My Own Hero's Journey

My Own Hero's Journey

by T.J. Bradley

My name is TJ. I am a 42-year-old trans man, who lives in the state of Alabama, which is known to be in the bible belt. I was born a female and now live my life as a male. I was abused in every way as a child from the age of 5-13. The man who abused me did get 25 years in prison and got out after 20 years of being in there. I was diagnosed at the age of 14 with C-PTSD, major depression, and anxiety. 

I came out as a lesbian with my first female partner at the age of 23. We were together for 6 1/2 years. Then at the age of 30, I got with my second longest partner of 10 years. Living my life as a lesbian didn't ever really work because I never saw myself as a female so when people would use female pronouns, used my female name, or when I was called a "wife" it would turn my stomach and I never knew truly why until I met a trans man in Alabama when I was 36, at a Pride event. Truth be told, I didn't even know it was possible to transition in Alabama. 

One thing that had taken place that got my anxiety up about being in the LGTBQ community in Alabama was when Billy Jack Gaither was savagely murdered in 1999 because he was gay, in a town close to me. It is one of the reasons I felt like I couldn't ever really be myself, along with the fact that I went to a Southern Baptist Church as a child. The church I went to as a child pretty much saw everything as a sin and if you sinned you were going to hell. 

I never really knew my biological dad until he was in the process of dying when I was 35, we met when I was 19 but never talked. On his deathbed, he had told me he had never been truly happy, then he asked me if I had ever been happy. I honestly could not say that I had ever been happy. Mainly, because I never felt like I could truly be myself. I always felt out of place and had bad anxiety that if anyone truly found out who I was that there would be harm done and/or I would be alone, if not dead. 

I became very suicidal at the age of 37 and then again at the age of 39. I started transitioning at the age of 38. I am glad that I continued to live because now at 42 I can say that I am truly happy. A lot of my suicidal issues were because I didn't know how to handle the rejection that I was receiving from people including my family and longtime friends. 

I know now the right people stayed in my life and supported me through my transition. I am thankful for them. Over the past 5 years, I have worked very hard not only to heal from the past trauma that I experienced but to become the man on the outside that I have always been inside. It's not been an easy journey at all, and it is not a choice, but it is worth it. I work as a peer specialist helping others through this so-called journey. Coping skills and self-care have been some major things that I have added to my life that have truly helped me. 

The reason I submitted my story to ADAA is because I have seen other people's stories on the website and it did give me the courage to type my story up. Plus, I have to give y’all credit for supporting LGBTQ+ people because right now it feels like not many people do. Especially in Alabama. 

I have people in my life that I love, and they love me. Life is pretty good, and I am happy with who I am, what I believe in, and who I love. I realized that I had to become my hero and live my truth. It is worth fighting for and staying around even when you may not want to. 

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