A few weeks ago, the very first National Trans Visibility March was held in Washington, D.C. As described in their call to action, the purpose of the march was to bring attention to “the social structures that have oppressed us and disenfranchised our communities.”
Thanks to the One Orlando Alliance and generous sponsors, about 50 transgender people, including myself and a few allies, made the road trip to our nation’s capital to participate. It was without a doubt a profound and inspiring experience for all of us who went, but perhaps not as successful in making our issues more “visible” to the cisgender, queer community.
I hope all of you have had a chance to recover from the marches and celebrations that marked Pride month. My feet and liver barely survived intact and may yet give out because, for those of us in Central Florida, the party isn’t quite over yet. Even as corporate-backed, rainbow merchandise-palooza 2019 has faded into the rearview mirror of June, we now have upon us the queer calendar outlier that is GayDayS after its move to mid-August.
Full disclosure: as a transgender woman and lesbian, I have never considered going to GayDayS because it has the reputation of being heavily gay male focused. In most other years, during the first weekend in June, I can be found around the pool at Girls in Wonderland. However, since there are no competing LGBTQ+ events on the social calendar, I have found myself wondering if I should attend.
About a month ago, I was asked by a friend to present to his class at the University of Central Florida.
He teaches a course on representations of gender in entertainment, and because the subscribers to my YouTube channel seem to think I’m entertaining, and I do indeed have a gender, I was the obvious choice to address his students and tell them my story. This was the third time I had been the designated transgender speaker for this course in the last few years, but it was the first time I had gotten the brainwave to ask the class a question to confirm a trend I had noticed developing over time.
Hello, I’m a transgender woman and I am mentally unstable. My well being is propped up on a razor’s edge by hormones, complicated and expensive medical procedures, as well as therapy.
I am a ticking time bomb and cannot be trusted around your children, women in the ladies’ room, or to do my job in combat situations. I suffer from a mental illness that deludes me into thinking I am a woman, but in actuality I am the sick byproduct of a patriarchy compelled to undermine female power and invade their spaces. I entrap straight men into committing unwitting homosexual acts and trick lesbians into sex with men. I am a deceiver and counterfeit with the intent of forcing the world to reject common sense views on gender and sexual identity. The only positive aspect of my existence is that I am part of a group so small that my rights as a human being can be conveniently disregarded by society based on the slimmest of suspicions, but without any basis in proven fact.
As we pass through this brief period of the year when it is no longer Mother’s Day but not quite yet Father’s Day, it occurs to me that this is an apt analogy for how many transgender parents sit between motherhood and fatherhood.
After our transitions, many of us struggle to redefine ourselves as parents within our reconfigured families. Sometimes the choice is not up to us. After consulting a psychologist before I came out to my son, she suggested that for his comfort, it was important to allow him to choose what he would now call the new me. After mulling over the different possibilities, including “father” in multiple languages, he decided to call me by my own created name of Maia. Admittedly, it is not what I prefer as my public identity as his parent has been rendered invisible. Kids don’t usually call their mothers or fathers by their first names.
As you read this, Transgender Day of Visibility will have just passed on March 31. It is a day where some trans people choose to make themselves known for the sake of putting a human face you know on a previously hidden condition.
No doubt, greater awareness of us in society has improved our fortunes, but it has also been greeted with a backlash of resistance. I recently read of a bus touring the east coast of the United States from Boston to Washington, D.C. with a message painted on its side that reads, “It’s biology: Boys are boys, and always will be. Girls are girls, and always will be. You can’t change sex. Respect all.” For emphasis, silhouettes of boys and girls, with the letters XX and XY printed conspicuously close to the genital region, adorn the sides.
In early April 2011, a few months after I arrived in Florida, I was able to legally change my name and landed a job at a local theme park with my new identity. For the first time in my life, I was also assigned the female locker room.
I still vividly remember the anxiety I felt upon entering this inner sanctum of femininity. Back then I had not yet had gender confirmation surgery (GCS) and was frightened at what could happen if I was inadvertently found out. I took care to be as discreet as possible by changing into my uniform bottoms in toilet stalls and choosing individual showers in remote corners to avoid any prying eyes.
I was recently asked to speak at my alma mater on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Princeton’s LGBT Center. I had been recommended by the outgoing director of the center as a visible transgender alumnus possibly willing to appear. Given how invisible I was on campus back then, I found the irony striking. After being reassured that such a story would be valuable and worth hearing, I reflected on my journey, and I realized there was a common thread of erasure running throughout.
During my teen years, before the Internet, I did not have the resources to recognize my gender identity issues. My misconception of trans women, as informed by the mainstream coverage of the day, was so stereotypically straight and hyper-feminine, that a burgeoning lesbian like myself, who couldn’t have cared less about playing with my sister’s Barbie dolls, found little commonality. In my mind back then, I was not possible.
I’ve never been very good at dating. In fact, you might say I am downright awful at it. I just never learned to do it when other people did. When I was a young teenager, I was inhibited by the fact that there was a lot of shame wrapped up in my interest in girls. Of course, not in the same way a typical lesbian would experience it, because there was none of the taboo of same-sex attraction. However, I found it incredibly confusing to process the fact that, not only did I have the strong drive to be with a girl, I also had an equally strong desire to BE her.
Here was something not even hinted at in my grade school human sexuality class. There was a great gaping chasm of missing information if you were anything except cisgender and heterosexual. I don’t recall if I even knew about transgender people back then, but I do remember an intense curiosity to know what it was like to grow curves. It was also around this time I started to make a habit of “borrowing” clothes from my sisters, trying them on in my locked room and pretending I was the female version of me.
One of the toughest experiences I had during my transition was coming out to my then very young son. After consulting a child psychologist on how to best handle the difficult situation, my ex-wife and I sat him down and tried to explain what was about to happen in terms that an eight year old could understand. It was truly awful in a way that I wish none of you ever experience. However, in the midst of the tears, my son said something that both shocked me and brought a moment of levity to the otherwise grim proceedings. He said, “But Dad, everybody knows that boys rule, and girls drool!” Looking back, I can chuckle a little at what was obviously a schoolyard lesson in gender politics that I’ve since done my best to correct. At the time though, I remember being taken aback, but nevertheless cracking a wan smile and wondering at how my son had managed to absorb assumptions of male superiority at such a tender age. Especially in a household that was quite liberal and emphasized equality.
Had I not been embroiled in the highly emotional situation of the moment, I would have remembered that socialization doesn’t just happen at home. We were not our son’s only teachers. Society plays a tremendous role through school, friends and media. As parents, it can be difficult to counteract some of the more pervasive messages our children take to heart, and sometimes we have no idea what is going on in their developing minds. That was certainly the case for me when I was growing up in ways I am sure my parents did not dream possible.
Watermark is a multi-faceted media company using opportunities and innovations to communicate and advance LGBT interests, with a corporate emphasis on professionalism while building strong relationships with our readers, customers and community.
Watermark Media was founded by Tom Dyer in Orlando in 1994, and expanded to Tampa Bay in 1995. Dyer is an attorney, former board member of the Metropolitan Business Association and Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, and current advisory board member of the Harvey Milk Foundation.
Watermark prints up to 20,000 copies every other Thursday, and distributes them in more than 500 locations throughout Orlando, Tampa Bay, Sarasota and throughout the state. The newspaper donates more than $200,000 annually in free and sponsor advertising to worthy local and national LGBT non-profits.
Watermarkonline.com was launched in 1999. The award-winning newspaper currently maintains offices in Tampa Bay and Orlando and employs a full-time staff of 12, along with several part-time and freelance contributors.
Watermark Publishing Group, founded by publisher Rick Claggett, purchased Watermark in January of 2016. Rick Claggett is a long-time employee of Watermark Media and former board member of both the Metropolitan Business Association and Come Out With Pride.Read More...
Click here Grow your business! Advertise with Watermark Publishing Group!
Send Us A News Tip
Have you got a hot news tip that you'd like to share with us? Simply fill out the form below and click submit!