7 Things I Wish I Knew In My 20's



‘The One Thing I Wish I Knew Before Coming Out As Transgender’

Most of my extended family learned I was when I wore a dress to my father’s funeral two years ago.

A lot of my family members didn’t speak to me because of what I was wearing. The ones who did called me by my dead name, Mario, even when I would say, “No, I’m Amber. My name is Amber.”

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I had come out to my mom, my brothers, and my sister the year before—but my mom didn't want me to tell the rest of our extended family, which is very conservative. So I'm sure it was quite a shock for people to see me wearing a dress and heels.

But I didn't really have a choice—I didn't have any more men's clothing. I had been living as a woman for a year. I got the call that my father died when I was at work, so I drove straight to my mom's house dressed how I was—in a dress.

My mom had seen me in women's clothes before, but she'd had a lot of trouble accepting who I was. And she was really upset that I hadn’t come to my dad’s funeral dressed as a man.

“Why are you dressed that way?” she asked. I told her that it’s because that’s who I am—a woman.

“Well, you’re just a man dressing up in women’s clothes,” she said. That hurt.

I didn’t speak to my family for a long time after that.

'I repressed who I was for decades.'

I started to transition three years ago, when I was 47 years old. I absolutely expected that my life would change once I was openly living as my true self. But the one thing I really didn’t realize was that when I transitioned, everyone I knew would have to transition as well.

My mom kept saying, 'If you tell him, he will die.'

I grew up in a Hispanic, Roman Catholic family. I was always feminine, and my parents thought something was wrong with me. My dad always told me, “You’re a man, stop acting like a girl. Man up.” I wasn’t allowed to play with my female cousins; I was punished for having a Raggedy Ann doll. I was in spiritual counseling from a young age, at the recommendation of our church.

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So I repressed who I was for decades. I joined Boy Scouts. I played football, even though I secretly wanted to be a cheerleader. Hiding who I was created a lot of anger issues for me that carried over into adulthood.

It wasn't until I was in my 40s, talking about my anger issues to a therapist, that I realized what was wrong. "None of this would be happening to me if I was a woman," I told my therapist. His glasses nearly fell off his face, he was so surprised. We worked together through my painful, repressed memories and realized that I needed to transition.

He referred me to a gender specialist in late 2014, who gave me the approval to start hormone-replacement therapy in January 2015. It was one of the happiest days of my life.

'I was terrified of telling my family about who I really was.'

In January 2015, right after I got the okay to start hormone replacement therapy, I came out to my older brother and sister. I told them that I was transitioning from male to female, and that I had been seeing a therapist for quite some time. I explained that some of the things I did when I young—like sneaking into my sister's room and reading herCosmoandVogue—happened because this whole time, I was actually a woman.

I was so nervous. I was scared my older brother would beat me up or something. I really just wanted them to know that I was the same person. That yes, I’m transitioning, but I’m still that same person who loves soccer, who loves makeup.

Thankfully, they were totally supportive and accepting of my transition. It was the opposite of what I expected. They told me they loved me, and they even wanted to help me find the right way to tell my mom.

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That conversation with my mom, however, was the hardest thing I've ever had to tell her. Even with my older brother and sister there supporting me, it was still so hard. I tried to explain everything to her as best I could. But she did not take it well.

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She’s very religious, and kept saying that I was born a man, and that I was going to die a man. She didn’t want to tell the rest of the family—especially her family that lives in Mexico.

My mom wouldn’t even let me tell my dad. He had COPD (an inflammatory lung disease), and she kept saying, "If you tell him, he will die." He passed away a year later—and I was never able to tell him my truth.

I also have a younger brother, who is in the Army, and is very conservative. We never had the greatest relationship—he used to tell people at school that I wanted to be a girl, so people would beat me up in the restroom. I couldn't come out to him face-to-face (he was on-base at the time), so I sent him a text message with the news. He has not spoken to me since—and he won't even let me see my nieces.

'I lost some friends...but gained a lot of new ones'

I came out to my friends on Facebook in January 2015, after I came out to my mom and brothers and sister. I wrote that I was transitioning to my true self, and that I'd known since I was 6 that I was born the wrong gender. Like with my family, I wanted people to know that I was the same person, just finally living my truth.

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After that post, I lost a lot of friends from my “old” life. Thankfully, there were quite a few high school, college, and grad school friends who stayed supportive. And I've been making new friends by connecting with people in local LGBT groups who truly understand what I'm going through and offer advice and support.

My brother said, "When you were growing up, you never smiled in family pictures. But you’re always smiling now."

At the same time, I told my coworkers that I was transitioning and they were very accepting. My boss, Cindy, was really pro-active and made sure to inform HR so that bathrooms and things like that wouldn't be an issue, and she encouraged me to be open with my colleagues.

I remember Carolyn, one of my coworkers, asked me to print her out some education materials about transgender issues. I asked her why, and she said, “So that if anyone tells me anything, I’ll be prepared.” It was really awesome. Not every job I’ve had since has been that supportive, but that doesn’t prevent me from being open about my transition and about who I am.

'My family came to my side when I hit rock-bottom'

There have been a lot of positives about coming out, but that doesn't mean everything has been perfect. I've had a lot of trouble getting jobs where I live in Texas—and even though I have a Master's degree and lots of experience, I'm convinced people don't want to hire me because I'm transgender.

There was a period of almost two years where I didn't talk to my family, because I was so upset at how I was treated after my father's funeral. I felt then like no one, not even my brother and sister, truly accepted me. And all of those holidays spent by myself, all those times where I felt like I couldn't talk to the people I cared about, really weighed on me.

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In January 2019, I had been unemployed for over a year, and was struggling to make ends meet as an Uber driver. I was depressed, isolated, and miserable. I felt like I had no friends, no family, no one who cared about me. I hit rock-bottom, and I tried to kill myself.

In retrospect, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

My family really came to my side during that horrible time. My cousins and lots of my other family members contributed to my GoFundMe for my hospital bills. My sister picked me up from the hospital. The people who really cared about me came to my side, without hesitation.

No matter what, I'm not going to hide the fact that I am who I am.

It really opened up my eyes to the fact that I’m not alone. My older brother and sister understand that I’m happier now, that I’m finally living as my true self. My brother told me, “When you were growing up, you never smiled in family pictures. But you’re always smiling now.” And I am—because I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life.

My mother isn’t quite there. I don’t know if she’ll ever be able to call me Amber. But we talk every week, and when I last saw her, she said, “I like your makeup.” That’s big coming from her.

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'I can be open about who I am for the first time in my life.'

I’ve learned that coming out takes a village. I’ve been able to find a community of people—my brother and sister, my friends, other trans activists—who care about me and who have supported me through the ups and downs of transitioning. You can't (and shouldn't) go through anything in your life alone, especially if you're transgender.

Today, I feel completely the opposite of how I felt when I tried to kill myself that day in January. I am so glad that I am living and breathing and enjoying life as my true self.

No matter what, I'm not going to hide the fact that I am who I am. I did that for so long, and I'll be damned if anybody's going to make me go back again.






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Date: 12.12.2018, 18:51 / Views: 43534