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The Journey Home

Atticus Davidson Ducharme is a 26 year old transgender poet, performer, and activist. 2014 will by his fourth year at Gender Odyssey.

I got up the guts to pick up the phone and say, “Hey, I think I’m transgender.” To my eternal relief and great surprise, my friend simply replied, “Hey, me too.” From that moment on I had a teammate against the rest of the world.

atticusI love coming to GO because it’s like coming home for me every year. I love to reunite with my old friends and getting the chance to make new ones. I love hearing stories from so many people with experiences both like and unlike my own. Nowhere else have I ever found such unity, and I doubt I ever will anywhere else. This conference is always the highlight of my year, and it all happened by chance for me.

I came out at 19 after years of struggling to put my feelings into words. I grew up without much of a sense of self. I was left to my own devices a lot as a child and there were really no expectations of me other than to stay out of the way and get good grades. As I grew older I began to feel dissatisfied with myself in ways that I couldn’t quite explain. I didn’t like my body, but what teenager does? I didn’t feel like myself, but I also didn’t know who or what I was. I chalked it up to being young and tried my best to have fun and live my life, figuring it would all work out in the end.

When I was 15, I went on a date with a girl who bound her chest, wore slacks and a tie, and slicked her hair back like a man. Something in her presence opened a door for something in me that had never had a voice before. She told me she was genderqueer, that she felt like she was both girl and boy. I had never heard anything so perfect and right before. I told her I wished I’d been born a boy. It was as close to right as I had words for at the time, and I spent the next four years mulling that thought over.

When I was 19, I watched a documentary called Boy I Am that featured young transgender men. Immediately, I knew that they were me and I was one of them. A certainty I’d never felt told me that, yes, this is what I’d been struggling all my life to express. It was a relief and also a new panic. How could I navigate this world as a transgender person? Would I be safe? Would my family still love me? I told my best friend one day over the phone. I agonized over that phone call for hours before it happened before I got up the guts to pick up the phone and say, “Hey, I think I’m transgender.” To my eternal relief and great surprise, my friend simply replied, “Hey, me too.” From that moment on I had a teammate against the rest of the world.

I spent the next few years trying to make peace with my discovery. At times I tried to make it not true; to ignore this part of me that was so right but so controversial. I tried to be happy as a young woman, but it never worked. Deep down, I already knew who I was. I became Atticus, and every step in his direction was the right step. My best friend, who became Weaver, was there with me for every step and she went from friend to family. We were finding ourselves and getting stronger and braver together.

In the summer of 2010 I went to Seattle Pride and there was a booth for Gender Odyssey. I took a brochure home and probably read it a thousand times before I called Weaver and told her. We made plans to check this conference out together, not entirely sure it was for us, but excited that it might be.

In August 2011, we arrived, not entirely sure what to expect. We spent a weekend learning more than we ever had and making friends that we’ll have for the rest of our lives. The highlight of my first conference was getting to see a keynote speech from Dean Spade, who I’d seen in Boy I Am and who I deeply respect and look up to. I didn’t want the weekend to end, and by the last day, Weaver and I were already making plans for the next year.

In the year between my first and second year at GO, I really found the strength to be myself in the open. I came out at work and to my family. My family doesn’t understand, but they love me anyway and they try. My job mostly ignored me, but largely I was left unharassed and in peace. I began to write more and connect with other trans people, finding my place in the world as my genuine self.

Our second year, we brought a friend with us. Watching Lisa learn more about the world Weaver and I were now living in was the best part of that conference. It was a great bonding experience. It was also nice to not be as nervous as we had been our first year. We felt confident enough to go our own ways for a little while and come back after to exchange stories of what we’d learned and who we’d met. We saw old friends and made new ones, and were even able to reassure some first timers, just like old pros.

Between my second and third years, I fell into a bad depression. I began to doubt everything about my life and who I was. It was my friends from Gender Odyssey who helped put me back together. Weaver, forever my rock, listened and gave advice. Various friends I’d met over the past years offered their love and unconditional support. I learned that while identity shifts, my friends remain. I came out of that depression stronger and more loved than ever.

Last year’s conference was the best I’ve been to yet. I felt so confident and whole. Weaver and I even presented a workshop on trans experiences with mental health and the mental health industry. My favorite workshops were the ones where I got to write. I am always overwhelmed with inspiration at Gender Odyssey because it is so full of beauty and people with so many experiences and truths, so many people with so much courage. It is a sign of hope to me that we can all come together to share our stories without fear or hesitation.

This year, I have continued my journey to find myself. My identity has shifted further, and for now has settled to a place I’m comfortable with. I am a boy without a gender, and that’s ok. I have, at last, decided I want to experiment with hormone therapy. I have accepted that, even if I don’t, my identity is still valid and still mine. I will hold my head up high this year exactly as I am, whoever I am, and not worry that someone will slip over my pronouns or question my identity.

I will return to Gender Odyssey, and it will be a sort of homecoming. I will return to my family and I will learn more than I ever have before, and maybe even teach someone something.

Gender Odyssey, to me, is part summer camp, part family reunion. It is a place I will always be home, and it’s a way to measure my progress. I don’t know who I would be if I had never gone. My life has changed so much for the better because of my experiences with this conference and because of the family of friends I have found along the way.

The journey continues, and I can’t wait to see how it goes.

 

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