Ayahuasca Gave Me The Courage And Support To Come Out As Transgender And Begin My Transition

Photo by Semmick Photo.


by Juliette Greenham

on March 17, 2015

My case is a bit difficult. Very early in my childhood I knew there was something special about me, but I couldn’t understand what it was. I felt like a stranger even to myself. Social interactions were always a riddle for me and although I was mostly a functional person who made progress at school, at work, etc., my social life was diminishing as time passed. When I fell in love with someone it was never mutual, and my desperation was growing because I couldn’t identify what the problem was. When you have a known problem, no matter how difficult it is, you can try to solve it, and if your strategy doesn’t work you can change your approach until you find a solution. But my “monster” was invisible! How do you fight it if you don’t know what you’re fighting against?

The answer came when I was listening to a radio program: there was a guest doctor and the topic was “The Sexual Brain.” I couldn’t believe what I was listening to, because he was describing me. He explained that with our current technology we are able now to analyze the human brain in ways we couldn’t before. Male and female brains have differences because they have been developing for different purposes over time (that doesn’t mean that one or the other is superior, but equipped for different requirements). These differences are now very well identified. Now, as human beings, we all start being female; some continue the process until they are born girls and some alter the process becoming boys. Hormones act at very specific moments of the baby’s development and shape the brain that normally corresponds to the body (they also shape the body later), but for a reason still unknown, in one of every 30,000 males the brain is shaped as a female one. For females, the statistic says one in every 90,000 has a male’s brain. That means that the brain and the body don’t correspond. Gender identity resides in the brain, so persons in this case often feel themselves trapped in the wrong body. That was me. Male body, female brain. The implications were enormous. On the one hand, transitioning into a woman was going to be the challenge of my life. On the other hand, all was clear to me and any sign of guilt disappeared, since I never had a choice [and I now understood that] it had been a variation of biology before I was even born. I felt both relieved and overwhelmed. I finally knew my monster but it wasn’t encouraging to learn that 50 percent of transgender people commit suicide because the challenge is so huge. I mean, a lower percentage of people die climbing Mount Everest.

After three months, I decided to call a doctor who was on the radio. I started my psychological therapy without knowing really how far I’d go, and lacking the courage to move forward in the transition. The risks were huge: you face losing your job and the possibility of continuing your career, losing your family, traumatic surgical procedures and hormonal therapy for life, reduced possibilities of finding a girlfriend, the possibility of physical violence on the streets — you name it. At that time it looked close to impossible.

Even immersed in my new process, I continued in my quest for better ways to understand life and achieve higher consciousness. I knew there was a secret hidden somewhere. And it arrived in a very unlikely way: through my younger brother. He told me about a ceremony of the Amazon in which you consume a beverage containing a molecule that “allows you to utilize your mind at a higher percentage, so you’re able to see higher truths for yourself.”

But it had a cost: the medicine causes you to purge, or throw up, and gives you diarrhea so “you end up shitting all over yourself.” My reaction was like everyone else’s at the beginning: “sounds interesting but very extreme…this isn’t for me.” But the seed was planted in the back of my mind and I couldn’t help but keep thinking about it. Then my brother went to his first Ayahuasca ceremony. When he came back and explained the experience he really got my attention, and with my inquisitive mind, so thirsty for knowledge, I started researching.

I was in complete awe. When I started putting things together, very ancient wisdoms from different parts of the world, from different epochs and cultures, started to touch each other. Tibetan Lamas, ancient Egyptians, neuroscience, Amazonian tribes — I realized I was knocking on the door of something amazingly powerful.

One day, I was coming back from my therapy and my brother sent me Graham Hancock’s famous video that was later removed from the TED website: “The War on Consciousness.” I couldn’t wait until I got home, so I listened to it while I was driving. It was right there, after listening to Graham’s video, that I decided I was going to try ayahuasca. I felt a cold chill through my body and I feel it again as I’m writing, since this was the decision that changed my life forever, and with no return.

I knew I needed to prepare and I took it really seriously. I didn’t know when and how it was going to happen, but I started preparing myself. I attended a yoga and meditation retreat in Sayulita, Mexico, a magical place. I had never been able to meditate/quiet the mind and I thought yoga was not for me. I’d been a bodybuilder for more than 20 years so yoga wasn’t “my kind of physical activity” — nevertheless, I decided to flow with the experience and get the best out of it. I wasn’t aware that my ayahuasca experience had already begun: things started to align and the right persons started to come into my life. The retreat was magical to say the least. After nine days I decided to tell the group that I was really a girl. Never in my life had I received so much love and understanding! Back then I only had one “friend,” but she had decided to steal money from me and our “friendship” was over. Suddenly I was surrounded by 30 loving persons.

When I came back to the city, a colleague sent me a WhatsApp message saying: “Do you remember the new girl I hired for my area?”

I said, “Yes, what about her?”

“She does ayahuasca…you wanted to do it, why don’t you talk to her?”

And I did. She had participated in many ceremonies and she could tell by my passion for the topic that I was serious about it. One day she called my office and asked if she could come over. I could tell by her voice that it couldn’t wait, so I said, “Sure, please come.”

She said there was going to be a ceremony on August 23, 2013, not 10 minutes away from my home. I never hesitated. I said, “Yes, it’s time.”

That night changed my life. One of the things I’ve learned is that words are never enough to explain the experience, no matter how hard you try. So I’m not going to write here about the specifics of my ceremonies, but I’d like to mention some of the effects I’ve had:

– It made me face my fears, bringing me to utter terror and beyond death in three ceremonies. In this test, I was supposed to surrender and trust, and so I did. The rewards were immense. By facing your fears you receive the great gift of getting to know yourself, and what your real strengths are.

– It hit my ego so hard I couldn’t go back to being the materially-oriented person I was. I had achieved very good things in my career, all of which felt hollow at that point. I started being a simple and loving person even by maintaining my job as director in an important company. I took advantage of my credible position in society to start helping people and creating consciousness.

– I was able to figure out things I couldn’t understand in my previous 40 years, including how to heal the wound left by my grandfather’s death. (He was killed by a drunk driver.)

– I’m really happy and need much less now. I was the typical person who would spend her weekend at the shopping mall buying things, probably trying to fill the void inside me. Now I take every opportunity to go to the forest and spend time in nature.

– The right persons started coming into my life sharing their wisdom and love.

– My doctor had explained to me the importance of building a support network; people who would support me in my transition. Back then it was unthinkable, with only one friend, to build a new circle of loving, supporting friends. Now I’m surrounded by them. Even when my mother and siblings don’t support me and are against my transition (which breaks my heart and means I will probably end up losing them), I know that I’m not alone, and I’m confident that I can proceed with my transition.

– I started doing all kinds of things outside my comfort zone, even “ridiculous” ones like traveling to places in the middle of nowhere where the “toilet” was a hole on the ground, and my first experiences dressing fully as a girl at social gatherings or public places. I even spoke with the general manager at the office and told him about my situation.

– I’m able to take “bad” experiences as learning opportunities, as opposed to my previous [response of] complaining that brought me nowhere. I see my situation not as a course, but as a wonderful tool that has forced me to use all my strength and has given me the opportunity to receive a lot of love. It’s a tool for personal growth and I take my challenge with a lot of pride.

– I’ve been able to touch other lives in a wonderful way.

– I question everything I say and every action I take: “Does it come from love or do I have another intention?” And by doing so I’ve been able to change course and do what comes from love (this was a learning from my last ayahuasca experience on December 5, 2014).

These are some things that came to my mind, but there are many others.

So what comes next? I’m writing a novel from the perspective of a person who finds the world of sacred plants in her quest for higher consciousness and understanding. I know there are many books in which experts discuss the topic, and I’m no expert at all, so I wanted to write from the common person’s transforming experience, showing what it means to really discover the secret. I originally wanted to combine my own experience with fantasy, since I thought that the latter always exceeds the former, but I was wrong. At one point I had to stop writing altogether, because my own experience was becoming far more exciting than fantasy.

I’m also moving forward in my transition. My plan is to make a case that will help other people in this situation. I’m building a team of professionals to help me: lawyers, doctors of different sorts, etc. and I’ll talk to the media in order to document my case as a director of an important company who is transgender (also thereby protecting myself against possible discrimination). My plan, however, is not to continue my professional career as it is. I’d like to work on creating consciousness in the world. This will happen probably in a period of five years, more or less, since there are a lot of things to do in order to do it right and avoid unnecessary risks.

In the meantime, there are things that I can do now, like contributing here with my experience, trying to inspire people to keep going in this wonderful path, and helping people like Amber in their magnificent consciousness-creating quest.

I wish you people all the best and I leave you with one quote from the great Terence McKenna:

“Shamanism is essentially a living tradition of alchemy that is not seeking the stone but has found the stone”

With Love.