The Transgender Experience: Tristan Byrnes
From Hurting to Helper
Tristan Byrnes: TransAction FL Advisory Council Member
My name is Tristan Byrnes, and I am a man who was assigned female at birth. I know, sounds weird right? In other words, I was born a female and transitioned to male. Let me explain a little about what that means to me and where I am today. You may have heard of FTM, Female to Male, or just transgender, I am not huge on labels but feel they might help in understanding.
My being transgender does not define me, I am just Tristan, a father, Mental Health Counselor, friend and Fiance. However, like a lot of happy endings, there is a bit of history and some pain to get to the understanding and happiness. Let me share a little bit about the journey from little girl to man.
I was born in 1971, raised outside Detroit with parents and older brother. I knew at a young age something was up, but could not put my finger on it. I wanted to pee standing up like my brother, I threw a temper tantrum at 6 because I didn't have a penis like him. A story that is now a legendary family story used for embarrassment, we all have one. I was too young to do anything about it or even know what it was, and back in the 70's my parents definitely had no idea. I was raised Catholic,I put on the girl mask and marched forward, having no idea really that it was a mask that I was conforming to wear.
Puberty hit and I was miserable, felt my body was deceiving me. I was depressed, introverted, suicidal at times and truly depressed and miserable. I still had no real idea why that was. One thing stayed constant, when I looked into the mirror, the female that I saw felt foreign. If you want to understand, try to imagine waking up in the morning and seeing the opposite gender looking back at you in the mirror, how would that feel? Imagine walking outside and hearing someone call you sir instead of ma’am, or vice versa. What does that feel like?
When I hit my 20's, I at least realized that I liked women and that helped a little, and at the time I thought that was what my struggle was all along. I thought I was just a lesbian who struggled with religious, societal pressure to not be one.
I hit my mid 30's and realized that I still was not happy, I had just moved to Florida, was in a new relationship and began a period of self discovery. My gf at the time was a member of MCC church, a christian GLBT church, so I started attending with her. I met a friend and he discussed his gender concerns and his story sounded so familiar. We became like brothers, one day there was a documentary on the Discovery Channel regarding being transgender, and he called me and said, "turn on the discovery channel in an hour, there is something you need to watch" and I did. Within 10 minutes of watching I just began to cry. I finally understood what all the despair was about.
So, from there I went to therapy, and created a plan to medically fix what I learned was something that went wrong during pregnacy. A lot has to happen in 10 months, and everyone starts out as non-gendered and gender forms throughout gestation. A lot can go wrong with all the intricacies of creating life, so it’s safe to say gender can be one of those things.
I started hormones (which I have been on for 11 years), I had chest reconstruction surgery, hysterectomy, changed my name, my gender marker, even my Birth certificate all to male. I finally saw, me in the mirror and not that strange disconnect that you imagined earlier. I was finally confident, happy, yet one small thing was still missing. A career that I was passionate about.
The therapist that assisted with my transition truly saved my life and I always had an interest in counseling myself. So, I went back to school focusing on Mental Health Counseling, knowing that I wanted to become a Gender Therapist to assist others in discovering this happiness that I found. I am now a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, and my passion is to assist people in correcting their personal view in the mirror. There is nothing better than watching another gain confidence, find their true self and their true happiness. My passion is equality for the community in all regards both as personal counselor and community advocate.