By Caden Williams

I didn’t grow up with my father in the same household, but I always loved him. Our relationship was rocky for most of my adolescence, but once I was able to move past feelings of resentment and anger, we began to build a strong relationship together. So when he passed away, the loss was devastating. I was just beginning to realize myself as a transgender man, and I had hoped that he would have been able to help me navigate through what that identity means. I wanted to be able to bond with him about new experiences that I was going through, and to not be able to is heartbreaking. 

My father’s death, however, helped me realize that I couldn’t hide who I was. It was the catalyst that forced me to live my life to the fullest: I had to accept and be proud of the fact that I was black, queer, and transgender.

When I first came out, I was filled with anxiety. Thankfully, I was met with support from my immediate family and friends. That all changed when I moved to Oregon for college: not only did I struggle with homesickness in being away from my support system, but suddenly I had to deal with being misgendered once again, and coming out over and over as I navigated my transition alone: everything from starting hormone replacement therapy, to scheduling appointments, to figuring out how to afford my blood work and medications. 

My family is low-income. When I enrolled, I knew I would have to work multiple part-time jobs to afford tuition and basic living expenses. Every semester I have fears that I will have to stop school because of the cost of tuition. I couldn’t help but feel that both finishing college and having top surgery were unaffordable pipe dreams, so I kept postponing surgery and other medical care I urgently need due to cost.

When I applied for financial assistance with Point of Pride, a non-profit organization that serves the international transgender community and also happens to be based in Oregon, I knew the funding would turn those pipe dreams into a reality for the transgender people who were selected. In February, I was elated to be notified that I was selected as one of the 2017 Annual Transgender Surgery Fund recipients, and that I had received $3,000 in support plus guidance in getting enrolled in a transgender-affirming health insurance plan. The other recipients (Armaan from Washington and Gabe from New York) and I will all be able to afford our gender-affirming surgeries thanks to this assistance program. 

For me, surgery is safety. It’s becoming myself. It’s not struggling to breathe or dealing with painful ribs from binding my chest. It’s taking one step closer to feeling comfortable with myself. I know I speak for the other recipients when I say it’s beautiful to see our community give back to one another and support one another on our journeys. I’m so excited to see Point of Pride change more lives in the future.
After this summer, once my surgery is behind me, I will be free to focus on my career and personal goals. I hope to work as a user experience designer one day, and I look forward to the day where I can make enough money to give back to organizations that help our community. I can’t wait to begin volunteering and helping other transgender and gender non-conforming people in need, and to be a mentor for future generations of LGBTQ folks.  
Point of Pride Foundation was founded by Oregonian Aydian Dowling, who serves as the board president. They provide transgender people with services that help them live authentically, and have an annual surgery fund that they award.