It was among those same Cottian Alps that I first, seriously asked myself, “Why have I always ‘wanted’ to be a girl?” I’d have my answer less than a year later. But not before some romantic misadventure.
Right after getting back from Europe, one of my closest friends and I decided to try dating. She was wonderful. And made very unique culinary creations. Photos from this time are generally long deleted, leaving only bits and pieces.
Only months after we’d begun dating, I found myself looking at this view, despairing over the realization that I had to break up with her. I didn’t feel comfortable. Not with her, but in my own skin. She had no warning. I pulled eject, and it broke her heart. I still haven’t forgiven myself—though it was necessary for me.
In the midst of all that emotional turmoil, I was still growing as a portrait photographer. People were starting to pay me for my services, and so, I got fancy business cards.
One weekend in early 2014, laying on my dorm room bed, the dots finally connected. I’d tried to deny it since I was young, but it became undeniable: I had always been a woman. On April 1st, only mere weeks later, I had started HRT.
The summer before grad school began, I got an apartment near campus. Having started HRT, the dorm was no longer tenable—or safe.
I tried new things when circumstances enabled me to get a new, fancy DSLR. Like picturesque time-lapses of sunsets over Lake Michigan.
In grad school, our urban design project was located in rural Honduras. We flew down to visit the site, meet the people, and lay the project’s groundwork in situ. Because life is weird, the monkey in this photo was actually the second Honduran monkey I’d met in my life (first being on a mission trip in high school).
Unfortunately, that trip was rendered forever blurry and grim when I became violently sick. Everything became a nightmare of pain. I hadn’t fully adjusted to my new hormone balance, so the despair hammered me. I had a severe panic attack in a restaurant. No one understood.
When I got back to the US, I tried to carry on, but only weeks after recovering, I became horrendously sick again. The local campus doctors failed to test me for C. Diff., so I suffered indescribably for many, many months till I tried getting a second opinion. I also happened to find a used version of what became my “perfect” camera.
I finally came out to my school’s local unofficial-official LGBT group (AU being a conservative Christian school, vehemently denied that LGBT students even existed). I made new friends, and saw new, beautiful things. But the months of untreated C. Diff. had permanently damaged my intestines.
During the close of my time in grad school (which I barely, barely graduated from while being extremely ill), I secured my first “real” job in architecture.
I was also able to see the Gulf Coast for the first time, while visiting a good friend in Galveston, TX. I believe it was on that trip, while on a run with said friend, that someone first gendered me correctly.
I cannot fully express just how much the unofficial-official LGBT group allowed me to begin to accept myself—and taught me how to depend on community when the going gets tough.
After grad school, instead of immediately joining the architecture workforce, I went back home (to NorCal), to help my Dad—an absurdly-talented, licensed C-10 electrical contractor restart his business. We made many long morning commutes up to Quincy, CA to work a number of jobs on a motel.
Eventually, the time came to get back to the “real” world. I began a serious job hunt in earnest. That eventually led me to—again—uproot my life, and move everything to Portland, OR. Portland greeted me, as it’s wont to do, with a rainstorm.
As I settled into my new city, and new job, I made good on a goal to remain car-free, and picked up my (first) bike: a Kona Rove AL. She’s still with me, and has been with me every step of the way since—which earned her the nickname of “Fidelity.”
Shortly after moving to Portland, when I still didn’t know that many people, I went to first “concert.” After supporting Julia Nunes on Kickstarter, and being a fan for awhile, it was surreal to see her play in someone’s living room. And then I got to meet her! That whole night still feels blurry—like a dream.
As every cyclist does, I eventually had my first fall. It’s like a macabre right of passage for a MAX and/or streetcar track to take down Portland cyclists. Got pretty thrashed for being a low-speed spill.
I happened to be in Portland for its first “Snowpocalypse.” The whole city came to a frightening, ridiculous halt for several days. People in my apartment building took hot chocolate out to drivers who had been (and would continue to be) stuck in deadlocked traffic for countless hours.
I started to attend more group rides as my confidence and fitness (slowly) improved. This included participating in Machines For Freedom’s first Portland group ride. It was one of the first times I felt comfortable on a ride composed solely of cisgender women. I also got hella dropped by a few of those ladies.
Portland was super-close to the path of totality, so I joined many folks in my apartment building for an eclipse viewing party. It was incredibly bizarre. And very awesome.
When my parents finally had the time (and money) to properly visit Portland, I realized that I’d become a local. I ended up being a pretty good tour guide. And my Dad nearly cried from all the delicious vegan food he was able to eat (he’s extremely lactose-intolerant).
At some point, I decided that I wanted to join several of my coworkers in riding an imperial century. The lead up to the century involved many a training ride. Those rides led to unintentionally forming a proper girl gang to go on rides with—and we still do most weekends, to this present day.
The penultimate training ride before the imperial century (Reach The Beach) took me on my first trip to the “gorge-ous” Columbia Gorge area. I almost threw up climbing up out of the gorge, but it was a truly magnificent route.
The day of the century eventually arrived. Eight hours after departing from Beaverton, OR, our group arrived on the coast. We were exhausted, but we totally crushed it.
Because I grew up many hours inland from the coast, the recovery days following the century allowed me to properly soak in my first time seeing/walking the Pacific Ocean in at least a decade.
I couldn’t have guessed when I bought my Kona that I’d someday buy a thoroughbred carbon road bike. A local bike shop “godfathered” me into the beauty, after a few weeks of meticulously testing many different bikes. She more than earns the colloquialism of “whip.”
And, against the odds, I ended up a 30-years-young, out queer trans woman, architectural designer (a Revit specialist, thank you very much), and nerdy, car-free cyclist. Surrounded by friends and local, chosen family. 20-year-old me couldn’t have guessed it in a million years.