An Open Letter: You Are Amazing

I wrote a post last night that many of you – many, many more than I ever could have expected – have read. As I always do, I posted the link to this story to my Twitter account and, later, to Facebook. Starting from then, and on through all of today, I’ve seen that post – in which I discussed gender identity and sexuality – spread across not only my friends and family, but far beyond that. I shared intensely personal details about myself, my life, and my own gender identity. Putting those thoughts into words was one of the most nerve-wracking, anxiety-inducing things I’ve ever done, and I bared more of myself than many close friends who’ve known me for years had ever seen.

When I set out to do this, it was because I felt strongly that the subject is one that I feel needs to be discussed; it needs to be an open, free, public conversation. I had immense, nearly irreconcilable reservations about writing it, but some good friends of mine provided a necessary push, and helped me to see that, if I want this conversation to exist, there was only one possible action – to take it on personally, to start the conversation and be to give a voice to the subject myself. To sit back and say, “This needs to happen” is a wonderful sentiment, but if I – if any of us – wish to see change happen, then the burden lies not in some imagined stranger who might say something close to what we feel, but with ourselves, to stand up and be bold and take the chance that we wish someone would take. It’s terrifying, but now, as I bask in the overwhelming positive response I’ve received, I am so, so glad that I did what I did.

To all of you who have supported me, whether over the years or in these last twenty-four hours, I offer my sincerest gratitude. It is because of you that I am not only able to share my story, but to feel comfortable having done so, and to feel comfortable with the person I became by living it. My wonderful wife, Erika, has done more for this than I can ever hope to put into words, but at the same time, the outpouring of love, support, and gratitude I’ve received over the last day from near (and complete) strangers has bolstered my faith in humans, in all of these wonderful creatures with whom I am lucky enough to share this wide, fantastic world. Too often, we see so much ugliness, so much focus on the unimaginable evil springing forth from just a few malignant souls poisoning the whole of the world that we forget that, in general, the people we share our experience with are good, open-minded, and full of insight and love.

To explain just how amazing this experience has been, I’m going to share some information about this website. A friend and I started this site in April of 2008, a continuation of a solo project I’d started on Blogger. Since that time,3,944 people – or, more correctly, “instances” of people – have seen this site (an “instance” is a viewing by a non-author member on a given day). Before today, the most visitors in a day I’d ever seen was 68. I don’t put any stock in these numbers, but WordPress makes them available, so I often look out of sheer curiosity. It’s a fun way to gauge how many readers I’ve got, and it’s a fun way of seeing which things I write  gain more traction with people.

As of my writing this, 409 people have visited the site today. That’s a truly staggering number; this site has existed for over five years, and more than 10% of the total combined traffic came today. Came to that post, to my discussion about gender identity and the story of who I am. That’s more than the number of followers I have on Twitter. It’s more than I could ever claim to hope my message, my story, would ever reach. And within this, I have had family, friends, and strangers reach out to me to respond to what I had to say.

I’ve received countless thanks. Countless claims of my bravery in putting myself out there. I’ve received praise for my writing, supportive internet-“high fives”, and more love and acceptance and support than I think I’ve ever felt in my life. People I don’t know at all reached out to me to thank me, to ask me questions, and to relate pieces of my story to their own. Friends and strangers alike have told me they relate, either personally or through others close to them. They’ve called me  brave, bold, and, most importantly – they’ve called me friend. Ally. Inspiration.

That last one, every time I’ve seen it today, has made tears well up. To think that I, a simple human telling a story of my journey through life, could inspire others, could light a fire within people I have never interacted with — it is the most incredible, uplifting, and rewarding compliment I can even imagine receiving. I’ve always wondered where I fit in the world, what purpose my apparent gift for words could possibly serve. From scrawling adolescent poetry into dirty notebooks in high school, searching for a human connection I thought I’d never know, to the launch of this site and telling of pieces of my story here, I’ve always been left to think back on it, and wonder if it was worth anything at all. I’ve given up, I’ve thrown away piles upon piles of my words, I’ve set fire to poems that didn’t express who I had become, even if they held pieces of who I once was.

And today, from one simple, honest truth-telling; one nerve-splitting, gut-wrenching admission of myself put into words, every single thing I’ve ever written, every time I’ve put pen to paper or fingers to keys, is worth it. Every thing I’ve discarded or shared or held to myself has become a beautiful, incredible experience surpassing even the wildest dreams of childhood. When my children were born, I found purpose in myself and my continuing to be. But today, this word-child of myself has matured before my eyes, and everything I’ve been through to reach the person I am has been given meaning.

Today, from one simple, honest truth-telling, I have found a manner of purpose and worth that I never allowed myself to hope for.

And it is because of you.

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