13 – Colter Armstrong

Gay Trans Man (he/him) // Married // Denver, CO // Doggo Dad to Bellatrix Shearz

With the infinite possibilities of gender identity, when did you know?

“I had a lot of different stages of knowing things were different. I kind of knew in 5th grade that something was different. I grew up in a really sheltered home, but I had a gay uncle that my parents tried to hide from us that was gay when I came out a second time at 20. But I knew something was different but I didn’t know what. I wore boy’s clothes up until my mom made me start dressing like a girl in 8th grade. I never could quite figure out what it was. I just had a miserable childhood in my head. I came out as a lesbian around 20, but that still didn’t sit right for a really long time.  It wasn’t until one of my best friends in high school came out as trans and talked to me about it. He was kind of like “Dude, I think this might fit you a little better”. But I also couldn’t get on hormones or anything until I moved away from my hometown. So, it wasn’t until 21 that I came out as trans. So I had three different coming outs…”

On his coming out experience…

“People seemed to accept when I came out as a lesbian a little bit more… My parents were pissed at first. I had just quit college and moved home, and I was like ‘Oh by the way…’. So for the week after I came out, I was couch surfing with my friends because I was too scared to come home. But then my parents were like, ‘You have bills to pay, you need to come home.’ …everything was kind of okay then. All of my cousins growing up always made fun of me… “You’re gay, you’re gay” or “you’re weird”. So when I came out, it was like “You were right!”

But then when I came out as trans, the tables kind of turned. When I went to tell my parents I thought my dad was going to be pissed and that my mom would take it easier, but that is not how it happened. My dad pretty much threw the Bible in my face, “…you know what the Bible says about that…” I was like, ‘Absolutely nothing… they don’t say transgender anywhere in the Bible! But it’s okay, we’ll run in circles here.’ Any my mom didn’t talk to me for almost 4 months. The only reason she did talk to me is because my grandpa got really sick, and she had to reach out to me. Things still aren’t great with my mom. But, on the flip side of that, I do have an adopted mom, out in Vegas, who has been really cool through the whole thing. When I came out as lesbian she was like ‘It’s about time…’ and when I came out as trans she was like ‘B*tch, I knew! I knew a long time ago…’ And I was like, ‘It would have been cool if you would have told me… because I didn’t know.’ So, it’s cool. I got both sides. I got the shit storm and the clearance after, so it’s okay.”

What was your biggest fear?

“My biggest fear with coming out was that I didn’t have a huge circle at home. I was kind of a group hopper growing up, and I knew I was going to lose a lot of people. Growing up in the church too, I spent a lot of time in church with a select group of people. As soon as I came out, they started talking behind my back. Started talking to each other, ‘Yo, did you hear this? We can’t hang out with them anymore’ or ‘My parents said this…’ and that kind of stuff. At this point we were all adults too, so I was like ‘Really..?’

Honestly coming out was the best thing that I did, even though I waited for months to tell people after I knew. I actually waited until 4 months on testosterone before telling anyone I was on testosterone. I gained a lot more respect from the people who did stick around, and I gained a lot more people who came around after. In the end it was worth it. I worked myself up a lot over what ends up being close to nothing. That’s how it goes…”

Most frustrating thing you’ve noticed within our community?

“I think honestly the biggest frustration is for whatever reason, there’s the cliques in the community. And a lot of times the cliques are against each other also in their little groups. But especially the trans community, everybody seems to think it’s a competition. ‘Well, this is where this person was at this far along in their transition… Or this person is a year in and has full beard, and I’m two years in and can’t grow any facial hair… what am I doing wrong?’ But it isn’t a competition, and the minute people start realizing we aren’t against each other and all need to be there for each other, it’ll start to change. But until then it’s kind of a dog-eat-dog world in the trans community and it’s a little upsetting to see.”

What is your favorite thing?

“On the flip side of that, the complete opposite end, I have friends all over the country that I’ve never met. I have people who message me everyday on Facebook, ‘Hey how’s your day going?’ … ‘Hey brother, have you eaten today?’ … ‘Did you get your workout in?’ and you don’t see that often. You don’t get that often. I’ve known people for 20 years who I can’t have deep conversations with, and I’ve known people for 3 months and they’ve spilled their whole story to me and asked for advice… which I suck at giving, so nobody ask me for advice. But it’s a family when it comes down to it and that’s where the competition comes from too, and it’s understandable. But, I have a lot of brothers out there who mean a lot to me, who I haven’t seen face to face. So, that’s pretty cool.”

What is one thing that you would tell younger you? Any advice for anyone out there who feels they can’t come out, or don’t have a community to be a part of?

“What I wish I could tell younger me… is a lot. Young me was dumb. Honestly, just do it… I stressed myself out for so long… and created so much anxiety, that later spilled into other mental health issues that needed to be addressed. All because I was scared of what people would think… And it honestly… it doesn’t f*cking matter what people think. The right people will come around, the right people will stick around… you don’t need that negative energy that you’re worried about losing. So it’ll be okay.

I felt like I didn’t have a community to come out to. That is why I waited for so long. But there’s a whole community waiting for you to come out. And that’s what it comes down to… We’re here. There are people here who know your story. There are people here who feel your story. There are people here who need to hear your story. And it’s not going to get out there until you come out.”

Most people go by the name given at birth, as a transgendered person you have the unique opportunity to choose your name – how did you choose your name?

“I actually used my dead name in my new name. My dead name was Sasha Nicole, and my roots are from Sweden. Sasha in Swedish is Alexander, so I used that as my middle name. And then I took the “-cole” from Nicole, but we already have a Cole and a Colton in the family, so all that was left was Colter. Which I thought it would make it easier for my family to accept, since I kept my name, but it wasn’t… They didn’t respect it. But, we’re where we are now, and they’re using it now, so that’s cool.”

Someone once told me you shouldn’t ask a transgender person their dead name, what’s your opinion on that?

“I think if a trans person openly gives you their dead name, it’s ok. I’m pretty open with my story. There’s a lot to learn about the transgender community and nobody is going to be able to learn unless someone is open about it. A lot of people get really defensive about it right away, which is understandable. They’ve spent X amount of years living as this person that they don’t identify with. So for a lot of people that’s something they want to drop, and something they need to let go of for their own mental health. I’m not so much bothered by it. If people ask, I give it. I will tell people, don’t ask. If they don’t want to give it, don’t ask. But there are a handful that will give you the full story.”

What in your life are you most proud?

“I’m most proud of being here now. I did not have a plan to be here. I did not think I would see my 25th birthday. I had a lot of unsuccessful plans that made me see my 25th birthday. Being where I am now and knowing I can pull myself out of this little sh*t-hole town in Illinois, where everybody shoved Jesus down your throat and told me I was going to die when I came out… to living a life where I have friends. I have friends who have become family. I have family who came when other family left. That’s pretty cool. And having two dogs that listen half-way… I’m pretty proud of that. They’re pretty good half of the time.”

If you had the power to change one thing, what would it be?

“That is a loaded question… If I had the power to change one thing, I would put a gender identity center in every city. Colorado Springs does not have one, the closest one is in Denver… and a lot of people can’t get there. Bus tickets are expensive, Uber’s are ridiculous. It’s something that’s being looked into and talked to, but a lot of people who don’t have the resources to get what they need, especially to transition, their testosterone and needles, the gender identity center provides resources to get there. But especially in the Springs here where it’ pretty conservative, we don’t have those resources to help the people who need them.”

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