Personal Story

Feature Issue on Sexuality and Gender Identity for People with Intellectual, Developmental, and Other Disabilities

Never Too Late


Matthew Maclean (he/him) is featured in a new video series for the New York Office for People with Developmental Disabilities that was created by Elevatus Training, with the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State and the Institute on Community Integration. This story is adapted from his work on the series and from his other writing. He lives in Buffalo, New York.

A transgender man wearing a bandana on his head, glasses, and a white t-shirt with a design that says, "We Stand Together."

Author Matthew Maclean.

When I was 8 years old, I wanted to be a Black boy. I learned you can’t change your race, but for many years I didn’t realize that you can change your gender. For the next 30 years, I lived as a female, but did not feel like a female. I was a tomboy.

Once I started going around the country through my self-advocacy work, I came back to Buffalo and discovered the pride community. For a while I felt like an ally, but then I came across the term cisgender on Facebook and started talking with someone who is a transgender female. I realized through that conversation that I am a transgender male, and I started going by Matthew that night. A week later, I went to a health center where a lot of people in the LGBTQ+ community get services and began testosterone. In early 2021, I had surgery to remove my reproductive organs. Then, in June of 2022, I realized I am gay and started getting on the dating apps. Today, I belong to a couple of LGBTQ+ advocacy and affinity groups.

At first my parents didn’t like it, but they have accepted it and my extended family has been very supportive. My mom supported me when I began testosterone treatments in 2020. That was during the COVID-19 pandemic, so I wasn’t able to have a direct support professional come to me or take me to appointments, though the agency was supportive over the phone and immediately started using my new name.

During that time, we had self-advocacy meetings statewide on Zoom. One day I was asked to share my story. There were a lot of questions about how I changed my gender. I’ve learned many people with autism, like me, are trans, and I’m worried about all the anti-trans laws that are happening all over the country.

Fortunately, the DSPs I work with today are very supportive and accepting. I’ve found I can talk about anything with them, even about my ever-changing transition. This is more important than ever, because my mother, sadly, is now ill. I know that in the future, if I have more surgery or other needs, my DSP and my disability associations will be there. The only advice I would give people is to talk with other transgender people in your community and staff members, and to keep on exploring if you are questioning your sexuality and/or gender identity. It’s never too late.

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