By Mansoor Tanweer
Even at the age of six Andi Felstead, now 22 and a third-year english student, had at least some idea that she was a transgender person. She just did not have the words to convey the thought.
She recounted a story about one Halloween where her desire to transition should have been more obvious to her.
“I was wearing this alien costume with a robe that looked like a dress, I was dancing and twirling a baton to the Barbie Girl song,” Felstead said.
From the small town of Curtis, Ont., Felstead’s parents assigned her the male gender and she went by the name Andrew. She enjoyed Sailor Moon and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
“I felt weird, lost, I would look in the mirror and just see nothing, like an alien creature was staring back,” she said.
Constant bombardment from a society focused on a gender binary certainly did not help things either. Felstead often felt a great anxiety from her inability to fit into a culture that was heavily cisgender normative. She often buried her head into escapist literature like Harry Potter.
“I [also] wrote about fantasy, and that was definitely escapist for sure. I couldn’t keep living this wrong gender, it is very strangling to be the gender you feel you aren’t meant to be,” Felstead said.
She would often look at female characters on television and wonder “Why I can’t I be like them?”
Felstead came to the official realization that she was transgender at age 15. But she still felt the need to keep this part of her life secret from her parents for about six years.
“I felt ashamed for hiding, [I] didn’t feel normal and I just said I have to do this,” Felstead said.
She took the big plunge in February of 2015.
“I came out to my mom and I was really surprised she didn’t figure it out on her own because she would always be telling me to stop wearing her heels,” said Felstead.
Her mother’s positive response gave her hope, but she still hasn’t told her father.
“He’s an interesting person, a little bit of bigot and a racist. I love him but there some stuff I will wait to tell him,” she said.
Felstead stands tall and proud with her cat stocking poking out of her dress.
“I have an eclectic style of fashion, it makes me feel feminine. [It] makes me feel more like me than anything else,” she said.
Felstead said society’s lack of understanding actually helps her with her confidence too.
“Transgenderism is so new and so complex that we as a people are still trying to figure out what it all means. So I understand if there is confusion and I don’t let that bother me. At the end of the day, if you are transitioning, you have to develop a thick skin and let yourself brush it all off.”
“Transphobic logic is not sound in anyway. I get that we may disagree but what gives you the right to tell me what I can and can’t do with my body,” she said.
Felstead is about to undergo hormone therapy and is in the process of changing her name officially to Andrea.
“In terms of genital surgery, that is going to come a long time down the road when I am comfortable. Right now school is the priority and I will stick to that.”