Found in Translation

April 27, 2015  By Tayler Critchlow
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This article was originally published in the Spring 2015 edition of Reflector Magazine. You can find the whole print edition here

At first glance Austin Wofford and Will Allen* seem to have little in common. Wofford is a tall, athletic man who seems to have boundless energy. He is talkative and a bit restless, while Allen is more reserved but quite eloquent. As Allen relaxes in a plush chair and adjusts his beanie, no one would suspect he and Wofford would be discussing their transitions from women to men.

 

“Everyone has a complicated relationship with their gender,” Allen, senior writing major and transgender man, said. “Because essentially gender is like this shoebox that is going to fit half the population and that is bullshit because there is no way you can create a box that is going to fit half the population. So it’s okay to kind of question and think about what’s happening with your gender, your relationship with your body, and however you come out on that it is your body, you are going to be the one living with it and it is your life.”

 

“Gender and sexuality are different,” Wofford, senior exercise science major and transgender man, said.

 

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Transgender men are people who have transitioned from woman to man. A transgender woman is someone who has transitioned from man to woman. Transgender is a term for people whose gender identity, expression, or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.

 

Knowing that he was transgendered since the age of 14, Allen did not come out publicly to his family and close friends until he was 16. During that two-year silence, Allen dealt with inner conflicts of deciding if he was okay with who he was, even attempting to talk himself out of it. The biggest decision was whether he would chose death over accepting who he was.

 

“I was a silly teenager. Like I had made a deal with myself, by the time I was 18, I gave myself a deadline. I was going to either be dead or be out. And getting to the point where I could get up the courage to come out was a good chunk of my being 16,” Allen said. A month after his cousin’s suicide Allen came out because he realized that he could not subject his family to the fallout that he had witnessed happen after his cousin’s’ death.

 

Wofford however, found help discovering that he was transgendered from an unlikely source.

 

“I was on StumbleUpon.com and a video popped up of a guy’s one year [anniversary],” Wofford said. “He showed his [pre-transition], all his pictures, and his voice up until one year, and I was like ‘Holy Fuck’, and his backstory and growing up like what he did and how he felt and all this stuff and I was like ‘We are one and the same’.”

 

Wofford remained silent for a semester after his discovery before coming out to his girlfriend at the time. The two would pretend in public places, such as Walmart, that he was a man. However, once Wofford was around friends and teammates again, dialogue switched back to ‘she’ and ‘her’ once more. Wofford, a former basketball and track player, did not come out to everyone else until two years later.

 

“I was like I can’t take this anymore I’m tired of people calling me that old name and tired of people saying ‘she’ and I wanted to start hormones and you can’t be on steroids when you are with the NCAA sports.”

 

Now looking back, both Allen and Wofford realize that there were signs early on.

 

“I remember sitting in like second grade and watching the girls and trying to sit like them because I felt like I wasn’t doing it right. So I spent class periods observing my fellow students. Like boys carry their books beside them, girls carry them in front of their chest, little things like that. Because I was trying to do this correctly,” Allen said.

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Wofford was a Commanding Officer in ROTC, his cadets would say ‘Yes Sir’, and they would sometimes be joking and sometimes serious.

 

“I would get so angry and I would be like trying to defend the fact that I am a woman like don’t you see what is going on here. And those are just signs that there is something different about you,” Wofford said.

 

“My sister was like ‘Man I should have known because you like Mulan’,” Allen said. “And I was like I loved Mulan because it was a great story. And I was like just because I liked Mulan doesn’t mean I was going to be trans.”

 

A friend helped eighth-grade Allen start realizing and questioning who he really was. “I was getting at my friend who was kinda butch and I was like ‘You’ve got to put effort into what you are wearing if you don’t you might as well be a boy’ and she was like ‘Well maybe I’ve thought about it.’ And I was like ‘Fuck…you can do that can’t you’.”

 

Everyone’s coming out story is different and Allen and Wofford’s parents handled the news differently. Allen considered himself a typically feminine kid growing up and so knew his parents did not see it coming when they read his letter explaining everything.

 

“My parents are the laid back type where they aren’t going to stop me from doing anything but they didn’t support it,” Allen said. “My sister reports that they have gotten to the point of not using pronouns most of the time. But that’s about as far as they have come, they are taking small steps, but it is a long process to get them on board with things. And I have a sister who is better than my parents but not perfect.”

 

Allen also came out to his mom’s side of the family two years ago; however, he still has not come out to his dad’s side.

 


I identify equally as a trans person, as like a Harry Potter fan, as a ginger, as you know, it’s all my identity,”

 

“They are from Statesboro and that is part of why,” Allen said. “And my aunt passed away last week and I had to go to the funeral and I had to go back in the closet for that. Which was like shaving the beard and just standing quietly in the corner.”.

 

“My mom was really wishy-washy,” Wofford said, “like if I would burp she would say that ‘That doesn’t make you a man it just makes you gross’, and just really vindictive and snide and she was really wishy-washy. But now she is good, she can use male pronouns, she says AJ, if one of her friends calls me the old name she will correct them.”

 

Wofford’s dad has not spoken to him since his little sister’s high school graduation last May.

 

Transitioning is something that both Allen and Wofford have undergone and it is the process of changing from the previous gender to the preferred gender. This is done by undergoing surgeries, taking hormone supplements, and changing legal documents.

 

For the specific person it is awkward because so many little things change, and then for those around you have to deal with the changes even if they do not necessarily accept it, Allen said.

 

Wofford spent months watching YouTube videos about transitions because he did not have anyone to talk to in athletics. And for a long time, Wofford didn’t know that there were other trans people in Statesboro. Though since coming out, Wofford now has some old teammates, coaches, and staff to lean on for support, along with his sister who has been one of his biggest supporters.

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“There is a group that we are a part of that we kinda call it ‘Trans Talk’ and if anyone is transgender they are welcome to come talk with us because a lot of people aren’t out or they aren’t able to transition yet for many reasons, financial, family, personally not ready for that yet,” Allen said.

 

Transitioning is a big financial commitment. It is not typical for transmen to undergo surgery due to the options available. For transwomen, the surgery is very good but it costs half a million dollars, Allen said.

 

“I was able to afford chest surgery but that is because as soon as I knew I started saving up. I have been working since I was 16. And I am here on a full ride scholarship here and so my refund check went to my surgery fund.”

 

Allen became financially secure so that he would be ready in case his family financially cut him off. “I don’t think they realized how ready I was until I told them that I was ready to be financially cut off, because that really hurt my mom’s feelings.”

 

Wofford began working to afford paying for hormones and legally change documents to have his new name.

 

“I went through a whole ‘Hmm… do I sound like a Trey, I don’t want my father’s name. I was just picking and choosing and then all of a sudden it was just like ‘Austin’.’ Austin James. James was the name my mom was going to name her son if she ever had one. And I just like it.”

 

Many trans people are stealth, which means they do not tell anyone and no one knows except for maybe a significant other or family. This method leads some people to believe that they have never met a transgender person before.

 

“You imagine the drag queen with huge hair who sometimes they are trans but the like, you know, the librarian from your hometown or these people, we are all around you, you just don’t know.”

 

In order to be stealth, Allen said, “You have to like edit your own history and be consciously aware of what you are telling people about yourself. You have to be careful. I was in the Girl Scouts for 12 years, so I would say I was in the Scouts.”

 

However, even stealth a person can still be outed, either accidentally or on purpose, by someone they knew previously or who currently knows their secret.


“Being outed is the worst,” Wofford said. “It hurts my soul. Like I am doing all of this for a reason, I don’t want you pulling me back.” And most of the time it is not their business unless I want them to know, Wofford said.

 

“Being outed is the worst,” Wofford said. “It hurts my soul. Like I am doing all of this for a reason, I don’t want you pulling me back.” And most of the time it is not their business unless I want them to know, Wofford said.

 

“And also part of it is,” Allen said. “I can explain it better than you can. I don’t want you saying stuff that is not inherently true. Or is like a weird way to phrase it.”

 

“Because[being outed] can get me in big trouble,” Allen said turning serious as he shifts in his seat. “It can. And you know I want to believe it won’t but I’ve gotten comments from people especially like more locals than like students but like you can get me seriously injured.That is a very much a real thing that can and does happen and it’s happened in 2015 already to people,” Allen said. “So that is a risk that you pose if you out me.”

 

Both Wofford and Allen are now are dealing with the struggles of relationships and dating that come along with the transition.

 

“You know it is so awkward,” Wofford said. “I am actually scared to talk to women because eventually we are going to want things to go to the bedroom and what are you going to do? I mean I know at some point you are supposed to be like I haven’t had any surgeries.”

 

“[People] will comment to me online if I am out and be like ‘You have a dick’ and I’m like ‘No that is exactly the thing I don’t have’,” Allen said.

 

“People are always worried about genitals,” Wofford said.

 

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Knowing that there are misconceptions and hatred toward the transgender community, in particular transwoman of color, Wofford and Allen realize that there is no easy way of changing people’s minds.

 

“Just get to know us,” Wofford said. “I’m not trying to convert you. Like ‘You’re not supposed to be a woman’, like I’m not going around doing that. This is not some team I am trying to recruit you to be on. I am just being me.”

 

“And I explain to people as well, I identify equally as a trans person, as like a Harry Potter fan, as a ginger, as you know, it’s all my identity,” Allen said revealing his Harry Potter themed tattoo. “It’s a part of my identity but so are a million other things…. I like coffee and Netflix and so does like everyone else.”

 

“It’s a complicated team, and if you are then I am happy to welcome you but if you’re not then don’t do this to yourself,” Allen said.

 

However, Wofford enthusiastically explains that he would like to use his trans identity to his benefit.

 

Wofford said,“I actually want to use my trans identity in the future to benefit me. Like I want everyone to know. Like that is that awesome trans dude that I went to college with or I went to high school with. Like I want to use that to my benefit.”

 

*Editor’s Note: Name was changed to protect the identity of the source.




Tayler Critchlow
Tayler Critchlow

Tayler is a senior multimedia journalism major with minors in public relations and Spanish at the good old GS of U. Looking to make her final year count and make it one for the history books. Like most typical college students, Tayler enjoys catching up on her latest Netflix obsession and procrastinating to the point of it being unhealthy. Hailing from the snowy lands of the Great White North, she has probably heard every Canadian joke there is. She is the Reflector Features Reporter. For questions, comments, or concerns follow her @TaylerCritchlow.





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