I was born and raised in North Carolina, in a small town where everyone knew each other.
In the ‘90s, coming out as gay or lesbian was seen as shocking. Transgender, even worse.
I was a normal kid, playing in the mud and trees with my cousins. We used to play army games.
Until I was told one day to “stop behaving like a boy.” How? I am a boy.
I was born in this world as April in Rocky Mount, N.C. I felt like I was playing dress up or make believe everyday after the age of 10.
To appease my family, I smiled and kept going, even though I felt numb inside. It hit much harder in high school, once my peers started dating. The only time I felt happy was when people called me by my last name. There was no gender to last name. It was, of course, unisex. I hid until I was 24 years of age. At that point, I couldn’t take it anymore.
I came out as a transgender male to my friends first, followed by my family. My mother did not understand at the beginning, but she has accepted me. She knows I am her son and always had been. My father, though? Not so much. He heard news stories about the killings of transgender people. He felt I shouldn’t state I’m transgender for my safety. He felt that I’m just a tomboy who is a lesbian. He reminds me often to this day that I’m not a man. He does love me, as his child, as April. However, he does not accept my identity.
Being transgender is not easy. When we wake up, we see a shell, a prison. It’s like being trapped in a cell with only a glimpse of the real world. Many of us suffer with depression and suicidal thoughts. The simple act of walking in front of a mirror or a window and seeing our reflection can cause depressive episodes. Everyday tasks, like clothing or grocery shopping, become overwhelming. The stares and whispers my fiance and I encounter on a daily basis when we are in public are numerous.
With the news stories and suicide rates of today, I ask this: what if your child advised you they were different? How would you perceive this? Would you love them unconditionally, as a parent should? Or would you darken the world for them even more? I will state this. I know I do not wake up wanting to be ridiculed or to be questioned each day why I am me. Would you?
My name is Jay Strum. I’m just a man who works each day to support my family, as do you.
Embrace the love for one another. Take time to see that in the end, we all bleed the same.
Jay Strum lives in Hanover and will be a featured panelist in a community discussion hosted by YWCA York’s Racial/Social Justice Committee on Dec. 5. The event at the Capitol Theater at the Appell Performing Arts Center, 50 North George Street, will include a viewing of the documentary film “REAL BOY; a Sons Transition and Mothers Transformation,” which features a young transgender male who is transitioning and is a real look inside the possible trials and emotions of this process. The event is free and open to the community, Doors open at 5:30 pm and the film begins at 6, followed by a community discussion.