Freedom can be thought of as a person’s right to make their own choices, and this causes us to ask ourselves if we should respect someone’s choices. This important consideration applies to just about everything we do, but we don’t always think about whether or not our gender is actually our choice. This mentality causes a rift in the ways we apply freedom to people who decide their gender doesn’t suit them.

The question of being free to change genders to a more well-suited one is not easily answered, but it’s worth understanding the transgender person’s perspective, regardless of your views on the topic. The best way to go about that is to have a conversation with them. Yes. A conversation. I almost forgot about that archaic word myself, but I decided to sit down with Christopher, a transgender man, and ask him about his experience.

What followed was immensely educational. Here is what I asked him about:

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So around when do you remember first having the desire to change your gender?

Christopher: That one is kind of hard, just because I remember, like, as a child thinking, “man, this would be so much easier if I was a boy.” Things like that, and I just thought that was kind of normal. Because you can’t really say, “It’s not normal to have these kinds of thoughts.” It wasn’t until I was 17 that I had an actual name for it.

Can you describe what it felt like?

Whenever I first found out, there was a lot of confusion, but at the same time I thought, “yeah, that makes sense.” And it was cool that there was a name for it, but I was also terrified. I had a friend that I talked to who was trans, who was like, “you have to look into the future, and, you know, ask yourself who you see yourself as.”

How did you go about your transition, and when did this take place?

Very slowly. I came out to two of my friends the summer before my senior year, and they were very shocked, to say the least. And then throughout my senior year, I came out to most of my friends and my teachers. And then, like, there’s something called a binder and I finally got that my senior year.

A binder?

Mhm, it’s kind of like a compression vest, I guess you could say.

(Sounds of realization)

So, was there any controversy due to that?

Yeah. I actually lost a few friends due to it, which was kind of surprising considering I went to an art school where, like, everything was accepted. But the thing with that was I didn’t realize until after we had graduated that the reason they stopped talking to me was because I was trans.

They just stopped talking to you altogether?

Yeah. Pretty much. We would go months without talking, and I would just be like “dude, what’s going on? I’m still here. Still alive.

So, I’ve actually seen this myself, but do you get any weird looks?

All the time.

How’s that?

I find it humorous. But on one hand, it’s none of your business, and on the second hand, I would like you to recognize that I am male. But you kind of have to take everything in stride and try to find the humor in it, because there’s no sense in being angry over something you can’t control.

How do you feel about the subject of various gender pronouns like “xe” or “xer”?

For the longest time I didn’t understand, and I still don’t completely, just because it’s not something I directly deal with. I had a friend that used those pronouns. My deal with that is, you know what’s going on with yourself, and as long as it’s reasonable, I’m completely going to respect that and respect you. Because I know how crappy it is for someone to misgender you, and not use your pronouns and hurt you. I know it’s not just male/female, there’s a whole spectrum. Just like sexuality, there’s a spectrum.

How about astral genders or furries?

Ok, that is one thing that I personally can’t stand, just because a lot of people look at furries and think that’s what trans it, and it’s not. Because being trans is, you know, still human mentally. I know I’m not a dog or a wolf or a star. Those things, personally, I just don’t get, and I don’t know if I ever will.

Do you feel like you were completely free to do this? In other words, do you think this topic is still in need of discussion?

I think it is, and it probably always will be. Just because people don’t know, and they don’t understand … and they’re not going to look it up, since it doesn’t affect them. There’s always a need to talk about basic human rights and decency, which sucks, but I think it needs to happen.

Do you have any advice or encouragement for people experiencing this?

Only you know who you are, and there’s no point in trying to hide that, because you’re only going to make yourself miserable. It’s going to be a long, hard journey but eventually, you’re going to be able to be you, and be yourself — and there’s nothing in the world that could describe that feeling.