When thinking of how to relay my experience being transgender to you, the word that springs to mind is “fortunate.” Or, to put it more bluntly, I’ve been very lucky.
That is not to say my life has been all wine and roses. I, like all trans people, have sad stories I could tell you. I was suicidally depressed from my teens till my early 20s. I endured seemingly constant abuse from classmates in junior and senior high school. I suffered anxiety problems and multiple breakdowns from the stress and physical pain of transitioning from male to female. And etc., etc. It’s not my intention to emotionally manipulate you into feeling sympathetic. This isn’t some terrible Lifetime movie. These are merely the facts.
I usually shy away from telling those dark tales. I would never deny them, and my and other trans people’s dark stories are undoubtedly important testaments to the need for social change and tolerance. But the thing is, sad stories about trans people are so ubiquitous in our community’s ongoing dialogue that, being as fortunate as I am, I’m compelled to share my countless positive experiences and show people that being trans need not be treated like a leprous curse. You can be trans and have a great life.
When I came out to my mother, her words to me were, “You’ll be beautiful.” Some time after learning I’d be transitioning to female, my grandfather gave me a beautiful turquoise ring, saying with a wink, “It’s your first gift as a lady.” After I had facial surgery and started living as female, I returned home from the hospital to find three pink roses from my father on my nightstand along with a card that read, “I always wanted a girl.” After a newspaper ran my story, several people at my company, including the CEO, sent me messages of support. I could go on … like I said, I’ve been very lucky.
Had I not been so lucky, I don’t know where I’d be today. It’s a little frightening to look back on your life and realize that you have a home, a job—hell, that you’re still alive at all, because of luck. Chance. A coin-flip. That your life is a leaf in the wind. I was lucky to have loving parents, to find supportive friends, and a therapist and doctors who had the capacity to help me (not all of them can, or will). I was lucky to find work with an understanding employer. Make no mistake, the breaks all fell my way. The more trans people I meet, the more I realize just how rare my case is. Few are as fortunate.
So, what I’d ultimately like to say to you is this: We need more than luck. We all like to believe we control our own destinies—that we “make our own luck.” Certainly that’s true to some degree. The problem for trans people is the deck is stacked against us. When so many people are unfamiliar, intimidated, or even angry or frightened with our very presence, the once-level playing field tilts dramatically, and the path trans people must take to control their own destinies rises sharply uphill. As our society grows more familiar with trans people, I believe the future will see tolerance, compassion, equality and rationality eclipse fear, hate and ignorance. But that’s the future. And it’s a goal we’ll never reach then, without incremental steps forward now. Employment, medical care, personal safety, family—a coin-flip outcome is unacceptable when it comes to these crucial facets of life. Even if you don’t know any trans people and can’t understand why we feel the way we do, we should be able to agree that no one deserves such maddening uncertainty when it comes to the things that matter most.
We need more than luck.