Welcome to The Learning Curve! A publication inspired by using my own privilege and allowing others with less of a voice to communicate their stories through me. Each month, readers vote on a theme that they want to be covered and would enjoy learning more about. Then, I set out to find people who are willing to share their personal stories with me and the rest of the Learning Curve community. November's topic is relationships!
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Her whole life she always felt different. She never felt specifically interested or drawn to anything that held her interest. It was like living in her own personal hell, she said.
Jaymi Friesema, 34, lived her life as a man for 30 years. After a series of traumatic events –including the loss of her father and a drunken night to grieve—the lightbulb went off for her, she said.
“It was this magical lifetime realization at 30-years-old,” she said. “I was like, ‘oh my gosh this explains so much.’ I am a trans woman.”
The epiphany made many other aspects of her life also make sense, she said, noting that people had frequently told her that she had “female-like” tendencies. She knew that throughout her life she had always felt different and outcasted, but could not put her finger on why.
Throughout her life Friesema dated a handful of women and even had a child with one, she said. Her daughter is now 13-years-old, going on 30, she laughed.
“She is beautiful and smart and accepting of me even though she doesn’t fully understand it quite yet,” she said.
Friesman was living with her best friend during her realization, she said. The next morning, she was excited to get started on her new life. She told her best friend and they immediately started shopping for a new wardrobe.
Some of her favorite clothing items now include knee-high boots, cherry red platform heels and a white, lace dress.
For a while, she only sported her new look when she was home, in order to get more comfortable in the clothing, she said. Then, on Halloween night, she tested the waters in a pleather skirt, pleather corset and high-heeled boots.
“That way if anybody asked me about it or made faces, I could play it off as a Halloween costume,” Friesema said.
The city of Batavia, New York, is located in the Western part of the state and lacks a strong trans and LGBTQ+ community, Friesema said. Nervous to see the reaction she would get; her Halloween night went extremely well.
A passerby saw her walking, took a photo and posted to Instagram with the caption “wow he walks better in heels than I do,” she said. The photo made its way to Friesema who was delighted by the compliment.
“It was a great experience for me to hear that on my first night out in heels,” she said. “My confidence was through the roof and I knew everything really, truly did make sense now.”
That January, Friesema started hormone therapy to develop her female body, she said, giggling because of how proud she is of the breasts she grew—a 38 C cup size. The hormones had a positive impact on the way she viewed her body. They also helped with the depression she had been dealing with for years, she said.
“The day I started my hormones I was just beaming,” she said. “I had been feeling down because I felt like I missed out on being a teen girl, experiencing hormones and body changes; this helped combat that."
She is currently recovering from her vaginoplasty and the healing is going smoothly, she said. The recovery process is a long one as women must remain stationary for the majority of the first month and dilate themselves during the following months.
“The downside is definitely the pain,” she said. “But nothing is worse than living your life in hell and never getting that time back.”
When asked about relationships, Friesema said it’s complicated. Ever since she came out, she has only had one relationship with someone who is genderfluid and nonbinary. The two are considered exes, but still see each other exclusively.
“It’s mainly complicated because I still have some masculine features, so I don’t get many ‘hey how ya doin’s,’ or date requests,” she said. “Being with someone who also knows what it is like to be trans feels best because they are supportive and proud of you.”
In her small community in New York, she has been called derogatory terms out in public, screamed at by someone in their car saying she needs psychiatric help and frequently gets dirty stares and remarks, she said. Soon, she hopes to move to a new city with a larger LGBTQ+ presence.
"We as a trans community are struggling for a lot of our rights right now," she said. "Just because out difference is external and not internal. We are changing us, we are not trying to change you."
As Friesema heals from her surgery, though, she focuses on how positive this new life of hers is going to be, rather than dwelling on the past, she said.
“I threw a party for myself to celebrate my new life,” she said. “The way I see it is, nobody remembers the caterpillar once they see the butterfly.”
Friesema views her time spent living as a man as her “caterpillar” phase, she said. She credits these years of her life as an important transformation era that molded her into who she is today.