Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What's this "A Little Off the Top" all about?

You might be wondering what “A Little Off the Top” is all about.  The short answer is it’s a fundraising campaign to help me have Top Surgery this year.  But there’s more to it than the short answer.

First off, I want to thank my friends and family for all the love and support they’ve given me throughout my life and throughout my transition from female to male.  I’m very fortunate to have such an open and caring community around me. 

When people close to me heard that the person they knew as Jessica or Jess was becoming Jay (and then Jackson) some were a bit confused, or sad, or feeling things they couldn’t quite explain.  Some were happy for me. And some had a combination of all of that.  But the thing I know from all the people who really care about me, is that they didn’t stop caring about me when they heard I’m transgender.  They didn’t treat me differently or cast me out.  They embraced me and asked me questions and hopped on board to take the journey with me.  That’s what family is about. That’s what it means to be a real friend. 

This transition hasn’t been simple or easy for me, but it’s been a lot better knowing I’ve got people who love me no matter how my voice sounds or how much I weigh or what I look like.  That’s been a blessing because, believe me, it is pretty awkward taking hormones and going through puberty all over again in your mid-twenties.  But through all the awkward feelings and unfortunate acne and interactions with confused grocery store clerks, I’m becoming the man I want to be.  I’ve finally given myself permission to do the things I most feared all in the name of becoming my full and true self. 

For a long time I was terrified of losing my family and friends, the life I knew, the security of what was familiar, and the privileges of being (somewhat) normal.  It was this fear of being different that kept me from being honest with myself for years.  My first memories of wishing I was a boy start around age 5 and continue on from there.  I wasn’t an unhappy kid because I learned pretty quickly how to tuck away my feelings of wishing I was a boy.  I learned that I wasn’t supposed to think that, so I put those thoughts away.  As many of us learn when we grow older, the thoughts and experiences we tuck away from childhood don’t usually magically disappear.  Such was the case for me, so when those feelings were re-emerging for me as an adult, and I began processing them, I realized they weren’t just old fantasies of a little kid.  This was a core part of me refusing to hide any longer. 

When who you are becomes so big and full of life you can’t escape it, no amount of fear can keep you from it.  The beauty of all of this was that most of the things I feared turned out ok.  And ultimately, I overcame my biggest fear that I would never get to fully be myself.  Here I am, being myself as fully, openly and often as I can. 

The next step for me in my transition is having surgery to remove my breasts and have a flat chest.  Some people call it Top Surgery.  Not every transgender man chooses to have this surgery since all transgender people have their own feelings about their bodies and their transitions and some don’t do it because they can’t afford it.  In my case, it’s an important part of integrating my body with my heart and my mind.  It will make a huge difference in my every day experience of life and will give me a new sense of freedom around my body. 

Much of a transition is mental and emotional, but this is one physical aspect that’s pretty important to me.  This piece is also particularly expensive (up to $8,000) and it’s not covered by most insurance companies, specifically not my insurance company.  So I’m saving money and involving the people I love in what I’m calling “community insurance.”  If the people in my life who care about me can spare some money to donate to my surgery, then it’ll all add up and I’ll be able to have surgery within the year.

So this is the part where I ask for your help.  Some of you reading this website don’t even know me personally, or not too well.  And there are some of you who do I know who haven’t talked openly about this part of me yet, so I hope this will be an opening for us to talk.  Many of you reading this know me quite well.  Whoever you are, you’ve got an opportunity to make a big difference in a big life change for me.  I know it’s a hard time for a lot of people financially, but donating to help me get surgery will be an investment in a lifelong positive impact for me.  And the beauty of doing this as a community is that it’s not on one or two people to fund the whole thing.  If we come together, then smaller amounts will add up.

So if you can donate anything, please do, by clicking here. If you’d rather mail a check, please email me at jdarlin@gmail.com for details on where to mail it and what name to make it out to. 

Thanks for your love, support, curiosity, acceptance and community!


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