arin-andrewsLots of people are confused by me. First I was a girl who liked girls, and then a boy who liked girls, and now—finally—a dude who likes other dudes. I get it—it is kind of confusing. The best way I’ve heard it explained: Gender is who you want to sleep as, and sexuality is who you want to sleep with. It took me some time to figure out that last part.

While it took me some time to figure out that last part, I’ve always known (on some level) that I wanted to be a boy. I’ve had three really meaningful romantic relationships in my life. The first, when I was in eighth grade, was with a girl (when I was still viewed by the world as a girl). The second, which started when I was a junior in high school and was just starting to transition from female to male, was with a transgender girl from another high school. The most recent was with a guy I go to college with.

My first girlfriend and I had been secretly seeing each other for a little while when we got caught making out behind a dance studio. My mom found out, and I was forced to come out to her. At the time, I figured the easiest thing to tell her was that I was bisexual. I’d been on dates with boys and girls, so technically it was the truth, right? My mom is the most amazing mom in the world, but she wasn’t thrilled with the news at first. Still, she appreciated the fact that she might still see her daughter walk down the aisle someday with someone. And I firmly believe it will happen. Just not in the way she envisioned.

It was during this relationship that I realized I was transgender. My girlfriend couldn’t have been more awesome or supportive of the fact that I no longer wanted to be seen as a girl, but I couldn’t expect her to suddenly like me as a guy.

Flash forward to age 16. With my mother’s support, I had just started testosterone hormone therapy and was going through the beginnings of my transition when I met my next girlfriend. She was deep into her own transition from male to female and was months away from being the first openly trans teenager to graduate from high school in Oklahoma. I had the biggest crush on her and was amazed that she liked me back. From the outset, it was a match made in heaven: Two cute transgender teens from the Bible Belt find each other and fall in love! And yes, being with her was life-changing and life-affirming; she fully understood what I was going through.

But after about half a year of being on testosterone, I started to realize that I wanted to be with a guy as a guy. It didn’t make any sense—I had always been attracted to girls. I was finally in the body I had always wanted, and I had a beautiful girlfriend. Still, I couldn’t deny how I felt.

The next step, going out into the world as a transgender guy hoping to meet a gay guy, was incredibly daunting. I never thought I would find a man who looked at me the same way he would at other guys, considering I had been born biologically female. Happily, I did.

I met the guy who would eventually become my first boyfriend at the 2013 Tulsa Equality Gala. After my ex-girlfriend and I ended our relationship, I asked the cute guy who had made an impression on me at the event out for coffee. For the first time in my life, I had a gorgeous guy sitting across from me, seeing me the way I saw myself and wondering if I liked him. It was a new feeling, and it felt right. Soon after, we started dating, and I finally got to hold the hand of another guy who saw me as a full and complete male. He did not treat me as an exception, or a charity case—which I worried about—but as another human being.

My boyfriend helped me finally figure out who I am: a gay, female-to-male transgender. We broke up recently, but having experienced a loving, accepting relationship with another man who understands where I am coming from and the steps I took to get there was invaluable.

Becoming who I am has been a very hard journey. I mean, I had to come out to my mom on three separate occasions! But compared with most people in my position, I was lucky—lucky to have met three amazing individuals who each taught me so much about love, who I am, and who I want to be. More than that, I was surrounded by people who loved and supported me through this entire process. I don’t expect it to be easy as I continue to date. But I’m confident the right man for me is out there. And just like any other teen, just knowing that the love you want is possible is all we need to keep going. Every one of us, regardless of how we identify, deserves to have that.

Arin Andrews is the author of Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen.

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