What are your pronouns?
Where do you work?
I work in Boston close to North Station. I’m a physical therapist. It’s an outpatient orthopedic practice, a place where your Average Joe would go if they got injured.
Do you have any hobbies or special interests?
I used to do a lot of rock climbing, but have now kind of fallen out of that and have been doing more boxing. I do a little bit of woodworking. I’ve built some furniture, stuff like that. I more or less taught myself by just trying to put things together. I pretty much acquire [equipment] as I’ve needed it – like a bunch of power tools and things. I'll realize mid-way through a project that something would be helpful and go to pick it up. My collection’s a little bit limited, but it’s functional for the things that I’ve done so far.
What do you do for fun?
Mostly hang out with friends. Even though I’ve been in Boston for four years, there’s still so much stuff that I don’t know is around, but I just like exploring this area (greater Boston). I don’t sit still very well, so I usually like to be doing something or going somewhere or seeing something new.
How do you handle the issue of pronouns and being gendered when interacting with strangers / mixed company / etc?
For the most part, socially, with friends, I go by Andy and the associated pronouns. At work I still go by my legal name and legal pronouns. So that’s very split. There’s a little bit of crossover there. I have made some friends from work, so I'm slowly processing [to Andy] with former co-workers and stuff like that, sort of easing into that transition with them. For the most part it hasn’t been too hard. But if I’m with just the general public, if I just go to the store or something like that, I usually let the person I’m talking to just go with whatever. I’m not really offended by it. I know the way I look, and I’m usually either perceived as female or a 15-year-old boy or younger. [laughs] So I get I.D.’ed all the time. I got I.D.’ed for an R movie a couple of months ago. I was with three people definitely over the age of 17. So that was pretty devastating to my ego. But if someone refers to me as “sir” or “she” or something like that, I typically won’t say too much about it since I am sort of in that transition period. I usually kind of try and avoid some of it.
One of the problems I sometimes run into is by telling people I go by Andy. It’s a nickname I got from Andrew. The funny thing is, it is sort of a unisex name, so some people don’t necessarily know how I identify. I’ve had some people then follow up with asking what pronouns I prefer, and then I’ll tell them. I don’t usually have a problem answering questions if I know people have good intentions or they’re looking to learn something. This doesn’t happen often, but if anyone is asking more with some sort of judgment then I usually just avoid it. I’m not really one for conflict, so I’m probably not going to argue it either, unless it was something really bad. Otherwise I just let it slide.
Have you had difficulties with changing your name and the way it affects you moving through the world, being recognized how you want, or being mis-gendered?
I haven’t legally changed my name, or even moved in that direction yet, but I just had surgery 6 ½ weeks ago, and actually two days ago was my first testosterone injection. I think if there’s any big concerns I have about transitioning, it’s sort of work-related. I work in a profession where people show some of their vulnerability. They’re usually in pain, and my job is literally to touch them, which involves a lot of trust. So I haven’t really wanted to pull any of my personal life into my work environment because I want to make sure that they’re comfortable. It’s my job to do my profession as opposed to letting other things get in the way of that. So I made the decision that I would start more of the physical transition, and when that starts to be more consistent with how I picture myself, then I’ll work on the legal stuff. There’s a lot of steps. Mostly I’m just lazy. [laughs]
So for a while, when I first came out, I came out as Andrew, and a couple people just started calling me Andy, so I went with it. For a while, I actually kind of started to hate the fact that I picked that as my name, because I realized that it was kind of unisex, and I thought, I’ve just made this more complicated for myself. But there have been times when I’ve felt comfortable with people not knowing, or being totally sure – feeling like they have me pinned. The things I usually get hung up on is what I think other people might be thinking about me – and they might not even be thinking anything at all. I get self-conscious that there might be judgment, and it usually just gets stuck in my head. So I grew to kind of appreciate that kind of ambiguity.
What word(s) would you use to describe your identity?
Certainly masculine. I maybe didn’t always have an understanding of my gender, or really what gender was, when I was a lot younger – but I never really identified with any aspect of being feminine. So I think the words I used transitioned a bit as well, because for a while I probably would’ve said, “Oh, I’m a tomboy.” And then I don’t know what comes after that, but definitely there was a period of time where I would consider myself masculine and not identify with the dictionary term “male,” you know. Besides that, I’m kind of laidback in some sense. I had a lot of things to kind of sort out about how I wanted to go about presenting my identity. I've realized that it’s my [identity and my] own timeframe. So I’ve rolled with it a little more casually than trying to go through steps, which is sort of how I first pictured things. I’m very analytical, so if you’re trying to get from Point A to B, I’m just going to think about all the steps in between, and I’ve sort of let go of that. Which certainly makes me feel a lot more comfortable and less daunted.
Are there ways that you dress / act / speak / etc. to specifically make a statement to others about your identity? Why?
Not necessarily. I’m not someone who’s ever looking to make a big statement. I kind of like to blend in a little bit. But – I’ve certainly dressed more with how I identify. I can’t tell you the last time I wore anything from a women’s clothing store. Some of my friends consider me a bit of a bro, because I’m usually walking around with a baseball hat on backwards. Maybe that’s part of the reason I get perceived as being so young, because I don’t have any facial hair and I’m running around with a hat on backwards.
Besides that, nothing too much. I was really happy to get top surgery. Binding in warm weather is not fun, but I always felt more comfortable being in public if I was binding. It’s nice now not to have to worry about that. So I guess that’s part of how people perceive my identity and gender. I went to the beach maybe four weeks after my surgery, and it was a really weird experience. I was in some sense really eager to be there, but it was just such a different experience than it has been in the past, for a variety of reasons. Including that there’s not as much self-doubt in my head about how I feel towards my identity in that environment. But it was a nice experience to be able to just go outside and not really think about it. I’ll admit at one point I started to feel a little uncomfortable, because there were some strangers that were hanging out near us and I was like, “Oh, if I open my mouth and they hear my voice, I might ruin this experience,” so I just kind of hung out. Regardless, it was super nice to just be outside and be comfortable in my skin.
How early on did you know or suspect that you did not identify within the binary?
I come from a pretty conservative and Catholic family, so I think that it was something that for a long time I avoided myself. I think once I finished college and thought more about living independently in my own life, I started to realize that part of me. There was never really a time where I would’ve identified as genderqueer; I wouldn’t say that I ever really felt that I was in that middle ground – I know it means a lot of different things to a lot of people. For a while, because I had identified this way maybe for 2 ½ years until I got to the point where I was seriously considering surgery and physical transition, there was definitely a time where I didn’t feel comfortable identifying as trans either.
I think to some degree there’s [the idea that] if you’re not one, then you must be the other. Because that’s how a lot of things in society are. So I didn’t really identify with being female-bodied, but I didn’t really feel “worthy” of the trans label. So I guess if there was a middle ground for me, it was sort of that. But I think that kind of connects a little bit to what I was saying about being a little bit more laidback about things, because I finally broke out of that “If you’re not one then you’re the other” mindset. It’s funny, you can still be part of a community that’s more open-minded and still sometimes get very stuck in how society at large pictures things. Again I can’t speak for everyone, but I sometimes find myself kind of going back to what that norm is.
Do you think anything about the way you were raised or where you grew up affected how you drew conclusions about your identity?
Yeah, absolutely. Again, really conservative family, Catholic family; before I came out as trans or identifying as Andy, I identified as gay, and that was really hard for [them]. It caused so many problems that I don’t really have a good relationship with my family. I actually haven’t spoken to them in about a year now, which I think has actually been somewhat healthy for me. I think being raised in that setting, that’s what’s sort of given me that gut reaction to social norms of “If you’re not one, you’re the other.” Adventuring out of that environment, or that space that I grew up in, really let me relax in a lot of ways to that, and form my own opinions, and make my own identity.
I’m from New York state. New York is, for the most part, a liberal state. I grew up in a small town, so it’s probably a little more conservative. But it wasn’t so much the people that I felt constricted by, more just the environment. When you’re in a small area like that, you don’t really see a lot of things. There’s not a lot of variety. Everyone looks really similar, it was mostly middle class families, most of the kids in my high school were white, that kind of thing. So it was pretty boring. Vanilla. I think that was a contribution to why it’s prolonged my identity or my outwardness with it.
Can you give any examples of misconceptions people have about those who identify outside the binary? Have you personally dealt with them?
I think there’s a lot more visibility for the trans community and the genderqueer community, so I think a lot of people, particularly younger people, are a lot more educated or aware of it. Again, our society tends to be black and white or one thing or the other, so that affected me like I said. That’s sort of how I assume the general public is. I think there’s still a long way to go before society is as open-minded as some people would like. I haven’t really had any problems with feeling unaccepted or in any way threatened by anyone or anything. I think part of letting other people perceive me as how they perceive me and not really conflicting with that at all, or their thought about that, has sort of made it easy to avoid any sort of major issues with acceptance. For the most part I either get perceived as a teenage male or a lesbian. I just let people think what works for them, and if they want to know more or know me more or learn something, I’m happy to talk to them about it. I really kind of avoid conflict or stirring the pot too much.
In your own words, how would you explain that gender identity is different from sexual orientation?
I think the most common phrasing you hear is that sexual orientation is who you go to bed with, and gender identity is who you go to bed as. Oddly enough, going by my legal name for a long time, I got sort of connected to a certain part of the LGBT community. I definitely identified as a lesbian for a long time, and when my perspective of my gender identity started to shift, or how I wanted to express that, I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of being "straight". That was just totally mind-blowing to me. So I actually joke with a couple of my friends that I consider myself a lesbian trans guy just because I don’t want to say I’m straight. [laughs] But they’re definitely two separate things to me, and I think they should be to most people. Gender identity is more of the expression of yourself, it’s really just about that one person. Sexual orientation is, at least to me, more how you want to interact with other people intimately. Who you’re attracted to. And that doesn’t have to be affected by your gender.
How do you feel represented in media and society at large?
I think that gender identity and the trans and genderqueer communities, at least in the last couple of years, has been a little bit more present in media and in the community. I think that’s a good thing.
Everyone starts somewhere, so I think this is a good step in that direction, but I don’t think that it’s where it could be. I think that the media still sort of makes things black and white as well. They’re more accepting to the other side of the coin, but they see it as a coin, as only having two sides. I feel like we're definitely a group that’s looked over or kind of still in the shadows a little bit when it comes to the media or the general public. There are definitely more trans characters in shows and movies, but right now it's a group that hasn’t quite had accurate representation. I think that in some sense when there’s an attempt by the media of bringing the narrative of gender in, it’s still somewhat in a taboo sense. Trans rights are still widely debated on the news, and in different states and in different legislatures. So it’s still something that people are oddly scared of or weary of.
So I wouldn’t say that I feel represented as my identity in the casual sense where it’s just like, “No big deal you’re just another person,” it’s more like, “Here’s the plot of a show, and here’s our trans character.” And like I said, everyone starts somewhere, so it’s good to have that recognition, it’s better than no recognition – but I’d like to see it go more in the direction where it’s not part of a show’s plot where a character has to come out as trans or it’s some big deal. I think the media is certainly moving a little bit slower than where society is right now (I hope). At least places around here, that’s how I’ve found it.
What improvements would you like to see happen inside your communities, and in society at large?
Being in healthcare, I think that trans health is something that’s really important. Around here I think we’re fortunate to have a good amount of resources for that. But again, healthcare is a place where people usually find themselves where they’re feeling vulnerable and cranky and not well, and not being able to have access to improving or maintaining your health because you’re afraid of what a clinician or other people will think is really tough. And then even beyond just getting in the door, I think there’s still a lot of education for some healthcare providers on gender identity and how to approach it. That’s something that still isn’t too clear in some practices. There’s still an “M” box and an “F” box, and there are times that even as a physical therapist you might run into someone seeking treatment in relation to something having to do with their gender identity, and as a healthcare provider I’d want them to feel comfortable giving me all the pieces needed as to who they are as a person. So I feel like that’s something that could really use some work. We’re kind of approaching, in some sense – not to sound dramatic, but – a trans movement. There’s been civil rights issues, gay marriage, LGBT rights, but that’s focused on the other three letters – and I think now it’s that time where the last letter of that acronym is going to get some recognition.
Could you give me an example of something difficult that occurred in your life how you dealt with it? It can be in regards to your identity, or not.
The most difficult thing that I dealt with was breaking away from my family. To some degree I felt an obligation to my family to stay part of it, but it was keeping me from being my most authentic self. Again, sexuality-wise, I had trouble with them. At one point – depending on who you ask in the family this story would be different, but since you’re asking me – I was outed by my sister for dating women after my freshman year of college. I was 18, fully dependent on my family still, and that summer, when I got home from my first year of college, that’s when everything sort of hit the fan.
I ended up basically being disowned by my family. I was kicked out of the house. Over the years, I put in a lot of work to try and rebuild that relationship. After a few years of feeling like I was putting in a lot more effort to be understanding or compassionate to them, I sort of cut ties with that being a possibility for me to be happy. It gave me a chance to figure myself out more, kind of settle into my own skin a little bit, and then really appreciate the people in my life who did accept me as I was, or the who I was becoming. So that’s really nice. I try to look on the bright side of things, I guess. The people around me right now are definitely ones that I feel comfortable as myself with.
How has your identity played a role in your relationships, romantic or otherwise?
I feel like my general approach to other people is: as long as you’re not hurting yourself or other people, I don’t really care.
I don’t mean that in a mean way, like I don’t care about them or their identity. I mean, I'm willing to let people be who they want to be, and I don't need to question it. I definitely enjoy keeping people close to me who don’t really [care] about containing everything into a neat box with a bow on top, and that’s kind of my approach to meeting other people and getting to know people.
Are you able to find adequate medical care?
Yeah. I go to Fenway Health. They’ve been really beneficial in a lot of ways, and they have that approach where your gender identity or your sexual orientation is just another piece of you, but it’s an equal piece. It’s something relevant, but like what we were talking about with the media, it’s not the sole definition of you. It’s been nice to not really have to think about that too much and not have to educate someone that I’m going to for help. I haven’t run into any issues with my transition so far or my identity with them. They’re definitely a good resource. I really like them. They were definitely a big part of my access to be able to have surgery and starting hormones. There was no question sfor me on their end that they were okay with it or if they could help me with that. The only conversations were related how I felt about it and what I wanted, which is how it should be.
How has your view of yourself changed since you were younger?
I don’t know. I still think I’m pretty awkward. [laughs] I think the biggest thing would be letting go of some of the things that I was taught growing up, assuming everything is black and white, being what society expected of me. I've spent a lot of time in my life feeling unsatisfactory with who I am and feeling unable to express who I wanted to be, which at time was really isolating. Since starting my transition, I’ve become more comfortable with myself, which has made me happier.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
To care less. And again, in a good sense, I’m a very analytical person and I think I would’ve been a lot more comfortable and happier through my life if I stopped thinking so much about other people thoughts and desires for me and just accepted myself as I am.
What are your concerns for the future?
I guess I’m hopeful that the future will bring a lot of change. Like people being able to express their identities and there being more of a crossover between communities, less of a segregation of things. I’m sure half of the people you’ve talked to have said something about the election or politics.
I just hope that what is in the news right now isn’t a good representation of what the future holds. But, the news makes its money on promoting, to some degree, hysteria. I don’t envy their job either, to be on TV all day and have to talk about a limited number of things. That’s sort of what draws people in; the hype of how emotional people get about hearing all the stupid things Donald Trump says, and fear over international relations or terrorism. Stuff like that. I’m hopeful that most people are heading in the right direction. If the world turns out the way the news shows it, it’s going to be really interesting, to say the least.
What do you look forward to in the future?
Exploring. Traveling. I’d like to do a lot more traveling. It’s a little hard right now financially and with work and things like that, but I’m definitely at a point in my life where I’m just kind of rolling with some of the punches. Right now I’m not that far ahead. I don’t know what the future holds, but I guess I’ll deal with it when I get there.
What have been the important frustrations in your life, and the most important successes?
Success – college and grad school. I have a Doctorate. It’s the degree you’re required to get now to be a physical therapist, but it takes a lot of time and commitment. I always knew that I was going to go to college and then go to grad school and then get some job related to healthcare. I think that those are still big accomplishments in my life. In the last few years I’ve learned a lot of things – both skill-wise and about myself. In some way that journey has been a success, but at times equally as frustrating. [laughs]
Do you have a philosophy of life? What’s your best piece of advice?
My approach is to try my best to stay open-minded to things.
I don’t really think most people are inherently bad or anything like that, so I think it’s important to approach things with understanding and a realization that nothing’s really perfect. Basically, to think and learn before jumping to conclusions. I guess that’s about it.
Are there any other questions you would have liked me to ask, or anything else you would like to talk about?
If you want to try to build furniture, one of the best tools to have is a pocket jig. It’s basically this tool that lets you drill a hole for a screw on an angle through the wood to join it to another piece of wood. The screw gets hidden on the inside and it makes everything look a lot nicer. It's easy to use but makes whatever you're putting together look a lot more fancy.