Matter, Energy, and Life of Michaela A. Castello.


Trans means different things to different people, creating a wide variety of possible experiences. In my individual case, a lot of my experience and motivation to ultimately transition stems from a lifetime of gender dysphoria, or essentially being born into the wrong body. While I have only been in a place to “do something about it” in the past several years, that feeling of incongruence has been with me for about as long as I can remember. For me, the goal of transition is to do what I can to change my body into the correct one despite being cursed with a Y chromosome.

Ultimately, transition is for me: I want to inhabit a physical form that reflects who I am inside. As changes have taken place, it’s been remarkable how much better I feel about myself. At the same time, I would prefer that when other people look at me, they see the same thing: someone that looks like they were born female.

Passing is…complicated. I don’t feel like I am a man pretending to be a woman, but it is impossible to control the perceptions of others. That unpredictability creates a constant lurking fear that some thing or another will “give me away.” Of course, due to the aforementioned genetics, that fear is accurate to an extent and my transition will never be perfect. Even if I could somehow alter my DNA, being trans would still be part of my cognitive life experience; I would always know I made a change. At some level there has to be self-acceptance, independent of how female or not my body is or what a random person observing me happens to think.

My version of transition runs up against a number of other different, but equally valid, forms of self and gender expression. I am not trying to be a gay man, a femboy, or someone’s fetish object. I am not interested in topping boys. Despite medically fighting the gender binary, I’m not trying to appear nonbinary or genderless. Perhaps most importantly, I am not a performer.

Every so often (and for the past two days in a row, which got me thinking more about it), someone asks me if I do or am interested in doing drag. In the moment, I try to play it cool and say something like, “Oh, no, I’m just trying to pass as cis.” I don’t think anyone is intending anything negative by asking the question; however, what I hear is “you look like a man pretending to be a woman” or “you seem like someone who wants to develop a fictional female persona.” The assumption of that performance aspect hits me hard.

Drag shows are a lot of fun to attend and feature some fantastic performances and personalities; I highly recommend seeking one out if you have never been before. The individual people underneath likely identify in all sorts of ways, too, and get to enjoy a vibrant form of artistic self-expression.

Drag is not me. I do love a good outfit and the tasteful application of glitter in makeup looks, but I pick those things for the same reason anyone else does: because I like them. My gender expression is kinda femme, I guess, but I am not trying to project an exaggerated form of femininity for the purpose of entertainment. I am not playing a character or a role.

What I am trying to do is embrace the authentic version of myself I used to put a lot of energy into suppressing. I’m hoping that self reads as a regular girl, but when that isn’t possible, I suppose I want people to see it not as something I “put on,” but as me out being me. Just…me.

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