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This Is Ripley

Ripley Tamborello reflects on her gender-affirming transition journey.

Ripley Tamborello (courtesy)

On March 28, 2023, Ripley Tamborello publicly introduced herself to her social-media followers, and to the world, as a proud transgender woman. Aware that she has indeed been trans her entire life, today Tamborello finds herself in the early stages of her public transition journey. Crediting Planned Parenthood, her family, and her former life as a cis man for her survival, Tamborello is finally stepping into her womanhood and loving every moment.

“There’s no set way to transition, which was one of the things that helped me accept that I was trans,” Tamborello explains. “I watched psychologists on YouTube who talked about what it means to be trans. I was at a crossroads in my life where I knew what a trans person was, but I had never accepted that I was trans myself.”

Tamborello didn’t have the vocabulary to identify her trans identity before some new alternatives to her old depression medications opened her mind to a new awareness. “I struggled with depression my whole life. I have gone through every antidepressant there is, and nothing has ever worked for me,” she admits. “I had been reading more and more studies about how ketamine and psilocybin were helping people with long forms of depression who had never [found anything else] that helped. I sought out those forms of plant medicine and was able to accept deep truths that I had never brought to the forefront of my mind before.”

Since her childhood days, the farmer and beekeeper had developed coping skills to subconsciously suppress her trans identity. “Growing up, my mom would say things like, ‘Don’t be a girl’ and ‘Don’t be a sissy,’ Tamborello recalls. “Anytime I would show any emotions, she would say, ‘Stop crying.’ I learned throughout my life to just compartmentalize those parts of myself. I did it so well that I tucked away who I really was deep inside to protect myself.”

“The physical effects are great, but the mental benefits overshadow everything.” — Ripley Tamborello

Ultimately, with help from online message boards and other resources, Tamborello decided to reclaim her life. “I’m in my 30s and I thought, ‘Who am I living for?’ There came a moment of clarity where I questioned why I wasn’t living an authentic life,” she says. “Now that I have accepted this deep truth, this calm has entered my life. The last four months have been incredible. I was reading about what it was like to transition and learned that a lot of people stop experiencing depression a couple of months into gender-affirming hormone therapy. I’ve been struggling with depression—even wanting to die at times—for so long. The moment I realized who I truly am and that I was living my life for the wrong person, my depression literally just melted away.”

The mental-health benefits of seeking gender-affirming care have proven to be undeniably more important than the physical changes she’s experiencing. “My hips are getting wider. My skin is like, oh my God, it’s so soft these days! Getting into bed, I understand why women want to shave their whole bodies. When you shave and you slide into bed at night, it is absolute bliss. I’m developing breasts slowly, but they’re definitely there,” she says. “The physical effects are great, but the mental benefits overshadow everything.”

Tamborello describes the process of seeking gender-affirming hormone therapy at Planned Parenthood as “one of the easiest processes I’ve ever been through,” adding that the organization was a lifesaver. Tired of seeing her deadname on social media, Tamborello came out via her Instagram post in March. “I was ready to tell people, ‘This is who I am. If you have a problem with it, you don’t need to be in my life anyways. I’m going to need people in my life who uplift me, understand me, and love me for who I am, down at my core.’”

Tamborello’s new first name was inspired by Alien’s Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver.

She made a point to come out to her mother before hitting the Instagram Share button. The results were hilariously surprising. “My mom was so supportive! I didn’t think she was going to be. I was crying before I called her, but when I told her I was trans, she was like, ‘Well, I figured you probably were.’ And I was like, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?!’”

Honoring herself with the name Ripley (an homage to Sigourney Weaver’s character in the film Alien that was originally written for a male actor), Tamborello is grateful for her past life, but looks ahead with wide-eyed optimism. “This is who I am inside, not that person that I was,” she emphasizes. “I’m really, really grateful for the person I was, because he kept me alive up to this point, but I’ve got the journey from here. He and I had a good time together, but it’s time for Ripley to take over. And I think she’s going to be much better at navigating life.”

Follow Ripley Tamborello on Instagram @ripleytamborello.

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Zachary McKenzie

Zachary McKenzie is a marketing professional and freelance writer in Houston, TX. He received his bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin in 2014 and has lived in Houston since. Zachary is a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and enjoys spending his free time with friends, exploring the richness and diversity of Houston.
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