Growing up I moved around a lot because my dad was an army officer and my parents were divorced. I lived in different homes, went to different schools, and was always having to make new friends. After graduating from high school I went straight into the army at 17.
After my deployment, I moved to Philadelphia and was working for an online company. When I became sexually active, I made an effort to get regular checkups. When I was diagnosed with HIV at 21, I caught it early and got on medication right away. At this point, I was still living my life as man.
I came to FIGHT 3 years ago for medical care and case management. FIGHT helped me with housing, nutrition assistance, and transportation. FIGHT has also given me the chance to meet different people from around the world through programs like Project TEACH.
I knew I wanted to get involved at FIGHT and TEACH was the perfect opportunity. After graduating, I was recommended for a Peer Educator position. TEACH taught me that I need to be a part of the solution to ending the AIDS epidemic. Since I’ve been a Peer Educator, I’ve made more meaningful connections. People should come to FIGHT because they have tons of resources and you won’t feel like you have to go through things alone.
When I started transitioning and doing hormone therapy about a year ago, I didn’t really plan it out. It took me a long time before realizing that I wanted to take that step. During my transition, I reached a new level of empowerment and self-worth. It’s been much easier for me to be myself instead of worrying about what society is thinking.
In the future I want to continue traveling and helping others. People need each other because no one can get anywhere without help. There aren’t enough people helping each other these days. Too many people just tend to look out for themselves.
When I look back at everything that’s happened in my life and see the journey I’ve been on, it reminds me not to worry. I’m a homeless, transgender Army veteran beating HIV. I’m 27 and I’ve already been through so much. As long as I’m alive, I’m learning and I can’t learn without facing the challenges that come my way head-on.