In life, everyone climbs mountains. Jala A. McKenzie-Burns shares her story, Climbing Life's Mountains, which explores the many challenges that faced her from birth. As a biracial child, she was left in the hospital, then placed into foster care. Her education began from the time she was born through the reactions and events around her. Her education continued with the teachings of the Civil Rights Movement, watching the Civil Rights' marches on television and listening to the I-Have-a-Dream speech on the radio. Her early lessons taught her to stand up for her beliefs and soon paid off. After being adopted by an African-American family, she faced many confrontations from both white and black children. Along the way, she realized she was a female. Through her service in the U.S. Marine Corps, working in politics, gaining a college education, marrying a woman she loved, and raising their child, she tried to hide her feminine desires, but the pain never stopped at t being able to express who she really was. According to society, she was supposed to live her life as a male. While she participated in many activities to fight her inner conflict, she couldn't force a square peg into a round hole. When she shared her gender conflict with her adoptive mother, her mother kicked her out of her life. In her book, Jala discusses her full transition experience so that she can help others with their gender-identity conflict. During her transition, she fell into a deep depression. With this illness, she practiced many unhealthy coping mechanisms. During a major portion of her life, she had yearned to find her biological mother. After many attempts, she was finally reunited with her biological mother and sister. Years later, after reconnecting with both her biological and adoptive families, she began to overcome depression. She shares her story of depression, believing that if she can overcome it, so can others. She combines her autobiography and insights about gender identity transition with interviews from family members, other transgender females, and a psychologist who specializes in Gender Identity Disorder. In the section called Adoption and Finding My Biological Family, she includes three special interviews. First, her adoptive brother, Derrick, is a highly successful individual who graduated from Princeton University. He shares their experiences of growing up together. Second, Karen, her biological sister, tells of her experience as being one of four siblings who were taken by the state of Georgia. And third, Patricia, the only child out of all six siblings who was raised by her biological family, tells of the pain she encountered, kwing her siblings were out there. Jala and her siblings share the steps they took to find their biological families. The story explores times of laughter and times of tears, hoping to help others overcome their personal challenges.
Jala A. McKenzie-Burns was born of biracial parents on November 11, 1965 as Dave Edward Morris. Abandoned in the hospital, she was placed into the foster care system and adopted by an African-American family in 1972. As a young child, she personally experienced the racial unrest and was taunted for her dual racial heritage. On top of this, she found herself expected to live up to society's demands of her as a boy and a young man, while she yearned for the things of a feminine nature. To hide the truth of who she felt she was inside, she joined the U.S. Marine Corps, worked in the political arena, graduated from college, married, and raised a child. In all that time, pain and depression followed her that she could not express her true nature. When her adoptive father died, she fell into a deep clinical depression, which triggered an attempted suicide and admission into a psych ward. After revealing her desire to express herself as a woman, her adoptive mother rejected her, sending her on a journey that eventually united her with her biological mother and sister, and later with her other siblings. In 2004, she began transitioning into the woman that she is today. In January of 2006, she legally changed her name. Through this period, she continued to experience depression and was admitted numerous times for hospitalizations due to her unhealthy methods of coping. In 2010, after the death of her adoptive mother, she was reunited with her biological mother and siblings. At this point, through the support of her family, reading, and hard work, she began to overcome her depression and move into a new stage of life. Her story is filled with serious challenges, poignant moments, and a great desire to help others understand and appreciate the differences and uniqueness in all. In primary church, she learned a song that says: Do something for somebody every day. Go scatter a blessing along life's way. Give help; be watchful; pray. Do something for somebody every day. This is the motto by which Jala lives and by which she shares the common experience of climbing life's mountains. Jala raises the question, What impact would society have if everyone did something for somebody every day?