I always knew I was different. It’s hard to put your finger on something as complex as transsexualism when you’re young, but I knew something was off. I remember my first day of school. I was 3 years old. My lunch bag was pink and I remember wearing this long blue skirt. I had never seen so many kids together. All of the sudden a bell rang and all the kids started forming lines. There were two of them and despite the fact that I was not dressed like the rest of the boys, I knew that was my line (thought my mother had made a mistake with the uniform). So I stood on the boys’ line and a teacher grabbed my left arm and pulled me to the girls’ line. I thought she had made a mistake so I switched back to the boys’ line and the teacher switched me back to the girls’. Then everything became clear to me. People did not see me the way I saw myself. If I was able to come to a conclusion like that at the age of three, imagine what your five year old can do.
We all have to travel through the path of self-discovery. My case is no different only that I perceived society to place giant stones in my way and I had to get around them. Growing up in a predominantly Catholic country was very difficult. Everyone makes sure you have a constant reminder of how evil you are. I did not like myself as it was and hearing someone tell you about eternal fire during the critical years of your development, I consider an act of child abuse. But somehow I found the strength I needed to move forward and 18 years later I take pride in saying I survived.
It has been 2 years, 11 months, 24 days and 7 hours since I was born again. Transition has allowed me to express my true self to others and my physical appearance is evolving in order to look like the man I’ve always known I was. One thing that gave me a lot of hope was meeting the AID FOR AIDS crew. I was in my junior year in high school and already had identified myself as Tommy. AFAI took me in and made me feel as if I was no different than the rest of my peers. The information I was given by this organization is priceless and it will be of use for the rest of my life. I think the biggest impact they had was to help me realize that I was not the only one struggling. There were other people stigmatized as well and we are not to be judged based on societal myths.
One of the reasons I feel it’s so important to implement programs like the one in which I participated is the fact that the Dominican Republic is not making an effort to educate its youth about sexual matters. Not only it is important to know about prevention or protection from any possible infections but it is also necessary so that we can enjoy a healthy sex life; something that is imperative for our overall happiness.
AFAI helped me realize there was nothing wrong with expressing my sexuality and gender identity the way I wanted to as long as I was behaving responsibly. The DR continues to be a very superstitious place: the LGBT community is not very welcome there. I don’t blame people for their ignorance but the only way to do away with it is by educating the public. That is why, aside from being a writer, brother, father to a kitten and full time boyfriend, I am also an advocate for the rights of anyone who is unfairly judged. Education is the key to progress and AFAI helped me realize I want to be a part of the solution and not the problem.