I have spent well over a year fighting with my insurance company to reimburse me for the massive out-of-pocket expenses I have incurred during transition, all of which the medical community deems medically necessary. My battle is not unique, and I am very proud to have been able to lend my story to CNN for this piece on my community's struggle within the American healthcare system.
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to contribute to an article on Facial Feminization Surgery in The New Yorker, and I am proud of how well it turned out <3
Let’s get real. Life is fucking hard, and it has always been that way. Existing, in and of itself, is about as easy as trying to open a jar with oily hands. We walk around, day after day, going through the motions and lying to one another about how easy this whole thing really is. It is noteasy. We grant each person a carefully curated sliver of who we are, but beneath the surface we are so much more. We are not that sliver. We act like things are okay. They are not okay. Nothing is ever okay. We are not okay. We are humans. We are people. We are flawed, and ugly, and sad, and scared, and beautiful, and unique, and special. We are still those children trying to make sense of this impossible experience, one day at at time, and it is that journey through our existence that makes us so amazing. The things we do, every day, those are who we are, and we cannot let ourselves become too afraid to venture into the unknown and to redefine ourselves in our every waking moment.
So, let me help you. Let me do what we are all so afraid to do. Let me drop the charade, and show you exactly who I am, who I was, and how I got here. I will tell you right now that it was not easy. It was not obvious. It was not something I ever thought I could do on my own, and yet I did. There is darkness to my story, and it is essential, because without it, the light would not have a context in which to shine so radiantly. There is a dread to my story, and it too is essential; for without it, the hope would not have a stage to inspire us all. There is a desperation to my story, and without it, and without the hopelessness, and the fear, and the heartbreak, and the pain, and sorrow, and anguish, and all of things. All. Of. The. Things. Without them, none of what I have done would be remarkable.
So, I want you to remember something when you read this. I want you to remember that this is a story of hope. This is a story of success. This is a story of triumph. This is my story, and it can be yours too. No matter where and when we are in life, there is always hope. Even on the precipice of certain failure, there is hope. So long as there is breath in our body, there is hope. You are not foolish for wanting more, and you are not silly to think that there is more to our world than the day before today and the day before that. And while tomorrow is a fanciful assumption that leads us to sacrifice the now, today is real. Today is a day that you can do anything you set your mind to. Today is worth more than a million tomorrows; it is worth more than any amount of money; it is worth everything because it is the very definition of potential. Only in today, is there opportunity to choose how we exist.
It is the recognition, of the value of today, that gives us so much power in a world that aims to inoculate us to our own ability to realize our potential. There are people, and there organizations, and there are systems that profit from our paralysis. They profit from the fear that we live in, and they turn coin on the expectation that we will wait for tomorrow rather than capitalizing on today. Do not be afraid. Do not wait. Do not expect that your life will magically improve if you just keep doing the same fucking thing, day after day, after day, after day, after day until we are all fucking dead.
I made a choice, in my life, to change something so fundamental, so seemingly immutable and solid, like transforming the color of the Sun. It seemed impossible to me, that I could ever live as a woman in this world, that I could wake up in the morning to a smile instead of a grimace; that I could look to the mirror and see a feminine softness instead of a rough masculinity; that I could wear a dress on a hot day in June; that I could blush as a stranger called me, “miss” or “ma’am;” that I express to the world who I knew I truly was inside; that I could live every day in my own truth, comfortable in my own skin, and embodying an authenticity and an integrity, so pure, that I could close my eyes, every night, and never fear that they might not open again. Indeed, it seemed the very definition of impossible. As a man, assigned a boy at birth, as a person who spent each wakeful moment conforming to an identity that betrayed my true self, as a woman trapped in a prison made of “should” and “ought to,” I can tell you that I never thought I would realize this day.
Yet, here I am. I am doing just that: being. I am being exactly who I am, and I want you to be who you are. I want you to drop the veneer. I want you to breathe. I want you to be honest – more honest than you have ever been in your entire life. I want you to step into yourself, fully – whatever that may look like – and embrace your identity. This is who you are, and it is was makes you so valuable in the world. Homogeny is no commodity, and it is a poison that hurts us all. Nothing is the same. Everything is different. So why should we not all celebrate those differences together? Why should we have to lay in bed at night, turning over our worries and retracing our paths in an endless cycle of “what if?” Truthfully, we don’t. I don’t, and you shouldn’t. You are beautiful. We all are, in our own ways. We knew this as children. We knew that we hated lettuce, and we knew that we loved crayons, and pretend, and song, and dance, and being free. Yet somewhere along the way, we were hurt. In that trauma, we lost our willingness to wear our hearts on our sleeves and our openness to the pursuit of our wildest dreams.
I don’t have answers for you, but I have a story, and a method, and an audacity to dream of a more perfect version of it all that I will never realize. We will never be perfect, but every day, we can wake up, make choices, and go to sleep. We can, every day, step into our lives and choose to be exactly who we want to be. So, step into your life, today, and trust me when I say that nothing will feel better than being who the fuck you really are.
My name is Autumn, and I am a 30 year-old transgender activist and writer born and raised in Portland, Oregon.
My story is an American story, and my views and beliefs are that of someone who fervently believes in the dream that this country stands for: that all people born unto this blue planet deserve the same opportunity as their peers; to prove themselves under the Sun; to define the content of their character, free from the unfair burdens of circumstance; to be loved and to love freely; to garner respect for the merit of their work; to die having lived fully, without regret or hate in their heart; and to rise above the horizon of one’s own self interests, so that our great nation might realize a more perfect vision of itself in the futures of its nascent youth.
In an age of pessimism, I choose to see the good through our flaws, and I hope my writing will inspire others to do the same. Certain is our failure divided, but limitless is our potential as one.