I’m originally from St. Paul, Minnesota, and I came to Los Angeles with a friend when I was 22 years old. Unfortunately, that friend gave me some misleading information about where we would be staying and what our next steps were. We ended up on the streets, which I wasn’t prepared for. At the time, I was suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. That was my first real experience with what it truly felt like to be homeless. In my family, we had been in between houses and couch-hopped but in my adulthood, I had never experienced what that was like. I was really at the end of my rope, feeling very down and hopeless—and then I found out I was pregnant. It felt like my whole world started shattering down around me.
People always assume that homeless youth can get off the streets and just go back to a family. Just go back to your mom and dad. But for most of us, we didn’t have a family. And if we did, it was the family we had run from. At the age of 14, I was put in a foster home where there wasn’t much kindness. The whole cycle of foster homes was pretty terrible. I remember getting kicked out of my last foster home and I thought to myself, “I’m just going to head to California and make my own family.”
My mother struggled with extreme depression and anxiety, which I later suffered from as well. I was 10 years old and my mother was consistently faced with suicidal thoughts. She remarried when I was 15, but it wasn't the fairy tale ending that we both had hoped for. Her newfound love turned out to be violent. I ended up dropping out of high school and was eventually out on the streets abusing drugs. This life was hard, but I felt as if I had no hope for any happiness left. It wasn't until I found my best friend dead of a drug overdose that something in me clicked. I decided to take a Greyhound bus to California and change my life.
When I found the courage to embrace my Transgender identity, I was unprepared for the social consequences of living in my truth. I was no longer considered a person, and was reduced to nothing more than an “it.” The stigma associated with the Trans narrative lead to job discrimination, followed by unemployment and eventual homelessness. Women’s shelters wouldn’t accept me based on my gender at birth, and men’s shelters wouldn’t accept me because they feared I’d become a safety liability. I was 19 years old, devoid of support, and living in a state of desperation I’d never known before.
I’m 33 years old, married to a wonderful man, and we have three great kids. They have such a depth of perspective and kindness that it’s difficult to imagine that things could’ve been very different for them. It’s hard to see it now, when you look at me and my family, or when I tell you I’m a 3rd year medical student or that I taught high school in Los Angeles for 8 years…but once upon a time, I was a scared, angry, homeless teenager in Hollywood, and it took a community of caring staff members and private donors to help me reach for a different dream.