‘At multiple points in my life I was challenged to succumb to what other people wanted me to be in order to approve of me.’
“When I was a kid, words that were used to describe me were just words and they had no power over me. I grew up in Astoria, the epicenter of diversity. I got to just be me. Nobody thought twice about somebody assigned female sex at birth wearing masculine clothes. I was a boy, even though that’s not the word that others used to describe me. I never felt I had to be put into a category.
“It wasn’t until my parents moved my sister and I to Long Island when I was 13 that things changed. My peers would give me looks and criticize how I expressed myself with clothing. I felt pressure to change who I was in exchange for acceptance. In high school I was a really depressed kid. I attempted suicide twice and was hospitalized. I didn’t have support and I just wanted to be liked and accepted.
“When I went to Stony Brook University, I was isolating myself from other people. I saw a flyer for the LGBTQ Club and decided to check it out. I befriended many queer academics and came across folks who were trans. I knew that I was trans, but I didn’t have the language to understand what I was going through. I knew the body parts that I had, the clothes that I liked to wear, and who I was attracted to romantically and sexually. I thought I was a lesbian.
When I fell into those traps I was miserable, versus when I stood up, recognized who I was, embraced it, and pushed forward. We all have our own demons that we’re fighting.
“When I learned ‘transgender’ I thought, ‘Oh my god. That makes so much sense!’ That club gave me the space and confidence to be who I was. Years later, when I found myself getting depressed again, I decided to volunteer at the Long Island Crisis Center.
“After a few months I was trained to become a Crisis Intervention Counselor. During the training, the director for Pride for Youth held a workshop and told me about a job opportunity. Pride for Youth took a game-changing chance on me. Now I am the PFY Director of Suffolk. I oversee our sexual health-based services. Nietzsche said, ‘No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.’ At multiple points in my life, I was challenged to succumb to what other people wanted me to be in order to approve of me. When I fell into those traps I was miserable, versus when I stood up, recognized who I was, embraced it, and pushed forward. We all have our own demons that we’re fighting.”