Lion Rising9 min read

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Some of you are new, and haven’t seen my previous posts on Facebook, but I am a transgender man who happens to be an AK bilateral amputee. This means that I’m missing both of my legs above the knee. My first amputation was when I was only 2 years old, in 1997. Unfortunately, my birth mother and I were both burned. I was only burned on about 40% of my body while she was around 80% of hers. She wasn’t supposed to make it through the first night. But she did, and was in a coma for 8 months. She lived 16 years longer than anyone expected. Since her burns were so bad, when she woke up from the coma, she couldn’t care for me. I was originally placed in the care of my birth father, but I was burned a second time while with him, and they suspected child abuse. This was after I told the judge that, “My daddy hurt me.” But I was a tiny two-year-old little girl who could have been asked to say something by someone with an ‘agenda.’

I was then put into the Foster Care System. Thankfully, I was only in one other home before finding my ‘Forever Family.’ My forever family just so happened to be my birth mother’s aunt and uncle. I ended up with relatives! Which, let me tell you, is not very common. Their kids, my brothers and sister, convinced my parents that they HAD to take me in. That I couldn’t be sent out to get lost in the system. I am forever grateful for their determination and concern for me and my safety. If it wasn’t for them, my life would be very, very different. Because I was taken in by family, I was able to continue to have a relationship with my birth mother. As a kid, I was scared of her. Terrified, actually. I mean, her burns were all over. I would skip visits with her all the time. This, though, I regret. When I was about 12, while I was visiting, she looked at me and said, “You know, someday, you’re gonna want to come visit me.” I looked at her like she was insane. But guess what… She was right! by the time I was 15-16, I wanted to be with her. She was, truly, my best friend. I told her everything. She was supportive, accepting, and open. She was everything my parents weren’t, and I loved that. She was the first person I came out as bisexual to. This was her response: “Are you sure?” Yes. “Are you sure you’re sure?” Yes, mom. “Well, have you ever been with a girl?” No. “Then how do you know?” Mom, I just know. “Well, okay. As long as you’re happy.” That was it. She didn’t care. She loved me regardless. Until the day she died on January 8, 2013; the day after her 40th birthday, she was trying to get me to learn to be myself. She literally said, “Be you, boo. Just be you. And don’t let anyone change you.” I genuinely wish she could see me now. No longer her shy daughter, but her confident son. I know she would be proud, but I wanna hear her say it, you know?

My parents, on the other hand, have been very…. Different. They are very religious. When I came out as bisexual, things didn’t go over well. Then… a little over a year later, I came out as a lesbian. That actually was okay. Not great, but okay. However, when I came out as transgender, my entire world blew up. My dad, unlike my mom, was very quiet about everything. My mom told me I was ruining the family. My siblings didn’t take it well either. All my siblings were against it, still kind of are. My oldest brother’s wife, though, is amazing. She has been the most supportive person throughout this whole thing. I came out to my parents a week before my sister-in-law gave birth to my twin nieces, Charley and Harper. I was so depressed at the time that I knew that if I didn’t come out, I wouldn’t make it to see my 21st birthday. But I knew that I just HAD to see the twins grow up. The only way I would make it that long, though, was to come out as transgender. So that’s what I did. One of my brothers told me I was no longer welcome in his home, and they would not come to any family event in which I would be attending, that has changed… Thankfully. Although I still can’t go to his house. He has two girls, Ella and Maddie, who just turned 10 and 8 within the last few months, and I was unable to wish them a happy birthday because I’m not allowed to see them. Which breaks my heart. They are literally the reason I’m alive today, but I can’t see them.

It hurts, but… I know that one day, when the girls realize what happened, they will be mad. At least Ella will. She’s the 10-year-old. We have always had an indescribable bond. I know she will be furious. Until that happens, though, I have the twins, my bubbas. They are the sweetest, sassiest, smartest, and kindest bubbas ever. I have such an incredible bond with them, and I’m so grateful for it.

I have a lot of tattoos. Each one tells a story. For example: The day I realized I wouldn’t be able to see Ella and Maddie again, I knew what my next tattoo would be; ‘breathe.’ Two days later I got the word ‘breathe’ on my forearm to remind me that even in the hardest moments, I just need to breath and I can get through it. The very last tattoo I’ve gotten, as of right now, on June 22, 2018; is an elephant. That is to symbolize my Ella Kate. The first thing I associated with her name before she was born was an elephant. I even made her an elephant puzzle at school! My tattoos tell my story. I love them so much, and I plan on getting many, many more.

My birth mom taught me to help others. I didn’t want to. One year, on the day before Thanksgiving, I walked into her apartment to see piles of uncooked food on her counters and tabletop. She told me we were gonna make food for all the people in her apartment building who had nowhere to go for Thanksgiving, so they didn’t feel so alone. I was 13 and stubborn. I said, “No,” and turned on a movie. I made her make all the food on her own. She struggled. She only had one hand, and I refused to help her. But when the first person came up to get their plate… The woman was so, so grateful. She had tears in her eyes. I got off the couch and helped create the plates. I didn’t care if I saw the people’s faces. I knew that they would be grateful and wanted to help. I made the plates and my momma brought the food to the people. That, my friends, is the day I decided that whatever I did with my life, I just wanted to help other people.

I told that Thanksgiving story at momma’s memorial. I was 17. Around the time she died, I got in a fight with my art teacher, who is still one of my favorite people in the world. I’ve been to her house. I love her dearly. But she’s bipolar. I was supposed to have her second semester, I just couldn’t. So, I switched to the only class available that I thought I’d like… Creative Writing. The very first assignment, on the very first day; we were told to go home and ask our parents why we were named the name we were named. Well… My mom had passed two weeks prior. At the end of the class, I went up to my teacher and explained the situation. She expressed her condolences and suggested that I think about what my name meant to me. So… That’s what I did. I went home and wrote the first really raw piece I have ever written in my life. I had found my love for writing again. It came at the perfect time, too. That class helped me in my grieving process. It actually helped steer me in the direction I was meant to go. I am now a Creative Writing Major at Full Sail University. I take classes online while working 3 jobs. I am a lunch monitor and latchkey aide at an elementary school, as well as a caretaker for a 13-yea- old with a traumatic brain injury. I love every single job I have. They each bring me so much joy. I feel like I’m doing what I’m meant to do, and that I’m beginning to go in another direction as well. I’ve come such a long way, and I’m immensely proud of it. I want to be a motivational speaker and share my story. I have spoken in many classrooms, and it’s a beautiful feeling. One goal is to do TED Talk, which is terrifying, but exciting. Guy, gals, non-binary pals… You now know my story. I hope you get something from this. Everyone will get something different from it, but I hope you get this:

My life has been one obstacle after another, whether it be my identity, my health, family, etc. My birth mom always said that we were survivors. Survivor was her password for everything, I swear! I used to say that for a while. But I’ve decided that I don’t like that word. I don’t want to just ‘survive’. I want to live. I want to fight. Then I was saying that I was a fighter. But I decided I didn’t like that either. I’m not violent. I have chosen the word warrior. A warrior can be peaceful, or fierce, violent, etc. A warrior is so many things wrapped up in one. It is a survivor, AND a fighter. Each one of you has a WARRIOR in you. It’s there always, you just gotta let it out. I love you, your beautiful soul.