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I'm transgender and my twin is not. After my transition, we still feel like identical twins.

Kelly Burch   

I'm transgender and my twin is not. After my transition, we still feel like identical twins.
  • Jubilee Alexander was assigned male at birth and transitioned in 2019.
  • Despite the two having different genders, she still feels identical to her twin.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Jubilee Alexander. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

My identical twin brother, two sisters, and I were homeschooled and raised in a religious household in Indiana, Idaho, and later Washington. Our parents had a specific idea of what masculinity was and wasn't.

My twin, Eric, and I were scrawny, nerdy kids. We felt we weren't living up to the messaging we were receiving, so we tried to bulk up to look more like the expectations for boys and men. That didn't work. We also heard all the time that men couldn't be feminine because it supposedly meant you were gay, but we knew we were attracted to girls and received attention from them, though neither of us dated much until college.

Luckily, for every way I "failed" to meet the patriarchal ideals that I was raised with, I had another person there with me. Eric and I went through it all together, and we knew we were doing all right.

After college, I lived abroad in Japan, where I started distancing myself from my religion. When I returned to the US, I lived in Chicago, where I found a much-more diverse crowd than I'd been raised with.

One day, I met a trans man and commented how he had bigger muscles than I did. A friend pointed out that it wasn't unusual — most people were more jacked than I was. That's when I realized I had some internalized ideas about gender that I had to unpack.

First I was an ally. Then I realized I was more.

When I started following a lot of trans people on social media and learning more about gender, I thought I was just becoming a good ally to LGBTQ+ communities. Then I realized, "Uh oh, this is something more." These days, I joke that if someone suddenly becomes a very outspoken ally, I plan to check in on them in a year or so.

Other trans people also played a big role in my gender journey. I listened to a podcast with the artist Vivek Shraya in which she was talking about her gender identity. She said you didn't have to know with 100% certainty how you identified to know that you're not — and maybe never were — cisgender. Then I watched a video in which a YouTuber, Natalie Wynn, talked about how she lived for decades as a cis man until she realized that wasn't working for her anymore.

That's when it hit me. I realized that though I had never felt strongly that something was wrong in my gender identity, I wasn't entirely sure how I identified by my late 20s — but I knew I wasn't a cis man. After a lot of reflecting and talking to people in my community, I decided that transitioning was right for me. I started taking female hormones at 31.

Despite these changes, Eric and I are still identical

Transitioning at an older age saved me a lot of trauma. I wasn't living with unsupportive parents. At the time, I was surrounded by loving friends and my partner. Because most of my transition happened during the pandemic, it was behind closed doors, which gave me time to process what I was going through away from judgment.

I came out to all my siblings at the same time. My two sisters were slightly surprised, but Eric wasn't shocked at all. He pointed out that I'd been posting memes about deconstructing gender for months. He said that he had seen this coming, and he was supportive. However, my mom and grandmother are still trying to accept my gender identity, and my dad doesn't make much effort. My family slips up sometimes and will call me and Eric "the boys." I understand, though — I make those mistakes myself sometimes.

Growing up, Eric and I always tried to be different from each other. Now we joke that I took being different so far that I transitioned my entire gender; I also sometimes say on TikTok that Eric and I are identical — even if we may not appear that way to others anymore.

There are a lot of factors that contribute to something as complex as gender identity, and transitioning ended up being right for me. It doesn't change what the two of us share. But I wanted to make sure he knew that if one day, he decided to transition, I would support him, too. Being trans isn't something that's just for me. I told him that, and Eric said he'd spent some time thinking about his own gender identity after I came out. He knew he was firmly cis.

Today, I use "she/they" pronouns, and my brother uses "he/him." Eric's a dad, while I'm Auntie Jubilee. He has a beard, and I wear dresses. But we still have our identical voices (even we can't tell them apart), our unbreakable bond, and the unique experience of having an identical twin that doesn't share the other's gender.