An essay written for a midterm examination:

When he looks at himself in the mirror, he can see thousands of negative thoughts dancing around his head; conflating every fibre of his being. It’s not his fault he see’s these things. Society has a way of holding your head beneath the surface. Once you’ve finally made your way to the top, they tie an anchor to your foot and you find yourself drowning in an ocean of your own tears. Once you learn to take charge of your own life, everything becomes worthwhile. 

Ben’s a sweet guy. Sometimes he shows moments of weakness and reminds me that the light at the end of the tunnel is just a hoax. That it isn’t freedom that we’re seeing, it’s just a train. Every morning at 6am, Ben lays in his bed staring staring at the ceiling. Sometimes, if you look hard enough, it feels as though you can see your future through it. The dim sunlight creeps through his window, shining light on the succulent plants that rest on his antique, oak dresser. Ben arises at 6:15am and stands in front of his mirror. Society says that today Ben should put on a dress, grow out his hair, apply a little foundation and take off that silly thing that’s hiding his chest. “You’re not a real man,” is something he hears on a daily basis. A single tear streams down his face. The sun’s position in the sky has shifted slightly and is now resting on a magazine sprawled open on the floor. This certain spread of pictures depicted on his bedroom floor had him thinking to himself, “Why do human beings let each other read these? Why do we tear each other down with comments and analytical articles? How can we pry into the lives of those whom we know nothing about?” Silently, he stood there peering at himself as though he was a hollow reflection, waiting to be saved.

January 19th, 2015. Ben decides that this is his life.No one said taking charge would be easy, they just said it would be worthwhile. So he racks up all the courage he can find burrowed deep beneath the layers of self hatred that consume his body. He sits down with his parents and begins. All in a moments time, a second anchor is tied to his foot and he can feel himself gasping for air.”You think surgery is going to make you a man? You will have scars on your chest for the rest of your life. Young lady you are not a transgender you are confused.” Ben packs a bag and runs into the unknown. He slowly pulls out a cigarette, hoping that the smokey burn will relax him a little. Maybe he can inhale the future and exhale his past, blowing it to a far away place. But the reality of his situation is, he is once again sitting at the bottom of his own ocean. Kelly Clarkson once said “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Ben never really liked this song but he knew at this moment in time, that quote applied to him. He laid there for hours in an open field, thinking about his future. One day he’d have the support he needed. one day he’d be happy. One day… Ben was sick of saying one day. Today seems like a perfect day to be happy. He sat up slowly, wiped the lukewarm tears from his eyes and packed his rucksack. Parents do not dictate who you are, where you are going and how you feel. The world doesn’t get to choose your path for you. 

Over the span of 5 years, Ben has become a public speaker, reaching out to kids world wide. He travels on a daily basis, meets a variety of people and enjoys photography on the side. After high-school, he moved to New York with his girlfriend at the time. A year away from the familiar faces of his everyday life and melancholic tone of his rainy city was much needed. Ben learned that you don’t have to open that magazine and read about things that fill your mind with useless information. Sometimes patience is what your family needs and what he needed was time to hit a reset button. Never forget where you come from. Remember how far you’ve come.

In life, we either conform to the things and ideas that we are too scared to rebel against or we run towards them, sword in hand, ready for battle. Ben is a transgender 22 year old man. Taking charge of your own life can be the difference between life and death for a lot of people. I don’t mean just physically, but mentally too. If we obey the social norms, never ask questions and refuse to take random leaps of faith, you might as well consider yourself dead. Life doesn’t get better unless you work for it. Happiness doesn’t come for those unless you keep an open mind and for Ben, life doesn’t begin until you be yourself. 

By: Benjamin Saccone