By Amannda Reynolds
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt
That quote has stuck with me ever since I read it when I was 14 or 15. I have always felt different. As a child, I remember wishing I was a girl and that no one would know that I was born a boy. Unlike most kids, I also dealt with disabilities. When I was three months old, I died for five minutes and suffered brain damage that made me sight impaired and unable to read or spell. (It’s only due to the amazing editors who will undoubtedly edit this article that it will be readable.)
So, what does the quote have to do with me? A lot, in fact. More than I ever realized. You see, I have lived my whole life with the label of being a visually-impaired person or a disabled person. It was just who and what I was. While being disabled never bothered me, the way I have been treated has. I was so concerned about how others made me feel inferior that I ignored parts of myself that were trying to tell me, “Hey, something’s not right.” With the help of a friend, we created an online female profile for “fun,” never realizing that I was fulfilling a need inside of me to become my true self. My focus on being disabled suffocated my inner voice screaming for me to pay attention to her.
As I began to look at things through new eyes, and developed a love of romance novels (especially stories about lesbian relationships), I realized that I identified with the women more than the men. I found myself looking at my past through different eyes, too, seeing how I loved to shop with the girls with whom I was friends, imagine wearing certain outfits and “joke” about looking good in those outfits.
Then there was this other voice: “You never hated yourself really. You never tried to kill yourself or hurt yourself, so obviously, you‘re not really transgender. You don’t meet x, y and z so it’s not really you.” Again, I was letting others make me feel inferior and guide what I would and would not do.
I was 35, around Christmas of 2016, when I decided to just come out and tell my family. Only life often happens in odd ways. My mother, who had not been well for a long time, took a turn for the worse and had to be put in a rehab center to build up strength and stamina as well as get 24/7 care. I decided that was not the time, that I would wait until she was better and back home. Sadly, that time never came. She passed on April 8, two days after my 36th birthday. I never got to tell her that her son realized he was her daughter. Even knowing she would never have cared does not change the fact that I regret not telling her.
So here I was now with my stepdad, an amazing man who even after my mother’s passing was okay with me staying with him. My dad, who had divorced my mother years ago when I was young but with whom I remain close, offered me a chance to live with him in Florida if I ever needed to do that. Eventually, we concluded that Florida was a much better place for me, as a disabled person, to be than Connecticut. My friend, Katie, said, “If you’re moving to Florida, you need to tell your dad.” I knew she was right; he needed to be okay with it if I was living with him. It took me two more days, but I finally called him and told him. I was ready for him to be mad and upset, but he honestly did not care. “I don’t care if you are transgender,” he said. “You’re my child and I love you.”
After that, I came out to others — my stepdad, friends, family (or at least to some of them) — and have started the first steps on this long and perilous road we all walk. I don’t know where it will take me, but I do know it will be a journey. I have already met a woman I admire who has welcomed me with open arms and accepted me for who I am with no reservations. She has guided me and answered questions for me without ridicule or judgment, and provided a safe space for me to be me.
I also don’t know if I will be able to afford to do what I want to do, but I cherish the fact that I am free to do it, and I am finely starting to say “%[email protected]# you” to those who try to make me feel inferior. I do not consent to that. I will not conform to binary and CIS norms that say I can’t be who I am. I will grow as a woman. I will live as a woman and smile as a woman. I will be the best damn me I can be.
Because my name is Amanda, and I am a woman.
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