Julian / ,

I was born in Mexico into a Mormon family. When I was 8, we moved to Utah. This was not an inclusive place; if one did not follow every Church commandment, people were quick to judge. I grew up around heavily enforced gender roles–by age 12, I knew that I hd to eventually get married in the temple, have kids & raise them in the Church. Women were encourage to go to college, but there was an expectation that one would leave their careers to stay home with the kids.

I dreaded that future, but knew that there was no other option if I wanted to go to Heaven. 

In middle school, around age 12, I started becoming a feminist & believing in treating everyone equally, whether they were different or sinning. This was not a popular opinion in that religious community (everyone Else, the gentiles & the members who were straying was an opportunity to proselite & convert/bring them back. Every member a missionary.) So I did not have many friends, expect through social media, from other parts of the country & with different backgrounds & life experiences.

It was thanks to these friends that I realised I was queer. In my first year of high school I was particularly close with one of them. In October, she told me she had a crush on me. She was my best friend & I loved her & I didn’t know how I felt. I spent that semester questioning my feelings & my sexuality. I discovered that I had feelings for her & we started dating. The guilt of everything was crushing & I spent the semester having daily panic attacks. I also developed an eating disorder. 

My high school had a suicide epidemic around the time that I was there. In my country, the leading cause of death for youth ages 10-17 was suicide.

When I was in my second year of high school, my parents decided to move back to Mexico. I had struggled with mental health issues for years, which kept getting worse as time went by. I genuinely believe that my parents & that relocation saved me from being one of the 6 people who killed themselves before graduation in my class.

In Mexico I eventually came out & was, for the most part, accepted. A few months before, my mother & I stopped going to church, and eventually stopped believing in its teachings. 

My depression was less severe, though certainly still present. The anxiety attacks stopped happening so often. 

I graduated from high school with honors & enrolled in college in Mexico, studying Communication. My first two semesters were great: I was interested in my classes & did well academically, though the eating disorder that had started when I was in Utah reared its ugly head. I was able to pull myself out of it & eat normally again after a few months.

In my 3rd semester of university, my health took an awful turn. I had chronic fatigue, pain, and cognitive issues that impaired my memory & my ability to process information, making school incredibly hard. My mental health also deteriorated–I was very depressed & dissociated frequently. 

No one knew what was wrong with me. Doctors had different theories but none of the treatments helped.

As Spring came, the symptoms improved enough that I could think I realized how much intellectual stimulation & theory really were in my life & decided to transfer to a school in the US to study Sociology.

I was accepted to Manhattan College, a small Catholic university in the Bronx. Over the summer I was really depressed because I was about to leave the life I had made for myself over the past 5 years. 

I wasn’t really talking to people, isolating myself in my room & spending a lot of time on Facebook. I didn’t really feel like a cis woman, but identified as non-binary & felt comfortable presenting as femme. I hoped my identity & pronouns (they/them at the time) would be better understood & respected in New York. In the Facebook groups I frequented, I met lots of cool, cute strangers & would add them but I was too depressed to hold conversations. But I added one boy who seemed cool & cute but also nice. And he got me to talk. We bonded over music & movies & transness & talking about our lives. I developed a huge crush on him, as we became very close & talked constantly. 

He was without internet for a few days over the summer so we didn’t talk much during those days. Over that time I did a lot of thinking, as I waited & waited for financial aid from MC, and for C to return from his hiatus from the online world. I was anxious about how badly I wanted to go to NY & how I hadn’t heard anything from MC all summer. So my mother asked me to watch a video on Not Resisting the things we want, which we do unconsciously from a sense of self-preservation. I had to imagine all the fears of the reasons I didn’t want to do it & talk to them.

I had to visualize myself in a white room, some version of myself who was scared, and ask them what they feared & why, and what would help them be more comfortable, who they wanted with them in the scary scenario of the thing I want. 

In that white room, I discovered a little boy. A boy who had been shoved out of sight & neglected & been a source of shame, my reason for pushing people away, the wolf I tried to hide from people who wanted or attempted to get close to me.

And when I asked this boy who he felt safe with, he said C. Because C had seen him from the very beginning, talked & cared for & flirted with him, with the truest part of myself that I had spent so many years trying to deny. 

That’s how I realized the most authentic part of myself was a boy. Which meant I was a trans boy. 

I told C about this & he was incredibly supportive, and I started socially transitioning & exploring my gender.

Towards the end of that summer, a few weeks before I was to fly out to New York, I told him I liked him. He said he felt the same way, and would have asked me out if it wasn’t for the distance. He lived across the Atlantic, in England. Our friendship continued & grew stronger.

When I landed in NY. I planned to start my new life as Julian. However, the school hadn’t ever dealt with a trans student before. I was placed in a dorm on a floor entirely for girls. It felt horrible. No one really took my identity seriously. Eventually I advocated for myself with an administrator who was queer himself & was able to move me to a suite in his building. Originally, the suite was for me alone, though he said that if the beds were needed the suite would be filled with boys. He recommended I find roommates I liked & ask them to move into my suite. I did not choose wisely. We were all new, most of us freshman, but all of us older. Two army vets I’d befriended & a Mexican boy I had met my first day. My suitemates claimed to be supportive but expected me to meet their expectations of toxic hypermasculinity in order for them to respect my identity. They misgendered & said they would struggle to use my correct pronouns until I transitioned medically. I had started using he/him because they/them was too hard for most people.

I enjoyed my classes but struggled emotionally due to the crushing dysphoria & the culture shock of adjusting to a new environment.

In September, I was involuntarily hospitalized due to suicidal ideation as a result of dysphoria, because C had accidentally misgendered me.

Once inside, I was no longer suicidal, but I couldn’t talk to anyone & wouldn’t know when I would be released. I was constantly midgendered & deadnamed, and at the time couldn’t come out to any of the medical staff or other patients. It made everything worse. I was also put on an antipsychotic that made me lose control of my muscles to the point where my face was contorted, it felt like my jaw was trying to rip itself out of my face. I could barely breathe, & couldn’t talk because my vocal chords were also affected. 

After 3 days, I saw my psychiatrist. He was an old Middle Eastern man. I told him about my dysphoria & he asked me if I like girls or boys. I said both & he said I should just stay calm & enjoy being a girl because I was very pretty & had so much going for me. I anxiously agreed. 

The next day my mother came to visit. She looked terrified. She said she’d spoken to the psychiatrist, who said I was delusional & needed “therapy”, meaning reinforcement from those around me of my gender assigned at birth. He said he wanted to keep me in longer. I lived in terror. I did everything to make the nurses write good notes about me, acting as sanely and functionally as possible, befriending everyone in there, including the sociopath no one wanted to be near because he was unpredictable, manipulative & terrifying; and the old Cuban ex-boxer with bipolar, dementia, all the grumpiness in the world, and a mean punch. These two hated each other, but they oth comforted me when I was having the allergic reaction. 

The hours crawled by as there was nothing to do except talk & walk with my two younger friends. We looked forward to mealtimes because they broke up the endlessness of the day. We were terrified of being caught sleeping during the day for fear that we would have to stay longer. The medications I was on made me feel empty & spacey, so writing was difficult. They also made me develop twitching in my hands that was so bad I struggled to hold things, let alone write.

I was released after a few days worse than I’d gone in. The experience was traumatizing. I got out to the real world & learned that my state in Mexico had been hit by a terrible earthquake.

After that it was hard to catch up with school. My mysterious illness came back & I started getting sick often. I fell behind even more. I had stopped eating well since the hospital. That made my health worse. I fell behind further. 

I dropped classes, and then asked for a medical leave to attend a residential treatment for ED’s. 

In the meantime, I was going to classes & day treatment, but I informed my professors that I would not be finishing the semester. I was just waiting to hear back from the residential program, and couldn’t take leave before because I needed school housing. I was 4 weeks from starting hormones & so dysphoric & suicidal that it was almost the only thing I was living for. I went home for Thanksgiving. While I was there I received an email saying I couldn’t return to live on campus because of an attendance policy I was not aware of. I had to go back to NY. So I did, thinking I’d be able to clear up the situation. I went to housing & asked for one week; they knew why I hadn’t attended, they knew the circumstances of my situation. But they didn’t care. They left me on the street with the few belongings I could afford to take with me.

I went, terrified, to Callen–Lorde. They referred me to the Ali Forney Center, where I have been a member for a year now. 

Manhattan College refused to refund one penny. I am now thousands of dollars in debt for credits I didn’t receive and housing I couldn’t access. 

My constant light in the darkness has been C who has been supporting me through everything. We have been dating for over a year & met in person last March. We are now working to close the distance for good. 

All of this has inspired me to become a social worker. & help others who will come after me.

The one positive thing I have left from the Mormon church is one principle, an Article of Faith, which feels relevant & hopeful outside of the context of Mormonism. It’s by this that I am trying to live my life.

We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all mem; indeed, we may say that we follow that admonition of Paul–We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”

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