The saying, “if we reached just one person, then it was all worthwhile” usually applies to indie films nobody has seen or cancelled-too-soon cult TV shows, but it also applies to the kindness of others and words that can change – and quite possibly save – someone’s life.
In the case of the video below, that “one person” who was reached – and saved — was yours truly. My salvation came from the latest transgender update by model, athlete and all around angel, Kayla Autumn Ward; it arrived in my facebook feed at a time when I needed it more than anything on Earth.
While I came out as transgender a decade ago this year – to close friends – it’s only been 20 months since I went public to my family and community. My wife of eight years, who championed for my rights to proudly wear skirts in public, decided the best way for her to support my exploration beyond that was as a friend, not a spouse.
She moved out. As my toddler daughter was enjoying her first sleepover at mom’s new house, I was alone, and the silence in the house was closing in. I looked at my giant nose. I shaved my beard til it bled but the dark shadow wouldn’t go away. I made a go at applying my own makeup and stared at the clown in the mirror. As the weekend progressed, the weight of frustration, shame and loss hit me. My darkest thoughts started getting tactical. I plotted out the logistics of ending my life and sparing friends, family and society from the garish sight of an ugly dude in a dress. And then I saw this…
By the time I watched her story – across a dozen or so of her videos and vlogs from other trans women that YouTube placed into my feed, I suddenly didn’t feel so alone. The videos answered my burning questions about hormone replacement therapy, gender confirmation surgery, the pain to expect, the changes to one’s sex drive, experiencing orgasms post transition, facing the world with courage, and more.
Sunlight blasted through the clouds. I immediately put on the church scene from The Blues Brothers and basked in the glow of a life worth living again.
I looked her up on facebook and asked permission to share the video on Popdose. I wanted to get to know her more, so here are some highlights from our conversation:
At what point in your journey did you decide to share your story with the public?
I started sharing my story online with everyone the moment I began my transition. Even though we each go through this journey differently, it is important to know that we are not alone. I am thankful for the girls who shared their stories online before I began my transition. That is how I knew I wasn’t alone and that I could live my life authentically and happily.
What did it feel like to step into the spotlight and become a public figure?
I don’t see myself as a public figure so that is a tough question to answer. I think it has been amazing seeing how many people follow my story and it feels even better to receive a message telling me that I have inspired, educated, or encouraged someone.
Who are your role models?
My dad, Michael Jordan, Mark Cuban, and Carmen Carrera.
Have you met any of them yet?
All of them but Michael Jordan.
What would be a successful ending to this chapter in your story: working in your chosen profession (acting, modeling, fitness, other) while being treated, accepted as a (cis) woman – or will being acknowledged/celebrated as a “trans woman” always be central to your identity?
Most of us at some point had the desire to “blend” into society and go “stealth” as some would say. I have learned to embrace the term transgender and love who I am fully. It doesn’t define my gender identity; it defines how hard I fought to be the woman I am today. That word has power and shouldn’t be seen negatively.
Modeling and acting are highly competitive businesses, does being a trans woman help you stand out from the crowd?
In all honesty, yes, being transgender has allowed me to stand out and be recognized in the both fields. Our country is still on the verge of a transgender tipping point that is opening doors in a lot of fields as people learn and embrace who we are.
How has the initial response been – from agents, clients, fellow models?
The initial response is surprise. I have only experienced one situation where I was turned away for being transgender and that was at a fashion show in Dallas.
What’s your advice to buffer your sanity, safety and inspiring message from online trolls and haters?
I ignore the hate because it isn’t worth the headache. No one needs all that negative energy weighing them down.
Do you plan on writing a book? Starting a blog? Starring in a web series? What would be your ideal way to reach more people with your story?
I am hoping to try out for the WNBA. My “distraction” growing up was sports and my favorite sport was basketball. It always took me to a different place where nothing else mattered. I miss playing and would love to take my passion for the game and make it a career that would also help me gain an amazing platform to share my story with the world. I hope that my career in modeling and acting will blossom as well, allowing me to reach even more people with my story.
Any other messages you would like to share with your fans – and new fans — when I post this interview?
My message to anyone who reads this is to truly watch my video. You don’t have to be religious or have had anything to do with religion to connect with my message. Life can become frustrating, confusing, and painful but it can also be amazing if you let it. Live for you and love who you are because you are worth it!!
Read Kayla Autumn Ward’s new essay in honor of Trans Visibility Day
Here are updates from three other true trans soul rebels who have inspired me greatly:
Kayla and I share a mutual friend in musician, actress and model, Isley Reust; read her spectacular story from our 2015 Popdose interview.
Caroline Cossey was a Bond girl in the movies, the first trans woman to pose for Playboy and a pioneering trans advocate and author, read her interview in The Guardian. Her book, My Story, is available on Kindle, Audible and iTunes.
Finally, if you’re trans and the one person Kayla and I reach with this blog, I hope you find inspiration, hope and a reason to keep moving forward on your journey. You are not alone. I am just beginning my journey and will keep chronicling it here. Connect. Share your story. Live your life with courage and pride.
For a daily dose of inspiration, community and resources, follow Transgender Universe on Facebook.