This article is adapted from the speech by Jacqueson at the Malaysian Confessions Event held in KL Colony Coworking Space, on 26th June. This is his story.
My name is Jacqueson, also known as Jake. I am a transgender man.
Being transgender means I was born female and I medically transitioned into a male. This is my transgender journey of denial, discovery, acceptance, and then adaptation.
Some of you may ask, “When did you discover yourself?” Honestly, from the tender age of 3 or 4 years old, every birthday I would wish, “I wish I was a boy.” So I didn’t really discover myself. It was there.
Growing Up As A Girl
In my all-girls’ school, I was very sporty. I had always kept my hair short, because it was convenient, and I had short pants under my pinafore.The teachers and parents thought I was a tomboy, saying: “It’s just a phase.” In college and at uni, the social norms started to come in. “You are a girl. You should act like that, sit like that, talk like that.”
It was eating me up inside. I was feeling so sad, but I had no words for it, because it was just not known. The internet was not a big thing then. We had the Motorola and the Nokia.
I started leaving my hair long, putting on makeup, having big boobs, having boyfriends, but I was still not happy. Something in me was just not right.
There was no word for it. I always thought if I had another boyfriend, I’d be happier. If I put on a bit more makeup, be prettier, Id’ be happier. So I tried that for a while.
Then I started having a few girlfriends, and this was my stage of denial. I cut my hair short. I started sitting like a guy. I started binding my chest, because it’s just very dysphoric.
But still, I didn’t accept myself — I could not even accept myself. I was denying who I am.
I Started Searching For Answers Medically
At one point, I started searching for answers medically. I went to psychologists and psychiatrists. They told me, “You are very depressed — just not suicidal yet.” I was given two choices: “Either you’re gonna be on antidepressants for the rest of your life, or you might want to medically transition.” That was how I found out.
Not from Youtube, Instagram, or Facebook. I had no clue what “transgender” was. All I knew was when I stripped naked and looked at myself in the mirror, I would cry. My brain was telling me: “This is not me. I’m not supposed to look like this.” That small little wish to be a boy came up, again and again.
So I started to accept myself. I started adapting. I started taking HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy).
Changes to my body would be coming fast, so I needed to tell people I was transitioning.
The Day I Came Out To My Parents
There are a lot of coming out stories, but the most important story was how I came out to my parents.
I remember it like it was yesterday: I was sitting in my living room, for 3 hours, with my backpack, my wallet full of cash, my car keys ready — just in case they would just disown me that day.
Finally, I gathered the courage to call my parents to the living room.
“Pa? Mi? I’ve got something to tell you. But before I do, I want to say I’m sorry, because this is going to hurt you.”
“I’ve decided to go on medical hormone replacement therapy to be a man. I may even go on to have surgery.”
My mom went hysterical. “You crazy ah?” She cried.
“You’re my daughter, how can you be my son? This is not true. This is not you.”
She was sad, angry, confused. She started crying. And she said, “You killed her! You killed my daughter! Get out!”
I was broken. I was devastated. You will never know the meaning of your own death until someone is crying in front of you while you’re still alive and saying that you have killed her.
I stood up and wanted to leave.
To my surprise, my dad stood up too.
He walked up to me, and gave me the tightest embrace ever. And he said, in the exact words of a song that now means a lot to me:
“I love you no matter what. I just want you to be happy, and always be who you are. Don’t ever be what you’re not, ‘cos I love you no matter what. Even if you’re my daughter or my son, you’re still my child. I love you.”
And I cried. I cried in his arms because somehow, I knew that I was loved. And that place that I stay now, I could finally call it a home.
I continued taking HRT, so the changes started coming in. I knew that I needed to get rid of my big boobs, which were DD’s. Girls were envious of me, but I hated it. I wore binders and on sports bras.
I Went For Breast Removal Surgery
So from the time that I started working, I’d already saved money for my top surgery, also known as double mastectomy, or breast removal surgery. I didn’t tell my parents until one week before I flew off to Thailand. I was scared that they are gonna have another hysterical reaction.
Once, I told them: ”Pa, I’m gonna go for surgery to remove my breasts.” And every parent’s concern was, “You sure ah?”… “You sure meh?” “If you remove your breasts, it will never grow back. Are you sure?”
Day and night, they kept reminding me, saying, “Are you sure? Are you sure? Are you sure?” Oh, my god. To tell you the truth, I went to Thailand alone, because I was just so scared for anyone to see me crying if I brought them.
So, I went alone. And the night before my surgery, I broke down.
I was mentally and emotionally a wreck. I was in doubt. I wasn’t sure whether what I did was right. Am I just gonna pay so much money to get something healthy removed from my body? Is this right?
But I didn’t make a U-turn. I went for it.
The next day, after my surgery, I was on cloud 9! I finally felt like me. I could finally laugh when I saw myself in the mirror.
So after taking hormone replacement therapy, my voice started deepening. M:y Adam’s apple started showing slightly. My hair is receding. I’m going bald a bit. My leg hair is growing like a monkey.
Reactions Of Family And Friends
Certain friends were quite accepting. They were like, “OK, your new name is Jake, right? Hi, Jake.” They use the correct pronouns: he, him, his. But there are friends that said I’m disgusting. “You’re not worth living. I don’t want to be with you.”
I even had a friend that told me, “I don’t want you to stand beside me because people will think I’m lesbian.” By standing beside me, you are a lesbian? Oh my god. This is not how it works. Even cancer can’t spread!
Extended family started asking. “Hey, what happened to your daughter?” They were not asking me. They were asking my parents. They were asking my siblings.
Sadly for them, I have put them in a very difficult situation. How are they going to answer questions like, “What happened to her?”
So I actually went on Facebook and did an official public coming out story. I did it in order for my parents, my siblings, people that meant the whole world to me, to show the people that were asking them, “This is his story, please read it.”
I didn’t expect my post to snowball into a lot of encouragement for those in the closet. Even those that were suffering from depression started approaching me.
How I Deal With It
“How do you deal with it?” They asked. Honestly… I don’t have an answer to that. All I can do is share a listening ear because I know how it feels to be isolated. I know how it feels to be lonely, rejected, discriminated, especially in Malaysia where the LGBTQ community is so rare.
We’ve got communities like Justice for Sisters, Pink Triangle Foundation, and Transmen of Malaysia. Slowly, awareness is coming. However, it is just not there yet.
If you do meet people like us, LGBTQ, all we ask in return is: Listen.
Hate is spread by humans, but so is love. Love is such a precious thing, it can easily be damaged, but there’s so much to share. All you need to do is listen.
They have their own path. It might be rougher, it might be tougher, but you can’t walk their path. They have to walk it themselves.
All they want is just a listening ear. Guide them. Treat them well. Do not discriminate them. Do not judge them. Let them be who they are. So that’s all for me. Thank you.
For more stories about the life and struggles of being LGBT, read Coming out of the Closet: A Transgender Man’s Experience and How I Ended Up Dating a Genderfluid Person.