September 1, 2016
By Kate Koenig
The mission of the “I am ____” Project is to open a window into the lives of trans individuals to promote awareness and compassion through the medium of photography. Photography has often been used as a tool for education and awareness. While debates in politics and social matters don’t always change hearts or encourage the “other side” to reconsider their position, art can sometimes transcend those beliefs and bring about a new understanding. This project is my attempt to bridge the gap and open more hearts to transgender individuals.
The project is ongoing and I would love to continue expanding upon it. If you would like information about participating in the project or sponsoring project travel to more cities, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Link to the Project: http://www.katekoenigphotography.com/iamproject/
How do you imagine your future?
“Ideally, I would like to become an endocrinologist and work with other trans people. I know going to the doctor for gender-related things can be uncomfortable, and I think that it would make my patients much more comfortable to know that I went through the same or similar things. If becoming an endocrinologist doesn’t work out, I plan on becoming a psychologist and helping other trans people in that way.”
What was your childhood like? Happy, sad, good, bad?
“I honestly have no complaints with my childhood. My parents were great. They always tried to make sure I was as happy as possible. They also tried to make sure I was well educated. They had me doing multiplication flashcards and reading before I was even in kindergarten. They also made sure I was placed into classes that matched my intelligence level once I got into middle school.”
What were your middle school years like?
“The middle school years were probably the worst years of my life. Before going into first grade, my family had moved. First through fifth grade I refer to as the silent years because I pretty much didn’t talk to anyone and I felt very isolated. This lead to me not having many friends when middle school started. During middle school I was very angry. Puberty had hit me very quickly and I felt uncomfortable immediately. It was also when I figured out that I was attracted to girls, which lead to even more turmoil within myself.”
What was high school like for you?
“High school was much better than middle school for me. I spent first through eighth grade with the same people, so I was pretty tired of most of them by the time it was over. High school provided me with a great opportunity to reinvent myself. I joined the GSA at my school and felt like I fit in much better. Halfway through junior year I figured out that I was transgender. Thankfully, I had built up a good friend group and everyone was very accepting. I honestly don’t think I had a single person in high school harass me about it, at least to my face. I also had a lot of wonderful teachers who were supportive, so when I publicly transitioned my senior year it was much easier for me.”
Have you used Ace Bandages to bind? What was it like? What did you use after it, if you used something else?
“I used Ace Bandages to bind during the beginning of my transition. It was terrible. I could barely get through a school day because of the pain. I had to readjust the wrap halfway through the school day to make it a little more comfortable. I invested in a binder from Underworks very quickly and it was much better. I didn’t have to adjust it and it wasn’t nearly as painful. Unfortunately, due to wearing binders too much, my ribs ended up warping and becoming bruised. They were very painful for a while.”
If you weren’t able to have access to hormones and trans-related care, what do you think you would be doing?
“I would probably be too depressed to do anything productive.”
What was the hardest part of your transition?
“The hardest part of my transition was between when I came out and when I started hormones. It was really hard for my parents to understand and it took them a while to
come around. Thankfully we found a therapist who was willing to work with us through it and they eventually came to accept it.”
How were your emotions and general well-being before Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and after HRT?
“Before I started T, I was very angry and depressed. I felt like even when I was happy, I still wasn’t truly happy. After I started T, my emotions leveled out in a way that I thought was impossible without anti-depressants. My depression eased up a lot. It was surprising to me that my
anger went away too. I feel like it’s always emphasized that guys are angry because of their testosterone, but I’ve felt so much calmer since I started T.”
What is one thing (or several things) you want someone to understand about your identity?
“The only thing I want someone to understand about my identity is that it is not my only characteristic. It is a part of me, but it is not all of me. I consider myself a person first.”
What is your relationship with your family?
“It’s great. Since I’m an only child, I’ve always considered my cousins to be like siblings to me. I always used to play more with my guy cousins, and they recently told me that they’d always thought of me as one of the guys. None of my family members have treated me poorly for it at all. I’m very thankful every day for how wonderful they’ve all been.”
Did anyone negatively impact you, treat you, or make you feel bad about yourself before / during your transition?
“One of the first people I came out to told me that I was confused and just felt the way I did because of the media. I was really hurt by that because up until that point, I was fairly close with this person. I also had no idea what they were talking about because up until that point, the only trans person in the media was Chaz Bono. I don’t think he’s a bad guy, but I didn’t really look to him as a role model back then. I guess in the end, that person was half right. I am still confused about their reaction.”
What do you do in your free time?
“I spend a lot of time playing video games and watching South Park.”
What makes you happy?
“Good food, good company, and spending time with family. I like hanging out with my girlfriend. Being around cats makes me happy. I really like cats.”
Kate Koenig is a writer studying History, English, and German at the University of Pittsburgh. Besides writing, Kate is actively involved in photography. Her writing has previously been published in The Original Magazine and her photography has been published in TeenInk and Hot Metal Bridge Magazine.