I was given the identity “male” before I knew what it meant — before I was able to resist the label. Gender didn’t occur to me as a concept until I entered elementary school in the Fargo/ Moorhead area, where I was tormented by my classmates for being feminine.
I knew instinctively I was different from other boys, but I had no language at the time to describe my feelings.
Through puberty and young adulthood, the way I identified myself shifted several times: bisexual man to gay man to non-binary person to trans woman. After years of self-reflection interacting with and learning from trans women who had transitioned, and having conversations with close family and friends — I finally found the courage to start my own transition journey.
My decision to transition was the right decision for me. Acknowledging and embracing my authentic self, watching my body transform, and being seen by loved ones for the woman I am is surreal.
Close friends will tell you that I have always been bubbly and outgoing, but after coming out, I have blossomed into a whole new being.
Coming out to my coworkers, friends, and family was met with both support and a slew of questions: How will you change? What aspects of you will remain the same? What kinds of medical/surgical intervention will you seek? What does this mean for your dating life?
Later, as hormones and surgery evolved my body into a more feminine figure, acquaintances and strangers started to recognize me as female. In this state, I experienced both the euphoria of being seen for my true self and the perils of transmisogyny — the intersectional, compounding oppression of transphobia and misogyny that transgender women face.
As a woman of trans experience, I have developed unbreakable bonds with other women, navigated old and new places with confidence and grace, and dated men with unprecedented intimacy. But I have also been catcalled on the street, criticized for my appearance, assaulted by men, and discriminated against in the workplace and by the government.
The negativity, however, is no match for the love, contentment, and power I have found in embracing my trans.ness and my womanhood.
Together with photographer Marla Klein, I wrote “Metamorphosis” to help educate cisgender people, to inspire transgender people, and to contribute to a world in which all people — and especially trans women and transfeminine folks — will be free to discover and embrace themselves.
I have already seen this book and exhibition change perceptions, ignite conversations, and inspire other trans people to start or continue their journeys.
My hope for everyone in 2019: Follow your intuition. Live your truth, which no one knows better than you. Be as authentic as possible, and support others in shining their light. Never let ignorance and judgment stop you from living in your truth. You are worth it.
Kylee Wohlmann is a transgender woman who splits her time between Minnesota, California, and Korea. She attended the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities to study linguistics, and works with diverse populations, including immigrant and Deaf communities. She strives to continue being an advocate and educator for trans and gender non.conforming people on a global scale.
The book “Metamorphosis” was created to bring understanding and a sense of togetherness within the transgender community. When I photographed my friend Kylee, I wasn’t simply documenting her story, but creating something that would let other trans people know they are not alone.
Our goal also is to spread the message that anyone’s story of their transition is unique and beautiful — that everyone is always in a state of evolving. We would like to make this understanding as mainstream as possible.
The vision of “Metamorphosis” as a traveling exhibit is to educate more people to increase empathy, and thus make our communities better, safer places for LGBTQ+ neighbors.
Before we take the story of this transformative experience elsewhere, we will start 2019 by sharing Metamorphosis in the Twin Cities community, as a tool for education and understanding. Personally, I would also like to continue photographing and documenting more transgender journeys, as each story is unique and special.