LGBT pridePost submitted by Beth Sherouse, HRC Senior Content Manager

Blake Alford was born and raised in the South, and spent most of his life not knowing that there were other people who were transgender like him.

“You thought you were insane,” he recalled about the gender dysphoria he felt in his early life, “because you knew you were one thing, but you were having to live as another.”

In school, Alford was bullied and beaten so often for his masculine gender presentation, that he eventually dropped out and ran away from home at 16.

As for his parents, Alford said they lacked understanding and information.

“God love ‘em, they tried,” he said. “I think if they had known, they would have done anything in the world to make it right, but there just was not any information for them.”

“When I was older and taking care of my mom, who was sick, we got to the point where we could talk just about anything. Anything exception my need to been seen as the man I knew I was,” said Alford.

Following his mother’s death, Alford decided to take the advice of friends and went to a gender therapist. He was stunned to learn there were other people like him. Alford’s therapist told him about the Southern Comfort Conference, and since he could not afford to attend, he applied for a scholarship.

“When I first walked into the door of Southern Comfort, honest to God, I felt like I was home for the first time in my life,” he said. “You can honestly feel the love and the caring of the other people. It was amazing to just sit and watch. I was just blown away.”

In the Southern Comfort community, Alford was able to turn his lifetime of struggles into something productive and hopeful.

“I’m a part of Southern Comfort to help ensure that another living, breathing soul never has to go through the hell that I did when I was young,” said Alford.

More than a decade after that first meeting, Alford continues to serve on the Southern Comfort Conference Board of Directors, and as the director of both the scholarship program and the Robert Eads Health Partnership, which provides medical exams for trans men.

Despite the family he has found in the Southern Comfort Conference, Alford admits the South can be a difficult place to live for trans people, a problem that he is determined to continue fighting.

“There’s just something about the South that they’re just not gonna let it go,” he said about the region’s hostility to LGBT people. “But neither am I.”

Human Rights Campaign staff and board joined the 2013 Southern Comfort Conference and spoke during the Pmeeting. This year, in 2014, the Human Rights Campaign is also a proud sponsor of the conference and providing additional resources to conference organizers.

Filed under: Coming Out, Transgender

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