I’m River Francis. I’m from Bar Harbor, Maine.
When I was six years old, I saw an episode of Night Court, which featured a trans person. And for the first time I realized that that’s a thing that was real, that it wasn’t just something in my head. Moving forward a few years, in eighth grade, the school decided to show us Ace Ventura. And that movie definitely made me aware that it was also something that I should be hiding.
I ended up getting married because that was the thing a guy was supposed to do. And she had some kids already, and then we raised a couple of more. For 15 years, I lived in this relationship and I just kept getting more and more depressed.
One day I just came to the realization that I absolutely had to come out. And the… the relationship went from bad to worse. It was no longer safe for me to stay and I ended up having to leave. And end up… ended up at my grandparents’. And eventually met some people that had a wigwam on their property that I could use.
I had a lot of time to myself just to think about who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. In all of that, the one thing throughout my life that really gave me purpose was raising my kids. And I knew that I still wanted to help kids. But I had no education. I had nowhere to… to go. .
At the coldest part of the winter, I ended up having a mental breakdown. I stopped gathering firewood. I stopped trying to keep the place warm. The people whose land I was on knew I was in trouble and they found me a safer place to be. And from there, I got moved around.
I ended up staying at an arts collective for a few weeks, while they found me a better home, with some college students. That was where I had my, my first experience actually interacting with another trans person. He actually helped me a lot with the way that I thought about how the world views me, as compared to how I view me.
When I was worried about, you know, passing, which I really can’t as a non-binary person, he said, “Well, what does it really mean to pass?” Which is really just to be accepted as who you are. That gave me the confidence that I needed to just go forth in life and stop worrying about who people thought I needed to be and worried more just about living my life. I went from there to a few months at the YWCA, where I got to meet a lot of very interesting women from all over the world.
My turn at public housing had come up. I had been waiting for two and a half years and they offered me the apartment that I’m in now. At that point, I had been on hormones for about two years and I felt that it was time to start getting surgical affirmation.
I didn’t really have a ride to get me down for my surgery, so I put out a request. Through sheer chance, it just happened to be one of my favorite teachers from high school that was my driver. And she was now working with Out Maine.
My ride showed up at like four o’clock in the morning and we were both just exhausted. And I get into the car and we’re just carrying on idle conversation. All of a sudden she has a moment where she realizes exactly who I was, ‘cause she… she didn’t recognize me at all anymore.
And that was when we got talking about what it was that I wanted to do with my life. I… I shared my dream of working with kids and helping helping queer youth get into services and get the help that they need. She told me that what she was doing with Out Maine was pretty much exactly that. She was meeting with high school-age and recently graduated queer youth, doing overnight activities and filling out paperwork to apply for aid and scholarships.
I was invited along as a chaperone to one of those overnights, but I was also a participant. I was able to finally feel like I could actually get the education I needed to make my dream happen. Within two months, I was enrolled in school. And now I’m studying mental health and human services. I’m working to get my case management certification and I’m minoring and advocacy specifically so that I can help queer youth get the services that I never had access to growing up.
It’s not just a transition story. I mean, my transition is a thing that happened. It’s a part of who I am, but my education and my dream to work with… with kids and help them get services – that is more in line with who I am.
Support is important to anybody going through any kind of struggle. Not every queer kid out there has the support of their families, but they do still need support. So there does have to be professionals out there who are both willing and able to give it.