Teagan Talks Transitioning
By Alixandra Rutnik on Mar 31, 2022
Discussing transgender identity in depth with our Education Manager at The One Club for Creativity
It’s Transgender Day of Visibility once again, and with each passing year, that visibility has become more pronounced, and importantly, more accepted. And while it’s wonderful to see more trans individuals in our politics, our entertainment, and our positions of authority and leadership, the real impact comes from the individuals in our daily lives.
Such is the case with Teagan Rabuano, the incredible Education Manager here at The One Club for Creativity. Teagan is confident and articulate – she knows who she is, and she is proud to be a trans woman. Two years ago, the two of us featured three trans people from the creative industry — Joon Park, blake desormeaux, and D Jones — in a story about their experiences.
This time around, we decided we’d put Teagan herself in the hot seat, adding to the conversation and sharing her perspective as a trans woman.
Thinking back, when did you decide that you wanted to transition from male to female?
One of the biggest hindrances in really coming into my identity was the fact that I didn't see almost any representation at all of trans people growing up. I first remember becoming aware of what being trans meant when I was a senior in high school. At this point, I identified as gay. And when I started to discover the trans community, it sent off alarms in my mind, and a lot of experiences I had growing up fell into place. So when I moved to New York for college, and I met more trans people and talked with them, I started to understand who I really was and what I wanted.
"And when I started to discover the trans community, it sent off alarms in my mind, and a lot of experiences I had growing up fell into place."
There was a time when you used they/them pronouns– now you are using she/her pronouns. Why did you feel the need to distinguish?
I needed time to explore my gender. Even though I had identified as gay for several years as a teenager, I still felt very restricted in my gender expression. And I wanted to be expressing myself in a more feminine way. But, where I lived in the Midwest, in Ohio, it just wasn't really an option.
But when I came to New York, I met so many people who were questioning their gender. Around this time, there was also a rise in popularity of nonbinary identities– people using they/them pronouns, and that felt like a safe entry point for me to start my exploration. The prospect of transitioning is a little scary at times, and it's expensive. I needed time to explore myself and give myself the permission to see what I really wanted. And it was through that exploration I was able to realize that actually, I am a trans woman– this is how I identify, and I want to live my life as a woman.
"And it was through that exploration I was able to realize that actually, I am a trans woman– this is how I identify, and I want to live my life as a woman."
Can we talk a bit more about the importance of using gender pronouns?
Totally. It's not called a transition for nothing, right? It can take a long time to find your footing. And it can also take a while to feel like the people around you are seeing you in the way you want to be seen. For me, they/them pronouns were a stepping stone in my journey– it was a way of, like I said before, exploring my identity.
For some people, a nonbinary identity, using they/them pronouns or even other pronouns that are not necessarily male or female, can be 100% who they are and their permanent identity. But for me, it was more of a bridge between the two. When I started using she/her pronouns about a year ago, that was when I had already started my medical transition. I was living as a woman full time, and I felt comfortable asking people to see me that way because it was finally a match.
I know a lot of people who medically transition and continue to use they/them pronouns too. There are so many different experiences within the trans and non-binary community. And that's why it's important for people to have options because at the end of the day, exploring your gender is not exclusive to trans people. Everyone should have the opportunity to explore, and changing your pronouns and just feeling that out can be an important way to experiment.
So on this journey, where do you find support?
I feel incredibly fortunate. I found so much support in many different places. The initial places where I found support were definitely in college, in student groups. That’s when I started to meet and connect with other trans people– hearing their stories and talking with them about their transitions really helped me to clarify the feelings that I had always been struggling with.
I was really involved in the art scene in New York too and met a lot of amazing artists who I looked up to, and who definitely helped to guide me. I was involved in activism for a long time, as well. And through that, I also was able to connect with a lot of trans folks from all over the country. Community really is everything, and no matter where you are in your journey, surrounding yourself with other trans people can be incredibly healing.
I've also been really, really lucky that my family has followed me along throughout this whole process. However, it hasn’t always been easy– there’s certainly been a learning curve for them. At first, there was a lot of confusion from my family about what I was doing, and I know they were concerned about my safety. But over time, they have educated themselves, and now, my parents have become huge trans advocates, so I truly feel so fortunate to have them in my corner.
Do you feel supported at work?
When I was looking for a job after graduating from college, I was very nervous about expressing myself in the workplace. College is a space where you can feel safe and comfortable exploring and expressing yourself, but going into the workplace, I had a lot of fears and anxieties about how I wanted to present.
Thankfully, The One Club has been incredibly supportive of me. I feel so seen and accepted by everyone here– I don't feel like I am treated any differently, which is great. And so I'm very, very appreciative to have been able to transition completely at this job and have everyone take that in stride.
At this point in my life and in my transition, I don’t necessarily want to be seen as “the trans person” everywhere I go. And here at The One Club, I do feel that I’m seen for so much more than just my identity.
How did COVID affect your transition?
I know so many people who have transitioned during COVID, and there are a couple of big reasons why. Reason number one– when you are stuck alone with yourself, you really have to confront who you are and what you want. I had been running from this realization for so long because I was scared of what it meant for me in my life. But when I was in lockdown, I was able to make peace with myself and decide that transitioning is what I wanted to do.
And reason number two– being hidden away from the world for a while is a great time to change and transform. It's a great time to undergo a metamorphosis! And now, reemerging after a couple of years, I feel more confident than I would have if I had started the process and everyone had to see me go through the rougher parts of the transition that were present in the first few months.
How long does the transition process take?
It's different for everyone because everyone has different transition goals. On one hand, after being on hormones for a year, I feel good in my skin and I feel good about where I'm at. But I do have a desire to do more– I would like to explore some surgical options down the road. But some trans people don't want to do that. Every trans person's transition is based on what they want, and everyone’s goals are completely valid.
In transitioning, what has been challenging and what has been rewarding?
Before transitioning, I knew I was a woman, but I felt like I was still struggling to communicate that to the people around me. It's tough when you transition later in life because people have grown accustomed to seeing you a certain way. There's an adjustment that needs to be made. Transitioning isn't just for you– it's for all the people around you too. My family and friends have had to undergo this transition with me. The adjustment can be difficult and even painful at times.
Just the other day, I shared on social media that I've been on hormones for a year, and I received an outpouring of support from people closest to me, and also from people I haven't spoken to in a long time. I’m so proud of how much work I put into my transition this year. And I feel like I'm really starting to see it pay off.
I don't get misgendered very frequently by strangers anymore and I can go out in public and not attract negative attention. The world is now seeing me for the woman that I am. It makes me feel so seen. It makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I'm on the right track with what I'm doing.
You're a very confident individual. Was there ever a time that you didn’t lead your life in that way?
I've always been someone who leads with confidence. I've been true to myself in every moment, as best as I could be. So even before I came to understand myself as a trans woman, I still tried to have confidence because I was expressing myself as much as I was able to.
When I got to college, my gender dysphoria became too stifling for me to ignore. I started to really ask myself questions for the first time, like, “Am I comfortable in my skin?” “Do I feel good about the way that I look?” And the answer was, “No.” I found strength and confidence in exploring my gender identity. The entry point was wearing women's clothes and wearing makeup– those two things completely empowered me. I finally started to feel like myself. A lot of that confidence that I had been faking before became real.
But the longer I experimented, the harder it was for me to take it off. It became difficult for me to wake up in the morning and not feel like I was seeing myself the way that I wanted to be seen. And so in transition, it's been another step toward owning my truth. During the first few months of my transition, I felt incredibly insecure. I'm only one year in, so it's still early, and I still have a lot of insecurities. But at this point, I feel like I've gotten over the Ugly Duckling phase of my transition.
As a trans woman, what are your thoughts on the anti-trans youth bills circulating in legislation right now?
Right now there are so many more kids who are coming out as trans. There's been a lot of backlash from state governments and conservatives who don't think it's right for kids to transition. And they don't understand why so many children are now calling themselves trans and understanding themselves in that way. But from my perspective, I think it goes hand in hand with the amazing increase in representation that we've been seeing– fictional representation like Hunter Schafer, who plays Jules in Euphoria, and all the outspoken trans activists today. The trans conversation has become so mainstream, and oftentimes, the moment it clicks is the moment you see yourself represented, and that definitely was the case for me. It just happened a little bit later in my life.
"The trans conversation has become so mainstream, and oftentimes, the moment it clicks is the moment you see yourself represented, and that definitely was the case for me."
I've had the amazing opportunity to work with trans kids on a number of different occasions, ages 12 to 17, in a couple of different settings. I was a camp counselor for a group of trans girls who were ages 12 to 15. I worked with a group of trans high schoolers during one of my internships in college, and all I can say, is meeting those kids– they know who they are. And when a child has that kind of certainty about themselves, we have to listen. The kids who weren't able to have access to transitioning were really depressed and even suicidal at times. That was heartbreaking to witness.
"I worked with a group of trans high schoolers during one of my internships in college, and all I can say, is meeting those kids– they know who they are."
What is some advice you would like to share with others who may be transitioning too?
If there's any wisdom I can share with someone who's beginning their transition or preparing to do it, it’s that it takes patience. You have to give yourself the time and space to change and adapt– you're not going to wake up one day and suddenly be there already. Transitioning can be challenging, but it’s also so beautiful– even in the more awkward moments.
In advertising, how can we support the trans community?
Advertising can be a powerful medium for change. We're not all watching the same TV shows, maybe our TikTok feeds don't all look the same, but in a lot of ways, advertising can be an equalizer because everybody sees it. There is a responsibility within the creative community to have accurate and thoughtful trans representation when appropriate.
"We're not all watching the same TV shows, maybe our TikTok feeds don't all look the same, but in a lot of ways, advertising can be an equalizer because everybody sees it."
For example, we had an amazing conversation two years ago at The One Club with MasterCard about their initiative to allow trans people who haven't legally changed their name to have their chosen name on their credit card. They brought people in from the trans community to work on this project. And that is the most important thing that can be done in any workplace– bring trans people into the discussion. Let trans people tell their stories. Listen. Make sure their representation is not gimmicky.
It's sad to see how much animosity there is towards the trans community, especially right now in the US, and of course, across the world. There is a big responsibility for advertising to continue to tell trans stories in a way that is authentic and meaningful.
Any last thoughts?
As a trans woman, I'm bringing my experience to everything I do. There was a study a few years ago by GLAAD that only 16% of Americans actually report knowing a trans person. And so if I can be that one trans person that somebody knows to put a face to this cause, to humanize the struggle, to help people come to a place of understanding, that is great. We can't necessarily understand each other and our exact experiences, but we can learn to empathize and have compassion for one another, and just make sure that everybody has the opportunity to live the life that they want to live.
"We can't necessarily understand each other and our exact experiences, but we can learn to empathize and have compassion for one another, and just make sure that everybody has the opportunity to live the life that they want to live."
To learn more about the transgender community, please check out these resources: