“We all spend our lives kicking the crap out of ourselves for not being this way or that way, not having this thing or that thing, not being like this person or that person.For not living up to some standard we think applies across the board to all of us.We all spend our lives trying to follow the same path, live by the same rules.I think we believe that happiness lies in following the same list of rules. In being more like everyone else. That? Is wrong. There is no list of rules. There is one rule. The rule is: there are no rules.”
– Shonda Rhimes, “Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person”
You are so soft. So sheltered, so innocent, and so beautiful.
And yet, you believe that you are absolutely invincible, that you have edge. That you are daring. Because everything you’ve gone through so far has felt like a monumental departure from everyone you know in Oregon.
One day, you will miss that innocence.
You have dreams of making your mark on the world in major ways.
At 28 years old, I don’t know if i can tell you that “it will get better”. I’m still hoping that it does.
I know that you feel isolated and misunderstood, because you don’t know anyone like you where you are. I know that you are afraid, and that because of that you are hiding. Because so far, the consequences you’ve gone through have felt catastrophic because of your decisions.
You’re going to the prayer line at church to pray for your sins, and you are going to live on your own your Senior year. They’ll stop praying for you soon enough, deciding that your “deviance” has gone “too deep”. Fuck them.
You hate your body- don’t. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Transitioning is a journey, and it can be a beautiful one. You will be ecstatic when you’re breasts finally come in- people will notice them before you, and you will stare in the mirror for hours. It is an incredible experience to feel your body changing. No more “sunnyside eggs nailed to wooden fence”. LOL. Oh, and those saddlebags will come in and YOU.WILL.LIVE.
You’ll literally become a swan one day. Trust me. They’ll pay you to take your photo and it will be the weirdest coming of age for you. They’ll even pay you to do porn- that’s another letter for another day.
At 17, you have been introduced to Simone De Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex”. And you, will have an enlightening experience. “One is not born, rather one becomes, a woman”. It will recalibrate your journey and suddenly, it all makes sense.
And everything you’ve gone through- all the incidences of punishment because of the way you walk, and the way you talk, and being bullied, beat up, picked on… you will have such a clarity about what you are in the world.
Something I admire about you is that you will insist to others, that the transgender experience is only an aspect of your identity. In fact, you will disallow people to even mention it. If they know, they know and if they don’t they don’t- you’ll say.
You want to be regarded for who you are, and not what you are.
That will kind of get lost, and you will find yourself feeling as if you don’t know who you are. Because your transgender experience will become the focal point of your life.
It will literally be the reason you eat and live the life you live.
You will feel stifled, confined, and often overlooked, and tokenized because of it. And oddly, you won’t feel as connected to others in your experience. They will say, “the transgender community”, and you will find, that in fact there really isn’t one. That too, is a letter for another day.
You will learn that because of what you are, that you will have to fight to be respected. To be seen as human.
So at 17, you will display that through boldness and flamboyance- as an effort to be seen. But as you age, you will see every which way the rest of the world will minimize you.
They will consistently strip you of your womanhood, of your personhood even. Professionally, romantically, and socially. In big and small ways from language to attitudes, to nonverbal communication. It will be unsettling, but you will cling to your diplomacy so that you can get ahead. And the only way you’ll know to cope is to go numb and focus on making money. Don’t let this experience hurt you, but rather, find ways to evolve it. And be optimistic.
At 17, the boys are so sweet, and they validate you in ways you’ve never known. They’ll make promises they won’t keep. And you’ll never actually have a romantic comedy sort of relationship. And it’s ok right now, but eventually you’ll resent them.
You won’t ever meet the parents. And they always break up with you before the holidays. Or worst- disappear, and spring up just in time for Groundhog’s Day.
You’ll know Love one day, I promise (I’m not sure).
But you will, over the years, become jaded by it, because it will be completely transactional. And you’ll soon learn, that love is actually quite superficial- that no one loves anyone really, for “who they are” but rather “who they are” in their physical manifestations. Just gain weight and then start a Tindr. And you’ll see. (
You don’t know what Tindr is yet, but one day you will).
You will meet men who ask you to compromise or eliminate every boundary and rule and value you have, simply because they are enraptured by the fantasy of you in the four corners of their mind. Not the real you.
You will have numerous moments wrapped in your bed sheets, watching all those beautiful men get dressed and leave you in the middle of the night.
And I wish I could prepare you for the cold reality that even the elders you aspire to be more like- the freedom fighters with all the right things to say and who have navigated a transgender experience for multiple decades- are in fact, alone.
You will know assault- sexual, physical, and emotional. And it will harden you. This is why you smoke so much (quit smoking please, it will get worse).
You’re enlightenment will change, and you will see that love is elusive for people like you, and know one you know has it in ways that you were taught growing up. At 28, you will pray and beg “to be normal” because everyone else that you know, so it seems, will get married. Share ultrasound photos. Meet the parents at Thanksgiving. Spend Christmas in Tahoe.
Your Christmas tradition will be cup of noodles and Harry Potter marathons alone.
You’ll find comfort in reading books alone, and going to sleep at 8pm on New Year’s Eve.
I’ll just be blunt: you will hate the holidays.
I’m writing to you in a time where they finally accept transgender people, and you will see representations beyond Jerry Springer and Isis King.
In fact, you’ll become a nationally- known advocate for your community and travel the world to empower transgender people.
And everyone will love trans people- they will be academics at prestigious universities, and they will be “woke” to your experience. And people will say things like “Femmes” and “Queer and Trans People of Color”.
Everyone loves trans women, except on holidays. That’s when the phone never rings.
At 17, you think that around 28 you will be living in a brick flat in a cosmopolitan city and deeply in love. At 28, you will know what it’s like to have been homeless, evicted, short on rent, and more. But you will in fact, have a beautiful apartment. Some things do kind of come true.
At 17, you are surprisingly confident. It’s a facade, and in your early 20’s as you start to meet girls with your share experience you will development insecurities you thought you’d be immune to. And you’re self-esteem will be broken, and you will find yourself wishing that you were lighter skin, and skinnier, and perkier. Anything but you. But you are so beautiful, why would you do this? FIND YOURSELF. Be your own kind of beautiful.
You will overcome so much between where you are and where you are going. And maybe that’s what people mean when they say “It Gets Better”.
Maybe what they mean is that if you work hard enough, a lot of the things you deal with at your age will go away. Progress isn’t linear, but it does in fact, progress.
At 28, you will remember a time when you were spit on, asked to leave restaurants, laughed at when you walk into a job interview, had beer bottles thrown at you, and more– and they will feel like ancient memories.
You’ll be “old in transsexual years” in the dawn of a new era in transgender culture. and visibility.
Life will get better. It does get better. And what gets better truthfully, is the resilience and the love of self. And the love of God. The friendships get better. The laughs get better. The sex gets way better. And you get more memories you’re fond of.
Stay optimistic. And fall in love with yourself- you are all you have!
from 11 years in the future,