When you're young and you start to understand that the body you've been living in doesn't fit right, the world as you know it gets a little shaky underfoot. When that awareness doesn't go away, self-doubt and distrust become constant and troubling companions. There aren't any guidelines or protocols available to help sort this out. There aren't many adults who might take this mistake seriously, or even see it as more than just a phase or a child's funny whim. So you do your best to be who you are. You hide some things, and play up others. You discover that while girls are much more interesting than boys, your own outer shell is a problem. Before too long, the other kids notice that you don't fit the same mold that spawned them. Acne flairs and, while you can hide your body, you can't hide your face. With the solicitude and understanding of the young, you're singled out for the special attention that only the ignorant can offer.
You can't define yourself. How you fit into the world around you becomes an impossibility to manage. You torture yourself about what you did to make yourself go this wrong. And worse than that, you're deeply afraid of your own future.
Yes, eventually people were found who weren't judgmental and who didn't care about sexual orientation. And that offered some relief, for awhile. But those friends weren't able to help with the quagmire that surrounded Jay's need to reconcile the thoughts and emotions and ideas that made up her internal person with the clear fact of the flesh and blood body that surrounded them. This determination to understand herself and accept that she didn't fit into society's 'norms' sent Jay into almost constant emotional upheaval, as well as long struggles with anorexia. Hospitalizations and residential programs did little to raise any level of self-esteem -- especially since no one recognized or wanted to deal with questions about sexual identity and understanding.
But when Jay was 20, an eating disorder counsellor finally acknowledged out loud that there was another part to Jay's real life and suggested trying out a nearby drop-in center for people with sexual identity issues. Jay walked by the building a good number of times before pushing herself through the door -- and found what had been missing for such a long time.
There's a sense of incomplete serenity around Jay. She's clearly on the upside of self-acceptance and self-assurance, but the struggles have left their marks. She's somewhat at peace with this physical body, and she's engaging and kind and has a depth of understanding about who she is and what she has done for herself. When I think about her, I see perserverance and bravery, and I admire her willingness to step into the public eye to offer her story to others who might take comfort from it.