For many of us, coming to terms with being transgender is a lifelong journey. Although we have recollections of struggling with our identity while growing up, it was difficult to find the words or analogues in everyday life that would help to materialise those feelings into more than confusing thoughts.
Growing up while questioning your gender in the 1990s was an especially perilous time. The gay and lesbian movement, through so much visibility in the 1980s, was just starting to gain some level of conversation on the world stage. For the progress made there, trans issues and identity remained a derided and controversial topic.
“To be trans was to deceive; to fool those that would trust them”
My first exposure to trans people was through warped presentations on television and in movies. Daytime throwaway talk shows featured trans people fooling their partners into relationships. To be trans was to deceive; to fool those that would trust them.
Trans people were cast as villains – murderers and thieves – in movies. That devious nature had already been so readily accepted in the public perception. So, for a young teen questioning their identity, where did that leave me? I didn’t feel inherently bad, it wasn’t my intent to deceive anyone. I just knew that this body and gender assigned to me were not right, but what, if anything could be done about it?
In the early 2000s the internet became a source of information for trans people, and for the first time, trans people had a medium to share their success stories. I remember reading about Lynn Conway, the accomplished computer scientist who transitioned in her career. Although her journey was not easy, she accomplished so much and was well regarded in her field.
“but how much damage had been done to my own story?”
Others would follow, and Lynn went out of her way to compile the stories of other people who had success transitioning and leading what could largely be considered normal lives. This started to change the narrative for trans individuals for the better, but how much damage had been done to my own story?
While struggling with my identity I had done my best to double down on school, my career, and on my relationships. I became focused on the rat race of corporate advancement. Get the job, get the promotion, buy the house and car, and above all else – conform. I thought I could beat these feelings, I didn’t haven’t to accept who I was as long as I could busy myself with projects and goals and hobbies.
“As years went by, the unease with my body and presentation continued to grow”
Dysphoria doesn’t work that way. It waits and lingers. It looks for those moments when you question yourself or have an idle mind, and then it returns. It can’t be beaten into submission. And so, as time continued the feelings remained. And as years went by, the unease with my body and presentation continued to grow.
With each passing year, it grew worse, yet I continued to develop and present this persona that people adored and businesses wanted. I felt like I was in too deep to ever undo everything I had created to prevent the dysphoria from winning.
Until I broke. I guess most of us have a breaking point, and in 2016 I reached mine. My life had become a shell. I could barely muster the strength to make it through the workday or be a caring and engaged parent and spouse because I knew that so much of what others saw of me was a lie.
I thought about giving up. How could anyone take me seriously? How could anyone love me if I went forward with this? I was afraid of losing everything. In a moment of weakness, I almost ended it all, but I’m so glad I didn’t. That would have been the only way I would have lost everything.
Instead, taking a chance on me became the opportunity for something greater than I ever could have imagined. I didn’t know what the future would bring, but there was a future. There was a chance to see my children grow up. There was a chance to live and love like I never thought possible.
“Taking a chance on Samantha was the greatest gift I’ve ever given myself”
Taking a chance on Samantha was the greatest gift I’ve ever given myself. The journey hasn’t always been easy or straightforward, but every day I wake up is an opportunity to change my world, and the world around me, and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
Edited by Ash O'Keeffe