Sometimes you can be someone’s hero simply by being yourself

IMG_0042_Facetune_23-07-2018-18-05-44I’ve been waiting to do this for a while now, I want to introduce you to someone I watched grow up AND grow into themselves with such strength and conviction it makes me SO proud. I’ve wanted to talk to Ryan Santana about his journey so we could help/inspire/motivate any of you who are struggling with how to give yourself permission to be who you are or having difficulty talking to the people in your life.

Ryan is a trans man who has shared so much of his experience on social media by making videos of his progress with testosterone, posting pics of his daily shots and facial hair growth, voice change, etc. He has definitely inspired me to live more authentically and has reinforced my belief that I need to keep speaking up for myself and others. Back in 2009 when I marched with the NOH8 Campaign in Washington DC for marriage equality, I felt and spoke about knowing it was so much more than that. It was about all rights for all people. I just didn’t know then how BIG our community would become.

One of the most difficult things about coming out is the anticipation of the reaction from your friends and family. There is always a fear of losing some, of being hurt by some, and of being abandoned by others. I don’t think you can fully understand it unless you have been through it.

Let me let you learn more about Ryan and I encourage you to follow him on social media, check out his YouTube channel, and reach out to him or to me if you find yourself needing a little encouragement.

Q: How old were you when you first came out and did you always know?

Ryan Santana: I came out when I was 18 publicly on social media but I was slowly coming out to people close to me before hand. I feel like I just always knew ever since I was little I would always want to play the boy parts if we were playing a game. When I started going through puberty that was like the moment when I definitely knew something was “wrong” because the way I felt on the inside didn’t match what was happening on the outside.

Q: What was the reaction from your family and friends? Were you surprised about the reaction from anyone?

Ryan Santana: I was surprised how easily people accepted it and how quickly some people adjusted to the pronouns and new name. I remember my girlfriend and I were talking before I came out and I finally asked her how she would feel calling me Ryan and using male pronouns and literally the next day it was like my dead name never existed to her.When I came out to my mom her reaction was just like “ok” and just left it at that. I remember seeing her start sharing things about trans kids on Facebook. I’ve been very lucky throughout my transition that I have such supporting family and friends.

Q: You’ve been very open about your journey and have documented it on social media. Did that help you and have you gotten feedback from other people you are helping?

RS: At first I was skeptical about broadcasting my transition on social media because of trolls and backlash. I remember getting a DM from a trans guy in the U.K. and he was telling me how he’s pre T and hasn’t come out to anyone and he was nervous and we kind of just chatted for a bit and then a couple of weeks later he posted on his Instagram that he got his letter for T , that made me very happy. Also , I just really like having random people message me telling me that either I helped them out or that I’m just simply an inspiration to people because I’m really just living life as my true self just like everyone else should.

Q: What are some misconceptions you would like to clear up about trans people?

RS: A lot of people assume that because you a Cis gender people that they’re bisexual or something. I remember one time I was having a conversation with someone about a girl I was seeing and they replied “oh I didn’t know she swung that way” and that made me really upset.

IMG_0072Q: I know you are doing some fundraising to help you with your medical costs. Where can people go to contribute if they’d like?

RS: I set up a Go fund me account about two long years ago haha. The link is Www.gofundme.com/ryansantana

Q: Where can we find you online?

RS: I’m all over social media ! My Facebook is Ryan Santana. My Twitter is @santanaswag . Instagram is @officialsantana and Snapchat is – thesantanaa

Q: What is one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?

RS: As cliché as it sounds my cell phone is something I cannot live without. I feel connected to everything and everyone. In my own personal opinion I think the world would be better without Donald Trump.

As you can see, Ryan’s family (especially his amazing mom Jessica) were supportive and even unfazed by his coming out. For many of us, the fear of the reactions is so great that we put it off for a long time but when we do find ourselves at that moment where we know it’s time, so many of the people who really know us aren’t surprised at all.  Another thing to note is that each of us know when we are ready, there is no set time or age that is right, no one should force anyone to come out, and no one should ever “out” another person. It’s a journey only you can go through and only you can know when the right moment is for you.

As great as it is to come out and have positive reactions or have people not be surprised at all, there are so many cases where that is not what happens. There is such a large population of homeless LGBTQ youth because their families do not accept them and refuse to support them. Even worse, many cases cause addiction and many end in tragedy. I think when someone shows such courage, they should be applauded. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if no one had to spend any part of their lives in fear, hiding, or made to feel ashamed? Wouldn’t it be awesome to celebrate people for who they are, being their authentic selves, and showing support for them in any way we can?

One thing I do encourage anyone who comes to me to do is to find out if there is a community center or organization in their area that is available for LGBTQ  individuals who need assistance or someone to talk to. Or get on social media and search for people and groups who have things in common with you and are supportive. The down side to social media is the troll and the bullying that occurs but if you find your tribe in life and on social, you have to block out the others as much as you can.

Here are some resources you can use:

Trans Lifeline is a national trans-led organization dedicated to improving the quality of trans lives by responding to the critical needs of our community with direct service, material support, advocacy, and education. Our vision is to fight the epidemic of trans suicide and improve overall life-outcomes of trans people by facilitating justice-oriented, collective community aid. US: 877-565-8860 Canada: 877-330-6366

The Trevor Project: Founded in 1998 by the creators of the Academy Award®-winning short film TREVOR, The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25. 1-866-488-7386