It's an all new UNTUCKED and this time we are doing something a little different. It's been a big year for the trans community as more and more media attention is being brought to the issue. I thought, 'What could be better than to interview someone born and raised in our own community undergoing the life changes associated with transition?" So this month we are taking a break from Nashville's drag scene to learn more about what life is like for someone undergoing transition.
Tristan Jackson is a Nashville native who has always felt different, who always felt he was born in the wrong body. Tristan has made so many transformations in his life in the past few years. In his quest to be himself, he's questioned not only gender identity but also religion and other values. Having served our country in the Army, he knows sacrifice all too well, and he's decided it's time to make changes in many aspects of his life so he can feel whole. So sit back and relax as we ask Tristan to give us some insight into his trans experience and get to know all about his struggle to become his authentic self.
What does being transgender mean to you? What do you think defines someone as trans?
To me, I would say it means I'm pretty much a freakin' unicorn! Being trans means that a person's gender identity doesn't match what the doctor wrote on your birth certificate. For me, it's how I think and feel. Really, at the end of the day, the only person that can decide what defines them as a trans person is the individual.
When did you first realize you were different?
Around the age of 5, when I started kindergarten. Girls and boys had to line up separately and I was made to stand in line with the girls. Until then, I didn't really understand that I had been born female.
Knowing you personally, I feel you are very masculine. Have you always been like this and was that something that made you feel you might be trans?
I've always been masculine and drawn to traditionally masculine things. I can't exactly describe how, I just always knew I was a guy.
How did this affect your childhood?
As a kid, it was awkward for me to receive gifts of baby dolls and girly clothes. I didn't want to seem ungrateful, but I would secretly wish I had gotten a remote control car or baseball cap.
What were some other struggles you faced growing up?
Puberty! Seriously, when I started growing breasts instead of pecs I was horrified. I felt isolated because I didn't know of any other trans men. The only images of transgender people I saw as a kid were those on the talk shows that exploited trans women for ratings.
Someone once explained that transgender is who you go to bed as, sexuality is who you go to bed with. How would you explain being transgender to someone who may not understand it?
That is very well put, In fact That's pretty much how I'd explain it.
What do you feel was the hardest part of coming to terms with being transgender?
I had a difficult time reconciling being trans with my religious upbringing. I grew up being told that being anything other than a cisgender heterosexual was wrong. It took years to undo a childhood of brainwashing from the religious community I was raised in.
What do you think has been the hardest part of transitioning?
Dealing with ignorance and bigotry has been the most difficult for me. From workplace and housing discrimination to threats of physical violence, I've never been able to understand how some people can be so mean.
How did your family and friends feel about your transformation?
Most of my family think I'm insane and going to hell, but it gives them something to gossip about during family reunions and holiday dinners. I have amazing friends that have been supportive and celebrated my transition.
Do you find yourself more attracted to men, women, or both, and why?
To be honest I have always been attracted to both. I’ve always been attracted to the person, not the gender.
How has your love life changed as you've embraced your identity more and more?
I found that revealing that I'm trans to potential love interests helped weed out those that weren't worth my time or my love.
Do you have a significant other?
Yes I do! He's so perfect. We have been together for almost two years.
You had top surgery recently; do you feel as though it has made you more complete? Why?
Oh, most definitely. I feel like my body now better reflects my real, authentic self.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about being transgender?
I think the biggest misconception is that we are all the same. Not every trans person wants gender reassignment surgery or hormones. Not every trans person identifies as male or female. There are many identities under the transgender umbrella; trans men, trans women, genderqueer, gender neutrois, transsexuals, transvestites, drag queens, two-spirits, the list goes on for days.
How do you feel that the Nashville community feels about transgender individuals? How does that make you feel?
I feel like the community is becoming more and more accepting and understanding of transgender persons. The friendship and support I've encountered within our community is amazing and I feel blessed to be a member of it.
Who would you say at this time is the largest advocate for the trans community and why?
I don't know that there is any one person that's out there doing the most work or creating the most change. I feel like the biggest advocates we have are ourselves as individuals. It's very important for us to be visible and to be role models for the younger trans kids.
What advice who you give to someone who feels they may be transgender?
I would recommend joining a transgender support group such as Tvals, make friends with other trans people, and surround yourself with positive people that will support you.