In Transition A high school student writes about the journey to who he was meant to be

By Ashton Kiner

My name is Ashton Kiner, I’m 16 years old and I identify as a transgender boy or FTM (female to male). This means I was assigned female at birth. I have made the choice to start my physical transition with hormone replacement therapy, aka testosterone injections, to alleviate something called gender dysphoria.

Gender dysphoria, in short, is the feeling of distress, anxiety and discomfort with the sex and gender we were assigned at birth. To me, gender dysphoria not only makes me distressed, anxious and discomforted, it also makes me feels very disconnected and disoriented. I tend to fall into depressive downward spirals because of this.

Since I was a child, as early as 7 years old, I knew something was different about me. I used to cry constantly to my mom, saying that something was wrong with me and that I didn’t know what it was or what to do. I have felt discomfort and this feeling of being disconnected from myself and my body for as long as I can remember.

I didn’t just wake up one day and decide I was trans. It was something I had to realize. It was always there and it always will be.

After I realized what it was and what I am, I forced myself out of what people thought was my “tomboy phase” and started to force myself to dress more stereotypically “girly” as I entered junior high. This caused a lot of anxiety and depressive spirals, but I was convinced that if I forced myself to look and act a certain way that I’d eventually like it and get used to it.

Right as eighth grade started, I came out to my mom. At the time she had no reaction, no questions were asked and we didn’t talk about it until months later. I didn’t attend school for nearly the entirety of eighth grade. I fell into the worst depressive spiral that I’ve ever been in and I was extremely isolated. I didn’t talk to any of my friends or family aside from my mom for about seven months. I felt like i was stuck in some black hole filled with endless anxiety, discomfort, self-doubt and insecurity. I was depressed.

I finally fell out of that spiral when I started my freshman year last year. I was extremely scared because I had isolated myself for so long, but I ended up meeting some of the most amazing and accepting people that made my freshman year memorable and enjoyable. I’m very lucky to still have them by my side.

During summer, this year, I talked to my mom about how I needed a therapist and how desperate I was to start HRT. In August I finally got an appointment with my doctor. It was quite hard for him as well because he’s never had any trans patients before. I now have a therapist that I see weekly. It took multiple doctor’s appointments and a couple appointments with specialists all the way in San Francisco to finally start testosterone.

I’m immensely grateful to have support from both my parents, my siblings as well as all my aunts, uncles and my grandparents. It’s taken some time to adjust, some more than others, but they’ve started to come around, especially since I’ve started HRT. I’ve only had positive and supportive reactions and I’m extremely lucky to have that. Adjusting to my chosen name and pronouns has been the hardest thing for them, but I’m trying to be understanding just as they are. Although being misgendered by family makes me upset, I’m trying my best to be patient with them.

Deanna Kiner hugs her son. Ashton says his family has been supportive of his transition. | David Royal

I do my injections every other Wednesday and that soon will become every Wednesday and I’ll be doing my testosterone injections every week for the rest of my life.

When I did my first shot I was taught how to do it by a nurse and then told to do the injection by myself. I was visibly shaking and It took about 5 minutes of me trying to get a steady hand before I actually did it. It was both scary and exciting because it was something I had waited years to do. It truly was a big moment for me.

The same night I didn’t sleep at all due to being both anxious and happy.

My day-to-day life is getting easier as time goes on. I’ve learned to be patient with people who aren’t as understanding as others. I am slowly becoming more comfortable with myself despite the lingering feeling of being disconnected.

I’ve slowly learned to accept myself this past year and learned to be more comfortable around my friends and family. I’m almost always addressed as the boy I am and that has really helped me come out of my shell.

The past three years have been extremely hard for me. I hope I can learn to accept all of me. I also hope to have top surgery within the next year or two. Top surgery is a major surgery. The thought is scary but I am willing to do anything I can to do it as soon as I’m able to.

I just hope that through this transition, I become the best version of me — the me that I’m not disconnected from.


Photo by David Royal

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About Ashton Kiner

Ashton Kiner is a high school student in Salinas, California.