How I Knew I Was Transgender

Forty Years of Self-Discovery

Grayson Bell
5 min readJan 24, 2020

G. L. Balend in January 2020

Since coming out as transgender in early 2018, I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of support and love from my friends and family. However, one of the most frequent questions I’ve gotten is how did you know? That’s a simple question with a complicated answer.

My Youth

I knew from an early age that the terms girl and female never felt right when applied to me, and it went deeper than preferring to wear boy’s clothes, having short hair, or wanting to play with Tonka trucks. It was always this innate sense of my body is wrong. However, back in the 1970s I’d never seen or heard of anyone transition from female-to-male. The closest examples I saw were men and women cross-dressing in skits for laughs on TV.

G. Balend in 1975

So, I resigned myself to my fate. I was born in a female body, but with the interests and sensibilities of a male. At some point, someone called me a tomboy, and that identity stuck with me. It wasn’t exactly right, but it was the closest thing that fit me, at the time. I embraced my tomboyishness with a passion. I practically lived in denim overalls as a pre-teen and except for rare occasions I shunned dresses entirely.

As I got older, I focused on other aspects of my life. Since I couldn’t change my biology, I set that desire aside and focused on things I could change. I was raised in poverty, so I was bound and determined to get myself out of that circumstance. I managed to get into college. While it took working three jobs and earning state and federal grants to help me pay for it, I made it through and earned my bachelors.


I can’t recall when I first learned about transgender women. It must have been sometime in the 1990s. All I know is I didn’t find the concept all that shocking or remarkable. It made sense to me that some people don’t identify with their biological sex, and I was secretly a little jealous that they had a means to change themselves.

It wasn’t until around 2010 when I learned that transgender men also existed. I’d followed Chaz Bono in the…

Grayson Bell

An autistic, gay, transgender man writing about LGBTQ issues, focused on the transgender community. (He/Him)