Over the weekend, I received an email from a trans youth. She wasn’t from the area, but had nevertheless heard about me. (I assumed she browsed through my Instagram feed, which, admittedly, isn’t the best.) After a brief introduction, she explained to me she reached out for a project in preparation for National Coming Out Day. She asked me about myself and where I wanted to be in the next five years. It left me a bit dumbfounded. Mostly, as I don’t have a one-year plan, let alone five. Nevertheless, I began writing about my personal experiences.

Growing up, transgender was a word I kind of knew. My aunt was transgender, and a beauty at that. (I blame it on the high cheekbones.) Besides her and her coterie of friends, the term and figures of transgenderism were few and far between. Transwomen were pantomimes in film and television. Though one could argue they were slightly classier on Ricki Lake than Jerry Springer. And literature? None that I could remember. Despite the negative portrayals of transwomen in art and in life, in my heart and soul I knew I wanted to be like them. Even at a young age, I felt the desire to express myself not as a femme, gay male but as a woman.

It wasn’t until my teenage years that I began exploring the gender boundaries. As a high school freshman, I packed a pair of pumps in my bag and wore a halter top underneath my shirts. Coincidentally, I was forced out of the proverbial closet around that time. I was returning home from school when my mother discovered my diary. After reading an entry which detailed a slight interaction with a guy at high school, I was surprised to discover my mother was happy for me. She was happy to see her child identify as ‘gay’ – but it was a whole other perspective when identifying as transgender. Nevertheless, I ever-so-lightly pushed gender conventions. I would take a step further my sophomore year and began wearing girl clothing outside of school. But it was an incident on Valentine’s Day, 2002 that changed things. Though it pains me to write about the details of that night, it was an event which affected me personally and psychologically. I had no choice but to go back into the closet. Out of fear. Out of necessity. Out of the need to survive. It would take another fifteen years before I would step out of the (trans) closet again.

There are moments I wish my aunt would see the person I am today, the woman I have become. She, nor myself, could have dreamed of the progresses the trans movement has made in such a short time. Each day, transwomen and men coming into their own – living their truth – is a testament to the times we live in. Every day, people are able to share their stories to millions around the world. Celebs and common alike, they present stories on a multitude of platforms. From YouTube Channels, to Facebook Pages and Instagram feeds, transwomen and men are able to reach audiences instantly. And the pantomimes of yesteryear have become empowering figures. Advocates and activists, performers and politicians, warriors and writers. You’re never too old to have new role models! Transwomen in art and literature have become less of a comedy and more compassionate. We are not merely background characters in shows, but have been given our own voices. Transwomen are positive role models – dare, I say, heroines – who grace the pages of fashion magazines and the shelves of bookstores. What a marvelous age we to live in.

I have never been more confident to be trans. Most especially as I’m not embarking on this path alone. October marks my tenth month in my transitioning, and my third going full ‘T’. It has been the greatest accomplishment in my life. To live fearlessly, with dignity and humility, is a profound achievement. And the support I receive from my family, friends, workplaces, and the community has been tremendous. While fortunate enough to be in the place I am today, I am also reminded of the pain and struggles of being transgender. The progresses made during the previous Administration are quickly being erased by the current one. Military bans without just cause. Removal of workplace protections without reasons. Limiting health protections without justification. Denying our very existence as Americans. Life can be even worse for my brown and black trans siblings. It is not uncommon to hear stories of rejection. Tales of ridicule. News of abuse and deaths. At the time of this writing, over 20 transgender individuals have been murdered this year in the United States. Overwhelmingly, trans people of color. The world can be brutal. Nevertheless, there exists allies in unforeseen places. I have send and hears many who once derided our community as depraved, and now hold it in high regard. I have witnessed opponents transform into our greatest supporters.

Today is National Coming Out Day. Coming out to finally live in my truth, there is no better reason I celebrate this year with pride. Though many in our community commemorate the personal progresses we’ve made, we should also remember there is still a long road ahead. And, as it appears under this current sociopolitical environment, that road will be a dangerous one. So I ask many of you today to continue to think, act, and live for change. Reach out to advocacy groups. Sign petitions. Call up your local, state, and national representatives. Defend those who are defenseless. I ask you to look through the eyes of a trans youth. See the hopes they have for the future. That should be your inspiration. Anyone and everyone can fight for fair and equal rights.

At the end of the email, there was one thing I didn’t answer. Where did I see myself in five years? I still didn’t have a one-year plan, let alone five. But one thing was certain. I entered six words to conclude a lengthy email:  

To become a creative voice for change.

 

Kiss Kiss, Dahlings, 

Ortensia