TW/CW: Brief mentions of suicide attempts and ideation but not into detail, gender dysphoria
Drew recalls being as young as 4 years old when he started bunching up socks and putting them in his pants and wished on Troll dolls that certain body parts would grow.
Anything outside of cisgender or straight was frowned upon being raised Catholic. He knew something was off but wasn’t able to verbalize it or even identify what it was. And he knew that even when he came to terms with it one day, his family wasn’t going to be supportive of it.
As Drew continued to age, he considered himself to be a tomboy and acted out from time to time, ending up in juvie for letting out the anger of what he didn’t know of himself. And at 16 he first came out as a lesbian, though it wasn’t at a good spot in his life.
“My mom and I didn’t have a good relationship at the time and she freaked out,” Drew said. “As the years went by living as a lesbian for so long, I got in the mindset that I was just a tomboy; that girl wearing the baggy clothes.”
At that point, that was just who he was, not knowing that being transgender was a thing. He lived on as a lesbian and eventually accepted it for himself. Others did accept it as well, but some disowned him or stopped talking to him. However, they weren’t being discriminatory about it.
Drew continued to live as such until one of his friends came out as transgender when he was 26.
“That’s really when the wheels in my head started turning,” he said. “I thought to myself, ‘Is this a thing? Is this real? I’m not crazy, I’m not just a tomboy — this is how I felt my whole life.’”
Around this time, he sat down with his mother and partner at the time to come out to them, but they weren’t supportive.
“My mom told me she’d disown me, that I’d have to move out and be homeless,” Drew explained. “She would never look at me as her son — that would just be the end of our relationship. And my partner was unsupportive too, saying they would not be with someone transitioning.”
And any partner he’s had since then was that way, saying they wouldn’t date someone who was transitioning either.
“I was so suppressed I thought this is how it was going to be; I’m just going to live as a lesbian the rest of my life,” he said. “I don’t want to lose my mom or my friends. I’ve [been a woman] this long and could do it even longer — until I met my [now-ex] spouse.”
Key dates in Drew’s transition
- Gender therapy – April 2018
- Began HRT – June 27, 2018
- Name change – Sept. 13, 2018
- Full hysterectomy – July 10, 2020
- Top surgery – Sept. 24, 2020
When he met her, she “called out” Drew on her suspicions of him being transgender. He recalls her saying something similar to, “there’s something different about you, and I want you to know you have a safe place here. You can open up to me.”
When he turned 32, it finally clicked in his head that he didn’t care about who he was going to lose.
“I decided to let this wall down and go with it,” Drew said. “I wasn’t about to let anybody put me down; I’m going to finally be me. So I came out to my partner and she was 100% supportive, helped me get health insurance, set up my appointments and asked what she could do as a partner to help me.”
In April 2018, Drew began his first gender therapy sessions, and shortly thereafter he got a letter from them to begin HRT. However, the day he was supposed to start HRT, he was denied by his therapist’s supervisor.
Luckily, he got a signature from a psychologist and was able to start HRT the day he wanted to — June 27 that same year.
“June is Pride Month and what a better way to start transitioning than to do it in the month you’re supposed to be most proud?”
As he was finalizing some parts of his transition, the last person he called was his mother one last time. However, she was “actually supportive and embraced me in wanting to come out.
“It’s because I laid it on her blankly,” Drew said: “‘I love you mom but this is who I am. If you can’t accept and love me for who I am then that’s your loss.’
“I think being blunt about it and actually standing my ground for once instead of catering to what she wanted me to be really snapped her into reality,” he explained. “As a parent, it took her some adjusting just like anybody else with names and pronouns because I had lived a certain way for so long.”
She had also apologized for not being accepting the first time. Shortly after he began his transition, though — just eight months — Drew’s mother passed away.
“It was saddening because this time she was supportive. She didn’t get to see me have top surgery, get married or be there for me when I got divorced,” he said. “But I know she was watching over me and that’s how all my surgeries have gone well since.”
Looking back at some of the nicknames he got in high school, “Andrew” stuck out because it was something he was familiar with and already matched the initial of his deadname. The name change was official on Sept. 13, just 30 days after he applied for it.
“Being able to say ‘Hi, my name is Andrew’ was the biggest relief I didn’t think I ever expected to feel,” he said.
But in 2019, he started getting really bad cramps due to his HRT.
“When you’re transitioning from female to male, the testosterone starts to shut down your organs that are no longer being used, and your body isn’t producing estrogen as much anymore,” he said.
He scheduled a hysterectomy but the day before it was denied by his insurance company because they tried to say it was a gender affirming surgery.
“Once again I find myself in a position where I’m spending $200 on letters from psychologists saying I can have this surgery, that I’m transitioning,” Drew explained.
On July 10, 2020 he finally had a total hysterectomy. During this time, Drew said that’s when TikTok became something he turned to while he was recovering from surgery.
“I turned to that and helped give hope for the young trans teens there,” he said. “It’s really what makes my transition that much more special to me because when I was their age, I didn’t have someone I could turn to and get advice from.
“Watching them grow and progress through their own transition is a blessing for me. It’s very hard for a teenager to be going through it whose families don’t support them and they have to bottle it up. That in itself makes my transition that much more special to me.”
After that, it was a race for top surgery because of insurance.
“It’s now or never. My chest [dysphoria] was so bad there would be times I wouldn’t shower for weeks because of the mental pain it would be to take off my shirt and have to get in the shower,” Drew said. “Even with a partner offering to go in with me, I couldn’t bring myself to it.
“Luckily by chance I found a surgeon in Orlando through a Facebook group that took my insurance, so it was 100% free. And because they knew the rush with insurance resetting at the end of every year, they were able to book me for my consultation while I was recovering from my hysterectomy.
Sept. 24, 2020 was his top surgery.
“I’m finally doing this for me; I’m finally letting out who I truly am inside and not letting anybody stomp in that,” he said. “The initial relief was so freeing.”
To this day, Drew says he’s still getting new facial hair, going through voice drops, building muscle and learning new things about himself every day.
“I’ve always been this way, the only thing I’ve changed is my voice and my appearance,” he said. “We’re still the same person; we’re still people. It doesn’t change our personalities or anything except for our happiness that we find within ourselves. I’ve never smiled or been a selfie person until I started to transition and see the differences.”
He said at his transition when he was 32, his family was finally more accepting and attributes it to being talked about more in society, though he’s had points in his transition where others told him he’s just mutilating his body, emphasizing that he can’t reverse these surgeries.
But he’s now able to mow the lawn without his shirt on and experience other cis, white male things he’s always wanted.
“People were finally starting to transition — not hiding anymore. It was definitely an overwhelming joy coming out the third time and having support.
“I can finally be who I am and I don’t have to worry about bottling it up anymore or hating who I see when I look in the mirror. I turned to YouTube a lot because TikTok wasn’t a thing, and I started following a lot of the big trans influencers and getting excited about being able to [transition].”
For those who aren’t ready to come out or who aren’t in a safe place to, Drew said to stick it out.
“My first time coming out [and not being accepted] hit me hard, especially by my mom. I didn’t have any support and I felt like something was wrong with me, ‘Why won’t my mom love me, why won’t my family love me?’ The issue today is that a lot of people don’t talk about how they came out or what experiences they went through. Coming out is half the battle.”
And above all, make sure there’s a support system waiting for you when the time comes.
“If you’re coming out, make sure you have a supportive person there with you because it’s not always going to be sunshine and rainbows. Find a friend or someone you can confide in, whether it be someone on social media or that one friend you know you can trust. There will be instances where you’re not going to be accepted, and it makes all the difference to have that person to fall back on if you need to cry, scream or just be held.
“I lost hope several times and gave up and that’s why I ended up in some of the bad places I ended up in. It takes time and patience — don’t give up and don’t lose hope.”
Follow Drew on TikTok and Instagram @ninja_penguins1.