Fifteen years. That seems like a long time ago as I write this, but truthfully it has gone by in the proverbial blink of an eye. It was just about this time of year fifteen years ago that my transgender journey “officially” started as I began hormone treatment and I stepped off into the great unknown.
The journey up to that time had been a long one. Like realizing at 5 years old that inside I was not the little boy that everyone saw, but this little girl I knew myself to be. The many, many years I kept his knowledge to myself because of the fear of sharing exactly who I was. All the energy I spent hiding my true self as I got older and running away from who I truly was. The hell that my life became and the overwhelming anxiety and fear that paralyzed me, because it was just too much to think about.
When I got to those points in my life, when the journey became too much, deep depression would overwhelm me, and it was at these depths that I spent so many days. What could I do? I could move forward and find the way to transition or I could end it all. It was as simple as that. Luckily for me, the little voice from deep inside would say quietly, but with conviction, “You know ending your life is not the way to go, you have so much more to do”. I desperately wanted to believe that voice. So move forward I did, maybe inches at time, but forward none the less.
Fifteen years ago, I found myself sitting in the Endocrinology Clinic at Duke University Medical Center ready to receive my first prescriptions for the wonder drugs that would finally bring my outer self into alignment with my inner self. It was a day full of feelings that would swing from exhilaration to being scared to death, but I knew, so deeply knew, that this was what I had to do to become whole. And yes, I did step off into the great unknown and have never looked back.
And here I find myself after all this time, and the journey continues. If there is one thing that I know now it is that transgender people have been given a very special journey during their lifetime. A journey filled with changing the world and how people see it, and helping to get rid of those tiny little boxes everyone wants to put people into, especially when it comes to gender. We have broken through those limitations, and it is our responsibility to share with the world who we are, that yes, we are people just like everyone else, and this is our path.
This journey has been incredibly hard, and I think the vast majority of transgender people would agree with that statement. It sounds so obvious to say, but changing your gender does affect every single last molecule of your life, and, as you can imagine, with a change of this magnitude, trauma and damage results. To get through this very necessary journey unscathed would be a miracle.
I know for myself the trauma and damage comes from all of those years thinking that there was something so wrong with me, and who would understand, want or even love me. But as I keep working through this trauma and damage, I am constantly reminded that through all this pain, growth can come, and that is how I have tried to live my life. It is still very hard work at times, but what better way to honor this journey than to take all this hurt and pain and bring it to a higher purpose. It is something I devote my life to every day.
As part of searching for that higher purpose, I made the decision to move to Portland almost three years ago. When I started looking for work, all I knew was that I wanted a job that made a difference in the world, and it happened. I got a job at Q Center, and my life was forever changed in the most beautiful of ways. For the first time in my life, I could take my transgender journey and help others as they traveled this path. What has this journey at Q Center brought me? Well, the blessings of helping, along with the rest of our staff, the incredible number of transgender people who come through Q Center’s doors or contact us by phone or email every year. Whether it is a trans person who just came out that day and their friend told them to go to Q Center for help, the families who have reached out to us because their child is transgender and they need help in trying to understand and navigate this, the transgender people who request resources like the name of a trans friendly doctor or info about the transgender support groups that meet at Q Center, to the heartbreaking calls and visits we receive from trans people who have just lost family, friends, housing, or a job because they just came out, don’t know what to do and desperately need help. That is the work we do at Q Center, and I am very fortunate that my journey has led me here.
Now that I sit here after all this time, do I consider myself blessed that my path has been this wonderful transgender journey with all the joy and pain? Damn right I do! And I can’t wait to see where the journey leads from here.