Sonya Byers and Nikki will be taking part in a panel discussion on ‘The Transgender Experience’ on Sept. 19. The discussion is one of the events presented through Lead With Your Heart.
They each shared some of their story ahead of the event.
Nikki remembers, as a child, going to bed and praying she would wake up the next morning as a girl.
Today, Nikki (surname withheld by request) is able to live as a female, but it wasn’t an easy journey. She shares her transgender experience in hopes that it will help others.
“If somebody told me, a year ago, that things would be like this, I would have said they were crazy,” she said. “I have no regrets, and wouldn’t trade this for anything, but I don’t want anyone to go through what I did. Nobody should have to feel like taking their life to get peace.”
Growing up in Truro, Nikki was called names when she did things that were considered ‘girl things,’ so she stopped.
She grew up, worked full time, married, and had children while struggling with depression, anger, frustration and alcoholism.
“I always knew there was something that wasn’t resolved,” she said.
Nikki’s marriage broke down and an injury resulted in her being off work. In July 2017, she had a breakdown, and began seeing a new doctor who told her she believed she was transgender.
“I felt, no matter what needed to be done, I would do it,” said Nikki. “As soon as I was on the estrogen patch, I knew it was right.”
At about 50 years of age, she was experiencing changes such as softening of skin, a more acute sense of smell, and being more affected by temperature extremes.
“Everything is new. I’m more relaxed and open, but I take things to heart more.
“I’ve had doubts, but I’d try to be my old self for a couple of hours and know it was wrong.”
Nikki also began attending AA meetings, and overcame alcohol addiction.
She came out to her family first, and her parents and brother were supportive, but going out in public as a female was difficult at first.
“This hasn’t resulted in any negative experiences, and I’m comfortable in my own skin now,” she said.
“I know what fearing to come out feels like, but I also know the feeling of freedom.”
The day she handed all the clothes she wore as a man over to a charity was a good day for Sonya Byers.
Sonya spent her early childhood in Truro, often wishing she was girl. Being a transgender woman now gives her the strength to face difficulties.
“I appreciated the way girls dressed, their demeanor…,” she recalled. “I wanted to take home-ec instead of woodworks. I was so uncomfortable in the boys’ locker room.”
When Sonya was 13 her family moved to the U.S., and when she was 25 she lived in Las Vegas, where she had friends who were cross dressers and drag queens. It was then she began cross dressing.
Later, living in California, she had a lot of female to male transgender friends.
She met a transgender woman and married, but later divorced.
“In 2012-2013 my life collapsed,” she said. “I lost everything, and at that time I found strength in being Sonya, who had been growing more as a persona.”
Sonya was only about six months into her transition when she moved back to the Truro area, where her mother lives.
“I was picked on when I was a kid, so I was terrified to come here,” she said. “I thought about doing it as Ken, but that wasn’t really an option.
“People have been really great, though. No one has said a bad word this time.”
After she began hormone treatment, the first changes she noticed were psychological.
“I felt more emotionally centered, more intuitive, more nurturing,” she recalled. “Then, breasts developed and there was weight gain on my hips.
“I always knew I was bisexual, but once I started dressing as a woman, the attraction to men took off.”
She was confident her parents would be supportive, and she and her mother now sometimes go shopping for clothes together. Her brothers are also supportive.
At 47, the former web developer now has to make decisions about future employment, but being female was never really a decision.
“I’m not this way by choice,” she said. “The choice was made for me.”
Lead With Your Heart
Sonya Byers and Nikki will be special guests at the Lead With Your Heart gathering on September 19.
There will be a panel discussion on ‘the transgender experience,’ and an opportunity for anyone with a story of their transitioning journey to share.
The mental wellness peer support group was formed in February 2017, and has included a variety of activities at monthly meetings.
“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback,” said Rev. Valerie Kingsbury, minister at First United Church. “This group is an amazing testament to what happens when things grow organically.
“We’re responding to what people are asking for, and providing a safe place.”
Sonya and Nikki will be speaking at the gathering, which begins at 7 p.m., in the First United Church Memorial Hall.