by Ian Asencio
For 43 years I lived and existed as Jenny because I was born female. I never really thought of myself as a boy, but for years I wanted a penis. This want became a need as I grew older, until finally, I found myself investigating ways to make my body simulate having one, as well as other secondary sexual characteristics like facial hair and a deeper voice. The choices were either to illegally obtain steroids, or transition, which made me realize that I should talk to a doctor.
Until I made the discovery of my own transsexualness, I was very affirmative in my support for transgender people and their rights. However, my realization came with a second epiphany – that the arguments I had been cheerfully supporting all along were not reflective of my reality. In fact, they had so misled me that I realized they had actually harmed me and my journey by giving me unrealistic expectations of what transition meant and by building hopes on wishful thinking rather than science.
After extensive introspection and therapy, I finally came to some conclusions about myself and my transition process. Although I now go by Ian, I still use Jenny because I have a resume and existence as that person. I reject arguments that claim I was a man all along, or even that I’m a man now, because medical science can do no more than cosmetically simulate the body I want. I am a trans man, which makes me different from a man, even if I’m not quite a woman either. I was a Girl Scout, I’ve had both an abortion and a baby, I’ve experienced sexual discrimination and harassment, and these things didn’t happen to me because I’m a man. I’ve never viewed myself as having a particular gender, and I’m not going to start because I believe a lot of what we call “gender” is actually social roles that change with time and culture.
Accepting these facts has been an important part of my transition. The pressure from the trans community to see myself a certain way collided with my experience in ways that left me depressed and questioning my transition. It was only by accepting the things I can’t change and reconciling them with the things I can that I was able to move forward with my transition.
Recently, trans activism is making the news often as trans people are entering spaces where critics say they don’t belong, such as sports, bathrooms, prisons, and rape shelters. I believe that living so long with the idea that I could never be anything but a woman, and then accepting this idea in relation to my existence as a trans man, gives me insight into both sides of the debate.
My views aren’t popular, especially among those who believe that gender is more significant than sex. I get called transphobic often and have even been told that I’m not really trans because I don’t view myself the way I’m “supposed” to. But I’ve never been one to keep quiet, and I feel moved by my experience to share my views as a counterpoint to the prevailing narrative that has come to dominate discussions about trans people.
Coming to terms with the expectations of transitioning versus the reality was the healthiest thing I have ever done, and it helped me embrace myself instead of trying to run away from the contradictions of my life before transition. Many activists say that transitioning means being one’s “authentic self,” and finally I am, but only because I am able to accept the woman that coexists with the trans man.
In the Hold my Drink — navigating culture with a chaser of civility, and Counterweight podcast, Episode 66, we speak with Ian Asencio (nee Jenny). Ian shares the truths of his personal transition story, including his 43 years living as a woman, and the difficulties he’s faced navigating between the expectation and reality of his experience. This includes a backlash within a segment of the transgender community who hold a rigid gender ideology. Despite it all, Ian has found his “authentic self” accepting the woman that coexists with the trans man. All discussed with a chaser of civility, of course, and an orange soda & vodka concoction and a cucumber mint tea.
Hold my Drink welcomes all people with all kinds of beverages to join us as we explore the truths of a chaotic and beautiful world, together.
What Ian Is Reading:
Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn
God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert
Mindful Compassion by Paul Gilbert, PhD and Choden
Becoming a Spiritualist by H. Gordon Borroughs
Anapanasatisuttam, a Middle Discourse of the Buddha
What Jen is Reading:
You Are Old, We Are Young, Tablet Magazine, Jonah Raskin
In Defense of Offense, Substack - One Gak A Day, Martin Gak
and listening to…
The Whole Student Podcast with Irshad Manji
Ian Asencio is still known in some places as Jenny Asencio, where he is a writer and student. His studies revolve around cultivating mental health using spiritual practices rooted in philosophy and religion. He has always been fascinated by aspects of how we think and view the world, both on a personal and on a social level. He has a lot of opinions that are the result of his observation and analysis and loves to share those opinions. He also loves to read opinions he specifically disagrees with because he believes that the only way to solve social problems is through discussion, discourse, and compromise. And as you can see, Ian loves to talk! Ian’s current projects include writing essays on philosophy and society and trying to make a podcast with his partner, Tiffanni.
You can find Ian here:
twitter: @zenjennyasencio, @notoriouszenpub