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There are various definitions of the word family; most often it refers to a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household related to one another by blood or marriage. There are other definitions as well, such as a group of people united in criminal activity, like the Mafia, or a taxonomic rank in the classification of organisms between genus and order. But there is another definition of family that can be just as meaningful as the other definitions: a group of objects united by a significant shared characteristic.

For many in the transgender community the simple fact that we’re trans brings us together and into a new family because of the shared experiences and the bonds that develop from those experiences. It doesn’t mean we love the family we were born into any less, it just means we have another family of people with whom we share an understanding of what it’s like to be transgender. I was there when my children were born but that doesn’t mean I understand what it’s like to actually give birth, just as cis-gendered people can’t truly understand what it’s like to be transgender. After feeling alone for so long it’s a wonderful thing to find others who understand.

And sometimes we turn to other people for friendship and support when we lose relationships with the family we were born into. There is no replacing the love of a child or sister, but sometimes it helps to have friends to talk with and who listen and understand what’s it’s like to lose a relationship. It doesn’t mean I’m trying to find a substitute family, it just means I’m human and there are times when I need a friend. It’s human nature to want to be part of a community or a family; we are not meant to be alone. When we are alone and feeling the loss of those relationships there are several common ways to react; we can seek out others to not feel so alone, or we can try to numb the pain through things such as alcohol or drugs, or we can just stop feeling anything and stop living life.

Through The Benz FamilyI was blessed to grow up in a loving family where I had a mom and a sister who loved me, and later in my life to have a wife and two sons who also loved me. Those are the relationships which have always meant everything to me and always will. Most relationships experience some amount of ebb and flow, whether they be family, friends or acquaintances. Some relationships grow and flourish, while others fade away. Sometimes rifts develop with people we love and care about which are not easily mended, and if we’re not careful we can lose people we love. Relationships are easy when things are going well, but it’s the difficult times which ultimately show how strong a relationship really is and whether or not it can weather the storm. Relationships require effort and dedication to make them work; they need to be tended to and nurtured, or else they shrivel up and die.

I am also blessed to have many friends who I’ve met online, and occasionally in person, and those friendships mean the world to me. Many of those friendships developed through my work in the porn industry, and over the past couple of years some of those people have become dear friends who have become like family to me. I have friends who I talk baseball with, or cooking, or any number of shared interests we have. We’ve gotten to know each other and shared parts of our lives and developed a bond and a level of trust that is very special. As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to appreciate the friendships I’m fortunate to be part of, and I’ve learned that the quality of my life is directly proportional to the friendships I have. Unfortunately I’ve also learned that no amount of friendships can replace the love of the family I was born into.

I’ve learned things can be said out of anger and hurt, and that some things can never be taken back.

I’ve learned that life can change in the blink of an eye.

I’ve learned that time is precious and once we lose it we never get it back.

I’ve learned that forgiveness is hard, especially trying to forgive yourself for fucking things up.

I’ve learned I’m not the person I thought I was.

I’ve learned that therapy only helps so much and that talking about it hurts like hell.

I’ve learned that working out at the gym is one of the few ways to block out the pain, but my body can only take so much exercise before it starts breaking down.

I’ve learned physical pain hurts less than emotional pain.

I’ve learned that I can’t escape the pain through sleep because I dream about people and things which hurt and I’ve woken up crying too many times.

I’ve learned there is no pain which hurts as much as the pain of losing the love of your family

I’ve learned what it feels like when life isn’t worth living and you want to die.

And I’ve learned that when it’s all said and done, that the only thing that really matters is the love of your family. None of the other stuff maters; the material possessions, the awards, the number of Twitter followers, the compliments about my looks, the mementos of my past. None of it means a damn thing.

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