Spring 2024

Q and A: Sam’s Story, Part Two

Canadian School Counsellor magazine’s Sean Dolan interviewed Sam, a trans youth, a little over a year ago to discuss his transition. Sam candidly described what it is like to move to his true gender, providing a first-hand account of what is involved in the process—a process that is multi-layered especially when the medical side of transitioning is considered. We recently sat down with Sam and did a follow-up interview in which Sam shares more of his story as it continues to evolve. Once again, Sam’s candour and clarity shines through in the interview.

CSC: We last spoke in November 2022. How have you been doing since then? What has changed? How is your transition going? 

Sam: Yeah, I’ve been doing pretty good. Last year, in August, I had top surgery. To be honest, it feels like the surgery was a part of confirming who I really am.

CSC: Top surgery is a big step. Can you tell me what you were experiencing prior to, and what lead to the decision to move forward with that? 

Sam: It kind of happened suddenly. I knew I wanted to get the surgery done sooner rather than later and, to be honest, I thought I had to wait until I was 18 to get it done. It turns out you can get the surgery when you’re younger and, since I was 15 at the time, I was allowed to get the operation after a grace period. They had me on the surgery list in June and by August I received the procedure.

In terms of making the decision, I can confidently say that there was no hesitation—as soon as I knew I could get top surgery, I wanted to get it done right away. After binding my chest every day, I was ready to say goodbye to the chest I didn’t really want. It was liberating, both physically, because I no longer had to bind myself every day, and mentally, because I felt like I was becoming the person I was always meant to be.

CSC: Did you encounter any obstacles to the surgery?

Sam: Not really. I got an assessment because this is a major surgery. I understood this and accepted it. The surgeon had to determine what surgical method was the best fit for my body. Once that was done it was just a matter of waiting for my turn to get the surgery. While it can take a year or more to get the surgery, I got pretty lucky with some cancellations and moved up the wait list.

CSC: What was the recovery like—physically and emotionally? 

Sam: The recovery went really well. I would describe the discomfort as minimal, and that is probably because I wanted the surgery so badly. It was well worth the pain and discomfort in the end. And to be clear, there was pain and discomfort, I am just not getting into the details.  

In terms of healing, I mostly had to deal with scar care. Sure, there was other stuff to deal with, but caring for the place of the incision was where I needed to focus most of my attention. That’s basically the answer to the ‘physical’ part of your question.

Emotionally I was really happy. There was a surreal moment when all the bandages came off when I realized I have the flat chest I have wanted for years. Then I thought, ‘Now I can wear the clothes I have always wanted to wear.’ I am really looking forward to summer when I can put on a shirt without having to worry about bindings. Basically, I have gained the freedom to wear the clothes that I want to wear.  

CSC: You told me that you initially realized that you were male when you were 12. How has that perspective evolved/changed as you have gotten older? How much more comfortable are you with being male? 

Sam: I feel more like myself now. I look at older pictures of myself and wonder, ‘Who is that? Look how different I am.’ I feel like I am growing more into myself every day. The deeper into the transition I go, the more comfortable I am with my masculinity. I no longer have to act masculine. Now I am masculine.  

CSC: How has your family been as you have moved deeper into your transition? Have they embraced your journey? Have they continued to be understanding and supportive? Were there difficult times you all had to work through? 

Sam: My family continues to be very supportive. They recognize that this is my journey, and I am becoming the person I want to be. It’s not like they blindly agree with every decision I make, but there haven’t been any major disagreements or fighting or anything like that.  

CSC: How has your school experience been? 

Sam: I am still part of the Rainbow Connection–the school group that supports trans students. I go to a fair number of meetings. I told my friends about getting top surgery and said that I would answer any questions they had to the best of my abilities. Some were curious and I answered their questions. It was nice to help a few people with information that might help them on their own journey.

CSC: Have you encountered any transphobia as you move further into your transition? 

Sam: Sure, transphobia and homophobia are present everywhere. But I am not going to engage with someone who is a bigot unless I feel safe in doing so and, in my experience, a bigot is so entrenched in their false beliefs that there is not much I can say to shift their perspective. I am just going to be myself and they’ll have to deal with their hate. In the end, I am a good person and I hope to be accepted while not having to explain why I am the person I am. Just because someone is trans doesn’t make them less of a person; it makes them more themselves. So, people should accept them for who they are.

CSC: How is your sense of confidence and self-esteem? Has it improved because of your transition? 

Sam: I feel much more confident since having top surgery. Prior to the surgery, wearing the binder made me feel very self-conscious. After the surgery, it was like—literally!—a weight was lifted off my chest and I felt so much better. My posture has improved, my confidence is growing, and I feel really good about who I am and what I’ve done.

CSC: What’s next for you? What are your future plans?

Sam: I am 16 now so after high school I may take a gap year. I might also go to college to study culinary arts. My brother has been a big help in advising me around this. I also plan to become a little more athletic; maybe start running and walking a bit more to build up my stamina and fitness.

In terms of bottom surgery, I don’t feel the same kind of urgency to get this done as top surgery. However, it’s not off the table. Maybe in my early 20s I’ll look into pursuing this.

That’s where the interview ended. When Sean Dolan asked if Sam was comfortable with the questions and the language used in the interview, he said, “Everything sounded good to me. I think we nailed it … again.”

It’s always nice to end an interview with a smile.