Journey Story

The Price Of Authenticity

by Stephanie Mott

They say freedom isn’t free. This is something I know very well. Authenticity is also not free. Lack of authenticity has its cost, as well. The price of authenticity is often added to the cost of living inauthentically and the burden is carried by everyone whose life touches any human being for whom the struggle for authenticity is also a struggle for life and death.

In a world where we lay claim to having value for authenticity—where we espouse genuineness as a combination of honesty, courage, and strength—it is unimaginably counterproductive and wholly unexplainable that we place so many barriers between ourselves and our ability to live authentic lives.

Unfortunately, we also live in a world where we subsidize big energy and place obstacles in front of sustainable energy. We legitimize the treatment of the majority of human beings as lesser human beings in order to protect the wealth of the few. We treat our planet as though we have somewhere else to go—as though our children will have somewhere else to go.

Sadly, it does not surprise me that we place these barriers between ourselves and our ability to live authentic lives.

Silence is the street upon which drive the vehicles of oppression. If we are going to continue to make authentic lives so difficult to achieve, perhaps we should at least take a look at the price. And the price is far more expensive than we might believe. This is true for those who are unable to be authentic and for those who are caught in the inevitable storms.

Last week, my son turned 24. The last time we spoke he was 14. Although my heart is heavy, my hope still remains strong. My faith is “sure of what I hope for and certain of what I do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

In the last year, I have come to know that had he been in my life all this time, many of my choices about activism would have been different. In the last year, I have been blessed to have had a Goddaughter for whom the opportunity to love has been nothing less than a miracle. In the last few years I have come to know that the universe will find its way to the correct conclusion of this story, in its own time, in its own way.

This is what moves me to be who I am and to do what I do. Please know that there is a purpose in every breath, possibility in every step, and grace beyond understanding in all things created in love. To those who choose to create barriers to authentic lives, I would only ask you to consider the price of tears and suffering to many more people than the ones you might believe you have targeted.

Everyone pays the price. Just as everyone reaps the harvest of unconditional love.

9 ½ years ago, I spoke with my son. I told him that I had been drinking again, that I had become homeless, that I had moved back to Kansas, and that I was going to try to get myself together. He listened courageously to me confessing my inability to function in the world, with no real idea of why I was unable to function.

He also had no idea that I was finally finished living the lie—finally ready to do what I needed to do to be okay. That phone conversation is the last contact I have had with my son. Much has changed since then. I have been sober for those 9 ½ years. I have found the joy of authenticity in my life, and I have become a person much different than the one he talked to on that day.

I am different in that functioning in the world is much easier for me. This, in spite of the barriers our society has placed before me. This because those barriers—for me—pale greatly to the barrier of not living authentically. For many, those barriers are as much or even more insurmountable obstacles to anything that resembles freedom.

The fact that my son was not in my life when I was making decisions about authenticity had much to do with the decisions I was able to make. My sister asked me about how those decisions might affect him.

I told her that I could not be there for anyone unless I was okay.

There was no possibility of me being okay and still trying to live as a man—continuing to pretend to be a man.

I knew what I needed to do but I still wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do. Sometimes the right thing to do and what you need to do are not the same thing, and it was important to me to do the right thing.

Doing the right thing turned out to be doing what I needed to do to be okay. Authenticity was the only path upon which me being okay was possible.

Although my heart is heavy, there are far too many places for me to share my heart that will allow me to dwell on the pain. But it seems wise to remember from time to time.

Devoting my life to trying to let people see the damage that is caused by denying authenticity to transgender people helps to change the nature of the pain.

Authenticity comes with a price. The cost of inauthentic lives is beyond measure. But I wish a happy birthday to you, my son. I always loved you. I just didn’t love myself. So much is different now. The light is on for you. One day, perhaps you will see it.

Photo by Martin O_ob