My guitar began to feel like a phantom limb. Only it wasn’t missing – it was sitting there collecting dust.

Finally, my best friend Steven was playing for an open mic night and asked me to join him.

Ever since I picked up my first guitar at 16, music has been a core part of who I’ve been. Coming from a small town in Michigan, I didn’t always feel like I belonged and craved to find a way to connect with others. Music is that medium for me, it almost has an ethereal power that tears down barriers. It is not just about playing an instrument, it is an area I can fully and emotionally dive into.

Reflecting back, maybe that is why it was so hard to play music when I came out as a woman. Transitioning can be a scary experience. You don’t know how people – from strangers to your parents – will react. It is a constant act of vulnerability and openness.

So while I was opening up to everyone around me, I held off on playing music. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was afraid of being taken less seriously as a musician or seen as a joke.

So I bottled that part of myself. Even though I started to become more comfortable in my body, my guitar began to feel like a phantom limb. Only it wasn’t missing – it was sitting there collecting dust.

Claire performing live with friends.

Finally, my best friend Steven was playing for an open mic night and asked me to join him. It was his first time playing and I wanted him to feel supported, letting go of my fears in the process. After six months, an eternity in guitar years, I played in public again [you can see this performance here].

In a lot of ways, this was the rebirth of my music.

I now have a Youtube channel where I am now completely open about sharing my music and my personal experiences as a transgender woman. This openness has led me to a sea of friendships across the globe.

It has now been over two years since I’ve openly come out and I didn’t know I could find such relief. I used to constantly think about how I should act based on others expectations. Now I don’t have to think, I just am. It took me a while but I’ve started to understand that only you can decide who you are.