the final step | OUTVisions for LGBT Professionals

the final step

making the transition

the final step
brandy ford

Michael Sherman, a transgender man in Welland, will be having his final transitioning surgery in April, and he is extremely candid when discussing his difficult journey from being assigned a female gender at birth and living as “Michelle” for more than half his life, to finally embracing his personal identification as male at the age of 32.

“When I was a teenager and I got into high school I was trying to live two different lives,” says Michael Sherman. “One life with my friends where I could be more masculine and another at home where I had to be the oldest daughter. It was tough.”

Sherman reveals he attempted to commit suicide by taking a bottle of pills when he was 26 because of his feelings of exclusion and inability to “fit in”. Three days later he awoke and realized suicide was not the answer to his struggles; however it would still be several years before he allowed himself “to start living for (him)self.”

He remembers the exact date he came out as transgender: January 27th, 2009.

“It was like a weight lifted off my shoulder,” he smiles. “I didn’t have to walk around the mall hunched over with a hood over my head. I didn’t have to worry about what people were going to say and think, so it was a big weight lifted off my shoulder.”

The first person he told was a woman he was dating at the time, followed by friends, and then he began writing letters to his family a few weeks later.

“I wrote to all my family out west because I thought if they’re all going to react bad, when am I going to be in Calgary any time soon?”

But Sherman didn’t have to worry about his extended family in Calgary because they “completely accepted” his choice to transition. He then wrote letters to his siblings and received a positive “you’re an interesting character and give me some time to come around” response from his brother, however his sister was not as supportive.

“She sent the nastiest email I ever got and we didn’t speak for almost a year,” Sherman says. It was heart-breaking, he says, but he had to let his sister come around “when she was ready and not be pressured”.  She finally did want to see him, Sherman says, and she apologized for her initial reaction and shared her fears with him.

“She struggled with it because she never wanted another brother. She wanted a sister because she was able to come to me and talk,” Sherman says.

“She said she was so sorry and told me I did not change; that it was just the outside (of me) that changed. The inside never did. She was afraid she would never be able to come to me and talk to me about female issues and I was like, ‘wouldn’t I be the best person (because) I know both sides,” he laughs. “And that’s the running joke with my friends; we make the best boyfriends because we know both sides. We know everything.”

Sherman says, for his sister, it was a process of merging a version of himself she wanted to hold onto with the reality of his true self.

“The core never changed. I still have the same interests that I did growing up and all that, it’s just that the outside finally matches the inside.”

After the siblings, Sherman got ready for the biggest challenge: telling his mother.

“It took me two months to write my mother a 15 page letter because I wanted to explain everything so she would realize that it wasn’t her fault,” he says. “But she didn’t read it.”

Sherman didn’t know his mother hadn’t read the letter and avoided her for two months until she contacted him via email asking for him to call her.

“And I thought, ‘here we go’,” he says. Sherman’s mother directly confronted him about what was going on in his life and he finally admitted the truth to her.

“I took a deep breath and said, ‘Mom, I’ve never been your daughter’ and she said, ‘No, you’ve always been my son’. She already knew. I literally dropped the phone, picked it up and was crying my eyes out….she’s been very accepting.”

Sherman was featured in the premiere edition of Outvisions  in February 2011, and he says he has been very open about his transition and not hidden it from the public because he wanted to let others struggling with their own gender assignments know that there is light at the end of a very dark and lonely tunnel.

“I haven’t hidden my transition from the public because of the fact that when I first started (to transition) I couldn’t find support. I didn’t know where to look so I decided once I found my support I’d be quite open about who I was which has made it very difficult to find work because there are still a lot of people that aren’t open minded,” he says. “A lot of people recognize me from the article and put two and two together. But the rewarding part is just watching people reach out to me on facebook or through my doctor’s office and watch their transition start.”

And although Sherman says acquiring a job is an ongoing challenge, overall he feels very “lucky”.

“I’ve been quite fortunate. If I would have stayed as I was assigned-Michelle- I probably would not be where I am right now. I probably wouldn’t be sitting here because I probably would have taken my life,” he says. “ I’ve been very lucky to have had a lot of support and have met a lot of different organizations.”

Sherman says he knows that transitioning hasn’t been as easy for others.

“I’ve had friends that started out their transition and just realized they don’t have the support from friends or family and will go back to (their assigned birth gender) and become very depressed. Recently I’ve  been helping out someone who just started their process again. I helped them out (originally) over a year ago when they were starting it, but they didn’t have the support from family and friends so they reverted back and started living a life for everybody else instead of themselves,” he says. “You’re never truly happy and that’s the thing. When I talk to my mom now, and even at the beginning of my transition, she noticed how much happier and confident I was talking to her (compared to) how I talked to her before transitioning.”

But, Sherman jokes, his mom still “messes up on the pronouns” and he’s fine with that.

“It’s funny when I go home because my mom still, to this day, messes up on the pronouns and I don’t get mad at that because she raised me for 32 years as her daughter using female pronouns. But I have two young nieces and if my mom messes up they say “Nana, I can get it right, and I’m only seven so why can’t you,” Sherman laughs.

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Authorbrandy ford

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