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Living in a secluded cabin in Northern California while working at a winery and vegetable farm, Tori Vancil found a community of transgender men on Instagram whom he previously didn’t know existed. Watching their transitions is what gave Vancil the courage and motivation to be honest with himself. A little over a year ago at the age of 27, Vancil found the right time, right place and right community in which to come out as a trans man. Today, he lives in Madison with his wife Claire.
Vancil has been documenting his ongoing transition on Instagram (@go.all.ways) in the hope that it will help at least one trans person in the same way others helped him. Here is an edited Q&A with Vancil.
Why is it important to you to be visible as a trans man?
There are probably so many answers to that question, but for me personally it’s important to be visible and to be transparent about my journey because if it weren’t for the other trans men in the community who were highly visible and transparent and sharing the stories, I don’t know if I would even be where I am now. One thing I’d like to add is, this is my experience as a white trans man who passes. Everyone’s trans experience is different and valid and important. Individuals can be as visible or as invisible in their “transness” as they feel comfortable. I have the privilege of choosing to be visible and transparent as a young, white trans man, and not every trans person is in a safe place to be able to do that.
What are some of your biggest struggles?
Well, the health care system is terrifying. I currently don’t have health insurance, but it’s actually cheaper for me to pay out of pocket to visit with my doctor and get my supplies. So that’s annoying and hard. Everyone basically struggles with the health care system. And what if I had to change doctors? What if I had to go and meet this new person and I have to re-explain myself? Those are things I worry about. The new doctor won’t know me and my situation. Those are things I probably think about too often.
Can you describe what it’s like to transition?
It’s probably the most exciting thing I’ve ever done. It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done. It’s like waking up, getting out of bed and knowing that every day I’m doing everything that I can to be honest to myself, true to myself and, in turn, honest to my community. I don’t want to say it feels easy because it’s not. It’s like there was this missing link and it’s not that I’ve found it, but everything is starting to become more clear and every day I’m getting closer. That is motivating and encouraging and it makes everything else in my life feel a little less daunting.
How is your transition going?
Most days are really, really good. But then there is what we call in the trans community dysphoria — specifically body dysphoria — where I kind of look down and see something that doesn’t really feel like my own. So one month, my community threw a huge fundraiser party so I can see a surgeon to have top surgery, which would be chest reconstructive surgery. This won’t heal the dysphoria completely, but it will definitely help. This fundraiser was overwhelmingly successful. I am so proud and amazed by the community that exists here in Madison. Just how incredibly willing and ready they were to help when I raised my hand and said, “I need help.” We threw a party, my friends came and the Madison band Gender Confetti performed. I had a raffle with over a hundred prizes to win. We threw it at The Winnebago and the community raised $5,000 in one night, which is like the majority of the cost of the surgery. There’s community. It’s incredible.
Mackenzie Krumme is a Madison writer and a former intern at Madison Magazine.
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