“What I’m going to do tonight is tell my story,” began alum Morgan Boecher (’06) on Feb. 22. The crowd gathered in the Gender and Diversity Center was already quiet. Boecher graduated from New College in May 2010 with a bachelor’s in Anthropology and Gender Studies. On top of the usual stress that comes with the typical thesis year, Boecher was also coming to terms with something that he had been dealing with his whole life. Born into a female body, Boecher realized that all the frustration in life and relationships was holding him back. With undergraduate life nearing its end, Boecher looked who was then herself in the mirror and said, “I’m a man.”
Since that day, Boecher has been in the long process of gender transition. What began as a moment of self-realization turned into a barrage of hormone therapy and surgery in hopes of becoming a much happier person. Of course, Boecher’s story is much more complex than a senior year awakening.
“If you ask when I first started feeling different, it begins in my early childhood,” he said. “If you ask when did I come out as trans or when did I decide to transition, that happened my thesis year — in 2009, during the fall.”
Most stories of gender transition begin with painful childhoods, stories of children not feeling right from their earliest memories. For Boecher, the cues were much more subtle.
“I didn’t have a lot of strong discomfort growing up,” he said. “I remember very early on looking in the mirror and trying to see a boy in my face, and I once asked a friend of mine in the fifth grade, ‘Do you think I could look like a boy?’ She responded ‘No. What are you talking about Morgan?’ and so I decided not to ask questions like that for a very long time. But looking back on those experiences it wasn’t a strong argument that there was something fundamentally wrong with me at that point. These were just thing that happened.”
Boecher described his first experience shopping for school clothes in the boy’s section and the empowerment that came from finally wearing what he felt like he should have been all along.
“I would stomp around the school yard and feel this energy, and this life,” he remembered. “And I would have a flicker of a thought — I wouldn’t let myself think it, but I would imagine that I had a boy’s body. I wouldn’t let myself think this entire thought, because of course it had very scary implications: me being in a body that I don’t want, and also problematic wanting to reject my female sex.”
As high school drew nearer, though, the desire to blend in began to override Boecher’s desire to express his true identity. He decided to “fem up.”
“I was growing older and I wanted to fit in, so I got makeup and accessories and a bunch of dresses and skirts and it never quite felt right to me,” he said. “I always felt like I was missing a manual or something that all women were supposed to have.”
By the time Boecher reached New College, he was ready to express himself in a more liberal environment. “New College was a lovely place to be because I could wear the weird things I wore, like brightly colored patterns and things that clashed a lot, and it was accepted and celebrated,” he recalled. “I guess it was easy for me to fumble with femininity in this environment.”
But fumbling turned into frustration as Boecher’s fourth long term, heterosexual relationship ended at his request, again.
“I was getting pretty frustrated at this point with myself and not understating what was up with me and why I kept doing this,” he said. “So I’m driving home from Gainesville one night and I’m in my car alone and I talked through the story of all of my relationships in this car, and I came to this realization that I couldn’t be in a heterosexual relationship because I wasn’t a straight woman. And that was that, it just clicked. It was an answer: I’m not a straight woman. I focused on more of the sexuality of that thought rather than the gender, because the gender aspect is much scarier.”
In the following months, Boecher delved into the culture of lesbianism. After some time with this identity, however, frustration began to build again. There were several issues Boecher kept encountering with the idea of lesbianism. Firstly, he was still attracted to men.
“I tried to ignore boys, which didn’t really work because I like boys a lot,” he laughed. “It was comforting that there was the queer label I could use, but I wanted a label that would give me a foundation — a base on which to construct a more complex identity and self. Because although labels, with all their problems, with all their narrow mindedness that they bring about, they’re helpful. You want to just understand what you’re about first and then you can become more of an individual from there. I felt like I wasn’t standing on anything. I felt like queer didn’t get at that core of who I was. But I didn’t know who I was, so yeah. It was frustrating to say the least.”
Things reached a tipping point at the beginning of fourth year when Boecher was having a discussion with his roommates at the time about birth control and pregnancy.
“My whole life, pregnancy had been something inexplicably uncomfortable for me,” he noted. “I always knew I never wanted to be pregnant or to have kids and I never knew why this was such an intense feeling for me, but I certainly knew that it was something I was insecure about. And with my frustrations building up to this point, and with this simple, mundane conversation, I end up exclaiming ‘I’d rather take testosterone than birth control!’ After that sudden and pretty irrelevant announcement, my roommates were sort of puzzled and a little offended and I was exhilarated. Because that felt like another answer, another ‘a-ha!’ moment, and with that thought vibrating in my mind, I went back into my bedroom that night and I came out ‘I’m a man.’
“I just let myself say it and I let myself know it,” Boecher told the students. “And that was a big epiphany. I still didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t expect that it meant changing my body or anything. I could be a man in a female body because, you know, I took queer theory and those things are possible. Lots of things are possible. So it took more time before that idea settled and I was able to work with it and try to understand how I fit with that.”
The rest, from his first typically masculine haircut, to counseling, to a double mastectomy and a much more comfortable identity, has all followed from the momentum of that night. As this school year comes to a close, Boecher will begin to hear back from graduate schools, become legally a male on his driver’s license, and prepare to move to New York for a more vibrant queer scene. Boecher is excited about what is ahead of him and the queer scene in general.
“This is really a brink of a cultural movement for the trans community, I think!” he said. “I feel that right now everyone’s at a place where everyone wants to hear these stories, and they want to listen and its just ripe for media.”
As far as his move to New York, “I’m looking forward to encountering the feminist community there that I already have an in with. Also the New College alum community is gigantic in New York City, so I’ll definitely have places to go — it’s not just like me showing up!” he laughed.
After the years of grappling with his gender and identity, Boecher finally feels like he is on the right track. “It’s far more liberating and refreshing to know that you can be whichever way you feel, and that’s what should be okay,” he concluded. “As long as you’re valuing yourself and everyone else.”