Because I believed there was something wrong with me, I hid myself from any and all who might have been there for me, if they had only known how to be there for me. I have often wondered what would have happened if I had “come out,” as it were, when I was six years old. When I already knew who I was and who I had to be.
In the 1960s, when I might have first come out, the response would have been truly devastating. The world would have tried to “fix” me, instead of understanding the fact that no other person on the planet could possibly know more about my gender than I do. It would have resulted in my being exposed to the kind of psychotherapy that was the standard at the time. My ability to function in this world would have been permanently stolen from me.
Far too often, the kind of psychotherapy that was standard in the 1960s is still utilized today. Far too many people believe that being transgender is something that needs to be fixed. Far too real, is a world in which the decision to come out is a very personal debate between the need to live authentically and the dangers of doing so.
Sometimes I am asked if it frightens me to be open as a transgender woman. Yes, of course it does. But I will not hide. I am not ashamed of who I am. There is nothing wrong with being a transgender woman. I shall not allow someone’s lack of compassion and understanding to push me back into the closet. Darkness no longer has any hold on me. I have lived in the light of authenticity. Can’t go back. Won’t go back.
In truth, I am not frightened by being open as a transgender woman. I am frightened by a world that says I cannot be open as a transgender woman. But here’s the thing - the best way for me to help create a different world is to be who I am. And to tether my life, to the best of my ability, to kindness and love.
All of this having been said, another black transgender woman has been murdered, this time in Philadelphia. This brings the total number of known murders of trans women in 2015 in the “land of the free” to 21 - nearly all of them transgender women of color. These words are in honor of Kiesha. And every person who has been subjected to violence because we don’t all fit into those delusional boxes of male and female. Because the price of authenticity is sometimes death.
Every time I publicly identify myself as a transgender woman, I increase the likelihood that I will meet with violence. But I also believe that every time I publicly identify myself as a transgender woman, it makes it less likely that others will meet with violence. There are days when I wonder if this is true. Fortunately, there are more days when I know that it is true, and that transgender visibility is the most powerful tool we have to create change.
There are far too many people in this world for whom diversity of gender is used as a license for violence. A reason to marginalize that which they don’t understand. As justification to treat another human being as less than human.
Why come out? Because the price of authenticity is sometimes death. Because the price of the denial of authenticity is sometimes death. Because as hard as it has been to live openly as a transgender woman, it pales in comparison to how hard it was to pretend to be a man.
And yet, I know six-year-old human beings who are being encouraged to live authentically. Empowered to embrace their true identity. Enabled to participate in a life of less pain. The world is changing.
As long as there are transgender people who are willing to pay the price of authenticity, the march toward transgender acceptance will continue to move forward. Oh, but what a price to pay. l