03/27/2014 08:17 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

'I'll Be Damned If I'm Going to Be Buried a Girl': Gender Transition Inspires HIV-Positive Trans Man to Live (VIDEO)


I'm From Driftwood is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit archive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer stories. New stories are posted on the site every week.

Teo was living as a woman, in an abusive relationship, and contracted HIV from his girlfriend. As a result, he had no desire to live:

I rapidly went from being HIV-positive to an AIDS diagnosis and 33 T cells and my viral load off the charts; it was unmeasurable. And I couldn't tolerate the medication, and I had no will to tolerate the medication. Tolerating side effects means that you have to want to tolerate the side effects, and I just couldn't imagine myself as an old woman, so why would I bother?

When Teo thought he had nothing else to live for, a therapist reminded him that gender transition was an option:

I just think I got angry enough that I was like, "I'll be damned if I'm going to die this way, and I'll be damned if I'm going to be buried a girl." So I chose to begin the process of gender transition.

After finally starting to look on the outside how he felt on the inside, Teo found places of ease and a desire to live, while maintaining a healthy grasp on reality:

I get to figure out how to have a future and understand that I may not live to see it. I'm not one of those people living with HIV who's like, "I'm going to be fine; I'm going to survive this," and I'm not one of those people living with HIV who's lived with this, "It's hopeless; it's useless." I have figured out some spiritual way to live with "both/and," and that two competing things can be true at the same time.


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