Out and proud as transgender
Published Thursday, 15-Jul-2010 in issue 1177
I began a social transition from male-to-female back in 2003. During puberty it had become clear to me that I was developing the wrong secondary sex characteristics, I knew I was really female. Before fourteen, I had spent my prepubescent years knowing something felt off about me, but I couldn’t put a finger on what the something different was. But, at fourteen I figured it out.
Then I discounted what I knew about myself as a false reality.
After spending the spring and summer years of my life struggling against feelings that my genitalia and secondary sex characteristics didn’t quite line up with my gender identity, at age forty-three - at the beginning of the autumn of my life - I finally embraced what I had known deep down in my life since I was fourteen. I embraced that I was a transsexual. The “when” of transitioning is half the reason why I chose the name Autumn for myself.
Within three months of coming out, I found other trans people in San Diego. I realized that being a transsexual wasn’t the only way to be transgender. There were those who identified as genderqueer, as crossdressers, and even some drag performers identified as transgender. I became part of the transgender community and I embraced the transgender identity.
In 2003, the year I came out here in San Diego, California’s Fair Housing and Employment Act (FEHA) did not explicitly protect trans people from discrimination.
But, people at Equality California and the Transgender Law Center, with the sponsorship of then Assemblymember Mark Leno, had already been working on a Gender Nondiscrimination Act. In 2003, that bill was signed into law by then Governor Davis. So since early 2004, California’s FEHA explicitly protects transgender people from employment and housing discrimination.
While I was navigating through those first difficult months of my social transition from male-to-female, community activists had already been working to make my life better, as well as working to make it better for all other transgender Californians. I owe those community activists who came before me, those gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) community activists - a hell of a lot. I discovered that I wasn’t really part of the transgender community, but I was really part of the transgender subcommunity of the GLBT community.
Most of us gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community members owe those who came before us. All of what rights and what freedoms that we, as members of that broad and diverse GLBT community have, were fought for by community activists. For many of us, those rights were fought for by community activists who came before us.
How do I thank those who came before us who worked so hard for our freedom and equality? Well, I choose to act to further justice for those in our broad and diverse GLBT community who will be coming after us. In other words, I thank those community activists who came before me by paying forward their efforts on my behalf with efforts of my own on the behalf of my future siblings in the GLBT community.
So, I’ve lobbied legislators. I’ve marched against injustice. I’ve participated in direct actions with the intent of creating a legislative tension to further equality. I write about GLBT issues, and write to tell narratives about the community.
I strive to live up to the words of Cesar Chavez:
We are confident. We have ourselves. We know how to sacrifice. We know how to work. We know how to combat the forces that oppose us. But even more than that, we believe in the whole idea of justice. Justice is so much on our side, that that is going to see us through.
I’m proud to be transgender. I am also proud to be an American. I am proud to serve my broad, diverse, GLBT community in fighting for the freedom, equality, and justice that each of us deserve.
We are somebodies. We deserve equal rights.