Chemicals, Genes, Hormones—all aswirl in the biological miasma of the womb. In there, instructions become confused. Then a baby is born. Me. A lovable baby boy. Or is she?

I am Jahn, neé, J—. I am a transgender female, finally living my life on my terms, in my way. My life’s story mirrors other transgender individuals. Circumvent teens through twenties pain, through alcohol and experimental drug use. Toss in a couple attempts at suicide, pent-up anger and frustration.

The worst part of my day was waking and looking at my body. Imagine, if you can, waking every day knowing that something isn’t jibing with yourself. You’re smart, get excellent grades, read voraciously, write with ardent fervor, are mesmerized by movies and how they are made, play sports, listen to loud music, play at the guitar, swish paint around the canvas, feign being happy…all the while knowing there is a disconnect, and what it is is as foreign to you as lunar rocks and prions.

repelled magnet -Is SheIf I’d only had an older sister, but mom’s trappings would have to do. I knew I liked the feel and look of my body in feminine clothes. I also knew I wasn’t like the other boys (and guys, as I aged); I didn’t have an attraction to boys (or later guys). What was it then? I didn’t know and was ashamed at how I felt, and I kept my secret for decades. Of course, this was all pre-Internet.

alcohol-head -is sheI failed terribly at the machismo drama of the stereotypical male, including enlisting in the military out of high school. All that did was to further confuse me, and enable me to improve my tolerance for alcohol. This was my preferred method of subjugating whatever was amiss in my head. After I failed at being a military person, I returned home and enrolled in my local community college. There, in some health class, we were introduced to a transgender woman. I was transfixed—pun intended. I listened as if my life depended on it, and in some ways it did—after having already tried a poor attempt at suicide while in the military.

I wanted to talk to her after class, but feared any retribution from anyone who saw me. I apparently carried much shame and embarrassment. But there it was, a label for what was happening inside of my body. Skirting outside the social norm, a little place where I could be who I truly was. Alas, it would take another nearly three decades, a failed marriage, alienated children, other suicide attempts, therapy, etc. And an image that haunts me to this day.


A-Bros_truck -is sheI work at a hardware store, and one day an impossibly large delivery of chain link fence arrives. You’ve seen these flatbeds with the metal poles erect on the sides to keep the payload secure. Well, I am standing atop these fence rolls, piled to the stratosphere. I see these poles are hollow. I look at the ever-increasing slope of rolled up fence. I think: I could send these fence rolls tumbling off the back of the flatbed, ride the avalanche, and jump landing crotch first on one of these hollow poles. I’d surely have a gender changing injury, and have to become a girl, right? That grotesque fantasy didn’t come to fruition.

It would take many more years before I transitioned the healthy way.

I staggered through my life. Now alive on the Internet, I consumed all I could about being transgender. I joined an online support group.  I had my first makeover. I felt so alive, for the first time in my life, at that moment.  I attended a couple of transgender group outings and quickly found that I felt relaxed and happiest while out as female. This is how I was supposed to live my life.  Love my life. This feeling, calling, power, pull, whatever you refer to it as, was gaining in strength; I needed to be female more every day.

Instead, I stubbornly fought this healthy feeling and married the first girl to pay attention to me. That relationship produced two daughters and a divorce. While married, I became grouchier, emotionless, introverted, miserable. I knew I couldn’t continue this way, shoving aside my innate femininity.  I was drifting into depressed territory more and more.

inner peace -is she - HormonesFlash-forward to today. I had my GRS (gender reassignment surgery) a little shy of a year ago, fully aligning my mind and physical body. Snapshots highlighted the finish line of my journey. From the fortnight leading up to my surgery day and the week following. Now, looking back through the river that is (was?) my life, I’ve gained an inner peace that I couldn’t have attained had I done anything differently.  Follow your path and your journey will lead you down your own path to achieving your transition.

mir, irini, peace, amn,


jahn westbrook

This piece originally appeared as a contribution to the youshareproject.  It was a pleasure to contribute to that endeavor, and is thriving with all matter of real life stories.  I wanted to share this piece with the community of beautiful people I identify with.