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There’s no one ‘right’ way to be trans

Mathieu Brault is a Valley native who has been on his queer journey for years. About a year ago, he came out as a trans man; but throughout high school and into college, Brault lived as a lesbian. Even before he started questioning his gender identity, he says he “really leaned into the masculine side of being a lesbian.” He jokingly adds, “I had my gender expression down way before my gender identity.”

Since transitioning, Brault has experienced a shift in sexuality and has now found himself attracted to men as well. About being a lesbian for years he says, “I guess it wouldn’t be till much later that I realized that I was just the wrong kind of gay at the time.” It is not an uncommon thing for trans men to only be attracted to women pre-transition and have that change once they’ve started the transition. Brault explains this experience by saying “For me, homosexuality isn’t so much [about] being attracted to like a specific gender, but more being attracted to sameness.”

Brault wants to clarify the confusion concerning the terms “trans man” and “trans woman.” He explains, “I think a common misconception would be that people don’t understand when you say, ‘trans man.’ I always get asked, ‘Which way is that?’.” For clarification, a trans man is someone who has transitioned to male, and a trans woman is a person who has transitioned to female. The other issue with this line of thinking is that some people who identify as trans don’t strictly stay within the binary. “People don’t understand that just as sexuality is on a spectrum, so is gender,” adds Brault.

Another misconception is that there is a “proper” or “complete” way to transition. However, everyone’s transition is unique and has no official “finish line.” There are two sides to transitioning: social and medical. Socially transitioning includes things like changing your name and pronouns, wearing gender-affirming clothing, etc. Medical transitions can include top surgery (the removal or addition of breasts), bottom surgery (the removal or transformation of genitals), hormones, and more.

 

Mathieu Brault is much more secure in himself since beginning the process of transitioning and reminds people that your transition happens on your own terms.  PHOTO Courtesy of Mathieu Brault

 

Brault mentions that there is still a lot of stigma around passing as cisgender. “Trans people in general tend to be so afraid of not passing, but it’s not as big a deal as we might think it is… We think about it a lot more than people perceiving us do,” he explains. That being said, he admits that there are still different standards for trans men and trans women. “I think that also might be because I’m trans masculine, and people who are trans femme tend to run into, like, more issues with ‘passing’. And that comes from a privileged standpoint.”

Something that Brault has experienced since transitioning is just how prevalent sexism is, particularly in the workplace. He has noticed the way both employees and clients interact with him now. They’re generally more lenient and laid back and pay less attention to what he’s doing. “I’m experiencing male privilege for the first time. It’s not comfortable.” Having lived on both sides of the privilege, he sees the ways sexism presents itself.

In Quebec, some gender-affirming surgeries are covered through public health. However, things like FFS (Facial Feminization Surgery) or breast augmentation are not. This creates a financial barrier for many trans folks. Not to mention the surgeries can be invasive, and recovery can take a long time. Brault explains that it is each person’s personal choice to undergo surgery, and asks the general question: “Why do you care what’s in someone’s pants? Why is that ‘real trans’ for you?”

For anyone questioning their own identity, Brault mentions the age-old cliché: it gets better. It gets better not only in terms of your personal situation, but the situation as a whole. “I’ve just been met with so much love and so much support, from literally everyone in my life. And while that’s not the case for everyone, I think that’s becoming more and more the case.”

Brault describes the effects of transitioning on his own life: “I’m finally on the other side of it, and it is better. I’ve been on hormones for a year now and I’m living my best life. I have never been so comfortable in my body before.” He reiterates that there is no proper timeline or way to live your life as trans. “The validity of your ‘transness’ is not dependent on medical transition, nor is it dependent on passing consistently … How people perceive you doesn’t change who you are as a person.”

There is still a long way to go for trans liberation. Just last year, Quebec introduced Bill 2, which forces people to identify what genitals they have on their ID. Brault mentions that it’s scary to see this and the anti-trans Bills. He hopes that the progress that we have made for trans liberation doesn’t completely disappear with this new discourse.

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