To my friends whom I rely upon to vent and keep a semblance of emotional stability, I thank you for your unconditional support, for listening to me, for propping me up when I was at my lowest, and for being there for me when I needed it most. It brings tears to my eyes that you were so selfless and carried me, too, for a while, even when you had your own burdens to bear. Thank you for believing me. I love you all so much.
To the people who admitted me to Columbia to live the experience of an undergraduate degree, I thank you for seeing in me what I could not see in myself, and for believing that I could become the best that I can be at Columbia.
To my parents, I thank you for always being there for me through really hard times, even when you didn't understand what I was going through and you had difficulty processing who I am, you were still there for me. That requires immense courage and unlimited trust and love. I hope I made you proud.
To my queer community, I thank you for providing me with a sense of belonging, a home that I wish I had in my family, and for helping me figure out myself and my identity amidst my turmoil. I owe you everything, and thanks to you I can finally call my body "home". It is you who I go back in when I need a safe space and when I need to open myself up and be vulnerable in my identities and my expression.
To the peers, administrators, faculty, and other Columbia people who were alongside me when I navigated my gender transition at Columbia, thank you. I never would have found safety on campus without you. When I expressed my needs, you were there for me to help shift and forge a new support system not only for me, but for future trans people at Columbia as well. You are incredible.
To the kink and BDSM community, I thank you for being a channel for self-discovery and self-exploration. I now know more about my body, my reactions, and my desires thanks to you. You have provided me with an extraordinary framework for mutual and collaborative consent that I carry with me proudly in my life, and I share and express whenever I can. You have helped me build my self-esteem to alpine heights. Without you, I would never have been able to clearly and unapologetically be myself and express my needs and desires. I stand tall in the world thanks to you.
To my kink, sexual, and romantic partners, past, present, and future, I thank you for giving me amazing and transformative experiences. Each and every one of you has helped shape who I am in an extremely powerful and fundamental way. Thank you for sharing connection, energy, and intimacy with me.
To the CV community where I coordinate events, thank you for being such an amazing and incredible crowd. You are the ones building a safe space centered around mutual consent, respect, and care for privacy. I look forward to each and every time we get together, and I am thankful that I can be in your service. Through you I discovered so much about myself. You were my first safe space and one I hold near and dear to my heart. You were the first community I had and one that I am grateful I can shape and help grow. Thank you for existing and being there for me.
To Recurse Center, thank you for helping me grow as a programmer and being an incredible example of transformative justice. Thank you for giving me a second chance.
To my professors and TAs, thank you for giving me an amazing education, challenging me in extraordinary ways, and being there for me outside the classroom and office hours. Your understanding and support have helped me grow intellectually and have brought me back from even my darkest times.
To my medical providers, thank you for going above and beyond for me. Thank you for being so understanding and helpful when I came in with a cold and also had consensual knife marks, cuts, scratches, bruises, bites, and whip marks; you helped me take better medical care of myself without judgment or disdain. Thank you for helping me have a greater understanding of medicine and my own body. Thank you for being so patient and answering all my questions. Thank you for listening, being supportive, and connecting with me in a way that goes above and beyond your requirements as medical providers. Thank you for helping me explore my identity, my hormone levels, and many, many other things. I am literally alive thanks to you.
To my mental health providers, thank you for helping me discover my first steps towards transition. Thank you for giving me the help, support, and resources I needed. Thank you for helping me heal and grow. Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for giving me a safe space to open myself up and be vulnerable. Thank you for helping me express anger for the first time in my life instead of letting it turn inwards towards self-destruction and self-hate. Thank you for providing me the tools for healthy coping mechanisms.
To my legal support, thank you for helping me change my name pro-bono. I never forgot that you absorbed the costs that would normally fall onto me, even if you didn't need to. You were so helpful, supportive, and professional. Thank you for volunteering to work with my case which was much more complex than what you initially expected. Thank you for your ongoing support and communication. You are the reason I am proud to have "Arya" next to my "F" gender marker on my identity documents. I feel safer out there thanks to you.
To my asylum support, thank you for listening. Even though you decided not to pursue my case further, thank you for providing a space where I felt safe opening myself up about my experiences in Romania. You are doing great work, and I thank you for being there for people much less privileged than I am.
To the person who abused and raped me, I forgive you. Even though there were some very awful and terrible moments in our relationship, you have also brought me feelings of immense joy and understanding in a world where nothing was certain, and I thank you for giving me those experiences. I know that these two things are not mutually exclusive, and I accept them both in my past and in the legacy of my memory. Thank you for sharing part of your life with me.
To myself, thank you for surviving, thriving, and growing against all adversity. I thank myself for having the power and the courage to acknowledge my failures and work my best to improve them. I thank myself for having the energy and drive to use my privilege and my position to help others who do not have access to such support. I am much more than I have ever dreamed to be, and I am sure that I will become much more than I can ever imagine. I thank myself for still being here.
To everyone else who wasn't mentioned here and who played a big or small role in my life, I thank you, too. You have enriched my experience in ways that I never noticed and took for granted. You have my eternal gratitude.