When I was growing up in Lamarque, Texas, a small town 50 miles south of Houston with a population of 15,000, there wasn't any room for anybody who was different from what society considered "the norm." Even though I was an average child, I knew that I was heading toward something different.
The constant bullying and teasing began during my elementary-school days. I started experiencing both verbal and physical abuse from a majority of my peers. Even worse, I was left with an abusive stepfather who never took the time to understand who I was as a person. Instead, he was determined to recreate my destiny, inflicting a great deal of pain on me and at one point attempting to whip the "gay" out of me.
I left home at 13 in an attempt to escape the abuse, and it showed me that the world was not any less cruel. There was always going to be somebody close to me who would render judgment on how I looked, how I acted, and how I spoke and remind me constantly that I was not accepted. It was during this time that I developed a desire to serve all humanity and become a strong advocate for those who do not have a voice in the world.
After years of dealing with financial hardship, I engaged in illegitimate affairs to survive in the world. Eventually that became my crutch, my safe haven, and the only thing that allowed me to be completely who I am and make a living at the same time. Unfortunately, I became extremely comfortable in this role, letting other opportunities pass me by.
Eventually I began to go through extensive and dangerous hormone treatment that would shape me into the woman I am today. Being a transgender woman proved even more difficult than being a gay male. I'd thought to myself, "OK, I have already gone through this whole coming-out phase in my life that has left me without a family unit and lost in society, so becoming a woman should help me blend in more." Boy, was I wrong. Being gay is one thing, but identifying as a trans woman is something entirely different. You wake up feeling a sense of loneliness and longing for someone to tell you that everything is going to be all right. But instead, every day consists of a variety of battles and obstacles that you must continue to fight in hopes that one day you'll win.
So what do you do when the contents of your heart conflict with the image of your physical being? How do you find a way to just live a normal, safe life? My answer was hair! That's where Franklin Beauty School came into the picture. Beauty school gave me the opportunity that I had been searching for since I left home at 13. Although I knew that the obstacles in my life were still present, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Franklin accepted me for who I am and allowed me to work toward a real career and the ability to take care of myself.
I am not perfect, and I realize that I will never be "normal" in society's eyes, but I deem myself normal and continue to step out on the faith that things will get better.
Mia is a member of the cast of the new reality series Houston Beauty, which premieres Saturday, Nov. 2, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.
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