Be You - The World Will Adjust: An Interview with Sam Giardina
"Be You - The World Will Adjust" - a quote that Sam Giardina, a 22-year-old transgender male has always lived by. While coming out to his friends and family was difficult, as well as dealing with the many other hardships that trans people face, Sam has always had the mindset that the most important thing in life is being true to who you really are. I was lucky enough to speak with him about his experience and journey to do just that.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
To start off, my name is Samuel Avery Giardina. I am 22 years old and recently graduated from Bryant University with a Bachelor’s degree in marketing. This past year was a huge change for me as I came out as trans, female to male, and started testosterone in April of 2020. I started to focus more on myself and my journey to self-love this year. I got more into pursuing my passion for photography and traveling and started surrounding myself with people who supported and accepted me for who I am. Although this year has been extremely tough with the pandemic, it has truly been the best year of my life.
Did you always know you were meant to be male? How did this affect your childhood?
Honestly, no. For my entire life I always knew something about me was off. I was never truly comfortable in my own skin and I never really understood why. I thought me liking girls and coming out as gay would solve everything, but it never did. I also always felt like something was missing. It wasn’t until my senior year of college that I came to terms with the idea that I could be trans.
Looking back, there are a lot of things about my childhood that would’ve hinted at me being male. I always wanted to dress in boy clothes, I was never comfortable with my hair being down, I would absolutely despise whenever someone told me to be more “lady-like.” I tried really hard to fit into the socially acceptable idea of being a girl. I dressed feminine, I wore my hair down, but I hated every second of it.
Once I started to move past those gender norms and dress more masculine, I gained more confidence and realized a lot of things about my gender and my identity. I cut my hair in November of 2019 and it was the best decision of my life. Ever since then, I gained the courage to come out and come to terms with the fact that I did not like being a girl at all. Not only did I want to dress more masculine, but I wanted to be more masculine.
Can you talk a little bit about the process of coming out to your friends and family?
Coming out was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my entire life. Especially when you’ve already come out twice before, once as bisexual and the second time, as a lesbian. I was terrified no one would accept me, especially my family. I started by coming out to my professor. I was taking a sexuality and gender studies course at the time so being in that class and learning about the trans community was a huge help for me. My professor was beyond amazing and I’m forever grateful for her. She helped me gain the confidence to come out to my friends and family.
My friends have been absolutely amazing about my coming out. Since then, I’ve surrounded myself with the ones that really do respect me for who I am and who are supportive beyond words. On the other hand, it was extremely difficult for my family when I came out. But in a sense, they were losing their daughter, so I understood. Coming out takes time and healing for everyone, so if you’re someone who is coming out to your family, give it time. They might need that time to understand and process everything considering it was a big shock for everyone when I came out.
I think the hardest thing about coming out was the pronouns. I was always worried about other people and how to make it easier on them when I should’ve been worrying about how to make it easier for me. Changing pronouns for someone when you’ve known them your entire life as someone else was really difficult for some people. But since then, everyone has gotten a lot better and they respect the fact that I go by he/him.
Can you talk a little bit about gender dysphoria and your experience with it?
The easiest way to explain gender dysphoria is essentially feeling uncomfortable due to a mismatch with someone’s gender identity and sex assigned at birth. Trans and non-binary people all have their own experience with gender dysphoria, so someone might have dysphoria with only their chest and someone else might have bottom dysphoria or dysphoria with their voice, etc.
For me personally, a lot of my dysphoria came from my chest as well as me feminine features. Being on testosterone has helped me significantly because it’s lowered my voice, toned my body so it’s a lot more masculine, given me more body hair, etc. I used to absolutely hate my voice because it was always too high - especially hearing my voice on a recording. I despised looking in the mirror because the body looking back at me was one that I didn’t want to be in. I never really understood that all of that was my dysphoria until I came out.
My chest dysphoria has probably been one of the hardest things to deal with. Seeing my breasts through my shirt gave me so much dysphoria that I would bind excessively which is not the healthiest thing. Binding is wearing something (usually tape or a binder) that compresses your chest so it looks a lot flatter. This just made everyday life more difficult, especially in the summer. I was super uncomfortable at the beach because I always felt like people were staring at the fact that I had tape on my chest. This is one of the many reasons why I’m super excited for my top surgery, which is actually today! After recovering, not having to bind and being able to go to the beach and be shirtless is genuinely going to be the best feeling of my entire life.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to come out as trans?
My biggest advice is to just be true to yourself. Live your truth. My excuse for not wanting to come out was always other people. I thought my family would disown me and I would lose a lot of my friends. I knew a lot of society’s perceptions of trans people were never good ones, so naturally I was scared. But the amount of hate I’ve gotten from people will never compare to the love and acceptance I have received. I tell people to stop worrying about what other people will think and stop living to make other people comfortable. You have to live to make YOURSELF comfortable. Don’t worry about other people. Your happiness is the most important thing and I can promise anyone who is struggling with this right now is that it will get better.
If you think your family won’t support you, they might surprise you - mine did. If you think you won’t have anyone, the LGBTQ community is an amazing community and you won’t be alone. You are a part of a very large community that will accept you no matter what. And if anyone does have questions, or if they just need to talk I am more than willing to talk to you. My Instagram is @sam_giardina - feel free to DM me on there.
What is the correct way to refer to someone before they transitioned? Can this differ from person to person?
This can definitely differ from person to person, as everyone has different preferences. A majority of the time, trans people will want you to refer to them as whatever their current pronouns are. For me, my pronouns are he/him, so in all cases; past, present, and future, I prefer people use he/him when speaking to or about me. Although I did not transition until this past year, I still have always been a man on the inside, so it’s always better to use the pronouns someone goes by in the present.
For example, if you went to high school with me and you want to refer to me to someone else saying, “I played soccer with ___,” you would use “him”. Purposefully misgendering someone is extremely transphobic and I ask that anyone who knows what someone’s pronouns are, to use them. If you do not know what someone’s pronouns are, use they/them or simply ask. It’s not rude to ask, I preferred people ask me because I was always too nervous to correct people. At the end of the day, respect people’s pronouns, because getting misgendered feels like a slight stab in the heart for trans people.
What kind of hardships do trans people face?
Besides the everyday hardships with our dysphoria and within ourselves, we face a lot of hate from society and people in general. Something that needs to change is trans representation in TV shows and movies. We need more trans actors and actresses playing trans characters because having a cis man play a trans woman on a show is so beyond invalidating for trans people. The documentary Disclosure on Netflix talks about this, I highly suggest anyone watch it as it’s super eye opening. Trans people are not at all well represented in the media, which often shapes people’s opinions of us to be bad ones.
I have openly shared my story on social media so that I could be a role model for younger individuals who might be going through the same thing. However, the amount of hate I have gotten is far beyond my control. I’ve been told, “you’ll never be a real man”, “once a girl always a girl”, “being trans is weird”, “god hates you”…the list goes on. At the end of the day, the people saying these things are ignorant and do not understand. They are so closed-minded and insecure that they feel the need to hate on someone they do not even know.
Sometimes the hate comments will get to you - they sure have gotten to me, but you have to remind yourself of who you are and how far you have come. We will get hate no matter what because there are people in this world who won’t understand. They can’t seem to understand the fact that sex and gender are actually two different things. All in all, the hate has just made me stronger and it has made every single person in my community brave. The trans community continues to inspire me on a daily basis. I am who I am, and I wouldn’t change that.
With a new president, do you expect things to get better for trans people?
I definitely hope things will get better for trans people now that Trump is out of office. However I don’t think it will solve the discrimination and hate that we face. It is simply a first step for us on our way to equality. The Trump-Pence administration has already taken away so much from our community. They have blocked the ability for trans individuals to openly serve our country, denied us of access to critical health care, proposed policies to allow homeless shelters to turn away transgender people, and have failed to address the issue with violence against transgender people – especially trans women of color.
With Trump in office, myself, and I know everyone else in my community has felt extremely unsafe, so I was beyond relieved when Biden became our president. I’m praying changes will be made and steps will be taken to further our fight for equality.
How excited are you for your top surgery?
I honestly don’t think words will ever be able to explain my excitement for top surgery. Most people don’t really understand how much this surgery is going to change my life. This past year, this has been the one thing I’ve been looking forward to the most. I think I’ve cried thinking about top surgery more than I have in my entire life. I’ll be able to go shirtless at the beach without being scared of getting hate crimed, or being uncomfortable with how my body looks with tape on.
The journey of self-love is a long one, and this is one of the most important steps. Although my recovery will be a few weeks, every second is going to be worth it when I see my chest post surgery. I genuinely just can’t wait to look in the mirror and not hate the body looking back at me.
Can you talk a little bit about your experience with testosterone shots?
I started testosterone April 16, 2020 and have taken them every week since then. I started with .2 mg and moved up to a .4 dosage. I can honestly say that testosterone has literally saved my life. It has allowed me to become more comfortable in my own body, and anyone who knows me will tell you how much more confident I have become this year. One of my favorite changes has been my voice. It has gotten significantly deeper since I’ve started my shots. My progress videos are on my Instagram if anyone wants to check them out!
Some tough parts about testosterone have been the emotional changes. It’s different for everyone, but typically you’ll get more mood swings and become slightly more irritable. But, it’s all something that just takes time adjusting to. People have asked me about menstruation and taking T does stop you from getting your period. Mine stopped about 2 months into being on T.
I also get a lot of questions about injections and if it hurts. I inject weekly into my thigh on my own. I thought it was going to hurt a lot more than it does, although I will say I have to hype myself up a minute or two before doing them because I always get a little nervous even though I’ve been doing them for the past nine months.
Another question I get often is if there’s other ways to take T and how long you have to be on it for. So, if you aren’t comfortable with shots you can use gel, patches, or pellets. However, the best way to get effects more quickly is through shots. A lot of trans individuals might go on gel, patches or pellets after a certain number of years taking shots. If you want to keep seeing the changes of T you have to be on it indefinitely as well.
How would you define your sexual orientation?
When I was 17 I came out as bisexual and then realized a year later that I only liked girls. I never liked the term “lesbian” which I came to realize was because I was, in fact, not one. Now that I have my gender figured out, I came to the realization that sexuality for me is fluid just like gender is. For a lot of trans guys, being on testosterone sometimes makes them realize they’re attracted to men as well as women. For me, I guess you could say I’m bisexual if I had to put a label on it. Since coming out as trans, I realize I really don’t really care what gender you identify as. I’m definitely more attracted to feminine girls but I can’t say guys are not attractive either.
As a trans man, I am in a straight relationship with a girl. Those who say I’m in a gay relationship are wrong; please do not say that about trans relationships because it completely invalidates us. I identify as a man and my girlfriend identifies as a female, therefore we are in a straight relationship. If I were to date a man I would be in a gay relationship. That does not make me gay, lesbian, straight, etc. For me, I wouldn’t really know exactly how to identify my sexuality besides saying it’s fluid with a preference for women.
What is one thing you'd like people to know about trans people?
I just want people to know that we’re like anyone else. We’re not people anyone needs to be scared of, or anyone that is any different from someone else. We’re human. We deserve the same rights as anyone else. To the people who think trans is a sin, and that we deserve to go to hell, I’m sorry for you. I am solely just living my life as the best version of myself and if that upsets you, you have no need to be a part of it. To my trans friends, you are all valid and you all matter. I’m so proud to be a part of the trans community and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. My experience has shaped me into the man I am today and I’m thankful for that.