Shawn Stinson that the trans bodybuilding world sees today — a magazine cover boy, confident, relaxed and outgoing — is a long way from the depressive, withdrawn child he once was.
His mother worked multiple jobs to support him, but they still had to live with Stinson’s grandparents. Looking back on his childhood in Peoria, Illinois, he remembers how she would give him toys after her shift at the Holiday Inn.
“She never brought home any girly toys,” he says after his workout. “She kind of knew I was different.”
As Stinson started to develop, he realized that a younger male cousin had it “so much easier” than he did. Stinson wanted to be high-fived instead of being called adorable. He wanted cologne instead of perfume at Christmas.
“I was raised as a girl, and I have pictures I’m not happy with,” he says. “Even though I look happy in those pictures, I just remember looking at those pictures and knowing how I wasn’t happy as a child.”
He had his top surgery done in 2007 and he started hormone therapy later. That was four years ago, and he hasn’t looked back since.
‘My definition of being transgender is being born in the wrong body,’ Sean says.
‘I was very depressed as a child, suicidal.’
In the US, 41% of respondents in a transgender discrimination survey said they had attempted suicide at one point or another.
But it was when he joined the military that things started to make a move towards transitioning between his birth body and the one he thought he should be in all along.
‘Over in Iraq… I chose to work out. My main focus was on my chest.
‘If I went to the beach, I could probably walk around without a shirt on.
‘I was transitioning without really knowing I was transitioning.’
“This is once in a lifetime. We’re changing lives so that people get fit and helping transgender men transition,” says Stinson. “The time is now.”
The competition was set up by Neo Sandja, a transgender man who grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, after gaining weight while going through hormone therapy.
His blog, FTM Fitness, had an audience around the world. He thought that it would be a great show of strength to begin an annual competition.
‘It can be easy in life to just blend in and be a regular guy,’ he told CNN.
‘For me, it’s important to be visible in the fitness world and the bodybuilding world so you can see you can be a “normal” person, but you can also be proud to be trans.’
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