Congratulations to Leah P. from Wisconsin, who has been awarded $7,500 towards her gender-affirming surgery!
Leah’s story, like so many others’ stories, truly touched our hearts. We were moved by her decades-long commitment to LGBTQ activism with her partner, which she had to put on hold as she dealt with chronic medical illness. Because of her illness, she was unable to work, and Leah shared with us her significant financial need as she and her partner were tested by disability, coming out, a building fire that left them with nothing, unemployment, poverty, and transition.
Leah also shared just how much receiving facial feminization surgery meant to her – both in alleviating her dysphoria and in providing her physical safety as she navigates the world as a trans woman.
Leah plans to have her surgery in the coming months. Stay tuned for updates!
Leah in Her Own Words
Finalist Essay: 2017 was an impactful year for the transgender community, with increased visibility for trans issues and topics – health care, bathrooms, and the military, to name a few. How did 2017 affect your own personal journey as a trans person?
“I happily began my medical transition a day before the 2016 [Presidential] election. After the loss, I was overcome with the sense that a long hallway of open doors – opportunities, security, and safety – instantly slammed shut. It felt like the death of someone quite young, where the tragedy of what was, is compounded by the loss of what could have been. The unending chain of bad news, the increased fear of violence, or of another doctor I depend on becoming hostile, has been hard to handle. During really dysphoric periods it feels like I’m at the bottom of the sea with the cold ocean pressing in on all sides, trying to crush me.
And I’m not the only one. All of my friends, both trans and cis, have had their lives made less secure, more desperate and threatened. It has stretched our support networks beyond breaking. None of us were wealthy in money, time, or energy, but this constant fight has worn us all down even more. It feels like we’re all on a sinking ship, have run out of life rings, and people just keep slipping into the water.
At the same time, in between dysphoria spirals, the bad news, and crises, I’ve never been as motivated to make sure things are changed – and kept changed – for the better. And, thinking of my own past experiences, I feel even more that we can’t let the usual internal activist politics or personality clashes get in the way of that change. This tragedy of a year has made it very clear that we all share our fate, that we’re all vulnerable together, that we share an overall struggle. This year has made it really clear to me how connected we are, how much we share a common experience of vulnerability and how important it is to approach each other in our activism with understanding, tenderness, and love. Our own narrow groups and friend networks are not enough to make durable change, or insulate us from vulnerability.
So this year as been the year I have felt the most vulnerable, depressed and damaged, but also the most connected, engaged and opened.”