Recently, while conversing online, I became friends with two very special people. They are neither rich and famous, nor in celebrity headlines. They both travel a path of personal completion, however, and the obstacles they face are tremendous. They battle a dark foe – a condition difficult to put into words – and these are their stories.
Clothing was a major focus when each began her journey of gender expression. As trans women, lacy garments, bright colors and makeup set them on a road of self-discovery, their feminine spirits slowly growing stronger over time. Suffering from gender dysphoria, they continue to take selfies and struggle to see the women they dream to be.
Jordan and Katie both live as females. Katie has been on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) for several months, while Jordan hopes to start soon. Jordan is married; Katie, divorced. However, they both share a path into a crippling darkness: depression.
In an article published in Psychology Today, Kathleen Schreiber notes that nearly half of transgender women and men experience anxiety and depression. That compares to the 6.7 percent of others in the general population who report to be anxious and 18 percent who are depressed.
Jordan describes the depression in her life. “I can function when I’m in a downswing,” she states, “but it’s just absurdly difficult. It’s like trying to crawl to complete a marathon after someone breaks your knees. You don’t want to do anything – even things you would normally enjoy. The only thing that seems to have any substance is the depression. You’re left laying there, wishing you were dead for no good reason at all.”
What brings depression so easily into the lives of trans women in particular? In part, it’s due to the gap between the image we have of ourselves, tucked deeply in our minds for so long, and the sense that we will never quite measure up to that image.
“I am impatient with my transition,” Katie admits. “I suppose that’s a good way to put it. I have seen so many beautiful trans women, and had plenty of people tell me how pretty they think I am, but I have such a hard time believing it. But it’s barely been a year since my first time really dressing in full as Katie, so why should I expect to be seen as a woman already?
“It’s a long process, and patience is the single most important thing to have when going through something like this. It takes time for your body to get that feminine shape, it takes time for your features to soften, your hair to grow (if you’re lucky enough that it still does), and for you to accept that you are who you are, a growing, changing woman.”
Depression is the result of more than just internal struggles and our acceptance of reality. It is also caused – or certainly deepened – by external influences and society’s lack of acceptance of a reality it doesn’t often understand. This inability to understand us too often leads to discrimination. Schreiber writes that nearly two of three transgender women or men report experiencing discrimination in hospitals, health centers, public transportation. and shopping centers. In health care, she states, discrimination is “linked with up to an 81 percent increased risk of adverse emotional and physical symptoms and a 2-fold to 3-fold increased risk of postponement of needed care when sick or injured and of preventive or routine health care.”
Discrimination is rampant for transgender women, men and children. It comes from employers who discriminate against qualified candidates and guardians who won’t tolerate gender non-conforming young adults. “Though depriving a dependent under age 18 of shelter or food constitutes child abuse” Schreiber points out, “there is currently no federal law protecting transgender individuals from discrimination in the workplace.”
Despite all of this, Katie and Jordan are facing those challenges. They both recently celebrated a shared milestone. Each has won her court battle to change her name and gender marker. These were large steps in their quest to become the women they dream of being. They face daily obstacles, but they embrace each day as a new opportunity to affirm their status as females.
“Long story short,” Katie concludes, “it’s been a long, emotionally draining, difficult, terrifying journey that I have been tempted to give up on soooo many times. But you know what? It’s worth it.”
To follow Katie and Jordan on their journeys, you may follow them at:
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