March 31, known as International Transgender Day of Visibility, is a day that means a great deal to me and millions of people across the globe. International Transgender Day of Visibility is an annual event occurring on March 31 dedicated to celebrating transgender people’s contributions to society and raising awareness of the discrimination faced by Trans people worldwide.
It has taken me several attempts to write this, knowing that in the United States, bills are currently being passed trying to get rid of us and to take Trans kids away from their parents, homes, and loved ones. Across the States and places around the world, laws, media, and news organizations are trying to make it seem like we are mentally ill or treat us like the plague, and that sickens me. For the past few weeks, I have been thinking about what I can do to help educate and spread awareness, so I was happy when I was asked to write something for Toronto Film School / Yorkville University.
These Anti-Trans bills have shaken me up. And it isn’t just because I am Trans, or just because I care, or just because I’m looking for clout on social media, or to get more views on YouTube or TikTok – it genuinely shakes me up and sickens me because I know how it feels and I know what it’s like.
Looking at me now, people are always surprised when they find out that I am a Transman or when they find old pics of me or my transition journey I shared on YouTube. I find it humorous that people have their own image of what being Trans “looks like.” How you all see me now hasn’t always been the case.
Before coming out, I was terrified to be my true self or even talk to anyone about how I felt on the inside. When I started questioning my sexuality and orientation, I lived in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). If you don’t know where Dubai is, the UAE is a small country in the Middle East above Oman and Yemen. Despite Dubai’s current image as a multicultural and cosmopolitan city that allows for a lot of diversity, for many Trans individuals like myself, exclusion has been a fact of our lived experience in Dubai. So, I was terrified of speaking, how I felt, or even how to go about my transition.
From the ages of 15 to 23, I was depressed. I thought I had to make everyone happy by being the “perfect daughter” and the “perfect girlfriend.” I thought I had to be this perfect image of a woman, and it was destroying me on the inside.
Here is a pic of me a year before I decided to be me, even living in Dubai.
I did everything I could to be the “perfect girl” to make everyone happy, as you can see. I even modelled to feel love and accepted, even though I was sad and depressed on the inside. It came to the point where I started to question how I was feeling, whether I was crazy, or if anyone else felt the way I did. For the longest time, I thought I was crazy, or I just had to accept that I was a “tomboy.”
Living in Dubai, my access to information was restricted – certain internet content and media were censored, which made it more difficult for me to find information about other Trans people’s experiences. But by the time I turned 21, I’d had enough. I started Googling how I was feeling, and I stumbled across Ryan Cassata. To my surprise, he felt exactly how I felt, and from there I found a bunch of videos on YouTube of several people who felt exactly how I was feeling – and honestly, it made me feel like I could be me. I was relieved to know I wasn’t the only one.
From that moment on, I knew I wanted to be a voice and advocate for the Trans Community and the LGBTQI2SA+ community.
Coming out in Dubai, I am often asked, “Was it scary?” or “How did you do it?” Honestly, deep down I wasn’t terrified. I know everyone has heard horror stories about Trans people being taken into custody while trying to go to Dubai. Everyone heard about Gigi Gorgeous being taken into custody in Dubai a few years ago at the Dubai airport. It breaks my heart that that happened to her, however, I wasn’t terrified while I was there, because I lived there and I knew my way around.
Now, in 2022, Dubai is more accepting and open, however, I am speaking about how it was in 2015 when I first came out while living there. I knew if I came out slowly, I wouldn’t draw a lot of attention to myself. I was already active and slim-built, so I knew I wouldn’t be drawing a lot of attention. I first came out to my staff and a few friends that I had. Yes, I said staff – at the time, I was a department manager for American Eagle for Al Shaya Corp.
My staff was accepting, and so was my amazing family of friends. So, I started dressing in clothing I felt most comfortable in and cut my hair. Being in Dubai, I couldn’t start hormones or get therapy like you can here in Canada, but even though I didn’t have access to those things, I looked into natural ways I could boost my testosterone and started working out more. Even before hormones, I never got misgendered.
I was fully accepted in Dubai. Some may say I “pass well,” but I just did me, and I didn’t wear things that screamed, “Hey, I am Trans.” Now, that doesn’t mean that I am not proud to be who I am, I am a proud Transman, and I am thankful that I can help other Trans individuals by sharing my story and making videos educating people.
Even though I love Dubai and can’t wait until I can go visit again, I knew it would be in my best interest to go back home to Canada, so I could fully transition and be my true authentic self. I am now post-op with top surgery, legally changed my name and am on testosterone. I am so blessed to be who I am and to be a voice for the community.
I started my transition later than I would have liked, and that is okay. I am who I am, and I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. So, for this #TransgenderDayofVisibility2022, I ask you, if you know anyone in your life who is Trans, show them some love, give them a hug, a kiss, let them know you are thankful for them, and show some appreciation.
Thanks so much for reading a bit of my coming out story,
– Liam Trefry is a Term 5 Acting for Film, TV & the Theatre student