If Being Transgender Was a Choice, My Name Would Be Steve

U.A. Nigro

Since I could remember, my mother has told everyone how clumsy I was as a small child. How I would trip over my own feet, drop every drink that was handed to me, and walk into walls. Not really sure how that works, but apparently I had little to no balance when I was small. The only thing she could think of to help me with this problem was to put me in ballet class. She took ballet herself as a youngster, so she knew I would learn to be graceful. Full disclosure, I was a clumsy nightmare until I was in my twenties and then revisited that phase when I was in my late thirties. I have no idea why but because of my clumsiness, I wound up visiting the emergency room on several occasions.


So what had started out as a hobby to help me learn a little poise eventually turned into an obsession. One ballet class a week became four classes a week by the time I was eight, and I picked up tap and jazz classes along the way. At the end of my freshman year of high school, I auditioned for a performing arts school that would replace more than half of my day at regular school. I prepared a dance to preform and asked the universe for a little luck. I was accepted. So at the age of fourteen, I was studying dance for four hours during the day, then going to my local dance studio after homework and dancing an additional three to four hours every night. It was all I wanted to do and the only thing I could see myself doing in the future.

It was at this preforming arts school where I met my wife. Our classes were in two different buildings, but every second of downtime we managed to spend with each other. I started taking classes in the city during the summer months and learned quickly that the male dancers were always favored over the female dancers. This was because the female dancers outnumbered the males twenty to one. After every audition I went on, all of the boys were always accepted whether their technique was up to par or not. Most of the time they were only looking for a handful out of the large number of girls who would show up. It made me so angry. There I was, working my tail off putting 110% into every class, every day, when all I needed to do was be a boy. It was then that I said to myself, If I chopped off all my hair and wore the boys uniform to these auditions, I bet I would get chosen for more roles.


Keep in mind that as a teenager I knew nothing about the transgender community at the time. I had no idea that there were folks out there who were transitioning to become their authentic selves. I just thought that I could live my life as Steve and get chosen for every part that I auditioned for. I remember daydreaming about doing this. Finally all of my hard work would be recognized, I would never again be turned away for a role, and I would always be center stage. Then the thought of keeping that ruse up crept into my mind. Day in and day out I would have to present myself as Steve of the opposite gender. It sounded way too difficult, and I knew in my heart of hearts that I would not be happy pretending to be someone that I am not.

So when I hear cisgender people saying things like "being transgender is a choice," I want to rip their heads off. As someone who tossed around the idea as a silly teenager, I knew that I could never really be happy living a lie. The same way a transgender person can never be happy living as the gender they were assigned at birth.

Watching my wife live in a world of depression and dysphoria was torture. Transitioning was just the start of her journey to living a happy life, not the destination. No one in their right mind would want to be considered a second class citizen or choose to complicate their life in such a way. No one would choose discrimination, the possibility of losing their job, their friends, or family, and the threat of violence. My wife had the audacity to live her truth, and I give her a ton of credit for doing so.


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