March 31 is the International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day dedicated to recognizing transgender and non-binary people around the world and acknowledging the work that still needs to be done to achieve justice for transgender people. In The Know will be celebrating trans stories during the month of March in a series called “Trans Visibility Matters,” in collaboration with the Phluid Project.
What Jake Graf wants people to know about his identity is that he has always been male.
Even growing up in London in the 1980s, where there was no transgender representation in the TV shows he watched or the books he read, Graf knew he was in “a body that didn’t feel like it fit.”
As a child with short, curly hair Graf treasured moments where strangers would mistake him for a boy. When puberty eliminated that option, Graf felt like he was saying goodbye to part of his identity.
“It was a little bit like a part of me dying,” he explained to In The Know. “You know, saying goodbye to that part of my identity that I had tried so hard to hold onto throughout my youth was a really, really painful experience.”
Unable to control how he looked but aware of how he felt, Graf waded into the lesbian scene and got a taste of true acceptance and belonging.
“[For] the first time in my life, I had community,” he said. “But I was also very, very aware that I wasn’t one of these women.”
Transitioning was the second time in his life that Graf felt like he needed to say a painful goodbye — because the lesbian community was truly the first place he felt like he’d belonged. But as Graf said, he has always known that his identity was male. It never faltered.
“Some people say to me, ‘Well, you know, you lived as a lesbian for 10 years. How can you be a man all that time?’ The part of me that I knew myself to be was always a man,” he said.
Graf’s story came full circle when he transitioned. He welcomed back his proper pronouns with open arms.
“[It was] the feeling once again of euphoria that I hadn’t had in like some, two decades of finally being recognized and perceived as a man,” he described. “Those pronouns have kept me going and knowing that one day, someone or hoping that one day someone would once again, call me ‘he.'”
Graf is now happily married and has a baby girl — who he hopes will feel comfortable enough to tell him if she ever doesn’t feel like the pronoun “she” fits her.
“I have fought so hard for those pronouns,” he said. “So hard for my ‘he/him’ that I will hold onto them for dear life.”
Visit In The Know on March 31 for a special roundtable discussion Live Stream featuring Jake and other trans voices from around the world.
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If you enjoyed reading this interview, check out In The Know’s conversation with trans fitness instructor Max Rigano on how cycling gave him a “second shot at life.”
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