Embracing my identity as a woman has been an ultimate act of self love. It has been a long and difficult path of avoiding aspects of myself out of shame and embarrassment, but it has been one that has led me to happiness that I never realized was possible. It is my sincere hope that all of my trans brothers and sisters can one day embrace their identity and love themselves as I have—not just in spite of the fact that they are trans, but in part because they are trans. This isn’t to put me on a pedestal as a shining example; I’m far from it. There are many days when it’s hard to love myself: an unfortunate glance in the mirror, itching razor burn along my legs, having to redo my eyeliner for the third time—all things that can crumble this new sense of self-worth. But you’d better believe that every time the tide comes to wash it away, I’m there to rebuild. It’s a constant battle, but it is one that can be won more often than not. Maybe I’m just stubborn in that regard. I don’t see any other choice I can make. Beauty isn’t so much that final image at the end of the road; it’s the culmination of the entire journey, of the struggles and sweat and tears we put in to get that far. There is beauty in our trials, of our ability to become something more.
It’s easy for me to say all this for the sake of making a blog post, for the sake of giving motivation to others like me. What isn’t quite as easy is actually believing it all. The reality is that outside forces will constantly make you question and doubt. It’s easy to stay within a supportive circle, crafting an armor of reassurances and self-love to protect the fragile core underneath. There will always be people who search for any chink in that armor, any way to get a knife at your exposed self. Sometimes these people are easily dealt with without much damage incurred. It’s when the knife comes from within your circle, unexpected, that can leave you feeling like you’re bleeding out and the world is crumbling down.
This weekend a knife came to me from within my circle. It wasn’t the first time and it will not be the last; I guarantee you the last will hurt as much as the first. This was a person, a dear friend, who called me mentally unstable, wrong in my beliefs regarding my identity, and claimed that they would rather me be miserable in the “right” way than be happy in the “wrong” way. I should have been furious with them, and yet I found their attacks on my character worthy of pity. This was an individual who came from a place of ignorance they had, ultimately, sewn their concern for my own well being into. They thought that something was missing from my life without understanding that I had found it when I made my decision to transition.
I find moments like these opportunities for education and enlightenment. The root of hatred is ignorance; people fear what they do not understand, and hate what they fear. Only by educating can we solve hatred. But what happens when these people refuse to listen and choose ignorance? This person told me, “It’s not that if I had more time I’d come around. I just know that you’re wrong. That’s it. There’s no religion, no science, no mass perception, no fruit of the cosmos that justifies your position.”
I don’t have the answer to this question. To just leave someone like this, especially someone I have considered a friend, and write it off as a losing battle goes against my most treasured belief that everyone possesses the capacity for change. Every fiber of my being wants to reach them and make them understand myself. Maybe it’s enough to learn to let these people go. Maybe it’s enough to just worry about yourself and thread the wound from the knife they stuck in your back. Maybe it’s enough to know sometimes love won’t be enough to save people.
Maybe our paths will cross again someday. Maybe you’ll see the person I have become, the light that has flooded my life, and realize that you were wrong. I hope that one day you can reject ignorance. At the end of the day though, I don’t think that it’s my responsibility to educate others. It isn’t any of our responsibility except for that person’s own. Even though I choose to educate where I can, and to share my experiences through this blog, it is not any trans person’s responsibility to educate others. There is a wealth of information out there if people can be bothered to look. Don’t do what I do and try to devote time and resources to people who likely will choose ignorance every time.
This is the end of our story. I think about it a lot. I also think a lot about how it began, eight years ago, asking you out at the end of our freshman homecoming dance.
I don’t think either of us could have predicted how our ending would come. All of the signs were there from the beginning, incubating like dormant cicada, waiting to emerge in an overwhelming swarm. My nonchalance was perhaps my first mistake. My second, and perhaps largest, was thinking that love would be enough. There were others, less significant, and too numerous to mention.
On August 19th, 2019, I was away on a work-related trip and staying with a relative. That evening, laying on an air-mattress illuminated in the glow of my phone, I told you something that would change our lives forever. If there was a single moment that I could look back on and point to as the beginning of the end, it is this one: a single cicada emerging early. On August 19th, I did the hardest thing I had ever done until that point. I told you that I enjoyed wearing women’s clothing.
Making that admission to you was shining a spotlight on every insecurity, every private thought I buried deep inside myself, everything I was terrified to face. A tremor below as the brood grew restless, knowing their time would soon come. I took a tremendous leap of faith, not knowing what lay ahead or the series of events I had set in motion. I had assumed that our love would be enough.
I think that learning that sometimes love is not enough has been the hardest, and the most essential, thing I ever to learn.
You told me that you did not want to discuss my feelings, that you had nothing to say regarding them. Needless to say, because of this you were not prepared when on November 28th of that same year, I told you I thought I was transgender. I will never forget the feeling of vulnerability and the tightness in my chest when I stepped into the light with that admission. And I will never forget how you reacted, how just a few words could change us.
“I hate you,” you told me three days later on December 1st. “I actually hate you right now.” That should have been our end. I cannot describe how much pain those words have brought me, and how much it hurt me to realize that I had hurt you to the point of such bristling anger. For eight years, I had been the silly idiot you made plans with to say “I do” on an anxiety-filled day in front of your family. It was a dream that had been so real, so tangible, you could picture it perfectly. And I had told you to take that image of your life and throw it in the shredder. In your mind, all those years and little moments—prom, sneaking in visits to each other’s respective college, laughing at Thin Mints at 1:00 in the morning, making each other a stuffed animal at Build-a-Bear—had been for nothing. I had pulled the rug out from under you.
But I didn’t believe it would be the end; I thought our love would be enough. But on January 20th, 2020, you made me make the hardest choice ever in our story. You made me pick between your dream and my true self.
Over four months later, after dealing with the heartbreak and feelings of guilt over who I am, I am ready for these to be the final words in our story. I like to think that it has been one filled with laughter and love, but it is not the happy ending either of us anticipated. I have learned so much that I would not have without you or the last eight years. I would never have gotten here without you. And for that, I will be forever grateful. These have also been the first words in a new story, my first clumsy steps into a new world. It is a story that I hope to record here, for myself and anyone else who needs it. It is my hope that others who are in situations like mine can find wisdom in my previous and inevitable failings, and that I can spread hope and love to those who don’t have enough.