“When I was born, they said that I would never walk – just get him in a wheelchair.”
Aaron was born with a unique condition similar to hyper-rare Multiple Pterygium (Escobar) Syndrome — of which there are only around 60 diagnosed cases worldwide. “I had thirteen surgeries by the time I was seven,” he says. His condition comes with a host of facial and skeletal anomalies, as well as severe hearing impairment.
He jokes that when he finally started talking at the age of four, “People said it never stopped – they were like, ‘Damn! We put tubes in his ears and now he can hear. Damn!’”
Aaron’s humor is lovely to feel in the face of his difficult story. Along with his medical issues, his father was largely absent, and his mother struggled with alcohol and mental health issues. “It was tough because my mother needed a lot of validation, just as much as I did, growing up,” he says. School was also tough, being a Queer youth with undiagnosed ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder, making it impossible to focus in a traditional classroom, with bullying coming from all directions.
In 2004, after turning eighteen, Aaron left California and moved to Seattle where he found his way to YouthCare’s Isis House, a housing program that focuses on supporting LGBTQ+ youth. Back in 2004, identifying as LGBTQ+ was an even greater challenge than today, and Aaron loved that Isis was staffed with Queer identifying folks, “It created a sense of stability because a lot of the young adults there never had the option to feel ok with who they were,” he says.
And feeling okay with who he was did not come easy to Aaron, either, as he struggled with suicidal ideation and the effects of complex trauma. “I was very angry and had no sense of direction,” he says. “I had a lot of shame around ‘Am I worthy of?’ and ‘Am I deserving of?’ I didn’t know how to articulate my feelings — feelings were always a very difficult process for me.”
But Aaron remembers the two years he spent at Isis fondly, “The staff had a lot of patience and a lot of tolerance,” he says. The household also got a lot of practice with community building and conflict resolution at their Wednesday night meetings. Although tensions could run high as residents worked out their issues with each other and faced their own sore spots, Aaron recalls, “There was a lot of laughter also – somebody would say something and crack up, and we would give positive affirmations to each other. As much trauma as there was, [the staff] wanted to make sure each individual was getting positive accolades from their peers. It was encouraging people to validate each other.”
It’s been a long journey to find that peace with himself, but these days Aaron’s life has more perspective and is full of passion for helping others. His goals include endeavors in the creative arts, life coaching and motivational speaking, legal advocacy, and he is looking at avenues that help support victims of domestic violence. He has also achieved his training as a Certified Peer Counselor and is involved with Peer Seattle. “What about giving back to others because you know where they’re at?” he says. “The key in order to become better as a person, it isn’t paying attention to what is coming at you from others, it’s how you deal with it.”
“What about giving back to others because you know where they’re at?”Aaron Shore
Aaron also notes the importance of finding good people to surround yourself with: “It’s about noticing patterns of behavior and of who you associate with.” He recalls staff during his time at Isis: “Cate had one of the most quirky senses of humor I’ve ever known. She had the most calming demeanor out of anybody I’ve ever worked with; she had such patience. And John was fun – he had a very colorful sense of humor.”
Aaron’s memories of Cate, John, and his time at Isis are testaments to how the impacts of community and kindness can reverberate across the years of a person’s life. Because, as Aaron says, “We all affect each other in this society.” And as for that thing about being told he would never walk? It may have been a journey, but Aaron walks just fine.