One of the reasons I thought I was a girl inside all those years before I knew I was trans was because how sensitive I am. I always felt empathy for others. I cry when it comes to sad movies, songs or even when I see an animal hurting on the side of the road.
I first started to realize how sensitive I was when I was too young to put an age on it. I would get upset if I saw someone step on a bug. I warned them the bug wasn’t doing anything to hurt them. I would sit in the dirt and play with insects all the time. Mostly rollie pollies and ants. Yes even though I knew they would sting you I also liked chasing the bees. Where most kids flee when they saw a bee I would smile. I wanted to watch it do it’s thing.
I was 15 when I learned I was sheltered from the horrors of the world. I had a friend of the family who moved away suddenly. Her parents split up out of the blue and her dad went away no questions asked. I was told she had to leave but didn’t understand why. I later discovered her dad was molesting her. It was uncovered others knew about the abuse and did nothing about it. It tore that family apart. My was upset my friend moved away no warning. I didn’t think it was for her own good. I cried uncontrollably after learning this girl I had known was going through that. I was asked why I was upset I barely knew her. I replied because it’s sad. I was told to “man up” and get over it.
I was told that a lot over the years. If I showed any kind of emotion I was told to man up. If I got angry I was told to bury it. If I got sad I was told to bury it. I was only allowed to be happy in certain circumstances, the rest of the time it was show no emotion.
Of course we could smile and laugh but that’s not the same as showing happiness. I’ve seen the difference in a smile when you’re friends all get together to grab a bit to eat at the restaurant at 1 a.m. versus the smile of genuine bliss when life just goes right for a change. I don’t know about everyone else but I was so conditioned not to show emotion I never smiled. I was afraid if I did people would catch onto my secret. That’s not to say I couldn’t laugh or pretend to be fine from time to time, but for the most part I looked like an angry version of the Tin Man. Expressionless yet full of rage.
That rage became my fuel for the longest time. The will of the lion. The desire to fight back when life kicked me down. Life had a way of making sure if I was already on the ground to go ahead and kick dust in my face too. It’s the way it is. That doesn’t stop me from picking myself up and going forward.
Once I started to learn the dirty secrets in life, how evil humans truly are, I went through a phase where I was too depressed to cope. If there was so much suffering in the world where was God? I was maintaining my insistence I was a Christian during that time in my life so it felt like I was being lied to. Either God was lying about he’d be there no matter what, or the church was lying about who he protects. Either way I felt betrayed. Yet I maintained my faith insistent upon the belief that it gets better.
Then I turned to art. Not just my own art, which I found ways to express, but others art. I delved deep into escapism as a way to ignore the problems going on in the world. I knew in my heart of hearts I was a transgender queer person but I ignored the plight of the LGBT community. I did so intentionally. If I dismissed them, if I could brush them out of my mind I wouldn’t have to face it myself thus I could keep on moving forward. Only I was moving backwards instead.
It was sometime after the 2008 Presidential Election I decided to get involved politically. I went to the local office and volunteered. I even tried to sign up for office. I asked what positions needed filled and what I could run for. I felt like the party I was loyal to had taken a beating in that election. I felt I needed to do something to push back against the “Blue Wave” I was told was sweeping this great nation. Of course I was still under the false pretense we were some sort of utopia you just had to work hard to get a piece of that special pie. I was duped I guess.
I kept on fighting, in the dark unsure of what I was fighting for. I knew I was never going to get married and have the 2 kids, white picket fence and dog in the back yard. But I never knew why I wanted that so badly all while life insisted I was to follow a different path.
My over sensitivity is why I dropped out of high school the first time. I was walking down the hall of a new school. I was in 10th grade. It was my first day of class. A teacher, not a student, tripped me and laughed. I got in his face and he sent me to the office for shoving him. Instead I just walked out the front door and trekked, on foot, the 18 miles home. I wasn’t going to go through that again. I made it home with the help of a stranger who saw me walking on the side of the highway. Once home I plopped down on the couch right in front of both of my parents, said I quite school, then immediately broke down into tears.
It was a harsh lesson. My parents weren’t going to support me if I wasn’t in school unless I had a job. As a high school drop out it was next to impossible to find a job. SO what did I do? I took a box of my stuff to the side of the highway and had a yard sale. I walked over to the local gas station, also the only business in town, and begged people to let me wash their windshields for tips. I did that for all of a day before I came up with my own plan. I asked my parents to enroll me in a home school program instead. They agreed and I went back to school.
This is what I often do when I get knocked down. First I try to make it on my own. If that fails I look at my resources and see what I can pool. When I was 18 I had invested in a bunch of musical equipment because I wanted to be a hip hop DJ. When I found myself out of work I just started doing parties for people. I didn’t make a ton of money but I quickly learned I could sell my stuff to pay my bills. Once I learned I could do that something clicked. I made a living for about a year and a half just buying stuff at the thrift stores, yard sales and flee markets and flipping it on ebay. After a while I turned that into a store front and started my own comic book shop online, then set up a small space in my mothers basement. I was able to survive off this for a few years, occasionally having to get a part time pizza delivery job to replenish my funds to buy more stuff or to invest in my next big idea.
I learned that feeling empathy for people allowed me to connect with them on a deeper level than the cold hearted capitalist way I had learned in school. I found out could make more money taking people’s old photos and video tapes then transferring those to DVD. I found paying jobs photographing or videoing weddings and other special occasions was more lucrative than selling nostalgia to nerds. That’s why when I got to college I studied broadcasting. I honed a skill I knew I could use to support myself.
I couldn’t do any of this if I didn’t care about people. That heart of a poet is what motivates me now. I am more motivated today by a desire to do good and help others than I ever was to pursue fame and fortune. I prefer the small time blog to working in a corporate owned newsroom. I prefer photographing children smiling and having fun rather than car crashes on the side of the road. I enjoy recording a simple podcast where I can be myself to the pressures of producing a TV or radio show that will appeal to advertisers first and foremost.
That is who I am. I have the heart of a poet and the will of a lion because life sucks but I don’t have to suck. I can rise above the evil in this world and be the good I want others to be. I can inspire others to do better because I don’t need to chase the “American dream” which is a capitalist lie. The real dream is to have a few good friends and then spend your time making the world a better place than you found it. I hope I have done that or can work towards that goal. In the meantime I will say this. When life kicks you down thank the person who put you on the ground, hug the earth and get back up.