TW: Mentions of dysphoria
I have felt a sense of dysphoria from as early as I can remember, and I have a pretty good memory. To make my point, my earliest memory is from when I was approximately three years old or four years old and I had injured my finger severely in the garage of the house I was born in. As a young child, I had no concept of gender, gender identity, dysphoria, or anything similar and I had a hard time putting the feelings I was having into words at all. My nephews and I were close in age, and would often play pretend together. I recall playing out Pokémon-based plots when we played pretend, and I would always choose a female character to play as; usually Misty or Jessie from Team Rocket. I further attempted to look like these characters, convincing my sister to buy me hair ties that I was frustrated didn’t work on my short hair the way I wanted them to.
I also recall more serious incidents of dysphoria. I remember being around six years old, and I would be disgusted by my genitals. I asked my mom if there was a way to get rid of them, because I felt they “didn’t belong”. I remember trying, and failing to remove them via various childish methods, and I remember asking why the doctors couldn’t “cut if off and rewire me to not need it, like a computer.” I remember seeing a Psychologist around age nine or ten who’s approach to trying to comfort me was having me read a child’s book that gently explains the importance of genitals and explains some differences between males and females. I bluntly, tactlessly asked this psychologist “well why wasn’t I born with a vagina then? I could deal with that.” and she didn’t really have any further advice or answers for me.
I started puberty around age twelve, and I feel this is ultimately what led me to be absolutely disgusted with my own body. This is when I began seeing my own body as a parasitic enemy to my sense of self. I hated my appearance, no matter how many people told me I was good looking or handsome. The fact I noticed body hair, and later in puberty, facial hair, absolutely disgusted me. I would become obsessed with shaving, and would try to remove as much of it as possible. I lost interest in doing anything to care for my body, gained a significant amount of weight, and ultimately fell into a depressed state that would follow me for several years.
In High School, things got even more apparent to me. I had zero male friends, as I felt I socialized better and had more in common with females. I didn’t enjoy traditionally “masculine” activities, and I didn’t feel like I was a guy at all. I started telling people that I was “gender neutral” because at the time, it was the easiest way to say I didn’t identify as a male, without bringing additional scrutiny upon myself. In 2011, I began roleplaying online, and would often create female characters as I felt more comfortable this way. I also rejected my legal name, and started using an alias I had created for myself, which didn’t have any gender connotations.
A few years after I had graduated, around 2014, a close online friend of mine brought up the idea that I could be transgender. He recommended that I change all my online identities to a female name and avatar and explore the idea for several weeks. I did so, using the name “Naia” almost everywhere I had an internet presence for a period of time. I told him I had felt more comfortable and natural, but that I was too afraid to express myself this way because of severe bullying I faced in High School related to other aspects of my identity. I changed all of my usernames back, and I thought of the exercise as a fun experience, but tried not to process what it could mean.
2017 was one of the best years for me. I had began a relationship with a transgender woman. Ultimately, explaining my various experiences to her. She also thought it was a possibility that I could be transgender, and she asked me if I’d like to try experimenting with the idea or if she should drop the topic. I told her I would like to experiment with it. As a result, she got me a wig, did my makeup, nails, etc and we went out in public. She told me to introduce myself as a female, and live as a female for that night. I met several people, introduced myself as Naia, and realized for once in my life, I felt comfortable in a social setting. It was liberating. We did this several more times, and I realized that I *WAS* Naia. I came out as transgender publicly around this time.
I stared buying feminine clothes, dressing feminine, and playing with makeup. Ultimately, I remember feeling disgusted that I needed a wig to pull off my look. I felt artificial, like I would never be a real girl. In 2018, my frustration intensified when I began dating somebody who was under the roof of their ultra-conservative and religious parents. I remember having to act as a male whenever I was around her or them (she knew I was trans, and supported it) out of fear they would make us cut contact. It was honestly awful, but I was more concerned about her and our relationship than my own happiness.
In July of 2019, I began socially transitioning. I would dress feminine consistently, I began telling everybody to call me Naia, and I started the process of getting my name legally changed. Then, on December 19, 2019, I began my medical transition with hormone replacement therapy. The progress was slow, but I began seeing serious changes by August of 2020. It felt AMAZING.
I genuinely believe that having access to gender-affirming care not only significantly improved my quality of life, but that it very well may have saved my life. It is indescribable how it feels to finally be able to be myself, without having to repress who I am. It is an amazing, almost foreign feeling to me not to despise my body, and to be able to look in the mirror and be okay with what I see. I’m Naia Okami, and my pronouns are she/her. I thank all those who have supported me during this journey, including the medical professionals that helped ensure my continued access to care.