My Transition Story: From Special Forces Soldier To Real Woman


ALANA MCLAUGHLIN: I joined the military initially because I felt like it was my only option
to either force myself into manhood somehow or die. ALANA MCLAUGHLIN: I wouldn’t say that I felt like I was in the wrong body as much
as I was in the wrong role. Gender boils down to a lot more than just your physical form. COMM: Until recently, Alana was known as Ryan. ALANA MCLAUGHLIN: I joined United States Army Special Forces. My job was still a combat
role. I was a shooter first. I fought, you know, like I did all the things you’re supposed
to do. I lifted weights, I grew a beard, I rode a Harley. It didn’t change anything,
you know, I was still crying myself to sleep at night. You might notice in pretty much
all of these pictures you will not see a smile anywhere, I just really wasn’t a very happy
person at the time. I mean I was very conscious that I was playing a part that wasn’t really
me. I felt forced into something. ALANA MCLAUGHLIN: I sort of constructed this false personality that was just a combination
of action heroes that I could think of as very much the stoic, violent male archetype.
I don’t really see myself, I see almost like an empty suit of armour, I was trying
very hard to meet the expectations that society and my family put on me. COMM: Alana had a troubled childhood. She knew from a young age that she identified
as female. She was also victim of sexual abuse. ALANA MCLAUGHLIN: I had two prayers growing up. One was that, my rapist would stop and
the other one was that god would either change my body and make me a girl or, change my mind
where I wouldn’t want to be. And neither one of those prayers was ever answered. So
I kinda, I lost my faith at a very early age. I told my parents that I was gay and that
I felt like I was a girl and I wanted to be a girl. They think that the reason I’m transgender
is that I was sexually abused as a child. Sexual abuse does not change your sexuality,
it doesn’t change your gender. So when I first told my parents this, my dad didn’t
talk to me for like a week or two weeks. They would not accept me as their daughter, I would
only ever be their son and even as their son I was a massive disappointment. COMM: Leaving the army in 2010, Alana made her first attempt to transition with devastating
consequences. ALANA MCLAUGHLIN: I had been on hormones long enough that I had some breast development,
but then of course I gave up on transition and felt like I could never do it, it was
never gonna work, I would only ever be a joke. And I went back to lifting weights and everything.
And I didn’t wanna be a man with boobs. I went to the bathroom in the mirror and removed
what breast tissue I had. I used, you know, number 10 blade scalpel. I would say that
was a pretty self-destructive thing to do. SOFIA STANDFORD: I can relate quite well to what Alana’s been through, myself being
a trans-woman and having similar experiences and difficulties throughout the process to
transition, and dealing with how society and life generally treat us, and the roadblocks
that we face while encountering that. COMM: With the support of close friends, Alana finally felt confident enough to have surgery. ALANA MCLAUGHLIN: Very recently, in the past two months, had all of the surgeries I ever
wanted basically, I’ve had a breast augmentation, I’ve had vaginal plasty or sex reassignment
surgery. Basically my outie has been made an innie. I also had facial feminisation surgery. ALANA MCLAUGHLIN: I’ve had a lot of things changed since I’ve transitioned, The way
people interact with me, especially men. And it’s funny, I would get in conversations
with people about military matters and they’ll try to tell me that I don’t know what I’m
talking about. SOFIA STANDFORD: You can start to see a different confidence and comfort in oneself, being that
you know longer are looking or dealing with surgical healing, but actually a settled state
of being! ALANA MCLAUGHLIN: I’m actually my own person now, I don’t feel like I’m faking anymore.
I don’t have to put on this, this façade and I actually get to be a real person now,
and so life is a lot better. I really got into metal work because to me it was almost
just sort of magic to take something cold and lifeless like a lump of iron and with
the proper catalyst, in this case fire, you make it into something beautiful and delicate,
but strong at the same time. And to me that was very much an apt metaphor for my own life
and my own transformation, I guess, was, you know, this element of change and to make something
beautiful.

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