Identical twins who both switched within two years of each other hope to use the unbreakable bond formed between them to encourage others to have frank conversations about gender issues.
Kasey and Shea Opilla, 20, from San Jose, California, who grew up as tomboys with the feeling that they did not belong & # 39 ;, were around 11 years old when they began the prospect of puberty continuing fear.
Although they did not openly discuss their feelings, their almost telepathic relationship meant that they knew they were fighting similar demons.
A class for sex education at school about growing breasts and starting their period confirmed how unhappy they felt in their female bodies.
The twins who were confused, partly because gender issues were less openly discussed at the time, did not initially realize that they were more transgender.
Kasey and Shea Opilla, 20, (photos left and right after their transitions) from San Jose, California, USA, who switched from woman to man, showed how they struggled with gender issues during puberty
The identical twins (depicted as Shea for his top operation) describe themselves as growing tomboys and told how they felt they didn't belong
Shea and Kasey (photos for the transition) came out as lesbians in 2013, partly out of confusion, because gender issues were not openly discussed
Kasey and Shea came out as lesbians in 2013, a decision supported by their family, with Kasey being the first, followed by Shea a few months later.
Kasey, who currently works in a restaurant but goes to college in the fall to study psychology, talked about the years before their transition.
He said: & # 39; Something was gone in me, the way I felt about who I was.
& # 39; Social things were difficult. I didn't feel like I belonged to the other girls at all, so I would lean towards boys, but didn't fit in with them either.
& # 39; Then I didn't know about being transgender, or even the word, but I knew I was different. & # 39;
After they came out as lesbians, the couple continued to live in emotional turmoil.
Looking for support, they had one-on-one therapy to discuss their gender issues, but neither of them knew that the other twins had it.
Eventually, after counseling, and watching YouTube videos & TV documentaries about people going through transitions, both twins concluded that they were transgender. Kasey and Shea trust each other in confidence before they tell anyone else.
Again, Kasey was the first to come out in 2015.
He said: & # 39; Deep inside I knew who I was, but I had no idea how to get there. I knew I was trans, but I had no idea how to say it out loud. Plus, where the differences between the two genders increase with age, I struggled more and more socially.
Kasey (pictured left with Shea after their transitions) who came to Shea as a transgender for the first time, says he did not know that one day his twins would also switch
& # 39; I had to talk to someone who was not in my immediate environment about what I was going through, so I decided to have counseling – a fact that I kept to myself.
& # 39; Finally I came out in 2015. Shea was the first one I told and I had the idea that one day he would come as a trans, but wasn't ready then. & # 39;
Shea & # 39; s support was an integral part of every step in the Kasey transition.
He said: & # 39; During our trip we made sure that we were both there for all those big moments, such as going out to the rest of the family.
& # 39; That is the moment when you need the most comfort and you are completely with you.
& # 39; As twins, you have never been alone in your entire life – and we certainly did not intend to let each other do the most difficult times on their own. & # 39;
A year after his coming-up, Kasey, who did not change his name, started his physical transition from woman to man. He started taking hormones and then went on with a top operation to remove his breasts.
He continued: & # 39; That was a real adjustment. Everyone is different, so you never know for sure how the hormones will affect you.
Kasey (pictured for his top surgery, with Shea) remembers that he often went wrong when he first started taking hormones
& # 39; You desperately want to see changes and see them tomorrow – but know they will take the time, so there were times when it all seemed too far away to be happy.
& # 39; When I started taking hormones for the first time, I still often became misleading and called a woman, which was very frustrating. When Shea wasn't there then, I didn't know anyone else who was trans at the time, so I felt like I was going through it alone.
& # 39; The only thing I regret is that I don't contact more people in the community, as that would have helped – to talk to people who understood. & # 39;
As the hormones started to work, Kasey & # 39; s voice deepened and his body changed into a more masculine form.
This prevented him from being misled and often meant that when he met new people, he no longer had to explain his past – which boosted his confidence.
Meanwhile, Shea studying kinesiology (the science of movement) at the university was also on the way to becoming a transgender.
Recalling the day when Kasey trusted his desire to transit, Shea said that now goes by his middle name, but does not want to reveal his name as a woman: & # 39; He had been depressed for so long, I was really happy that he was finally out and able to be themselves.
Shea (pictured with Kasey for transition) said it was strange not to be identical when Kasey came out as a transgender
& # 39; I thought he was incredibly brave and wanted to support him, but I knew that I had to think about how I would come out. & # 39;
The next two years, when Shea saw Kasey begin to change physically, he was also acclimatized, not least because they were not identical for the first time.
He continued: & # 39; Because we are always like & # 39; the twins had identified, in the two years that Kasey was transgender and I was not, it almost felt strange that we were no longer identical.
& # 39; When he came out, I remembered how incredibly brave he was – but there was also that hint of jealousy that he could be his true self, while I wasn't quite finished yet. & # 39;
Looking back to the fifth grade moment, the American equivalent of year 6, during sex education when he and Kasey both knew they felt trapped in the wrong bodies, Shea remembered his intense discomfort.
He said: & They divided the class into boys and girls so that we could each learn about our own body. When I sat there and heard everything, I didn't feel well.
& # 39; I realized that I didn't want all the changes associated with puberty, such as periods and breasts. It felt like it wouldn't happen to me. & # 39;
Shea (pictured on the right with Kasey after their transitions) admits he was worried about how his parents would react to his transition, knowing that fathers want to walk their daughters down the aisle and mothers want to see their daughter pregnant
Although it took him a little longer than Kasey, Shea was ready to come out as a transgender in 2017 – happy because he knew he would be leaving with his twins.
He said: & # 39; The first person I told was Kasey. We rode along and I just came out with it and then told him that I was going to tell our parents.
& # 39; There are no words to describe how wonderful it has been to endure this with the person closest to me in the world.
& # 39; He made sure that I chose a day wherever he would be for support. We are a close-knit family and everyone was supportive, but they naturally had questions and fears.
& # 39; Aside from Kasey, I have two other brothers, so then I felt like the last remaining daughter. I think parents can have these preconceived ideas about what their child's life will look like, depending on their gender – fathers want their daughters to walk down the aisle, mothers want to see them pregnant.
& # 39; I was afraid I would take that away from them, but my therapist had told them to go through a period of mourning. After all, they were losing a daughter – but having a son. & # 39;
Just like his brother, Shea soon started taking hormones, before he had undergone top surgery 18 months ago.
The twins (pictured together after the transition) are filled with pride when they look back on the courage needed to get out
Compared to Kasey's rather lonely experience, he had some friends who were also transferring and surrounded by others who knew exactly what he was going through.
He added: & # 39; Kasey had gone through a real stranger while I knew what was coming. I always have the feeling that he went ahead and paved the way.
& # 39; There have been times when he really felt alone, while he had made my own transition exercise smoother.
& # 39; Of course I was there for him, but since I wasn't out by then, I didn't know how he felt. However, when I went through it, I had some trans friends with whom I could talk and even joke about how much puberty sucks the second time around.
& # 39; In the period when Kasey passed and I didn't, it would have been strange not to be identical anymore. For the first time we looked and sounded differently.
& # 39; But when my hormones started to take effect, we would joke all the time about how we would become the same again. & # 39;
The brothers who say that their bond has been greatly strengthened by continuing their transition together, speak out to normalize conversations about transgender.
Because they feel mentally stronger than years, Kasey and Shea are filled with pride when they look back at the courage needed to get out.
Kasey (pictured right with Shea) believes there are misconceptions about gender issues that make the community feel unsafe
The twins hope to share their story, encouraging others in their situation to find a network of transgender people to talk to safely, and for families of those who are going to educate themselves and not be reluctant to ask questions .
Kasey said: & # 39; There are so many misconceptions about gender issues that the community feels unsafe and misunderstood.
& # 39; It's a combination of a lack of conversation and a lack of effort to understand, but if we talk more, we can normalize it and help people to be open.
& # 39; This was a real journey for my mental health. There were times when the isolation that I felt reminded me that I was that little kid that didn't quite belong, but since Shea came out, I couldn't have been happier.
& # 39; I never imagined this life for myself, and if I knew how it would end, I would go back and tell my younger self that everything will be alright. & # 39;
Shea, who spent a year with his girlfriend Savannah, also emphasized the importance of having his family on board during his transition.
He said: & # 39; A very essential part of healing for me was making sure my family understood exactly what I had felt. Talking openly and honestly has really lifted a burden.
Shea, who spent a year with his girlfriend Savannah (pictured together), says his experience has taught him about patience and resilience.
& # 39; So if someone is struggling with a family who doesn't understand, I'd say be patient and try to set a good example and answer questions. They can be frustrating, but they can really help someone understand what you have been through.
& # 39; At the transition there always seems to be a hoop to jump through, so this has taught me so much about patience and resilience.
& # 39; But now, with a future that I really want to see for myself, I can look back on the hardships and fears of the past and safely say that it has all been worth it. & # 39;
She praised Savannah for her support and continued: & # 39; She is really amazing and understanding, especially on days when dysphoria creeps back and I feel uncomfortable in my body.
& # 39; She is always willing to help me through that time and I believe that achieving that level of support and unconditional love has strengthened our relationship over the past year.
& # 39; For everyone who may be transgender and wonder if it is possible to get unconditional love from friends and family, and also for themselves, I want to say that it is absolutely true. & # 39;
The twin mother, Shannon, 49, added: As their mother, I am extremely proud of both Kasey and Shea because they are true to themselves. They are wonderful people. Both are smart, fun to be with and the most important thing is that they are kind and caring. & # 39;
The twin mother, Shannon, says she is exceptionally proud of them (pictured before the transition) to be true to herself
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