I had fellow brothers nearby who helped me tremendously…so to find out that some people didn’t have that connection was heartbreaking.

Traveling …has reinforced that there is no one way to be.

KNKX, public radio, recently featured Malcolm’s story of traveling the U.S. as a transgender man and community builder. You can listen to his interview here: http://knkx.org/post/transgender-traveler-builds-brotherhood

For months, I had planned to move to Hawaii to be with my close friend and love interest. During this time, I saved every penny I could while juggling evening shifts as a part time driver after my day job as a packaging designer at a travel accessory and bag company. Finally, my entire apartment was boxed up, my furniture was sold…and then our relationship, as it was, came to an end. And with it my plans to move fell through as well.

I’ve always believed that things happen for a reason. So, with everything I owned packed in my car, I decided I would still take the road trip I had been planning to fill the gap between my lease ending and my move.

I didn’t know where I was going, but I felt a calling to explore. So I reached out to people I followed on Instagram and started making a list of those who agreed to meet with me. I started my journey to the East Coast.

It was during this time that I met a transgender man in Massachusetts. While we were hanging out, he mentioned that this was the first time he had ever met another trans man. I was shocked. Beginning my transition in Chicago, I had fellow brothers nearby who helped me tremendously. They have been there to support me and celebrate with me, quickly becoming close friends and “framily”. I thought that was the norm, so to find out that some people didn’t have that connection was heartbreaking.

I was even more surprised when I met another person half an hour away who was also transgender. All this time, these two transgender men had lived near each other and never knew the other existed. That’s when it clicked.

From there on, I continued meeting with individuals and connected them with others by exchanging personal information, and eventually started having group meetings for them to meet and connect with one another in person. It has now been a year and a half, and I have met and helped connect others in 48 of our 50 United States. So far I’ve had countless meetings – big and small – with over 1,000 trans men in towns and cities across the country.

It’s been an amazing experience where I have gotten to meet locals, explore some of their hometowns and see what their day to day lives are like. By learning about others, I’ve been able to open up and learn more about myself and my own transition in the process.

When I first came out as transgender, I thought that for society to accept me as male, I needed to reject and suppress everything in me that was feminine. I was so worried that these qualities would threaten my identity as a man. Traveling and meeting so many other individuals with similar experiences, yet with varying identities and unique narratives, has reinforced that there is no one way to be. I now feel more centered and confident in knowing that nothing we like, how we dress, act, feel, present and express ourselves can take away from our identities and who we are. I have learned that these qualities actually strengthen our individuality, and now understand that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to transition, express ourselves and our gender(s), or to simply be.