Eastern PA Trans Equity Project is working on a project to document the history and stories of transgender folk in our service area through photographs and words. Stories and photos will be archived on our website and at the Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive at Muhlenberg College.
This is your opportunity to learn about the stories of transgender people. Their triumphs, their tragedies, their lives.
If you would like to participate in this project please contact us at info@PATransEquity.org using “Trans Stories Project” in the subject line of your email.
CLICK ON A PERSON’S NAME TO READ THEIR STORY
Greyson Wolf, 27
I met my little man, and it was love at first sight.
The greatest cure for depression, in my opinion, is a giant pile of boxer puppies. Following my grandmother’s boxer naming tradition, I had given him an “M” first name and the standard “Blue” middle name. Named in honor of my love of Elvis as I’d often say it was as close to Graceland as I’d ever get. He was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen and from the moment I looked at him, I knew it was never going to be the same again.
When I say that life seemed manageable for a few years, it was an understatement. I could only hurt for so long when I had that puppy, who would grow into an 85 lb. behemoth of a dog, at my side. Even when I didn’t know who I was, even when the suggestion that I was Memphis’ “mommy” provoked me into near panic attacks, I was still his human and that was all I needed.
Unfortunately, I lost Memphis Blue early this year. He was barely four years old and deserved so much more in life, but I have to believe he came to this world with a purpose and if it was to keep me around then he prevailed.
Being both autistic and a writer has made me an incredibly cerebral, literal person. It prevented me from living my true life for far too long. If I cannot see it or touch it or even understand its inner workings, I am left to doubt its existence. I carried this same opinion about being transgender.
While always respecting if not envying those with the bravery to come forward with their truth, I could never understand how the actualities were possible. It wasn’t until the moment that I stepped back and said that I truly do not need to understand every little thing about myself that I pulled down my walls and saw what was there before me this whole time
Florian Francis Spece, 25
I’m every part of gender, and nothing of it. I am everything a man and a woman are without being just that. I am beyond gender while being able to encompass all of its pieces and I love every second of embracing that.
Being young and trans hasn’t been easy. But as time goes on, I think it’ll become less of a fight and more of the surreal serendipity that queer love and coming into ourselves can be.
Heteronormativity is violent, and no one should feel forced to fit into a “norm” that is not their norm!
Being queer is normal. Being trans is normal. In fact, they are beautiful things.
When you find your Community, it feels like home where you never felt home before. You are not faking it. You are not being too much. You are you, and you deserve to find every part of that on your own terms.
Thimothea (everyone calls me “Thea”), 55
I have always felt like a female since I was a child. In my generation displaying anything out of the ordinary was not acceptable and caused me to be bullied and withdrawn. I didn’t love doing the things that little boys did. I loved playing with my sister’s dolls and playing dress up. I guess my family that I would just grow out of it.
When I was a teenager, I would often get frustrated because my body wasn’t changing the way my sister’s did. I always felt like I was in the wrong body. I had crushes on boys but had to suppress them because in those days you could be beaten or killed if you acted on them. Eventually I figured that perhaps I was gay and lived under that term because it seemed like it was the only option available for me. I could at least date men and try to find some happiness.
I eventually moved away from Pennsylvania because I no longer felt safe here and thought it was only a matter of time before something bad would happen to me. I couldn’t walk down the street without someone saying something nasty or hurtful. I eventuality moved to New Hampshire. I met my partner there and was with him for 15 years until he suddenly passed away. I was always the “wife” in any relationship I had ever been in and loved my partner in the same way a female loves a man.
Even though I did the best that I could, I always felt something was missing and I had a sadness about me I couldn’t figure out. I eventually figured out the problem. I was indeed a female. Every time I would look in the mirror, I recognized the person looking back at me, but it seemed foreign to me because he wasn’t who I was inside.
For me becoming a female was life or death. I could no longer exist in a male body. I either had to transition or check out of life.
Lucky for me New Hampshire has great resources for transgender individuals and laws in place to protect them from discrimination in housing, employment, health care, etc. New Hampshire may be a small state, but it’s very progressive towards LGBTQ issues compared to most places in the country.
I have been in transition for 2 years now. I must say my body has changed a lot from hormone therapy. For me it was very helpful coming out in an area that was accepting and supportive of my transition. In New Hampshire I am loved by so many people, and they often tell me that I am an inspiration and beautiful.
I laugh at the fact that I turn so many heads at my age, and I think part of that is because I am so happy and at peace with myself now. I look in the mirror now and love the female I have become.
I have recently moved back to Pennsylvania and it’s been interesting, because the attitude here towards LGBTQ people is not as open and welcoming as it was in New Hampshire.
Don’t get me wrong. I have met some wonderful people here, but I feel like I have to be on guard now. The statistics are very true regarding transgender people. Most of my family doesn’t want to get to know me. I was been raped about a year and a half ago, and I have experienced being homeless.
Yet, despite everything I have experienced in my life, I am so very happy to be the female I am now, and nothing can ever steal the joy that I feel.
When I began to live authentically as the man I knew myself to be, I wanted to choose a name that would reflect and manifest my true self. At first, I stuck with my former initials, H.A.B.
I went through name lists and attempted to assemble some sort of combination that would “capture” who I saw myself to be. I wanted something distinguished — not too preppy or too youthful. It also had to be musical, because as a writer that seemed critically important.
Then I thought about my own process as I assumed my masculine identity. Unlike Pinocchio, I would never be “a real boy.” Truth be told, I didn’t(don’t) WANT to be. My own experience as a man who had a girlhood, was socialized as a female, and weathered menopause is unique in and of itself. And powerful enough to honor – being TRANS is magical itself. How the hell could I pull all that together in a name?
So, there I was, a “not-woman,” a “not-man,” attempting to name myself. In so doing, I wanted to accept and embody the liminal in myself. I would be in a place neither black nor white.
GRAY! It suddenly hit me! “Gray” would be the perfect moniker. It was also auspicious that my father’s middle name was “Gray.” Had I been assigned male at birth I would already HAVE that name as the third boy in Dad’s line to carry the name “Byron Gray Barnes.”
But I needed more. I didn’t want to completely assume my father’s handed-down family name, because I was something different, something new. I was manifesting my own heritage and future tradition(s). I was, however, still my father’s son. “Gray’s” son. THAT sounded right. “Grayson!” The only issue I saw then was asking permission to use that name. I called my dad.
He was understandably tearful after that conversation, as I hadn’t yet told him what was going on with me, but he was also generously warm and accepting. He told me to use “Gray” as his gift to me.
That night I became “H. Grayson Barnes.” No first name, but I kept the first initial of the name I had carried previously, because that person had been the foundation for Grayson. I didn’t want to forget HER.
The very next day after my self-naming, I attended a meeting for all the faculty and staff for the community college I taught at. When I arrived, there was a printed name tag with my previous name waiting for me at the check-in table. I picked up a (serendipitously) gray Crayola marker off the table and scratched out my previous name. I printed “Grayson” on my tag instead. It certainly started a lot of conversations. “Well, let me tell you,” was my response. After the meeting convened that day, I marched up to the Vice President of Academics and announced that I wanted a new name plate for my office door.
I was amazed that “finding-the-name” gave me courage that surprised even me.
Since then, I have done my best to manifest the TRANSman that I am. Having my name sure helps. I feel like it embodies the scholarly, reflective, sensitive, compassionate person I am.
Corinne Goodwin, 61
I am an out, loud and proud woman of trans experience. I am an activist and an advocate for my community. I am also a human who has human vulnerabilities.
Recently my dentist hired a new assistant and during my last appointment she misgendered me multiple times in a conversation with the dentist about my procedure. In normal circumstances, I would correct someone immediately, but in this case, I had a mouth full of dental instruments, a rubber dam, and a drill that was running. So instead, I let it slide. That was a mistake.
Today, I had a follow-up appointment and once again, despite reinforcing my name and pronouns entering the exam room; despite the fact that I was wearing cute top, huge hoop earrings, and some fun Chuck Taylors with flowers on them; and despite that my name, pronouns, and gender marker are listed in my chart, this individual continued to misgender me.
Just like the last time, she waited until I was in the position of most vulnerability. She misgendered me relentlessly. The dentist did not correct her. Neither did I.
Humans – like most animals – tend to freeze, fight or fly when confronted with a threatening situation. Today, I did what many people of trans experience do. I froze, I panicked, and I chose to be meek instead of strong. Today, to my chagrin, I flew. I stopped by the store to buy chocolate so I could eat my feelings and then I cried the rest of the way home.
Misgendering is debilitation by a thousand papercuts.
So, I am writing this to remind myself that even a white, employed, insured, supported, and privileged woman can have her power stripped away.
I am writing this to remind myself that – like the rest of my Community – I am worth fighting for.
Don’t freeze, Corinne. Don’t flee, Corinne. Instead, stop, gather your strength, and fight. Because these battles – even the small ones – have meaning.
Viktoriah Marsh, 33
I strive to be a voice for transgender people who aren’t as boisterous and vocal as I can be.
While I’ve always been a very strong and brave person it wasn’t until I started attending events at my local LGBT Center that I realized I wasn’t the only person like myself. During that time, I met wonderful people who helped me become the beautiful butterfly that I am today. I will forever be grateful for them and always pay it forward to others like myself.
I had lived as someone else for 27 years but my coming out process was fairly simple. I have been a nurse’s assistant since 2006 and I had a few incidents when I first started presenting as a woman full-time but now, I’m very comfortable. All my documents match my gender presentation so its much simpler. I regret not transitioning sooner but everything played out exactly how the universe intended it to.
I am proud of having the strength and courage to live my authentic life.
If I could talk to my younger self I would say “You’re going to be fine You’re stronger than you realize and there’s a lot of people who depend on your strength.”
To young people I say “Never give up on yourself. It may seem hard, but it definitely gets easier. Just remember to love and respect yourself and others will follow accordingly.”
As a younger trans-masculine person who is also a person of color with other intersecting identities, there’s so many stores I want to share but one that I don’t think that gets enough attention is that of our Trans role models. The people who are so inspirational in our local communities.
For me, when I went away for my undergraduate college career, I ended up meeting trans individuals who I consider as strong role models and who mentored me in my rollercoaster of self-discovery of my transgender identity.
Almost immediately after starting my freshman year I found some of these friends. I know for a fact I wouldn’t be here today without them.
This relationship was very close to that of father and son – jokingly at times but it always had a very caring nature to it. They invited me to hang out with them whether it was at campus events, spending time to get food, doing homework, or just relaxing outside. They provided a space where we could simply exist as trans people.
Even with the ever-present homophobia and transphobia on campus, my most peaceful and happiest times of being a trans person have been when I was around my “dads.” They were the ones who helped to assure our small yet thriving community on campus.
This type of mentor/friendship is something I continue today. I have a strong bond with a slightly younger transgender friend I met in college – just like how my “dads” had for me!
My “dads” were there for me when my “real dad” wasn’t. They taught me that there are people who want to see you thrive and will help you to grow.
I can’t thank you enough Vaughn and James.
EJ Velez, 20
I’ve never been seen for who I am as a person.
When your own community thinks you don’t belong or says how do you truly know. I’m trans that’s that. I can’t stand that cis people push the idea I’m confused, or that some trans people don’t believe I can be trans let alone bi since I’m disabled.
I don’t fit in any where, but I don’t know who I am. I’m a person who was put in the wrong body, a person who has fought all odds and lived past what most would think would break you mentally.
I work hard, go to college and speak up for homeless youth. I may be an oddball, but I just want to be seen for who I am and not what labels can be used.
I have lost people I loved, friends, family and supporters but it’s ok since I’m still fighting.
I hate I wasn’t born in the right body.
At 18 is truly when I tried to figure what was wrong. Why I felt that something wasn’t right. I couldn’t understand why I felt I was missing a piece.
In August of 2020 I started T. As I go threw puberty again, I feel better this time around. It’s like that missing piece has been filled.
I hate I have to do extra steps to be the best me, but we all choose to make ourselves happy. Whether fillers, Botox, glasses or meds. Cis and trans people make choices. My choice is what saved my life.
Jamie Carla Fink, 41
I didn’t know I was trans until later in life. I just knew I was in the wrong body.
I have two children. One is a marine the other has signed to become a marine very proud of them both.
I have been married and divorced and have also been in other relationships. I used alcohol to deal with my inner hate of myself. Then I was given the chance to stop lying to myself and be free.
Coming out two years ago was both scary and easy. I never thought it was going to ever happen, but I had someone in my life that knew I had something hidden, and I knew it would be okay to tell them. When I did, the relief and freedom was amazing, but I was still scared and nervous because there were so many other people I had to tell.
The biggest a surprise was at the job that I have worked at for 21 year. I am a supervisor in Manufacturing and [after my name change] I went to the HR department to hand in my updated driver’s license that had the “F” in the sex column . I told them there were some changes to my updated license they looked down and went “Oh, I have known that and when you are ready to tell the rest of the company we will go through this together.”
Transition has positively impacted on me at my job. Yes, some employees don’t remember my name and use my dead name and wrong pronouns, but it is minimal. I still get the same respect from coworkers and other supervisors.
My advice is to be honest with yourself. Its OK to be nervous. Just remember, there are plenty of family, friends, and just plain strangers that will support you.
Amanda Hecker, 71
My story is not much different than any other life story, really. It’s boring, funny, interesting, frustrating, joyous, sad, rewarding, and, well you get the picture. It is and continues to be many things but one thing for sure; it is unique to me.
Being transgender has its own challenges. It’s so easy to let these challenges affect you in a less than positive way. Like many trans folk, this happened to me.
That is, until I met Jimmy (not his real name by the way). I was driving to work to begin my usual day as a secondary school teacher. It was a lovely spring day and I passed many students walking to school. But the beautiful weather couldn’t snap me out of my funk. I was going through one of my down times and I absolutely hated myself for being trans. The self-pity was palpable. Then I saw Jimmy.
Jimmy was a special needs student who was not only challenged cognitively but physically as well. His body was malformed and he was extremely short. I knew him from school, but only a little. While the other students were mostly walking to school in groups and laughing as kids do, Jimmy was alone. His head was down and he was walking slowly. I drove past him and continued on to school. But I couldn’t get him out of my mind. I knew that school was the very last place he wanted to be. Just another day of being teased and bullied by the other kids.
Quietly I said to myself, “Well Jim, looks like we all have problems.” But then I thought about it. The more I thought, the angrier I got at myself. How could I compare my situation to his? Every day, for the rest of his life, he was going to get out of bed in the morning, look in the mirror and realize that things were probably never going to get any better. He wasn’t going to get any smarter, wasn’t going to ever have a “normal” appearance, most likely was never going to have a great job or close friends. Yet, every day he went to school and did the best he could. Such courage he had. I had all the gifts that he lacked and still, I was feeling sorry for myself. The only challenge I had was that I had to wear a dress! Such a small thing when compared to Jimmy and others who are less fortunate.
That day I made a commitment to myself to make the best of the cards I have been dealt. From that day on, I seldom ever feel down. But when I do, I think of Jimmy. Jimmy changed my life – and he never even knew it.
Charlene Elizabeth Naugle, 39
I am a Network Technician for a local school district. It can be a tough job some days, even having to do tasks you would expect a contractor to normally do. There are easy days where all I have to do is computer work, such as simply organizing and sorting data, or running updates. We have department work uniforms, so transitioning at work was easy in that sense. I really don’t need to dress up, but that also has the counter effect of people still thinking you’re the other gender, or they aren’t sure; but that also helped me be able to switch to women’s uniforms without a lot of fuss.
I am also known by my artist / stage name of Sakura Ryoko. I like to create and listen to music. So, outside of my day job, I recently launched my own brand — Sakura Ryoko LLC. The goal for my business is to do just that — create music for myself and others; along with DJing and other related avenues for growth and networking in the Music industry.
the hardest part about coming out was accepting that I needed to do it. I had to get over the fear of what other people may think. I struggled with self image and low self-esteem for a long time until my transition. It’s like being in a cage built by your own mind,
I began my coming out process in 2019. I took my time and only moved whenever I felt comfortable taking things to the next step. I could feel more confident the better I was able to look and how well I seem to be able to fit in as a woman. Now, some of my friends mention how much confidence I seem to have, plus old friends and family are totally besides themselves with how much my mood has improved. My biggest regret with transitioning, is not embracing it earlier in life. Who knows where I would be by now if I did.
When I was younger, I recall some of my happiest moments were whenever I would do, normally “girly” things with my mom; such as going to and watching “girly” movies, going to flower shows, or raising butterflies in my room with her support. As I was transitioning, I was worried what she would say or might think, and if she would use religious concerns against me. But the truth is, when I came out to her, she told me that everything is okay & that she already knew what I was before I said anything. Her words were: “Mother’s know these things”. Not only was that comforting and helpful, but it also helped lay the groundwork for finding my inner “mother” in myself. Four simple words, yet so powerful…
For the longest time, I thought my greatest accomplishment was getting my college degree or beating homelessness. But the older I got – as I began to live authentically as Jeremy – I realized that my mental health also started to get better. For the first time in my life, I began to really love myself, unconditionally.
Anyone can work towards a career, and build towards material items; however, living in fear of society and hating myself was slowly tearing my soul apart. Living openly as a transman, makes me proud to hold my head high and love parts of me I had grew to hate. That is my greatest accomplishment.
If I could write a letter to myself, I would say that the obstacles you have had to overcome may seem too hard to bear. Every loss may have seemed like the end of the world, but it has made you stronger for the next battle.
The loss of your father felt like your world crumbling, but it made you strong enough to not cry many homeless and hungry nights. Your homelessness may have felt like you were isolated from the world, but it gave you the strength to fight your agoraphobia each day. Your medical struggles and chronic illnesses may have seemed like never-ending losses and frustrating hospital stays, but it has made you strong enough to overcome just about anything.
You see, we may not understand our struggles when we go through them, but once we overcome them, we see just how far we have grown.
We only get one life, don’t waste it being fearful. The journey turns out amazing!
Master Khrys Exposito, 48
He/she/they; with masc. terms of respect such as “Sir”
I was born a free spirit.
Back in the early 70’s there was nothing know about gender identification. You were either born a boy or a girl based solely on your external genitals. I was assigned female at birth yet looking at pictures of me as a child you could see that I was not cut from the same cloth as my conservative, nuclear, monogamous, Catholic and Caucasian family.
My folks never thought about using a pronoun other than “She” for me, but they did allow me to express myself freely. I wore loud patterns. I preferred my Yankees jacket and anything with fringe. I stayed away from anything girlie or pink and, of I was able to, I wore unisex clothing. I did not feel I was born to be a boy. Rather, I felt that this was my first life born as a girl.
In the 90’s, when I became a mother of my own, I decided that I was going to raise my children in a gender-fluid home. In my home there were no rules for what girls do and what boys do. There were no girl toys or boy toys, and it was offensive for other to insist upon it.
Over time my family grew – not by blood, but by choice – to include siblings, children, and family with no biological ties. My home became a free expression zone. Gender expression was fluid. Pronouns were honored. Sexual orientation was discussed openly, and as one of my children said, “there were no closets to come out of in our house.”
This past year – the pandemic year – my home has been gifted the opportunity to support another generation of teens. This younger generation has been quoted as saying “I live in a gay house. It’s Pride everyday here.” I can’t wait to see what the safety of this Queer House gifts these teens as they mature and enter the world.
This is my story. It spans generations and shows that the transgender story isn’t always the battle of one person against the world. It shows that we can create safe ground for others to thrive upon.
This is my queer, trans-affirming, loving and supportive family. Family is made. Family is chosen.
I was born Anthony Mark Shoemaker. I was adopted at 18-months old and became Joseph Antonaccio. By the age of 6 I knew I was different. When I asked for a bikini like the girl next door had I was told “no,” because I was a boy and boys had a penis and girls had a vagina.
My cousin Susan was a lesbian and she seemed quite lonely. My other cousin Robert was gay and known as a sissy. The boys wouldn’t play with him because he was a sissy and the girls wouldn’t play with him because he was a boy. I made up my mind I wasn’t going to let my dirty little secret out.
Holding this secret led me down a dark and ugly road involving drugs, violence and other mayhem. There was also a lot of tragedy due to the drugs but there were some bright spots including my 3 children.
In 1985 I met a girl named Andrea and we fell in love. 4 1/2 years later we broke up, but in 2007 Andrea contacted me and we got back together. One night out of the blue she said to me, “It’s ok to be who you really are. It’s ok to be a girl.” I played it off nonchalant and said you don’t know what you’re talking about, but over the next 3 years she allowed me to experiment with who I really wanted to be. Unfortunately, the drug life we were living got out of control and took over. Andrea died in my arms of an overdose. I went even further down a dark and ugly rabbit hole for a very long time.
Sometime later, I felt the only way to honor Andrea’s memory was to look at who I truly was. I bought a wig, a few dresses and went from Joe to Josie but there was still something missing. With the help a few friends and my Doctor, I started HRT. I have sincecompleted a legal name change and had breast augmentation surgery, which has helped me achieve becoming the true me that I am now.
It is now 6 years later and I can finally say I’m happy for the first time in my life. I like who I am today. I have remarried and am working to get my children back in my life. It has been a long and painful road, but I wouldn’t trade it for all the things in the world.
Spouse of Trans Woman
I am the wife of a trans woman and ironically it was she who helped me come out of the closet as I have always been attracted to trans women.
Growing up when I did, the word transgender wasn’t ever used. “Tranny” was the very least of the pejoratives used to describe these people. They were to be considered odd at best, and freaks at worst. So, what did it say about me that I was attracted to them? It’s funny, you can say you like blondes, mustaches, blue eyes, etc. and ok it’s your preference but say you are attracted to trans people and you’re a weirdo, into a kink or just plain disgusting.
I met Josie at a local Buddhist prayer meeting in June 2015. I thought she was cute right away and boom, there was this old familiar shame. So, I kept my feelings to myself. Life had other plans though.
A mutual friend asked if I’d give her a ride to Pride in Philadelphia. I agreed and from the moment we started chatting I felt like we’d always known each other. It felt warm and familiar. The conversation was relaxed and fun. She felt like home and that terrified me. What did this say about me and what would people think?
Before the parade she asked to stop for coffee at the local WaWa. She was getting ready to get out of the car and I almost jumped on her to stop her. As a cis woman all I ever heard was trans women were in danger. Trans women get attacked, beaten, raped and murdered. I was terrified for her, but she wasn’t scared, and she wasn’t shrinking back in apology for who and what she was.
As our relationship grew, I educated myself. I asked questions and got to know many trans people, not as “trans people,” but as people. Josie and our dear friends at our support group for transgender people and their families have taught me more about the freedom and beauty of living true to oneself than anyone else.
Josie and I have been together 6 years and married for 4.5 years. Every day she shows me how wonderful it can be when you live true to yourself and to be proud of who you are. I look forward to many more years together with this amazing human being.
Veronika Michelle Charpentier, 48
I am a proud transgender woman.
I am also a certified recovery specialist and I work in a drug and alcohol rehab facility. I am working on getting my degree in psychology specializing in addiction.
I knew that I was female from as early a time as I can remember. From about age 4.
Being born in the early 70’s, it was a time where acceptance and understanding of being transgender was not a thing. I was bullied, outcast, and otherwise tormented by my family and society.
I had to learn to adapt to a male role that was both foreign and uncomfortable. I failed.
I developed severe depression, PTSD, and developed a substance abuse disorder. As a result, I made many attempts to end my life.
Transitioning into the woman I am today has literally saved my life and I now help others who struggle and fight so that those that follow won’t have to struggle like I have.
Christine Anne Penn
I have felt female for as long as I can remember, but I wasn’t born that way. I was assigned male at birth and lived the first part of my life as a male. It was a life of questioning why I was the way I was, what I could do to fix it, and then being too scared to change.
I put my personal happiness on hold for the sake of others for a long time. Many people did not want me to change and heavily influenced me to delay or cancel any plans to transition. So, not only didn’t I have the courage to go through with the change, but also was unable to stand up and go against the will of others.
Still, there were many proud moments along the way. I’m proud of my kids and the family I help create. I’m proud of all the family trips we took and the fun we had, and I am proud to have been able to patent some of my ideas and establish myself as an expert in my field of work.
I am not proud of all the time I spent in bars getting drunk and smoking too much in order to distract me from my problems and I am not proud of the toll some of these things took on my body. Ultimately, I knew what was best for me and transitioned to my new life, taking it also as an opportunity for rebirth.
I have returned to my athletic roots and healthier behaviors. I jumped at the chance to be a member of the first all transgender sports team – the Trans National Women’s Cycling Team. I am extremely proud of where my cycling career has gone ever since. I would have never dreamt that I would have a racing license, and the relationships cycling has afforded me.
I am proud of the opportunities transition has given me to educate and influence others. I’m proud of the stories I have published about my life. I am proud that I have had surgeries I could only have dreamt about as a kid and how I made the miracles I prayed for come true. I’m proud of the relationships I have with the new women friends in my life. I now have even more things to be proud of in my life…
Transitioning to living my life as the woman I always was has been the best choice I could have ever made.
One of my deepest regrets is staying in the closet for as long as I did. I look at this picture and thank God for giving me the strength for going through this transition, because I never would have been as happy as I am now!
When I was five years old, it hit me like a freight train. I knew being a boy was not someone I was meant to be.
I grew up in a household that wasn’t accepting of individuals in the LGBTQ community. So, in fear of being bullied by my six brothers and two sisters, I held back. I lived my whole life as a lie until I was twenty-eight years old.
For one, I never thought that I could ever find the courage to start this transition or would I ever look pretty. But as time went on, I learned that as I started to transition, I started becoming a better version of myself. I am a happier, brighter person. I have many friends that are caring and loving. I have a beautiful wife and a child.
Yes, I may have lost my actual family, but the new family I’ve made is so much better because I don’t have to lie to myself to feel loved.
Since I’ve had my gender confirmation surgery, I’ve felt this huge relief. It has made me see the wonderful things in life and see that not everything in my life has to do with my transition. It has made me see who I am.
Yes, I’m a transgender woman, but I am also a gardener, a pyrotechnic, a mother, a wife, and so much more.
My name is Rylan, I am 31 year old transgender female from East Greenville PA. I chose the name Rylan Christine because I wanted to choose a name that I liked and was close to my dead name, so it would be easier for everyone to remember. I use she/her pronouns. I wanted to share my story with you in my transition from male to female.
Growing up I always knew there was something different about me. I always knew I hated being male and loved female clothes, makeup, etc. but I didn’t know what it meant. Later, when I got older, I learned what it means to be transgender and I knew that was me.
I always tried to hide it by being that “man” that appeases everyone. I put everyone before myself. At the age of 21 I was ready to come out everyone and be the real me, but then I met my future ex wife, who I fell absolutely in love with. I wanted to make her happy and tried to become that manly man for her and her family.
Fast forward 7 years, I couldn’t handle it anymore. On the outside I was a happy jokey, person that made everyone laugh, but on the inside it was so dark, I felt dead – just black and depression. I couldn’t take it anymore.
I finally came out to my ex, which was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever had to do, because I didn’t want to break her heart. It was the toughest decision I’ve made but, it saved us both. We tried to make it work but 2 years later it was over. We’re still best of friends though and will always have love for one another.
I have had a lot of ups and downs in my transition and have dysphoria. I am constantly in my head about not looking cis and not passing. But, I get encouragement from my amazing fiancé, who loves me and thinks I’m the most beautiful girl in the world. She is my rock.
My friends and family have also given me a lot of encouragement and tons of support for me, they love me for me. My mom once told me, she hates that I waited for so long because she treated me like a boy for all my life until I came out, and how she feels bad that she didn’t know so that she could treat me like the girl I’ve always been on the inside.
I am not ashamed of being transgender. I am proud of who I am. If I never came out I don’t know if I would have had a future. Being my true self has saved my life and it has made me love life.
I don’t regret my life before coming out because it taught me lessons to become a better person and become a better future wife.
A lot of people love to take pride in being normal. I do not. I have joked by saying ‘normal is boring’. In reality, for the longest time, I was normal. I spent my life trying to fit in to the cookie cut out of what “Young-white-male society” wanted me to become. I grew up in rural Northwest PA, I went to High School in the mid-late 2000s, and even though I claimed to be normal, I just didn’t quite fit in.
During my high school years, in a rural area, the term Transgender wasn’t something that was just common knowledge. When I finally learned and then came to terms with who I am, I had lost 24 years of being my true self. I didn’t leave a moment to waste. I am now a 27 year old, no-op female. I’m in a loving committed relationship with a wonderful supportive woman. I am happier, healthier, and more determined to make real change. I am currently running to be a State Senator. My goal is to make real and lasting change across Pennsylvania, to change the conversation about the LGBTQI+ population, & make a world that I am proud of for future generations.
My lack of understanding blinded me to living a life of happiness. This Senate Campaign is my proudest achievement to date: I am able to give a voice to all the people in my district.
The one thing I never intended to do, turned out to be the thing that now motivates me to try my hardest. My race has inspired young people to live their true selves, I am told that students across my district are rooting for me. They root for me because they can see themselves in my words and in my actions trying to make real change.
Most of my District is rural farm country, and I’ve been told it that I’m attempting the impossible. What most people don’t realize, is that my life should have been impossible. Growing up, society told me that my existence was impossible, but from a young age we are told we can be anything. As a child, one of my teachers wanted to hold me back because my imagination was too wild, yet that imagination is what makes me believe anything is possible. At 17, I was told there was no way I would survive basic training to get into the Army, yet I proudly served 8 years and left on my own terms. At 24, I was told there were only 2 genders, and yet here I am living my best life as my true self.
I have defied the impossible all my life and now, I’m seeing how my actions can influence those around me to do and be better. It is one of the greatest feelings in the world, and I cannot wait to see where the impossible takes me next.
Robin Gow, 25
They, He, Ze/Hir
Sometimes I’m a man. Sometimes nonbinary. “Genderqueer” is the term that I think best describes my gender.
I’m a poet and I think I was drawn to poetry because I feel it is the form of writing that most locates and celebrates language’s limits. Through absurd and surreal imagery, I can unpack the complexities of my identities and my gender. Poetry allows space for holding conflicting truths side-by-side like the joy I sometimes felt pretending to be a girl and the also the entrapment I felt living as that gender or the gender-euphoria I experienced doing sex work as a trans man and simultaneously the shame around sexuality and gender transgression sewn into me from my Catholic up-bringing.
I’ve spent a lot of my life as a trans person trying to find words and labels to explain how I experience gender and I’m at a place now where I embrace the messiness of my gender. I love that often my gender is a mystery even to myself.
I love being trans. It feels like a gift to experience different forms of embodiment. Obviously, there’s a lot that’s hard about rejecting what boxes society stuffs us into but I am sick of reciting my own litany of transphobic experiences to try to get cis people to believe our struggles are real.
Part of what I love about my transness is that it feels like a form of permission to be as fluid and ever-changing as I want to be and not just in my gender but in my creative work and my relationships to my identities. I struggled with my gender a lot before I came to terms with this piece of my transness.
I also think being trans has helped me embrace myself as an autistic person because my trans community has taught me to question what society deems “normal” or “right” ways of existing.
I love wearing acrylic nails because they are dual functioning: they’re glamorous and the perfect stim toy.
I recently was asked by my fiancé about my trans journey and realized it wasn’t something people usually asked me.
I identify as a trans non-binary lesbian and usually get lots of questions regarding my sexuality, but almost never about my gender identity except to explain what it is.
I recounted for her all those years thinking that I thought I might be a trans-man, but never felt 100% like that was the truth. Then when I was a sophomore at university, I saw a character in a web series on YouTube who was non-binary. It was the first time I had ever heard the term, but I immediately felt like that was who I was. After doing some research, I had finally found the gender identity that fits me. I have since then been living out and proud.
I have been lucky enough to work with a diverse group of people through my career and do my best everyday to educate those who may not know anything about the LGBTQ+ community and have questions that they may have been too afraid to ask because they have not had the opportunity to learn the appropriate way to ask the questions they have.
I also try to create a safe space for others like me, who may not have been fortunate enough to be out in the workplace because they felt alone or like there would not be someone there to stand up for them around other team members who are not respectful of their gender identity/expression or sexuality.
My journey is a little different than others. That’s what made me decide to document it here. I am closing in on 60 years old and still not out to the whole world. It’s been a long, slow process but today I can accept that as long as I keep moving forward.
Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s was a totally different time. I always knew I was different in some way, but also was taught to not show my feelings if they didn’t fit the standard PA Dutch male. I still to this day remember being at a funeral for a family member when I was in my late teens. I started to cry and got the “the look” from my father. The look of “you shouldn’t be crying”, so I stuffed it inside. Just like I stuffed every other feeling for most of my life.
I hid those feelings for a long time. Through almost 30 years of marriage. About 3 years ago, my wife left me for reasons other than what is described here. At this point my son was away at college, so I decided to express how I really felt for the first time. It started slowly by going to a few safe events at local bars. Slowly I became more and more comfortable. It was also at this time that I started to become aware of how I felt. I became more aware of who I am and, just as importantly, who I was not.
Growing up we didn’t have terms like transgender or non-binary. I simply thought I was a cross-dresser. My image of that was based on old TV shows where it was usually used for comedic purposes. As I became more aware of my true self, I realized that wasn’t me. I started therapy sessions to try and understand what was honestly in my heart. It is still a work in progress and I’m still not 100% sure of how I would define myself, but now I know this is the true me and am beginning to finally feel happiness.
I do know that I feel better out in the world as a trans woman than I hardly ever felt before. Today it’s the little things that make a difference. Not getting all dressed up to go out at night, but interacting with the world on a Saturday afternoon while wearing sneakers, jeans and a cute top. I still like a cute top, no matter how casual the day!
I also have been sober since 1994. Going to meetings as my true self has enhanced my sobriety. One saying I heard for years was “we are only as sick as our secrets”.
When I look back on my life, I wouldn’t change a thing. Yes, I put myself through years of stress and unhappiness by hiding. But those years made my son the fine young man he is today and I couldn’t be prouder. But now it is finally time for me to try and be as happy as possible with the rest of my life.
Charlotte Stasio, 35
Something I am always careful to say is that I am but one person who happens to be trans, so I can only tell you what things are like from my perspective. But, I wouldn’t want to be anything other than I am – a proud transgender woman!
It was 2013 when I came out and began the very public process of gender transition. At age 27, I worried that it was “too late” and I would never be accepted as my true gender identity.
Now, I look back on that time with sympathy for myself. For many of us who transition, it can be so hard to imagine a future where we become who we are truly meant to be. Now I know that it is not about looking a certain way or getting a particular surgery, but bravely asserting your gender identity on your terms. I am very fortunate to have an amazing wife and support system, but I certainly had my ups and downs. Many are not so privileged. Despite great advancements in recent decades, trans people the world over suffer needlessly. I strive to fight such unfairness with the advantages I possess.
I like to say we as trans people lead “examined lives.” We tend to have deep insight into the human condition and don’t take anything having to do with our expression for granted. We also deal with plenty of ignorance or outright malice – so it helps to be strong (although such resilience can take a toll). There is a reason why we have a kinship with our trans siblings. I feel lucky to know and care for many such wonderful souls.
My career has taken me many places, but I am so proud to now be Director of Operations at a company that is on a mission to advance access and inclusion in emergency management. Our preparedness and training work helps populations like trans people retain their body autonomy and forge positive interactions with responders during emergency situations. I am incredibly proud of this work and I know my perspective as a trans woman is valued and seen as an advantage.
I don’t know if I ever met a trans woman in a director-level position throughout my work history, but I am one now.
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