OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. -- 2015 is shaping up to be the biggest year of Jay Morgan's life. In late January, the 20-year-old made the decision to begin transitioning from female to male.
"When I was born, I was assigned a gender, and it's not what I am," explained Morgan. "Inside, I've always felt like I'm a guy, but I haven't been able to express that to people because it's such a taboo topic."
Jay was born "Jazmin." He recalls feeling a sense of confusion about his identity in many of his childhood memories. Early on, he found himself gravitating toward more masculine clothing and hobbies.
"I was always wanting to hang out with the guys, and play basketball or something like that," he explained. "I feel like I should have been given a male body from birth."
After years of trying to understand and accept his feelings, Morgan came out as a lesbian. Still, he said that label didn't truly fit who he was. Last May, he came out as transgender to family and friends. He asked them to call him Jay and begin using male pronouns like "him" and "his."
After undergoing counseling to confirm his decision, he began hormone therapy Jan 22. Morgan learned how to inject the testosterone shots by himself and quickly began to notice changes.
"I just get so excited. I'm growing a mustache now, and I have a lot of leg hair," he said, adding that his voice has also deepened. "My voice, before I started taking shots, was pretty like, high-pitched."
Morgan is hoping to be an advocate for the transgender community by sharing his story.
"You might be comfortable in your own body, but it doesn't mean everyone else is," he said. "You have to be respectful to people. Whether you agree with it or not, they want to be happy and there's nothing wrong with that."
Last month, former Olympic champion turned reality TV dad Bruce Jenner ignited a national conversation on what it means to be transgender. At age 65, he announced he will begin transitioning to become a woman.
It's hard to track how many transgender people are living in the U.S. The U.S. Census Bureau doesn't ask for the information, only giving "male" or "female" as the options for gender.
In West Michigan, Jason Kae-Smith, a certified sex therapist who specializes in gender therapy, is noticing an increase in people who are coming out as transgender.
"I think because of the publicity and the information that's available now, we're going to see people coming out younger and younger," he told FOX 17 News. "Gender is really a socially constructed sort of concept."
Kae-Smith defines transgender as "a term that refers to people who have some sort of experience with their gender identity that doesn't fit their physical body."
He wants to make clear that one's physical body, or sex, is just one aspect of their identity. Gender identity is a different component. Sexuality, or sexual orientation is also something completely separate from gender identity.
Kae-Smith, who has an office in Grand Rapids, said he has counseled patients on gender issues as young as elementary age to a few years past the toddler stage.
"We've come a longs ways, in that now it's recommended that people have therapy before they do any sort of physiological transitioning, but it's not set down as a guideline or a must anymore," he explained. "The advent of the internet and the information that's available there has made a huge difference...By the time anybody shows up in my office, they've already read tons of articles. They know, beyond any doubt, typically, where they're at, where they're headed, and where they want to go."
Kae-Smith will frequently provide referrals, when requested, approving a transgender client to begin the hormone therapy needed to transition.
Jay Morgan has undergone counseling and will be taking testosterone for the rest of his life. He is also hoping to get surgery next year to continue his transition journey.
Although the cost of testosterone shots may be partially covered by insurance, the surgery-- which is considered a cosmetic procedure-- is not. Morgan said it could cost him as much as $7,000.
He has set up a GoFundMe page to raise some of the funds needed.