My transition to womanhood? It’s been a long, winding journey | Imma Asher

Robert Roffulo

Imagine running a race where the finish line continually relocates itself. This is the best way I can describe my transition into womanhood. I was born in Tuskegee, Alabama. I started my medical transition at the age of 29. During those years, I underwent a multitude of gender-affirming surgeries, which […]

Imagine running a race where the finish line continually relocates itself. This is the best way I can describe my transition into womanhood.

I was born in Tuskegee, Alabama. I started my medical transition at the age of 29. During those years, I underwent a multitude of gender-affirming surgeries, which included a rhinoplasty, a chin, jaw and brow-bone shave along with multiple breast augmentations.

Soon, I started taking hormones that were illegally shipped from Mexico to London, where I was living at the time. I did that because of difficulties in accessing trans healthcare. I used internet chat rooms, blogs and outdated websites to help guide me. No one was checking my blood levels to make sure I was safe.

When I turned 33, I had a mental breakdown, following an abusive experience. I was prescribed very strong psychiatric medications. That medication, and the years of taking hormones without supervision, eventually led me to become extremely sick.

I started suffering from migraines, excessive night sweats, heat flashes, blurred vision and kidney failure. Given my declining health, I was given an ultimatum by the doctor: I could either continue to transition or completely stop everything in order to salvage my health.

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Everything that I had worked so hard to attain in order to affirm my gender identity was falling apart. All the pain I had endured, the time and money spent were completely lost. I had already started medically transitioning at such a late age and couldn’t imagine stopping with no real promise of being able to restart. How could I give up all I had struggled so hard to achieve?

Still, after weeks of contemplating, I decided to detransition. I said to myself: Imma, do you want to live beyond this transition? Are you going to kill yourself trying to making this happen? I decided I had to save my life. But it was still one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to take.

At that time, I moved from New York City back home to Georgia. This was a big change. I had had absolutely no communication with my momma or the rest of my family, for almost 12 years. Not one phone call, text or email. Then suddenly, I was back living in her house.

Up until that point, there had been a lot of resistance towards pronouns, gender and presentation in my family. Growing up in Montgomery, Alabama, most do not speak about homosexuality and gender queerness openly. They prefer the “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach.

Yet, here I was back home – and going through major bodily changes. I had stopped taking hormones. And, in order to improve my health, I started going to the gym five days a week for two to three hours a day. I was developing muscles again. My facial hair started to grow back in patches. I still had my breast implants in, so I started wearing a body compressor to flatten my chest. I’d look in the mirror and see the residue of the person I thought I’d left behind through years of surgeries.

Life was seemingly easier presenting as male, to be honest. I could travel home at night on public transportation and not feel unsafe. I even started to believe that reverting back was the right choice for me. I found presenting as male was easier than life as a trans woman. Everyone was much happier with me, and I thought it might be best to just continue. I even had my breast implants removed because it was too difficult and painful to keep compressing them under my clothes and had lost hope that I’d ever be able to transition again.

But even after having my breasts implants removed that spring, I was never fully convinced about living as a man regardless of the benefits I had experienced. I still had my makeup and wigs hidden away in boxes under my bed. And I was plotting every excuse to wear them. I’d be in my room at my mom’s house, secretly putting on makeup. At 33 years old, there I was hiding in my mom’s guest room reimagining myself like I was a child all over again. I kept getting these glimpses of my old self. The woman. But I would always get these nasty jolts of reality that reminded me that I was living my life as a man again.

Here, my story takes a strange turn. One day heading into late summer, I had a check-in with the doctor and they told me the news I never thought I’d hear. They said my blood work came back, and that I was in great health. They said that, if I wanted, I could start transitioning again under strict supervision. I took that news and ran. I didn’t look back or think twice.

I stopped working out all together and started taking hormones again. My natural breast tissue began to grow again and my mom also started to notice the changes. There was a lot of guilt-tripping involved, silent crying and questions why. Weeks of micro-aggressions. She couldn’t understand why I would want to go back after all I had just been through. She saw her son in me again and found joy in the possibility of the permanence of that return.

After weeks of passive-aggressive behavior, we had a nasty exchange that put everything on the table. Finally, she realized I wouldn’t change my mind and she said: it’s your body, your life. You know what you need to do. Over time, I was becoming myself again and she saw the comfort in that and the joy it brought me regardless of the obstacles. She eventually stopped asking questions.

My mother’s perspective changed a lot from watching my journey unfold under her own roof. She saw my life, and all that I was doing with it. Up until then, she feared I would not be accepted by the world. She didn’t want me to be hated or ostracized.

When I think about the strange journey I have taken, I know that there was a purpose behind it. I think that God put me on this journey for a reason. It was important that I detransitioned and retransitioned, under her microscope with an unrelenting gaze. Had I not done that, she wouldn’t have understood the seriousness of my decision. She might have otherwise thought it was just drag or a phase. Just me making a reckless decision of dressing in women’s clothes. But she saw me take hormone shots bi-weekly. The blockers. She saw all that I had to endure. She saw my perseverance and pain, but she also saw the joy, my truth.

Transitioning allows you to see your own fullness, your wholeness. It’s about not wanting to deny anyone access to any part of myself, or my transition. How could I do that? To do that would be to deny them a blueprint for how to become the full version of themselves through the challenges I’ve faced along the way.

Transitioning isn’t always linear, as most believe it to be. And even to say I “detransitioned” would be to negate the fact that I was still trans before the hormones. There was no way for me to not be trans. I feel like transitioning is a two-part thing. It starts as an emotional trigger that encourages you to investigate. So you dabble and play with the thoughts that reside within your subconscious about who you believe you are and how you should look until you are able to align yourself physically once you decide to medicalize that by physically transitioning by way of hormones and surgical procedures. To say I “detransitioned” eliminates the mental aspect, which I believe is the most integral component. I’ve always been trans regardless. Surgeries and medications just aided me in the process in order to alleviate a lot of the dysphoria I felt.

I truly believe that, in my hiccups and trials and tribulations, there are lessons for others. There might be someone who sees my story and understands it and might be going through something similar. That’s why I am so open about my story. I know that there are others who might relate, but may never live to tell it.

These days, I thank God every day that I’m allowed to continue living out my purpose. Every day I’m given the chance to try again. To clarify my cause and live in my truth. To be honest, the thing I am most afraid about is that someone will see those things and rob me of my life.

People don’t understand the severity of this choice to live outwardly and forwardly as a trans woman. That’s why I pray every day to live one more day. I simply say, Lord, let me not be done. Please don’t take my life from me. Please let the world see what I have to offer. Please let the world see my beauty and truth. Please let them see the woman I am.

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