Story of Jim's transition

A Columbia photographer illuminates the lives of the transgender community
Monday, July 16, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:46 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

The process of transitioning is long and sometimes physically painful. But, for “Jim,” it’s the only way he can be who he really is. Jim — an MU employee who asked that his real name not be used — is one of the transgender subjects in “Meta-Genesis,” a collection of photographs by Jane Lavender. Living as a lesbian since the age of 16, Jim realized that he was actually a transgender four years ago after his therapist suggested it.

“Finally, everything just clicked,” he said.

Six months later, Jim began hormone treatments. He receives testosterone injections every 10 days, a regimen he will follow for the rest of his life.

Jim’s body is changing. His arms are stronger, his voice deeper, his hair shorter. His feminine features are slowly disappearing. The injections have also brought unexpected physical changes.

“Male-pattern baldness was kind of a surprise,” he jokes.

But there are more serious health risks associated with the treatments, like liver problems and heart disease. Jim says he feels a bit like a guinea pig.

“You have to think about your health like you didn’t before,” he said. “But the risks can be managed, and this was right for me.”

Along with the changes to his physical being, Jim has noticed that the way others see and communicate with him is different now. His co-workers, though they have been supportive, stumble over whether to refer to Jim as “he” or “she.” Strangers now usually identify Jim as a male, which he said has opened his eyes to the differences between how men and women are treated,

“It’s funny, as a woman I’d get my oil changed and they’d tell me there were 13 different things wrong with my car,” Jim said. “Now they don’t do that.”

Jim hopes to one day be able to afford surgery. Until then, his life continues to “completely shift.” Still, he is grateful for the opportunity to become the person he wants to be.

“I have been a woman and a man,” he said. “I see my life as a gift.”

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