Since the age of 4, I have always known I was living in the wrong body. By the age of 5, I communicated to my mother that I was a boy and needed a sex change. My family was ultra conservative, and I never fit the image that I thought I had to be. Growing up, I went through a lot of depression and suicidal ideation. I was not ready to face society and come out as transgender. I learned to medicate how I felt with drugs and alcohol. I spent the next 24 years identifying as a lesbian. I had girlfriends and even married a woman in 2008 in Canada. I got sober in 2003 to open my own substance abuse facility. For the next 8 years, I dedicated my life to helping others in the pain of addiction, meanwhile still hiding.
When I met my wife at that time, she noticed I did not want to be touched physically. She had become very clear she married someone who was not a lesbian at all, yet a man trapped with female anatomy. Being open minded, she bought me books on gender diversity. At the time, I could not hear it. I could not go through again what I had previously in childhood. Eventually our marriage deteriorated and we separated. I turned back to alcohol and drugs to medicate the pain. In making the choice to return to active addiction, I received my first and only drug charge. I was sent to prison for 18 months. This was the result of poor choices and living a lie for the sake of what others thought of me. I could not continue.
After exiting prison, I knew my life ultimately had to completely change. I knew I could not stay sober while keeping secrets about my identity. Ultimately without transitioning to male, I could never achieve the gifts of sobriety. I started medically transitioning in 2017. I also returned to college where I am completing my bachelor’s degree in law. While I feel more like myself, it hasn’t been easy. I have over 5 years of sobriety and I still struggle daily with my body because I have female parts. Honestly, I never thought I would be able to afford to do anything about it. I have given a lot of myself helping others in life, and never thought much of myself to ask for help in return.
Somehow, I got the courage to reach out to the Jim Collins Foundation and apply for the grant. I cannot express the gratitude I have for the foundation in making me a grant recipient. Jody and Ryan are amazing role models that have restored my faith in humanity. I only hope that I can give back to society the way they have given to me. The Jim Collins Foundation has given me a new life, and most of all what I always wanted, which is to be comfortable in my own skin.Marshall