The first words I spoke in the documentary I am making were that I always felt like I was different. In retrospect, those were the wrong words to say.
What I should have said was, “Since I was little, I always knew I was a girl who was presenting as a boy.”
We never expect that we are going to go through life and understand the reasons why things happen to us. Some of us have tragic and unfortunate circumstances and become consumed with ‘living with it.’ Certainly, I was one of those people, and there wasn't a day which went by where I wasn't asking ‘why me?’
In the 1970’s and 80’s, being who I am, a transgender woman, was neither allowed nor pre-determined. If you looked like a boy, you were to be a boy and portray a certain childlike masculinity, which was determined with things like B.B. guns and toy trucks.
I wish I could say that I spent my entire childhood coveting toys that would show the world that I was female. I did not. I didn’t sit down and play with Barbie dolls, and I didn't ask to. I did, however, smother myself in the fantastic world of books and read voraciously.
In the pages of those books, I could be Ellie Arroway or Susan Pevensie, and nobody had to know.
Despite the deep emotional pain I was feeling and how it made me lash out in a myriad of ways, it was easy for those charged with my care to write it off as puberty, or hormones, or maladjustment. What else could it possibly be? As such, since the time I was very young, I buried my secret as far down in my belly as I could.
In the meantime, my brain was muddled with the monotonous metronome that was in my head and would repeat “girl, girl, girl” every minute of every day of every week. It was a deafening and thunderous sound that gradually died down over time to a faint ‘tick tock,’ as if seconds were passing by on a wall clock. Nevertheless, it was always there.
Despite what I heard in my head, it was my displays of manliness that everyone else saw. How one fall day I drew my rifle and perfectly sighted a deer and pulled the trigger. Unfortunately, he made a bounding move, and instead of piercing his heart, his leap caused the bullet to shatter his leg. When I approached him licking his wound, I looked into the eyes of God’s perfect creation, and my heart was broken forever as I took aim at his head and pulled the trigger.
It was an action that will haunt me forever.
Cheers arose from the crowd of men behind me, patting me on the back and telling me how proud they were. “That’s a beautiful four pointer!” they said. It was agonizing that the determination of whether a creature of God should live or die was based on how big his antlers were.
Are we as humans any different in determining how we kill one another? Now, later in life, as I walk down the street, I am confronted with the fact that people want to kill me. Facing this truth, I take a detailed assessment of my life and think of all the things that I have done.
I spent eight years of my life defending a country I loved, but moreover, I put my life at risk because I wanted everyone to enjoy the beautiful breaths of freedom that I did not have.
The same freedom I defended would be used to later take my civil rights from me.
I'm an advocate who fights for the rights of the truly downtrodden and those who don’t deserve that fate. I do a myriad of things which people would consider being good, and righteous, and living the word of the Lord.
Yet, many would not hesitate to draw their rifle on me, place me perfectly into their sights, and pull the trigger, as has happened to so many of us.
I realize very quickly that people have judged and continue to judge me based on my appearance alone, with no understanding of the sort of human being I am. Perhaps it’s easy to look into my innocent eyes and kill me with their words. Or thoughts. Or actions.
Despite knowing this would happen all along, at 40 years old I decided that I was going to make a change in my life, which would put my life at great risk and perhaps cause me to lose everything.
I needed to silence the metronome, I needed to stop living a lie, and I needed to be free.
It was that day which I shed the outside of myself and became complete. Forty years later, the metronome stopped, and I hear the birds singing and see the beautiful cacophony of nature for the first time.
When people ask me the inevitable questions, which I am pensive to answer, about why I would want to change my gender and “be someone else,” my response remains the same: “How can I change who already was?”
We live in a time of harrowing statistics for Transgender people, and the firm belief that being Trans is against the Word of God causes people to cast us away, discriminate, and unfortunately kill. The only redemption in the eyes of many is to not be Transgender—to be someone who you entirely are not.
In a personification of life’s cruel irony, our society tells us we can be “whomever we want to be.”
I live my life knowing that God loves me. I know this because I completely put my fate in His hands, and for doing that I have seen the ultimate result of His unconditional love. In the end, it only matters what He thinks of me, because I know if He loves me then others will, too. This is God’s redemption for me.
I am a beautiful four pointer.
To learn more about Rachel's documentary, TRANSit, visit the website.
Photo via flickr user Niki Odolphie