Success in education is impossible without confidence. But how does one define confidence? Where and to what lengths must a person go to find it? My definition of confidence is deeply rooted in gender, or rather, being able to live as the gender I identify as--male. In December of 2008, at 18, I began my transition from female to male. Transitioning was exactly the length I had to go to find nay confidence--something that was crucial for my transformation from a high school drop out to a college honors student. My academic success is most intricately tied to the fact that I started my first college course after beginning my transition. I was finally seen by others as how I see myself and, as a result, I was finally ready to grow as a student.
Through discovering and understanding what being transgender is, I was able to define and put to rest insecurities that had overwhelmed me for 17 years. For me, it was simple. It was just an issue of being born with physical parts that do not connect with the mental ones, and all I had to do was get the tools required to transition. But the understanding and process of transitioning varies from individual to individual. My experiences are not unique because of my transition, but because they are completely mine. This is a sort of disclaimer, and it is one I gave to a class of Marriage and Family Therapy students at the University of San Diego in 2010.
They were taking a course on substances and abuse, and I was their "special guest speaker." I grew up around cocaine abuse, and their instructor wanted her students to have the opportunity to speak to a survivor. I just happen to also be transgender. She asked me to be in the classroom so the students could have an interactive lesson and gain the confidence required when working with and questioning future patients, not simply because of my transition.
The discussion had no focus other than the fact that I was the "real story," the "real experience." All the students knew before meeting me was that my father was a drug dealer, and I had begun my transition at 18. I had no notes and nothing specific to address. I simply said, "Ask me anything. Really."
My opening statement bewildered them at first, but eventually they realized I was there to answer their questions, no matter how potentially humiliating. They asked. I answered.
"How did you know?"
"I just knew. I was a boy through and through from the beginning."
"How do you define gender?"
"I define gender...