It’s not easy to be a person who is LGBT. Especially when you’re young. There’s so much pressure to succeed.

Where are you going to live? What will you do for work? How will you survive? Will you be safe?

When I was in college and then entering the workforce, I felt so much pressure to be successful. This pressure was mainly self-imposed. I didn’t just want to succeed, I wanted to be the best, the brightest, the hardest-working, the most deserving.

When you’re a white, cisgender, heterosexual male, the bar is set low. You can do the bare minimum and be seen as successful. This is not the case for LGBT people, particularly LGBT people of color. We have to do more and work harder and run ourselves ragged, and still, we won’t be as successful as our peers.

When I was younger and came out as lesbian, it was really hard. But I tried to be a good student and a good person, because maybe then, I would earn the love of my family.

If I was successful enough, maybe then they could overlook the fact that I was a lesbian. When I came out as trans, I thought, I have to be even more successful so that my family will know that trans people can succeed. Maybe then I will earn their love.

And I did my best to succeed. At my first “real” job after entering the workforce, I worked no less than 50 hours a week trying to prove myself — to prove that I deserved this job. That I was worthy of being hired. That I was worthy.

My hard work was paying off — I was giving training and presentations all over the state and sometimes the country — telling my story and what it means to be trans and all the issues that arise because of it. I was featured on two different magazine covers. I received a few awards.

I was happy with my work, but I was tired. It was exhausting work, both physically and emotionally, and I was working a lot and trying to turn hobbies into money so I could help make ends meet.

The job I thought I really wanted, the one I thought would make me seem more successful, was at a bigger institution with a higher salary. I felt like my salary was tied to my worth as a human, especially as a male in a patriarchal society. The more money I made, the more worthy I was.

So I got a job near Boston at a liberal university. This was the job I was really after and I thought I had finally made it. I was ready to finally start being happy.

The story doesn’t end here. Stay tuned for Part II.

Atticus Ranck (he/him/his pronouns) works in the Education and Training Program of the AIDS Institute for the New York State Department of Health. Atticus identifies as a trans man and he is married to a trans woman. Together, they are raising two puppies and a cat and happily live in rural upstate NY. Previously, he was the Director of Transgender Services at SunServe in Wilton Manors.