The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
How best to start a new section of writing, when I've hardly written anything at all? This Vortal Cord has been built and rebuilt several times, and each time I assume I'll be more productive than I am. Ideas for stories and worlds float around, but never really see the light of day. Updates on my life typically get sent to Twitter, not written up as long form blog posts.
I am a transgender woman. The years of 2015 and 2016 have been rather… tumultuous for girls like me. We've seen an explosion of visibility, and all the undue scrutiny that brings along. We've been mocked, assaulted, ostracized, and too-often killed by the rest of society, but we march inexorably toward the same acceptance the rest of the LGBT acronym enjoys. Amid the publicity, less sympathetic observers make the snide comment that it's "trendy" or "hip" to come out trans these past couple years, as though putting yourself in a heavily marginalized group is something you would consciously choose to do.
This is my story.
My first hints at being a trans girl came when I was nine years old, playing around with a feminine version of my name. I would take on a higher pitch voice – quite easy at that age – and generally act girly around what few friends I had. At first it felt like I was just pretending, as kids do, to be someone else, exploring my sense of self. But it felt… right to be a girl, and soon I was even submitting homework that way. My teacher that year was the best I've ever had, and recognizing the potential within me, she passed it along to my family. Unfortunately, they chose to react by demanding whether I wanted to be a girl or not, in such a way I'd felt I'd committed the gravest sin. I said no, and buried the issue like I was supposed to.
Of course, as with all things psychological, that didn't make it go away. Over the years I would release my feminine feelings into writing. All my characters were girls, shells I could imagine myself in, even if the stories themselves were rambling messes. When I finally joined the internet, I would create sockpuppets for them to inhabit, convenient friends only I could communicate with, so that the "real" me would never be seen as remotely feminine. It was never enough, and my alter egos became rather neurotic. So it went until college, when I stopped pretending to be someone else. Shizuka Kamishima would be me online, in all things. And as for the person in meatspace, who cares?
It took until late 2014 for me to truly acknowledge that I am transgender. The depression and anxiety that had sprung up to help shield my female side put up a vicious fight, refusing to let me believe I deserved to have that identity respected. I would take long walks around the neighborhood ranting at myself. At last, all the rational parts of my mind recognized the message "I am trans" stayed strong despite every argument to the contrary I could think of. No I didn't know from birth, but how many trans women do? No I didn't play with dolls instead of Legos, but what do toys have to do with it? Sure I'd answered "no" to the question of "do you want to be a girl", but I'd regretted it the second I'd said it, and had been regretting it every day since.
I came out on January 10, 2015, first to my parents, and then to the internet. From my family, hesitation, a great deal of thinly veiled resistance, but a promise of love and willingness to help. From the internet, nothing but unconditional love and support. After all, Bronystate had known me only as Shizuka since I'd joined; what difference did it make what form my meatbag took?
I raised donations to explore my identity, at last free to do so without my brain screaming at me for it. I tried clothing and grooming, I purchased a webcam to finally speak to my friends – much later in the year I would finally let them see me in person – and for the first time glimpsed a happy life.
But it didn't last. I was still unemployed, still depressed, and now my family began dropping their pretenses of support and demanded I stop. They didn't know how to explain it to people, therefore I shouldn't transition. Much better for me to get a job and move out if it was too uncomfortable.
I was sent to a counseling clinic to address my issues, and at first it seemed like it might work. The therapist asked how long I'd been taking testosterone, assuming I was a trans male. Over the next couple appointments, and my relaying the extreme tension at home, I was advised to move away as soon as possible, and surround myself with a more supportive LGBT community. Minneapolis, perhaps. And the advice ended there. The therapist would misgender her other clients, and referred me to a psychiatrist for anti-depressants. A few months and three different medications later, I stopped going. The clinic had made it clear they had no interest in treating the underlying cause of my anxiety – gender dysphoria – and would rather cover up the symptoms of being depressed.
Although, they weren't completely useless in the end. The psychiatrist submitted a referral to a clinic dedicated to transgender patients, and entered gender dysphoria into my medical record, albeit months after my last visit. I traded phone conversations with the new clinic in late December 2015, setting appointments for January and February. One to formally diagnose me, another two weeks later with a physician to assess me for hormone replacement therapy. I would be on my way.
The date came and went. I don't drive, and was relying on my family to take me to the appointment. But it had slipped their minds, and I had to cancel the first. No big deal, said the clinic, since I was a new patient and had set two appointments, we would just make February the diagnostic, and set a followup then. And then the last straw. My family made it crystal clear they did not agree with me being transgender, and refused to ever take me to a gender clinic.
I was devastated.
I cancelled the second appointment, knowing I had no way of reaching it. I lost hope of ever transitioning. As politics in America began a rapid downward spiral into hysteria over the transgender minority, I began wondering if it was worthwhile to even live into 2017.
But then I needed appointments for my type 1 diabetes, and started learning the bus network. It would take a lot of walking to get to a station in the morning, but from there I could effortlessly traverse the 30 miles to my endocrinologist. The route would so happen to pass through the Mall of America, which I hadn't been able to visit nearly often enough. And hey they have a movie theater, and I have a little money left from the fundraisers, why not see a movie for the first time in eight years?
I started mastering the transit system in March, visiting the endocrinologist several times to test out a Dexcom CGM, each time experimenting with different stops along the way. A meander through downtown here, a visit to Minnehaha Falls there. And apart from the doctor visits themselves, I would do it all presenting as femininely as I could manage. I wasn't yet at the point of wearing a skirt in public, because I would leave while my family prepared for their day, but I could at least happily rock a pair of tights with my hair down.
And then my 26th birthday came, and with it an ultimatum to secure my own health insurance by June, as I would be forbidden to remain on my parents' plan. I researched Minnesota's Medical Assistance program. I qualified. I scrolled through the many lists of procedures and medications that would be covered for no cost. Insulin, test strips, even the obscenely expensive CGM supplies.
Mental health services. Estradiol and spironolactone.
I called the clinic and requested a new appointment, happily noting that my issues with family and transportation had been resolved. So sorry, they were booked for six months. I tried another highly recommended clinic, one right next to a major bus station. Booked through winter. I started losing hope again. Every time, it seemed, something good could happen to me, it would be taken away.
Until at last a Reddit user mentioned a new clinic opened downtown, recently enough that the other clinics didn't know about it to recommend it. They'd gotten their choice of appointment times. Maybe I could give it a try.
I called on a Friday. I got an appointment for the following Wednesday.
I met my new primary physician, trans herself, instantly establishing a level of understanding no one else could have. We talked my history, talked hormones, what my plans for transition are, what I could expect. A nurse drew blood from my elbow. Throughout the whole process, I was referred to by my preferred name and pronouns, no questions asked. If they needed to confirm my legal name, they did so quietly and with clear indication that they wished they didn't need to rely so exclusively on what Social Security says I am.
And I walked out with a prescription for hormones. And it was filled by the time I got home. And I've started.
After seventeen years in the closet, I am finally on my way.
Today I am born again. My name is Jessica. I am alive.