Sybastian Smith

Mr BTIPS (1)My Story

I might have written and rewritten this first sentence several times over.  Unearthing feelings and emotions that have been suppressed for years is a daunting task.  So, I had no clue where I wanted to start.  Over the years the beginning of my story seems to run in to the end, everything in the middle begins to blur, but I soon realize there is no end and my story is still being written.  At some point in all our lives we go through transitions of all sorts.  One of the biggest transitions of my life involved the mental, physical and spiritual evolution of the way I identify and present outwardly how I internally connected with and viewed my gender.

From as young as the age of 4 or 5 I can recall feeling different.  I always felt that I was so much more masculine than the other girls and what scared me the most is that I enjoyed it.  I enjoyed getting dirty, playing, and hanging out with the boys.  I wanted nothing to do with anything feminine and I was very vocal about it.  I was socialized as a black cis-gender female in a culture of people who had and still have no understanding of gender spectrums.  This lack of understanding pushes people like me in to depression, suppression, anxiety, and other detrimental mental states.  Growing up with a family that treated mental health issues as taboo, I learned that if being anything other than a straight cisgender female was deemed a mental issue, I was not going to be called crazy or rejected from my family.  So, as most of us do, we suppress and suffer in silence.  However, it is in my belief, that our creator will help us find a way to be our true authentic selves, no matter the obstacles.  Even at this time, I believe the stage was being set for me to evolve in to the person I was born to be.

I was raised by my grandparents from a very early age in a very small town in Mississippi.  I am grateful for this humble upbringing, as it has made me in to the person I am today.  Living most of my life in small town Canton, MS further paints the picture of the limitations and lack of understanding I was faced with.  My siblings are respectively 10 and 8 years older than me, so I was essentially an only child.  I was not the product of a planned pregnancy.  So, just like many of our parents, my mother allowed and needed my grandparents to assist with my care.  Therefore, I lived most of my life with my grandparents.  There were a few years where I did go to live with my mother, but I would always end right back up with my grandparents.  There were times when I chose to go back and there were times when I had no choice but to go back with my grandparents.  Growing up I did feel unwanted by both my parents, which made me draw more reclusive and to myself.  What I did not understand then, I do now and have found love and respect for both my parents.  My mother has always been a part of my life in some capacity, but my father has been absent most of my life.  It is his parents who raised me.  Therefore, I have respect for him, for simply being the route that provided my grandparents.

Many of my adolescent years, into my early teenage years, I was very depressed.  I did not fit in with the girls, did not want to do the same things, did not act like them, and did not care to.  I also did not fit in with the boys, because to them I was still a girl, but just a “tomboy” and that did not qualify me for entrance into the boy’s club.  This rejection pushed me deeper in to depression.  The loneliness of feeling like you don’t fit in anywhere is almost unbearable.  The turning point came when I first touched a basketball.  I was instantly in love!  I loved every aspect of the game.  I studied it, I ate it, I slept it and I became basketball.  I always felt that basketball made being who I was okay.  I can finally be as masculine as I want to be because people would just associate it with me being an athlete.  This was perfect!  I had found my safe space.  I was known as “the girl who played ball like a boy”.  I loved hearing that and loved to impress the boys with my game.  Not only did I become I high school basketball standout, I also cemented my name on the playgrounds around my city and other nearby cities. Yet there was still a void, an emptiness and I could not figure this feeling out.  So, I suppressed it…..

It was not until I got to college that I began to embrace not only fully and openly my gender identity, but my sexual orientation as well.  Up until this point, I had only dated cis-gender guys.  Dating cis-guys never seemed to work out, because we either turned in to a “bromance” or I was way too masculine.  NO guy really wanted a girl just as masculine as him.  This type of rejection also affected my self-esteem and confidence a lot.  I quickly began to feel very unattractive and retreated more in to sports.  Even though I suffered with my sexual attraction to cis-men period, I still wanted to fit in with the rest of my peers and not draw attention to the fact that something was different about me.  This was around 1999 and 2000, so “gay” was not necessarily the most popular thing to be during this time.  I wanted to have the appearance of having a boyfriend, but not do all the things that came along with said boyfriend.  I really struggled with that and made myself conform and do many things I did not necessarily want to do so that I could fit in.  However, with college I found release from those shackles as well.  I went to college on a full paid basketball scholarship to an all-women’s college, go figure.  Mississippi University for Women is where I had my first official “experience” with a cis-female.  I had kissed girls before and played house with them, even flirted, but this was different.  Did I mention she is white?  I fell head over heels for this woman and she had no real interest in being in a relationship with me other than a physical and sexual one. During this time, I had an infinity for Caucasian women and they seem to be just as attracted to me as well.  White women had this carefree attitude and allowed me the freedom to be just who I wanted to be.  Every white woman I have been with had absolutely no inhibitions and not one judgmental bone in their body.  I won’t even lie, I was afraid to even approach Black women until I moved back home from college a few years later.  That ended quickly once I moved back home though, as I found Black women to be some of the most beautiful, intelligent, and strong women I had ever encountered. The feelings that I was having for women, felt right and honestly not new.  I had felt those feelings before but suppressed them.  When I was at college, I was out in the world without the watchful eye of that small-town in Mississippi.  So, I dove head first in to the lesbian lifestyle and continued to live that open lifestyle when I returned home.  I finally felt attractive and wanted.  It did not take long for me to become very popular and well known within the LGBTQ community in my hometown.  This popularity brought about some very good times and positive things, but it also brought about some very bad times and negative situations.  I had been in love with and made love to many beautiful women over those years, but I found there was still a void, an emptiness that I just could not figure out.  Being open with my sexual orientation, I thought, would be the end of the thoughts and feelings I was struggling with, but it did not eliminate the emptiness or the void.  So, yet again, I suppressed whatever it was and focused on how to be happy living openly as a masculine, stud lesbian cis-woman.

Fast forward to moving to Atlanta, GA in 2009.  I moved to Atlanta to further my education and career goals with my then girlfriend of 3 years.  My girlfriend, our 5-year-old little girl and I quickly left Mississippi to start a new life.  The first 2 years we lived in GA were pure hell and we struggled a lot.  I considered moving back to Mississippi many times over those first few years.  I was very unhappy and did not have anyone to run to.  I had no help, no family near, no one to talk to and I really didn’t know anyone in Atlanta.  So, I did what I knew how to do; I became reclusive yet again.  My then girlfriend and I became increasingly distant as we struggled to get on our feet in GA.  She also had no type of understanding of or any support for my want to go through gender transition. Soon the inevitable happened. I went through the worse break up of my life.  At the end of that relationship, I was fed up and decided that I was no longer living for others.  I was determined to be happy and walk in my authentic truth.  That thing that I had been suppressing, that void that I did not know how fill, I had finally figured it out.  After months of studying on gender identity, hormone replacement therapy, gender confirmation surgery, support groups, etc. I concluded that I am a man and I always have been.  That was that thing that was missing!

This journey to becoming my true self was met with many ups and downs, with the ups definitely outweighing the downs!  I also met the woman I would eventually marry, early in my transition.  I knew she was the one when she accepted and loved me for exactly who I said I was from the first moment I shared my truth with her.  She has transitioned with me and has taken it upon herself to educate not only herself about trans people’s experiences, but she educates those around her as well.  My now wife, is the best thing that has ever happened to me, she is truly my anchor and I don’t take for granted how blessed I am to have her.

Most of us who are trans identified, GNC or NB that decide to medically transition take the same steps.  I went through therapy, saw my general practioner for a consult, physical and labs.  Then on November 17, 2010 I took my first testosterone injection and began my journey.  These past 7 years have been like a rebirth.  I now experience the world in a different way and the world views me as the man I have always been and I and finally truly happy.  Using both my personal experience, knowledge, and education I learned while working in the medical field, I have become an advocate for the transgender community specifically.  My goal is advocate for safe, knowledgeable, and affirming healthcare options for all trans/GNC and NB folk.  I have traveled all over the U.S. speaking about transgender healthcare, equality, and inclusion.  This has become not only my career, but my passion and is also my life!

Now in each of the time periods I mentioned above there are many more stories and situations that I went through, including the military, surgeries, heartbreak, legal document changes, marriage, advocacy, and friendships gained and lost, etc..  We all have lived experience and I hope to continue to write about my story and fill in those gaps.  One of my main goals in life is to share my experience in hopes that it helps someone else’s journey become a little easier.