March is here and spring is on it’s way. For many of us I’m sure it feels like winter has been here forever but changes are coming, the grass will turn green, the flowers will bloom and the leaves with fill the trees so lush and beautiful. Change and transition can be quite amazing, not only in nature, but with human beings.
Unfortunately, some of us are born in the wrong bodies. Can you imagine feeling one way and looking in the mirror and seeing someone completely different? Thankfully, we live in a time and a place in the world where if you want you can change and see the person you feel on the outside exactly as you feel on the outside, you can. It’s life changing, life saving and absolutely incredible. This month we decided to do a feature on an astonishing young trans man from the Niagara Region. His story is inspiring and the things he wants to do for Niagara’s local trans community are extraordinary.
Hello, my name is Mason Coates. I am in my final semester at Brock University, enrolled in the Sport Management program – the same program that got Kyle Dubas his job as the GM for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
I also work for the City of St. Catharines as a Head Lifeguard at Kiwanis Aquatic Centre; I have the privilege of being a board member for OutNiagara; I was a guest speaker at the Mayors Youth Forum, and a speaker down at City Hall for this past pride flag raising. I have been a part of this wonderful community that has embraced me and my family, and where my job affords me the opportunity to be engaged with many patrons every day and maybe I have even taught your children how to swim. I want to thank this column for giving me this platform to share my story with you. I hope to bring acceptance and love to the world for all people, and to help raise those that are marginalized, up.
From the time I was six and sitting on Santa’s lap, asking if he could gift me “special” boy parts that would make me look like a real boy on the outside to match the real boy that I felt on the inside, to playing women’s hockey for Brock University, knowing that it was the only path to playing professional hockey for someone without those “special” boy parts like me, I have always felt out of sync with my body. It wasn’t until I started working for the City of St. Catharines as a Lifeguard, and started to transition towards a more authentic me, that my world felt as aligned with who I really am – all the time.
My biggest challenges throughout my transition?
One of my biggest challenges throughout my transition has been dealing with the dysphoria, both top and bottom. I believe that all transgender persons can attest to that; we all become dysphoric at some point throughout the transition, some become more dysphoric than others. It is a constant struggle in becoming your authentic self; feeling trapped in the wrong body. When what you feel on the inside does not match your physical appearance, it can be crippling to one’s self-confidence, self-worth, inner-strength, identity, purpose, and belonging. Before top surgery, my clothing options were very limited; often times I would buy the next size up so that it would hide my chest. I would often find myself hunching over, constantly pulling my shirt away from my body to give the allusion that I had a flat chest. Before leaving the house, I would ask my sister, girlfriend, or friends, “Does my chest look flat?” or “If you didn’t know me and we passed each other on the street would you do a double take?”. Another time that I would become quite anxious would be anytime it was windy, or it was raining; anything that would expose my chest, would make me go into panic mode because it would bring more attention to myself than intended. It didn’t matter that I had facial hair, or had a deep voice, or even that I was “passing” all together, it is something that I struggled with up until I had top surgery.
I became quite bottom dysphoric throughout my past relationship. I was with someone who hadn’t been with a trans man before, romantically or physically… I was her first.
Our relationship started out great, she didn’t care that I was trans… so I thought. I am a firm believer that actions speak louder than words. Midway through our relationship the level of intimacy plummeted exponentially, the communication was only one sided and I continued to be kept a secret from her extended family and friends. It all boiled down to me not having the hardware, if you know what I mean. This created self-doubt, anxiety, and internal hate towards myself; taking me down a scary path. I did everything in my power to make myself appear “more manly”, so I bought a packer along with a few other things, thinking it was going to solve our issues. Her initial response to me packing for the first time was “OMG you look so hot! I am way more attracted to you.”. That comment was soul crushing and it nearly broke me to my core. It left me feeling hopeless, and a freak. How is it that having something in your pants dictates your level of “manliness”? I became so reliant on the packer, I would never leave home without it; and would become extremely self-conscious and feel that I was on the verge of having a panic attack when I couldn’t wear it to teach swimming lessons. The thought of my packer falling out of my swimsuit into the pool, with 100 per cent certainty that it would land in the hands of a young child, is by far more mortifying and depressing than not being able to wear it for an hour or so.
Being intimate with someone for the first time, whether you are trans person or not, can create a world wind of different emotions. It is important that you don’t ever change who you are or what makes you comfortable for anyone; and most importantly do not let anyone tell you that you aren’t attractive enough. Being trans can cause an exponential amount of anxiety and self-doubt if you are in the wrong relationship. That being said, even if you are in the right relationship, you will still have moments of self-doubt. But, it’s when you are in the right relationship that those moments are limited and when your significant other makes you feel like you have it all.
My favourite parts of the journey
One of my favourite things about my journey thus far, is being able to educate people through public speaking and advocating. I believe knowledge is power and using the platform that I have been so fortunate to be given, to share my personal journey with a diverse group of individuals has been amazing.
My transition thus far has been a success and my family has played a role in that success. Having a support system to fall back on during the tough times, whilst having them around to celebrate the victories… whether that be the growth of a couple chin hairs or no longer getting your period. At the end of the day, it’s the small things that remind you that you are closer to becoming your authentic self.
Another factor is the hormones. Thank goodness I live in a country that affords me the opportunity to live my life as my authentic self; and a healthcare system that doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg to undergo hormone replacement therapy / gender reassignment surgeries. I have spent nearly 2.5 years on testosterone, and how time has flown by. I remember my first T shot: It was on September 20 at the Quest Community Health Centre. I was extremely excited but nervous. I remember thinking to myself, and probably voiced it many times, “I am going to have a beard by Christmas”; oh, how genetics and my sense of time had failed me. But I do remember the first time my voice had dropped, or the time my mood changed within seconds, my body odour, my appetite…
Changing my name, and gender markers on my health card / driver’s license was one of my happiest moments. Legally changing my name and gender markers were the first things that I did. It was a slow process, but, once I received the official documentation, it made transitioning that much easier. It made going out to the clubs possible, mind you, when bouncers would look at my ID they would take a second look…I looked like a 16- year-old boy going to the bar.
Getting top surgery has been one of the most liberating feelings that I have ever experienced as a trans man. That feeling of being “free”, makes the transitioning process worth it. It is a reminder that good things do happen, and will happen, you just have to be patient and use that time wisely to figure out who you are as a trans man, or woman. What I mean by that, is to change your mindset from negative to a positive. We are constantly transitioning, we are growing, learning, and redefining ourselves. I think what people fail to realize is that, only 10% of our happiness is based on our external world, and 90% is based on how we see the world. Early on in my transition, I would say things to myself like, “I am a freak,” or that “I am not really a guy,” or “I will never get the surgery,” or “why was I born this way? Why couldn’t I be normal?”. These are the things that changed my outlook on life. How you see yourself, the person that you want to become, but unintentionally become so focused on other people’s transitions that you hold yourself to the same expectations as someone else without realizing it. You have just limited yourself before you have even started; and that, that is the biggest mistake that I made pre-T, and pre top surgery.
I am currently in a relationship with someone who could care less if I had a penis or not, if I packed or not. She has told me throughout our relationship, “I am with you because of who you are as a person, how you choose to treat me and make me feel matters far more to me than anything. You are living your authentic life, you know what you want in life and that is far more attractive than anything.” It’s not just about the words she uses to convey her thoughts and feelings, it’s her actions that speak volumes.
In the end even though I’m just getting started…
The saying, “Everything happens for a reason”, is something that I have always lived by. It is about making the most out of each situation; I like to use the 3:1 ratio. The 3:1 ratio refers to identifying three positives for every negative “situation”. This forces a change in mindset; what used to be a narrow way of thinking has turned into an open-minded way of thinking and opening yourself up to endless possibilities that will better you both short-term and long-term.
I believe that we all need to fully embrace the hardships and to not be afraid to fail. Failure is the vehicle that shapes each and every one of us; it tests our mindset, our ability to think big with an open mind and open heart. It is important that we remind ourselves every day that we all have a purpose in life; whether we have discovered what that purpose is or not. One thing is for certain, and that is living your life as your authentic self. At the end of the day we are all human, we want to love and be loved, we want to feel needed and supported and we want to know that our opinions matter. We strive to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Life is merely an accumulation of transitions. With that being said, we need to spend more time “failing”, self-reflecting, and self-discovering. This is how we will begin to stop comparing ourselves to other people and their journeys and be able to focus on living our own authentic lives. I wake up every morning and say to myself “today is going to be the best day of your life”. The first 20 minutes of waking up are critical in that it sets the tone for the day. It creates positive reinforcement and the willingness to be open-minded. I will leave you all with a quote, “I may not be there yet, but I am closer than I was yesterday”.
Please contact me without any hesitation, my Instagram tag is @Mcoatesy and my email is Masoncoates94@gmail.com.
On behalf of LGBTQ+ in the City we would like to thank Mason Coates for opening up and allowing us to share his story. Thank you for educating us all. Thanks to Kate Alexander (OUTniagara) for also playing a key role in making this month’s column happen.
On March 22 from 4-9pm a trans meet and greet will take place at the Third Space Cafe at 4345 Queen St. in Niagara Falls. The event will be hosted by Falynn Shaw & Mason Coates.