San Francisco City Hall showing its pride by Tom Hilton.

As he looks toward his future, he describes his next steps as “generally trying to rebuild my life…using bricks that I actually love.” He speaks of creating a safety net that will be ready to catch him should he ever sink toward “rock bottom” again, people and resources he can turn to, backup plans and shoulders to lean on so that that he can avoid the last resort of returning to his country.

“I know my family will never be the same again. There will always be differences. I hope that one day they’ll understand the decisions that I’m making.”

Dani is in the process of seeking asylum, having interviewed and received the recommendation for acceptance. He plans to restart his education next fall, to continue building relationships and references, and to eventually secure employment. He has renewed his plan to bring his family to the United States — partially because his identification as LGBT “is a big risk on them.” He hopes for reconciliation. “I know my family will never be the same again. There will always be differences. I hope that one day they’ll understand the decisions that I’m making.” As he tells his story, he reflects that he’s simultaneously happier and sadder now than he was before his journey began. “I lost many things,” he says, “There’s always sadness, deep inside.” He anticipates an uphill journey ahead, but he says, “I’ve seen so many bad things, but now I see the light…I now see it a lot closer.”

He credits his ability to resurface from rock bottom, to gulp a breath of oxygen, first, to his upbringing, to the values that his mother had instilled in him. “One of the things that my mom used to do was, she used to always push me, to being a better person. She motivated me every day. It stuck to me. It’s part of my identity. A person who pushes on.” Every day breaks with renewed determination. “If I don’t get up and try to accomplish the task that I have set, I really do get miserable.”

Secondly, Dani explains, “there are three things that keep me in this world,” three life purposes he’s living to fulfill. “They’re very extensive, they expand very much, but I tried to narrow them down so that I could make them my own guidelines for life.”

“I’m only going to live once — for now, that’s all I know. And when we die, what have we experienced? That’s the only thing that lies between us and after death.”
  1. To be a part of a community of enduring relationships, friends and family “so amazing” that he would give his life for them.
  2. To experience everything. “For me, experience is so amazing,” he enthuses, “I’m only going to live once — for now, that’s all I know. And when we die, what have we experienced? That’s the only thing that lies between us and after death. For me, experience is lovely. And that’s why I want to transition. I believe I’m transgender. But you know what, even if I’m not, how amazing would it be to say that I was both genders? Experience builds you, even if it’s a bad experience. I have been bullied, hit, been cursed at. I’ve also been loved, kissed. I’ve also studied, learned new things.”
  3. To know what comes after death. “The only way to do that is death. But it’s my last one and the last one in my life. And that’s why I accept death. Because, it’s another experience. And it’s the one that I believe might be the last one. I hope it’s not, but I really don’t care, because I’ll already have experienced so much.”

He smiles triumphantly. “What’s stopping us? Have fun with it.”

temporary address gives a voice to stories that are unheard — stories of the homeless in San Francisco.

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