For Briann Dixon, it has been a long journey to self-acceptance as transgender.
Dixon, who lives in Lawrence Township with her family, said she felt that there had always been some uncertainty about who she is and how she fit into the world around her.
“I felt it was not right. I was myself and I was relatively comfortable with myself, but there was an undercurrent of not completely fitting in, based on how I represented myself,” Dixon said.
That was until last year, when Dixon began presenting herself as a woman.
When Dixon was born, she was assigned the gender of male. The doctor looked at the external features to make that assignment, “but for me, that was incorrect,” she said.
“I was born a man, but I have always been a woman. It has taken time to understand that (gender assignment) was wrong,” she said.
As a child growing up in Hopewell Borough, Dixon said she never felt like a typical boy. She said she never felt like she fit into a boy cookie-cutter model. She had friends who were boys and friends who were girls, but she always felt more comfortable with girls.
Dixon remembers being “overly concerned” about what a boy should be like in terms of societal expectations. Boys are supposed to be athletic, so Dixon tried out for the baseball team and made it onto the team.
“But I missed practices, so the coach cut me from the team. It was a relief. It gave me a way out,” Dixon said.
Dixon liked video games and music. She played guitar and piano and had a high school band. She gravitated to the visual and performing arts at Hopewell Valley Central High School.
Dixon continued to present as a male throughout high school and college. But at some point in college, she began to have thoughts that there was something different. She knew she was not straight, but she could not put her finger on what exactly was different.
Over time, Dixon started to feel that she was not necessarily a man.
“It was this nebulous idea of ‘I don’t know what I am, but I am not this. I know I am not a man,'” she said.
Dixon began buying women’s T-shirts, cardigans and sweaters. Although she did not look different, she felt different by wearing women’s T-shirts and sweaters.
“I felt more like myself to wear a plain woman’s T-shirt than a plain man’s T-shirt,” she said.
Dixon’s interest in transgender was piqued when Caitlyn Jenner, who was born athlete Bruce Jenner, came out as trans. There were news articles about Jenner presented in a positive light, she said.
Dixon said she was also interested in Laverne Cox, an actress who was also born male but identified as a woman.
“I wonder, if there had been more trans people visible, if I would have felt better. There were no examples for me to see. There were no role models. If people like that were more visible, I would have had that ‘ah-hah’ moment at 9 years old, not 29 years old,” Dixon said.
Nevertheless, Dixon made the decision in 2021 to come out as trans – privately at first to a few people, but publicly later on a Facebook post. She made a post that said she was trans and that it is something that she wanted people to know.
“A month after that, I became Briann and took it from there. That’s when I began presenting as a woman,” she said.
The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, Dixon said. Her two children understood it immediately and took it as a fact. Her friends and her sister were “great,” she said. The neighbors and the children’s teachers were wonderful and supportive.
“It was like nothing. I am a mom now,” Dixon said.
In fact, it was her daughter JJ’s firm identity as a girl that helped Dixon to “self-accept,” she said. Coming out to her 9-year-old daughter as trans did not confuse JJ, and it actually strengthened the parent-child relationship, she said.
Dixon had married her high school sweetheart Jordan Dixon in 2013 when she was still presenting as a male. Dixon acted as she had always been expected to act, including starting a family.
For her part, Jordan Dixon said it was “fine.” She said she has known Briann Dixon forever, and that Briann’s announcement was more of a realization that there is more to know about her partner.
“I care deeply about her and I want her to be happy. When she came out to me, it was okay. It didn’t feel like this is a different person from the person that I married. My perception of her is being updated,” Jordan Dixon said.
“More importantly, Briann still loves me and she is still the same caring partner that I married. I can tell she is happier, and that makes me happier. Throughout this process of self-exploration, she is sharing it with me,” Jordan Dixon said.
There are variations in how one pursues transition from one gender to another – from having a new haircut, taking a new name or deciding whether or not to wear make-up, Dixon said. It is not necessary to undergo surgery to make the transition, she said.
Dixon said the path to transition for her was very drawn-out. It was a series of baby steps, each one meeting her needs at the moment. It was a very different experience from that of a person who experiences that sudden moment of realization, she said.
“Transition is about being the person you have always been. It’s not about transitioning from male to female. I am Briann, and I have always been a woman,” Dixon said.