I grew up in a very conservative state that is dominated by the local religion and at 15, I came out initially as a lesbian. Coming out as queer to my family was not that challenging as my eldest brother is gay as well, so I think it was easier for me because he paved the way. I still feel like I owe him for that, although he may think such a thing silly. While in high school, a group of friends and I started the first GSA in the state. We were met by backlash from peers, educators, local and state politicians. The same senator that passed a law in 1985 to allow Christian bible clubs to meet in public schools was trying to deny our right to assemble as protected by the Equal Access Act. Long story short, it was a battle in which we received death threats and we were assaulted. I left school when one of our most loved members killed himself on the first day of our senior year. It was rough. I could not wait to leave so I dropped out shortly after. I worked in a coffee shop to save money, got my GED and moved to college, a mere 12 hours and two states away. While in college, I continued to struggle with my internalized homophobia and an unchecked mental illness. I wouldn’t even allow myself to process my ‘transness’ even though I knew. I was, however, able to surround myself with amazing people. I was able to get therapy despite the heavy stigmatization I received from some of my family. It was huge to feel the weight lifted and to start feeling ok with myself. I stopped worrying that a net would be dropped on me and I would be dragged to hell, or worse, conversion therapy. I was introduced to Leslie Feiberg’s ‘Stone Butch Blues’, ‘But I’m a Cheerleader’, The Butchies, Le Tigre and Bikini Kill. I was around 20 when I asked myself, ‘are you boy?’. Maybe, but it would be 15 years before I acted. I found myself around people that were kind enough to share their stories, those of friends and our queer matriarchs and patriarchs. People were softer and safe which is not something I had experienced much of in my earlier years. I continued this trend when I moved to Seattle after university. I got gay married, we have a cat, kids may follow. At the age of 36, following years of therapy and with the support of my family (chosen), I started the process of transitioning in 2016 and hormone therapy in January of 2017. I think part of the reason I waited so long was that I felt dehumanized by the stigma against transfolk and the process of transitioning. Then I stopped caring about those things. Why be miserable my entire life to make others happy that do not bring me joy? I became pretty good at Marie Kondo-ing people from my life. There is no need to keep people around that make you feel bad about yourself. I got lucky too, being so old, when I came out to family (a year and half or so into HRT) no one was surprised. Maybe it had to do with not telling my biological family until I turned into a hobbit, or maybe they knew. Two things I would say to people that are considering transitioning or coming out? Firstly, do not get discouraged by the bigots and bullies. These sad sacks are everywhere. Don’t let them take away your peace and happiness. They don’t deserve it and nor do you. Create a chosen family of people that build you up. You are not obligated to hold onto ties because you have a shared past. You wouldn’t stay with a lover that treated you poorly so why keep these connections? The other, puberty is a slow process (5-7 years), but the results will pay off in the end. Be patient with yourself and the process. You may get overwhelmed and frustrated with this or any part of the process. Don’t forget self-care.
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