I caught glimpses of my reflection in the intermittent light as it cycled between illumination and shadow in the large windows of the train car. My reflection stared back listlessly, with a face displaying a mix of anxiety and excitement. Beyond those emotions, I was staring at a face I knew well, but one with which I hadn't really ever connected—or even accepted as my own.
At some point in my preteen and teenage years, my former childish enthusiasm about self-identity and growing up fell into an uneasy apathy and a distinct lack of identity. The person in the mirror was just my body. It wasn't me. “Me” was in my mind and subconscious, isolated from truly experiencing the world by a body I barely acknowledged. I would pass by a mirror and look at my reflection for as short a duration as possible. My face was just another in the crowd, not really mine.
But something quite significant had changed in the few months leading up to the events that found me in that train, in the barely familiar city of Chicago, and alone and surrounded by strangers. I didn't fully understand how deep the roots of causation went in my life at that point, but in hindsight, I believe God had placed me on that path—the path of the rest of my life—simply because I had asked Him.
The plea had passed from my mind upward, toward God and the Heavens, while I sat on an uncomfortable, uneven rock in the mountains of northern Italy. I had been abroad across Europe, observing, noting, drawing, and photographing for a variety of undergraduate classes. During that time, an unease had begun growing in the back of my mind. That uneasy feeling slowly became a noise. And that noise rapidly became a deafening din. “You are unhappy and despise yourself,” is one of many ways I could explain what I was feeling at the time. The disassociation between my mind—my self—and my body was rapidly becoming a cavernous maw that threatened to swallow my life whole. What were whispers in my childhood had become that deafening din after 24 years of life.
My eyes red with tears that would not come, in the midst of that unimaginable noise in my mind, the aforementioned plea—really a prayer—fell before God. I begged Him to tell me why that fissure in my mind tortured me so. Why I never fit in with my peers, why compliments and praise fell on deaf ears, and why I could barely face my own reflection. Despite being God's temple, I hated who I was. We cannot function as believers—let alone human beings—if we despise our fundamental foundations of personhood.
With that plea, I laid my life—past, present, and future—to God. I trusted that He would show me the person I was truly meant to be, in time. I struggled with the knowledge that God was unlikely to show me that “true self” any time soon, nor tell me directly. It was a journey I was going to have to take in faith, as with the rest of my life, one day at a time, each step hand-in-hand with Him.
I had no way of knowing, at the time, that what I had felt since childhood, through that moment of brokenness in the mountains (and beyond), was textbook gender dysphoria: a fundamental, underlying disconnect and mismatch between the gender identity of the brain and the physical sex of the body. But God knew, and He took my hand and led me, unknowingly, upon the path that would, in the spring of 2014, find me in that train heading toward the realization and reality of my identity.
The face I glimpsed in my reflection on that train, filled with equal measures anxiety and excitement, was a face I finally recognized and accepted as my own. It was the face that God had given me, entrusted to me, and part of the whole in which He called His temple. It was not worthless or unfamiliar—not to Him. I was anxious of the unpredictable, often unsafe, future that awaited me as a transgender person, but God had never had any such concerns. Since the day I was born, and throughout my entire life, He had been interacting with me, cherishing me, watching over me, and calling me by a name that matched my correct gender identity. I had been too blind and too scared to accept the truth God had been continuously showing me throughout my life.
Denial had reached its end as the train neared my stop. As the train began to slow, I closed my eyes and prayed. I willingly gave up any predictability and expectations for my life and dedicated all that I was and would be, to God. I was done trying to live my life the way that the world and other people thought it should be lived. I gave my life to God and accepted His charge to be the person I had always been on the inside.
With that promise and prayer, I stepped off the train and walked toward the crystallization of my identity and inner self. For me, that process began by starting a course of hormone therapy—more commonly known as HRT, or “Hormone Replacement Therapy”—that would, over the next few years, reveal what had long been inside, and what God had always seen in me, to the world. Broad and phenomenal changes would occur throughout my body, inside and out, and people would finally be able to see a face which I finally loved and cherished as part of the temple God made in me, and which He had, and always will, love dearly.
A note from the author: the majority of me desires to attach my name to what I have written. I want to stand by these words and claim them as my story—a story of which I am proud and inspires me. The reality, however, is that the world is often quite hostile toward the sort of person that I am—especially within Christian environments. For those reasons, and others that go unsaid, I have chosen to write this sliver of my story anonymously.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6637