Just the other day, I was sitting in a Starbucks, and I decided to open up my Instagram and put out an open questionnaire on my story. If you aren’t familiar to what that is – basically it’s an open bubble that gives my followers, the opportunity to ask me questions that I can choose to answer either publicly or to them privately. About 20 minutes later, I opened up my Instagram and I see a bunch of different questions being asked from both people I know personally and random strangers that follow me. As I’m scrolling through the different questions and answering a couple of them, I notice one question that stood out to me. The question read “What would you say to your 17-year-old self?” I looked at that question through the screen, put my phone down, and sat back in the chair.
“What would I say to my 17-year-old self?” I had never really thought about it, therefore I skipped that question and started answering all of the basic other ones: “What’s your dream vacation?”, “Favorite place to get Italian food?”, “What’s my favorite season?” etc. You get it; the type of questions you usually ask on a first date, lol. About a week later, I am sitting in bed and that same question pops back in my brain. “What would you say to your 17-year-old self?”
Let’s go back to April 2015 when I turned 17. The first thing that comes to mind when I think about being 17 again, was that I was lonely. It was spring, the end of my sophomore year in high school, and I had just come out to my family as transgender. I was attending an all-boys catholic high school, so you can imagine all the hatred and backlash I went through just after coming out. I knew I didn’t want to continue going to school there; but the public schools in my area weren’t really the best; so, I decided that online school was the best option for me. I consulted with my parents and we agreed. During all of this, I was extremely emotional. I was just coming to terms with who I was, and the only thing I wanted to do was to be able to express my true identity. Thankfully, I was seeing an amazing therapist who really guided me and gave me a lot of hope. If it wasn’t for him, I probably would’ve kept all my emotions inside of me
When I came out as transgender, my family had very different reactions. Ever since I was little, I was always very feminine. I always wanted bright color things, dreamed of having long hair, and had such a profound love for high heels & purses. My parents are divorced, and I basically grew up in the same household as my dad and grandmother. My mom re-married and had 4 more kids. My half siblings are truly my best friends and I love them unconditionally. I came out to my grandmother Bev (my dad’s mom) & my mom first. We were sitting in my therapist’s office and I just said it. I really don’t remember it detail-for-detail, but I remember both of them hugging me and telling me they still love me no matter what. Later that day, my grandma, Bev, told my dad. My dad was definitely disappointed and basically disowned me. I remember him screaming and feeling very angry as if he failed as a father. Growing up, I really wasn’t the closest with my dad, but it still hurt knowing my dad felt this way about me. My dad and I haven’t been out together in public together since, even though we still live together, 5 years later. But what I do know - is that if something terrible were happen to me- my dad would be there, hopefully.
Bev and I have an amazing relationship. She is basically my mom, as my mom had other issues in her life throughout my childhood. I always knew that my grandma would be there for me no matter what, as she always has been and continues to prove that to this day. The rest of my family on my dad’s side has mixed feelings about it still, whereas my mom’s side is mostly accepting and is very supportive, including my siblings.
Over the summer, I found myself playing in makeup, buying different styles of wigs, and spending countless amounts of money at Forever 21. Getting dressed in the morning was something I looked forward too. It was so freeing being able to pick out an outfit that felt comfortable; rather than wearing something that felt so suffocating. I started a new job at Francesca’s (a women’s boutique), and I truly felt at home. I felt like I was “one of the girls.”
Right before school started, I went to New York City all by myself. Visiting New York was always a dream of mine, and I didn’t really do much traveling growing up besides visiting Disney World every 3 years. You’re probably thinking, “This girl is absolutely crazy!” “What 17 y/o goes to such a huge city all by herself?” Me! I’m that girl. I saved some money from working, booked a plane ticket with Southwest, (also the first time I went on a plane), and stayed in a youth hostel in Columbus Circle. This experience was so eye opening and thrilling. Maybe I am a bit crazy, but I wouldn’t trade those 5 days I spent in New York for anything.
August quickly approached, and I started online school. My days were fairly easy, and I enjoyed working with all of my “virtual” classmates. It was quite the adjustment at first, but in the end, I didn’t see myself going back to a regular school. I would have school in the morning, and work in the afternoon. I really enjoyed this routine, but I still felt incomplete. I really didn’t think about the social interaction I would lose doing online school; and even though I also worked full time, something still felt like it was missing.
I wanted to date, I wanted to be loved, I wanted to love. I wanted what most teenage girls wanted…a partner. I often wondered what it would be like dating as a transgender woman. I wondered how people would view me. “Would they still view me as a guy?” “Would someone think they are gay dating me?” These are questions I’d often ask myself and I would have no real answer to. One of the biggest questions people ask me is, “Do you date gay men?” The answer is no. I do not date gay men. Not that I have a problem with gay men, (one of my best friends is gay), but I am not a gay male, therefore “gay men” would not be interested in me. I was only 17, so meeting people at bars wasn’t an option and I didn’t have many friends. I was always intrigued by people that are older than me and I was interested in getting to know someone, so I downloaded Tinder. I know, I know, Tinder is mainly for “hookups’ but 5 years ago, that was the most common dating app. Yes, I was only 17 talking to people older than me; but I did in fact make everyone whom I was conversing with aware of my true age, therefore nothing was miscommunicated.
I made a Tinder account, uploaded photos I felt most confident in, and added that I was transgender in my bio. I was always taught to be honest and upfront; I didn’t want to mislead anyone. Swiping on tinder quickly became a part of my daily routine. I’d match with a couple of people here and there; have some decent conversations, then onto the next. It was very rarely that I found someone I actually “connected” with. I went on a couple of dates and met some nice people. I actually still keep in touch with some people I met 5 years ago from Tinder, and it’s nice to catch up with them every now and then. The holidays started approaching and I still felt kind of lonely. I wanted someone to take me to pumpkin patch, watch Halloween movies with, and to kiss me under the mistletoe. Ha-ha, I’m not that cheesy, but you get the point.
A couple of months passed by, and nothing seemed to be working out for me. I was disappointed, depressed, and simply burnt out on all of the same conversations. Right before Thanksgiving, I deleted Tinder. I officially gave up. I felt drained and it was good to take a break for a couple of weeks. I focused on school, worked a lot more during the holiday season, and gave my life, my full attention.
For Thanksgiving and Christmas, I stayed home by myself. Every year, my aunt hosts Thanksgiving and Christmas at her house, but that year I didn’t really feel comfortable going over there and celebrating. I stayed in my pajama’s and watched movies all day, which I had no problem with, lol.
It was Christmas day; I was swiping on Instagram, and I see everyone I follow all cuddled up with their boo, and I was so jealous. I kept wondering…”When will I find someone?” “When will it be my turn?” No, I didn’t re-download Tinder, I downloaded an app called “OkCupid.” I’m not really sure if that app is still a thing nowadays, but 5 years ago – I went with it. I noticed it was similar to Tinder, but people seemed to be a bit more serious. I started chatting with some people, but I quickly realized it was basically the same thing as Tinder. I gave my number out to a couple of people and I had some decent conversations, but I ended up deleting OkCupid shortly after.
It was New Year’s Day, and I get a text from a number that I didn’t normally recognize, “Happy New Year!” If you know me well, you know that I have a tendency to not save telephone numbers. It was a 216-area code (Cleveland), and I started conversating with this person. (I have chosen to keep his name private) Later on, I asked, “How did you get my number?” He says, “We matched on OkCupid.” I started to laugh, and I didn’t realize how many people I actually gave my number too. But anyways, we continued to chat. He mentioned that he was back home in Ohio visiting his family for the holidays, and that he would be back home in New Orleans shortly after the holiday. He mentioned that he would love to meet me, and we set a date aside that we would get together and casually hangout. We started to get to know each other more via text, and I really was looking forward to meeting him.
It was the middle of the week, and I had work during the day. I remember getting home from work, changing my outfit, and getting ready for this person to pick me up later in the evening. (I didn’t have a car at the time and uber wasn’t a thing – so I thought him picking me up was gentlemanly.) I remember getting a text “I’m here.” I didn’t want anyone knocking on my front door, as I lived with my parents. I walk outside, and I see him standing next to his car. I thought to myself immediately, “What am I getting myself into?” Little did I know that a couple of months later – he would become my boyfriend of 2 years.
Our first date was super casual. We just watched a couple of movies and literally talked for hours. I didn’t get home until about 3am; I really didn’t care that I had school and work the next day. We continued to text, and we had planned to hangout again that Saturday. One thing leads into another, and we started dating. For a little while, I kept him a secret to my family and friends, and I didn’t really want anyone to know. But after 2 months or so, everyone knew.
Around the month of March, he had mentioned that his lease is ending. I was turning 18 and I always wanted to live without my parents. We talked about getting a bit more serious and moving in together…so we did just that. We got an apartment in a suburb of New Orleans, only about 7 minutes away from my childhood home. For a while, everything seemed to have fallen perfectly into place. I was happy with myself, I was happy with my job, and I was happy that I found someone that understood me… so I thought. Fast forward a couple of months, our relationship became toxic, abusive, and tiring. We did the whole “break up/get back together” routine for about 2 years, when our relationship should’ve ended much sooner. Looking back, I wouldn’t change not one thing. I learned so much not only about myself, but how life is too short to waste it on things that make you unhappy.
As you can see, when I was 17, my life was not like most. I switched schools, I came out publicly as transgender, I lost all my friends, I flew across the country all by myself, I moved out, and I experienced heartache in the worst way. I never thought I would be able to overcome my past. Now- October 2019, I am here. I never thought that 5 years later, I’d be typing this post on my computer sharing all of this information. But for some reason – it feels right. I ended that relationship October of 2017, and I have been single ever since. During these past 2 years, I’ve gotten to know myself more, I legally changed my name, and I’m finally doing what’s best for me. I’ve traveled more than I ever have before, I have built incredible friendships that I will cherish forever, and I am happy. I can’t say I don’t have bad days, but I can say that I truly love myself.
So, back to that question… “What would you say to your 17-year-old self?” If you told 17-year-old me that in 5 years she would have been to Paris and have amazing friends, she would probably laugh at you. I would give 17-year-old me a huge hug and tell her, “You can’t love anyone else until you love yourself first and to keep going.” Oh, and to stop shopping, ha-ha.