My name is Samantha. I’m from Houston, Texas.
When I was in college, just kind of finishing my degree at University of Texas in Austin, I started dating this guy whom I had a lot in common with, and it was a really, really hot June summer day. We were riding our bikes and decided to stop in Barton Creek on the public side where you don’t have to pay to get in. We were kissing. And it was a really busy day there at the creek, and all of a sudden I started to get these really panicky feelings. I got really flustered and kind of decided I had to leave immediately right then and there. I’m sure he was super confused and not knowing what was going on, and so we’re riding our bikes home. I didn’t say a word. I got home and just was having a difficult time understanding why I was feeling that way.
In recounting the events later to a good friend of mine, I kind of just suddenly realized that I wasn’t so much uncomfortable because I was being perceived as a gay man in a relationship with another man, but that I was being not perceived as a woman in a relationship with a man. I realized that, oh no, I’m not gay. I’m not bisexual. It’s not just about my attraction to men. I am supposed to be somebody else. I’m not supposed to be a man.
The rush of feelings that I got from that experience kind of brought me into a dark place, and I didn’t know any better than to seek out mental health support, and so I immediately contacted the university’s health center for students and got in touch with someone to do some crisis support.
Things just kind of changed quickly from there. Shortly thereafter, I decided to change my pronouns. All the while, nothing about my physical appearance had changed. I shortly thereafter came out to my roommates and my housemates. I decided to come out at work on campus, and shortly after that to my family.
And by the end of that semester was my last semester at UT. I had decided that changing my name was what I needed to do and that I needed to start putting myself on a path to sort of social and medical transition. I graduated, and my plan was to get out of Texas, right? The only place I knew where there was relatively easy access to HRT, among other things, was in Philadelphia where I was born and had spent a large chunks of my childhood.
By February, I had an appointment at the Mazzoni Center for HRT and started by March. Things were great in Philadelphia, except for the fact that I, from the beginning, also had plans to move away out of the country to France, where I had lived before and wanted to move back. By September – I had just moved to Philadelphia in January. By September, nine months later, I’m moving away again.
"And something I don't hear much of, or I guess I didn't really hear a lot of when I was coming out as transgender is how long that road can be."
I went to France to effectively be a student teacher in Toulouse. It was something I wanted to do, but turned out to be way more difficult than I anticipated. I was living off a really low income sort of salary, not working a whole bunch during the week. I didn’t know anybody, had a difficult time making friends and finding communities, especially among queer people. I had started in injections in Philadelphia, which is, for a lot of transgender women, the preferred method for taking HRT, and that was my preferred method.
I didn’t know that, before I got to France, that it’s actually illegal to inject hormones, inject estrogen for the purpose of transition for transgender people, and so I found myself in a position where I actually wasn’t able to access this lifesaving medication that I had been on for about nine months at that point. I started to have this sort of tsunami of suicidal thoughts. so I had admitted myself to a hospital to seek yet against some mental health support and was put on suicide watch. It took that to kind of reorient me to a sort of cohort of support that I had in Philly that I was lacking in France.
So, I accessed some, you know, like a therapist and got on some kind of a different mental health medication regimen that kind of helped stabilize me. And then the pandemic hits, and it just kind of seemed like the best thing to do at that point was just to go back to the US. I found myself back in Houston and back in Texas transitioning not only where I grew up and where I never thought I would transition, but all doing it right in front of my family at home. It just kind of turned out that that was what needed to happen, actually.
I kind of quickly threw myself into finding how I could access HRT in Houston, which I had not done before. I had only done it in Pennsylvania. And kind of learned the ins and outs of the healthcare marketplace of the Affordable Care Act. Not only was I able to get back on my preferred method of doing HRT, but I also discovered that through my insurance, because of federal law, insurance has to cover gender affirming procedures. And all of a sudden I went from kind of being I know off the rails of my transition to really accessing everything I needed, everything I had really kind of dreamed of accessing.
Eventually, just through doing a few jobs searches online, found a job at an NGO in Washington DC in the democracy and governance sector of international relations that both required French language skills as part of the job description, but also was about working with not only the LGBTQI+ community, but worldwide in different countries.
I never thought it would be possible to transition, and I lived in that mindset for most of my life, right? And something I don’t hear much of, or I guess I didn’t really hear a lot of when I was coming out as transgender is how long that road can be. You’re not going to figure everything out automatically. You’re not going to become who you really are overnight. It’s okay to feel everything that you’re going through, right? Seek help when you need it. Figure some things out on your own as you see fit, but eventually you will find your way, and someday you’ll be able to define yourself exactly how you want to.