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The Moment Courage Stepped into My Life

Saturday, April 11, 2015 by Marianne Elliott

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A guest post from Ryan Sallans

The room felt as if it were shaking up and down until there was gentle pressure placed on the top of my knee. I looked down to see a brown leather shoe holding me in place, anchoring me to the moment. The shoe belonged to my therapist, who was sitting across from me. As she pulled her foot away she asked, “Where did you go?”

“I don’t know,” my pat answer every time I heard her ask me that question. I couldn’t give her more, words were always stuck, either lodged in my throat or swirling in a dark lackadaisical tornado in my mind.

“I see you brought a folder in with you today,” she gestured toward the blue eight by eleven binder that I had set to the left of me on the couch. “Is there something in there you wanted to share?”

I looked down at the folder, a piece of scotch tape held a handmade label in place; my messy handwriting that spelled out “Journaling” was protected under its sheen. I kept looking at the folder, contemplating if now was the right time, and if sharing was still a good idea. I’d experienced plenty of moments in the past where I thought my artwork or journaling were a must share before an appointment, but then self-doubt and embarrassment would cause me to change my mind or “forget” to bring it up.

Today was a day where it was time.

It was time to pull out the words, even if they were to be read from paper, about my current self-discovery. I cleared my throat and began to read the scribbles held between the blue lines on the yellow notebook paper. My voice cracked, my hands shook, and sweat started to seep from under my arms and the backside of my T-shirt, pressed stiffly against the corduroy fabric of the loveseat couch.

All my life, I’ve felt like my outside has not reflected my inside.  All my life I’ve struggled to fit into a gender where I don’t feel is my place.  My disorder was an attempt to find gender, it was at that time that I realized I was trying to impress the girls instead of the boys.  My disorder was an attempt to get the body inside my head, but only led to a weight that could have killed me…”

As I finished, I lowered the paper and allowed my vision to shift up toward my therapist’s face, only to shift it back down again. I became nervous and started to ramble. I didn’t want to be in that space with her and hear her reaction. So I quickly pulled out photos of me as a child and in young adulthood; mixed in with the photos were drawings I had sketched, as young as age five, of me as a boy. With everything laid out on her wooden desk, I stiffly sat back and held my breath.

It was finally out, I was in a female body, but I was meant to be a boy. My anorexia and body image were partly influenced by this one of many truths in my life. Truths I had been searching for, but running away from at the same time.

“So, you are telling me that you are a boy,” my therapist said.

I nodded my head. I was scared. She was inexperienced with people like me, people who are transgender, but we were in this space together, sharing a moment of transition, not only in our therapeutic relationship, but in my life.


I ended therapy shortly after coming out to her, not because I wanted too, but because I had graduated from college. This is when I started to learn truly what courage meant. Leaving the person who was like a mother figure to me, and facing what I feared the most on my own could have been crippling. I could have run back to my eating disorder or other negative coping behaviors, but instead I stayed focused on what I knew was the right path in my life journey, no matter what other people thought about the word transgender and what it meant.

The courage to hold on, and to trust intuition, has led me into the role of being mentor for others seeking their truths.

It has now been ten years since I found my courage. I am now internationally known, as a transgender man and a person who has recovered from an eating disorder. I have my life and my experiences available for the public to see either through videos, my memoir Second Son or my website. I am at the point where I can’t hide from myself, or from those that need my help. Although this work can be draining, it holds me accountable. It reminds me to follow the same advice that I give to others. Sit with your emotions and allow them to speak to you because your spirit is trying to tell you something. It could be telling you that you simply need to get some rest, or it may be more complex like the need to leave a relationship, begin a relationship, stay in a job or create a new job. Like with everything in life, the more we practice this ritual, the more it becomes part of who we are, and how we process our daily lives.

Before, I was fearful of what other people thought of me, but now I am proud of who I am, and hopeful that others will allow their own truths to shine through no matter what judgment is cast upon them by those outside of their inner being.

Ryan Sallans - Marianne ElliottMeet Ryan.

Ryan Sallans is a public speaker, diversity trainer, consultant, publisher and author specializing in health care, campus inclusion and workplace issues surrounding the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) community. Over the past fifteen years Ryan has conducted over a thousand presentations and training sessions to diverse audiences including professionals, students and the general public. He is also the author of Second Son: Transitioning Toward My Destiny, Love and Life.

You can learn more about Ryan by visiting his website:



30 Days of Courage: a guide to bravery in action

30 Days of Courage is for people who want to step out of their comfort zone, through the small acts of daily bravery that add up to a courageous life. The next course kicks off on 20 April. I’d for you to join me. Registration is open — click HERE to find out more, or get signed up.



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