Scratch every time I’ve ever said, “Don’t call me brave for transitioning”. Take everything I’ve ever said even remotely close to that statement and throw it right out the window. I am brave. This goes out to all my trans brothers and sisters who feel like you’re not brave for choosing what was your only option or you’re not inspirational for simply living your authentic life. We are beyond brave, we are powerful, we are pioneers paving our own path, and we deserve to feel that.

I didn’t think what I was doing was special. I was just one of the millions of other individuals who were transitioning to their rightful gender. I used to have the mindset that there was absolutely nothing brave or inspiring about transitioning, I saw it as just putting myself and my needs first for once in my life. That wasn’t bravery, that’s just what everyone should be doing. The constant praise for living as myself became to feel awkward instead of something to take pride in. For a long time, I thought transitioning was actually somewhat selfish of me. I didn’t see anything brave in choosing the only option that granted me a life. It was either transition or inevitably become defeated by the demons in my head and just being another statistic in the transgender suicide rate. There was nothing brave about running away from what feels like a past life, wiping the slate completely clean, and starting over with a fresh start.

How could I be so wrong? As a society, we have never been more divided and it all stems back to one source: hate. The transgender community continues to be one of the most oppressed and discriminated against, our own President doesn’t even believe our lives are worth giving up to serve our country. Transgender individuals face hateful acts and threats every day of our lives just for existing as we are. Not everyone is going to be excited and accepting. In fact, there’s a large possibility that those we come out to won’t be. People could, and far too often do, respond poorly. It’s easy for those who don’t agree to simply throw us away and turn the other cheek. Coming out inevitably causes you to lose some friends and even some family. The ones we thought we’d have in our lives forever are suddenly just gone with no real rhyme or reason. This is something we know well before we decide to come out and transition. Trans people risk so much when we come out, it’s not only brave but courageous to go through with it anyway.

It’s brave to live unapologetically and actively not care about what others will say or think. When one decides to transition, they’re giving the entire world the chance to spew their thoughts on a life completely irrelevant to their own. It’s brave to allow the world to view you under its microscope and scrutinize everything going on in your new and exciting life because they’ll feel like they deserve to get to have an opinion. It’s incredibly brave to stand up in front of a world so judgmental and driven by hate as your true authentic self with all else stripped away and say “This is me, take me as I am or don’t have me at all.”

Above all, it’s beyond brave to overcome the depression and suicidal thoughts that cripple you every day prior to transitioning and even well after. Before I came out, I didn’t believe nor did I want to live to see my life in a long term sense, everything was temporary. The pain was too much. I wasn’t living, just existing as a shell on autopilot. Even now, after being on testosterone for two-plus years, those thoughts still linger, they just take a different form. I still remain my own worst enemy. Transitioning is not a one and done type thing, transitioning bombards you with obstacles and difficulties every single day. Nothing about transitioning has been easy and I know nothing will ever change that. It’s brave to wake up knowing that and push myself to face that day anyway. Far too often, these obstacles are designed and put in our place by a society that will try everything in its power to prevent us from paving and walking our own paths. We, as transgender individuals, have to wake up and make the decision every minute of every single day to keep our feet moving forward on an uphill battle.

All “bravery” aside, the thing most important to me regarding my transition is inspiring others to take control of their own lives as I did. I want other people, even just one person, to look at my story and say, “Well if he can do it, so can I!” If I can do it, anyone alive and breathing can. There’s nothing in the world worth putting yourself on the back burner for. Everyone is deserving of happiness and an authentic life. I yearn to help others and make them realize they’re never alone, no matter what situation they find themselves trapped in. Let it be known that there is support out there. So, am I brave? Yes, I finally believe I am, and that’s a damn good feeling to have, but bravery is not why I do what I do. We simultaneously have so much life to live and not enough all at once. Life is too short to waste another day, not in total control of your life. You won’t have anyone but yourself to blame at the end of the day for not doing so.

So, to my trans brothers and sisters, enough of the “I’m not brave for transitioning” mindset. You woke up today and choose to live in a world that ostracizes and oppresses you in a new way every day. You woke up to face a society that can’t wait for the opportunity to rip you apart and break you down. You defeated your past demons and decided you were worthy of a life filled with happiness and authenticity. You fight, day in and day out, just to survive and thrive. You are brave. You are so far beyond brave. Take the time to feel that for yourself, you deserve it.