The Road To Jenny
A series about the journey of a transgender woman and her family
My hair and makeup were casualties of a sinus infection raging on in my head. I walked over to the small table where Ailani was intensely playing ponies with some of the other kids and knelt down to say “Hey Baby Bear!” with the little voice I had left. She looked up from her game and yelled “Mom!” giving me a big hug. She started to put the ponies into the bin when the teacher walked up and said “Show Dad what the ponies can do on the tray.” There it was, the icing on the cake. That is was all I needed to kick into the spiral of self doubt and insecurity.
“I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH SOMEONE KNOWING I AM TRANSGENDER, BUT THE EMOTIONAL TOLL THAT BEING REFERRED TO AS MALE TAKES ON ME IS OVERWHELMING.”
Before I could say anything, Ailani’s teacher started to profusely apologize. I smiled and said mistakes happen, but the damage too my psyche was done. We gracefully made our exit, but all I wanted to do was hide in a dark room and cry. As the evening progressed my emotions continued to deteriorate to the point where I broke down crying that night. As I lay there sobbing yet another night, I began to wonder why misgendering affects me so much. I have no problem with someone knowing I am transgender, but the emotional toll that being referred to as male takes on me is overwhelming.
The next day I started to break my mood down into smaller pieces and dismiss the hormonal contributions to my state of mind. I am not ashamed of who I am or what I am. In fact I am proud to be part of the transgender community. After soul searching for a few days I believe that it comes down to identity. For years I was playing a societal role of someone I was not. My behaviors and actions were motivated by acceptance of those around me. After coming out and living life as Jennifer, finding out exactly who I was and what I stood for became a huge part of my being.
The road of self discovery is one of my greatest personal achievements and gives me a source of pride. When someone misgenders me I feel as if they are casting a preconceived identity of my old life upon me. It is terrifying to think that something I am so proud of is so fragile at the same time. Like many people who correct their life path later in life my identity is adolescent in a lot of ways. It has not stood the test of time. I haven’t had all the character challenges as an adult as I did as a teenager. My fear is being viewed as the person I was and not the woman I am.