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Emergence 2021: Rowan VanGoda

Growing up I had no idea that you could go from being perceived as a girl to a boy. When I finally realized it, I didn’t think it was an option for me. At the time, there was one other kid at my school who was trans, and they weren’t in the best place mentally. I tried to turn to the internet, but what I found was mostly hate.

 The trans community in movies was portrayed as prostitutes, dead, or hated. One movie that stood out to me was “Boys Don’t cry.” It was a movie based on a true story where Brandon was raped, and his girlfriend was forced to look at his genitals and then they were both killed. In reality, they also had a friend staying there that was also killed.

Another was "Pet Detective". In the movie main character realized that he’d made romantic contact with puking, forcing himself to puke, plunging his face. Later he literally and forcefully strips Ventura to reveal her as a “man” and the entire police department starts puking too. I saw them, and having only that representation at the time, I thought I was destined to live in a body that I hated or risk both my own and my potential partner’s life daily if I was ever going to have a chance at a body that I might feel comfortable in.

Imagine seeing that as a child, how would you have felt? For me, it led to complete and utter hopelessness. I wish I hadn’t, but I pushed everyone away. I wouldn’t let my family touch me for fear they would get hurt like the people close to Brandon. 

I thought I was destined to live an extremely poor unfulfilled life if I were to live at all. I thought I wasn’t going to have a future, that I wasn’t going to be able to get a decent job, that I couldn’t have a partner, and if I did have one that they wouldn’t be safe. This led to a lot of personal problems like self-harm, drug abuse, and even attempted suicide just 7 days after my 13th birthday.

I didn’t want to be a druggy, and I was tired of scaring a body I already hated. I just wanted the pain to go away. I’d just gotten home from another miserable day at school and believe it or not I was in a corset. I remember thinking that if I forced myself to be as “girly” as possible I would be able to be a girl. That it would fix whatever was “wrong” with me. My days always started the same. I’d wake up, get dressed, make some attempt at makeup, and either walk or get on the bus. Once I got there, I would meet up with another kid who would give me a shot or two and the occasional joint or pill of some kind.

Then I’d go through my day in a haze of numbed self-hate. I’d smile, talk to people, try to act like everything was okay, and then I’d go home. I don’t know why that was the day I’d decided to try the Tylenol. It might have been seeing the other trans kid get shoved into a window, or maybe it was the girl I liked calling me out for being drunk again. Whatever it was, I needed the pain to stop. I started with three pills thinking maybe if one will numb physical pain three will help the mental pain, and then I just didn’t stop. I was lost in a haze of such inner hurt and self-hate that I just sat there, alone in my bathroom, taking one pill at a time until I realized the bottle was almost gone. Nobody, trans or otherwise, should ever have to go through so much fear and suffering trying to escape who they are.

When I got out of the hospital, I found Aydian Dowling's workout videos on YouTube while I was trying to figure out how to make my chest go away. At the same time, I met another transmasculine kid who was at the top of our class. He helped me get into honors classes and would stay after school to tutor me. Between him and Aydian, I’d found hope that maybe life could be okay for me. 

I still hadn’t found another transgender person in the business world though, Aydian was a speaker, and he’d centered his whole life around activism. Meanwhile, I hadn’t even come out to my family. I didn’t know how to make that change, and I didn’t know what I was going to do with my future. Then I found Ty Turner. I had no idea what he did or how he made a living, but he was another handsome transman who seemed happy and full of life. I thought maybe the media was how we were able to live a life that wasn’t going to be so down. Everyone wants to be in the media though, so I figured I didn’t have a shot. And besides that, I didn’t really want to be the dead body on screen.

My Dad’s girlfriend was part of something called the Unitarian Universalist Church. They’re very open and their primary message is that people are inherently good and deserve love. They introduced me to my mentor who was actually gender fluid. They were a carpenter, and so I thought maybe I could get into a trade. I didn’t like the idea of college much anyways and dove headfirst into mechanics. I went to three different high schools pursuing mechanics and fleeing being outed, but it seemed to happen everywhere I went. There was a kid who literally moved schools with me every single year. Finally, in my last year, I dropped out and enrolled in an alternative education plan at a college. He followed me there too though, and I didn’t feel safe to be myself there either. 

I graduated early and started working my first full-time job at 17. It was a mentorship program in mechanics, and I was beyond excited. They would pay for my school, give me a Master Tech to train under, even a bunch of free tools! Life couldn't have turned out better, except… for that one little thing that had chased me through four different schools. I was trans. After everything I’d experienced in high school, I didn’t feel safe being out at work. So, despite doing work that I loved with one of the most amazing opportunities possible, I was miserable and playing a person who wasn’t me… again. 

I started working for an LGBT certified company, I transitioned. I moved into management. I was so much happier and more confident, but I still felt trapped and uneasy most of the time. People were so negative and despite being an LGBT-owned and friendly workplace, there were still people who would get frustrated and angry if you corrected them on your pronouns. I started looking for trans business leaders again, and there really weren’t many out there.

That’s when I asked myself How do you expect to find a trans businessperson when people are just starting to accept trans actors and activists? The answer was simple. You weren’t. Most of us weren’t out. 

That’s when I made it my mission to become a leader of the movement towards tans entrepreneurship. If I can give even one other person the hope I needed when I was thirteen, everything will be with it. I will do everything I can to succeed for them because nobody should ever have to hate themselves so much that they literally autopilot their way to death, and not care.

 


Learn more about Rowan and his company, 7 Generation Impacts.  You can also find him on Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/7generationimpacts/.  

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