‘I can rock a baritone’: Transitioning helped Lucy Suarez reinvent herself and flout expectations

Photo courtesy of Lucy Suarez; illustration by Jordan Sellergren

When Lucy Suarez decided to transition, the metalhead musician made the call to keep her voice as it was.

“Obviously I still kept the low voice,” she said. “I can rock a baritone. … I know where [my voice] naturally resonates and I stick to it.”

She studied composition at the University of Northern Iowa, and she can play guitar, bass, saxophone, trombone, a “little bit of percussion and a little bit of piano,” in addition to being a vocalist. She’s made her own music independently, played in a Christian band (“when I was still Catholic,” she says) and a bar band. But recently, she decided that what she really wanted to pursue is video game design.

“I got fed up with settling for what was expected of me,” she said of the radical-seeming switch to a discipline that she has always been intrigued by, but never felt confident enough to attempt.

“I got paid $1,000 to write a piece for my high school concert band,” Suarez explained. “This happened about a year ago, because it was supposed to be kind of a tribute to all those who suffered during COVID, during quarantine. … I decided to use that money to purchase computer parts to learn how to build my own computer, and then I downloaded everything I could that would help me learn programming.”

It’s all part of a drastic reinvention of self, spurred, she says, by her transition.

“My entire transition has been about redefining my authenticity, in so many more ways than just, ‘am I a woman?’ It has prompted me to reexamine how I view relationships, how I view hobbies, how I view work, how I interact with the general public, how I interact with pets — everything. Because a lot of me pre-transition was what others expected, or what I believed others expected.”

She was particularly worried about the impact the knowledge would have on her father. Her only siblings are sisters, and she’d always taken after her father growing up.

“I wanted to make sure he understood that he wasn’t losing a son, but he also wasn’t quite gaining a daughter, because it was still me.”

“We went out to Buffalo Wild Wings and had that conversation,” she recalls. “‘Hey, Dad. Um, I know you don’t really like labels’ (he grew up in the ’80s and so he just has a thing against it; ‘Why does everything have to be labeled?’). So I was like, ‘I know you’re not really a big fan of labels, but labels help me talk about what I’m going through. So here’s what it is.’ I just kinda laid it out for him. And at the end of the entire thing, he just kinda paused for a moment, then he just took my hand, looked me in the eye and said, ‘I just want you to be happy.’”

Suarez acknowledges that she is “one of the lucky ones” in terms of her family’s reaction.

“While it took a little bit of prompting, and they still mess up pronouns and such, occasionally, my entire family has really taken to it very well. I have one estranged aunt who has decided that I made a mistake. I don’t talk to her much, and I don’t honestly care that she exists.”

The final decision to pursue transition came after Suarez’s partner dressed her in drag one night. “I was crying,” she said, “because I felt like I was seeing the woman I knew on the inside.”

“I was in therapy for damn near half a year before [transitioning] was even considered. I wanted to make sure that I did it as close to the smart way as possible. Because there is no right way to transition. But there is a smart way (or a few).”

Now that she is out, she finds gender euphoria simply in socializing as a woman: hanging out with women, being treated “like one of the other women.” She never felt comfortable around men, she said, but didn’t understand why until she transitioned. And she loves when she’s correctly gendered in public without having to “do anything” — “It’s kind of annoying being a trans person who also believes that bras are lies and makeup is useless!” she says with a laugh.

Ultimately, she finds that satisfaction hinges on who you surround yourself with — the network of support you build around yourself.

“The more time, compassion, patience and effort you put into surrounding yourself with highly qualified professionals and highly supportive, compassionate people, the better off your transition will be in the long run,” Suarez said. “The more you learn to let go of toxic preconceptions, such as (I hate to say this) the idea that if someone is your family, it means they’re always right … You have to let go of the preconception that family is the strongest bond. Chosen family is the strongest bond.”

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 303.