Before becoming a man and changing his name, Juan's attraction to girls tormented him because lesbianism is forbidden in the family's Mormon faith. "I felt that just because of my feelings that eventually I would go to hell. … There wasn't anything I could do to prevent them or silence them. … I didn't think that I could prevent myself from acting on them at a later date, so I was going to hell. [By committing suicide], I could prevent having my partner go to hell with me."
Feeling unable to continue living as Juanita, he swallowed a bottle of Excedrin®. His mother rushed him to the hospital to have his stomach pumped. He was diagnosed with gender identity disorder and, throughout the next decade, went to a series of Mormon doctors looking for answers. During this time he cut his breasts with razor blades and continued to battle thoughts of suicide.
In college, Juan—who was still living as Juanita—met a therapist who finally gave him hope. The doctor prescribed testosterone. "It was either change or die," Juan says. "It was time to try something new, even though it went against my religious beliefs."
Then he began going by Juan and had a hysterectomy and chest reconstruction. Juan is very excited about his final surgery—genital reassignment. How are doctors able to give him a penis? "They use what nature's given you," Juan explains, "and they nip and tuck. … I'm so looking forward to that day! … When people ask me if I miss being a woman, I'm like, 'Do you miss having cancer?' It's the same feeling."