Meet Jenny Taylor. Jenny is a transwoman who knew from a very young age that she was actually a woman, but because of her circumstances was forced to hide that part of her identity until she was well into adulthood. What follows are her experiences grappling with dysphoria and an unsupportive community, and how she eventually took matters into her own hands and began living a happier life as her true self.
I have always been a girl. I knew it and my brain knew it. All my friends were girls until the 4th grade. My family and my teachers were not happy seeing me as a girl because all they saw was my outside-appearance. No one inquired about my inner-identity.
My family and teachers told me to stay away from girls one Monday morning before school. I was shocked. The teachers told me I was no longer allowed to do anything with girls. My mom sat me down and said that I would no longer be having birthday parties with girls. I was going to "find new boys in my neighborhood to be my friends for parties and play time".
My whole wonderful and innocent “girl” life was over. My dad bought me a baseball and a glove, and I was going to do boy things from now on. My family gave me boy presents at my birthday and expected me to play with erector sets and GI Joes – but why?
Word got around that I was having identity problems. The boys I never played with before somehow all knew that I thought I was a girl. I guess their parents gossiped about me and my “issues” like a brush fire spreads across an open field, consuming my dignity in a puff of smoke.
That public humiliation marked the beginning of eight years of beatings, teasing and being tortured by kids every day. I was called all kinds of degrading names and I was labeled as ‘confused’ from that day forward.
No one helped me or even spoke with me about being a girl. I was taunted and beaten, but no one did a thing to stop it. I guess everyone thought that if I suffered enough beatings, I’d fight back or become a boy, but the magical transformation never happened. The beatings simply continued.
I progressed through the agony of hiding my true gender for several more years, dying inside. Then the puberty years started.
I was not becoming a male like the other boys. I began to grow breasts. Not just the buds, but boobs. Girl things began to happen to my body—curves and emotional ups and downs. To make my situation worse, all of the boys around me saw this.
Gym class and changing in the boys’ locker room were hell now. We had to undress in front of each other and take showers naked too. Everyone saw everything on me in full view and I looked like a girl. The teasing and the beating got worse as a result. Teachers and administrators continued to turn a blind eye.
I no longer rode on the school bus. It was no longer safe. The school and the driver did nothing after I went to the office with torn clothes and even a bloody lip. I felt so alone.
My parents did nothing to help me either. I came home crying every day. My dad called me a “candy ass” or a “pansy”. I began to hate myself. I walked ten miles to school and home every day in the rain, snow, or heat.
Eventually, in order to survive, I learned to hide my transgender reality. I had no release, no rest and no one to confide in. The teasing and abuse about being a girl was unrelenting and evolved into gay and homosexual name-calling. My grades were bad and I was a social disaster.
I entered my adult years an abused person, never really maturing. Going forward with survival in mind, I began to hide myself behind things like religion and pretending to be macho. Tattoos and guns and NASCAR were all a cover up—I was a woman covered up in a guy named Dave.
I married twice, had four kids, and divorced twice as Dave. I went from job to job and I hated myself. I internalized my transphobia and was dying from dysphoria. I wasn’t Dave. The woman inside me was named Jennifer and she only came out when I was alone in my house. I would put on makeup, women’s clothes and enjoy a little bit of reality from time to time.
Yet, I would always have to revert back to Dave before venturing outside. I was so miserable, and I did this for almost 20 more years. It was my only option. I did what I had to do.
I remember sitting at my desk one day near the end of my rope. I thought about all of my past failures and how miserable I was.
Then it came to me, a message from the clouds in my mind. “Be real, be genuine, be true to yourself and be happy.” It was clear as a voice in my ears and it changed my life forever.
From that day forward I chose to be the real me. I stopped pretending. Over the next few months I began to unbury my hidden reality and remove the masculine disguise. Dave would have to go. I slowly became Jenny more and more with each passing day.
I sought out therapy and eventually obtained hormone replacement medication. My outside began to become more female to match my inside. I was transitioning and transforming into Jenny. I began to let everyone know about my real gender identity and gradually changed the way that I dressed. I discovered happiness with each and every day. Like so many in the trans community, I finally feel like I’m who I’m supposed to be.
We are not like propaganda portrays us. We are not stalkers in bathrooms or weirdos in dark alleys. We are normal people with a gender that God created.
We are some of the greatest and kindest people to contribute to society. We seek to integrate and to make our communities better. All we ask is that people and businesses and civic leaders give equality and a chance to prove that we are wonderful and a valuable asset to any city, town or household. We work hard and are beneficial for business. We make great parents and can be role models for our children. All we need is for you and others to give us a chance.
Help end discrimination now and pass a trans-inclusive Human Rights Ordinance in Miami-Dade County. Help end the cycle of abuse and self-loathing—do it for the Jennies silently suffering in 2013. Above all, do it for your community: a county working to end discrimination will be a safer, stronger, and happier county for everyone.