Transgender Ear Bender – Personal Struggles and Statistics

This edition of TEB ended up focusing on anxiety and depression – but there’s a happy ending! I will share my story first, and then share some recent statistics. Thanks for tuning in!

            I was depressed from a very young age and since I did not know what depression really was at the ages of five or six, I didn’t know how to describe it. I tried, when I was about five years old, and told my father that I felt like I had a hole inside of myself that I couldn’t fill. Try to imagine a five-year-old saying that to you, and then imagine what you would do. Would you finish their bedtime story, put them to bed, and never ask them about it again? I sure wouldn’t.

When I was eleven, I told my Mom that I was having negative thoughts, and thoughts involving self-harm. She told me “that’s part of growing up” and left me sitting on the couch alone wondering if this was all that life could offer me; ultimately concluding that life wasn’t worth it. So, I started planning my suicide, and began giving my things away to friends since I wouldn’t need them anymore. It was going to be a Tuesday, and I was ready – confident that I was making the right decision since I wasn’t happy and had no hope of that ever really changing. Long story short,the school found out through a friend, and my parents were called in. Suddenly it was an issue that my parents had “no idea” about, and the school mandated that I begin therapy before returning to school. It didn’t help, but I got smarter at hiding it, and started drinking because that’s what my Dad and brothers did so it made sense to me. By the time I was twelve I was drinking at least three nights a week – mostly to fall asleep but it quickly became more than that (which is a different support group altogether, so I won’t go into it here, but I’m sure you get the picture). Thank goodness I did not get involved with drugs, which is a surprise since that is also what my father and brothers were doing, because I’m sure that my mother would be truly broken if another one of her children was lost to overdose (my brother Michael died from a heroin overdose in 2011 at the age of 29). I became very good at hiding my depression and anxiety – and thrived despite it. I did well in school and was also an accomplished athlete in soccer, softball, and swimming – missing state championships in the 100m Butterfly event by 2 seconds (I blame my brothers for this, and there is a funny story involved I promise) – but something was always missing. It wasn’t until I learned that I was transgender that I finally had a realization as to why I was depressed for most of my life.  

            With all of that in mind, my father has been sober for over four years now, and my brother Matthew has been successfully calling me ‘Aidan’ instead of my birth name for over a year now. My mother is doing better, and although she said many things throughout my life – and my transition – that will never be forgotten, we are civil, and she is trying to truly come to terms with me as her child.

            I now have some statistics that I would like to share with you regarding the transgender community and then the happy ending!

An adult survey, offered in English and Spanish, was offered online in 2015 to the transgender population and almost 28,000 people responded. The findings, sadly, confirmed what many of us assumed to be true regarding many statistics including employment status, harassment, but also suicide attempts. The rate of suicide among the general population is 4.6%,however for those in the transgender population that number is 40%. That statistic increases even higher when outside factors such as harassment, discrimination either at school, work, or by family members enter the picture.

            If not for my wife and love of my life Sarah, I may have ended up in a much darker place. She has been my rock through all of this, and her support as well as support from friends has kept me going throughout my life and especially my transition. Please keep in mind that this also applies to all members of the LGBTQ+ community, and support is one of the most important factors for people who identify as LGBTQ+. Thank you all for being involved in PFLAG, even if it is just to be on the mailing list, your support and understanding go a long way for the community.

As always, if there is a topic that you would like to hear more about or a question you may have that you’d like me to address, don’t hesitate to send it to [email protected] and I can address it in one of the TEB installments.

Until next time!

Transgender Ear Bender – Life on Long Island

            Growing up, I knew nothing of what it meant that someone could be transgender. I knew what gay meant, and lesbian, and cross-dressers (The Birdcage and Some Like it Hot are family favorites) but I had no idea that people could completely change from one gender to another. Our little Lynbrook bubble kept me from seeing more than just my small town.

I knew that I was having feelings for other girls when I was very young, probably five or six, at least I knew that I felt differently about them than I did about boys. I didn’t know exactly what it was until middle school and even then, I suppressed feelings as hard as I could because I knew that was something that wasn’t common in society and didn’t want to be seen as different. I just wanted to be a well-behaved, normal kid – for my parents’ sakes. I have to say that I did a pretty damn good job of it until I became a teenager (typical, I know – gosh darn kids these days, no respect I tell ya) and started to truly self-analyze. I began to acknowledge that even though I’d dated boys, something wasn’t fully clicking. I told no one what I was feeling in middle school, and kept all of my research private, afraid (rightfully so, as it turns out) that no one in my traditional Irish Catholic family would understand and help me to learn more or explore deeper into myself.

The closest thing that I got to support came from my brother Michael, who unfortunately died of a heroin overdose in 2011, before I even came out as transgender and began my transition. To say “it was hard” to lose the only person in my immediate family that showed any semblance of unconditional acceptance and support for me, is a drastic understatement.

            Throughout my research in middle school and some of high school, which was done hastily and often followed by a deletion of recent search history (the computer was located in the dining room with the screen facing the main entryway of the house – so that what we were doing could be seen at all times), I found that there were more positive reactions than I had anticipated to someone coming out of the closet. Although the terrible situations that I imagined ensuing when I came out were still evident on the internet, there was a sliver of hope that I wouldn’t have a terrible life as a lesbian – which is what I assumed that I was at that time in my life, since my feelings towards other girls had become more evident despite my attempt to push them away and ignore them. I’m not sure if there was a single moment of revelation that occurred in which I knew that I was sexually attracted to women. It was a string of moments, and brief feelings of warmth around certain people.

            Of course, hindsight is 20/20 so now I know that I was transgender all along. A question that I often ask myself is, “If I had known earlier, would I have done it all differently?” An unfair question, really – but still interesting to ponder. I don’t know if I would have been better off knowing earlier – or if that would have made it harder for me. Going through this process in my twenties is assumedly much different than that of a teenager or younger, and I have the feeling that I would be much more impatient and frustrated as a teen than I was as a young adult.

            Most importantly, however, is that I cannot change the past – none of us can. So try to remember that even though it would have been nice or convenient to know about something (whether it’s rain on the day of a party or someone you love sharing that they are part of the LGBTQ+ community), it doesn’t change what happened or what is happening. All that we can do is take a breath, accept things as they are, and move on with our lives as best we can while we educate ourselves about different aspects of life.

Transgender Ear Bender

Transgender Ear Bender – Meet Aidan!

Hi everybody!

My name is Aidan Kircheim and besides the current president of PFLAG Long Island, I am also a transgender man.

I like comic books, video games, Dungeons and Dragons, and cute stuffed toys. If there’s a need to talk to someone about the recent Marvel Secret Wars event or the latest Virtual Reality technology, I can be that guy.

However, this ongoing segment is going to be about my realization and growth from a young woman into an adult man (and not at all about comic books… sadly).

Transgender Ear Bender

Some topics I’d like to discuss as these segments continue are: my family and their reactions, things that I look back on during my time as a female that make complete sense now, my transition not only from female to male in general but also from my initial struggle with identifying as a lesbian – to embracing the man I truly always was as well as travels and experiences, my sexuality, and anything else that comes up along the way!

I will also make myself available to have open communication with anyone who desires it, including issues or questions to address in my future contributions to TEB (Transgender Ear Bender) – feel free to email through the PFLAG Long island email address ([email protected]) and I’ll be happy to chat, listen, and anything in-between!

I suppose I should start at the beginning. I was born on a Friday evening at 5:25pm, at South Nassau Hospital in Oceanside, NY. My two brothers Matthew and Michael (who were ten and eight years old, respectively, at the time) were eagerly awaiting my arrival, as were my parents, but it was my grandmother who was the most excited about her next grandchild. The story goes – when she found out it was a girl, she disappeared on a shopping spree for two days and came back with toys and blankets and clothes and a crib. She was excited to finally have a baby girl in the family; they all were.

I learned from a very young age (as most children do) what a girl was supposed to be, and I was determined to fit the mold to make my parents happy. Much of my early life was lived for my parents, and trying to make up for how troublesome my brother Michael was. I wanted to make life easier for them and just be a good kid, even if it meant that I wasn’t emotionally stable all of the time. I learned that girls are supposed to like certain things, wear certain clothes, grow their hair long, and act a certain way. So I did what I felt like I had to, and became a fantastic actress.

I secretly wanted to act just like my brothers, and get away with things they got away with, instead of constantly being told to be more “ladylike”. I was a “tomboy”, and always had more friends who were boys. I got along better with boys, and I was happier with boys. Regardless, I played the part of a girl as best as I could, and apparently it was good enough that when I came out as transgender at the age of 22, no one had seen it coming!

I’m going to start the next segment elaborating on what it was like to be a child in my family, living in a small town on Long Island. Hope you join us for the next one, and feel free to let me know of anything specific you’d like me to cover – or just that you’d like to hear about.

Thanks and see you next time!