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Member of Beckley's Human Rights Commission transitions into woman

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BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) Beckley's newest member of the Human Rights Commission is no stranger to adversity. She fought through two tours in Iraq and another in Afghanistan.

But it was the war going on inside that was perhaps her most difficult fight yet.

"This has been sudden for a lot of people, but for me it's something that has been building my whole life," explained Danielle Stewart in an interview with WVVA news on Monday.

In late January, she announced she was no longer 'David' but 'Danielle." She was transitioning from a man into a woman. 

"Every kid I think feels different. It's an odd feeling, but I grew up feeling like something just doesn't match." 

Stewart said she tried talking to friends at an early age, but their reaction was the beginning of decades of denying her identity as a woman. "Society does not look fondly on transgender individuals. And it's made clear in lots of different ways." 

Instead, Stewart tried to become the man she believed society wanted. 

"I've always acted along the lines of, if I do this, I'll become normal. So I joined the football team. That didn't work. I joined the military. That didn't work. I got married. That didn't work either."

The more she tried, Stewart explained, the more her world fell apart. "My life has been spent trying to get the outsides to match the outsides. And I've failed miserably." 

The breaking point for the Army soldier came in 2010. With her marriage on the rocks and her military service wrapping up, she made the decision to start transitioning after her service duty was up in 2015.

A weight was lifted. "It took me awhile to get going. But I've actually made friends. For the longest time, I wouldn't allow myself to have friends because they might find out my secret." 

It has been a long and difficult journey, but Stewart has no regrets. She hopes her story will help save others from re-living the same battles.

"A lot of places try to beat conformity into you. Kids need to know it's okay to be different. And just because you're different. You're not alone." 

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