When I first began my journey of understanding the Trans experience, I came across a post on Facebook and the person who wrote it was saying how she was receiving negative messages from other Trans women in the community. The encounter happened on a dating app and because a response was not given quick enough, she began to call her things like “ugly” and “fat.” Thankfully, she received an abundance of support from many friends on Facebook, who we all believe otherwise. The person who wrote this post was Pat J. Lutz, otherwise known as “Lust” on the stage.
When I read this post, I was astonished to be frank. In my mind, I never thought Trans members would be hurtful or negative toward each other because of the similar experiences that each have and are continuing to face — but then I thought to myself, “Well, why do Gay people hate on other Gay people or Lesbians hate on other Lesbians?” Not exactly the same but I do feel that the question is an important one to ask.
I remember my first awakening when I met a Trans person. Urban MO’s was hosting “Country Night” on Thursdays where people were able to learn line dances, mingle, partner dance, and just enjoy the atmosphere. I met many people participating and eventually working the event but there was a specific person who I thought was so attractive, nice, had an amazing smile, and just all-around sweet. We became friends on Facebook and, of course, I did what anyone with a crush did: I stalked him and looked through all of his pictures and posts. While scrolling through his pictures, there was one of him holding a Trans flag and thinking nothing of it, my reaction was, “Oh, that’s cool. He supports the Trans community,” but as I began to keep going through his pictures, I started piecing together that he was, in fact, Trans. I cannot over exaggerate when I say that my mind was blown. My brains were all over the walls. I didn’t know how to handle my feelings because I had never been attracted to a Trans person before, let alone even had very many encounters but I knew that he was a great person, and I did not want him feeling uncomfortable about expressing himself to the fullest. I jumped on Google and just started researching everything! I did not know what I was looking for, but I just began to educate myself so that I could at least start from somewhere. Till this day, we are great friends, and he has actually been one of the people who I have interviewed for a web series I am creating about understanding the Trans experience because writing one article about everything I have learned and experienced is just not enough. His name is Noah Ray Sundell and I am so thankful to have someone like him in my life.
As I mentioned earlier, I saw the post from Lutz and wanted to educate myself on the Trans community. I created a Facebook post calling on our community’s Trans members to see if they would be willing to do an hour-long interview with me so I could ask questions that I felt were important and pertained to the experience a Trans person may go through. I asked each person if I had their permission to record the interview and if they were uncomfortable answering any questions, they need not answer. I was surprised that I got quite the response from people who were interested in sharing their story with me. The amazing people that I had the pleasure of interviewing were:
Pat J. Lutz
Noah Ray Sundell
Bella Donna Rose
I had the pleasure of talking to all these great people and learned so much about many different aspects of the Trans community and the Trans experience but the main thing I learned and want to emphasize is: Every person has their own experience. Some stories had their similarities, of course, but every story was different. Every person has their own authentic experience when it comes to navigating life and being a Trans person adds an extra layer of challenges and, hopefully, victories!
I also picked up some handy verbiage that I had never really heard much until it came to discussing the Trans community. One example is “Clocking or Passing,” which are opposite standards of how a Trans person looks according to the gender they are transitioning to. From what I understand, “Clocking” a person means you can tell by features of the body that the person may have transitioned or is in the process, while “Passing” is to say that their features match the transitioned gender. It’s very dry and offensive phrasing that is still being used unfortunately.
Another one I was not familiar with was the “dead name.” This means that when a person decides to change their name to match their new identity, the old name becomes the “dead name.” Apparently, many Trans people experience being dead named by co-workers, families, and even friends who refuse to use the identifying name that the person gave themselves.
One thing that we definitely need to understand is that gender roles and gender identity do not have a specific look. No one looks like the perfect human because there are so many shapes, size, colors, physical characteristics, etc. that go into a person’s identity. How a person looks should not matter how they identify themselves. Let us normalize asking people their pronouns and not feeling offended when someone does.
Lastly, all of the people that I was able to speak with had a common answer to one question that I asked. The question was, “Would you be OK with a person who you did not necessarily know but genuinely wanted to understand the Trans experience asking you questions as long as they were not disrespectful?” Of course, there is a time and a place for everything, and no one owes you their time, but for the most part, each person would be happy to share their story if the environment and company is safe and the time calls for it. If you have not had the opportunity to get to know a person who is Trans like I did, I encourage you to venture out and educate yourself. You will meet fantastic, strong people along the way and learn so much that you didn’t know, but should!