My strength quote about being who you really are takes on greater significance when you become aware that I am transgender.
I grew up in a small town in Central New York, and all my life I knew something was not quite right with myself. It wasn't until puberty started that I began to find out about people who are Transgender, and that's when it hit me: I figured out why I had felt so different my entire life. I thought I was alone in this, but realized this was who I was and that there were many people like me out there. I came out to my parents, at separate times, when I was a little over 14 years old. With the support of my parents, brother, extended family and others in my school and community, I have been able to be true to myself and gain confidence in who I am.
I had many struggles and frustrations during this time, however I have also seen many other Trans youth struggle more: unable to gain support or access to medical treatment.
While things have come a long way for Transgender individuals we still have a long ways to go. I want to help make that happen. For a long time I thought I wanted to go through life and remain "stealth" as a transgender woman, but it became obvious to me in the winter of 2014/15 that I needed to share my experiences in hopes that I could help other people who are trans and help people who don't know what being trans is.
~I want to raise awareness and acceptance for the Transgender community.
~I want to educate as many people as possible and raise their level of understanding.
~I want to help save lives: the estimated incident of Transgender suicide attempts is too high - 41%.
I was on the cover of the New York Times in June of 2015 featured in an article that told the story of my surgery. A follow-up video by the Times showed me in recovery and talked about my life.
I travelled to Washington DC to speak at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters on the impact of supportive parents and their role in preventing suicide for transgender youth. Suicide amongst the transgender community is one of the most important issues to address because the rate is so much higher than any other group in society. We must do all we can to change this, and my talk on how parents can play such an important role in this helps inspire families to learn more to help their kids as well as the children of others.
Thankfully - there is a lot of news coverage these days on transgender issues - much of it is good, but as always, the media likes to focus on high profile individuals. In this subject area I relay the story of the regular people - myself and my friends and allies that are facing the challenges of being trans in today's society. The audience gets a feel of the raw truth, but also walks away with hope and inspiration to continue making things better for the "everyday" people that are all around them.
I am strong because I am me.