I never thought I would live over 30. I never saw a life for myself even over 25.
My name is Ley and I’m from the Dominican Republic.
I was 15, 14 when I told my mother for the first time that I was bisexual, because that’s the language that I have at the moment. But it also was really not talked about in my house. My parents knew about my sexual orientation, but they never discussed it. They never accepted anything about it. They’re Christians, so they’re pastors and all that is involved in it. And at the same time, I knew there was something else.
And then in 2013, we migrated to the Bronx. So it was me, my sister, my brother, my father, and my mother. I live in New York City for two years. And then I needed space to figure it out myself, to figure it out, what I wanted and where I wanted to go in life. So I decided to go to Binghamton because it was four hours away from them and I could find myself in there.
I was in college, I was doing my undergrad. For the first time, I was able to study something that have to do with my life. And I took this class in my second semester that was women-gender studies. And the book was a topic into what is gender? How does gender look? And the different type of genders and sexuality.
My professor was this old-school lesbian, which also was really amazing to have in those spaces. And there was this moment where we have to do a group project where we have to do a presentation on whatever we wanted from the book. And I remember telling my group-mates that we should do it on gender fluidity.
And I was like, “Yeah, that’s really interesting. I want to find out to how this looks like and I want to explore it.” I did the presentation, everybody loved it. And I was like, “Oh, and I’m fluid in my gender.” And they were like, “Oh, how does it feel?” So it wasn’t a backlash that I encounter, which always was the first time of me showing my queerness as well and not getting a backlash.
I think finding that topic that was about gender fluidity was what really broke for me, because it really gave me the language to describe what I was feeling. And it also gave me the language to tell people what I was.
But after that, I moved back to my parents’ house and things changed a lot. Things changed a lot because I didn’t have the same freedom. Not only for expressing myself, but even to explore that part of myself because I was in constant questioning of, like, what I was doing. Everything – all of that. It was a really hypervigilant space, so I didn’t feel like I didn’t have that space to explore my gender identity.
By feeling so restricted all the time in this space, I start going to bike rides. From that class that I took for gender studies, there was a list of books that my professor recommended. And I found a book called Nor Here, Nor There. And it’s about this person that is also in a gender journey and is going through what is transitioning later in life. So going into this bike rides, as I keep reading this book. And I’m finding more and more about myself in it. And one day I was in on a specific bike ride almost at the end of the book. I used to always go to this specific place that is by a pier and there is this beautiful tree. And I will always just sit there to read my book.
And when I closed the book, put it down and I start biking to this other place. It start going through my head that same thought that I have back into that class of me being non-binary or being gender fluid. And I call this good friend of mine at the moment. And I told them I have something to say. And I told them that I was considering coming out as nonbinary. The response to this person was, “Tell me something new.” Which for me was really validating because I never felt seen before in this way. So it was really freeing that someone didn’t ask me why, or asked me many questions in that moment.
I never thought I would live over 30. I never saw a life for myself even over 25. And that was for my 30th birthday. So I think it definitely was a beginning for me. And then after that, I got into my bike and I just went for a really long bike ride by the water. And went back to my house and it was like, “Hmm, we are here again.” But I knew that moment, that it wasn’t the same person. And that I have discovered in that moment a big part of me. So I started looking for devices like binders and things like that. And I remember the first time that I bind in my house was like, “What’s going on?” And I was like, Oh, I cannot do this here. Transitioning in that space was impossible. So I needed to get out of there.
And yeah, that’s what I basically work for in the next six months of my life. And then I get out of there. So after I move out of my parents’ house, I also have for the first time the space to look for what I actually wanted. And for the first time it was about me and no one else. So I pursue a clinical transition. I started testosterone in 2018. And I started also looking for surgeons to get top surgery. I went to therapy. A lot of therapy. And also I spent time with myself and with people that lift me and celebrates me.
Things have been difficult for me and my family after I started my transition and we have drifted in the way that we relate to each other. And there’s been a lot of, “I love you.” But it’s a lot of, like, I think it’s a lot of, “I’m okay with you, but I don’t want to talk about what you’re going through.” And I think that’s something that also have shifted for me where I’m like, I want to be present and I want to be there a hundred percent as I am. And I think after going through so much. After it took me so long to be here, I just want to be celebrated. And I can’t wait for people around.
And I feel like we keep missing those stories where people are like, “I didn’t have a good outcome with my family.” Or, “I didn’t know I was trans until I was 27.” It’s not about me learning, knowing about this for all my life. I feel like it’s more about me getting to this conclusion. I hope someone looks at this and if they’re going through something with their family, they understand that this also shows a family out there. And if you are thinking that you cannot make it until 30, I’m 32 now. So you can.