Blessed In My Journey

By Tegan James
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Tegan James article picTegan James, founder & editor of GALA Magazine | LGBT Artists as the featured March interviewee.  Tegan is a visual artist whose artistic focus is primarily through the use of tile art and canvas paintings.  Tegan considers his work to be mostly abstract expressionism. To add to the diversity, Tegan is transgender, and interested in seeing how his gender identity will come out in his art.

It is Tegan’s intention to share the wide range and depth of his emotions –whether raw or lighthearted —  on canvas or tile art pieces; and it is his  hope that you will examine each piece, each swirl, each stroke, each scrape and be moved, be touched, be inspired — to go on and create in your own unique way.

I woke up in the middle of the night, slightly panicked and unable to fall back to sleep. I’m late on my testosterone shot by three days. I’ve been feeling conflicted with whether or not I want to continue with the shots. A dozen thoughts flood my mind – I should call my doctor to let her know. I know she will understand, but will anyone else? It’s only been four months since I took my first shot. The thoughts continue to buzz around in my mind for the next two hours.

I think of my journey so far. Mentally, it’s been a huge relief to understand who I am and I’m beyond grateful for that. I closed my eyes, smiled, and said a quick thank-you prayer. I breathed out slowly and thought I might fall back to sleep. But visions of my body started creeping into my mind. Physically, it’s been torture. I’m happy with a few of the changes that have happened since starting testosterone, but I’ve been completely uncomfortable with the rest of the changes – mainly the increase in mass, appetite, and the itchy acne invasion on my face. I don’t know how to find clothes that fit my changing body. I feel out of proportion even more. My breasts are seemingly more prominent. I take a deep breath and release a heavy uncomfortable sigh before flipping on my back, eyes wide open and I stare at the ceiling through the dark. I am frustrated, annoyed, and angry. Who can I call at this hour of the night that will understand me and be willing to listen? The answer was easy …

Recently I signed up as a volunteer to take calls for a transgender helpline. Trans Lifeline was launched in November 2014 by Greta Gustava Martela and Nina Chaubal. It’s a free helpline primarily for transgender people experiencing a crisis. This includes people who may be struggling with their gender identity and are not sure that they are transgender. I didn’t think twice about signing up for it. I know all too well the insanity of the haunting thoughts, the fear and panic of how others will react or respond; the loneliness and isolation when it seems like nobody else understands – and those dark moments where hope feels long lost and suicide becomes an option for some, an answer for others.

The voices of the callers are loud in my head. They call in crying, mumbling, whispering, angry and afraid. They spill their words and fears quickly, before someone comes in. Some hang up mid-sentence. Some talk for hours. There are those who are ever so grateful and hang up with hope and a plan to get more help. Then there are those who hang up and I wonder if those are their last words.

I’ve been blessed in my journey with friends and family who may not understand the process but who completely accept me for who I am at my core, no matter who I am or how I identify from day to day. I know I can call in to the helpline too, at almost any hour, and speak to another person for support and comfort and help. Thank you to people like Greta and Nina who take their experiences and form a positive foundation of strength for us, and to the rest of the volunteers who are helping to save lives, one call at a time.

If you or someone you know would like to volunteer and/or need the support of Trans Lifeline, visit the website at TransLifeline.org or call in to the free helpline: US: (877) 565-8860; Canada: (877) 330-6366.

“According to the most recent and comprehensive statistics available, 41% of trans people attempt suicide at least once in their lives, and the figures go up to 50% if their trans status is known or disclosed. We’d like to get that number to zero. Our community needs every one of our members.”   –Trans Lifeline President, Greta Gustava Martela

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