Becoming Zayn: Trans man's journey from coming out to fatherhood

FRESNO, Calif. -- Zayn Anthony wrestled with his identity at just five years old.

"While I was a child, I lived with a cousin who is male, and we would play outside with the kids across the street," Anthony said. "I just remember thinking, 'I want to be them. I want to wear a hat and have short hair. I want to play sports, football, I want to do everything that girls can't do because it's not culturally accepted.' That was a little bit of a struggle because I couldn't fully do and be who I wanted during my childhood years."

It wasn't until Anthony was an adult and learned about transitioning during a drag show.

"I met a transgender person there who I didn't know was transgender, and they were sharing their story with somebody else. And I was like, 'Hey, how'd you do that? I want to do that,'" he said.

The Human Rights Campaign defines a transgender person as someone whose sex assigned at birth is different from who they know they are on the inside. It includes people who have medically transitioned to align their internal knowledge of their gender with their physical presentation. But it also includes those who have not or will not medically transition as well as non-binary or gender-expansive people who do not exclusively identify as male or female.

Anthony said he came out to his loved ones in 2013 with his chosen name and preferred gender.

"I love the fact that I can just walk out in public and not feel gender dysphoria. That's the freedom that I feel daily ... Once you do, it is so blissful, and you feel a huge sense of freedom. A lot is just off your chest, no pun intended," he said.

Anthony wears many hats. He's a dog groomer, a barber, a fiancé, a drag king and the chair of the nonprofit Trans-E-Motion.

He's also the parent to twins Giulianna and Zayn Jr.

"I knew that I wanted biological children, I just knew that I didn't want to birth them. I wanted to be the father, not the mother. And I was married at the time, so my ex-wife was the surrogate to my biological children. So I was the egg donor," Anthony said.

He said his son Zayn Jr. expresses himself femininely but does not necessarily identify as a girl. Zayn Jr. will ask to put on makeup or wear a dress, and Anthony said this makes him "so happy."

"I've asked him about what pronouns he would want to be called, and he would just smack his lips at me and be like, 'I'm just Zayn'... I don't necessarily want to label him, but I'm finding out more about the nonbinary term meaning. It opened my eyes because when I transitioned, it was more binary, it was like male or female," he said.

Anthony was raised by his grandparents in a Spanish-speaking household and remembers watching telenovelas with the family.

"There was one specific show called 'Christina' ... And there was either a gay couple, lesbian, or transgender, or some type of LGBT couple. My grandma would be making comments either out loud at me or at the TV knowing nothing about how I felt, just that it was wrong. It was ugly. It was gross," Anthony said.

When asked what it took for her to accept him for who is meant to be, she said God helped her.

"My advice for parents is to accept them as they are," Antonia Guajardo said. "If they are a woman, they are a woman. If they are a man, they are a man. If they are a grandson or granddaughter, it's the same. Accept them and love them more."

This Pride Month, we're celebrating members of the transgender community as a part of a special series called Our America: Who I'm Meant to Be. Click here for more stories from your city and around the country.
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