By Jack EdwardsIf there is anything about transition, especially in the early stages, the stages no one ever really talks about that needs to be understood, it’s how isolating it is. Transition is very much an internal process; there’s no external shift in the beginning, nothing outside of yourself to reference.
In the beginning, it’s nothing more than a feeling, a hint that something is just… off. Like knowing you’ve forgotten something but being unable to figure out what it is, and no matter how hard you try, it always remains right out of reach. I’ve always been the sort of person afraid to trust my instincts, afraid that the things I’m feeling, things intangible to those around me and really even to myself aren’t actually real. This is probably why I spent the ten-plus years of my adolescence and teenage years chasing other boys on the playground, climbing trees, hiding in bathroom stalls to change in the locker room and musing over why all the guys I was attracted to were gay and wearing a big, frou-frou skirt and high heels to prom. I was in denial, pure and simple, for a very long time, and it was that denial that pushed me into a downward spiral of depression and anxiety that eventually culminated in a total nervous breakdown.
But sometimes, its only when we hit rock bottom that we can find the strength to pick ourselves back up again. It’s only when we’ve seen how low we can sink that we can appreciate the importance of living our lives to the fullest. Out of the depths of that depression, I finally discovered myself, who I always was inside, who I was always meant to be. It was a slow process, often times a frightening process. It still is, though nothing was and is more frightening than trying to put all these feelings and thoughts and theories into words and sharing them with someone else. When I finally told someone, nearly two years after I first began consciously considering the possibility, it was easily one of the scariest moments of my life. What if they don’t accept me? What if everything I have, everything I love goes away? For a long time, I wasn’t sure that the trade-off would be worth it. I wasn’t sure if it was worth possibly losing everyone for what felt at times like a selfish decision. I hesitate to refer to transition as a decision, as being transgendered is a state of being, both mental and biological. But there was definitely a decision made to transition. Being this way is certainly not a choice; the only choice that can be made is to go through with it, risk everything to become the person you truly are inside, or to hide it, pretend and live the rest of your life trapped and miserable.
Thankfully, my first experience with coming out to someone close to me was encouraging. Suddenly, it was so much more real, because it wasn’t just inside my head anymore. It was a fact, and as I steadily became more and more open with friends and a few close family members, I finally started becoming truly comfortable with myself. There is no better feeling in the world than listening to someone get the pronouns right after years--decades even--of answering to the wrong ones, and I am incredibly thankful for the support I gained, even in unlikely places. It gave me the strength to get through my rather traumatic coming-out experience with my parents, who yelled and screamed and cried and blamed themselves. They weren’t the only ones that initially rejected me, and I still get strange looks when I tell people my name, or when I run into them coming out of public restrooms. Especially living in the South, and specifically in a county that, while growing steadily and diversifying drastically as the population of Charlotte grows, is still populated by a frightening amount of “good ol’ boys,” I often find myself in very uncomfortable situations.
If there is anything I have learned through this experience, though, it’s that despite all this, even living where I live, you can always be surprised by how understanding and accepting people can be. I’ve been met by support from old high-school friends, ex-boyfriends, teachers and family members alike, and on occasion, even total strangers. Though nothing was quite as rewarding as the day my mother finally sat me down and told me she loved me and wanted me to be happy, no matter what. I know that I am lucky in that regard. I know there are a lot of people in this world that have been cast out and abandoned for far less than this; it sickens me to think about, honestly. But if I have any advice for those out there like me, and those not like me just the same, it’s this: never sacrifice your happiness out of fear. No matter how bad things get, no matter how much you might regret the choices you’ve made, it’s only temporary. One day, you will find that happiness and your past will only have made you stronger for it. Never give up hope.