To my friends,
I believe, and have learned in my life so far, that real and meaningful change is only ever possible when I fully embrace being open, honest and completely vulnerable. Today, with that awareness in hand, I am going to be very honest about who I am and trust that everything from this point forward will get better.
To begin, on the advice of my wife, I am going to start with the conclusion.
I am transgender.
For those who may be initially unsure, transgender means that everything you see on the outside is not, and never has been, consistent with who I am on the inside. I was biologically born a boy but my gender identity is, and always has been, female. I am a girl and am at the point in my journey where I need to evolve to live happier, more authentic and more present for those that I love.
On Monday, March 27, 2017, I will officially begin gender transition and start making this very necessary change in my life. On this day I will start work as me, Kiersten Ryan Mohr, and boldly embrace everything that is yet to come.
I have struggled with this innate disconnect, or gender dysphoria, my entire life. It has taken me decades to genuinely figure out, and most importantly, discover self-acceptance in who I really am. I have spent a lifetime running away from something I now appreciate I cannot run away from. I have invested all of my time working incredibly hard to be productive on the outside while simultaneously being afraid, anxious and suffocating on the inside. As intimidating and uncertain as this step is, I confidently know that this is unquestionably the easier path.
When I started meaningfully exploring my authentic gender, over a decade ago, I was certain that if the road were to lead here I would simply disappear with my family and start over. I was convinced and extremely committed that I was not strong enough to stay and that anybody that knew Ryan would never be able to accept or understand Kiersten. Obviously, my perspective has changed and I stand in front of all of you today having decided to take this chance and not disappear. I am choosing to embrace this transition, in place, and be completely vulnerable and open with all of you. This change of perspective, strength, and motivation has its roots in a few important places.
First, the security, support, and consistency of my family offers me a vast safety net. At the end of today, regardless of how any of this goes, they will be there for a hug and all the amazing with them will remain the same.
Second, I am motivated by so many of you. I have been in this career my entire adult life and in that time I have made so many meaningful friends that I am not ready to say goodbye too. I entirely understand that some people may disappear through my transition but I don’t want to give up and assume that it can’t work. I don’t want to live without knowing for sure which friendships would have survived and what life could have looked like here.
Last, and as importantly, by finding the courage to tell my story I can bring awareness. I am part of an amazing community that is unfairly plagued with stigmas and stereotypes resulting in high incidences of discrimination, harassment, and violence. These circumstances result in over 40% of transgender people attempting, at some point, to take their own lives. Honestly, I understand being in a place where there doesn’t seem to be any other way to get out of this. I understand the absolute crushing feeling that there is no alternative way to find calm and comfort in who we truly are. I understand wanting to give up.
Fortunately for me, my story included two incredible women, Jen and Lindsey, who patiently walked with me until I was able to quit drowning in impossibility and begin to see the possibility. I now understand all the amazing that is possible and want to help raise awareness and try to make the path easier for anyone stuck in the place I began. A close friend and strong advocate told me that, in her opinion, the biggest thing any of us can do to help is tell our story. To be able to tell my story - I need to finish it. Thus, I am choosing to take this step giving me unlimited freedom to pay forward the kindness and understanding that has helped me get to this point.
I am guessing many that know me will be interested in my family and as such, I want to take a moment to talk about them.
Eleven years ago I told my wife, Jen, who through shock and uncertainty accepted and loved me. Unknowing to her at the time her compassionate reaction undeniably saved my life. She didn’t for a second, in all the uncertainty and emotion, reinforce my belief that there was something very wrong and shameful about me. She softly encouraged me to find me. There have been challenges and innumerable conversations along the way but we now find ourselves in a place of acceptance, love and genuine happiness.
Daphne and Elliot, our two perfect and amazing children, are unquestionably our biggest priority. As worried as we were at the beginning, they have continually shown us how mature, caring, open and remarkable they really are. Their questions and concerns have been compassionate and as long as I can continue to take them fishing, camping, play video games, have “epic” wrestling matches and dance parties then they are good. Jen and I knew they were okay when, on their own initiative, they decided that “Dad” didn’t really fit anymore. Together they enthusiastically sat down and brainstormed what to call me during and after the transition. They came up with several alternatives finally settling on DeDe! I will always be their Daddy but am now also, very proudly, their DeeDee!
Hopefully, it is obvious that this transition is not just about me. It is about my family and all of us deciding to walk down this road together. For this, I consider myself incredibly lucky as it is not a common outcome for so many others in my situation. Together, we will graciously take any support that comes our way and trust that more people will stay than leave. We will trust that closer and more authentic relationships will form with all of those that are willing to walk through transition with us. We will trust and believe that everything gets better from here.
The common question we have received from those that are staying with us is “How can I help?”
My response is simple, easy and has been consistent every time.
I ask that you trust that everything you know about me is still the same. I am still the same person with the same personality, interests, and experiences. I promise you that my authentic gender is simply an addition to everything you already know about me.
I know transition will not be easy and I have no naive belief that this evolution of me will be free of obstacles or challenges. There will be complications, there will be awkward moments, there will be people that understand and people that don’t. Despite that, I am comforted by knowing everything, good and bad, from now on will be real and truly me.
After a drama performance last year Daphne invented the word “ervous” to explain how she was feeling before going on stage. It is a perfect balance of excited and nervous and I think encompasses perfectly what I am feeling right now. I am nervous not knowing exactly what everything next looks like and about who will be in my life once I get through this. In parallel, I am also extremely excited knowing that the sadness is behind me and so much adventure is in front of me. I am excited to stop defining my life by this challenge and start working towards developing deeper and more meaningful connections with those around me. I am excited to start breathing, to start sleeping, to start helping and to start being me.
I smile knowing that I am at the end of a very, very long road. I smile knowing that I made it and I find peace knowing that I have finally figured me out.
I will close by thanking all of you for your time and attention and encourage you to ask any questions that you may want to ask. I am very open to sharing my story to help anyone learn more.