Jaicey is a musician and nurse from Toms River, New Jersey. She is a trans woman in her 30s and is a co-parent to her ex-girlfriend’s four young children. Though she feels her identity and appearance sometimes make her a target of scrutiny and judgment, she works every day to be herself despite those negative influences.   

Raising young children as a trans woman can present some unique challenges, especially when in public, where there’s a chance that I’ll find myself in the company of a bigoted stranger.  

I used to tone down my femininity for my safety, so as not to attract too much unwanted attention or potential conflict. With trans people being so heavily scrutinized and stigmatized in our current political climate, I often feel nervous about troubling my kids, should anybody bother or harass me while we’re out and about. So for a long time, I would calculate risk every day and choose to wear that baggy sweater in my closet that covers so much of me instead of the floral top that shows off my arms and makes me feel beautiful and comfortable. I’ve felt a lot of anxiety about how to balance what I need to feel comfortable in my own skin with the safety of myself and my family. First and foremost though, I want my kids to know that I’m proud of who I am, so I’m on a journey to be more myself everyday and make fewer decisions based on the anxieties I feel.  

I’m learning that practicing patience with myself is a form of self-care. We are all works in progress, and I need to appreciate who I am and how I look right now. This can be particularly hard because I’m dealing with some health issues that prevent me from medically transitioning. So even though taking hormones would improve my mental and emotional health, I’ve had to put my physical health first by delaying that part of my transition. The fact that my health issues sometimes limit the ways I can modify my physical appearance can be so frustrating; but small rituals that help me express my femininity, like shaving my face and body, getting manicures, and implementing a daily skin-care routine, help me feel more comfortable with myself. Something like shaving might seem inconsequential to some women, but to me it helps to nurture my identity and makes a profound impact.

It can be scary to be an out trans woman; to express my femininity when others see it as wrong or abnormal. While navigating and resisting these social pressures, I make sure to teach my children to be understanding, compassionate, and nonjudgmental human beings by being open and honest with them about my feelings and experiences.  

When I think about the compromises I and other trans people have to make on a daily basis in order to be and feel safe and secure in the world, I can get emotional. In order to process these feelings — anger, sadness, frustration — I write music and poetry. Creating music in particular allows me to release feelings that I sometimes hold onto too tightly, and this catharsis feels spiritual in a way. As I write, the energy I put into translating my negative feelings gets channeled into hope and positivity. Once my thoughts are on the page, I can see their silver linings, and all of the joy that there is to find in this life. It’s a transformative experience for me, and when I play or share my songs, I find that they inspire other people to see beauty in the depths of their own difficulties and hardships.

Growing up, I never understood what it meant to take care of myself or to look out for myself — I was raised to be self-sacrificing, to put the feelings and needs of others before my own. So learning to tune into the needs of my body and mind is a work in progress — one that my family and friends are helping me with.  

As a full-time co-parent to four children under the age of 8, it’s not always easy to prioritize myself. I’m part of a large family of parents and grandparents who raise our kids together, and they all actively motivate me to practice better self-care and to chase my dreams. Sometimes I need a close friend or family member to give me a gentle push toward taking care of myself, whether that involves going to the gym together or helping me plan a night out with my friends. However, I still find it difficult to take time away from the kids. It’s heartbreaking to share less time with them as they get older and become more self-reliant, but I feel incredible support from my family and know that their encouragement is allowing me to grow as an individual.

Too-small-to-fail steps anyone can take to challenge perfection anxiety

I’m starting to recognize that there’s a deep connection between caring for myself and caring for my family and friends. When I make time to tend to my own needs and desires, I’m able to better support other people in turn. I can show up for them and share what I’ve learned in my journey to becoming more confident and comfortable in my own skin, as well as what I’ve learned about the world, to help them blossom into the best versions of themselves, too.