I’ve been alive for 20 years and most of them have been a real challenge to get through. The biggest reason is that I was placed in New York City’s foster care system when I was just three years old. My father had become abusive and my mother shared his drinking problem, which made it impossible for me to stay with them, but that’s not something I understood until years later.
I don’t remember much about my early years in foster care other than the constant anxiety that comes with the unpredictable moving around from home to home and family to family. Up until I was 10, I was lucky to say that all of the families I had lived with treated me well enough. None of them seemed to love me and only a few went out of their way to show they cared, but I was fed, clothed and sheltered. After losing my family at such a young age it seemed like enough to me, since I had no memories of what it felt like to be with a “real” family.
Around the time of my tenth birthday, I was forced to deal with a new set of problems. First, I was moved into a foster home that was abusive and neglectful. I was forced to wear ratty, hand-me-down clothing and my food was strictly controlled. When I threatened to tell my caseworker about my treatment, my foster father brutally beat me and then kept me out of school for several days so no one would see the bruises he had left all over my body.
The other issue crept up on me so slowly I barely even noticed. I was born Samuel Gomez, a boy, but something inside me made me feel like that was wrong. At first I thought I might be gay, but the more time passed the more I felt like I was not supposed to be a boy. I had no idea what it meant to be transgender at the time and as the abuse became more and more routine, I tried my best to keep what I was feeling hidden from the world.
After two years of constant beatings and mistreatment, I was finally moved into a new home that was more in line with my past foster care experiences. I was mostly left to my own devices and as I hit my teenage years, I set aside whatever dreams I had of being part of a happy family. Even if I did somehow get adopted, what family would want to keep me once they figured out my secret? What family would want a transgender freak like me? Those were the thoughts that I most remember having all through my teens.
It didn’t take long for me to become an emotional wreck, and it showed as I became more and more withdrawn and began to ignore my schoolwork. Nothing seemed worth it anymore so I ran away, figuring that if I was by myself, I wouldn’t have to deal with anyone else’s problems on top of my own. I was 16 and a year later I was all but broken. I’d been taunted, jumped and raped all while trying to find a way to make it through to the next day.
Thankfully, one of the few friends I made living on the street introduced me to The Door–an organization that helps all kinds of young people overcome their problems and move on to better futures. Four years later and I can’t say all my problems are gone, but I can say I’m in a much better place. I’ve made peace with the fact that I am a transgender woman and I’m now working toward getting the education I need to truly make it on my own. Everyone I’m working with says I’m just a year or two away from being able to start the kind of life I never thought I would have.
That’s not a situation I ever thought I would be in, but I now get to wake up every day feeling happy and grateful for everything that I’ve done for myself over these last few years. While I would have loved to have had a family there to support me, it feels good to have created a life for myself by starting from scratch.
Published on May 28, 2013 as part of Children’s Rights’ “Fostering the Future” campaign. The opinions expressed herein are those of the blog author and do not necessarily represent the views of Children’s Rights or its employees. Children’s Rights has not verified the author’s account.