From the time I came out as transgender, through the start of my hormone replacement therapy, my top surgery, and even today well over two and a half years on testosterone, I've been overwhelmed with so much more support than I ever thought possible. It seems like every day someone new is reaching out to congratulate me or wish me well on my journey, it is truly so heartwarming and encouraging.
The most consistent response I receive while regarding my transition is "You're so brave!" or "You're so courageous!" I truly love the support and encouragement more than anyone could begin to fathom, I could spend every day for the rest of my life thanking the people that make up my support system, and that still wouldn't be enough. But, at the end of the day, I hate to break it to you kind folks, I'm just not either of those things.
I can promise you, brave is the last thing I was feeling as I nervously walked into the doctor's office for my first appointment to confess to my doctor who has known and observed me since birth that I wanted to medically transition. It wasn't courage that controlled the shaking hand that picked up my first syringe full of hormones that were about to override my body as I stabbed it into my thigh.
Bravery had nothing to do with my transition: it was terror, it was loneliness, and it was fear. When I began my transition, both socially and medically, I didn't know if the dysphoria would ever go away. Unfortunately, it hasn't completely disappeared and I don't think it ever will. There are still days I look in the mirror and see that dreaded face of 15-year-old me, fresh out of the closet as a lesbian, with my Justin Bieber haircut, haunting me forever.
I thought but didn't fully believe in myself that transitioning would make me happier or solve all my problems. While transitioning has increased my happiness with myself and with life in general far surpassed anything I would've believed, transitioning has not solved the internal problems I battle with my mind every day. I didn't know at the beginning of my transition if I'd ever be able to look at my body again and not think of myself as a freak, I didn't know if I would ever find love being transgender, I didn't know if my friends and family would still love me, the list of unknowns goes on and on. I let these fears and unknowns consume and control my life for 19 years of my life before I finally took hold of them. That is not bravery.
In June of 2016 when I finally began my journey, it wasn't bravery, it wasn't courage. I didn't "work up the guts" to take the plunge, this was no How Stella Got Her Groove Back moment, this was a tiny sliver of hope I had found buried deep down within myself. I realized that the way I was living, letting dysphoria control every aspect of my life, wasn't actually living at all, just existing, barely. Things that should've excited me, didn't.
Graduating high school, completing my first year of college, totally emotionless. If I had kept on living that way, I wouldn't be living here today. That tiny shred of hope I had found showed me the possibility of a new version of myself, one that liked the reflection looking back at himself in the mirror, one that was happy to wake up in the morning, one that didn't think about suicide all the time.
The hope I had found didn't chase away the fears I had about transitioning, but rather presented them in a whole new light. Hope told me that I was transgender and that this nightmare I was living was my life, but hope also told me that I could do something about it, hope told me I didn't have to be miserable anymore. I don't think my transition makes me brave, transitioning isn't an act of bravery because there was no choice involved. I could not continue living on as that depressed, dark, shell of a person, it's not brave to do something when you don't have a choice.
Picture your worst fear cornering you in a dark room. You can't turn and run anymore, it's got you trapped right where it wants you, about to consume you, about to end you. So what are your options? You either stay right in place or let it destroy you or you find that tiny sliver of hope and realize if you go out, you're going out swinging. To your surprise, you overcome it, you defeat your biggest fear. You're left to walk away with a whole new outlook on your life. You walk away tall from a fight you shouldn't have, but you won.
So no, friends, as much as I appreciate it, I am not brave or courageous for transitioning. I had no choice, I just did what I needed to do to survive. I spent far too much of my life pretending to be someone and something I wasn't, I refused to do it any longer. That doesn't make me brave, I'm not special, I'm just a person who had had enough. Not becoming who I am would have been unimaginable. Transitioning is about acting upon who you are.