A new era of trans reality
We have come a long way since Christine Jorgensen, the first person to undergo Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS), stepped off the plane in 1952. This year, the President for the first time used the word transgender in his State Of The Union Address and trans people are thriving in once unattainable tiers of society. Shows like Transparent and Orange Is The New Black are racking up awards and many trans roles are going to real trans people.
But the night Bruce Jenner appeared with Diane Sawyer to tell the world he was actually she, I watched with eyes full of tears. "This is it!" I thought to myself. "This is going to change everything. For all of us."
You can't know unless you are trans what it felt like to see someone of Jenner's stature do what she did so publicly. Famed Olympian, American hero, father of the Kardashian empire—the kind of man that other men wanted to be … all a lie. Not to us but himself. Can you imagine living 65 years looking in the mirror every day and never truly being happy?
I thought back to childhood, how I always gravitated toward feminine things and the horror I experienced at the first signs of rough masculinity. If I had someone like this to look to as an example of a successful trans person, could it have made my journey easier, better, faster? The answer to all is undoubtedly yes.
Caitlyn is certainly not alone in the spotlight. Powerful voices like Janet Mock, author of the memoir Redefining Realness, are sharing their stories. Other trans people, like my friends Precious Davis and Myles Brady, a trans couple, are moving mountains with their social activism for gay and trans youth, garnering them invitations from Miley Cyrus to join her Happy Hippies Foundation as faces of her new #InstaPride campaign.
Then there is Laverne Cox, the multi layered trans mega star of OITNB fame and cover girl of TIME Magazine's "The Transgender Tipping Point." Cox told TIME, “We are in a place now where more and more trans people want to come forward and say, ‘This is who I am.’ And more trans people are willing to tell their stories. More of us are living visibly and pursuing our dreams visibly, so people can say, ‘Oh yeah, I know someone who is trans.’ When people have points of reference that are humanizing, that demystifies difference.”
Seeing Cox and Jenner everywhere blows my mind. If you grew up in the 90's like I did, the only place you saw transsexuals was on Jerry Springer or Maury Povich paraded like animals in front of screaming audiences under freak show titles. There were no people like me on TV to look to for guidance, and if there were they were always cast in a negative light. It wasn't until I saw trans actress Candis Cayne twirl across the screen that I thought to myself, "I don't know how she looks like that but that's what I want to be!'
I came up in the middle class suburbs of Denver knowing from a young age I was different from other kids. It was through my involvement in local GLBT youth support groups that I discovered drag and you couldn't keep me out of it. I remember my mom asking me at the time, "Do you want to be a woman?" I replied "No!" but began to ask myself, "Could I"?
That question was answered years later when at fifteen a friend told me about, and dispensed to me, my first hormone pills. I finally had to sit my mother down and she said to me, "You’re my child regardless, I love you and if you’re going to do this you are going to do it right—with a doctor—and if you’re going to be a woman you need to stop cussing like a sailor." Thus began my path of regular hormone injections, testosterone blockers, painful laser hair removal, and, at eighteen, breast augmentation.
Transitioning at a young age gave me time to settle into myself and indeed find my place in the world. That's not to say it was all smooth sailing. I dealt with bullying, addiction, severe depression, an abusive stepfather that forced me out of the house at thirteen, homelessness and rejection, couch surfing alongside queens, drug dealers, prostitutes and everything in between just to survive.
If it wasn't for a few friends stepping in to take a firm hand in my life I probably wouldn't be alive to write this. They provided a family when I needed one. Eventually I repaired the relationships with my birth family and through it all they love me, accept me and continue to support me. I'm beyond fortunate but many aren't so lucky, nor do they have the access to the doctors and quality medical care to help them look on the outside how they feel inside.
Like I said it hasn't been smooth sailing. I’ve actually had the experience of being ID’ed before being allowed to use the lady’s room—in, of all places, a gay bar. After I reported the incident, the bar owner not only apologized but introduced sensitivity training for his staff on trans customers. Obviously there is a lot to unpack there for another time but because I spoke up I made things better for everyone else. This is why Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair is so important.
We need more trans people from all backgrounds to stand up and share their stories with the world, to show that there is hope, love and success after you transition. That's why I'm sharing my stories. Thanks to hers, I can envision a future full of possibility in places I never dreamed I could go… and I'm dreaming big!
Tune into Caitlyn Jenner's new series I Am Cait premiering July 26 on E! For trans support visit www.transequality.org; for more information on the #InstaPride project and Happy Hippy Foundation visit www.happyhippies.org; and follow Aurora on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Tumbler/AuroraSexton