Being transparent: Greensboro man talks about his transition
*Editor’s note: A version of this story will be published in Queer Times Quarterly in its November edition and online at qtquarterly.com.
On Feb. 3, 2015, Roman Carrig’s life changed for the better because he started taking testosterone and formally began his transition. Carrig, 24, moved from California to Greensboro when he was in high school. “I kind of had a mental breakdown,” Carrig said of a trip to visit family in Chicago before his transition. “At 3 in the morning, the next day I talked about it with my mom and she kind of decided for me that I needed to start hormones.”
Carrig said he was hesitant at first to accept that he was trans. He tried to talk himself out of the idea.
“There is no way that I am that like I don’t want hair all over my body, I don’t care about having a deep voice, I don’t care about all this shit, I just don’t want boobs,” he said reflecting on how he felt before he began transitioning. “That was my mindset. It got to the point where I was going insane. Like the kind of insane where your brain never shuts off, there is always negative self-talk, something is wrong with you, but you can’t quite put a finger on it. Things just added up, and the solution was hormones. As soon as I got my first shot, it was obvious to me. It was like ‘duh, why did I wait so long?’ I wish I could have done this in high school.”
After his trip to Chicago, he called his insurance company, got a gender therapist and then started with hormone therapy that next week. Carrig said he feels extremely lucky to have such a supportive family because, without them, he wouldn’t have started his transition.
“So my mom is like a fucking angel,” he said. “She is perfection and has been very supportive throughout everything. I am definitely way more lucky than a lot of trans people out there with my family.”
Even though Carrig had a great support system through family and friends, not everybody was on his side. In March 2016, the North Carolina General Assembly and Pat McCrory passed the controversial House Bill 2 (otherwise known as “the bathroom bill”), which targeted transgender people and their usage of public restrooms.
“I was like in the beginning of my transition, so I did not pass,” he said during the time of HB2. “I just kept using girls’ bathrooms and just took the stare. But honestly, HB2 is less a transman thing and more of a transwoman thing.”
Carrig said good things came out of HB2 for him because that is when he started organizing and becoming more conscious of politics.
On Dec. 13, 2016, Carrig said he was fortunate enough for his mom to cosign on a loan for him to get top surgery. He said the surgery was something he wanted to be done even before he realized he was trans.
“Since I can remember, I hated my chest,” he said. “Like from the bottom of my soul, I fucking hated having boobs. And that started as soon as I started developing them. My mom knew it, I knew it, everyone around me knew it because I hated that I had to wear a bra, and I hated that my clothes didn’t fit the way I wanted them to. I hated that my mom made me wear girl’s clothes–I wasn’t allowed to wear T-shirts ever. I was going to get top surgery whether I was going to transition or not.”
Carrig describes the burden of breasts kindred to having benign tumors on one’s body. He said the burden was so much that it made it hard for him to look in the mirror. “It is all superficial, but it gets to the point where it gets so bad that it becomes a mental problem.”
Carrig said he was really scared because it was his first major surgery. It went successfully, and post-operation felt like two weights were lifted from his chest, literally.
“I was so happy I got up off the operating table and hugged my surgeon, I hugged all of the nurses,” he recollected with a chuckle. “If I tried to reach up and pull my skin down, that is what it felt like. It is uncomfortable and tight, but that was it. It was uncomfortable but not painful. I can’t imagine any other surgery going like that. I just got really lucky.”
He said getting top surgery was an experience he wishes he could have again.
“Once they were off it felt like I wasn’t missing anything. I felt no sadness like my body wasn’t missing anything.”
He pointed to his window where some fake breasts were stuck to the glass. Those were his “stress boobs” (essentially stress balls shaped like breasts), and both were stuck on his window so he could always remember the experience.
“I don’t have the stereotypical trans stories, so I feel guilty being the spokesperson,” he said, reflecting on how privileged he has been through the process. “Telling my story makes it seem like I am the trans person like this is how it is to be trans. It is tough, but as soon as you get on your magical hormones, it gets better. Because that is my story and it isn’t everyone’s story. It has been hard but not as hard.”
Even though his transition has been almost seamless for the most part, he says a challenging part of the process is dating.
“Personally, I feel like I am lying to somebody if I don’t tell them that I am trans,” he said. “I’m ‘female looking for females’ on Tinder. Otherwise, I feel like I’m conning somebody. I know love shouldn’t be about genitals, but right now it is. And aesthetically, the hardest part has been my height. I am 5’2,” my height gives away that I am trans pretty much.”
However, everything else has been rewarding.
“Everyone that I have known, for the most part, has been extremely supportive,” he said. “That goes for friends and family and co-workers and bosses, strangers. It has been pretty cool. Another thing is, I have been able to help other people who are just beginning to transition, or who are still confused or just don’t understand what is going on. And that has been awesome.”
He said he mostly helps younger transmen learn how to pass. He gives them advice on what type of clothes they should wear so that their shoulders don’t look thin and their hips don’t look as wide. He also offers them a safe space.
“Patience is big, your transition is not only your transition,” he said of some advice he would give other transitioning people. “It is the people closest to you transition as well. Patience with them is huge, but also patience with yourself. It is not an immediate change.”