Jody Dungan’s life mission has been to follow her wish to live fully and completely in her true identity.

This painful sojourn toward freedom from the self that others expected her to embody began in childhood and continued across the arc of her life.

In her book Tears in Silence: Memoirs of a Transgender Child, Dungan tells the story honestly and as clearly as it can be told. It is a cry for the true self to be lived authentically in peace.

A woman holding a book standing next to a tree.

(Photo provided by Jody Dungan)

Jody was born male but in her inner self knew she was female. The inner realm is not predictable or compliant to the expectations of others.

She never quibbled over her sense of self that exposed her to abuse and sorrow from her friends, family and even teachers. What does one do when one’s inner realm is in conflict with one’s corporeal reality?

The battle described in Dungan’s life story began in her earliest reckoning, and the struggle was waged across all the stages of her life until in her mid-40s when she undertook the surgical steps of her transitioning to becoming female.

The struggle to live her authentic self was a burden borne daily and the price she paid to live a different existence was nearly unbearable.

After a long night’s struggle, she described the challenge of the dawn of a new day: “I would simply pick up the mantle, don the armor and put up the walls again. Then for a time, I could walk through the world and try to be who I was supposed to be, but never who I truly was.”

The struggle of living one’s true identity is challenging under the best of circumstances, but for some, this process is beyond imagination. There are not any shortcuts, and there are not any real solutions to offer those hatchlings who are forced to peck their way out of their shells.

Dungan reminds the reader that those hatchlings that don’t find the energy to peck die in those same shells. Overshadowing the sorrow is the ever-present possibility of suicide.

This book illuminates the search for the true self that many go through. She offers a vivid picture of how she maintained a commitment to herself and the price she paid to live fully into her inner being.

This kind of struggle is understood through metaphors.

“Many transgender people resonate with the image of the butterfly. The metamorphosis and transformation that takes place is so radical that the symbol is appropriate,” she writes. “For me, however, I fixated on the phoenix. The legend of the bird reborn through fire, felt more appropriate for my situation. … It’s a deliberate act of self-destruction with the hopes that something better would arise from the ashes.”

The search for one’s true self is a divine journey that demands resolute courage. Dungan goes deep into that journey and is resolute in her determination to live her life with a deep commitment to her own honest identity.

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