This past Sunday I celebrated my 27th birthday and a year of living full time as my most authentic self. I was not one that subscribed to gender non-conformity and androgyny. I had set a date as to when I would go full time and not look back. Originally that date was supposed to be March 20th, 2013, the first day of spring, the season of rebirth. Due to the rapid effects of hormones I decided to push the date up to coincide with my vacation back home for my birthday, in February.
What I hadn’t decided was whether I’d go to Florida as me or in what I call “boy mode”. As I wrote last week I decided to just jump right in; why prolong things I had been waiting for so long already? Better to rip off the Band-Aid quickly and start on the road to acceptance with my family than go as a boy and have to deal with it later. This rapid shift in appearance prompted my friends to take a double take and tell me that I had transitioned in 24 hours, a joke that I took pride in, and still makes us laugh today.
Last February was a huge milestone for me in bridging the divide between who people thought I was and who I knew myself to be, between who I am and who I wanted to become. Not just physically but emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. Often when people are in transition the focus tends to overwhelmingly be about the physical changes. I wanted to transition completely.
In my late teens and early 20’s I tried transitioning. But it was a road I found too difficult to navigate, a mountain too steep to climb, a cross too heavy to bare. Holding off on my transition was one of the hardest decisions of my life, one that prompted me to tears on many occasions. What kept me going was that in my dark periods I kept telling myself that I had a plan, that one day I would move to a big city and transition. I swore to myself I would do it when the time was right.
However, because I pushed back my dream of being the woman that I always knew myself to be for five years, I also pushed back all of my other goals by five years. I pushed school back because I dreaded the idea of having a diploma with the name “Jason” printed on it. I kept myself from fully committing in relationships because I didn’t see a future as who I was.
This delay in my life goals has morphed into an overwhelming sense of urgency to do everything now. My friends think I’m crazy when I tell them that I want to finish school, have my GRS, publish a book, get married, buy a home, travel, and start a family all within five years. And they are probably right. One of the biggest drawbacks of putting your life on hold is that you train your mind into living in a constant dream about the future. You preoccupy your days with “I can’t wait till by breast grow in” “I can’t wait to have my surgery”. This way of thinking is a survival mechanism I learned early on in my life. One that I used to escape throughout my childhood, one that I used to retreat to the safe and hopeful mental state of the “one day”: “one day I’ll have my own place”, “one day I won’t have anyone to tell me what to do”, “one day”. I am now well in my journey of becoming the woman I dreamed of for so many years, but anchoring myself into the present and living in the here and now is something that I am constantly trying to train and re-train myself to do.
In my adult life when I haven’t been daydreaming about the future I’ve been kicking myself about my past, perpetually living in a state of shoulda, coulda, woulda. I shoulda stayed in school, I coulda found a way to finance my transition, I woulda been so much further along. At times I struggle to forgive myself for my past mistakes and accept my decisions, all of them, the good ones, and also—and especially—the bad ones.
This past Sunday as I woke up to my phone to hear my mother at the other end of the receiver singing “feliz, feliz en tu día”—Puerto Rico’s version of Happy Birthday to you—I decided that I would commit to being and living in the present; I finally committed to enjoying the moment.
I didn’t realize then how emotional being present could be. When you spend a lifetime escaping your surroundings it can be an overwhelming experience to submit to them. I was brought to tears on multiple occasions on Sunday. I started the day as I do most Sundays, by going to church. The sermon was about the state of the parish, which led me to reflect upon my own state of self. I allowed myself to delight in the fact of having lived a year as my most authentic self. I rejoiced in the mini milestones I accomplished within that first year: changing my name, my gender marker, coming out to the world, budgeting my money to cover the cost of my transition. I celebrated how far my mother and I had come since so many years ago when I mistakenly told her I was gay, to when she visited me in the fall and took me to JC Penny to buy me a few dresses.
That evening as I sat surrounded by some of the people I love most I felt an overwhelming sense of love and embrace. I surrendered myself to my emotions and anchored myself in the now while simultaneously thinking about the moments that brought me to the crossroads of being at that table with a group of people that were all there to celebrate me and welcome me with their love. I thought about Jerusalem and how I told her so many years ago, back in our home state: “I think we are going to be friends for a long time”. I was right, after my arrival to the District she was the one to welcome me with cocktails.
I looked at Mo, to whom on my first day at work—just one day after arriving to DC—I asked “is there anyone with a car that would be willing to help me deliver the safer sex packets to the clubs?” to my surprise he raised his little hand and agreed to shuffle me around town. That would be the first of countless times I talked him into one of my many adventures, “why do I always let you talk me into stuff?” he still exclaims even though he knows well what my answer will be: “don’t worry I got this”.
I looked at Ruby and Consuella who have guided me through my transition and taught me the meaning of sisterhood. A deep meaning that is about much more than painting your nails together and doing each other’s hair, as I once naively believed.
I looked at Juliana and Jon who have been constant in their support and have held me accountable to keeping up with my writing.
At that table I was met with a feast of love that would leave left overs for days and years to come. I can’t say that I still don’t struggle to be in the moment but I can say that I am moving into a state of greater awareness and acceptance of who I am.