I had a feeling my heart was going to explode, because a friend had just shared a post on her Facebook wall about a woman who has been using plastic surgery to look like a man for years.
A trans woman named Rachel had shared her own story about what it was like to have plastic surgery in the past, and the post was quickly shared hundreds of thousands of times.
The post included some pretty graphic photos of Rachel having her breasts and breasts of her genitals removed, along with her face being covered in fake flesh.
It wasn’t long before the conversation moved on to other topics.
And the conversation turned into something more personal.
Rachel, a 31-year-old living in Portland, Oregon, said she was born a girl, and after transitioning, transitioned from a woman to a man in 2016.
“I just wanted to be able to feel like a woman, and I thought the surgeries were unnecessary,” Rachel said.
Rachel’s story made the front page of Reddit.
But that’s not all.
“She’s a cisgender woman,” said Reddit user Nilslover.
“In the world of Reddit, we call trans women cisgender.
She’s a woman that doesn’t conform to the gender binary, and has had surgeries to look as she wishes.”
So Rachel had surgery, and she wanted to get her body back to being who she wanted.
“So I’ve had a long history of surgery, from when I was 14 years old,” Rachel told ABC News.
“My breasts were very small and I didn’t have the confidence to transition.
I think that’s a really common thing that happens for trans women who’ve had surgeries.
We’re not really comfortable with the way our bodies look.”
Transgendered women are more likely to be homeless than their cisgender peers, and are often forced to live as women to survive.
They are also more likely than cisgender women to experience bullying and harassment at school, and to be sexually assaulted and murdered.
Transgendering is a legal process, and it can be challenging for many trans people to find housing and medical care.
“It’s really hard to get surgery,” Rachel explained.
“Because we’re so publically trans, I can’t really go to the doctor and say, ‘I need my gender reassignment surgery.'”
Rachel’s friend, Nilskover, told ABC affiliate KOIN that it’s not uncommon for transgendered people to be denied housing and other health care.
Nilsbover said Rachel’s experiences are similar to the experiences of other trans women, like Amber Lacy, a 22-year old who had breast augmentation surgery in 2016 after transitioning.
“The first year of my surgery, I was so scared that I’d get it wrong, but after a while, I realized that I wasn’t the only one who was afraid,” Amber told ABC news.
Amber had been struggling to get by for months before she found a job, and as her gender identity began to change, she realized that she had the same problems that others do when transitioning: being rejected, being isolated, being bullied.
“A lot of times, I had no one to talk to,” Amber said.
“And then I had to go to work every day, and then I went home, and there was no one there to talk with.”
Amber is one of many trans women I spoke to, who have had to move between shelters and medical facilities, because they are too scared to disclose that they have gender dysphoria, or a lack of gender.
“Transgender women are much more likely in the public sphere to experience sexual violence,” said Nilskiover.
The transgender community is one that is often stigmatized by the mainstream media, and by medical professionals.
But in 2016, transgender women are less likely to go through surgical procedures than cisgendered cis women, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, and more than half of transgender women surveyed said they were harassed or bullied in the workplace.
“You can’t just be a trans person and be a cis woman, because the stigma is there,” Amber explained.
Amber and other trans people I spoke with shared stories about being harassed in the bathroom at work, being teased at school for dressing feminine, and being physically assaulted by peers.
But Rachel’s experience is particularly heartbreaking.
“If you have a trans experience, there’s always going to be a stigma that comes with that,” Rachel added.
“There are cisgender men who don’t want to go on the trans community’s forums and share their experience with us.
And there’s also cisgender cisgender people who don, too.”
Rachel told me that while she has struggled with transphobia at school and in her community, it’s hard to let it define who she is.
“But the more you struggle with it, the more I’m able to accept who I am,” Rachel stated.
“Being a trans woman is not a choice, it is a lifestyle choice