Hope is a Four Letter Word

Michelle D.
Nov 10, 2019 · 6 min read

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

It has taken unusual effort for me to begin writing this piece. I am wondering if stalling to write this piece was due to the fact that during the writing process I will be required to recall times in my life where I was actually aware that I was hanging on by a thread of hope to a shred of hope.

When I read quotes about hope, they are generally set in the context of unfortunate instances or circumstances, mental and emotional states. ie. despair; disappointment; death and dying; love lost. I guess that it is in that sort of situation, we are moved to dig deep for solutions to troubling issues, loss and trauma. And when all options are exhausted, we may realize that our only choice is to abandon the fabulous plans that we made or the marriage we tried to save. The only thing remaining in these darkest of situations is the light we use to overcome the darkness. And that light is hope.

I have experienced some extremely difficult and seemingly hopeless situations during my stay on this, the third rock from the Sun. Being that I am (very) short, I was the perpetual recipient of sarcasm and cruel jokes from the boys. Beginning with my school days in Hawaii, my life has been unpredictable, brutal and a constant source of stress and unknowns. It was in Hawaii where I got my first taste of what being a member of a marginalized group (haole) tasted like. And it was during these times where I learned that humans can be heartless, without a soul, devoid of compassion and full of malice. But in the maelstrom, I found this beautiful and powerful gem……HOPE.

My teenage years were tough. I thought of suicide but I respected this life I was handed to much to follow through. Instead of ending my pain with a gun, I decided to live so hard that surely I would die in the process. My hope then was to just vanish without a trace. I had no idea that my death-wish was due to my gender confusion. I just thought that I was damaged as a result of the sexual abuse that I endured.

Fast forward five years….

“Sex and drugs and rock and roll” was the motto of the 1970s and I lived it on the daily. During my few years as a hairstylist in L.A. I tried gay culture but found myself more attracted to women than men. The party life led me to do stupid stuff and I soon found myself in lock-up in the L.A. county jail. I amassed a total of five DUIs and every weekend was a drunken blur. I worked as a carpenter during the day and sold drugs at night. I was trying to live a normal life but I just couldn’t get a grip on it. “No hope, without dope” was a popular saying back then. Oh, I had lots of dope…very little hope. The one thing that changed my perspective was attending college for the first time at the ripe age of 26. It was then that I had my first jaunt with sobriety. I was 27 at the time and had been drinking for 14 years. But before I made the effort to stop drinking I caught another DUI charge and ended up in rehab. Thirty days in rehab then thirty days in jail then back to the rehab for another month.

Fast forward 30 years…

Four failed marriages to ciswomen (genetic women) and 30 years of unhappily trying to exist as a man found me alone, with no wife or children in my home. It was during this time that I began to date men and go to the city fully dressed in seductive clubwear in order to seduce men into sexual relations. These moments were plentiful and so freeing and beautiful to me.

The urges I felt as I became disinterested in women were slightly confusing so I sought counseling to try and make some sense of it all. Three months into therapy I was given a diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria. Gender Dysphoria? I was unfamiliar with this terminology and when my counselor explained her reasoning for this diagnosis I was floored as she had figured out the source of my utter dissatisfaction with my male persona. I am transgender. I am a transgender woman.

The prescribed treatment for my gender dysphoria was hormone replacement therapy (HRT) where I was directed to administer self-injected high octane estrogen weekly and take progesterone pills daily. I still maintain this regimen. My first day of HRT was May 5, 2017 (my Estroversary). Since that time the changes to my body, mind and soul have been startling and nothing short of a miracle as my entire endocrine system was flipped from testosterone based to estrogen based. In other words, I turned the genetic Boy switch off and the Girl switch on. I am extremely happy and satisfied with this metamorphosis, a gift that I treasure above all else. If only the rest of our judgemental society were so pleased and accepting of my choice to live publicly, 24/7 as the woman I am which began July 1, 2017.

September 15, 2017 marks the day when the joy I had known with my full transition was being overshadowed by the employment discrimination and ostracization I was now experiencing. It all began when I was surreptitiously released from the school district to which I had only just relocated, and with no income I was consequently evicted from my apartment and forced to seek shelter. The next year was filled with being hired as a cisgender woman and fired (as employers were somehow informed of my transgender status) as a transgender woman. I was subjected to many broken promises of housing and finally a brief spell of homelessness. With no income I was forced to become an escort and sell my sexual talents just to survive. Somehow I managed to navigate and suffer through these insults and hardships.

After over two years without employment as a teacher, I finally landed a high paying teaching position in East Bay, San Francisco. I moved here a couple of months ago and life has been phenomenal. I still escort as I slowly recoup my losses and rebuild my finances. I am hopeful that soon I will be able to quit escorting and rely solely upon the income I earn from teaching.

Through all of this, had I given up, or lost the hope that things could change in my favor I may have ended it all. Let’s face it, life can be a challenge at times for us all, and can be especially challenging if we are members of a marginalized segment of society, be it based upon skin color, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status or as in my case, gender identity and expression.

I have only touched upon the more dreadful and recent experiences I have lived through. There are many more which were just as painful as those that I mention. The difference being that I now rely on the magic that only hope has delivered. The magic of hope and all the strength it provides cannot be overstated. If you are at the end of your rope and things seem hopeless, remember the inspiring, yet simple words of Theodore Roosevelt:

“When you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on”

Yes, hope is a four letter word. Four letters that saved my life.

Please feel free to clap for this story and join me on this journey to acceptance by following me.

Michelle D. is a transgender woman/teacher/activist/lover of languages/anthropologist and proud recipient of Congressional recognition for her activism and invaluable service to the community

The Transition Transmission

Michelle D.

Written by

Michelle D. is a transgender woman/teacher/activist/writer and recipient of Congressional recognition for her activism and service to the community.

The Transition Transmission

The place to embrace the Triumphs and Tribulations of those who Transitioned and risked everything to live authentically.

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