“Some of the words you'll find within yourself,
the rest some power will inspire you to say.“
— Athena, The Odyssey —
In truth, the last three years have felt like one huge transition for me. I could only start the journey in earnest a year ago because, before then, I just didn't have the spoons for such an adventure. I am privileged to be living at the right time in history when there are solutions for the problems that have tried to tear me down for as long as I can remember.
One of my most vivid early memories is gender dysphoria. I was 4 years old at the JCC preschool where my best friend and I would always play dress-up together. One day she insisted we get married. Sounded like a plan. But she took the dress and handed me the suit, tie, and hat. After putting them on, I looked in the mirror and was knocked back to see a desperate emptiness where my eyes used to be.
My chronic pain condition began at age 13, just as my body started committing hard to male puberty. Frustratingly, there was no clear cause for my severe constant neck pain. Testosterone powered rage fueled a spiraling fire of dysphoria, shame, fear, confusion, and doubt. None of my doctors and specialist could properly treat or even diagnose my "phantom pain". A war on two fronts.
Growing up as a judoka, my Sensei always told me that I was too strong. In truth, the only way I could cope with the physical pain and dysphoria was to push myself harder. If no one could help me, I resolved to be my own champion. Sadly some battles just can't be won alone.
Along the way, some part of me resigned to the fact that if I couldn't win, I simply had to manage the best I could— brick by brick and day by day. School. Judo. Family. Art. Friendship. Love. But a body can only handle so much pressure before it starts to break down.
For the next 17 years, I did what I had to do to:
Then at age 30, the miracle happened: I got my diagnosis (cervical facet syndrome) and soon after the treatment (radio frequency ablation). Only then did I finally open up to the world of possibility that had been waiting for me. On the eve of my 32nd year I began my medical transition.
And so with access to the right medicine, counseling, advocacy, a supportive family, and growing community, I continue to overcome these challenges on the path to living life on my terms. No more closets, manageable pain levels, and very few sleepless nights. There's no feeling quite like being able to finally start seeing myself in the mirror.
I'm one of the lucky ones.
p.s. I wrote this before 11/9/16. I wrote this for myself as a marker in the road. I wrote this for anyone who has ever felt lost. Just so there's no confusion: Always forward. Forward always.
“There is only one day left, always starting over:
it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.“
— Jean-Paul Sartre —
“Rebellion without truth is like spring in a bleak, arid desert. ”
—Khalil Gibran —
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
— MLK —
"Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
— Dylan Thomas —