Their Voices: UV Interview #2

Woman silhouette (cc0)

An Interview With a Person Currently in Transition

by Aspen Lofgren, Unspoken Voices

Q: Could you provide a short bio of yourself?

A: I am a 21-year-old, white college student currently studying Theatre Arts and CMR (Communication, Media, & Rhetoric). I am a senior this year working for the office of residential life on campus as a Residential Director. I love writing plays, film making, and acting/directing. I currently write & direct for the social justice troupe of Unspoken Voices.

Q: What pronouns do you use in reference to yourself?

A: She/her or they/them.

Q: How do you identify yourself? Include what these identities mean to you (regarding: gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and sexual orientation).

A: Trans woman/trans femme: To me this is a complicated identity that I don't fully understand or necessarily feel at the current moment. But it’s been a long time coming and I am so happy that I can accept myself for who I am and who I will be. You eventually just get sick of waiting for your life to begin and mine has just started again.

Non-binary girl? I have been seeing this expression and trying to embody it a lot because the more we question gender and its definitions/unspoken rules the more people will eventually be free to be who they want without being persecuted for “breaking the rules." With being an AMAB person I have found myself conforming to gender stereotypes in order to validate my gender identity. I have told several people who have asked or criticizing of my embracing femininity. “You have to wear the bra before you can burn it.”

AMAB (assigned male at birth): This has colored my experiences, especially in recent years and my relationships.  Throughout my life I experienced trans misogyny and cis sexism but up until about a month ago when I started researching and medically transitioning. A lot of who I am has come from being raised as a boy including some good things like confidence and courage but at the same time I internalized a lot of misogyny and toxic masculinity. Additionally, I know that I experience femininity and beauty standards in a different way than women or cis people in general.

Pansexual: For most of my life I knew I was different originally just thinking that I liked boys but as I was raised in a conservative religious family I hated myself and was disgusted/ashamed of my attraction. It wasn’t until coming to college that I started to accept my attractions and understood them as normal. Eventually, I came around to understanding that I liked all genders and all people. I am a firm believer that pansexuality is the trans-inclusive bisexual and is just an easier way to discuss queer identities.

Polyamorous: I have always questioned the traditional belief of soul mates and the idea of a partner being the only person you need in your life. When I was younger I would cheat and feel awful but be unable to be happy in any romantic relationship. To me it’s about freedom for both my partner and I, polyamory works and is ethical if both parties are aware and agree to the terms of the relationship. In my own experience this has created better communication and a more fulfilling life. I am currently in several open relationships that I feel are no less important than a monogamous partner, life is too short to limit yourself.

Q: Are you public with your identity/identities? :

A: I am not public about a lot of my identities because in part it's nobody's business but mine, and I don’t owe anyone an explanation of my many identities to everyone I meet. But I do welcome well-intentioned people asking questions and engaging in discussion.

Q: If so, when did you come out and how was that process for you?

A: I have recently come out as “gay” to my family and my family has not disowned me yet, but my sister recently told me that my mother told her to not tell anyone at our church. As well on my birthday: she begged that I not come out publicly (which I didn't plan on doing), because my sister’s graduation was coming up and she didn't want me to “steal the spotlight." On a lighter note I am currently out on campus and at work which has caused some very validating experience in being called by the correct pronouns and preferred name. So it’s complicated?!

Q: If not, please explain why.

A: My sister's graduation is in a week so I will update my answer after which I will no longer hide who I am. However, I plan to not come out directly if they want to know what’s going on they can ask me. I recently had an interesting experience of coming out to a family member that will never tell anyone, but also may not have even heard me. A very close relative had an aneurysm and died on 6/10/18 but before we pulled the plug, I told her when I had some alone time, and she is the only family member I have told thus far, because she was never going to see me grow into the woman I would become.

Q: What did your journey look like?

A: My journey was a long and strange one when it came to discovering who I am and being myself. When I was in high school, I just thought I wanted to wear what I wanted to, to not be constricted by unspoken rules. It was about that time when I first started painting my nails—mostly in blues and blacks. At that point, I thought I was just being myself and for a time I was happy with that.

I tried to keep my queerness a secret, something that I would intentionally ignore often doing this by jumping from one girlfriend/relationship to the next affirming my “straightness” with how many I was with or had been with. (I realized a while ago how shitty I was as a kid). Like I said tried to ignore queerness but I came to Morris for a visit and immediately fell in love with the school and the community, and eventually found myself looking slightly at queerness in general and effectively thinking about my own queerness. All the other schools I visited were expensive authoritarian religious schools that wanted me to play football & become a doctor just like my parents expected. However, Morris was different—they said I could be anything and that I should feed the passions that make me happy rather than follow the path laid out for me. (I'm still fascinated by the human body's many mysteries and secrets).

I started seriously dating in college and one of my partners put makeup on me and painted my nails, perhaps mostly as a joke. But that experience affected me viscerally and forced me to face my queerness that was bubbling to the surface in this new and accepting environment. For a while, I ran from this until another romantic partner reintroduced me to gay culture, taking me to drag shows and to meet their queer friends. One person I became romantically involved with… long story, short: over the course of those relationships I began to accept my homosexual desires as well as understand my polyamorous spirit.

Additionally, being in this environment and receiving positive reinforcement, I started to question gender in general, but also my own, and who I wanted to be in the future. Around this same time I came into contact with some amazing queer mentors that have guided and advised when necessary especially in terms of my gender, gender expression, and steps towards transition.

I am extremely lucky to have run into these people who have helped me to express what I had been afraid of, misunderstood, and hid from the world. With the help of these people I have reached out to professional help for both mental health and transitional support. As of June 16th, it will be a full month on HRT and have socially transitioned to my new name and pronouns at both work and school. I don't know what the future holds for me yet but I'm excited that I’m finally trying to be who I’m meant to be and I know deep down that no matter what, who I am is who I was always meant to be.

Q: What is a challenge you face as an LGTBQ+ individual?

A: Trans Misogyny & Cis sexism, for sure. One of the great challenges that I have faced and still face even in the LGBT community is embracing femininity, which in queer spaces appears to be affirming sexism—or worse—the patriarchy. There is a lot of policing as a trans person who isn’t as “womanly” as is expected of trans woman but entirely rejected by cis woman. It’s kind of a catch 22. If a trans woman wears makeup or a very feminine outfit then some people will say she is “trying too hard," or worse, that she is “conforming to the male gaze." But if she has a lazy day and doesn't apply herself in a way others believe she should, some people use that as an excuse to say, “See, she’s not a real woman” or “she’s not even trying." Those same people praise their cis girlfriends for not caring about her appearance, but lambast the trans woman.

Those are usually problems faced by trans woman with other women, but I also run into great issues with other men. Mostly anger or ridicule from the more ignorant types—because a trans woman reminds men that the line between masc & fem is not impassable, and in fact they are much closer than they would ever admit. An AMAB choosing to give up all their cis male privilege is extremely terrifying for the cis male who relies on his masculinity for purpose and direction.

Another experience I’ve had is dangerously curious people asking rude or inappropriate questions that they would never in their life ask a cis woman. Finally, as an early transitioning trans woman, dating and romantic relationships—especially in regards to male intimacy—have been extremely difficult. Being told by one very observant, but not very helpful trans woman, that I am “too masc for straight men to find attractive, and too femme for the masc seeking masc crowds in small towns."

Q: What has been the best experience you have had as an LGBTQ+ individual?

A: My best experience happened very recently, actually a week or two ago. I went to a going-away party for friend who was moving to the Twin Cities and I was only there briefly and everyone who had known me by my birth name had started to use my new and real name and pronouns. For the rest of the party there were minor mess ups; all of which unintentional and regretted, but I didn't have to correct anyone they just watched each other and told other people at the party and I was just allowed to be my new self. I felt so validated by people who had only known me as my birth name—and who I was before—it truly felt like a new me. I stayed up until dawn and watched the sunrise on a new day, and more importantly, on a new me.