Jake, 16, is of the five young trangender people profiled in the MSNBC documentary "Born in the Wrong Body." In the following essay, he describes growing up as a girl, despite always feeling that he was truly a boy, and his decision to bring his story to the public.
I never felt like a girl, even though that was technically what I was.
As a child, I fantasized about being the male hero in my favorite Disney movies. I was the father when my friends and I played house. My life was one big fantasy until I reached puberty and realized it was more than that.
Hearing all my girlfriends talk about all the changes their bodies were going through made me really uncomfortable. I used to just sit and listen and try to not take part in the conversations. But even though I was ignoring my friends, I couldn't ignore my own body.
The changes where unbearable. I was growing breasts and I had started my period. It was really hard to fantasize anymore that I was a boy, even though my brain told me to keep believing. I fell into a deep depression and wasn't sure how to get out. I didn’t have the motivation to do anything anymore, and I wanted to disappear forever.
When I was around 12, I met someone who changed my life completely. Somehow I find out that this man, who I thought was a biological man, wasn't that at all. He confided to me that he was in fact transgender. “What was transgender?” I thought. Well, after doing intense research I realized it was someone who had the brain of one gender, but the body of another. I realized that that was, in fact, who I was.
I told my mom soon after doing all the research, when I was about 13. She was very supportive of me, and we did more research together. We found out about hormone therapy, which helped me to achieve the outer appearance of a man, and different surgeries like breast removal and sexual reassignment.
After spending about two years in therapy, I was allowed to start my hormones and soon after that I was able to have breast surgery. It felt really great to have achieved this goal at such a young age, because most female-to-male transgender people I know do not even start thinking about this stuff until age 18, and most don't even have supportive parents.
I am still considering sexual reassignment, although it's not on my to-do list. Doing the documentary has given me an opportunity to show the world that being transgender is not a giant roadblock in your life, it’s just something that you have to overcome to make you stronger and a better person. I hope to show people that it's not a freak show life and it's something that is just as easy to deal with as having blue hair. I want other kids who might be going through this to see me and how brave I have become from this challenge in my life. I want to help people.
So in conclusion, I never felt like a girl because technically, I never was one.