Transgender Man Joins Movember For First Time

01/11/2015 11:25 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST
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For Jeremy Wiggins, shaving his face for the first time was a confronting ordeal.

"I was really nervous about it, really anxious about it," Wiggins told The Huffington Post Australia. "But then that was mixed with excitement, too.

"I hadn't seen my face without a beard since I changed, so it was confronting.

"But interestingly, the world kept going."

Jeremy is a 34-year-old man with a female partner and two children. However, when Jeremy was born, he was biologically female.

"When I was a kid, I had no real concept of what gender was. Kids don’t think like that," Wiggins said. "But I always felt a certain way... I always felt like I was a boy from an early age."

Wiggins spent the early years of his life in Papua New Guinea, where he said he "ran around in an 80s haircut with no shirt on, just shorts".

"It wasn’t until I was a bit older that I started thinking about my gender. I think that's when society tries to put people in the gender box."

Upon moving back to Australia, Wiggins' family settled in Frankston, Victoria -- where Wiggins' struggle with his assigned gender really began.

"I remember I really rejected being female and having to wear dresses -- I hated that. My girl's school uniform made me feel invisible and horrible. 'Girl drag' is how I would describe it," Wiggins said.

"I was bullied by other guys and people would say horrible things to me. As a teenager, I went through bouts of depression.

"So when I turned 18, I moved to the city in order try and find a bigger community. Frankston was not a safe place for me at that time."

It was in the city Wiggins met other transgender males and realised there were opportunities available to him, should he wish to make a commitment to becoming biologically male.

"It made me feel like this is something that I am and that it’s possible. I had no idea before," Wiggins said. "At that point I was probably 21 and it took a couple of years to think about it -- it's obviously a big decision.

"So I packed up my job and travelled overseas to do more research. I went to places like Berlin, London, San Francisco and New York City, and met lots of different people and communities. I realised there were lots of transgender people leading really happy lives and the decision they had made improved their happiness.

"That gave me the confidence to transition."

'Living My Truth'

Telling his family and friends about his decision wasn't easy -- Wiggins is upfront about the fact he has lost people previously close to him as a result.

"I emailed all my friends before I came home asking them to respect it, I received a lot of positive responses but other people didn’t respond at all," Wiggins said.

"Some people would say things like the name I had chosen was silly, or I would be questioned, 'what is a boy anyway?'

"One person even said it was about hating women's bodies. As in, by me living my truth and doing what I needed to do was a betrayal to women. Other people would go as far as to say mutilation."

But Wiggins stuck to his course and, through hormones and surgery, was able to affirm his gender. And now, he is taking part in his very first Movember.

"I'm really interested in changing the face of men’s health in a broader sense," Wiggins said. "Especially because, down the line, I have been involved in projects that Movember’s efforts have funded."

Since its inception in 2003, The Movember Foundation has been committed to "changing the face of men's health" -- in particular, prostate and testicular cancer as well as mental health issues.

The foundation also focuses on redefining the notion of masculinity and the traditional notion of what it means to be a man -- with one such project in this space being the Stop Think Respect campaign aimed at the LGBTI community.

As such, Wiggins agreed to take part in a short film (above) which documented his first clean shave since his transition as well as floating the question of what it means to be a 'man'.

Wiggins doesn't shy away from the fact he was particularly nervous about losing his beard.

"It's funny, that thing about masculinity and beards -- aside from my own insecurities, I also didn’t want to shock the kids.

"We were talking to them for weeks about it. A few days after I did it, they kept on asking me when my beard would grow back. One of them even said 'when your beard grows back you’ll be a proper dad,' -- which is funny, it's more of a consistent thing to them than a gender thing. They just know me as having a beard.

"But it is a big symbol of masculinity which is why I was interested in doing this experiment.

"I actually built it up in my head something much bigger than it needed to be. Just given my history and relationship with gender identity -- my beard is a strong part of that. I like the way it makes me look."

What It Means To Be A Man

Now Wiggins is gearing up to shave all over again -- though this time, he is looking forward to growing a mustache. He hopes his involvement with the charity will prompt discussion about society's interpretation of masculinity and how that, in turn, can have adverse reactions on men's health.

"I think there are negative pressures around being a man or the notion of masculinity that negatively impacts men's health and help-seeking behaviour," Wiggins said.

"The idea of what a 'man' is in each generation changes, but I can tell you right now my Dad or Granddad would not have gone to see a counsellor. I don't even know if they would have even gone to see a doctor. Expressing how you feel was not considered masculine in their generations.

"I believe there needs to be more space and time for people to embrace who they are and how they feel.

"I hope [the film] starts people thinking or reflecting about how society does create 'what is a man and what is a woman' -- it can be very limiting for people.

"I think we need to look at how it plays into repressing people’s true selves, whether they are trans or not."

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