My friend Ashton encouraged me to do this. “This” being honest and forthcoming, and breaking my silence about a couple things affecting my life.
I first objected, saying certain people would be disappointed in me for struggling. I shelter people from my life, these days. It’s been a rough ride, this transition from living life acting like a dude to living as me. I’m still not sure I’m doing it right, or that Im even fully me yet. The last two years, as some of you are partially aware, have seen tremendous change, difficulties and growth.
CURRENTLY: I’m employed only part-time as a freelance journalist, have no savings or retirement, have no transportation and no housing lined up. I’ll be moving out of the place I’m in very soon. I’m telling you this now because I’ve been told it’s not fair for me to hold back the more difficult parts of my life from YOU – the people who are my friends, as well as the ones who observe me through social media and this blog.
Let’s begin with the few people I’ve told so far. There are a handful of people I’ve met recently, who are very intelligent, highly-capable people who have each been through their own struggles. I felt safe telling these people because they don’t rely on me for encouragement. They are people who were doing just fine before my influence. This told me I had something to learn from them, and learn I have! Each lesson has been more enlightening and worth learning, than the previous.
I’m not going to list everything I’ve been though the past four years (this would be a book, not a blog post), but one major factor in ANYONE’s ability to live a fulfilling life is being fully employed. I’ve only been employed full time for half the time since my transition. I made some decisions that caused a lot of chaos in my life, some of which spilled over to affect the lives of people I care a great deal about.
But that’s always the way it is, right? Many times, my wise mother reminded me that “No man is an island.” I’m apparently STILL learning the lesson that my words and actions can negatively impact the people around me. There are lessons from these past four years I will be learning for the rest of my days on Earth. Details here wouldn’t contribute to this discussion, but they are very difficult lessons involving tremendous pain.
When I began my [very privileged] transition, I was in a similar place as Caitlyn Jenner. I had isolated myself from other trans people. I was intimidated. I hadn’t been strong enough to live my truth. Indeed, I never even cross-dressed before transition, because I was so deathly afraid of being discovered. Like Caitlyn, I didn’t have anyone to help guide or inform me because I hadn’t exposed myself to other trans people. I had preconceived ideas about what it meant to be trans (based entirely upon my LACK of exposure), and even what my life would be after transition. I hadn’t considered it, because I believed I would never be able to transition.
The past four years have brought MUCH new information about myself and other trans people alike. Like any community, we are widely varied, in every respect. Because we’re individuals, one size definitely does not fit all. Because of this, I’ve learned the difficulty of finding and keeping employment when others are as uneducated as I was. Not every company is accepting, and even then if you do get hired there are as many personalities, misconceptions, and belief systems to navigate as there are employees.
Many people simply have an axe to grind or turf to protect. Trans people are an easy target, because most people don’t have any understanding of what it’s like to be trans. Indeed, nearly 85% of Americans have never met a trans person, much less truly considered what life must be like for trans folk. So, when an established employee doesn’t like you, they have a lot of power to start complaining about things like company culture. “The way things were before you got here” becomes an easy measuring stick.
Yes, I’ve been suicidal, and recently. No, I haven’t attempted or put together a plan, but for some reason minds like mine and others’ are too quick to want to take the path of least resistance, without considering the admonishment from my mother – what we do affects others. There’s no way around it, and I’m not willing to leave my family and friends changed in such a way that they will never fully recover from, or understand, the sudden loss of my presence on Earth.
As I’ve told a couple people the past week, I’ve been here before. Over my life, I’ve been knocked down plenty, and I’ve always been able to pull myself up again. The difference now is, everyone else knows I’m transgender (and they come to the table with preconceptions that are difficult to disburse); I have no car; I have no income; and I have no place of my own to stay anymore. It’s going to be more difficult this time – but not impossible.
I keep a journal, in several places. Between a leather-bound journal, my laptop and my phone, they create one account of my life. Here’s a recent entry:
June 9, 2019
It’s Sunday evening. I’ve been texting Lacey. We were talking about my employment and options. I mentioned Elysabeth suggesting radio, but was explaining my relationship with my voice. Referencing my accident, I mentioned it was hard to let go of that part of me, and in some ways I hadn’t completely let go. I was still mourning its loss. This is what Lacey sent to me:
“It’s the one thing we all struggle with. We all live in the past in some way, but Dani… the you you’re holding on to is gone. Basically dead. You can’t hold on forever… and holding on is only hurting at this point and I can’t be a friend and watch you hurt yourself.”
Then she asked if I’d had a funeral/memorial service for Dave.
“He’s worth remembering but would be so much happier now knowing you’re finally living; it’d make all his years of pain and persecution worth it.”
Friends like Lacey give me unfiltered advice and feedback, and it’s been invaluable.
Another friend, Missy, is also unemployed (for very different reasons) and she’s been a great comfort, knowing she can relate to me in many ways. Other friends have offered couches and rides, for which I’m eternally grateful. Yet other friends have simply kept me company. You know who you are, but you’ve no idea you’ve helped me so immensely. Even the simple act of texting to check on me can make a huge difference in my day. One stray comment can send me spiraling.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I know a couple things are true: I’m strong and fragile; I’m content, yet ever-searching; I’m both capable and weak; I’m broke and rich; I feel loved and hated; I will not go hungry, nor will I go without a roof or transportation. This too shall pass.
I referenced this up above, so I made it the title of this post, but sometimes it feels as if I’ve been put on a pedestal. It makes me incredibly anxious, because I worry I’ll be a disappointment. I often feel that I have been a disappointment, or that I haven’t lived up to what others expect from me. One reason for this is likely the handful of friends who have separated themselves from me in the past two years. I’ve never before experienced a friend telling me things like, “You’ve changed,” or “I can’t be your friend right now.” I perpetually carry with me the ways in which I’ve let you down.
I will get through this, and hopefully with a modicum of grace as I go about righting my proverbial ship and plotting out a new course for life. Godspeed, light and love, if you’ll join me. Shall we begin?