Letters to Myself - Part 2
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 18 year-old Corey,
When you arrived for freshman orientation at Hofstra in July, I am proud of you for being yourself. For the first time you were meeting girlfriends and love interests, without them knowing you were transgender. You felt comfortable and relieved. I just wish those feelings would have reminded you to keep your cool and stay level-headed. When everyone told you not to talk to that one boy JC, you were so swept up in the male attention, you didn't listen, and that would come back to bite you in the ass during your freshman year.
Corey, your freshman year of college was a learning experience unlike any other. You learned about the world around you for the first time as a passing transgender female. Your first year you were able to have a roommate (well for the first two months of college before drama ensued), shower in a communal girl’s bathroom, make friends, wear slutty outfits, make enemies, hook up with guys, have a quasi-relationship with a guy five years older than you, all while going through therapy, meeting with your sexual reassignment surgeon, undergoing electrolysis on your genitals as a pre-surgery process, and not allowing any of this to stop you from living a typical college life.
You survived all the drama, all the pre-operation procedures, and the day was finally here. You had just turned 19 the day before. You were waking up on the first day of your new life: your surgery date, your rebirth as a woman. You had no idea how strong you were. While most 19 year-olds were recovering from their latest hangover or worried about petty things, you had made a permanent and life changing decision. But actually, the decision to live as a woman forever had been made years earlier.
Countless people will ask you, “How did you know it was the right thing to do, that you wouldn’t regret it?” The answer is quite funny and I know you’ll never forget it. The moment you were 110% positive you would never regret your decision was just hours before surgery. You woke up with an erection that morning, looked down at it and thought “I never want to have this ever again.” Moments before walking into the surgery hospital wing, you were hugging and crying with Mom. It felt like you could've hugged forever, but there was important business to be done. She said, “You know you can change your mind if you want to. I won’t be mad at you.” You looked at Mom and you said, “I woke up with an erection this morning, and I never want to have that feeling ever again.” And you didn't.
You had been told that the recovery from sexual reassignment surgery is the most painful process in the world, yet you had no concept of exactly how painful it would be. In addition, you endured the long and exhausting post-operative procedures. I am so proud of you for handling it the way you did, for following your surgeon's instructions, for being so disciplined. You were so brave to go through all of that at such a young age. I don’t know how you were not frightened of having surgery, or even transitioning in general. The support of your mother, and the rest of your family and friends helped to build your confidence. However, conversations with your therapist about your life being on hold until you had surgery; the excitement for life ahead and the possibilities that awaited you; that is what kept you going and kept you so strong through it all.
Dear 19 year-old Corey,
What a year! Starting off day one with having sexual reassignment surgery, buying your first bathing suits and thongs from Victoria’s Secret, and losing your virginity within the first two months of summer. You’d always imagined losing your virginity like every girl does, in a romantic way with the guy of your dreams. Your first time was not the most idyllic night, but it was definitely with the right guy, at the time. If only I could tell you now that you were never going to sleep with him again, but I think you might have already known that. You didn’t care. Though prior to surgery he was your first real kiss, your first real hook up, and the first guy whoever was interested in your body for the state it had currently been throughout high school. He was experimental, almost too experimental for your liking. I’m glad you stuck to your guns before having surgery and never allowed him to touch you in ways that weren’t comfortable. You knew that when the day came to have those sexual experiences, it would be as your true self. The night you two decided to meet up was so exciting for you, I think you were just anxious to get it all over with and see what all the hype was about, especially with him. So there you two were, making out and fooling around on the couch in his basement, his entire family asleep upstairs. Finally, he played with you, and it wasn’t as great as you were expecting. I think he was more nervous than you were, and if we’re being honest, you made him take your virginity that night. He wanted to wait and you wanted it right then. You wanted to find out if your new parts worked. For some reason it wasn’t as painful as you thought it would be, and it most definitely wasn’t as magical. The best part about it was the drive home where you sang *screamed* the lyrics to “I Just Had Sex!”
After that, sex didn’t seem that special to you, and you decided to “make up for lost time” when you got back to Hofstra in September. I wish I could have been your friend during this time, and steered you in a different direction. Although everything does happen for a reason, in hindsight most of your sexual encounters during sophomore year could have never happened, and not much would have changed in your life, besides less drama. Your need for straight male validation grew over the course of the next year. I wish I could have told you to treat your new body with more care when it came to sex. If only I could have told you that you didn’t need male attention to be a woman in society, especially to the extent you felt it necessary. If I were your friend then, I would have told you not to let just any decently attractive guy hold your attention because they “gave you the eye” or showed some sort of interest in you. I would tell you not to have sex to prove a point to the world that you were, in fact, a woman with a vagina. You went wild after losing your virginity, and who can blame you, I suppose. You felt happy to finally be sexually free, but I would tell you now not to do it for the wrong reasons. You gave yourself to guys who most definitely didn't deserve you. You weren't having sex for you, you were having sex because they wanted to, and so you just went along with it. Maybe you just wanted to make sure your vagina was working, that you could have an orgasm during sex, but you didn't need to “catch up.” You needed to respect yourself more, so that you attracted people who respected you. That year you immersed yourself in being promiscuous, and in return, you lost respect for yourself, and created unwarranted drama between those men and your friends. That year was monumental, and although you can’t go back and change anything (and normally I would never wish to change anything), that year I wish you could have done things differently.
The summer before junior year wasn’t much better, and you had the most regrettable sex of your life, where you felt completely violated. For the first time you were truly frightened enough for you to start being smart about dating. When you returned to Hofstra, your friend group had changed, you were partying even harder, but for once, you were being selective about who you entertained romantically. Losing your virginity, starting your sophomore year as an anatomical woman, your sexual experimentation, and the horrible drama that ensued with your friends, eventually led to your transformation from an angry caterpillar into a peaceful butterfly. But that transition did not take place until spring of your junior year when you studied abroad in Amsterdam.
Dear Corey Studying Abroad,
Take it all in, every second of everyday. Every wrong turn on your bike, every adventure, every class. You thought it would last forever, and it didn't, but your friendships did, and most importantly, the person you became stuck with you. At last you were at peace with yourself and had some clarity as to why you were born the way you were. You left behind your judgments of other people and started to learn from those who were completely different from you. You studied the sociology of gender and sexuality and were able to learn from not only your professors, but your peers. You learned more about the world and about yourself in those few months than you had in all of your years of prior schooling combined.
You became a more open person, and that wasn’t easy for you. You had built up a wall for so many years before and during your transition; a wall that was built even higher after your surgery. You weren’t comfortable with yourself and were self-conscious about how you were perceived. After surgery you were still fixated on people believing you were an all natural woman.
Although everything that occurred during your months abroad helped you evolve into a more well rounded individual, I wish you would have spent more money on the night outs you didn't do, or taken the risk of getting lost for the adventures you said no to. I wish you would have eaten out more, explored on your own more, and trusted yourself more.
Corey, your time in Amsterdam, to date, has been the most life changing for you, and that’s because you allowed yourself to be vulnerable for the first time ever. You allowed yourself to be 100% genuinely you. You made the jokes you wanted, flirted with the men you wanted, and you were a good friend to those you wanted to be around. I don’t think you knew how to be a great friend until Amsterdam. What you had not realized, is that before Amsterdam, you never knew the true meaning of being a good friend to anyone besides Keren. I wish you would have paid more attention in your classes, or at least taken them more seriously, as now you are about to help lead the world towards true trans-acceptance; and that knowledge would have taken you even further. But don't fret future Corey, you learned more than you think, and took away what was truly important.
Dear Senior Year Corey,
It's your senior year, and you definitely made the most of it. You started to really party in New York City nightlife, thanks to your sociology professor. You modeled in your first photo shoots. You took fashion risks most would never dare to, or even think of. You kept your word, and you became a better friend to those you appreciated most in college. Your return to Hofstra was bold, beautiful, and unforgettable. You wrote what you knew in your classes, and used your wit, charm, and natural intuition about people to win over your school. You were nicer to everyone, you didn’t allow anyone to make you as angry as you used to be, before becoming comfortable with your true self in Amsterdam. You allowed yourself to feel. You experienced real love for the first time, and that is something many never get to experience in their lifetime. I am grateful for that.
When you said you would go to the last day of classes in a bikini and wedges, you stuck to it, and owned it like no one else could. That was the day you knew you could do anything you wanted, with style and grace, as long as you were doing it for the right reasons. On the day of graduation, you wanted to go out with a bang, and you did. Although you knew you were breaking the rules once again, you were being genuinely yourself when you unzipped your robe, threw it over your shoulder, and while strutting across the stage, blew a kiss to the President, instead of shaking his hand. Your blatant defiance towards him was epic, and I am proud of you for doing it; someone had to stick it to him at least once, right?
Post Graduation Corey,
Believe in yourself. Take everything in, the good, the bad, and the unknown. Take in all the heartbreak, all the adventures, and all of the lessons you’ve learned and apply them to your life in a positive way. The jobs you took after college were unexpected, but were very constructive opportunities for you. I am so happy for you to have worked at such an innovative club as The Box. You went from going out there most Fridays, to hosting the inside door. You killed it, and although you didn't receive the recognition for the hard work you put in, you handled every twist and turn at that place like a true adult.
I am so proud of you for using your connections once again and getting yourself a job at the Standard Hotel. Little did you know how life changing that job would be for you. A concierge, something you never thought about doing, ended up being the perfect job for you at the time. Working at the Standard Hotel taught you how to deal with all types of people more than anything had before, besides studying abroad in Amsterdam. I am proud of you for your accomplishments and mistakes while working there. You know that everything that happened inside and outside of that hotel during those seven months was for a reason.
Creating your website early in 2016 was the start of your new path in life. During the past year you finally learned to own who you are like you never have before. Launching your blog via a Facebook post was a giant weight lifted from your shoulders, and I am so proud of us. With that post, you were finally able to stop living your double life between friends who knew you were trans and those who did not. The weight lifted off your shoulders was more drastic and more rewarding than you had anticipated. Be excited for what is to come. Always remember where you came from. Confidence is truly key, and everything does happen for a reason.
Written by Corey Rae --- Edited by Emily Turner and Eleanor Blank