By Ben Wheeler
MEET the inspiring transgender woman who has come to accept her true gender despite rejection from family members and surviving an attempted rape on her first date as a woman.
Zoe Baldwin, 27, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama felt from a very young age that she may be a woman, but after being laughed at by other children, including her own brother, she repressed her feelings and true self.
Zoe finally came to terms with herself two years ago, at the age of 25 after seeing a friend of a friend’s photo album showing their transition, immediately making an appointment for hormone therapy.
“My mother and grandmother have been really supportive about the transition, but my father has been very against it, he and I haven’t spoken since I came out to him,” she said.
“Holiday gatherings are hard, when a relative is clearly trying his best not to look at you or talk to you and still uses your old name, that stuff hurts, especially since we used to be close.
“I also experienced first-hand how differently men treat me when dating, I didn’t expect my first OK Cupid date to turn into attempted rape, which was very scary.
“You get used to how your fellow gender treats you in one life and somewhere in your head even if you can look in the mirror and know you aren’t that person anymore, you just don’t expect things like that.
Zoe went on to discuss in more detail, the early years that lead to her making the decision to become her true gender and how she has gone about her transition.
“I had thought I might be female when I was very young, but when I talked about it the other kids at my school or my brother just laughed at me, so I thought I was crazy and pushed it down for many years,” she said.
“I didn’t really even know what transgender meant until I was 20 and dating my first girlfriend who was transgender.
“She was beautiful, and I was jealous of her. I thought about it very seriously over the next few years but kept it mostly to myself until 2016 when I saw a transition photo album of a friend of a friend which hit me like a brick.
“It really showed me what was possible in transitioning if you put the work in. The one thing that started going through my head is that I badly wanted to be pretty like her.
“I also found my art helped me find who I really was, there was a very particular character I made by taking a photo of myself and photoshopping over it until I had a painting of a female character.
“It was never finished but I couldn’t deny anymore what I felt about being trans, I’d definitely call it a turning point.
“I started shaving my beard down completely every day and made an appointment for hormone therapy a few days later.
Zoe also spoke about how she feels about herself now her journey is well on its way and how it has inspired her to undergo a dramatic 50lbs weight loss.
“Whereas before I was very unhappy and not motivated to do much at all, I’m now much happier since 2016 and especially since coming out last May,” she said.
“I’d love to be able to give examples but that’s tough when it applies to literally everything in my life, I feel alive.
“I started losing weight at the end of 2016 when my workplace started a weight loss competition which was pretty fun, and I actually won the first round!
“But by 2017 I was thinking more of what I’d look like as a woman if I kept going, so I kept losing weight even after it was over because I wanted to transition well.
“I started to replace my feelings with food in 2015, I was regularly eating entire pizzas for lunch at work which my co-workers found funny without realising the inner turmoil I was going through.
“Now I’m pretty good at keeping that to cheat days, I try to limit myself to about 1200 to 1500 calories a day and although I don’t get to the gym much I do squats, shadow boxing, push ups, sit ups and running for exercise.
Finally, Zoe had a message for society about the experiences of transgender people and how she hopes people can view gender going forward.
“I don’t think transgender people should be treated as a problem any more than they should be treated as special,” she said.
“I’m not a religious person but grew up in a religious family and it really worries me to see so many religious people try and say that God doesn’t like transgenders when there’s nothing about that in the bible.
“I hope that one day that we can all just see each other as people. Not women, not men, not trans, just people.”
To see Zoe’s artwork, please visit https://ijihara.deviantart.com/