Why Trans Activist Mara Keisling Is Grateful For Self-Awareness

"I don’t need to be any smarter or organized or prettier than I am. I certainly don’t need to be any more normal or typical than I am."

This letter is part of our inaugural editorial series, “Letter to Myself,” in which we asked 40 remarkable queer people to write a note to their younger selves.

Dear much younger me,

Among the greatest and most unexpected gifts I have received from the path you set us on is the gift of self-awareness. I am so much better able now to understand what I am doing and why. I understand better who I am and, by the way, who you were.

As younger folks, we are taught to look to others for validation of our best and worst characteristics. What our parents think matters. What our peers think matters. Teachers, older relatives, whoever it is that makes up all the fads we fall for. They all matter, we are taught.

I actually can confirm for you from where I sit today that, of course, they all do matter, but they all need to be mediated through our own self-awareness filter. And knowing that and being able to do that is the gift you gave me.

I have learned that I shouldn’t buy into or fret about the worst things or even the very best things people or society say about me. I know myself very well. I am comfortable with both my strengths and weaknesses. I understand myself enough to know why I do things.

I don’t need to be any smarter or organized or prettier than I am. I certainly don’t need to be any more normal or typical than I am. It is okay that I am a visual learner and have ADHD—that I’m an introvert and sometimes a goofball. And despite everything you told yourself for our first 30-some years, it is more than okay that we are trans. It is part of who we really are despite what anyone ever said.

I know pretty exactly who I am, and that in my way, I am amazing and loveable and we are having a really good life, even though it is far from what I expected.

I am thankful for the path you set me on toward self-awareness. I only wish I really could share this insight with you. We’d both be better for it. Please stay strong.

Mara Keisling

Mara Keisling is the Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Read more letters here.

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