As a lot of you know, I’m transgender.
My name is Brian and I’ve had more surgeries than I can count. I take more medications than I can name. I’ve had my blood taken so many times, it’s a part of my routine. I’ve been watching the needle enter my skin since I was a toddler.
I live in the Deep South. My grandmother is terrified that I’ll be beaten to death or shot and killed. She wants me to move somewhere where I’ll be accepted and safe. She doesn’t want me to leave her but if it means my happiness, then she’s willing to watch me go.
In late March, an offer too good to be true was randomly offered to me. Gwen Saoirse asked me how I felt about maybe moving in with her in Michigan. Honestly, at first I thought she was joking. In my mind I was like, “No way!”
We kept talking about it, and I found myself asking my grandmother about it the same day she offered. Of course, she shut the idea down as fierce as one of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s blocks. After a couple of hours, she started asking questions and slowly warming up to the idea.
My grandmother knew I was sad here, but she has no idea just how miserable I was. I smiled and joked with her in the daytime and cried my eyes out at night. I hated not being able to be Brian 24/7. Living a double life is exhausting. Constantly having to be aware of who’s around and shoving Brian in the closet when it isn’t safe is exhausting.
In all fairness, my grandmother had every right to not like and not trust the idea. I had never met Gwen in real life before. I had only known her from writing on Medium and our LGBTQ writing group on Slack. My grandmother had no idea who she was. Meanwhile, Gwen was offering to build me a room and flying most of the way to my house then driving the rest just to come get me and drive back to her home. I kept telling her I didn’t have any money and she just brushed it off. I told her I needed to save up some money and she insisted I didn’t. I had all of these questions and she answered them with no hesitation.
It sounds too good to be true, right?
It also sounded to good to turn down. I’ve always wanted to escape the small town I spent my whole life in. During holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, I always found myself kind of sad because we didn’t have a big family to celebrate with. Loneliness came in waves. Sometimes it was a subtle sadness. Other times I was sure I was going to drown in it. Anxiety and Depression fought to see who could kill me first. I was in real danger of ending my own life.
Then Gwen offered me what seemed like a ticket to paradise.
She held this shiny golden ticket like they had in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. She told me I deserved to transition and be Brian full time. I could feel in her words that she wanted to help me. It was like I was dangling off a cliff and she bent down to offer me her hand to pull me up.
I reached up and grabbed her hand. As anxious as I always am, this time I felt totally safe. I fully trusted her, and I never trust anyone. Sometimes I find it hard to trust my own grandmother. It’s my anxiety telling me lies, but when it’s your own voice in your head — how do you not trust it?
My grandmother and I got into a series of horrible fights. During this weekend long event, Gwen and I decided on a date. I had to leave home. It was time. I could feel it. When I told my grandmother what day I was leaving, she thought it was because we were fighting. She was partly right, but I was also suffocating. The conservative, anti — LGBTQ town was killing me and not feeling safe at home only sucked all my oxygen away even faster. I knew I had to get away.
The date grew closer, and instead of fighting me on it my grandmother came around and helped me get ready. Excitement grew inside me with each day. Part of me was guilty because I was so happy about leaving my grandmother. However the happiness buried the guilt. Deep down, I knew it was time. This was my chance to be Brian all the time, and it was too good to pass up. I might have never gotten a chance like this again.
I got to Michigan real late Monday night.
I know for a fact that I would have lost my fight with my mental illnesses if I would have told Gwen no. I don’t know how long it would have taken, but it would have happened. I could feel myself getting closer and closer to ending everything each time I plunged into the deep, ice cold sea of Depression.
Cuts got deeper. The voices grew louder. Addiction crept up on me, threatening to throw me into a tailspin. My emergency — only anxiety pills began to shout at me, telling me to give in. They kept reminding me how good it felt to be numb. The relief of not feeling anything at all was terrifying, but it was the lesser of the two evils.
Part of me is ashamed of the things I’ve done and how bad my demons have gotten, but I know sharing my story will help someone else.
When we find ourselves in the pit of depression, we don’t believe the old tale that “things will get better.” We grow irritated at hearing it. I got to the point where someone simply mentioning therapy to me pissed me off. I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to explain that going to therapy in the Deep South as a black transman is a trap that will only send me off the edge that much quicker.
I want therapy. I’m not against therapy. I just don’t want the bible thrown at me. I don’t want to be told I’m not trans. I don’t want to be told to conform to society’s gender rules. I know who I am, I just need someone to help me learn how to fight my depression and anxiety without falling back on destructive habits. I am Brian. I’ve always been a male, no matter what my body said. A therapist can’t change that, but one in Alabama sure would try.
I’m not in Alabama anymore.
I’m 1,000 miles away. I’m in a progressive city where churches have to put up LGBTQ flags just to avoid being banned. People call me Brian and use masculine pronouns with no questions. I’ve only been here a few days, but I love it. There’s so much love and acceptance surrounding me right now.
I know I’ll get tripped up by Depression again. I know my Anxiety will come back. Now I’m more confident I’ll be successful when I fight back. I know Dysphoria is still lurking around the corner, but I know who I am. I don’t have to hide myself. I’m finally fully out of the closet, and it feels so damn good. I wouldn’t know what this felt like yet if Gwen hadn’t offered me a place in her family. As soon as I got here, her and her wife both said “You’re a part of our family now. This is your home. Make yourself at home.”
They saved my life, whether they know it or not.