By Shaemus Spencer
First you must proclaim it. Tell a parent or a friend. If you suspect they might disown you or try to change your mind, walk into the nearest copse of trees and shout: “I AM A REAL MAN.” Squash any doubt that creeps into your voice. You will be required to defend this proclamation for the rest of your life.
You must discard all things that are not masculine. Stop painting your nails and remove any jewelry. Your bras and thongs have got to go. If anybody were to discover them, they would know that you were not always a Real Man.
Ask people to call you something else. If you want it to be easy, pick a nickname. You may pick a completely new name, but be advised that others will complain about how difficult you are making this. (If you are Sam or Shannon or Charlie, you might get away with keeping your name.) It is helpful to have a story on hand for when people ask you how you got your name. Some believable stories include: “I was named after my grandfather,” and “my parents really loved the drummer from Rush.”
Select three new hobbies. Hobbies of Real Men include (but are not limited to) working on cars, operating heavy machinery, hunting, drinking bad beer by a fire, and learning the intricacies of a defensive line on a third down.
Real Men don’t have breasts, so you must strap yours to your body or remove them altogether. There are retailers online who sell cropped tank tops made of Lycra that will sculpt your upper half into a flat, soft dome. If you cannot afford one of these, ace bandages will work, but not as well. Both options will leave you with scars.
Go to therapy, and tell them a selection of the following stories:
a. You feel like you were born in the wrong body
b. You were terrified of your body during puberty
c. You dressed your Barbies in G.I. Joe clothes
d. All the neighborhood kids considered you “one of the boys”
e. All of the above
Be sure to add personal details that can be cross-referenced when they bring in your family members. Once the therapist determines you have wanted to become a Real Man for an acceptable amount of time, they will give you a Letter of Approval. Take this to your doctor.
Twice a month, stick a 1.5” needle into your thigh. The stiff liquid in your muscle will ache for several days every time, even after a decade. If you’re afraid of needles, you can get a cream used by people who want a better sex drive, but it will make your shoulders break out in terrible acne. If you cannot afford either medication, there are other ways to procure it. Find a Real Man who is at least in their 50s, they probably know a guy.
People will accost you regularly. They will tell you how your chromosomes make you a Wo-Man, a Fake Man, a He-She, a Freak. They will stand two inches from you and demand to see your body. You will experience violence more than once. This is just the way of things, and it is part of becoming a Real Man.
When strangers begin to call you “Sir” more than 80% of the time, you are almost finished. Try to find a house, a job, and a partner who won’t leave you when you tell them you weren’t always a Real Man. Settle down in a city with a lot of rainbow flags and drag shows on the weekends. Go to the grocery store. Clean out the gutters. Mail your childhood friend a letter to explain why you haven’t called in years.
Wait at least seven years. You will forget that you are different. You will not recognize the name you were born with. You will have coworkers and drinking buddies who do not know about the time before you were a Real Man. In fact, they may not believe you if you tell them.
When you are comfortable and safe and forgetting, you will go to the DMV. You will hesitate before marking “F” on the license renewal. The unsmiling attendant will furrow her brow, reach for her White-Out with a sigh, and fix your mistake.
Shaemus Spencer is a trans/queer animator and writer. They have been or will be published in Trampset, MoonPark Review, Bending Genres, and several other great mags you should be reading instead of this bio. They live in western New York, but their heart is in West Virginia. Find them online @chezmouse.