Beware of a lengthy post about me!
So who is Jarath Hemphill? One of the biggest things that sets me apart is being transgender, so we will start with that little bit of me. It’s always funny because people act like they know more about something I’m going through than me! Most doctors don’t even really understand it, they certainly do not know what causes it. One of my favorite explanations is that while in the womb for some reasons the body gets washed in the wrong hormone at the wrong time. So the brain is created with the internal thought processes of the gender that is opposite of the genitals. It seems to make the most sense to me. There is also discussion regarding DNA…but no real clear cut theory there…yet.
So basic generic view is that the brain and the body are not congruent regarding gender. Now let’s first clarify regaring the fact that gender and sexual orientation are two different things, Gender is who you identify as….as in male or female or somewhere in between (if you don’t believe me look up innersex), while sexual orientation is who you are attracted to…two different things. So where was I…the body and the brain are incongruent, which means the brain believes it is one gender while the body displays the opposite. So in my instance, my genitals reflected female, but my brain feels male. So how can a brain feel a gender? How do we know what gender we are at birth? Are we to believe that just because your parents call you a girl and society treats you like a girl…what if your brain said that isn’t right? At a young age you don’t understand the concept, at least for me I didn’t. I just know I hated doing the female gender roles, the most common thing I remember hearing growing up is “girls don’t do that”. So you might think well that’s just a problem of society forcing gender roles on people, but it is more than that. I remember hating wearing dresses, we found an old school picture of me for a choral group I was in…they had forced us to wear pastel dresses…and I was pissed! You could tell me right away, sitting in front with my arms crossed and an angry look on my face. It pretty much felt no matter what I did it was never right with the world.
Looking back through transgender glasses, I think I knew something wasn’t right I just didn’t know what it was. I once told one of my therapists that I felt very shallow, and I think this partially had to do with the fact that I’ve always been pretending who I am. I mean I don’t think it was a conscious thing, I think I just knew that who I was was wrong somehow. So I pretended a lot. I remember the first penis I saw, I was around 11 years old when my cousin Debbie showed a picture torn out from a porn magazine. I was fascinated. Not because I was attracted to it, though I guess sexually I was, it just felt like something I wanted. I remember Brian once told me I have penis envy…and I told him OF COURSE I DO! So did I understand then? Nope. I was very promiscious in high school, it wasn’t even beause I enjoyed sex, I just felt it was something I should do. I did enjoy it to a degree, but not until I started transitioning did I understand why it wasn’t satisfying for me…I was doing it wrong. I should have been the top in simplistic terms, having intercourse with someone not the other way around. Anyway being bisexual meant that I didn’t feel this huge pressure to conform. I mean if I was a female attracted only to females then I’d have faced a lot more pressure to conform and that might have pushed me sooner to realize the transgender situation. I know Chaz Bono mentioned something like this in his book.
So basically clueless when young, clueless while young adult, and clueless until middle aged. I’d always had body image problems, I’d look in the mirror and I’d see my sister or my mom…which felt totally wrong for me. I’d try working out but the wrong muscles would change, or so it seemed to me. I’d get fat and my breasts would just bother me more. I was in a relationship with a great guy, but I just could never feel comfortable, complete, or content.
I like to blame Brian for what flipped the switch 😉 We were working together, and becoming friends, when a graphic novel came through…I think it was called “Afterschool nightmare” There were like 10 books in the series, for something we started reading it together to make ourselves laugh. It’s a story about a boy whose upper body is male, but his bottom half is female. He’s in high school and lots of wierd stuff happens. It was a fun series so I won’t ruin it for anyone! Needless to say we started reading the series and one day Brian told me “You are a gay guy in a woman’s body” as a joke because I really liked the gay scenes in the series. For some reason that statement stayed with me for quite some time. I just couldn’t put it down. The longer I kept turning is around in my head the more and more it seemed to make sense. Around that time Chaz Bono came out about being transgender. It didn’t put a big light bulb over my head…TADA! Nope, but it gave me a name and a story.
I contacted a co-worker to ask her husband who was a psychologist about questions regarding gender identity. He gave me a couple of names without asking a qustion, which I really appreciated. So I was in therapy for a couple years before I decided to transition.
Up until the actual transition I was always worried that I was wrong or confused or all the other things people like to say about transgender people. But within weeks of starting the Testosterone I felt such an amazing change. Prior to the transition I had what they call hormonal migraines, now I think it was my brains way of responding to the wrong hormone 😉 I also had very bad anger issues during menustration. The migraines stopped and I suddenly felt so much calmer than I ever had before. I used to really hate how emotional and angry I’d get during menustration, it just felt like I was out of control and frustrating. Suddenly it was gone, I felt calm, I felt in control, I felt so much better than I ever had before…I remember thinking ‘This is how I’m supposed to feel!’. A year later I got my top surgery. Because it was not covered under insurance it ended up costing me over $12,000 including having to travel to Florida to get a surgeon who specialized in it. I remember feeling very excited and a little nervous. The amazing thing to me was that afterwards I’ve never once even felt like I missed my breasts. If anything it again felt “right” to me, my chest felt and started looking a lot like what I inately knew it should feel and look like.
What does it mean to me to be transgender? It means that my brain and body are becoming congruent, and I feel comfortable in my body for the first time in my life. Best day of my life was when I was in the bathroom at work, washed my hands and glanced up and didn’t think of anything about the person in the mirror. That was a first for me to look in the mirror and see me.