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We chatted with Leo Sheng, trans man living in transition about transgender, openness, self-love and life in transition. 
What made you decide to be so open about your transition and what kind of response have you been getting?

I came out as a trans man when I was 12 years-old. I knew a few trans women in real life, but the only trans man I knew of was Max from “The L-Word.” I’d been web-surfing when I came across his character and for the first time, it clicked. It made sense. From there on, I kept web-surfing, consuming information.  I found an amazing community of trans men on YouTube and I watched their videos; I was hooked. I started my own channel at 14, with the hopes of connecting with other guys.

It wasn’t until last year that I really started to be so public about my transition. I focused mostly on Tumblr, because like YouTube there was a large community of trans people. And then when I started seeing hashtags like “Transformation Tuesday” and “Throwback Thursday” on Instagram, I started posting pictures of what I used to look like in comparison to what I looked like when I uploaded them. I loved seeing the changes and I hoped that other trans guys on Instagram would find comfort the same way I found comfort in all of the YouTube videos I’d watched.
Before and after the publicity of my page, I only ever received positive feedback. There were one or two voices that weren’t so positive, but they didn’t bother me. Since then, I’ve been honored with so many compliments and warm notes from folks around the world. Seriously, people in Latin America and Australia were leaving incredibly kind comments on my page. It’s been an especially incredible thing to have other trans guys tell me the same things I told other trans guys when I first came out. It’s like it’s come full circle. 

There is still confusion of what being transgender means, what do you feel the society needs to understand about the transgender community?

There’s a whole lot that I would love for people to learn about the transgender community. I think the most important thing to know and understand is that, while there is a general definition of what transgender may mean, it can mean something different to every person who identifies as trans. The word doesn’t have the same definition for everyone, which can be confusing, but I find that it’s better to ask than to assume. 

I think the second important issue, and some might say it’s number one, is the fact the trans people and medically transitioning fascinates a lot of cisgender people. That results in the common assumption that one has permission to ask about a trans person’s medical history. Not all trans people choose to undergo a medical transition, or a legal transition, or even a social transition for that matter. Even if they did, it’s up to them to share as much or as little personal information as they wish. The terms “transgender” and “transition” vary in significance from person to person. 
From your experience, what is your advice to people who are thinking to start the path of transition?
No matter what type of transition a person is considering (legal, social, or medical), I think it’s incredibly important remember that everyone is different and everyone will have a different experience. When I first came out, more than anything, I wanted a muscular physique just like I saw on TV and in the movies. I wanted to get rid of anything that would hint at my assigned sex at birth. I didn’t want people to look at me with the same confusion they always used to. When I started testosterone, I kept comparing my physical transition to other guys who looked like they belonged on the cover of GQ or something. I kept getting frustrated that I wasn’t seeing the same results. But, after a while, I found that where I was at was exactly where I needed to be— I guess that fits this page’s beliefs. My own medical transition happened so quickly. I never gave myself enough time to accept where I was and how far I’d come. Once I managed to do that, I was able to really appreciate my progress in my physical transition and in my life in general. 
If someone is thinking of embarking on any type of transition, I’d advise to them to make sure they’re doing it because it’s what’s right for them and not because it’s what they think they should do. Know that it will be difficult, but that it will be worth it. Never forget that there is an entire community of folks who can empathize and sympathize. Know that you’re not alone and that there are spaces for you to unload and vent. 
The choice of pronoun is very important and personal to transgender people, that definition gives transgender power over their own identity. The lack of a non-binary pronoun in most languages makes this designation harder. How important is the choice of pronoun to you?
I think pronouns are important to everyone, even if they don’t realize it, but there’s definitely a larger conversation around the importance of pronouns and trans folks. Binary pronouns like she/her/hers and he/him/his can be so constricting, and I’m saying this as someone who is comfortable in using he/him/his. Non-binary pronouns like they/them/theirs and ze/hir/hirs are great, but yeah, not all languages allow for that. 
For me, my pronouns were the second step of my social transition, next to my name. After I came out as Leo, people were still using she/her/hers in reference to me because they weren’t sure what to say. After, I told them that it was OK to use he/him/his and I swear, hearing people that were close to me acknowledging my identity was the most amazing thing. Like you mentioned, it’s a way to take hold of your own identity and to show others that this is part of who you are. It’s very validating when someone uses the correct pronouns and I feel like it shows that they really see who I am, not who I was. 
Every month we choose a topic we develop through articles, stories, twitter discussions and our daily quotes. For May, we have chosen SELF LOVE as a theme, tying it to transition and finding yourself. What can you tell us about it from your experience? Is it an act of self love?
I started my transition at a young age; not as young as some, but younger than others. Although I didn’t come out until 12, my gender expression has been a part of my life since I was seven years-old and chopped off my long hair. There were six years between the time I came out and the time that I was able to start hormones and in those six years, I learned a lot about the transgender community, the queer community, how important a good support system is, and I learned a hell of a lot about myself. I found out first hand that I was stronger than I realized when I needed to be. 
"For me, transitioning was an act of self-love. I knew that if I didn’t take those steps, I was never going to be completely happy; I was never going to find peace. I spent so much time uncomfortable in my own skin, unable to see a future for myself. And then, when I came out with the support of my family and friends, I finally began to feel like I belonged— that I finally breathe."

While my transition was an act of self-love towards myself, not everyone has the ability to do so and it’s important to note that if a person doesn’t transition somehow, it doesn’t mean they love themselves any less. Self-love comes in many forms, it means something different everyone, just like the terms “transgender” and “transition.” I had the incredible fortune to be in a position where I could take the necessary steps to mold myself into the person I’ve always been. I was able to transition, and in return, I was able to find and access the self-love I needed
Want to know more about the very inspirational Leo Sheng? Follow his journey on Instagram, or on Twitter.  


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