Authenticity is the greatest gift a person can give to this world, to the people they love, and to their own soul. It is the first and greatest building block for reaching your potential. It is the moment when the clouds in the sky bow down to the sunlight and the opportunity to understand the concept of truth moves out of the shadows of ideology and into the light of realness.
"It is revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tells us we should not exist." - Laverne Cox's amazing statement accurately describes the forces that bring pressure onto each of use to fold ourselves into socially-constructed boxes and tuck our wings, looking incessantly and longingly toward the sky.
When I first began sharing my journey as a transgender woman, I talked about becoming a woman. Although I knew that was not an accurate description of what was happening in my world, I didn't have a better way of telling the story. As time went by, I worked diligently to find better ways to describe the process.
Today, I understand that I was never male. My who I am has always been female. In fact, I was always presenting myself as a person who was never me. Putting on my "Steven Suit". Pretending to be male and at the same time, trying to learn how to be male.
Rather than becoming a woman, I was actually uncovering the woman who was always there. If I had been male, I would have been able to be male. It would have worked for me. The reason being male didn't work for me is that I wasn't male. The reason embracing my authentic, female self works for me is because it is who I truly am.
There is nothing questionable about being who you truly are. No one has the right or ability to define your gender for you. Anyone who tells you differently has proven themselves to be an unreliable source of information.
Sadly, we often tell our own stories in a way that perpetuates the myth that there is some kind of gender transition. As I tell my story today, I don't even use the word transition - at least not without a qualifier like medical transition or physical transition. I did not transition. I transitioned the way I present myself to the world. I transitioned the degree of honesty I embraced toward myself and everyone who knows me. But I did not transition.
There was a physical transition, but that is not necessarily part of the process. There was a medical transition, but that is not necessarily part of the process. Taking hormones and having surgery did not make me female. Being female is what makes me female.
Speaking of surgery, we have a number of phrases we use to talk about it including gender reassignment surgery (GRS); sex reassignment surgery (SRS); gender confirmation surgery (GCS). One of the most egregious of these is GRS - which would totally be some type of brain surgery, if it were actually something that could be done. Not to put too fine a point on it, but my gender is not between my legs.
SRS, while technically correct still, falls short of completely describing the process. Yes, sex reassignment surgery is a technically correct term, but GCS tells a more accurate story. Gender confirmation surgery includes more than a physical description of the process. GCS speaks to why many transsexual individuals seek to have surgery - to bring our bodies more into alignment with who we are - confirming (also called gender affirmation surgery) who we are.
Finally, as I tell my story today, I make a significant point to summarize the two extraordinarily different parts of my journey. For the first 48 years of my life, I pretended to be male. I tried to learn how to be male. I thought about suicide every day. I could not function in society. I had an incessant struggle with substance abuse, and eventually became homeless.
For the last nine years of my life, I have stayed sober. I have gone back to school and acquired two college degrees. I volunteer in the community. I am gainfully employed and I am contributing to society. I love being alive.
In the end, I don't really care whether someone believes that embracing my authentic self is the right thing for me. But when they tell me I can't live authentically, they are asking me to do something I am no longer able to do. They are asking me to go back to a place I am no longer able to be.
I understand what it means to someone when you tell them they can not live authentically. I understand what it does to someone. I have known the all-encompassing pain of self-denial. I have lived in the place where there is no hope. And I have experienced the miracle of embracing myself as who I am.
It is not a choice about being male or female. It is a choice about being true to myself or not. It is a choice between living in the sunlight or dying in the shadows. It is mine and mine alone. It is the absolute, uninhibited truth. I choose authenticity.