Life as a Transgender

“It’s ‘T’-Day!” Brayden Koch (pronounced “cook”) laughs at me as he prepares the needle. Slowly, he takes it to his leg and injects himself with his prescribed dose of testosterone. “I got very lucky”, explains Koch, “most trans people have to have a doctor to get prescribed ‘T’.”

Koch, who himself identifies as a transgender individual, is just one of many who identify with the opposite sex. Being on “T” has aided Koch in his journey in becoming Brayden instead of Bhryanne. Once an attractive female, Koch now bares the characteristics of an average male. An edgy haircut, muscular physique, deep

Brayden Koch

Brayden Koch, courtesy of his Instagram (@BraydenJamess)

voice, and sharp facial features set Koch apart from females; making anyone who does not know his story believe that he is, in fact, a male. Individuals such as Koch experience a plethora of various injustices for pursuing an identity change. Suicide rates among transgender individuals are higher than most, resulting in both an International Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31) and a Transgender Day of Rememberance (November 20). Transgender individuals live the life that they desire, regardless of social Backlash.

“T” refers to the hormone testosterone. Female to male transgender individuals, such as Koch, take this hormone to increase their masculinity. For male to female transgender individuals, estrogen is taken in order to increase femininity. There are many different ways to take hormones, but the cheapest and most convenient for Koch is to inject. Koch himself is not required to see a doctor to obtain his testosterone, which is not the case for a vast majority of people within the trans community.

Often times, getting a doctor to prescribe an individual hormone therapy can be difficult. Stated in an article written by Michelle Hospital and Suzanna M. Rose, “[Doctors who] do not support an open LGBT identity face an ethical dilemma when working with LGBT clients.” This can make it very hard for an individual who identities as transgender to get a doctor suitable for their lifestyle. Even after a doctor is obtained, health insurance does not cover hormone therapy, which can be very expensive. Koch knows full well how expensive hormone therapy can be, and says that, “I have to buy testosterone, which is expensive… But I also have to buy all my needles and syringes on top of that.”

Aside from no insurance coverage and unsupportive doctors, there is the social stigma that keeps transgender individuals away from the doctor. Kenneth Jost writes, “Gender Identity Disorder (G.I.D.) is officially listed as a mental illness”, which leaves transgender individuals feeling ostracized by medical professionals. Koch was astounded when he found out that “there is an actual disorder for trans people, and it has a name.” Koch believes that the social stigma related to transgender individuals comes from the fact that their lifestyle is “technically a disorder.”

In fact, it is this very same social stigma that keeps individuals from “coming out” and identifying as transgender. Hospital and Rose say that research on social stigma is hard due to the “small sample size” of the trans population itself. Hospital and Rose also state that “the internet [has] facilitated the development of [the transgender] community.” Koch agrees with this assertion, being an avid user of social media himself. “I’m an Instagram junkie,” states Koch, “I like tell my story through pictures.” In hopes of being a role model to others, Koch uses Instagram to document his hormone therapy progress. Posting pictures of muscle development, facial

Brayden's Transformation

Before and after hormone therapy, courtesy of Brayden’s Instagram (@BraydenJamess)

hair, and other body changes, Koch hopes to be a beacon of hope for individuals who are scared of coming out or are confused by their identity.

Still, the LGBT community as a whole faces an everyday stigma stretching all the way back to the ’80s. HIV and AIDS ran rampant during this time, and many people associated this with the LGBT community. In an article written by Justin Torres on Advocate.com, “violent homophobia” was the result of the HIV/AIDS outbreak. The stigma towards the LGBT community and HIV/AIDS became so prevalent, that the image of “Princess Diana… shaking hands with an AIDS patient stunned the press”, continues Torres. Today, education and growing acceptance has lead to a reduced social stigma towards the LGBT community, specifically homosexuals.

Koch is very happy that the world is becoming more accepting towards the LGBT community, but doesn’t “feel exactly connected to it.” Homosexuality used to be classified as a mental disorder, but has later been removed from that list. As stated, Gender Identity Disorder remains classified as a mental disorder, which doesn’t exactly make Koch and other members of the transgender community happy. Although there are many activist groups pushing to remove G.I.D. from the list of mental disorders, there are professionals such as Professor Paul McHugh who would like to “discourage… adults who seek surgical sex reassignment” and agree that “transsexualism” (a term coined by a Professor Paul Fink from the Temple University’s School of Medicine) is a mental diagnosis.

“It’s great that [the LGBT community] is gaining acceptance, but it’d be nice to feel some of that too,” explains Koch, who feels like the trans community has its own struggles to overcome, separate from the LGBT community. Jost states that “transgender people were present” during the liberation movement of the ’60s, “but they were largely ignored or even shunned.” During this time, gay men and women felt as though transgender individuals were “incompatible with the prevailing conformist politics”, states Jost. Thus political movements were focused on that of gay men and women, not transgender individuals.
Today, “Visibility of the… LGBT community has increased significantly in the political, cultural, and entertainment arenas in the last decade” explains Hospital and Rose. This can be seen in the growing number of advocates and spokespersons for transgender individuals. Transgender beauty

Transgender individual, Geena Rocero

Geena Rocero during her TED Talk. Courtesy of Ted.com

pageant winner Geena Rocero was able to tell her story during a TED Talk, and continues to spread the word for transgender equality. Another advocate for transgender equality, Janet Mock, was able to have a sit down with Piers Morgan and create awareness by telling her story on national television. In fact, there are a growing number transgender individuals choosing to tell their story in order to create awareness. In the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Gary Gates writes, “The LGBT [and transgender] community has doubled, going from 1.8% in 1992, to 3.5% in 2012.” With the number of individuals choosing to openly express who they are, advocacy for the transgender community is growing.

“It’s great to see some trans men and women becoming famous,” confesses Koch, referring to famous actress and advocate, Laverne Cox, “It inspires me to continue being me.” Indeed the transgender community is becoming more and more accepted in today’s world, but gender identity discrimination still exists. Jost explains that “trans people… experience widespread discrimination in employment, housing, and other areas” of life. Koch agrees with Jost, stating that “Sometimes I can feel very uncomfortable at work.” There is the constant idea that Koch must “explain who he is” to others around him. Many companies now have “‘Trans-inclusive’ non-discrimination policies [meant to] help transgender workers fit in comfortably”, explains Jost, but even this is not enough to completely put an end to workplace discrimination.

Koch remains positive looking into the future, hoping that transgender individuals will one day have the same rights as everyone else. Torres also remains hopeful, stating that “a future generation is coming into being”, a generation of acceptance, love, and tolerance. Koch, along with the rest of the transgender community, believe that one day, “We all can be equal.”

Brayden Koch

Brayden shows his pearly whites. Courtesy of Instagram (@BraydenJamess)

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