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Beck Rosato Lewis always knew that something wasn’t quite right growing up, that her feelings were different. She was a tomboy who was attracted to girls, while other girls she played with only liked boys.
Even after coming out as a butch lesbian, that identity seemed to be missing something. Eventually the light bulb went off, and Beck realized that she was born in the wrong body. Less than two years ago, she began transitioning into a male identity.
Beck spoke with San Diego Gay & Lesbian News about the remarkable journey from tomboy to butch lesbian to trans man, how life has changed, how his YouTube channel is documenting his transitioning process, and how he wants to promote understanding of transgender issues.
SDGLN: You have been quoted as saying that you first came out as a butch lesbian in 1997. How old were you then and how long did you live with that identity?
Beck: I was 18 years old when I came out as a lesbian. I always thought my family knew or had an idea that I was, especially when I hit high school but no one ever brought up the topic for discussion. I lived with the lesbian identity up until I turned 32 years old. I have been out as a trans man now for going on one and a half years.
SDGLN: When did you realize that you were transgender, and how difficult was your transition to a transgender man?
Beck: Ever since I can remember I have always felt male. To others, I am sure I just looked like your typical tomboy. However, this wasn't the case for me. Crushing on women at a young age, completely frustrated at the idea of having to wear girls clothing, always gravitating towards what society would label "boy toys" clutching on to my He-Man and Jason Friday the 13th Halloween mask, I felt like a boy. I am still fairly new in the transition process, been on hormones for 18.5 months now and had my name legally changed back in 2010. It hasn't really been as difficult as I thought that it would be. I guess I am very blessed.
SDGLN: How did you educate yourself about transgender issues?
Beck: Before I made the decision that transitioning was in fact the right thing for me and before I came out to everyone for the second time in life, I became consumed with YouTube. I watched countless videos of other transgender men and was fascinated with their stories, changes on hormone replacement therapy, their top surgery results and just how insightful some of their videos were. YouTube has helped me a lot.
SDGLN: How did your loved ones take the news when you told them?
Beck: To my surprise, I received more support than I ever imagined I would have been given. My mother has been my BIGGEST supporter along with my identical twin sister. I was always a rebel though growing up, lol, so they knew I would ultimately end up doing as I pleased but asked questions like any other concerned family would to understand and educate themselves. My Father and I don't really talk much about my transition but he doesn't disrespect my choices. Getting my first birthday card with Son on it from my Mother made me so happy and I realized just how blessed I am to have the family that I do. My sister, calls me her brother and that took some adjusting. However, I have always been seen as a dominant individual in appearance (initially a butch lesbian, now trans man) that I hope is has made it a little bit easier for my family as oppose to if I was a super feminine woman before my transition. I can only assume it would have made accepting or getting use to new pronouns that much more difficult.
SDGLN: What is your advice to anyone who wants to come out as transgender?
Beck: First, you are never to old to transition. You only have one life. Live it! Do not be afraid to live happily as you are and those who love and care about you will see you through it all. Allow everyone in your family and circle of friends to adjust in their own way. Do not push your transition on them. I would advise to just carry on with your transition, find ways to ensure open communication and show them how truly happy you are and how successful you can be despite a gender transition. Remember, we are so much more than "transitioning" people. Do not let your transition consume your world although at first, it is hard to do. With time you will be living as the gender you wish to and you will look around and see that those who support you will be standing beside you.
SDGLN: What is your YouTube channel about, and what kind of feedback have you gotten?
Beck: My channel is for documentation purposes regarding my transition. I display my physical changes on HRT (testosterone) and create videos that I believe would help others in my community, mainly geared towards other trans men (my brothers) Also, seeing as though I am a comedy, I will often place a comedic spin on some of my videos. (I'm known for that) From meeting Chaz Bono, to visiting Brandon Teena's headstone to my own hilarious trans man version of the "Old Spice" commercial when I was Pre-T, it's all on my channel.
The feedback I have received has been extremely positive and I have made a lot of friends from the social network. If anyone wishes to visit and subscribe to my YouTube channel, here it is.
SDGLN: Where are you at in your transitioning process?
Beck: At the moment, I am currently trying to save for top surgery. I have already chosen a surgeon and cannot wait until my special, life changing day. However, saving has not been easy and the procedure is costly. I am however, collecting donations from anyone who wishes to make a difference in someone else's life. You sure could make a difference in mine. Donations can be made via Pay Pal by using the email address email@example.com (I do not check this email, this is just the email associated with my PayPal account.)
SDGLN: You recently moved from Florida to Washington state. What are the differences you see in the two states?
Beck: The flowers and trees are what make these two states very unique from one another but one thing they do have in common is they both can rain cats and dogs. I live within minutes from Portland, Ore., which I think is just as liberal as Florida and both FLA and PDX have a very good energy about them.
SDGLN: Describe how you are treated in public and in the workplace as a transgender man?
Beck: I pass 100% as male when being viewed by the general public and when it comes to the workplace, I haven't had any issues coming out and feel very comfortable by employers who have hired myself. I again, feel very blessed and I know it's because of where I live and have lived that my transition hasn't been an issue. If any employer has an issue with my being transgender, I wouldn't want to work for them anyhow.
SDGLN: Do you think the transgender community is fully accepted in the LGBT community, or do you believe that much dialogue is needed?
Beck: Oftentimes I feel as though the “T” has become silent. This disappoints me because we all share the same acronym and are suppose to be a "family." Those within the LGBTQ family all struggle with acceptance and equal rights that I don't think anyone should silence a community within a community who struggles just the same. I feel as though those within the community who do not see transgender individuals as very much a part of the LGBTQ community are not immune to being as uneducated as others can be outside of the community. Some are struggling with their own identities and therefor can be cruel to others. Discrimination and lack of understanding unfortunately can within any group. However, when speaking of a community where we label it a rainbow family, it would be great to see more togetherness. The “T” is NOT silent.
SDGLN: Who are your role models and why?
Beck: Ahhh, that's a tough question. Chaz Bono is certainly one of them along with some guys on YouTube who have helped me out so much since before my coming out. My mom, dad and sister have been huge role models for me all of my life and I will always think that of them as well.
SDGLN: Single or taken?
Beck: Hahaha, my heart is taken. :)
SDGLN: What is something that people don’t know about you?
Beck: Good question. Ummm ... I am a Mr. Bubble kinda guy and I am not ashamed of this. LOL.
SDGLN: If you could have the ultimate dinner party and invite three guests (living or dead), who would be there and why?
Beck: Excellent question again. I would have to say, Judy Garland. I was always impressed by her glow and the will to carry on despite the struggles in her life and she had the most amazing voice. Oprah Winfrey would be a must-have on the guest list. The woman is incredibly giving and has been the shoulder of many to lean on. She has educated and changed so many lives for so many years. Lastly, Brandon Teena, who has paved the way for trans men everywhere. I would like to bond with him and let him know that he was one courageous man.
Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to (877) 727-5446, ext. 713.