K-Pop Band BTS Helps Trans Man Break Free of Gender Expectations. “I Didn’t Have to Fit into this Trans Box of What a Trans Man Should Be.”

by Kieran

I started being, I guess, less worried about the perspective of other people. Like, how am I dressing? How am I behaving? How am I speaking?

My name is Kieran and I’m from Amarillo, Texas.

It was 2016 and I was around 29 years old, and I’d been transitioning for about a year and a half at the time. Before I came out, I would see these images of trans men on places like YouTube and they always seemed so masculine. They had beards and they had receding hairlines, and they were very muscular and things like that.

I would go to these trans meetups and I would see other trans men who looked like that. I felt like I stuck out because I didn’t look like that. I had people there who thought I was a trans woman, and I felt like I had a hard time making friends in the community because even though I was also trans, I wasn’t finding a real connection with the other trans men. It was something that made me really uncomfortable, and I was always thinking about like, “What do I need to do to look more like a man so that they understand that I’m a man?”

So at the time I was working at a coffee shop and I would be working at a drive through wearing headset all day, talking to customers outside and I would get misgendered all the time, getting called ma’am, and then they would come up to the window and people would say like, “Where’s the girl I was talking to?” Sometimes I would correct them and tell them it was me and other times I would just say like, “Oh, she went away. She’s not here anymore.” I definitely had times at work where I would ask my boss, like, “Please don’t put me on drive through because I just get called ma’am all day and it bothers me.”

I noticed it like when I would leave a grocery store and they would say, “Have a nice day ma’am.” And I’m looking and thinking about what I’m wearing and everything. What… what about me are they looking at that they see that ma’am is the correct choice? It was really conflicting because before I came out, there’s this battle of identity, but now I’ve already come out and started transitioning, and here’s another battle of identity that I didn’t expect to have to deal with.

And then I guess it was late 2017, I was watching video clips from the AMAs, the K-pop band BTS is on and I noticed that they have very soft features. I guess features that people might consider feminine in some context. When you’re watching a stage performance, you’re like, “Oh, this is how they dress because they’re performing.” And then when you get more into just watching videos, I started watching videos of them. I realize a lot of it is just like a personal choice and there’s jewelry and earrings and lace and maybe something that you wouldn’t normally see on a male pop star in American Western media. It didn’t feel like it took away from their masculine identity. It didn’t feel like it was feminizing them. It was just a different form of expression, like maybe a softer form of expression. It was something that I really attached to and I was like, “Oh, I can also have this option.”

About, I guess, five months after I started watching K-pop, I went out and got my ears pierced again and I hadn’t worn earrings in probably about 10 years. I started being, I guess, less worried about the perspective of other people. Like, how am I dressing? How am I behaving? How am I speaking? And it was nice to see that there were other options to where I didn’t have fit into this trans box of what a trans man should be. I won’t say that I never have days where I’m like, oh, maybe I should talk a little bit more masculine or something like that, but it’s definitely easier.

I still enjoy listening to BTS. They’re a regular on my playlist. I definitely still, I guess you’d say, take notes from them in being myself and being comfortable in how I express myself. I think it’s beneficial for trans people and also for cisgender people to learn that there’s so many different ways to express yourself. I think people in general would be happier if you weren’t worried about fitting into this box and what the people around you expect you to be.

Sharing your story can change someone's life. Interested in learning more?