“Power, freedom, confidence, community, self-love, gratitude”
I was privileged to participate in the raising of the Transgender Flag over Hillcrest on Monday, March 29, 2021. It was the Transgender Day of Visibility and our small group proudly raised our flag, our symbol. It always makes me so proud to look up and see something that represents the Transgender community. It is flying in the breeze for all to see. So many folks in Hillcrest do not know this is the Transgender Flag. So, every time it goes up, we get to educate more of our community. I firmly believe that education is the key to everything. We can erase transphobia or homophobia by being open about who we are and proud of that identity. We can have conversations with folks who still do not understand. The most powerful tool we have, I believe, is just to tell our stories. All of us have a very powerful position when we share honestly and openly.
Transgender Day of Visibility also reminds us of those who cannot come out. Across the globe, there are so many people in countries and cities where the act of coming out and being visible could mean grave physical harm or result in them being thrown out of their homes and denounced by their families. I come out for them; for all who are suffering in silence. It is such a sad statement that in 2021 the hate is still alive and well.
Some folks at the flag-raising offered their words about what the day meant to them. Words such as “power,” “freedom,” “confidence,” “community,” “self-love,” and “gratitude” were used. Being visible is such an empowering force. So many of us had to hide in the proverbial closet for far too many years. Now they look to their peers for support and advice. But the most important gift we give ourselves is community.
When I first started out, I didn’t know there was community. I started my transition in 2001 with a name change. I had been waiting for that day for the previous three years. My transition kept getting sidetracked by life. The day I appeared in court for the name change was a very scary day. I went alone as I had not yet discovered community. When I walked out of that court room as Connor Maddocks, my heart was jumping; I hadn’t felt so good about anything in a very long time. It was official: I was on my way. At that time, I could not do a gender change because they required full sex reassignment surgery and a letter from a surgeon to verify it. That would have to wait.
I began to research Transgender groups, meetings — anything I could find. My therapist, who had not given me the OK to start hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, had encouraged me to find community. My first stop was a wonderful group who met in San Jose, near where I was living at the time. When I walked in, I was surprised to see only women there. They welcomed me graciously and then I was asked how long I had been transitioning. I told them I was just getting started. They were all looking at me with strange expressions on their faces. Finally, someone said, “You look so amazing for so early in your transition, tell us your secret.” I pondered this for a minute and it suddenly dawned on me that they thought I was a Trans woman. My face became very red and I nervously told them that I was going the opposite direction. I got up to leave and thanked them for being so gracious. They immediately stopped me and said, “You don’t have to leave; we would like you to stay.” Needless to say, I was trembling in my boots and I believe they picked up on this pretty quick. The next thing I knew, one brought me cookies and another coffee. Here, have a napkin, a plate. Have more cookies. Well, it so took me by surprise that I numbly sat down and ate some cookies.
As the meeting went on, I relaxed because these wonderful ladies took me in and acknowledged who I was. I will never forget the kindness and support they showed me. It was my first lesson in community. They certainly got me off to a good start. I never did return to that group, even though they all told me I was more than welcome. I needed to find my people. If they were out there, I was determined to find them.
After talking more with my therapist and doing some intense research via the internet, I came across a group that met in San Francisco. It sounded too good to be true. Trans men meeting together and even bringing their significant others to group. I left early to get there on time. But of course, when I got there, I was too shy to go inside. I paced back and forth a bit down the street, with my mind admonishing me for being so silly and then my other mind telling me I had every right to be scared and I should go home. Fate was to step in as another Trans guy was walking up the street to go to the meeting and invited me in. Now I was stuck, my heart racing, I quickly followed him in before the invitation was rescinded. After all, I hadn’t even started hormones yet.
As I stepped inside, he told me that the building was a co-op collaborative. Small spaces with names on each strip of floor of so many different kinds of Queer organizations. At the meeting space, more than 20 people were all sitting in their chairs waiting for the meeting to start. I found a seat that would give me the least amount of attention and watched. I confirmed by looking at the participants that Trans guys had a lot of cisgender supporters. All these good-looking guys here to help us poor little noobs. But as the meeting progressed and my eyes became wider and wider, it dawned on me that these gentlemen were ALL Trans men. I had never met another Trans guy in person. They had muscles, beards, mustaches. They had hairy arms and legs, and many had tattoos. This was so exciting. When I took T (testosterone), I too would look all hairy and handsome. I sucked in every comment, every question and every answer. I thought I could be here for hours and days and never get enough. Again, like the women’s group I had attended, these folks were incredibly welcoming and supportive (although I don’t remember any cookies).
This community quickly became my community. Even without hormones yet, things only got better as my confidence grew, thanks in no small part to those folks in San Francisco. Even if you think you don’t need community, I ask you to try and find your people and give it a chance. There are many kinds of communities, so do some research and see what kind of treasures you find. This was my story 19 years ago, and I will never forget how important they were to my life, my transition, my self-love and mainly to my sanity.