It’s a little past 4AM in New York. I was awaken by the sound of birds chirping outside my window.
I couldn’t go back to bed. I just couldn’t. The weight of that mini-miracle of a little chick’s life, as it singularly chirped, announcing its place in this world couldn’t leave my mind. It reminded me of my own chirping of sorts: In less than 24 hours living in and leading with my truth will become a reality.
I’ve relayed my journey to womanhood as a young person in the June 2011 issue of Marie Claire magazine, out on newsstands nationwide Tues. May 17. But I have to give thanks because I did not do this along. It has been a remarkably long road, from my childhood in Kalihi, a small town in Honolulu, Hawaii, to my first inklings that I was a girl, to my transition through and beyond Farrington High School and my life as a woman writer in New York.
In my It Gets Better video, I use my story of transition from my parents’ firstborn son Charles to their youngest daughter Janet as an example of hope that you can survive and thrive through nearly anything – even if your body isn’t on your side – if you believe in yourself, live your truth and most importantly ask for help. And in the eve of my big “coming out” I have many thanks:
From a very young age, my parents (though resistant at times as any concerned parents would be) allowed me to be me as long as I did well in school. They didn’t encourage me to express my female self, but they didn’t question me either. They silently let me know, without raised brow or scorn, that I was exactly who I was meant to be. And for that I will always love them. My siblings are the best – when I sat them all down and asked that they change my pronoun from he to she and call me Janet, they didn’t bat a lash. They embraced Janet and allowed her to be their sister. I love you all.
Aaron. Two years ago, I never knew that a love like this would be possible. I was always a hopeless romantic, but dreamily imagining my Prince Charming could not prepare me for the night I met you. Who knew that dancing to Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” at La Caverna on the Lower East Side would put me on display to meet the love of my life? This relationship has shifted me, helping me shed years of self-inflicted shame and insecurity. Your love and support has given me the stability and foundation that allows me to be brave enough to go out in the world and lead with my truth. Thank you for encouraging me to tell my truth and directing and editing my It Gets Better video. It’s a testament to your talent and sheer capacity as a remarkable man.
My Best Friend
Nearly five years ago, I walked into a small office on the 35th floor of a Manhattan skyscraper. It was just a few months after earning my masters degree from New York University, and I was green, especially when it came to digital publishing. I interviewed with Mai, an editor at one of the company’s websites, and she took a chance on newbie me. I was elated to call a job that a “million girls would kill for” as my very first gig, but what I didn’t know was that I’d end up finding the best friend a girl could ever have. Mai has touched my life, offering me encouragement in the good times and bad, and even spearheaded and funded my website redesign in time for the article. From our late-night tears in our single days to our late-night tweaking of the site and our daily Oprah check-ins, there has never been a better friend and sister than Mai. Never.
Charlise. If it weren’t for you encouraging me to write my memoir proposal, I would not have made the headway I have on my book. With your encouragement and check-ins, you’ve kindly, yet, firmly kept me accountable to telling my story. Your friendship and support helped me feel bold enough to lead with the untold story of how a kid with no money and lots of nerve was able to survive and thrive and achieve her dreams. Thank you for pushing me to tell my story to Kierna for Marie Claire.
To all the kids tormented and questioned and ostracized for being different, you are who I fight for. You are the beaming beacons of light that have made me shed my anonymity and stealth life and come forward and lend a face to a story that we only know. When I was growing up, no one was transitioning through middle and high school. Now, I am astounded to see that there are families embracing their trans kids, brave kids who have the courage to be their authentic selves and demand that everyone else realizes that we are all so much more than our body parts.
For more on Janet’s story of womanhood and finding love pick up the June 2011 issue of Marie Claire, on newsstands May 17.