On July 1st I will be turning 37, no biggie I know, millions of people live to that age every year. But what you may not realize is that it is the first birthday of mine that I have wanted to truly celebrate in a very long time. I would not have even mentioned the date in years past. I never thought that my life was worth celebrating, although years continued to pass they felt increasingly empty. I also never felt worthy of the affection of those who said they cared about me, I felt I was doing them a disservice, letting them care for someone as disgusting as me. I was ashamed to exist but at the same time knew that I couldn’t stop being me. My problem? I was terrified that y’all would find out I was transsexual. But I found my way through my fear and came out. On the other side of the closet door I have found joy, acceptance and a life I never thought I could even glimpse.
I received such a massive wave of support on coming out that it left me dumbfounded. The trans community is full of coming out stories full of loss and pain. Folks have their entire social structures turn their backs on them. I was prepared for the worst. So I told people online in gender discussion forums and got support, encouragement and even admiration. That bolstered me enough to start talking to the (trans health) medical establishment and begin saying I was trans out loud. But the real beauty came to me as I told close friends and family. Y’all one by one showed me that my fears were unfounded and gave me a strength that I never knew I could have. That was real power, knowing that I would not be abandoned by those I needed most. The people who knew me best seemed just glad to know me better and were sorry I had been in so much pain. I even received one or two congratulations.
So I came out to everyone else…you know who you are! That is when the tidal wave came… that’s when I was crushed and held by the affection of my world… I honestly had no idea how much you all cared about me. I spent so long feeling lost, false and unworthy. I care about you too! I believe I actually gained friends in the process! I felt almost embarrassed for having worried at all. I got such a strong sense of my community and I felt so lucky to belong.
The proof was in the doing too. Y’all accepted me for me and began using my preferred name and pronouns. You showed that you believed me too. I saw how I was treated changing, y’all started to treat me as I had always expected to be. I have been loving feeling my relationships grow and change although some of it has been difficult. You will never fully grasp the magnitude of what you have done for me.
Even some of you total strangers have been there. The first of y’all to gender me correctly have a special place in my heart. You will never know what you did but you changed this woman’s world. Helped me see that successful transition wasn’t just possible but probable, that the world really might just see me for me. Even you cruel deliberate missgenderers have given me something. A symbol of the oppression of the patriarchy that held me down for so long and a bully to fight, pity and turn my back on. No truly great thing in life can be so without challenge. When you call me “sir” more than you would a cis man you are letting me know that you don’t see a man, that you are threatened by the trans woman you see before you. That gives me the very power you tried to take from me. So ha! I worry about what is hurting you so badly that you need to mistreat me.
No, most of you are wonderful. As I have always thought. All humans are inherently good. This life of ours equally so. Thank you so much for helping me feel that at last. For helping me feel like I am a part of humanity and not some unlucky alien observer.
I find my 37th year drawing to a close, it is the last one I lived as an inauthentic shadow of myself. It is the year I learned at long last not just to love but to be loved and that is the greatest gift of all. Thank you for helping me feel human! I have so much to look forward to now here on the cusp of my 38th year. My first full year living in the light of day without the weight of shame and fear. My first full year and the genesis of a lifetime of living as the trans woman I was born to be. These are gifts that mean as much to me as life itself.
Many times while coming out folks have told me how courageous or brave I was. Well, I could not have done it alone. I always had faith in humanity and when I cried out in need you did not let me down.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart and with all of my soul and love, thank you!
Chris Jen Kellam-Scott