For this month’s blog, it is my honor to introduce Aubrey’s story. She contacted Visit Gay Charlotte to share her story:
Aubrey has chosen to let her voice be heard as a source of hope and joy for others who may be struggling as many of us have with being trans in a world that struggles to understand and accept who we are. It is my hope that her story inspires others to live their truth.
“Ever since I was little, I knew I was different. I had a unique way of thinking and often that left me isolated, something I still feel the sting of today. I still remember sneaking into my aunt’s closet to play with her old Barbies. I would dress them up and just stare at them. I wanted to look like them. I wanted to BE them. It felt right playing with these dolls. I had to hide when I did it though because even at an early age, I knew boys weren’t supposed to play with dolls. Once I had gotten got caught by my grandmother’s ex-husband and he told me to put them away and stop being a sissy. Being so young and impressionable, I started to believe that my femininity was something to be ashamed of. After that day, I made sure to keep all my “sissy” behaviors to myself.”
Aubrey struggled throughout her youth, making attempts to be the perfect child so as not to upset her family, mostly her mom who was angry and drank a lot to cope with being a single parent to Aubrey and her brother. She found refuge at her grandparents’ home who never questioned her wrapping herself in blankets, pretending they were dresses, and with a childhood friend who joined her in playing with dolls and never questioned her feminine behavior. She would sneak into the bathroom to put on her grandmother’s bright red lipstick. “Now granted, I looked like a clown, but it made me happy.” In middle school which she calls “hell”, she found herself the new kid, teased for not having the “male behavior some of [her] peers possessed”. Many assumed she was gay, and beyond that, she was also bullied for the clothes she wore, unable to wear brands like the other kids and instead wearing funny Walmart tees. The gay rumors stopped only when she proved her athleticism at soccer, pressing her further into the, heterosexist, male stereotypes that would keep her safe.
“I thought I had finally gotten the hang of middle school, when my I was blindsided by the ugly, catastrophic phenomenon known as puberty. My voice started dropping and hair started growing above my upper lip. It was like my body was betraying me. I didn’t like what I was starting to see in the mirror. Most of the guys my age were so excited they could finally sport their twelve mustache hairs, but I couldn’t wait to shave it off. I liked my smooth facial skin and didn’t want to change it. Unfortunately, my body had other plans. It was around this time that I started envying the girls my age. Makeup, boobs, and nice clothes were all the great things they got to experience while I was stuck managing my hair crisis. It took me back to my Barbie days. I wanted to be a girl again. I would wish every night, right before bed that I would wake up as a girl. The wishing went on for a very long time. To my disappointment though, every morning I would wake up in the same boy body. I eased the pain by making a group of girl friends who made middle school tolerable. To be honest, besides the soccer team, most of my friends were girls. I just related to them better. They liked talking about clothes as opposed to having to force myself to talking about girls with the guys. It was bittersweet because while I had found friends, I was now constantly being called gay because of it. It wasn’t a positive time for me. People were mean and I already didn’t like myself. Middle school was tough for sure, but I feel like it definitely gave me a much thicker skin.
By the time high school came around, I had pretty much been conditioned on how to present as a straight male. All I had to do was throw myself into the sports team and no one would bother me. So I did. I was the only freshman on the varsity soccer team and nobody bothered me. My talent spoke for itself. Soccer was an escape for me because no matter what was going on or who I was, soccer was still soccer…Now during my junior year I did some soul searching. I wanted to know why I always felt this strong wanting to be female. Whatever it was, I wanted to fix it. It was causing me so much confusion and pain. So I probably took the most shallow approach to it and came to the conclusion that I was gay. I was attracted to guys, so I guess that made me gay. I didn’t come out though. For the longest of times, I thought that conclusion was the answer to all my problems but when I was still unhappy with being a male, I was stumped. So I would drink. I would get one of my coworkers to buy me vodka after work and just drink. I was soon drinking every night and getting wasted. I became toxic and once again was isolated. Whenever I had a problem, I would drink to solve it. Being drunk became my safe place. I didn’t have to deal with anything or feel anything if I was drunk. I was broken inside. My junior year was probably my sloppiest and most down I had been since middle school.”
Aubrey continued to feel unhappy and attributed it to her being in the closet. When she came out as gay, she expected to lose people but was surprised to lose many of those she’d felt closest with. Despite this, she graduated top ten in her class, got into the University of Delaware, and had many positive experiences the summer prior to college. But in college, she found an “eerie similarity” to what she experienced in middle school.
“Guys were still expected to be on the prowl for girls except now you add alcohol to the mix. To put it simply, I didn’t fit in. My room was my safe haven and I didn’t leave much … When I got home from UD, I was lost. I didn’t know what my plan was or what I was going to do. It didn’t help that I was constantly reminded I was disappointing my family. That was the last thing I wanted to do, but I needed to be happy. It was during this time when I became close with one of my childhood friends and we soon became inseparable. She helped me really analyze what my feelings meant and let me know it was okay to feel that way. She helped me to see that my voice mattered. She had her whole life planned out and it really inspired me to do better. During August 2013, I would say I had my first awakening. It was one of those summer storms that knocks out the power and leaves you with nothing to do. So like any person of my generation, I got on social media to entertain myself. So I’m scrolling through twitter and I come across this picture of this beautiful, black woman. She was gorgeous. I clicked on the tweet and it said “Born a man but living as woman”. I was floored. I had known about drag queens but I knew it was something they only did once in a while. … She was a transgender woman…. It was eye opening to me and my gut told me to look more into it. The more I researched the more parallels I found between these transgender women and myself. They all had the same feelings that I had experienced throughout my whole life. The only difference was they acted on them as I hid them. I did a lot of research the next couple of weeks and came to the conclusion that maybe I was transgender. I then started researching how to begin hormones to align my body with how I felt.”
Soon after, Aubrey got into a relationship with a man who swept her off her feet, and he seemed accepting when she told him she was thinking of transitioning. But he was not who he seemed to be. Like so many people, she was pulled into a relationship that became increasingly controlling and abusive. He started by emotionally tearing her down with the accusation that she wasn’t trans, just insecure, and he blamed her for all their problems. So she repressed her feelings.
“It wasn’t long until I was depressed and tried to end my life. For a moment, I was suspended in the air, so close to being gone. Fortunately the belt slipped and I fell to the ground. That day let me know I needed a change. I tried multiple times to leave for home but was told I would be followed and taken back. I went through so much in those six months and I still feel uneasy today when I think about it. When someone you love puts their hands on you, it makes it so hard to just feel safe. I was constantly broken down and had my character viciously attacked. I was made to feel worthless in hopes I wouldn’t have the strength to leave. The sad part is I went through six months of this because he said he loved me and I didn’t want to have another person who I loved leave my life. I had already gone through that way too many times and couldn’t bear to have it happen again. It took until me seeing a TV special about transgender women for me to leave. All this time while I was pretending to be masculine for someone, I was miserable. It was like I was trying to be someone who I never wanted to be. If I kept this up I was going to be bitter and end up eventually ending my life one day and that’s something I don’t want. I knew being transgender was going to make me happy and I needed to do whatever it took. I may have cried the whole way home, but hey, at least I had the strength to do it.
I started taking hormones three days after I got home. July 7, 2014 will always be a special day for me. It’s the first day I made the decision to be who I really am. I am a transgender woman, and that’s okay. All of these challenges and hardships I faced only made me a stronger person. All of the times I cried and wanted to give up were suddenly worth it. I found who I am and it’s magical. I don’t get those periods of sadness anymore. I can easily say I have never been happier and more grateful to be alive. I look at life with such different eyes now. It seems like nothing can really upset me anymore. What do I have to be upset about? I am making moves to be myself, the real me. For a long time, I thought the best way to go about this was to keep it to myself until the hormones did their job, and I could afford surgery. Now that I’m eight months into the hormones, I learned the faults in my ways. Why should I put my dreams and life on hold just because I may offend some people. I’m happy and if that offends anyone, it says more about them, than it does me. I love my family and was so scared that by it being publicly known I’m trans, I would be embarrassing or disappointing them. So I didn’t come out and just kept it to a few friends, but these are secrets I’m keeping from the people I love. That’s not something I want to have to do my whole life. To all that took the time to read and really get to know my truth, thank you, I truly appreciate it. By no means am I saying I am going to start living full time as a woman tomorrow. This is something I plan to take my time with for the sake of myself and others. I’m just like any other 21-year-old my age. I still am trying to figure out the perfect amount of shots between tipsy and too drunk. I still hate doing laundry. I still am obsessed with the Kardashians. But I also have the same dreams as you. I still would love to graduate from college. I still want a house up in Westchester with a husband and kids. I just want to be happy. Unfortunately I’ve just had to put these things on hold so I can raise money to surgically correct my body. It sucks but I’m willing to do it. My goal of this letter is simply this: I’m no different than you or anyone else you know, I’m just a twenty one year old trying to figure out this thing we call life.”
You can read Aubrey’s full letter here (http://livingmyt.com/2015/03/10/open-letter-to-family-and-friends). If you would like to share your story or need support, please contact [email protected] or visit transcendcharlotte.com. Photo Credit: thevitalvoice.com