Gabrielle was assigned the male gender at birth, when she was 6 she would take her mother's lipstick and wear it in secret. When she was 8 she started wearing her mother's clothes, putting on jewelry, heels, and full make up.
She describes those moments as her happy place.
When Gabrielle was 11 her mother caught her dressing up. Her mother took Gabrielle to church where she was forced to pray. She was told she was possessed. She was told she would go to hell.
Over the following years Gabrielle would be subjected to several forms of conversion therapy. She would be made to pray out loud throughout the day denouncing herself. She would be called disgusting by her siblings and both of her parents.
It was the end of Gabrielle's happy place.
At the age of 17 Gabrielle experienced her first schizophrenic episode. The years of abuse, conversion therapy, and transphobia had taken its toll on her mental health. It was a breaking point for her. She was now medicated and told that her mental health issues were the reason she felt like a woman.
Desperate to find herself, Gabrielle started looking for ways to escape. She met a man on the internet who offered to pay for her to take a bus to New York. He offered her make up, wigs, clothing, and promised to help her become a woman.
She walked out of her house in the middle of the winter and made her way to New York from North Carolina.
Things didn't work out for Gabrielle as she hoped. She was forced into a world she never imaged existed.
Family rejection is the leading cause of LGBTQ youth homelessness. The youth who come to AFC for help and shelter face trauma in many forms while homeless ranging from the lack of a safe place to sleep to having no access to food, but no trauma is more severe than the lack of acceptance and love from their families.
Fortunately, one of our outreach workers made contact with Gabrielle while she was on the streets. Upon joining our program she was offered extensive mental health therapy and psychiatric care through our onsite medical and mental health clinic.
She was also offered a loving and affirming environment where she could fully express her identity. She began hormone replacement therapy, legal filings to change her name and gender marker on her id -- all through our 24 hour Drop In Center.
Gabrielle broke down when she looked in the mirror of her new home in our Transgender Housing Program. She said she didn't think she would ever feel pretty again.