towards my entire family, people, and all of society.
For the next six months at the shelter, I suffered alone.
During that time, my older sister was my only point of contact and in some ways, it was my only solace, and that maybe my life was still somewhat significant in this world. When my parents found out where I was through my High School counselor, they played nice to me after I have made them worry for six months and wanted me to come back home to their household. I couldn’t trust them for awhile as much as they couldn’t trust me. I remember asking my parents to stop calling me names and hitting me. I told them if they promised to stop all the abuse that I would agree to come home. My parents agreed. At that point my father had already plotted some sort of reform against me by sending my aunt, uncle, and their friends to gently coerce me into changing my ways by using scare tactics. The option was, (1) either I listen to them and do as they say, (2) they send me off to Cambodia to marry some random guy and be his servant wife, or (3) they will place me in the United States Army. Remember, President Bush was elected at that time and he had declared war in Iraq. I did not want to be sent to the U.S. Army Reserve to serve in Iraq plus I have a mental health record so I probably won’t even be allowed into the army. And on top of that, at sixteen, I was considered a juvenile delinquent because my father told lies about me to the police to put me under house arrest.
It was easier for him to control or scare me to succumb to his ways.
At this point, I gave up hope and enabled them to conform me. I hid away the true me and locked myself back in the closet even after graduating High School. I dated guys to prove to my parents that I was straight or normal but all those guys I've dates were no gentlemen! I would look at how they would treat me as a female and I would tell myself, if I were a man, I would not be this narcissistic, egotistical, sexist type of guy just because I have a male privilege. In my opinion, just because a guy is born with a penis, it doesn’t make him a man. The genital parts don't make you a man! Manhood is about your character and not about what parts you have. And the way I perceive these types of guys, they were considered little boys to me instead of a grown man because they didn't act like a gentleman. I went through dysfunctional domestic violent relationships with some of these straight dudes that I have dated because I would behave too masculine for them at times and they wanted to control me with their male ego, toxic masculinity, and assert their dominant male privilege. It also goes to show that I dislike being a female and somehow throughout my early to late twenties dating straight dudes, I realized that I seem to attract abusive guys which strongly reflects the same dysfunctional relationship that I have had with my own father.
In reality, it was a reflection of the things that I did not want in my life but I wasn’t seeing clearly yet and hadn't learned how to say, "No!"
Deep within, I knew none of those straight relationships would last because that was a phase. It was not meant to be and I also knew that I would not end up settling down with a straight guy. During my college years in San Francisco, I had dated a cowardly guy who was very controlling and abusive towards me. He knew about my past and history back in High School. He would try to blackmail me to keep me isolated if I tried to break up with him. One day he offended my entire family then had the audacity to called me, my mother, and my oldest sister a bitch when I finally dumped him, he then said, “You probably acted that way because you had daddy issues.” I didn't give him a reaction because I knew that would give him the satisfaction but for the record, I strongly disagree. No, I don’t have daddy issues. I don’t have any issues. People pick on me and make me their issue. The day I realized that toxicity was also the day I chose to stop giving anymore of my time and energy to them and just focus on what I want, what I need, and most of all what makes me happy. Although, I had not realized any of that in that moment, I had continued to live my life resentfully as a female for the next fifteen years after college. Not because I wanted to... ...Not because I had to... ...It was because I was afraid and didn’t know how to be true to myself again. And for a time, I felt lost.
So when did I realized that I was transgender? To be honest, the term transgender was never known to me till now. So all this coming out (again) is still pretty recent in my life right now because to this date, I am thirty-two years old. For fifteen years, I have lived my life in oppression and I was secretly depressed. I loathed it. I failed at being a female even though I tried so hard to cover up who I truly was but those memories, those haunting moments and experience during my teen years still leaves an imprint on my soul, and it comes back to resurface from time to time. It reminds me of what and who I really am, just like a birthmark that will always be there. It was the unpleasant haunting memories of how I was bullied by my family members, ex-friends, ex-lovers, and all of the general society for being brave and true for it. Back in 2003, I was labeled cross-dresser, gay. lesbian, and dyke. Those were the terms at that time. Although, I didn’t felt like I was gay or lesbian, and I didn’t see myself as a cross-dresser or a dyke. What was normal to me was seen as abnormal to others. What made me happy had made others unhappy. What made sense to me had confused others. So when did all this nonsense stopped? It was when I looked back at the pictures of me in that male image was when I realized that now as an adult, I needed to get real with myself again. This time, no one can stop me. Not even my family. I am older now. I am free to do what makes me happy so at this moment in my adult life, I was going to do everything in my will and power to pursue it.
Realizing that empowered me to officially and permanently make the transition from female-to-male.
I was always transgender even when I didn’t know it because I didn’t learn of the term till now. In Khmer, the umbrella term is called, “Kathoey”, which equivalently translates to gay, lesbian, queer, or those who even identify as transgender. There is no specific word for it in the Cambodian language. So how did I come to terms with identifying myself as a transgender individual? Well, I was talking to a friend over Skype back in early to mid-September 2016 discussing how I felt as a female in mind, body, and soul-wise. I always felt like I should have been born male. I didn’t feel like I was gay or lesbian. I already knew that I am bisexual because I find myself to be attracted to both men and women equally but gender identity-wise, I didn’t agree with being in a female image or taking on that gender role as it did not make me happy and I felt uncomfortable being in a female body. Therefore, I felt something was missing or I felt somewhat incomplete or not whole. My friend told me to look up the term transgender and so I did. It was like huge light bulb that knocked me in the frontal lobe lighting a path, like duh! That’s it! That is exactly how I feel, how I think, and how I behave. That is what I am. There is nothing wrong with me. I wish I was able to discover this sooner but remember, I was oppressed by family members, ex-friends, ex-lovers, and the general society for fifteen years of my life. I felt it was time I came out again but this time stronger, wiser, knowledgeable, transparent, and coherent. So much more so than I ever was before because it is like this; I seriously just did not undergo through all that abuse and LGBT-related bashing and bullying to live a life how others want me to live or feed onto their preconceived notions about me on what they think of me or that they know of me to be. I realized that from then on, I will live my life authentically and I will not censor myself for anyone's ignorance.
Only I know my truth.
In late-September 2016 to mid-October 2016, I came out as a transgender non-conforming or transmasculine identified individual. As I have stated, my sexual orientation has always been bisexual. My clothes have always been unisex because I have always dressed Gothic and Goth clothes tend to be androgynous or gender neutral anyway. So it was easy for me to transition my clothing from that starting point from androgynous to later along more masculine. From there onward, in early October 2016, I reached out to a gender friendly therapist about my gender identity then eventually began my testosterone (hormone replacement therapy) in late-October 2016. My older sister came out to visit me that month so I came out to her again but this time as a transgender non-conforming individual who have decided to transition from female-to-male. She said, “...Makes a whole lot of sense because how you were in High School...You are an adult now so do whatever you want as long as it is safe and you are happy.”
From there, the journey to my hormone testosterone replacement therapy and transitioning began.
The only thing I have to face now in my life is visiting back home and coming out again to my parents and the rest of my family. I know it would be different this time around. I am grown. I am an adult. It’s not like my father has the energy to beat me up anymore. I want my family to finally see me for what I am but most of all who I am. I feel that they never truly knew me or got to know me. I am different in my family because I feel as though I would be the one in my family to test the waves of change and show them that unconditional love is everlasting than a socially programming and conditioned one especially if we all want to survive, thrive, be happy, and live a full life. As a transgender non-conforming kin in my family, I feel that has and always been my life’s purpose. I would like to let my family know that whether they choose to accept me or not that I would love them anyway. If they were an LGBT identified person themselves, if they lost their arm or leg during the Khmer rouge or endured a tragic accident that caused loss of limbs or disfigurement, if they were wretched with a lifelong disease or illness that rendered them disabled or targeted as different in society, I would still love them anyway because that is the right God-given choice to choose and do as a human being.
Life is too short to hold grudges based on diversified indifferences, petty ignorance, hate, and judgements.
I want to let them know that whether they disown me or not, that in the end, I am still of their family blood and lineage. I believe that family is not everything, that loyalty is everything, and even though blood ties can hold grudges, be petty, hate, judge, or cast off one another, new families can be found elsewhere because in the end, loyalty defines my family circle. If you are not loyal to me then you should stay away from me and leave me alone. In life, what matters is that I am alive and I am living my life the way that I want to because this is my life so I am choosing to be loyal to me now. In the end, when we all die, we take all this human experience of love and hate right back to God.
My name is Kaneda Yoshida. I am a bisexual transgender man.