I was going through some boxes the other day trying to find something and came across many old pictures of me with the big Farrah Faucet hair. I look at those now like all of that was so far away and yet it really wasn’t. I was playing a part to make others more comfortable for much of my life. These photographs have become harder for me to look at the further into being authentic I am. I learned a great deal from the experience of experiencing life from both sides of the binary gender world and I would not trade those lessons for anything. Because of that unique training I see things that most men don’t see or understand about a woman’s experience walking in this world. I also understand things about men and the way men are treated that most women don’t.
Part of the pain in looking back is thinking about why I allowed the worry of loss to keep me from being true to myself. Not knowing for sure what would happen, but I knew that there would be some loss. Family, friends, career which of these would have walked this break in the gender norm with me? I allowed that fear to keep me from transitioning much earlier in life and there are times I look at that with some regret. I do work to turn that regret into good energy. I use that energy to help me as an activist working to create a safer more friendly place for others to feel supported in being who they truly are. When I was growing up in the south there was no support for a kid or young person who was LGBTQ. I am thankful to have the opportunity to be apart of creating change in this area.
The next reason it is difficult to look at those pictures is that I see the inner pain, the loneliness, the celebrated young person who felt so misunderstood. This is the reason that suicide is so prevalent with LGBTQ youth and young adults. I could not see any light at the end of the tunnel. I did not see a way out of this charade I was playing. There was no internet to find community, no support group and I grew up hearing everything about what I was feeling was SIN. All of that combined becomes paralyzing. I am not sure how I was able to accomplish all that I did through that, all that I know is that I saw it as some kind of a way out.
I get asked all the time by caring people who want to help “what can I do to make a difference?” I believe that the most important thing that any of us can do is to give people a safe space to be their authentic self, whatever that is for them. To give people a safe place to explore that without judgments. Tell young people that being fully YOU is more important then fitting into the status quo. To follow their hearts and that they are supported in that. If all we did was this, for just one young person, we could make an monumental difference.