2014 Jim Collins Grantee Cassie LeGrave

CassieEvery day prior to my surgery was like a living nightmare.  Most of my earliest memories include asking my mother when I was going to be ‘fixed’ so I would be like the other girls.  She would always reply in the same way, “You’re not a girl.”  I couldn’t have the things I really wanted, I could never wear the things I wanted to wear, and I thought I was never going to be the person I knew I was inside.

As I got older, I went into acting and music to try and avoid how I really felt inside. I had one failed marriage, almost had a second failed marriage, and I gained so much weight that I topped out at 465 pounds. Every time I tried to save for gender-confirming surgery, something would come up, and I would always have to spend the money.

Before my son was diagnosed with special needs, I had about half of the needed funds for my surgery put aside.  By the end of the year, however, I was down to almost nothing in my savings again, and I had finally resigned myself to never being able to finish my transition.  I had to quit my job as a teacher, because I had to be home so much with my son that I almost lost my contract.  I took a year off, and we had to get help from my partner’s parents just to survive.  I returned to work last October and now barely survive living paycheck to paycheck.  In addition, I was physically attacked by a student. I am teased, laughed at and ridiculed by the students every day for being who I am, without actually being able to physically confirm who I am to myself.

I have been the adviser for the GSA club on campus for a few years, because it was so ultimately important to me that I did whatever I could to make sure no other kids had to experience what I have.  I have spoken on panels and been an activist to help spread the word about the LGBT (specifically, transgender) community.  I am happy to say that I get to dress the way I want every day now, and I have also lost about 230 pounds.  I got my Master’s Degree in English last year, and I wrote a book about my weight loss and gender transition as my thesis that I am now trying to get published.  Unfortunately, I had still given up on finishing my transition until I got the call from the Jim Collins Foundation.

I found out about the Jim Collins Foundation through one of the support groups I belong to.  I applied almost a year before, but had convinced myself nothing would come of it.  When I got the call, all I could say was ‘thank you.’  Now, I wish I could go back and tell the people on the other end of the phone what that call really meant.  I wish I could tell them about the little girl trapped in a boy’s body and forced to lie about liking boy things.  I wish I could tell them about the immeasurable suffering I have endured all my life.  I wish I could tell them how most of my family won’t really talk to me anymore. I wish I could tell them about the people I have known who have died, been killed and killed themselves because of the same things I deal with every day.  I wish I could show them my scars.  More importantly, I wish I could scream from the rooftops of the world so that every ear could hear how wonderful the Jim Collins Foundation is and how they save lives.  They saved mine and they will save more.  I wish I could tell everyone how important what the foundation does is to the LGBT community and the world at large.  I wish I could give them all a big hug and somehow repay them for the gift that they have given me and my fellow recipients and for what they will continue to give in the future, but I know I can’t.  I can only let them read this and hope that they can somehow begin to understand how monumentally important they were in my finally becoming the woman I was always meant to be.

To the Jim Collins Foundation and all of its supporters: thank you from me, thank you from my family, and thank you from the little girl who doesn’t have to cry herself to sleep anymore because she doesn’t understand why she looks and sounds like a boy.

Thank you, and bless you.

Cassie LeGrave