"Oh, it's just a phase. She's such a tomboy. She'll grow out of it." I heard it so much as a kid, I started to believe it. The people around me didn't see me, I didn't see me. They only saw their expectations. My mother's side of the family has the "American dream" idea, and anything that doesn't fit to that norm was questioned and cast out.
So, I tried it; the female "norm." Wearing dresses, putting on make-up, but nothing could steer me away from wanting to play football in the street with my cis male cousins. Even though my family shoved skirts and baby dolls in my face, a fire truck was all I wanted for Christmas. But year after year, it was a dress.
Dance class was the worst, putting on leggings or big poofy costumes was torture! I remember wanting to wear the black slacks like the boys and wanting to do the male parts. I was always thinking, "What could I possibly say to make that happen."
I didn't even know what those thoughts meant. I knew it was never going to happen. So, I put on a mask.
The biggest mask for me was being a "lesbian." Even just calling myself that is a trigger. I never really considered myself one, but that was the category I was put in for society to understand me.
When I got older, dance finally started to have its perks. I was diving more into hip-hop, and I found a sense of belonging. My team let me dance with the guys, and it was a dream come true. I had never felt so comfortable, but still something about it wasn't right. They all saw me as a "masculine female" and that I was "pretending" to be a guy.
It never occurred to me why I couldn't be part of some of my friends' dance crews. Then I finally heard it, the most detrimental words I could hear: "Because I was a "girl." First of all, how sexist, but worst of all, it really negatively affected my self-esteem. Inside I felt more male than anything, but, on the outside, I just wasn't. More and more I started to notice the difference between me and my cis male friends and more and more I felt isolated.
On April 12, 2018, I got my top surgery. It was an amazing experience. In my head my breasts are what made me a woman and by removing them, I would feel whole. In fact, it made my dysphoria 100 percent worse. It accentuated every other womanly part of my body and broke me down day by day; it almost pushed me off the ledge.
Two and a half years ago, the brightest realization made itself prominent in my mind. I finally realized I wasn't a lesbian or female, I am in fact a transgender -- or a male with trans experience. Wow, just writing those words is freeing. After allowing myself to accept those words and truly be me, all these amazing memories started coming up. Ones of stuffing my pants, sneaking off to look at the guys' sections in department stores, and just day dreaming of wearing a suit. Then I understood my deeper purpose in this life. I am meant to be a role model, ally, or friend for someone who was just like me when I was younger. Growing up, there wasn't a lot of queer representation in the media. The youth nowadays have the opportunity to look at someone in the media and feel proud to be like them.
I have seen deep inside the closet and I want to say that there's no timeline for coming out. When you feel comfortable and safe to say it, say it proud. It's our duty as humans to share our life and stories with others so we can truly connect while we're here.
In the end, it was a phase and I did grow out of it. Not in the way they thought but in a more beautiful way. My name is Jeka Jane, I am a transgender man, and I finally have my coming out story.
"Putting out someone's light doesn't make your light brighter. It just makes the world a little darker." Share your flame.
Jeka Jane is a dancer and choreographer who recently worked with Ariana Grande. Follow him on Twitter @jekajane.