A couple of weeks of ago, through a small world kind of connection, I was invited to speak at an LGBT program for a group of about 30 people. At first, I did not know what to do with this invitation. I mean. Who would want to hear my story? What makes my story so special? What qualifies me to speak on behalf of the LGBT community?
I put off the request for a while as I tried to gather more information about what was being asked of me. Fresh off of my experiences at SF Pride, I was asked again if I would be interested in speaking. While I still was not sure I could accurately represent the community, I was more confident of my place within the community. After much contemplation, I agreed to speak, as I was simply asked to tell my story and share my successes as a “minority.” I could tell my story, right? The problem was I had never really succinctly told my story in 10-15 minutes. That, in and of itself, was a challenge and part of the reason I accepted. I surmised that while it would be beneficial for a group to hear my story, telling my story would be helpful and liberating for me as well. Therefore, there was a mutual benefit.
I have told pieces of my story here and there to my therapist, support group, friends, wife, acquaintances, and even in this space. Transition is a many faceted, complicated journey, and each transgender person’s path is different. There is so much to cover. As a friend of my said to me after I gave the speech, a transition story can be told in 2 or 3 sentences or in two hours; anything in between is incomplete. I was given 10-15 minutes of time to fill. What do I say? What do I leave out? Channeling my inner college student, I wrote my speech overnight the night before giving it (mainly because of scheduling), so it came out as kind of a stream of consciousness. By the time I was done, I was looking at about 20-25 minute story, but I really didn’t know what to leave out. I also did not have a lot of time to edit. So, I went with what I had.
To allay my own fears and to accurately put my story in prospective, I opened with, “Every transition story is different… This one is mine.” I laid out how my story parallels others they may have heard and how it is different. I told them how I did not know I was transgender when I was 3. I shared my early experiments with crossdressing, my extensive Halloween history, how jealous I was of my wife during her pregnancies (even though they were difficult) because I cannot carry or deliver a child, and my depression & the fact that I contemplated suicide. I told the story of my dream epiphany, how strongly I feel about having a motherly parental title, and how turbulent & rewarding the last two years have been since I first told my wife I had “gender issues” when I first started questioning. I tried to highlight that some of what I have been through is commonplace; other feelings I have are on the extreme even in my community. Again, this was my story, not the story of all transgender people. I hope I got that point across.
In an odd twist of fate, I gave this speech two years to the day I came out to my wife. In my mind, transition has felt both fast and slow at times, and it is difficult to adequately express those feelings. Telling my story on this day and putting it down in words forced me to reflect on my transition in a way I had not done so far. I live in such a day-to-day world that I sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture. I am learning that my story is worth telling, and I need to find ways of sharing it in concise ways so that people can understand my journey and by extension gain insight to what other transgender people go through. I am a full accepted member of the community. Being a member of the community does qualify me to speak because I am always qualified to speak about my story and my life. I have become much more confident in the last few years, so I am more likely to take on this type of engagement.
The group to which I spoke seemed engaged during my entire talk. They even laughed a few times. Several people came up to me afterward to thank me, for being candid, and for mentioning specific resources where people can learn more. Positive reactions were relayed to me after the fact, including how genuine I came across. My audience seemed to get where I was coming from. Success! However, there was a second success that day: I learned a little more about myself. I learned that I have a story worth telling, and telling that story is good for my health and the world around me.