Ignacio's Story

Transgender Today: Ignacio Rivera

As part of a series of editorials about transgender experiences, the New York Times is featuring personal stories that reflect the strength, diversity and challenges of the community. Here is National Center for Transgender Equality US Trans Survey Outreach Coordinator Ignacio Rivera's story.

My gender presentation has been disturbing to some and intriguing to others. Forty-three years ago I was designated female at birth. I was raised as a niña, lived as a young lady and a strong mujer for thirty-some odd years. From the ages of fifteen and on, my life as a femme-heterosexual, femme-lesbian, dyke, androgynous queer, trans masculine, trans/gender queer being, has been a wonderful journey with no transitional end.

I’m trans and I’m gender queer or gender fluid. My narrative much like so many others’ is invisibilized by societies need to place me in a binary.

I was not born in the wrong body, although this rings true for so many other transgeneros.

I experience transition as constant. I’ve identified as a no-op/no-ho (non-operative/non-hormone) trans person in which I was not viewed or accepted as such. Trans-ness has often been linked with medical transition and is simply not the case or desire for so many. Several years later, I decided to begin hormones (testosterone) as a continuation of my journey and two years thereafter have decided to undergo top-surgery (double mastectomy).

All of these decisions and changes have not been in a vacuum. The legal changing of my name on IDs and legal documents, like many other decisions, have to do with, not only, how I see myself but increasingly incorporating my safety in the world. The shifting of my pronouns from “she,” to “they,” and ultimately to “they and he,” because “they” raises questions, especially in public spaces, or garners scrutiny, is but one example. My gender experience is intertwined with the “input” of violencia, discrimination, familia, love(rs), employment, healthcare and so much more. These days, I “pass” as a man although this is not how I identify. For me, passing is a blessing and a curse. Passing, (when I am not seen as a femme-gay man) affords me some security. It is a curse when, yet again my identity is invisible outside of people who know me.

For many of us, the trans, gender queer, and gender fluid identity is as valid as man or woman. It is all valid. There is no cookie cutter trans model. Basically, the trans identity or experience is vast. I await for the days that trans-ness in all its splendor is accepted fully—with or without hormones or surgery, for those of us who use gender neutral pronouns, and those who will not/cannot pass.

If I had a chance to be born and do it all over again, I would choose to be designated female at birth and transition through my fluidity—wherever that would take me. My upbringing, struggle and socialization as a girl and woman has much to do with who I am today as a gender queer trans person.

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