I first realized I was trans when I saw a cisgender woman, Karen Black, play the role of transgender woman, Joanne, in the movie Come Back to the & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (a character whose shoes I would fill acting in the play for three nights at The Percolator.
I was eleven in 1983 when that movie aired on Showtime. The same year, the movie The World According to Garp would explore trans identity with cisgender actor, John Lithgow. On television, Soap, and St. Elsewhere had further defined transsexuality for me. Before that though, when I was six, I only thought I was a girl. I behaved like myself, and when I was mistaken for a girl, it made my parents feel very ashamed, and they would get angry, which made me feel bad and shameful for expressing myself. by age nine my parents forbade me to be friends with girls, and made me make friends with neighborhood boys who inevitably realized I was “different” and bullied me respectively. I know I am trans because society is structured in a way that left no room to grow within a gender role that I didn’t fit into. I knew during puberty, when secondary sex characteristics began (body hair, muscles) that I had gender dysphoria (for me, a vertigo-like feeling that could actually make me nauseous). And while not every trans person has dysphoria, or feels the need to transition among extremes of gender, I knew that I wasn’t a man, and that if I didn’t find a medical solution, then the dysphoria would engulf me, making any self-actualization impossible.
in 2004, after four months of therapy, and three months of a Real-Life Test, I was able to find a doctor in Kansas City who would prescribe hormones to me. Three years later, and after two more months of expensive therapy, as insurance would not cover it, I went to Colorado to see the one of two doctors in the US at the time who would perform an orchiectiomy. Surgery and hormones only have ever worked to enhance the already feminine aspects of my personality. After people saw on the outside, what I had always felt on the inside, my near-constant anxiety from feeling wrong subsided. Due to abandonment by my parents, I spent six years homeless, and had become an alcoholic. I had quit drinking a year before I transitioned, to make sure I was making the clearly correct choice-the side effect I didn’t expect was the seventeen years of sobriety that would follow. But it shouldn’t be a surprise. With the removal of the existential burden of living a lie, I was able to stop medicating, start healing and begin a life of recovery and education.
People assume because I am trans that I am a social justice warrior. They assume that I am humorless, combative, and at times, they assume I am much younger than I am, and that I’m fluent in computer coding. People assume that because I am trans woman that I am overtly sexual (I have identified as asexual my entire life). This is because trans misogyny is not very far removed from misogyny sans qualifications.
As an educator, I try to answer difficult questions even when it is difficult to do so. Only through education will hearts be won, making the world a better, more tolerant place for every peace-loving person to live. I was able to answer these questions honestly because I feel relatively safe at the moment. It is clear these questions can put a trans person (or any person) on the spot. On the other hand, we must rely on experts to understand difficult subjects, so it’s up to people who have studied the subject most, to lend the hand up we need in this very exciting time of burgeoning discourse.