Big Al Bittner

“Sometimes you have to go through the pain to experience the joy” Throughout my life I’ve learned to live by this quote, it has kept me strong during the most confusing times of my life. It is what keeps me going to this day. My name is Big
Al Bittner, and this is my story:
My journey begins on September 13, 1988, although the day I was born
isn’t as important as four weeks later when Lynda Ruth, the woman that I call
“Mummy,” came to get me. In Maryland in 1988, as single mother already, Lynda
Ruth transracially adopted me. Transracial adoption is an adoption in which the
placed child is of a different race or ethnic origin than the parents. Most
commonly, it involves White parents and Black or Asian children.(McMahon, Mary,
and O. Wallace. “What Is Transracial Adoption?” WiseGEEK, Conjecture Corporation) A few
years later my mother meet and married my adoptive father, then my younger
sister was born in 1992. Growing up my family never made me feel excluded or
treated me differently from my sisters. That be said, the internal struggle of my
own indifference was a chaotic whirlwind. I was raised in Maryland where the
African American population is greater than most states, but the town I was
raised in had a black to white ratio of 1:27. I share this, because you’ll learn that
most of my life has been spent figuring out how the color of my skin factors into
who I am and where I belong.
Being black in a small town wasn’t the only thing I had to overcome
before I would find the confidence that I have today. In school I struggled with a
reading disability. Yes, I was a ‘Hooked on Phonics’ kid. It caused me to be held
back a grade and to be in secluded classes. This helped me in the long run, but
made me ashamed of who I was. Also, in the fourth grade we took Sex Ed and
learned about what it meant to identify as “gay and lesbian.” I knew that this
was ME! I had always found women attractive and had crushes, but at such a
young age I had no word to express how I felt. Having middle child struggles at
home and friends that I felt that I couldn’t really talk to about “real” things, I felt
alone dealing with my internal crisis and did not know where I belonged in my
little bubble. Despite all of this, I have always kept an optimistic attitude,
because I knew I could only go up from where I was.
A major turning point in my life and identity development happened when
I when to an HBCU and enrolled in school at University of Maryland: Eastern
Shore (UMES). For those of you unaware an HBCU is a Historically Black
College & University. For the first time I was surrounded by other people that
looked like me 24/7, not just when I was visiting Baltimore or DC. I was in
heaven. During my time at UMES I learned the following: first, I love and
appreciate black people and the culture and have since done my research on
learning about my own black history, which was never taught to me growing up.
Second, although I love black culture, in my 30+ years of life, I find that I do not
fully relate to my ethnicity. This is mostly because of how I was raised; I find
myself interested in different things than most people, regardless of what is
more “stereotypical” of one race or another.
Third, I learned that no matter what I do in life that my sisters will aways have my
back. I am forever grateful, because I know a lot of people will never experience
having the unconditional love of their siblings. My sisters may not always
understand me and/or have judgment about some of my choices, but they are
ride-or-die. This kind of bond is what I base majority of my future relationships
on.
Fourth, I came out as a stud/lesbian. I had always been a “tomboy” (I did karate
and had short hair in different stages of life) but the fear and lack of
representation made me hide how I truly wanted to express myself. At my
University, I started wearing only “boys” clothes and I started dating! Mind you, I
had never dated or had romantic relationships before this, because kids would
get beat up in high school for being gay and I wasn’t trying to stand out more
than I already did as a black kid in a predominantly white school. Finally, I
learned that I have always been attracted to masculinity. I dated only other studs
or masculine-identified women. I was attracted to men, but if I was going to be
with a man, I wanted to be a man that dated other men; not a stud/female that
dated men. At the time, becoming the man that I envisioned myself as, was
never in my relm of possibility.
Fast forward a couple years to about 2012, when I did the “lesbian thing”
and moved cross-country to California for a relationship. It ultimately didn’t work
out, but we remain very close friends to this day. During this time, Chaz Bono
went onto Oprah and told the world that he was a Transman. His words awoke
something in me that I didn’t even know was there. Being in the LGBT
community I knew about Transwomen and thought that was the only thing the
“T” stood for. After seeing that he had transitioned into a MAN, I knew in my
heart that I was a transman! But the more the interview went on, I couldn’t quite
relate to the dysphoria that he described experiencing. Also, he said he was
straight and only ever dated feminine women. With no guidance or
representation of other black queer transmen, I assumed that this was only an
opportunity for straight Caucasian people and my dream was shattered.
That all changed when I meet Luckie Alexander, the founder of Invisible
Men. At the time, Luckie was dating my best friend Bobby who is a cisgender
gay male. I hung out with them several times and thought Luckie was the
coolest guy I had ever meet! He was just himself no matter what situation we
were in. One day, Bobby had revealed to me that Luckie was a transman and I
was shook to my core! Here was this awesome Black man that didn’t fit societal
norms in how he lived his life and he had transformed himself that way. With
guidance from, Luckie I learned that I could be the man I had always envisioned
and I didn’t have to follow the path of anyone – I could make my own path. I can
confidently say that if I had never meet Luckie, I would have settled in my
pursuit of love for myself and others and would have just being a Boi with an I
and not a Y like I truly identify.
This all brings me to October 24, 2018, my day of “awakening,” also
known as, the date that I received my first testosterone shot. At 30 years old,
after struggling with my identity, failing at things; enjoying life yet longing for
more; being confused and angry and not knowing how to feel complete, I took
the first steps into becoming the real boY I had always dreamed of being. My
story is still ongoing and I’m more optimistic than ever, because I finally figuring
out how the color of my skin factors into where I belong. For me, the answer is:
it doesn’t. I can live my truth and be the man that I dim worthy of life, which is
certainly not the norm in any aspect of today’s society, but it is the only way I
know how to be. I am Big Al Bittner and I am a Black Queer Transman.