I met Jonni in high school, she was known as John then. John was a nice, kind, and warm person. We were both part of a large group of mutual friends. We had some great times drinking our faces off through high school and college. Looking back there was probably a reason we were all drawn towards each other. All of us were trying to fit in, some of us running from something. It was easier to be someone else than to be yourself.
Eighteen years later, John appeared to be happily married, with two kids and was a successful entrepreneur. John was not someone I ever worried about, she was someone who I felt was stable and secure. Just two months ago, John announced her true identity as Jonni, a transgender woman. Even though my mind was a little blown, I didn’t think twice about it. There was nothing that could prevent me from fully accepting Jonni for who she is.
Jonni’s story is relatable I’m sure. Fully transitioning is a gradual process. Growing up, Jonni was not aware she was a woman, she just knew she was drawn to feminine things. There were signs as early as elementary school. In high school she longed to feel free like girls appeared to be and cross dressed at home by herself. Looking in the mirror, she saw herself as a man in woman’s clothes. Still not really sure what this all meant, she just knew she did not fully feel like herself.
I was an outsider looking in.
As a guy in college, she was surrounded by the pressure of having sex and being masculine. She felt alone and and felt that she had to fit in with the guys. Everyone was having so much fun but internally she was struggling. After college, she met her wife and things looked bright. She felt truly loved for the first time. She felt that she could put all of her secrets aside to be a man for her because of the undeniable love between them. And she did this for awhile.
The stress of running two businesses, raising two boys with autism, and carrying the weight of her family broke Jonni more and more each year. She was not taking care of herself and lived her life for her wife. She became resentful and did not feel taken care of. Jonni started therapy in hopes to rid herself of what she believed was gender dysphoria. She spent years fighting with herself, debating death and the consequences of coming out.
My body was finally aligning with soul.
After doing some research online, she found a service in Toronto that womanizes men. A make up artist comes over to do your hair and makeup. You are then chauffeured to dinner to experience life as a different gender. Jonni looked into a mirror and felt like herself for the very first time. She was sure of who she truly was now, but was still afraid to act on it.
Through the years, Jonni secluded herself from everyone, including her friends. After finally meeting up with one of her best friends and was still unable to reveal who she was, she felt ready to die. She felt that if she could not come out to one of her best friends that she had no hope; it was now or never. She decided to call her cousin, who she knew would be an open and loving person to talk to. Her cousin accepted Jonni and was a saving grace during her lowest point. She then decided to tell her wife. She was expecting the worst, but did not receive that from her. She did not run. She eventually opened up to her family, who was not able to understand. Most of Jonni’s life, she felt like she had to be the perfect son. She held the weight of her family and it was difficult for her mom to accept the fact that Jonni was transgender and also depressed.
Jonni’s family has come full circle and fully accepts her identity now. Her marriage will be ending soon, but for Jonni, her relationship with her wife has grown in ways that it never could if they were still together. They have gained a mutual respect for each other. Jonni is still working on some other relationships, but no longer apologizes for who she is. Jonni is in the process of opening her third business, a Beyond Juice in the New Center Outpost, Detroit.
Jonni is a proud father to her two sons. She sees them as a blessing and meant specifically for Jonni. Autism is a beautiful thing, Jonni describes her sons as being unapologetically true to themselves. She says that she will never have to worry about them not being who they are. Jonni believes she can help them through life now that she has gone through her struggle.
My only question for Jonni was, can she accept herself as is? Her answer is something I kind of already knew. She often wonders if society was different, would she be able to accept herself without taking hormones or making any physical changes to her body. However, currently it is not acceptable to be a man wearing a dress, but it is okay for a woman to throw on some jeans and a baggy sweatshirt. She describes feeling a spiritual release when she began taking hormones. Her body, hair, voice, physical features are now aligned with how she feels inside. She found a sense of wholeness for the first time.
Be yourself and find your love and everything else will come.
Jonni not only had to find herself as a transgender woman but had to mourn the loss of her wife and some relationships. She spent all of her life looking for love externally and never looked inside. She now knows what true self-acceptance and love is. She is proud of who she is and wants to share herself with the world. She has found her voice and is passionate about doing whatever she can to help people realize that is okay to be yourself. She is proof that there is light at the end of the tunnel.