I’m a transgender woman. My name is Jesse Brooklyn Hannah; I go by Jesse, Brooklyn, or (my favorite) Brooke; and my pronouns are she/her/hers. And I’m still the same person I’ve always been, except I’m no longer wearing the façade of a gender identity that was assigned to me based on my physical body. It’s wonderful to meet y’all again, and to finally do so as my true self! 😄💕
You may have noticed some profile picture changes that I’ve made in various places, but I’m making it officially public today. It also happens to be my birthday, which was an intentional choice; it feels like an appropriate date for opening a new chapter of recognizing and being recognized for who I am and who I’ve been all along, albeit without being fully aware of it.1
My egg actually cracked2 the day after Valentine’s Day this year. The groundwork had been laid over years and years: identifying with female characters more than male characters in stories (video games, movies, books, TV…), feeling like my body wasn’t really my own, being uncomfortable with my natural voice even after years of listening to it through podcasting, envying a coworker (who I later learned was trans herself) whose self-confidence and grace and assertiveness I felt like I could only ever dream of having, wondering what it would be or have been like to grow up as a girl — including aspects both good and bad. I didn’t know at the time that these were all strong signs of gender dysphoria.
But what finally shattered my eggshell was a webcomic, of all things3. I discovered webcomics in high school, and Real Life Comics was a staple of my RSS reader for years. Since having a family has taken up most of my time and energy over the last six-ish years, I’d lost track of it along with most of the others that had been regular reading, and hadn’t so much as thought about it for years until the then-most recent page happened to come across my Facebook feed. My first thought was, “oh hey, I remember that! Wait a second, is that character’s hair a plot device for a storyline, or…? No, surely it couldn’t be that.”
I went into the archives, found the return of the comic from its most recent hiatus, and started reading until I found the page from June 29, 2020. I read it, and I read and re-read the tweet by @TransSalamander in it. And someting snapped.
I immediately devoured the entire “Epiphany” storyline, and Mae’s internal dialogue resonated with me in ways I could never have imagined. I spent the next three days in deeper introspection than I had ever experienced. I started to recall and recognize countless moments in my life as having been gender dysphoria, with even more still coming back to me every day. It was like a background process had been running for 31 years, and was just waiting for me to find the results in my subconscious; I found the comic on the night of Monday, the 15th, and by Friday I had come to the realization that this is the real me, the me that had been trying desperately to be heard for my entire life.
I’d found Brooke, and she was the real me all along.
Coming out to myself, and getting ready to begin transitioning and coming out to the rest of the world, hasn’t been smooth. Gender dysphoria is real, and it can wreck anywhere from an hour to a day to an entire week. Putting on a dress for the very first time4 was absolutely euphoric, and I’m still terrified of putting it on again after I take it off. The self-doubt of, “am I really this way, or am I faking it? Will I be accepted by my family? the trans community? my coworkers? society?” is always in the back of my mind. The depression and anxiety and physiological stress of maintaining — there’s no other word for it — the lie of who I am, to myself and to the rest of the world, don’t go away overnight and have left me with emotional scars and damage to my self-esteem that may take years to repair, even with living as my authentic self.
But at the same time, the euphoria that accompanies every single girl-talk chat with my old coworker or the new friends I’ve made in the online trans community, every time my spouse and I pick out clothes for me or he teaches me how to put on makeup, every time I find a cute new accessory, every time I nail a sentence in a voice that feels so much more like my own, tells me more than a lifetime’s worth of dysphoria ever could. It helped me start a new job as an out trans woman from day one. It helped me come out to my own family. It reminds me that I’m still a huge nerd, that I’m still a massive sports fan, that the things I love and that make me, me, have nothing to do with the mask I had spent my whole life wearing and trying to play the part of. It’s how I know that this is who I really am.
I know that trans people, and trans women in particular, are subjected to misunderstanding, prejudice, discrimination, and violence. I’m incredibly privileged by virtue of being white and middle-class, and already having an established career and a job working remotely, but I know that I’m still taking a big risk by coming out. It’s terrifying, and if my gender really were a choice — a switch I could flip one way or the other at will — then of course it would be easier to continue living as a cisgender man. That’s the thing, though: it’s not a switch that can just be toggled on or off; not for me, not for anyone. It’s an incredibly deep and personal attribute on a vast spectrum where everyone has their own space, whether it’s a point that stays put, or a point that moves, or a wide range all at once, or anything in between. No one can decide or determine another’s place on it; it’s up to each of us individually to discover where on it we reside.
And now that I’ve finally found my place, I feel happier, more peaceful, and more alive than I ever have.
And it’s totally not because I don’t want to have to remember another date as my coming-out “birthday,” by which I mean it’s totally because I don’t want to have to remember another date as my coming-out “birthday.”↩
“Cracking the egg” is the colloquial term for a trans person realizing that they’re trans, which may or may not necessarily correlate with them starting to come out to themselves. TikToker @titan_of_joy has a fantastic (and hilarious) video explaining it, with lots of incredible comments by other users with the stories of their own eggs cracking.↩
But it is fitting, given that this is me that I’m talking about, here.↩