As a woman of transgender experience, I remember a time in my life when hiding was a detrimental part of my entire existence, or as I thought at the time. I thought my world would fall apart if anyone ever knew the truth of the secret I carried, the true soul that hid in the shadows beyond the exposure of daylight. It's a hard and soul-deadening existence to live in shadows, in secrecy, a dejected truth behind a mask, alone in the world, known and most importantly, loved, by no one, because no one can love you, if they don't even know you. It's a reality that slowly kills a soul's hope, joy, and faith. I've lived with severe depression and social anxiety for as long as I can remember, I've been suicidal for most of my life, because living in the shadows is hard, and difficult to learn who you are from a place of isolation.
I grew up feeling jaded, broken, and hollow inside, but as I grew, that emptiness turned into rage, an anger that burned constantly within me, a fury born of a longing to be free. No relationship was left untouched, but I'll admit, my mother absorbed the bulk of my indignation, and we never had a good relationship. My wrath caused me to hate school and everyone in it, because they had something I could never have, the freedom to be themselves. My grades suffered, I got into fights at school, and friends or any kind of social life was a rarity. Living like this was a misery you can't imagine.
I sought out peace wherever I could find it, from wearing girls clothes at night, to drinking alcohol, to smoking marijuana, to having anonymous sex with men who were strangers. I tried going to church, dated beautiful women, and married my soulmate, but nothing had the power to make this thing that I did not want to be, go away. We had children together and a loving relationship, we owned our house and land, had decent jobs, and family that loved us, our marriage was like a fairytale, and yet I could not chase away the misery or fill the emptiness inside.
In 2014 I felt like I was finally at the end of my road, I had become suicidal enough to begin making plans, the deadness was all over my face all the time, I just could no longer hide it. Then a friend talked me into trying therapy, a decision that changed my life, and saved it. But getting the help that would save my life would come with a cost, and the price was all. When I decided that living in my truth was a life or death necessity, my entire family disowned me, and months later, my wife and kids left as well. It would be years before we would speak again.
Though life has continued to have its ups and downs as life does, since living in my truth, I have never been so completely happy in all my life. I have never felt so free. I feel hope and joy like I never knew before. Rather than hating who I am, I feel content in my own skin, I love who I am as a person, and this frees up my heart to more freely and truly love others. You can not tell me that this is not real, you can not tell me that this is wrong. I know who I am now, and what I need to be happy, but the road to where I am now was a painful journey that did not have to be, but for social and structural ignorance and hate.
Life has gotten a little easier in the "maturing" days of my adulthood, but today young people of transgender experience are under all out assault by our republican elected officials who are pushing bills to require teachers to "out" their transgender students to their parents, refusing them access to bathrooms or locker rooms or sports teams, refusing them life-saving healthcare, and just otherwise systematically dehumanizing transgender youth, isolating them from the rest of society. I know the sorrow that this brings, and the damage to the soul that hiding and isolation does, be it self-inflicted or otherwise, and that's why I must now live visibly, in the open, out of the shadows.
I must show the world that I exist, and I'm human. I bleed, I laugh, I struggle, I overcome, I suffer, I dream, I make mistakes, and I have the right to make them, but I'm not evil. My visibility matters because the more the world sees me, the more human I become to them, and the more human I become to society, the more human young people of transgender experience become, so perhaps they can avoid the struggles and misery of my youth. The majority of people who are against being transgender have never even met a person of transgender experience, so I will be visible, an example for the world to see, and see that there is no need to fear me, or hate my community. I will always educate, raise awareness, and make myself visible until younger people of transgender experience can openly live free without fear. So I want you to see me, I need you to see me, tell your friends and family about me until they normalize me, until no one has to go through what I have.