Main Content

Noah’s Journey: Life as an Asian-Canadian trans man

Chinese-Canadian Noah Yang has been documenting his female-to-male transition in the hopes of empowering others.

Noah Yang was scrolling through Instagram one day, when he decided to search the hashtag “transgender man”. This was 2018, when social media was becoming more diverse, as well as an increasingly popular medium for trans-identifying people to share their experiences.

Yang, who grew up in Vancouver, Canada, had been planning his own journey from female-to-male for some time. Looking through the myriad of profiles, Yang felt inspired. 

“It made me realise transitioning was a possibility that I could achieve,” recalls the 23-year old Chinese-Canadian, who identifies as a transgender male. “Seeing so many others do it on Instagram helped me chase the life, body and respect I wanted.”

However, Yang also noticed that he was a minority. “There were not many trans guys who were Asian on it at the time,” he says. “I wanted to share my journey, even if it helps just one other person out there.” 

In the fall of 2018, shortly before he began undergoing testosterone injections ahead of his transition, Yang launched his public Instagram account @QuinoahPowerSalad where he chronicles his life and shares useful information on the process. 

He has written about everything from dealing with gender dysphoria – a condition where one feels a mismatch between biological sex and pyschological gender identity – to gradually receiving his mother’s support. 

Here is Yang’s story, in his own words:  

“There wasn’t exactly an ‘aha’ moment in my life, where I was like, ‘Ooh, I am trans,’ or ‘I want to transition.’ It was a gradual process. I think that’s mainly because I was never educated on the possibilities of the gender spectrum. I didn’t have the words or role models to express how I was feeling.

Noah Yang, a trans man in Canada
Yang felt empowered after finding trans resources on social media.

“In 2018, I started openly identifying as a trans man. My friends were accepting and supportive. At the time, negative feedback came from my parents, especially my mom. She was born and raised in Beijing, and is more conservative and collectivistic. 

“She was not okay with me being trans. We fought a lot. But over time, we realised we still loved each other and needed to figure this out. I think it just boiled down to communication and time. 

“It took me a long time to start the process of my physical transition, because I wanted to have my family’s blessing. That process took about two to three years. 

“My mom wasn’t really saying, ‘You can’t do this.’ She knows I’m at an age where she can’t control my life. Her concerns were, one: are you sure you want to do this, because it can’t be reversed. And two, is it safe for your health? 

View this post on Instagram

This is my mother. She is beautiful, she is strong, and she is the backbone to my family. I can’t fathom how she juggles work, her own leisure activities, house bills, supporting my dad, taking care of grandma, and raising me right all at the same time. What you can see in this picture is a happy mother and son taking a selfie together. But what you can’t see is the things we have done and the things we have gone through to get to where we are. Coming out to my mom was in steps, just like coming out to the rest of the world: curious, bisexual, gay, and finally: trans and straight . . . Throughout my childhood my mother and I had a strong bond. Conversations flowed effortlessly and she was supportive when the time was right, and guiding, also when the time was right. We hit a bump in the road after I came out to her. It took us 6 years to get back on track. I am not afraid to admit that my mother was closed-minded in the first few years after coming out to her. Everything she did and said was out of her love for me, though often misguided during this period. Now, I am immensely proud to say that she is one of my biggest supporters in not just my transition, but my whole life. We fought nearly everyday for 3 years, then we went to therapy together. She found her own support group like I found mine, and we came together knowing things were going to be okay because of our unconditional love for each other. If you’re struggling with anything that is coming between you and your parent/caretaker/guardian, know that as long as that unconditional love is present, you will find a way back to each other. When I first came out, I thought I’d have to move out and cut ties. But the cliche is most definitely true – time and patience can heal wounds and I hope you find a way to believe in that. My inbox is always open if you want to talk 🙂 . . . . #trans #transman #transgender #ftm #lgbt #testosterone #transition #ftmfitness #selfmade #transmen #transmenofig #transmanofcolor #mother #mom #selfie #family #relationships #motivation #ftmfitness #transftm

A post shared by Noah – FTM (@quinoahpowersalad) on

“I told her there are health risks but they are low. I did a lot of research on hormone treatments and then relayed it to her. I’m really lucky because in my province, British Columbia, the Trans Care BC programme is government-funded. 

“So I went to see a doctor there who explained the process, what changes to expect, health concerns… And then I did my own research looking at academic science journals online. Another big portion of my research was anecdotal. There is not a lot of research done on this, so a big bulk of information came from other trans men’s experiences. 

“I started the transition process by taking a shot of testosterone each week. There are some changes that are permanent, like my voice dropping and hair growth. But other changes like fat redistribution and facial masculinisation are temporary. I’m just lucky to live in Canada where access to testosterone is such a simple process. 

View this post on Instagram

2 days ago I had a brief exchange with grandma as I was getting ready to go out. She started crying and told me she hasn’t been able to sleep properly because of my upcoming surgery. She was so worried and didn’t want me to go through with the operation. I started dealing with a kind of guilt that I was afraid to talk about or admit. I felt guilty for putting her (+ my parents) through this stress and for being unable to bring myself to cancel surgery to ease their worries.⁣ ⁣ Selfishness has quite the negative reputation but one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this past year is that there’s nothing wrong with putting yourself first. Nothing wrong with prioritizing your happiness. ⁣ ⁣ Today after dinner I sat her down and had a long conversation with her. It felt like a lot of her worries stemmed from having no idea what the methods of surgery are, possible complications, risks, results, what recovery looks like, etc. So I explained all these things to her and also showed her pictures. My parents were also there listening and helping me translate when I didn’t know the words. Grandma obviously still doesn’t want me to get surgery but she understands a bit better. She said she knows I’ve made my decision and that she’s going to pray for me for a speedy recovery.⁣ ⁣ If you know me, you know I never read and my vocab sucks. So the best way I can describe how I’ve been feeling as my surgery date comes closer is grateful. I just feel so grateful for my family. My surgery is in Victoria (I live in Vancouver) and they’re all coming with me. So is my girlfriend who asked for the day off from her practicum! I say this shit all the time but seriously I am so lucky to have this strong support system. Friends and family included. I still get messages every now and then from people that I don’t know so well wishing me luck or telling me they’re happy for me. It’s an indescribable feeling, really. Thank you for following me on this journey💙⁣ ⁣ #trans #transman #transgender #ftm #lgbt #testosterone #ftmfitness #selfmade #transmen #transisbeautiful #transmenofig #transmanofcolor #asianftm #thisiswhattranslookslike #ftmtransgender #oneofthem #topsurgery #lgbtq

A post shared by Noah – FTM (@quinoahpowersalad) on

“For my top surgery – male chest reconstruction, which involves the removal of breast tissue and masculinisation of my chest – planning took a bit of time. I had already put my family through a lot of stress, worry and pain. I was very aware of that, so I hesitated before booking the procedure.

“The surgery comes with some risks since it involves general anesthesia, which can cause potential health complications for some people. Once I registered for top surgery, the process was simple enough. Getting a surgeon, having a consultation, undergoing surgery, all the follow-ups… it’s all really well taken care of by the government. Recovery wasn’t that painful, but I have a high threshold for pain. 

“As for future procedures, like getting a hysterectomy to remove my uterus, I have a bit of time to decide. Typically people don’t get them until two or three years after they start their testosterone injections to take that step. 

“From what I know, even after getting top surgery, trans men still feel gender dysphoria because they know their female reproductive organs are still there, and sometimes you still menstruate despite hormone injection therapy. That’s a pretty big trigger for some guys. For me, I’ll decide based on whatever is the healthiest choice. 

“Being a trans man has made me notice how subtle sexism can be. There are big displays, of course, but also microaggressions. For example, when I go to see a healthcare professional about a sports-related injury, I find doctors take my complaints more seriously now that I am male-presenting than when I was female. 

Noah Yang
Yang, who is currently undergoing his gender affirmation journey from female to male.

It is what I identify as, but it’s only one aspect of me: I’m a physiotherapy student, rock climber, athlete, a person with goals and ambition. Being a trans man is just my gender identity.”

“I think it stems from sexism because of the stereotype that men are ‘tougher’ than women, so if they’re complaining about pain, they must really be in pain. It also goes the other way around – for example, my female friends will now say, ‘Oh, you won’t get it, because you’re a guy.’

“I’ve always been romantically interested in women. I remember wishing as a kid that I had been born as a guy. Everything would be easier, everything would make so much more sense. Sometimes with my girlfriend now, she’ll joke that I’m ‘such a guy,’ because she wants to affirm my gender.

“So far, I have not received many hateful messages. The positive messages and comments I receive are among the most rewarding experiences from having this blog. I get really nice messages from people, who are sometimes not even trans identifying – they’re just allies. It’s that kind of feedback that makes me feel like I can do this.

“In real life, I don’t typically talk about my trans identity when I meet people. It is what I identify as, but it’s only one aspect of me: I’m a physiotherapy student, rock climber, athlete, a person with goals and ambition. Being a trans man is just my gender identity.”