No Longer Identifying as a Trans Man

William Cuthbert, who came out as a trans man in September 2021, recently shared his journey of self-discovery and his decision to no longer identify as a trans man.

After coming out, William kept a select few of his old women’s clothes, including a sequined denim jacket, an old jumper with bright pink details, and jewellery gifted by family members. These were not items he had forced himself to buy or kept just for feminine appearances; they were items that brought him real joy.

Contrary to the ‘female-to-male’ trans stereotype of rejecting any dress, William even kept the wedding dress he wore in 2019, though it might be tight and baggy in all the wrong places now. While he culled other femme clothes – bodycon dresses he didn’t miss and a handkerchief skirt with ragged ends he wished he had kept – a part of him knew he might return for them someday. He even kept some French knickers because they were pretty and made him feel the same way.

Recently, William began experimenting with wearing some of these pieces again, coinciding with his return to identifying as non-binary and stepping away from his former trans man label. He believes that changing one’s mind on self-expression is okay if it feels right for the individual.

William initially came out as non-binary in April 2021 at the age of 29. Around the same time, he started wearing a binder, acknowledging his chest dysphoria and taking steps to ease it. These were part of the early stages of realizing his identity. It took months more for him to begin to grasp his masculinity.

Having been sexually assaulted by men and boys, as have roughly a quarter of people who’ve ever presented as female, William had learned to be wary of men and, in so doing, to fear part of himself. It took no small amount of self-inquiry through meditation to realize that and accept masculinity as a neutral trait.

After all that work to be comfortable sitting with the idea of masculinity, William started identifying as a trans man in September 2021. Recognizing himself for the first time was exciting, and he wanted to experience everything he felt he had missed on the other side of the gender binary. Being seen by people as a man gave him an undeniable rush of pride and confidence.

During this time, William was on testosterone for two years, which brought him peace with his changing self-image. His body became stronger, as did his spirit, now that he was inhabiting something closer to his true physical form. His jawline became broader, his short scruffy beard boosted the effect, his nose grew bigger, his neck and shoulders became subtly but visibly more pumped, and his leg muscles became solid and defined.

William became used to physically taking more space and enjoying being present with himself, existing in this shape, and hearing his real voice now deepened with hormone therapy. However, coming down from the manhood honeymoon period, he found himself no longer needing to lean so hard on social ideas of masculinity just to feel right in the world.

In January of this year, William realized he was not a man. Living as one for two years served its purpose, empowering him, but it was like an item of clothing that expressed some past version of himself – it wasn’t him anymore. And that was okay. He didn’t feel the need to come out as non-binary all over again. At the end of the day, he wanted to be unafraid to be himself and defy anyone who’d deny him power in his identity.

This realization, with its feelings of guilt and internalized transphobia telling him he was fake and couldn’t make up his mind, was just as complicated as figuring out the logistics of being able to wear what he wanted. William still uses a chest binder, which restricts what he can wear to clothes with full-torso coverage. He also feels nervous about what he’ll look like to people, wearing anything remotely feminine with his beard and full body hair. He worries he might be at risk of abuse or just seen as a male cross-dresser.

William knows he deserves to feel beautiful, genuine, desirable, or simply comfortable in the self-expression he shows to others. All he needs is the courage to get out there anyway. Sooner or later, he will. For now, he has settled for lacy socks, dying his hair a subtle raspberry purple, and wearing that pink-detailed, slightly cropped jumper out and about – small things that feel possible while his wardrobe and courage are still limited.

Most of the time, William forgets what life was like before he started his transition. There is a blissful distance between the undefinable despair and self-loathing he felt back then and reaching this point, making the past worth fighting through.

William believes that everyone deserves to fly their freak flag with pride. He says, “We owe it to the world and to ourselves to let our expression be a sincere reflection of who we are. Anyone who says otherwise – that we should resign ourselves to being one identity, one gender, one kind of human our whole lives – is saying that we can never grow, learn, or teach each other anything beyond what’s expected of us.”

If everyone stands by what’s expected, nothing changes. If the world gets to know the real you, reality shifts. People who see you might reveal their own hidden selves, best or worst. And that’s terrifying.

William advises others, as he advises himself: “If you don’t accept and share the best of who you are, nobody you meet will ever get the chance to know you. Who knows what we’ve all been missing?”