transgender man, healing healer, artist, believer-in-matriarchy, gender-liberator
Read more about Danny at dannybrave.com
What kind of transformational time are you in?
It seems like being a transgender person who is on hormones and preparing for surgery...I mean I'm like the poster child of the most intense transformation you could ever go through as a human being.
What I've been feeling even just the past week is like going from an idea of who you are in your head to like the actual, like chemical, biological embodiment of who you are - it's wild.
I've been saying I'm a gay man since I came out, which was not still not even that long ago. It was October of 2016. So I've been in testosterone since January of 2017.
When you're on hormone therapy, at the clinic that I go, you have to have your blood work done every three months and going for a checkup just to make sure that everything's okay. If everything's healthy, then you can keep taking testosterone. So when you go in, the way that the computer reads your blood is either an F or an M (regardless of how it’s read on the computer, if your blood reads as female the individuals that work there still obviously honor your gender and pronouns as male or however you identify). So before I was on testosterone I was an “M” in the computer in terms of paperwork, etc. But the blood read is different: It is actually biological.
So the last time I went in the blood-read was still an "F" but we upped the testosterone dosage and I can literally feel my consciousness and body becoming overall male. Which I am male, but I can literally feel like - because consciousness is our whole body, it's not just the mind consciousness is everywhere- so just being on this higher dose for the past few weeks, I'm starting to actually be like, Holy Shit. I am the guy that I've always known I am, and so it’s intense. It's like a thousand times more intense than I ever thought.
When do you feel like your transformation started?
Well, my transformation in general, I would say, like within my consciousness, started when I walked into yoga. Yoga was a really big deal for me. I don't know - it’s hard to pinpoint an exact beginning. I think there were a little… there were a lot of seeds that were planted. I went to this conservatory program for theater my junior year of college and we did Tai Chi and yoga. And it was all just kind of like that world was like, I couldn't believe how good I was able to feel in my body with that stuff in a way I was never able to before. It planted a seed. And then at some point I became a yoga teacher because it was so powerful for me to feel that good in my body.
My shit started hitting the fan and transforming when I was 27. I'm 31 now. That was 27 and I started, I... this is going to sound so crazy, but like my childhood was so abusive that I had completely repressed the emotion of anger for my entire life--I had never allowed myself to experience the feeling of anger.
When I was 27, my body couldn't take it anymore and I like exploded and I was furious like all the time--for 2 weeks straight. And it felt amazing, like so good.
And this whole sexual exploration started also at that time that I first let myself get angry (I was very, very shamed out of both my anger and sexuality as a child/adolescent). So really l when I was 27 the anger and sexuality kicked in that sort of catapulted me to moving to Los Angeles, which allowed me to feel safe enough, being far away enough from my past and upbringing on long island, NY, to start to really look at my childhood and the truth of what happened. And it started to really feel these really dark feelings and start asking myself the real questions, like: "Oh, why have I been depressed my whole life?" and then everything that was underneath that depression started to surface.
Then, after my time processing things in Los Angeles, I traveled a bunch to work with all these different healers and healing artists and teachers… and then my repressed memories of my childhood then started surfacing. It was likeˆHoly Shit, who even really am I?, I've obviously had to lie to myself about who my family was in order to survive up until this point.
So then it's like, if I was lying about who they were, then who am I? If I'm pretending to be something that's going to be the most likable version for my family so that they don't hurt me so that they “love me,” (emphasis on the air quotes!), then who actually am I? Who am I authentically, the most real version? Then I started really reclaiming my sexuality and then reclaiming my sexuality after those insights, memories and all that trauma. I've found my gender identity through reclaiming my sexuality.
Around the time of all these questions, the show Transparent came out. I watched it on Amazon Prime and I was watching the main character, who is a trans woman, and freaking out, thinking: “why do I feel like this is me?” (except the opposite: female to male vs. male to female). Then I was walking around and I started seeing rainbows everywhere, just noticing them, and feeling like it was a message from the spirit world about my identity and community. And then, the Orlando shooting happened and I was in so much grief that I thought I was going to die.
And that was when I knew for sure that I was trans.
I'm curious about is the people's stories of when something happened, do you view this as something external happened to you or it was more an inside out or what's that interplay between?
It was totally from the inside out. I think that it is mostly from the inside out even when life seems like it's from the outside in. Like when we're born, it is, because we're just like, receptive little babies and more subject to whatever our families what to do for better or worse(In my case for worse) it’s from the outside in. But then as you become an adult, it becomes from the inside out.
So the Law of Attraction is real, but there’s also a problem with it. It's not like a mirror, you know, it's not, it's not like the universe is a mirror. It's not a completely direct correlation. It just means that there are things inside of you that make a you a point of attraction for certain relationships or certain events.
When you get into spirituality and spiritual practices, you begin to have the capacity to change what is within you and therefore also your point of attraction to what's around you. So for me it's always inside out because I have lived life, studying these different spiritual tools and meditation and watching my world around me completely shift without even having to put in all that much effort because it's just me becoming myself. Still, that's not to say it's been an entirely easy thing to do.
* * *
So my, my partner and friend Tommy, it's like yesterday we just looked at each other and we took turns like, Okay, now you're going to send me love through your eyes and I'm just going to take it in. And it was crazy. He was looking at me and I took it in and then that transformed my inside because I could feel love and I was like, Oh wow, this makes everything different and now it's like I can let more love in from other people (with whom I feel safe and can trust). So it just keeps going inside out, outside in and inside out. If you let it.
I've been in a lot of pain in my life, so I'm very, very open to when good things come into my life. I really almost like have to, (well, I don't have to)but I do my best to visualize like almost like eating it, like, or drinking a glass of water. Like I'm actually bringing it into my body and into my system, the things that are good. Because for so long, without even realizing it, my body was just bracing itself against the good and it's like no, reject, reject, reject.
One of the worst, saddest things about trauma is that things have been so bad that you go out into life from that environment and you don't even realize when you're been given good things you don't even realize that good things you have or that are in front of you, that you have no capacity to understand why you have it. You feel like you don't deserve it and you have no capacity to actually like soften enough to take it in because that requires a tremendous amount of trust and that's literally what I am finding for the very first time in my life at 31 years old!
If you were to highlight a few key feelings that have been present throughout this transformation, what are some of the embodying feelings have really paired with this?
Love is my newest one. Like actually being able to feel love that's new, from my partner Tommy. And I thought I was feeling it before, but it was a thought, it was a thought form, it wasn't a real experience of it necessarily. And it just gets deeper and deeper and more and more embodied.
But also to me, anger. Anger for me is one of the most loving emotions. That might sound strange. But I think for people assigned female at birth and women are basically told - not everyone again, but in my experience from my case study with my clients.- to just ignore anger and continue to people please or do whatever people want within, which is pretty disturbing and alarming. And it's not their fault. It's not any woman's fault. It's not any person who's assigned to female at birth. It's not their fault.
For me anger is something that says “this is a limit.” It's a limitation. It's a boundary. And boundaries create safety for the experience of love, specifically self love. So if your anger comes up, it's a red flag. It's like your body saying: I don't want to be in this environment or I don't want this person to touch me, whatever it is. So for me, learning to listen to my anger and actually create a boundary because of it or around it, it's almost set the foundation for love to actually come in.
It's listening to my feelings, more than anything or anyone else, that's led me to the truth of who I am.
During any part of this transformative time, have you felt blocked or stuck? And, if so, what did you do?
Yes: it's been a lot of like moving things that are stuck internally, and feelings of: “why don't I know what to do with myself right now?” And then sitting in my room and meditating or doing some sort of energy healing practice or spiritual practice and finding a whole bunch more bullshit from my childhood and moving through that that that creates flow again in places where things were stuck. It’s almost always a result of negative programming and trauma from my past that creates the stuck-ness.
I feel like my room and the space that I share with Tommy, is a cocoon where we're becoming butterflies. I had to manipulate my personality to survive my childhood and then I had to come to terms with who I really was and come out, but there is still this need to protect myself and to be in a cocoon of discovering the truth of who I am, since it is so easy for me to shape shift into someone else or perform a different personality, or hide the real me.
It's been this feeling of my identity and my authenticity is so sort of fragile so I have to protect and nurture it and seek out people and spaces who also support my authentic self and my journey of authentic self-discovery
Do you feel alone in this process?
Yes and no. My partner and I definitely have a tendency to cling to each other because there is something about our dynamic that we have been able to find our authentic selves because of each other and our relationship, much more so than if we were alone.I feel very blessed to have the partner that I do as my mirror for the real me. There's a part of me that still can't believe that I have this relationship because it’s so truthful and wonderful, and I think that he feels like that too.
But I do also feel alone in the cocoon. It sounds pretty grim to be like I'm going through this alone but to a certain extent that is the truth. I definitely have support from the community, but at the end of the day, I do have to validate myself in my own gender identity and my own experiences and as someone who was going out into the world and wanting and expecting to be validated by other people in terms of my gender identity, which is very new and fragile.
It can be very painful because you're not actually going to get that validation from the outside world if you are trans, and it wasn’t until very, very recently that I stopped getting called ma'am, and as hard as I would try to not have this be the case and to be less sensitive, that just shatters your world. So learning how to just validate my own my gender identity without getting any external validation from anyone has really been a challenge. I have tried to go it alone but I really do need support, and so does everyone who is trans or going through a period of true self-discovery.
How important is even just a single witness to you? How much do we need that in order to validate our own identity and being able to move on with it?
When something is new and fragile, you do need to be validated and need at least one single witness. It's like, you know, I heard this really great thing about overcoming both depression and codependency, that the first step is to express yourself and to be validated in that expression. You want to get to a place where you're explicitly expressing to people who are safe, who are going to validate you. Like no matter what you do or say, they will validate, and this is like sexual trauma recovery and what I ask my clients who have a sexual trauma to seek out:
I say find one person in your life who you know can handle it, and is was gonna like, be like, “okay, I believe you” and go have coffee with that person and sit there and tell them what happened to you and tell them exactly what you want afterwards, if you want a hug, if you want to be told “I’m so sorry,” whatever it is that you need, specifically ask for it and only do it if you know this person is going to validate you. But when something is fragile you really do have to like treat it like a little baby bird egg because it takes us so long in this society which is so ill and robs us of our emotions and our personal truth that once you start actually getting to your personal truth, you have to protect it like a motherfucker.
For my female clients I always recommend: women circles women circles, women circles, women circles. I'm always just like a go to women's circles because that is the most powerful, or any circle or support group or group meetup. I went to a circle for trans men because any circle that is not hierarchical in it’s distribution of power. It's not like one person teaching. It's like we're all going to come and tell our stories. And everyone was just going to listen and energetically be like, yes. That to me is a return to the old golden ways of matriarchy - "power with" versus "power over".
Honestly on my journey just being witnessed has been the healthiest thing, not therapy and not any fancy healer, just like sitting and having somebody to hear me has been like, wow, that just totally changed my world.
But yeah, so Step one: express. Step two: express to a safe person who will validate and then Step three is express and who gives a fuck whether or not other people validate it or not. That’s also how you know you’ve triumphed over codependency: when you don’t need any validation from anyone. And I am still not there but getting closer and closer.