I write this post about my personal experience and how I discovered Planned Parenthood. It is my hope that it will inspire others struggling with the same thing to get help too.
I’m Dana, 39-years-old, and came out as Transgender two years ago.
I guess I should go back to the beginning of all this. I was David then. Around age nine, I started to notice that I was vastly different than every boy around me. I didn’t like roughing housing, I hated sports, the thought of doing anything that would involve playing in the dirt made me want to run in horror. This was also during the 1980s in South Carolina, so naturally, I was looked at strangely. On top of that, I was a nerdy bookworm who didn’t conform to current trends. I desperately wanted to walk around with the girls and talk about hair, makeup, and what the latest edition of the fashion magazines were saying. Suffice it to say, it made for a lonely childhood – both at school and out of school, since no one wanted to hang out with the weird kid.
Things began to shift somewhat when I hit high school – meeting others that had their own personal struggles with being gay or who struggled with their mental health, but I was still too scared to come out. I made excuses. It would be too expensive. What if I never find a therapist? I’ll go back to not having any friends...the list goes on.
It saddened me that I was always the friend who others could rely on – who people came to when their families pushed them away, but I couldn’t be that way for myself.
As I progressed into my 20’s, I tried working the club scene; tending bar, bouncing, all to “man up.” The only positive was breaking into the media scene, which I still work in today (as a VP of an internet radio station). Aside from working at the alternative culture magazine, it was more of the same “prove yourself” masculinity and inability to let myself identify as a woman. After quitting the club scene, I met a woman and we ended up married. I had hoped that settling down would quell these near overwhelming feelings of everything about myself being...wrong. Of course, it did not, and after a 7-year steady decline, we divorced.
Into my 30’s I became more depressed, grouchy, and overall unhappy with everything. I hated movies, music, events, basically anything that involved socializing with anyone other than my group of close friends. But even they had no idea exactly the extent of my internal struggles.
Since my teens, I would secretly keep up with all the developments in Trans rights, avenues to acquire hormones, and how to begin transitioning. But I never took any kind of action. That paralysis, that inaction, made me hated myself even more.
Two years ago, I made an extraordinarily bad decision in violating a friend’s privacy. A mix of drugs and the subsequent confrontation with that friend led to a massive panic attack as I had never had before or since. In the middle of the attack, I remember trying to stand. My blood pressure tanked, and I fell to the floor hitting my head and knocking myself unconscious. In that unconscious state, my subconscious took over. I remember walking through a black room. The only thing in the room was a small cage with a woman screaming and jerking on the door. When I got close to the cage, I saw that the woman was me; she looked straight at me and said, “let me out right now, or we’re going to die.”
When I came to and got off the floor, I made the decision that I couldn’t hide ever again. If I did, it would be suicide. The next big challenge after that was telling my friends and family. I told my close friends, and to much relief, they were all loving and accepting. Soon after, I started telling the rest of the world. I have lost some friends over this, but I respect that they have their own reasons for not staying around me anymore. I am so grateful that my core support system is solidly intact; I know that’s not the case with everyone and I wish it were.
The search for getting on hormones was the other large hurdle I was facing. Being lower income, finding a therapist was next to impossible. It was my understanding that I needed a note from a therapist to be allowed to start HRT. I got desperate enough to start fishing around on the Dark Web and looking for hormones shipped from other countries. In my mind, I bookmarked that as sort of a last resort if I didn’t find a safe way of obtaining them. I knew then how much of a medical risk it would have been to do such a thing, but I was willing to go that route. Being on hormones was truly life or death.
It was during one of my insomnia laden nights looking for ways to get started on HRT when I stumbled upon a random news article from somewhere in the Midwest. The headline read “Planned Parenthood to Offer Transgender HRT on Informed Consent.” I read the piece over and over. Soon after, I started frantically searching to see if there were any Planned Parenthood health centers in South Carolina period, and if there were, if it offered HRT. To my relief and delight, I found that the Charleston Planned Parenthood location did indeed offer HRT without mandating a letter from a therapist.
It took me another week to actually dial the number and speak to them about setting up the initial appointment. I had to take one three months out. That was probably the longest three month wait of my life, but I faced it with hope instead of dread for once, knowing that I was finally getting what I needed. When the day finally arrived (Feb. 5, 2019) my nerves were aflutter. I didn’t know what to expect. I was scared they would find something wrong that would keep me from starting HRT. I was truly a mess.
Every single staff person I encountered did everything possible to ease my nerves and help me feel comfortable. They used my preferred pronouns instantly through our conversation, reassured me, and made sure I knew I was safe. It was far from any “typical” Doctor’s office setting or experience. Then I meet one of the most extraordinary people in the world, Stacy Ford. From the moment I met her, Stacy has been the most caring, and compassionate medical professional I’ve ever had. She paid attention to my concerns and my experiences. She has always been reachable if I needed and she quite literally saved my life.
This is my story and my journey. Really though, it’s just the beginning. I feel as though I am finally starting my life. To whoever reads this – if you are struggling to find what you need, that this will help inspire you to get help. Be it at Planned Parenthood or elsewhere. I know I’m one of the lucky ones, despite my struggles. I’m alive and now, I’m thriving. I hope that my words will give hope to other Trans people out there.