When I set out to write my gender spectrum young adult novel A FINE BROMANCE, I had a model to turn to for authenticity. I am myself transgender, but I did not come out as such until I was sixty years old. A newspaper article about Gender Odyssey’s leader, Aidan Key, and a young man named Sean Bailey Czerwinski provided me with more age-appropriate information than I would have on my own.
Sean and his mother, Renee, were featured in the article which talked about a program advised by Key that helps kids who feel they aren’t in fact the gender their genitals indicate. It is really not surprising this sort of thing happens, when you know that there are many influences on an embryo in the womb. The first flow of gender hormones on the zygote determines the DNA and genital identity of a child, but a second flow after four weeks comes when the infant’s brain is developing. What most people don’t understand is there is no expectation that this flow will match the earlier one, and in fact a child who had one type of hormones at conception may have the opposite at the point when he or she developed a brain. It is the case that any further hormone flows at other points in development can make the child fulfill other identities, for example sexual orientation and others. This later position is not fully studied yet, so beyond the work of such scientists as Dr. Joshua Safire on transgender embryos nothing is cast in bronze.
The program Key advises as Seattle’s Children’s Hospital helps parents understand their transgender children and to know what steps they and the child can take to make their body conform to their perceived gender. Sean’s family was enlightened and chose to go through all the recommended steps to ensure the choice he made was accurate and to have the right surgeries and hormones to make it so.
I met Sean online not long after seeing the article in the paper. I asked him to advise me when I developed the character of Andy Kahn, my transgender character. He has been a great help along with other transgender teens who helped me craft a character each could recognize as representing someone like them.
Christopher Hawthorne Moss: Do you remember when you were very young, realizing that something about the gender you were born in was just not right? How old were you and what were your first thoughts?
Sean Bailey Czerwinski: Yes, I do remember when I was very young, around eight or nine actually, that there was something different—just didn’t know what. Around that age I had friends up and down the block and we hung out all the time, and instead of being called my birth name, Bailey, I went by Billy because of the similarity.
CHM: How did you respond to these feelings? Did you accept them in a matter-of-fact way or did you wonder why you had them? Did you talk to anyone about them or do any sort of research?
SBC: At the young age not having full knowledge of everything around me and other goals in mind, I suppressed those feelings until those other goals diminished and I was left to come to truce and came upon some information.
CHM: How did you come to the conclusion you are really a boy?
SBC: I always was more masculine, always, barely fit in with the girls when I grew up. I felt more comfortable as the thought of being a male more than I ever did as a female. Everything just made more sense that way and felt more right and each time I came upon more information I felt more comfortable about myself.
CHM: Do you know about the whole explanation that a flow of testosterone when your brain was developing in the womb is what made you a boy? What do you think about or what do you say about that?
SBC: Honestly it’s science, that seems to be down a path that might make some sense.
CHM: Did you tell any friends about your thoughts?
SBC: My best friends Logan and Jacob have always been by my side for past four and two years, and we have talked about everything. There is nothing better than an honest open friendship.
CHM: When did you tell members of your immediate family? How did they react? What did they do to pursue your transition?
SBC: It had taken me almost two weeks to come out to my mother and family. It was twice as hard since the other half of my family is in Illinois. So I had to come out over social media and having the fear of it being to not personal enough to each one I had been close with.
CHM: What steps did you take to conform your body to a boy’s body? Hormones? Top surgery? Do you plan to have top surgery?
SBC: Hormones, started at seventeen with my lovely parents’ confirmation and followed by top surgery, at age eighteen.
CHM: Does your new body feel right to you?
SBC: If feels better, it feels more like me. There are still surgeries out there that I am still considering.
CHM: How old are you now? Are you dating?
SBC: I am twenty-one now, living with my roommates. Currently out of the dating world.
CHM: How did your friends and your school treat you as you really are? How did they make the adjustment if at all? What did they do?
SBC: My friends were all on board, half of them already knew something was up. The school itself as the administration side dealt with the situation accordingly, letting me use the men’s restroom and the nurses’ if I felt more comfortable there, and the teachers and staff were more than welcoming. On the other side of things, it was half and half between the students.
SBC: CHM: How did your friends and your school treat you as you really are? How did they make the adjustment if at all? What did they do?
CHM: How did realizing you are a boy affect your plans for your future, a college education, a job, marriage, children?
SBC: It didn’t actually affect much other than actually giving me a healthy future. I had a dream of becoming a NCAA softball player and going to the Olympics and having that pay for school. I now am finishing classes for my Associates and going to start up my filmmaking career again.
CM: I saw the story in the newspaper about you. How did you feel about that coming out? Do you ever feel like you have no privacy? Are you glad to know you might be a role model for others?
SBC: I know I will always never have full privacy due to the internet, so I decided why not and gave it a shot. I wanted to help and reach out to others.
CHM: Now that you have transitioned for a few years, how do you feel about your decision? Do you know any other trans kids and how do you fell about them?
SBC: I feel that it was the best decision I have ever made
CHM:. What is your message to other people who are thinking their birth gender is not their real gender?
SBC: Just do what you feel is best for you.
CHM: What is your favorite animal and why?
SBC: Definitely a brown bear. They’re the goofiest but have the potential to be the strongest when needed.
CHM: Thanks so much for your time and thoughts. You are a trooper. Your story has always meant something to me, and I admire your spirit.