Letters to Myself - Part 1
Below are letters written to my past self. I wish the person I am today could have been there when I needed this guidance, and the knowledge that everything I was going through in life was going to work out for the best. I hope these letters will help the younger transgender generations who are going through a similar process.
Dear 2 year-old Corey,
I am so proud of you for asking Mom for a Cinderella dress. You expressed what you wanted and that was truly the beginning of your transition process. You were so excited to have one, even though it was subconscious. By doing that you put out into the world right then, that you were different from most children your age. Expressing yourself at such a young age was showcasing how you are best at being your most authentic self.
I am so happy that you asked for Barbies and were naturally attracted to pink, had female friends, and played dress up. I am so proud of you for being comfortable with yourself even at the young age of two; to have playdates with girls, play dress up during recess and in your spare time, and for not being embarrassed about it.
Corey, don’t be upset that other mothers started to be weirded out when you have play dates with their daughters. Don’t listen when they make snide remarks, and don’t allow them to make you feel any less about yourself, for being yourself.
Dear 5 year-old Corey,
Now that you’ve entered kindergarten you’re starting to be surrounded by other kids all the time. I wish I could have told you that what laid ahead from this point on, wouldn’t be easy. It was in kindergarten that you learned to explore life, different types of children, and where you learned that there was a difference in who you connected with more, boys vs. girls. It will stick with you forever - the first time you realized you were attracted to boys. That moment, when you took your neighbors necklace (his cross) out from his shirt and asked him what it was, the feeling you got from touching him, that is when you knew you were different.
I wish for you, in some ways, that you never let your kindergarten teacher affect how you felt about your natural actions and desires when she told you you no longer could play dress up during recess. But I am proud of you for going to Mom and telling her what she said and how it made you feel. That moment, was the first time you truly realized something was different about you and that it was “wrong” to play with “girl” toys. As we know now, everything happens for a reason and in a way, it was a blessing in disguise that your teacher wasn’t accepting of your feminine behavior. It led to Mom sticking up for you and telling her, “I don’t want you ever telling my child what he can or cannot do during his free time.” This helped to set the stage for the supportive and loving mother you have.
Dear 7 year-old Corey,
Little did you know how important your move from Los Angeles to New Jersey would be. The education you received, the friends you made, the doctors who cared for you, and the college and study abroad experiences were the best possible selections for you.
Don’t fear what the New Jersey suburban families will have to say about your play dates with girls, with the atypicality of your female tendencies, not to mention that you openly played with Barbies. I wish you knew how amazing it was that you were just being yourself, without anyone having to tell you what you wanted. You were such a strong and happy child, you were able to tune out the negative noise from outsiders.
Remember when you developed a new crush once you started school in New Jersey? When you two sat next to each other during reading time in the second grade, when you intentionally let your hand fall onto his book page, leading him to tickle your arms? The feeling you got from that attention, it was your female energy rubbing off on a what came to be a very straight boy. The perfect example of how you have always given off a feminine vibe. Remember when he came over for a playdate, and he touched your “boob” area in a way that seemed inappropriate, especially to your parents, but was intriguing to you? I wish I could tell you to not feel ashamed of experimenting and of what you were feeling.
Dear 9 year-old Corey,
Don’t allow the messages in sex-ed in fifth grade to make you feel uncomfortable about your body. This was the day you knew for certain that you were being classified as a boy, when the male gym teacher spoke to you and the rest of the boys; and all your girlfriends were being spoken to by the school's nurse, where you felt you should have been. That is when you started to develop your jealousy towards girls. Realizing that you weren’t being perceived as you wanted to be, was the catalyst to you creating a fantasy world in your head; where you could escape to and be whomever you wanted, the person you were imagining as yourself.
This was also the year you learned to gossip, how I wish I could stop you from learning that. In a way, gossiping made you feel like “one of the girls” and helped you to keep your friends attention focused on you. If only you knew how mean you would become and the trouble your mouth would get you into in the years to come.
Dear Middle School Corey,
Don’t try to impress anyone with anything other than your fun personality and creativity. Imagine being like all the others girls as much as you want to. It is the best possible escape for you to come home, and dress up in your girl clothes, and pretend to be like all the other girls in your school that you so wanted to be like, and be friends with. Corey, don’t worry about making and keeping friends, and do not worry about being popular. Trust that people will like you for you, and lead with that first. Don’t try to act as people think you should. Allow yourself to be the feminine person you know you are, and don’t shy away from that or overcompensate for it.
Most importantly, I am so glad you considered for .5 seconds in sixth grade if you were gay, because you were so attracted to the pretty girls. I wish you would’ve known the difference between sexual attraction and jealous attraction, but you didn't, and that is okay, because you learned as you matured. Middle School is the time when you and your peers begin to go through pre-puberty phases and start figuring out their sexuality. Somehow you must have learned about what being gay was, and although you won’t remember how that happened, you knew people thought you embodied the word. You allowed other people's thoughts to resonate with you and it made you wonder if you could be gay, but you knew within a second that that wasn't the word to describe how you felt about yourself.
One of the many reasons why you were in New Jersey became clear on career day in seventh grade. How lucky you were to receive the People Magazine that you did. Everyone got a different magazine from the parent showing off her advertisements and you ended up with the one with a story inside that featured a female to male transgender teen. It was right then, when you saw the word “transgender” that it clicked for you. “That’s it: that's the word to describe me,” you thought to yourself. I’m proud of you for taking the magazine home, for reading it over and over, and then taking it to Mom. You said to her “Do you think this is real, or is she trying to cover up for being a lesbian?” When she explained that being transgender was in fact a very real thing, you let that resonate with you. You took the magazine back to your room with you and read it over and over again. Finally having a word to identify with was such a relief to you. You weren’t ready, or able to act on your feelings. Unfortunately for your new found identity, that same year was your Bar Mitzvah, and you would have to present yourself as a boy. Interestingly enough, you began to loathe having to wear suits and ties to all your friends parties, and to your own Bar Mitzvah. I wish you could have had the Bat Mitzvah that you dreamed about; the one where you would wear a pretty pink dress.
It’s sad to think that you were robbed of those experiences you fantasized about. You have always considered yourself a girl, and when you realized people didn't perceive you that way, was when your bright spirit darkened and eventually was crushed by the social hierarchy of high school, and pre-puberty.
Dear High School Pre-transition Corey,
It’s okay to leave your old friends behind because you don't have anything in common with them anymore. I wish I could tell you that no matter what, speaking kindly and being kind will take you so much further in life than being mean and malicious. But what did you know then? You looked up to Regina George from Mean Girls, how could you not? She seemed perfect to you; like the girl you had always thought of yourself as, but no one else could see in you. If only you knew the hurt and pain you would cause other people, and most importantly yourself.
High School brings on an awkward phase for any teenager. During your freshman and sophomore years, you’re just trying to survive school like anyone else; what friend group you fit into best, how your personal style changes, who you become attracted to, what parties you were or were not invited to. During the most dramatic years of High School, you began going through more intensified struggles than those of your peers. While all your friends were worried about switching from underwear to thongs and which boys were on and off limits, you were deciding on who were going to become. If only you could see now what you've accomplished within the past few years; before being transgender became an issue, before society was even accepting of it. That was the time you became fed up with being perceived as a male, and you weren’t being shy about it. I wish I could have been your friend during your giant family vacation to Costa Rica. How kind it was of your grandparents to fly everyone there, but you had too much on your mind to relax. I wish I could take the pain away as you swam in the pools and on the beaches watching all the other women and girls in bathing suits, while you had to wear swimming trunks. I so badly want to go back in time and hand you a bikini and give you extensions, so you could feel comfortable, even for a second of that vacation.
I wish I could have told you that what you were about to go through and the decisions you were about to make, were going to work out in the end, and to not be worried. If only you knew how comfortable with yourself you would be in just a few short years.
You are so brave, yet you have no idea. Just by going with how you felt on the inside, and allowing yourself to become the most authentic person you could be, you began transitioning from aesthetically male to female. I wish I could warn you of all the pain you would go through, all the tears, the hormone changes, the discomfort with yourself, the yearning to be accepted more so than ever before, and the triumph that you would soon feel, shaping your ego.
I hoped you would remind yourself of where you came from and how amazing a mother you have. I know you didn’t appreciate all she was doing, because you were used to her selflessness, her support, and her endless love for you. You took advantage of that, not in a bad way, but you weren't as thankful as you should have been. Mom put her life on the line for you, for your happiness, and the happiness of her family. I wish you would have been more loving towards her during this time.
Corey, running for Junior Prom Queen was one of the smartest decisions you ever made. I don't know how you had the courage to do it. I suppose it was your deep desire for wanting to be just like those 90’s classic teen movies, but you did it. I wish you were more comfortable with yourself at prom, but how could you be? You were one of the first young transgender people for your generation, and dancing with your classmates just didn’t seem right, until you donned the crown. After that, your night was amazing. For the first time, your fairytale came to life. From that night forward you knew you could do anything you wanted to as long as you wanted it badly enough; a lesson that would come in handy along your journey through life as a (passing) transgender woman.
Dear High School Senior Corey,
You had a gut feeling that going to Hofstra was the right choice for you. When you were denied by Rutgers for being transgender, I wish you wouldn't have felt so defeated, but I am so happy that you weren’t accepted there. You were embarrassed by this and that’s okay. You knew you were more than qualified to get in, but the admissions board wasn't moved by your essay on winning prom queen. The kids you were surrounded by were crafted from a young age to attend top universities. Rutgers “should’ve been your safety school,” so said everyone in your high school. I wish I could have told you that it was okay and Hofstra really was the best option for you. I am proud of you and thankful for taking the financial risk of choosing Hofstra, a private institution, over the other choices you had. Although at the time you were warned by Mom that it was expensive, you trusted that you wouldn’t be happy anywhere else, where other kids would know you; which would have further delayed you from starting your life as a passing transgender woman. Hofstra is on Long Island, far enough away to meet new people, but close enough for the possibility of a six degree separation. You made the decision to not tell anyone after high school that you were transgender, which was the right decision at the time. Our society and the media wasn’t discussing it. You never allowed the fact that your father stole your college fund to affect your happiness. You so badly wanted to experience what every other girl your age would be experiencing when going off to college. They say that you can become anyone you want in college, you can recreate yourself; you yearned for that. I wish I could have been there for you when you realized how sad it was that you would have to go to such lengths to feel accepted by society.
If you could only know now how lucky you were to pass as a woman. If only you could have truly understood that one of the reasons why many transgenders are depressed or suicidal is because they don’t pass in their everyday lives. I wish you knew how blessed you were to be supported and loved by the important people in your life, and not to have suicidal tendencies. This is something to be grateful for. In the years that laid ahead, you realize that beauty is power, and that confidence will take you further in life than anything else.
Written by Corey Rae --- Edited by Emily Turner