Know your worth: Kayden’s story

Know your worth.

When I first heard that phrase for 2021’s Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, it made me question my worth. Then I began to wonder how many of my peers can genuinely say that they believe they are worth it. The rate of self-inflicted violence and violence happening in cities across the U.S. leads me to believe that many of us struggle to know our worth and accept the love and support we truly deserve.

Most people believe that other people determine their worth. They base their value on who they’re dating, likes on social media, what they’re wearing and how other people seem to accept them. However, understanding our value starts with recognizing who we are at our core and what is unique about us.

My journey to knowing my worth began when I decided to come out at 12 years old. I remember walking into my mom’s room crying, filled with hope and longing for her acceptance. At the time, I felt her acceptance was all I needed, utterly unaware of what was to come from the world around me.

My path to accepting myself as a trans male has not been easy. I have been victimized, traumatized, endured being bullied, and I am a survivor of sexual assault. By simply existing as a transgender black man and father, my worth has been challenged in various ways, but they all helped me become a more secure version of who I am today.

I’m fortunate to have lived through those experiences and have the opportunity to celebrate who I am.

However, many who are like me haven’t had that chance. Their experiences are often dismissed because of their transgender identity or sexuality.

Did you know that transgender people of color are most likely to be sexually assaulted? Or that there are higher rates of sexual abuse reports throughout the LGBTQIA+ community? The Human Rights Campaign reported that 40 percent of gay men and 47 percent of bisexual men have experienced sexual violence other than rape. While “44 percent of lesbians and 61 percent of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner.”

When my then-partner assaulted me, many people found ways to justify their actions because of my identity as a black trans man, which only added to the trauma I experienced.

Marginalized communities, such as ours, are frequently confronted with intimate partner violence, and often we stay silent because we feel that our stories will not matter. But organizations like The Trevor Project, RAINN, and love is respect create spaces for trans people and others on the LGBTQ spectrum to receive support and education about healthy relationships.

Knowing your worth also includes pouring into yourself. Learning how to practice self-care, understanding the warning signs of abuse, and even quizzing yourself to find out if your relationship is healthy helps you realize who you are and your worth.

Everyone has an important role to play in the world and something unique to offer, no matter what your gender identity is or your sexual orientation.

If no one has told you this today, you deserve a great support system and a healthy relationship that works for you.

Oh, and never forget to #KnowYourWorth, and then add tax.