Okay, this video is going to get personal.
This is not a topic that I had intended to cover in the near term, but something happened that I believe is well worth addressing.
Today we are going to talk about Mr. Beast. Or more accurately, we are going to talk about the gender transition of Chris Tyson, the Mr. Beast sidekick.
Now, you’re forgiven if you have no idea who Mr. Beast is. I certainly wouldn’t either if it wasn’t for my partner’s seven-year-old sister who is obsessed with his YouTube antics.
Basically, there’s this YouTuber named Mr. Beast. Actually, his name is Jimmy Donaldson but Mr. Beast is his affirmed name.
I honestly haven’t seen much, but in what I’ve watched he appears a genuine and kind human. Many of his videos hold philanthropic themes and he’s most known for giving away tons of money as part of bombastic YouTube stunts. He uncoincidentally happens to be YouTube’s most subscribed creator.
Anyway, Mr. Beast has this childhood friend Chris Tyson, who frequently appears in his videos. In the summer of 2022, Tyson and his wife Katie separated and now, Chris announced that they have started Hormone Reassignment Therapy (this means Estrogen, the female hormone).
That’s what we know. That’s ALL that we know.
But of course, this week people have been flipping out over what this means for Chris, whether this is why he split up with his wife. And of course, whether or not this will have a negative effect on Mr. Beast’s platform (which Mr Beast says he is not concerned about).
Now, normally I would care very little about this sort of thing, except that some of the discourse has got me thinking. Here’s a particular tweet that caught my attention:
My thoughts on this are complicated, so let’s get started…
I’m not going to talk much about Chris because we don’t have any real info about their transition. The post I just read characterizes ‘suddenly coming out as trans’. Maybe that is what happened in Chris Tyson’s case. Maybe not. I have no idea.
But the post I just read might as well have been about me. See, I was 28 years old when my wife and I separated, and this occurred just before my own gender transition.
So let’s use me as a case study instead!
I think it’s easy to forget that when the current wave of adult transitioners were kids and teenagers, transition was about as marginalized as it could get.
For those who were alive in the 90s, you’ll likely remember the ‘man up’ culture that we subjected towards our boys.
I know it actually originates long before the 90s but I wasn’t alive then.
There were lots of problems with this regressive way of treating boy-to-be-men, and one inevitable consequence of teaching your son that dignity and pride is bestowed for ‘being a man’ is the implication that being drawn towards anything feminine is the opposite of dignified. And that’s where I have always been drawn.
As long as I can remember, and I’m talking very young, I had understood that I was male and that there were certain activities, behaviours, preferences and interests that I should not partake within. And these were also completely misaligned with my natural tendencies. When I went to the store to buy shoes with my parents, I would walk into the aisle and instantly be attracted to the pink and white pair that matched what Alisha or Jenna wore at school. But I also knew that they were girls’ shoes and that there was something wrong with me for even the wish to wear shoes like that. So, I would never tell my parents this.
After a quick glance, I would avoid even looking at them while I walked down the aisle and went to the boys section, where my mom or dad would have selected a mundane pair and asked if I liked them. I would just say ‘yes’ because that was the answer that got us out of the aisle fastest. And after all, the shoes they picked were fine, right? They functioned. My feet would stay dry.
I did this with everything. Learned to repress, and then hid what I couldn’t. And the consequence of this is that I never learned the basics of authenticity. Of expressing what I wanted, or of even honouring the concept of liking something. I was too young to understand the concept of being transgender yet, but the repression was already happening. And along with this came intense amounts of shame.
Throughout my teens and twenties, I was plagued with two mental health issues—the first was the gender dysphoria I knew I had but the second was the baggage of intense shame I internalized by NOT dealing with my dysphoria from childhood. That second one is such an important part and has huge implications on how my teenage years and adulthood played out. I think it’s easy for us to ignore the latter and focus only on the dysphoria.
When I was 14 years old, before even meeting my future wife, I made the decision that I was not going to transition. I knew I was beyond the age where puberty blockers would have prevented the masculinization of aspects of my body such as height, bone density, and my voice lowering, so my chances of passing as female were slim.
Nothing in the realm of hormones and surgeries were financially subsidized and I knew just how huge of an expense this would be throughout my late teens and twenties. There were no protections for transgender individuals in Canada—or anywhere else—in the early 2000s, so I had no protection to ensure I wasn’t discriminated against in jobs, housing etc.
But beyond all this, the biggest deterrent of them all—I would have had to face telling my Christian parents how I felt about my gender. I knew they would never support me in pursuing a transition, and I knew that doing so would devastate them and humiliate me. Gender positioning was so rigid back then and in many ways it still is. Even as a child I had deeply internalized that there was something horribly shameful about a man expressing any feminine tendencies.
So, at 14 I resolved that I was NOT going to transition. I would bury these feelings and just learn to be a man. And I met my wife-to-be the following year.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that my decision not to transition was coupled with a resolve to disavow happiness and fulfillment in my life. See, I knew clearly what I wanted, and I was actively choosing against it. I wasn’t dealing with any of these feelings, I was just repressing them.
I had told myself that it was better for me, my parents, my siblings, and my future wife if I didn’t transition, didn’t express these feelings, and just learned to fake the masculine behaviour and roles that I was supposed to embody.
I consciously chose to stop chasing love, happiness and fulfillment, and instead pursued what would make me look good. And strong. And powerful. And Manly. And none of it worked.
Have I mentioned that I made a truly awful husband?
I told my girlfriend and future wife how I felt about my sex when we were 18 years old. We had been dating for two years at the time. I had known how I felt for many years prior, but this was the early 2000s and gay marriage wasn’t even legal yet in Canada. Gender transition was beyond taboo, heavily stigmatized, and something that I had no idea how to approach with anyone.
I came out to my girlfriend in an email. I’ve still got a copy. I told her I had no intention of transitioning, which I didn’t, and we jointly ignored my identity issues for the following 10 years. We would awkwardly discuss it every few months. She would sometimes bring it up and ask if I still felt dysphoric. I would passively tell her that I did, remind her that this was always on my mind and deeply shaped how I perceived of myself and my reality. We would then drop the topic for another few months.
Aside from a few counsellors, therapists, and a single friend I told when I was 23, I discussed this with no one else.
To tie this back to where we started, I think it’s a little unfair to make comments about someone who transitions in adulthood as though they are transitioning only out of a selfish endeavor or accusing people of getting married under false pretenses. There’s a lot going on here and the regressive way we’ve handled masculinity, femininity and transgender matters for the past 100+ years has absolutely had an effect on way the lives of individuals like me have materialized.
But, I also think the commenter has an important point. My wife sought a husband who would love and cherish her, and I made an oath to my wife when I got married. I didn’t keep it. And that’s not something to just gloss over and act like it doesn’t matter.
Now, I should make it clear that my wife did not separate from me because of my transition. In fact, it was three months after she had moved out that I decided I was going to start the process of transitioning.
But as I’ve already discussed, my eventually transition came after I built a life for myself and entered into a marriage that I couldn’t make work. After years of me not delivering on the very reasonable expectations that she held towards her husband. And it was my unmanaged dysphoria and shame that finally, at 28 years old, caused my mental health and façade to collapse to the point that it took my marriage down along with it.
I hold responsibility here. I could have done better. And I willingly entered into a relational context that I couldn’t keep. My ex-wife and I didn’t have any children together, but I can appreciate that when children are brought into the mix these situations are even more complicated. And I do think it’s a problem when we act like someone’s coming out as trans should be unconditionally celebrated and everyone in their life should just be able to deal with it and move on.
It’s not that simple and there’s loss for others beyond the transitioning individual. It’s heartbreaking.
The take away I hope we can all get behind is that THIS is why we need to do a better job with how we handle gender dysphoria. This is why we need to do a better job of creating spaces where children are able to be themselves. This is why we need to prioritize mental health.
My transition is linked with a lot of pain for myself, my ex-wife, my family, and friends. And when I say my transition is linked, I don’t just mean the act of transitioning because many of the most painful moments actually occurred as fallout before my transition even begun.
There’s so much more I would like to say about how I think we can handle these things better, but I’m not going to get into them here because this ‘short’ video has become not so short. If you’re interested in following future videos on this topic then follow me on Twitter or YouTube to get ongoing video updates.