Sofia: I'm a transwoman with pride
Updated: Feb 18, 2020
Denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex.
Sofia is a transwoman studying Computer Science at UC Merced. I met her at a student summit last week and we had this conversation.
Tell me about your experience of coming out?
"For some people, coming out means being honest about their sexuality. But for me, coming out is about gender identity.
I identify myself as a transwoman."
"I came out of the closet at 18, right when I started college.
I was like, you know what, I'm done with this. I just want to be free.
I've been suppressing it my entire life because of what society wanted from me, the pressure from my family, my friends. But I know that's not what I wanted to be ever since I was a little kid. So when I started college, I knew I didn’t want to do it anymore.
I finally started to explore the way I always wanted to be, and who I knew I really was."
"If it weren't for some of the few LGBTQ+ clubs and groups I joined and friends I made there, that probably would have never happened. I made some wonderful friends and they helped me figure myself out and gave me that space to be myself. And they would say to me, 'this is you,' 'this is valid,' 'this is wonderful.'
I never got any 'you should be this way,' 'you should act this way,' or 'because you're born this way, you should be this way.'
No. They did not.
They understood that I am my own person, that I gotta choose my own destiny.
They are absolutely incredible. If it weren't for them, I would still be stuck where I was in middle school and high school."
What did the transition feel like?
"So basically I'm learning how to live life again.
I'm going through things like second puberty. As I deal with adult problems like working, housing, and classes, I'm also relearning how my body works, my style, how I talk to people, and how I express myself.
Not gonna lie, it's been a very crazy couple of years.
But I've been absolutely adoring it every second. I'm getting closer and closer to where I wanna be, where I feel most comfortable, and I feel in some ways I'm already there."
What was it like before your transition?
"I lived life fairly normally. It was pretty bland actually. I lived a general kid life, taking classes and hanging out with friends. From the outside, it's almost like a normal life.
But inside was a lot different.
I had a lot of problems, how I dealt with my feelings, how I expressed myself, who I was, and why I was feeling this way.
I didn’t have the tools to tackle that. I never knew what the words transgender and sexuality truly meant and how they related to me.
I had so many struggles growing up.
I knew there's something wrong with me, but I don’t know what it is.
It's only when I got into college did I finally figure it out and became 100% sure that this whole gender thing wasn't working for me. I never was who I truly am."
How did you figure out then?
When I was growing up, I’d always do gender non-conforming things outside my family.
I liked this morning art class in which I would paint my nails with acrylic paints and would wear them the entire day. When the day was over, I would take my nails off before heading home. So at least in school, I started being more myself. Later on, I bought my own makeup and nail toolkit. I was feeling good about myself.
When I got into college, I started experimenting with a lot of stuff: what if I went by she/her pronouns, what if I choose a new name, a new style?
I didn't feel like a feminine man, but felt like a normal woman in society. But before then, I never got the chance to realize that.
How did you family react to your transition?
"For the longest time, my family didn't know. I didn't come out until winter last year when I posted on social media and publicly said it.
At that time, it really gave me a hard time. Some of my aunts and uncles were really cool about it, they said, 'we're happy for you,' 'that's great.' But a portion of my family said they couldn't accept that. They wouldn’t allow me to come home or be part of the family.
I haven't really seen much of my family since last winter. I miss them a lot. But on the one hand, I’m concerned about the logistics of traveling back home. On the other, I don't know where to stay, which places I can be most comfortable in, where I could fully be myself. I still have a lot of struggles, especially with navigating around family and friends I knew before college."
Why would you want to study CS in college?
"I've always always always loved computers, programs, machines. I love learning the way people interact with computers; I love programs that work very well with people. I'm also working with machine learning, finding ways to make computers more like humans, make it easier for humans to interact with computers. I love website design, graphic design, and I always try to wow people and make things intuitive.
I try to do that through computer and code."
So what is it like to be a transwoman in STEM field?
"When you experience this shift, it becomes clear the different ways society treats you when you're a guy, girl, non-binary, etc. How people think of you changes based on how you express yourself.
Someone can dress in certain ways and society is fine with it.
But someone else can dress the same exact way and they could have tons of problems, with people saying things like “you shouldn't wear this because of ABC.
For no reason, just because of gender.
With STEM, you do see a lot of men in the field. I only ever have a few women I can confide in and work with. When we work on tasks, we know we won't discriminate each other. We don’t need to worry about external struggles because we just wanna code, we just wanna solve problems.
I feel empowered as a transwoman in the STEM field.
I've seen the world through so many different lenses now. At this point, I feel proud and happy to have found many other transwomen in this field. I'm ready to make my mark there.
I'm able to show my STEM peers that I'm Sofia, and I'm a transwoman. I am here sitting along with you, working with you, laughing with you, just being with you. Just like anyone else, a woman just as any woman is.
That's already marginalized against who I am, but I'm still gonna show up and show out in those spaces. It feels like something I just have to do."
"Being a transwoman, and having a period of my life where I did not express that still weighs me down. However, despite thatI feel even more empowered to show up and show out as a woman in my space, being proud of my identity because I know there are backs of many powerful people behind me to help me through. I'm here to help the many, many powerful people in front of me.
I don’t take it for granted. I know I'm still very privileged in the state I am in, the college I'm at. I'm gonna do whatever I can to make things better for everyone.
It sounds so cheesy (laugh). But it's true. "
"After this student summit, I'm gonna bring back organizing tools I learned here, to my fellow leaders, or to start my own organizations, to those who have ideas, dreams, goals but don't have the tools to where they wanna be. I'm gonna help them carry on whatever they wanna do.
I also wanna tell them:
Hey, we don't have to stay with the status quo. Just because things are tough, that doesn't mean we still can't fight for what we think is right.
If you wanna fight for accessibility, do that;
If you want more resources for LGBTQ+ community, do that;
If you want solve the student housing problems, do that.
Really, the sky is the limit.
My path has had struggles and terribleness at point, as I know it has been for other marginalized folk. But I'd like to branch off of that and spread both positivity and strength.
Now I'm here, I've been to the summit, talked to so many powerful peers, talking about serious problems that are affecting our lives. I feel empowered, and I want to share this with more people."
Wrap up yourself in one sentence?
My name is Sofia. I'm a transwoman with pride.
“You're an amazing woman.”
I told her before we said goodbye.