For the last few months, I’ve been on the down side of life. This summer has been difficult for me, and I have expressed that on multiple occasions. However, this past weekend provided a brief respite from the doldrums, and I would be remiss if I did not share the moments that made me happy, at least for a little while.
On Saturday, I watched two friends get married in a beautiful ceremony. As an added bonus, I was honored to be the happy couple’s photographer. Photography is an interest of mine, and I actually have a decent eye for it. If the industry was not crowded and highly competitive, I might be interested in my own business. But consider the financial shakiness of my family, trying to go self-employed seems highly risky. So when I get asked to take photos here and there, it feels nice. For this wedding, I was only asked to take a family picture at the end of the ceremony, but really… I couldn’t do that—especially since I was actually credited as the photographer in the program. So, I took pictures all day, and I enjoyed doing it.
The wedding and cake reception were filled with joy, love, and amazing music. One groom surprised his new husband with a surprise appearance by a champion a cappella group after the ceremony. Both sides had lots of family present. Being surrounded by that much happiness—especially from people I care about—could not help have an effect on my mood and lift my spirits a bit.
At the cake reception, I was also able to talk to a friend, herself also transgender, who I was able to vent to a bit about what was going on in my life. She gave me a comment I still remember: “You walk like yourself.” I needed a little explanation. She said, “You are Gabrielle. You walk like Gabrielle.” When unpacked like that, I understood a little more about how I am perceived and how I should perceive myself. I am wrapped up in how I present to the world and myself, which is why I am so focused on vocal therapy and facial feminization procedures. I believe they will help my mental state, as they will help me to “pass.” What my friend was pointing out with her statement is that I have come a long way already. Even without vocal and facial surgeries, I already am living as the authentic me. It is an important point that I gloss over, but in reflection, I am now 8 months full-time, 18 months HRT, and I have been transitioning over two years now. My name and gender have changed. My life is forever altered. But I have found the authentic me, and it manifests itself in organic ways, such as how I walk and how I act on a daily basis. Vocal therapy and facial surgery will aid my presentation, but even without, I am still me, and I am comfortable with the changes I have made thus far which make me, well… me.
Once we took a drive to drop off the children with visiting grandparents, my wife and I returned to the formal reception. Despite wearing heels all day long, I took to the dance floor like I may never have before, which is something highly significant in my life. As a child, I was a nervous wallflower at dances and later clubs. I was afraid of making a fool out of myself (or my partner) on the dance floor. I got teased enough in school for being a nerd and an outcast, so why add fuel to the fire? But on this night, I got out of my head for a little while and decided to just have a good time. I danced and sang and danced some more. I did things in heels I did not think I could ever do (jump, kick, spin). I was not held back by the self-conscious doubts that plagued me in the past. I genuinely had fun all night long!
Later that night, despite foot & leg pain from wearing those heels all day, I stayed up late into the night celebrating a neighbor’s birthday. While I was there, I brought up a few of the things that have been bothering me about life, including how my court date and birthday were largely not celebrated at home. In a very sweet gesture, I was cut a slice of cheesecake with lit candles, and in the middle of the night, the small group of neighbors all sang “Happy Birthday” to me, which was the first time that song had been sung to me by anyone other than a family member since my name change. It was a super touching moment, and I cannot thank my neighbors enough for this amazing act of kindness.
The next day at work, I was stopped by a random guest if I had a “moment.” The next words out of her mouth both touched and surprised me. She told me that I was an inspiration to her 9-year-old daughter, who was not with her at the time, but who had seen me several times at the store. They have always known she is transgender, and I told her that it was wonderful to hear a trans youth was being so supported. Also, if she ever wanted to introduce her daughter to me, she was welcome to do so. As a retail supervisor, I am exposed to all manner of people, and I am always subject to random comments both in my face and behind my back. When asked for a “moment,” I never know if I am in for a complaint or someone telling me that I am “brave” for transitioning. While being called out as transgender by this woman admittedly dinged my ego a bit (that whole not passing thing), it was quickly washed away by the fact that I was being called an inspirational figure and effectively, a role model for a trans youth I have never met. How jaw-dropping is that?
Receiving this compliment took me back to June when I was asked to tell my transition story publicly for the first time. In addition to sharing my story, I also served as an advocate for the transgender community. I did so again by participating in Trans March at SF Pride. Transition is a very personal thing, and every trans person experiences it differently. I have fallen prey to getting wrapped up in my own personal struggles, but this moment in the store reminds me that, much like my friend at the cake reception tried to remind me, I have come along way in my transition. I have solved many problems, resolved many internal conflicts, and I am now living my life as authentically as I know how. Doing so means that I can speak on behalf of the community. Living my daily life means I can serve as a silent inspiration for others who are questioning or transitioning. Being me is important not only to myself but to others. By living my life authentically as an out trans person, I am actually serving a greater good.
Often I get down on myself because the weight of the world seems to be on my shoulders, but this weekend woke me up a little. I can be me, and that me can enjoy herself. I have a lot on my mind, but that does not mean I should not get out of my head every once in a while and have some fun. That helps. I thank my family, friends, and even the strangers whose world collides with mine for reminding me of the greater parts of my life. I still have much difficult work to do on my transition. I still need to find greater support among friends and family to keep me sane and on track. However, these events show me I am doing well and others are noticing. I am important, loved, and admired. I need to remember that, so that I can inspire myself like I inspire a 9-year-old.