Being Dana… What I feel, constantly.

Triggering content, suicide, anger, hatred of others towards transgender people, self doubt, self worth, etc.

I’m writing this mostly for those who have concerns about my mental health when I change my social media profile picture to just a black image. I do this when what I am feeling becomes overwhelming. When I have similar feelings that led me to an attempted suicide. When I feel like the battle may not be worth fighting. Most times these thoughts and feelings are fleeting. They are easily escaped by focusing on the joys and happiness I am now able to feel.

Sometimes escape is brought by blocking people who spew the hatred. I recently chose to block some of my cousins & an uncle. Yes, this brought a great deal of pain and sorrow to me. I love my family, even those who hate me for who I am. Knowing I must remove myself from their hate so I may continue to progress is painful. It is however, a short lived pain.

Many times I will post about the political and religious climate, especially when trans human rights are threatened. I try not to focus on the hatred these sources bring. This is very difficult when the false or incomplete information is used to hurt others like me. These bring even more pain and sorrow. The length of which extends far past the time the laws enacted are in effect. Hopefully it will also be temporary.

The above are two large sources of suffering which have brought many including myself to attempt suicide. I want you all to know if those thoughts ever persist for me again I will seek out a great deal of assistance. The above are what I struggle with daily and what I have thought of in one way or another my entire life.

The one thing I constantly focus on is a fear. My fear that I will never meet the image I have of myself.

You see at a very young age I developed my self image. I was certain I would eventually physically develop into a girl and eventually into a woman. My self image was not that of a transgender woman but of a cisgender woman. Yes I can take hormones, remove facial hair, and undergo surgeries to approximate the physical characteristics of most cisgender women. I am currently doing and preparing to do these things.

Seventeen days from today I will have my first gender-affirming surgery consult. I have chosen to undergo breast augmentation. Hormones have been wonderful and have given me the opportunity to grow my breasts to a full A-cup size. Many may say that I should be happy with this or that many women don’t even have that. I fear that if I don’t undergo augmentation and reach at least the C-cup size, (This size is what I hold as part of my self-image.) I will never feel complete as a person. I fear that I will slip back into my dark thoughts and perhaps remove myself from existence. I simply can not and will not allow myself to live out this fear.

I harbor fears about my eventual vaginoplasty also. They are also based on my need to meet my self image. Medical technology can construct a vagina out of my donor tissue (penis and possibly a few other parts). This vagina can replicate very closely what many cisgender women have. Including the capability to self lubricate to an extent. The lubrication can not increase with physical excitement. I fear that the smallest of differences in what medical technology can provide me versus my self image will open the door to my darkest of feelings. I have been to that place before and I do not want to go back.

There are other physical organs I feel I should have had which medical technology can not currently provide a solution. I so desperately need ovaries, fallopian tubes, a cervix, and a uterus. This need is something I can attempt to explain but many will not understand. The easiest way for me to explain this need is so I can feel complete as a person. I fully understand that the technology to provide a trans woman with these things may never exist in my lifetime. So you see I will be forced to live out a portion of my fear.

It is this realization that I will never feel complete, that I will never be able to live as the full person (both mentally and physically) I see myself as which drives my depression and anxieties.

I want you to know that I see your attempts to help me feel better. They are very much appreciated. I love you all dearly. I sometimes just need to time and space to process that I will never be able to live up to my own expectations of who I should have had the natural ability to become.

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Being Dana… Let’s talk about Sex!

I woke up this morning with a lyric stuck in my mind, along with a number of thoughts about sex.

“Let’s talk about sex, baby.

Let’s talk about you and me.

Let’s talk about all the good things.

And the bad things that may be.”

Salt-N-Peppa – Let’s talk about sex (1990)

When this song was written there was so much negative stigma about sex in the LGBTQ+ communities, specifically surrounding AIDS and HIV. I’m not going to lie I fell victim to the false information.  I mistakenly believed it was a “Gay” disease, and possibly a judgement from god.  (I was very foolish, impressionable, & afraid.)  The song also deals with misogyny and teen pregnancy.

I was 23 and trying so very hard to be the person I was told I should be. I attended and volunteered in a christian (mormon) church. My ex-wife was pregnant with our first child. I was also trying feverishly to hide and extinguish who I was afraid I was.  The things I hid at this time were my need to express my femininity, my expanding sense of attraction to people I thought at the time to be the same gender, and my self exploration of penetrative anal sex. Surely if I let anyone in on my secrets I would eventually catch AIDS and die. I must again state how foolish and lacking in knowledge I was.

The portion of the song I quoted now has many more meanings to me than when I first heard it.

Photo by Ayana Wyse on Unsplash

Let’s talk about sex…uality!

Back in the 80’s and 90’s I had only heard of Gay & Lesbian, and I was told both were evil things to choose. WOW! I was a very sheltered and unknowing young woman. I had also heard of transsexuals but thought them to be a kink in the Gay world. To be clear being Transgender or Transsexual is NOT… I repeat NOT a sexuality. Being Transgender or Transsexual is a person’s identity.

Sexuality = Who I am attracted to

Identity = Who I am

Some of you may have cringed seeing that I use the word transsexual. I use this word based on it's true meaning. One who has changed their sex. Crossing from one sex to another. I consider myself to be a transgender person who is taking the medical steps to become a transsexual person. The use of the term transsexual in reference to sexuality or a kink or fetish infers that because a person is transsexual they are someone to be fetishized. This is a hateful and damaging perspective.  

A person’s sexuality can seem to shift over time. I used to think I was a heterosexual male. I forced myself into believing that anything outside of the heteronormative realm was bad. WOW! Was I wrong! Deep introspection of who I am and my beliefs brought me to the conclusion that I am indeed not male. I may currently have some male body parts but they do not define who I am. My old perspective of being heterosexual was also challenged. I learned that this perspective, for me, was based on unfounded fears. As I discovered more about who I am, I removed most of the fears from my life. This allowed me to understand my sexuality more in depth. To others and even to myself these actions and understanding may have appeared to be a shift in my sexuality. I am learning that this was always part of who I am and always have been and what type of person I am attracted to.

As I grew in years and knowledge, I came to understand there are seemingly infinite labels for a person’s sexuality. I now feel the most accurate term to describe my sexuality is Omnisexual. I am attracted to people of every gender presentation but I recognize I have a preference to those who are more feminine. How my attraction manifests also differs in relation to a person, their expresion, parts, and hearts.  If you are interested, this article from Cosmo (Yes, that Cosmo!) contains a listing of many sexualities using inclusive language.  A Comprehensive List of Sexualities to Know, From Pomosexual to Heteroflexible

Let’s talk about sex…ual experience

I want to make something crystal clear. A person’s sexual experience does not dictate their sexuality. I will explain this using myself as an example.

I have only ever had sexual experiences with cisgender females. If this defined my sexuality I would be labeled a Lesbian. Hang on! NO! I love and find things sexually attractive about males, non-binary, gender fluid and agender people too! Recently in a peer support group I stated it this way: Uhhh adult humans? YES Please! This is a bit extreme to explain my attractions. They are far more nuanced. Because I am able to be attracted to pretty much the whole range of humanity does not mean I want to have sex with them all. I still have my personal standards. I am also in a relationship with my very loving, and compassionate wife.

I also want to express how I used to, and how I now experience sex from a mental awareness and thought process perspective.

As a young girl with male parts, the feelings and ways I thought of sex were to say the least, confusing! I wanted to feel pretty, dress sexy, develop breasts, and be penetrated during sex. How could I do this and remain the person I was supposed to be? My male parts demanded that I fall in line with other males. They demanded that I own the role of the penetrator in a sexual encounter as something I was entitled to because I looked and acted male. I tried to own this role for many years. I had a number of encounters. No, I’m not telling you my body count. Each of these encounters were very gratifying physically. The thing is, something always felt off afterwards.

This “off” feeling made me think I was either not doing it right or not frequent enough. I did what heteronormative males do, I overcompensated. My body count grew and so did that feeling of something being “off”. Eventually I tried what the church was telling me to do. Move my sexual encounters into a relationship with one person and begin a family. Supposedly following god’s plan of procreation was supposed to bring me sexual fulfilment. It did not. Was I with the wrong partner? Yes, but because my belief system had revealed itself to be different from what I originally understood it to be. Maybe I needed variety? Many views I was exposed to indicated that males needed a wide variety of partners and how shal I say it “Unique” experiences. I became “That Guy”, and still something was “off”. Eventually I settled into a relationship which I still very much enjoy and want to be in.

Let’s talk about sex…ual dysfunction.

All throughout these experiences I continued to hide who I truly was. I also continued to discover more of who I am. My “off” feeling grew at a controlled rate. When I finally came to the understanding that I am female, my “off” feeling made sense. It’s growth suddenly moved from a steady growth pattern to an exponential model. That is to say, each time I experienced it, the feeling seemed to double if not triple. My encounters also shifted to those of a solo nature. My “off” feeling has also been compounded by the dysphoria encountered by having a sexual experience as a female minded person with body parts which many females do not have.

The spironolactone and estrogen I take to assist my bodily changes and ease the mental anguish I feel also somewhat ease the newly modified “off” feeling. They do this by bringing on erectile dysfunction (E.D.) and changes in how I experience an orgasm. The medications at first decreased my libido. The addition of progesterone has brought back and even increased my libido. While I welcome the E.D. some transgender girls do not. My inner self image does not have a penis while my current physical self does. If you haven’t thought to yourself how does this work now, go ahead now and think about it and how it may disrupt your thoughts of sex and the encounters you have. While I still crave a sexual encounter it is not the one I used to know. This change and the discrepancy between my mental image of how my encounter should be and how it physically has to take place makes for many difficulties in reaching my goal. This is further compounded by the recommendation that a transgender female try to stay sexually active (even if solo) so the donor tissue does not atrophy.

Let’s talk about sex…ual stigma and misconception.

Since coming out as a transgender woman I have been asked by many more people about my active sexual encounters than ever before. Most of these have been medical professionals. While I understand the need for an accurate health history, working on the assumptions that transgender women have unhealthy and risky sexual encounters is just that, an assumption. Questioning us further when our sexual history is documented in our charts leads to a mistrust in the medical relationship.

My active sexual encounters have also been questioned by random people and even friends. This in none of your business unless we are about to have a sexual encounter.

Many scenarios assume that a transgender person is more promiscuous that the rest of the population. Sadly in some cases transgender people have had to turn to the sex work trades to continue to survive. A sexual encounter with a transgender person has also seen by some as an accomplishment to be achieved. Generalizations like these dehumanize and fetishize us. These actions are very damaging to our mental health. Many of us develop a false sense that we are not worthy of an actual healthy relationship, especially one that includes sex.

Misconceptions of transgender people directly relate to our physical safety too. Many times have I wondered if I will live past an encounter where someone finds out that I am transgender. Please keep in mind that I do not purposefully put myself into a circumstance where my safety would be at risk. These thoughts of mine on this subject tend to deal with only one possible future where I may seek a sexual relationship.

Let’s talk about sex…ual thoughts

Transgender people think about sex as much as the rest of humanity. My thoughts on the subject have definitely changed and continue to evolve as I discover more about myself, and my body. This entire article and many more thoughts were spawned by just having that simple song lyric stuck in my head.

We enjoy fantasies, role play, and even many kinks that the rest of humanity also enjoys. Assuming that we will enjoy something simply because we are transgender again dehumanizes and fetishizes us. We just need some extra time to deal with all of the other mental clutter left over from years of hiding our true selves. I’m very hopeful that when my body is in more alignment with my self image that most of these extra thoughts will no longer invade the pleasant and good thoughts I have when I am presented with thoughts of sexual encounters. I know the fear of not surviving an encounter will always weigh heavy on my mind.

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Being Dana… To My Protector, AGAIN

A second and hopefully final letter to that part of me which used to keep me safe. For reference, here is the first letter to my protector.

Being Dana… A Letter To My Protector



Yes, I remember you.

Your bullying tactics taught me to survive.

I’m going to be direct and honest and true.

During our time apart I’ve learned to thrive.

I had believed it was now my job to offer you shelter.

Your attempts to take up your familiar protective role are weak.

Your old attacks, they falter.

I need you to see; It is my turn to speak!

I’ve made the decisions to live MY truth, MY life.

Your tactics now only strengthen my resolve.

You bring with you nothing but strife.

Our relationship, I need to dissolve.

Goodbye.

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Being Dana… Finding my place?

I used to have a place in this world where I was told I’d be comfortable, where I would “fit” in. I tried to live in this space but I never did truly fit. I broke free and in doing so I felt the need to re-establish who I am. To accomplish this I have torn the life I knew to shreds, unraveled the shreds into threads, and the threads into individual fibers. With the help of a few trusted friends, I sorted the fibers, keeping those which truly belonged to me and giving up the others. I spun the fibers which withstood the scrutiny of self examination and self discovery into the new thread of my life and created a beautiful but durable fabric. It was fit for a fine dressmaker rather than a maker of men’s suits.

I tried the services of a few dressmakers. Some made dresses fit for public show. Others to be worn while lifting others from their troubles. I found that wearing dresses made by others would never fit me correctly. Therefore I have created my own dress that is free and flowing. One that allows me to be the kind caring person which I am. The dress also has the lacey intricacies of my many intertwined emotions and the beautiful, yet structured embroidered stitches of knowledge and experience.

I am now in need of a place where I may wear my dress. This place is not a physical location like a house or an apartment. It is a place in society where I am simply allowed to exist. Without requiring me to justify my existence. Without having to prove why I belong. Where my rights are not questioned because others fear I may be their equal. Where I am not judged for who or how I choose to love.

I hope this place exists.

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Being Dana… To My First Born,

You pluck at heart strings like a guitarist strumming perfect melodies.

You’ve kept your path through life hidden from all save a few.

Each note precisely tuned to tear away boundaries.

Choosing only to reach out when doing so benefits you.

My love for you always a tune to play.

My life still has armored standards forged like steel.

My heart, shattered glass in a pile lay.

The subtlety of your words crafted to evoke the “feels”.

We both fear the loss of the other.

I lay awake lamenting choices, yours and mine.

I’ve struggled with who I am, no longer dad, physically not mother.

You and I, always at odds, cannot combine.

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Being Dana… When I’m gone

When I’m gone will I be just another tally mark?
Bits in a database used to catalog another trans fatality?
Will my name, age, and a sentence or two summing up my life be printed on an index card to be read?
Will I be reduced to a few semi-viral shares on social media asking for “thoughts & prayers for the family”?

These questions have taken up residency in my grey matter.

Let me explain why.

This week is Transgender Awareness Week. A week meant to lift the spirits of trans folk and to bring more visibility to among other things, our successes. It precedes the Transgender Day of Remembrance. I have a very deep and complex relationship with this day. It is a day if mourning for transgender folk all over the world. We gather in our respective communities to read the names of our siblings who were killed due to violent acts over the past year. The local group I am part of will be reading SIXTY names this year.

I help in a few online groups to ensure those lost are remembered using their true names and pronouns. We spend hours researching news sources for phrases such as “Man killed while wearing female clothing” or “Random masculine/feminine name was also known by…” We also search for mention of some gender neutral names that many who are non-binary choose.

When we find an article that may list a possible lost sibling, we perform many searches. They include but aren’t limited to: social media, local news outlets, law enforcement, coroner reports, obituaries, crowdfunding for final expenses, mentions by family & friends, balloon releases, and vigils. The searches are used to “prove” the person was killed violently, and they identified as trans or gender diverse. Collection of the statistics is where it seems many organizations stop. Semi-viral posts sweep social media usually reporting these statistics.

The weight a trans person feels when they find out a person similar to them was killed violently can be tremendous. It can foster deep feelings of doubt and worthlessness. Doubt that we will ever be good enough to be accepted in society. Fears that our existences are no longer worthwhile, which can drive us to suicide.

Many trans people have empathic personality types. That is we are capable of placing ourselves in the situations of others. Some also the capability to mimic and share the emotional states of those we are connecting with. I am one of these people. Each name I help research ends up feeling like a close sibling. Their family’s and friend’s statements bring joy, sorrow, and even hatred to me in a way I can’t explain. I often cry for hours over each person lost. I try to counter these feelings by doing my self-care routines. Sometimes they help, other times the losses come in such quick succession that I find myself unable to cry, but still all the feelings and emotions build inside. When this happens, I find it hard to find any of the joy their families express at having had such a person in their lives.

Why then do I do this?
It is because our siblings deserve so much more than to be reduced to a statistic.
I deserve more, when I am also gone.

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Being Dana… Understanding my hatred of Suicidal Ideation

If you can’t tell from the title, this entire article needs a huge, flashing content warning.

Content Warning: Discussion of suicide and how it formed a coping/survival mechanism in my life.


My first and only brush with suicide came when I was twelve years old.

  • I was nine or ten when I resigned my hopes of developing breasts and my penis changing so I could become the girl I dreamt I was.
  • I was about eleven when I first had anxiety attacks and developed ulcers due to overthinking how puberty would affect my body.
  • I was being taught by society through television and newspapers more each day that the person I knew I was would be ridiculed and shunned by those around me.
  • My family’s religion teaches that people like me would be the reason our family would never live together forever in presence of God & Christ.

These are the main reasons I had for developing my plan. I had decided that after attending an AYSO soccer practice/try out, I would “slip” into the Idaho Canal as it ran along South Holmes Avenue. I would be too tired from soccer to use my feeble swimming skills to make it out. I found my spot to “slip” while walking to practice. It was on a catwalk bridge with a cable handrail across the canal. The water below was turbulent and sure to drag me under for long enough.

Near this crossing was a vacant lot. I figured it can’t hurt one last time to spend some time enjoying the leaves, grass and sounds I found calming. I would use this calm to carry me through my plan. I began to enjoy the sounds of nature when I heard crying, sobbing, and screams of pain. I searched and soon found the source. It was one of my new school-mates, smashing his head repeatedly into a large sharp rock. He had been sniffing model glue to build up his courage and perhaps numb the pain of killing himself. I was instantly angry with him. Why would he choose such a painful method?

I ran. I ran to the nearest pay phone a few hundred yards away. I called the police and explained what was happening to him. The officer told me to go back to him and stay there until help could get there. I had no idea how much time passed before they arrived. I do know I heard him screaming out his reasons. A few were common to mine. He felt worthless, trapped, and alone. My anger built stronger with every word and action I saw him take. My sympathy also grew stronger. I had met someone that I could possibly connect with. As he was taken away in the ambulance I wondered if I would ever see him again.

A month passed. School had resumed for the fall session. I entered my math class and saw him. I should have been happy he was still alive and attending school. I was instead confused by anger welling deep within. I was angry first that he chose such a painful method. Then slowly my anger shifted to myself. Why hadn’t I followed through with my plan? Why am I still not a girl?

Over the years my anger shifted to different causes when suicide was a topic. It always remained when I thought of reasons why I wasn’t a girl. I used this anger to hide, and to deny myself. I’m now a fifty-four year old out and proud transgender woman. I still get angry when suicide is mentioned. I understand now that even though many see it as a quick way to end their problems, that it instead causes so many more problems for those who remain.

Recently while talking with my best friend I discovered something about myself and this anger I have for suicidal ideation. I am indeed angry. I’m angry that people I love feel this is an option. I’m angry that people don’t talk about their feelings enough to avoid suicide as a potential end.

Most of all I’m angry with myself that I ever felt suicide was an option for me.


Trans LifeLine:
1–866–565–8860
https://translifeline.org/

The Trevor Project:
1–866–488–7386
https://www.thetrevorproject.org/

National Suicide Hotline:
1–800–273–8255
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

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Being Dana… I came out as transgender, do I have to be an advocate and activist too?

First of all, I need to define what these two terms mean to me.
Being an advocate means that you are able and willing to speak for a group or community to promote an idea or further the knowledge and understanding of the group.
Being an activist means you take actions to further the cause of a group.
Sometimes the two terms are used interchangeably.

Photo by Oriel Frankie Ashcroft from Pexels

It has been just over two years since I made the public announcement on FaceBook that I am a transgender woman. One paragraph in my announcement instantly made me an advocate of sorts.

“If you have any questions which don’t involve personal or medical information, please ask me. If you are unsure if your question is too personal or concerning a medical topic, please ask me. I will let you know If I feel uncomfortable in answering and explain as best I can why I don’t wish to answer.”

I offered to everyone who comes across my post that I would try to answer any questions people had. These are my personal views and opinions of what I am experiencing as a transgender person. In 2015, GLADD released a study showing that only 16% of Americans think they know a transgender person. Because I chose to answer questions I became a defacto source of information on the transgender community. I became the person people mean when they say my friend has a friend who is trans and they said this or that.

Being an advocate can both build up and tear down a trans person. Especially for those of us who are considered empaths. There are times when I get a great deal of satisfaction and fulfillment from educating others on how I view my gender. Providing this education can at times be extremely draining. One reason for this is that I am frequently justifying my existence and why I deserve my human rights. I want you to pause and reflect on that statement for a moment. Have you ever justified why you should exist or should be treated the same as anyone else? There are many who have to do this on a daily or near constant basis. They are forced into this situation by simply being who they are. The reasons are many including color, national origin, sexuality, and gender identity. Being forced to defend your very existence because of something you have no control over is exhausting.

Why then, do I advocate? The answer for me is simple. The sense of fulfillment and satisfaction I get from knowing that I helped another understand a little more about transgender people provides me with the energy and strength I need to survive most of the situations I face daily.

What drives an advocate to become an activist? I feel it has to do with what or how much is at stake if action is not taken. As a transgender person, my very life could be at stake if I don’t take action.

Things like using a restroom, playing a sport, obtaining health care, changing a name, and updating gender markers have thrust trans people and our rights into the spotlight. These are things most people take for granted. If you need to urinate you go into a restroom and do so. If you wish to play a sport you do so. A trans person is forced into evaluating many things before doing these things. Will I be raped, beaten, or killed? Will I be discovered as different? Will I be bullied and suffer emotional and psychological harm? Will I have to take out a newspaper ad and announce to people I don’t know that I am trans? Will I be allowed to see a doctor? If these were taken or even threatened to be taken away from you what would you do?

Why am I an activist? I take action because people like me are having these things taken from them. If I allow it to happen to them, it will set a precedent and potentially lead to these things being taken from me. I take action because just as being an advocate brings me energy and strength, being an active participant in my survival intensifies the amount of energy and strength I receive. I take action so others may have an easier path than I.

My answer to the article’s title question: I came out as transgender, do I have to be an advocate and activist too?
I can not answer for you, but for me, yes. I have to be both to ensure my survival. How much of each role I take is a balancing act involving survival, comfort, strength & energy.

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Being Dana… Virtually Proud

The speech I gave for NW PA Pride Alliance Virtual Pride Fest in June of 2021.

Good afternoon everyone.
I would like to apologize in advance if my thoughts today seem jumbled. I have been fighting a great deal of anxiety and depression for quite a while now. My struggles have been both directly and indirectly related to my being transgender. Anxiety and depression can impact how we see our own pride. I feel it is important to mention this because Pride is a celebration of who we are as individuals and as members of our communities. Let me say that again but in a slightly different way. Pride has been riots. Pride is a celebration. Pride is a demonstration. All of this to show the world who we are, that we are never going away, that we deserve our rights as does everyone in our communities.

I firmly believe that our Pride includes our current lives, histories, and heritages. History and heritage are what I would like to talk about today.
For those who do not know me, my name is Dana Rasmussen. I am a woman of transgender experience. My pronouns are she, her & hers. I am of Danish and English heritage. I grew up in a small, mostly conservative, and very religious area. I have been 100% out & open about being a transgender woman since September 19 of 2019. I share a similar set of background stories with many transgender people. I did not know I was trans at a young age, but I did know I was different. Like many of my trans and gender non-conforming siblings, I am a member of multiple groups within the LGBTQ+ family. I have a very loving and kind ally who has been with me on much of my journey. I am a writer of sorts. I enjoy giving back to communities which have helped me. I get a sense of fulfilment when I find out I have made another trans person’s path easier than mine. I am on the board of directors for TransFamily of NWPA. I am kind. I have an INF/TJ personality type. I am very empathetic and emotional. I am a parent of two children. I am a dog mom. I am independent. I am not religious, but I am somewhat spiritual. I am fighting and will win my battles with anxiety, depression, dysphoria, and dysmorphia. I am patient. I persevere. I am enough.

These are some but not all the things which I am. They are all parts of myself, my history, and my heritage which together help to build my personal “Pride”.
When I think about my transgender community’s history and heritage, I first think of the stories of Marsha P. Johnson, Silvia Rivera, and the Stonewall Inn riot in 1969. It was, after all, the event that began “Pride” right?
Many people do not know that “Pride” events have very long histories and tremendous heritages. It is rare that those who do know also understand how intertwined transgender people have always been in both.
Do the names Susan Cooke, Amanda St. James, Felicia Elizondo, and Tamara Ching sound familiar? These trans people are our siblings. They were involved in a riot much like Stonewall. It happened three years earlier in San Francisco. The riot was smaller, but its driving cause was similar. Police had been harassing and arresting drag queens, trans people, and gay people while they ate and talked at Gene Compton’s cafeteria. This led to a portion of the famous tenderloin district recently being designated as the first transgender district in the United States. You can watch their story in the documentary film Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria.
It was common practice in the ‘60s for many bars to deny service to gay, trans, and gender non-conforming people. Sip-in demonstrations were organized at Julius’ Bar in New York City in 1966 by the Mattachine Society. The demonstrators would gather before the bar got busy and then very slowly sip their drinks throughout the evenings and nights. Because there were so many people just sipping drinks other patrons had to wait or go elsewhere. The loss of profit caused by these sip-in demonstrations escalated the exclusion of LGBTQ+ people being served. Lawsuits were filed and eventually resulted in striking down the New York State Liquor Authority’s practice of revoking the liquor licenses of bars which served LGBTQ+ people.
Sit-in demonstrations happened at Dewey’s Lunch counter in Philadelphia in 1965. They were protesting Dewey’s policy of not serving “homosexuals, masculine women, and feminine men.” In the ‘60s the terms masculine women and feminine men were often used to describe transgender people. Three teens were arrested at the first sit-in. This caused a grassroots movement to organize weekly sit-ins. Soon after the 2nd demonstration and learning that more were scheduled, Dewey’s changed its policy.
These are just some of the demonstrations in the ‘60s which either centered around trans people or directly involved us. Trans involvement and inclusion is not limited to this time frame. In the late 1890’s a young Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld founded the Institute for Sexual Research in Berlin. Among the studies performed were psychological, physical, and social impacts and effects of a person’s gender and sexuality, and developing the first hormone therapy treatments. The institute quickly became the world’s foremost authority on the study of what Dr. Hirschfeld called “sexual intermediaries”, those who wished to wear clothes of the opposite sex and those who through their character should be considered the opposite sex. Dr. Hirshfeld would later coin the term “Transvestite” from which evolved the terms “Transsexual” and later “Transgender”. The institute created paying jobs for its patients who would have otherwise not been allowed to hold a job; some even lived at the institute. As the knowledge grew so did the medical understanding of trans people. Doctors at the institute even performed modern medicines first gender affirming surgeries, including that of Lili Elbe, the Danish girl’s multiple surgeries from 1930 through 1932.
Dr. Hirschfeld was in Belgium on a speaking engagement on May 10th, 1933, when rioters raided and looted the institute. This resulted in the library of nearly 20,000 books and publications being burned. I am sure you have seen the photos of Nazi’s burning books in a public square. These photos are of our transgender history and science being destroyed. However not everything was lost. The institute’s client lists were handed over to the authorities. Their names were placed on the first of the “pink-lists”.
“Pink-lists” were used in identifying and detaining transgender and gay people in concentration camps. They were the first to wear what would later be taken back as a symbol of LGBTQ+ pride, the inverted pink triangle.
It is important for us all to understand that no group among us has had a more difficult past than another. We all have struggled to be able to exist, and we must all continue to fight for the most impacted and discriminated against. Another example of us showing up for each other happened last summer. The Black Trans Lives Matter rally in New York City brought together not just people of color but also LGBTQ+ organizations and many other allies who saw the injustices and could no longer stand by. It is estimated that some 15,000 people attended this rally, in the middle of the raging pandemic. They did this to bring attention to the fact that black transgender people, especially women, make up most of the deaths by violent means inflicted on our transgender siblings. They are being killed because they dare to live life as themselves. These people are our siblings. We must stand together to protect them.
These events, transgender and gender non-conforming people, and the innumerable others directly and indirectly impacted by them are part of our collective LGBTQ+ heritage. It is because of all of these that we can exist proudly as our LGBTQ+ selves.

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Op-Eds as submitted to GoErie/Erie Times & Gannett News Outlets in PA

Part 1/3 A Basic Understanding of Transgender People

This is the first article in a series comprised of:
Part 1 A Basic Understanding of Transgender People
Part 2 Questioning Trans Feminine Sports Participation
Part 3 Benefits of Trans Feminine Sports Inclusion

This series will hopefully inform you of things you may not know about transgender people and the legislation we face living in Pennsylvania. As with any subject we must establish a basic understanding.

Some Definitions

Gender” Non Physical characteristics defining a spectrum from femininity to masculinity.

Sex” Physical characteristics defining a spectrum from femininity to masculinity.

Cisgender” Adjective a person whose gender aligns with their sex.

Transgender” Adjective a person whose gender does not align with their sex.

Transgender girl/woman” A person whose gender is female regardless of her physical sexual characteristics.

Transgender boy/man” A person whose gender is male regardless of his physical sexual characteristics.

Gender fluid person” A person whose gender fluctuates.

Non-binary person” A person who whose gender may fall between female and male and usually does not fluctuate. This person may also not have a gender

Intersex person” A person whose physical sexual characteristics may be difficult to identify.

Gender Expression” External, visible characteristics such as clothing, makeup or the lack of, and actions.

Gender Dysphoria” The stress, anxiety, and discomfort one feels when a gender and sex do not match.

Puberty Blockers” Medications which delay the onset of puberty and its physical changes. They have been used safely since the ’70s to treat early onset puberty.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)” Medicinal therapy to suppress some hormones while supplementing others.

“World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH)” A professional organization established in 1979 devoted to understanding and treatment of gender dysphoria. Membership consists of those working in medicine, psychology, law, social work, counseling, psychotherapy, family studies, sociology, anthropology, speech and voice therapy and sexology.

Discussion

The WPATH-developed “Standards of Care” describes standards including safe hormone levels and the length of gender expression before surgeries. While primarily designed for safety, excessive application by people and organizations is referred to as gatekeeping. Some gates are justifiably placed to ensure medical safety. Others such as the requirement to obtain a doctor’s or therapist’s letter indicating we have lived our gender expression are time consuming and expensive barriers. Imagine needing a doctor’s or therapist’s approval before updating your license because you changed your hairstyle, shaved your beard, or grew facial hair. Failure to have updated IDs can lead to our harassment and discrimination.

We have existed throughout history. Julian Gill-Peterson a professor at the University of Pittsburgh has authored ”Histories of the Transgender Child” (ISBN: 9781517904678) shows examples from the 1900s forward.

Many attend regular therapy sessions for our mental general health and to comply with WPATH standards. Compliance allows us to get required recommendation letters for medical procedures as well as identification updates.

Some often suffer from depression brought on by gender dysphoria, accompanied by stresses society places on us. This starts for some at or before the onset of puberty. Think back to when you were young. Did you want to develop a curvy figure, or a muscular one? How excited were you to have a salon appointment or to shave? We feel these feelings too but they are complicated because our sex does not match our gender.

We are told repeatedly by many religions that our existence is wrong and evil.

We often hide our identities as part of our self preservation instinct, sometimes for decades.

We develop unhealthy methods for dealing with these stresses. We have a higher than average rate of turning to drugs or alcohol. These coping methods can foster deep, dangerous depressions. This depression is sometimes inescapable. It is estimated 40% of transgender people have contemplated or attempted suicide. To put this number in perspective: The 2017 report “Age of Individuals who identify as transgender in the United States — Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law” estimates there are 1.5 million transgender people 13 and up in the United States. Pennsylvania’s share is 48,850. We can calculate roughly 19,500 trans Pennsylvanians have contemplated or attempted suicide.

Trans people are just that, people. Trans girls/women are girls/women. Trans boys/men are boys/men. Gender non-conforming people are the gender and even the non-gender they say they are. Each trans person experiences gender and transition differently. There are some commonalities but each process is unique.

We prosper and falter based on how we experience the same situations cis people experience.

Part 2/3 Questioning Trans Feminine Sports Participation

This is the second article in a series comprised of:
Part 1 A Basic Understanding of Transgender People
Part 2 Questioning Trans Feminine Sports Participation
Part 3 Benefits of Trans Feminine Sports Inclusion

Does enough of an issue exist with transgender girls/women participation in sports to warrant a law governing trans lives and hindering their social development? Let’s discuss three common questions on the topic.

Do trans girls/women have an unfair physical advantage in sports?

Before we begin, Can you name a trans girl or woman athlete, through college age who has dominated her sport after coming out or beginning her transition?

The effects of “Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)” and “Puberty Blockers” replace or reduce testosterone production in trans females to levels similar to that of cisgender females. Without higher levels of testosterone, our strength diminishes rather quickly. It diminishes so much that the International Olympic Committee allowed trans athletes to compete starting in 2004.

Name a trans girl or woman who has dominated her sport in the Olympics since 2004?

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) trans guidelines stated this in 2011:

Transgender women display a great deal of physical variation, just as there is a great deal of natural variation in physical size and ability among non-transgender women and men. Many people may have a stereotype that all transgender women are unusually tall and have large bones and muscles. But that is not true. A male-to-female transgender woman may be small and slight, even if she is not on hormone blockers or taking estrogen. It is important not to overgeneralize. The assumption that all male-bodied people are taller, stronger, and more highly skilled in a sport than all female-bodied people is not accurate.

Name a trans girl or woman who has dominated her sport during her NCAA eligibility?

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) makes these statements in their policies and procedures guide.

(PIAA) is committed to the principles of equal opportunity and treatment for all individuals involved in interscholastic athletics. PIAA believes that all boys and girls, Coaches, Contest officials, and athletic administrators should have equal opportunity to participate in, Coach, officiate, and administer at all levels of interscholastic athletics and receive equal treatment, without regard to race, color, religion, gender, age, national origin, or ethnic background.

Where a student’s gender is questioned or uncertain, the decision of the Principal as to the student’s gender will be accepted by PIAA.”

The 2017 report “Age of Individuals who identify as transgender in the United States — The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law” estimates there are 5,250 trans Pennsylvanians aged 13–17. Assuming roughly two thirds of these are trans girls, gives us 3,465 trans girls. The Pennsylvania Department of Education lists 394,438 girls enrolled in 2016–17. The website statista.com indicates 38% (150,250) participated in sports. Applying this percentage to the number of trans girls, we arrive at 1,316 or 0.01% of Pennsylvania’s 12.79 million 2017 population.

Name any of these 1,316 Pennsylvania trans girls who have dominated her sport since 2017?

Will trans females sexually assault other girls and women in the locker room or bathroom?

Trans girls and women are generally incapable of the male functions needed to perpetrate these acts. Hormone replacement therapy and puberty blockers bring testosterone to an extremely low level. Affecting libido and capability of sexual function. Without the capability to have a typical male sexual function the likelihood of a trans girl or woman being capable of such an attack becomes minimal.

Trans girls and women are often affected by gender dysphoria to the point that the concept of taking a typical man’s role for a sexual encounter is so extremely uncomfortable that we would remove ourselves from the situation as quickly as possible.

Are women’s sports threatened by trans girls/women’s participation?

On March 31, 2021 (Coincidentally the 12th annual Transgender Day of Visibility) Outsports.com reported on a letter penned by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). “More than 465 superstars and everyday feminists added their names to the letter objecting to the targeting of trans women and girls.” Among those who signed were United States Women’s National Soccer Team members: Megan Rapinoe, Ali Krieger, and Ashlyn Harris.

One of the strongest statements in the letter:

We all must fight against the unnecessary and unethical barriers placed on trans women and girls by lawmakers and those who co-opt the feminist label in the name of division and hatred. Our feminism must be unapologetically expansive so that we can leave the door open for future generations.

Trans girls/women are girls/women. Medical and mental health professionals have stated this. University researchers have stated this. Sports organizations have stated this. Should we not listen to the experts?

Part 3/3 Benefits of Trans Feminine Sports Inclusion

This is the third article in a series comprised of:
Part 1 A Basic Understanding of Transgender People
Part 2 Questioning Trans Feminine Sports Participation
Part 3 Benefits of Trans Feminine Sports Inclusion

Nearly everyone benefits from exercise. There have been hundreds if not thousands of studies by universities and medical facilities which show exercise has positive benefits.

Among these are the general health improvements of reduced chronic illnesses, like diabetes, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease. The Primary Care Companion Journal of Clinical Psychiatry v.8(2); 2006 PMC1470658 also lists some mental health benefits: “Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function.” Exercise has even removed the need for some usage of antidepressant medications.

Exercise has also been linked to better scholastic performance and higher grades. The 2013 report “Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School” (ISBN 978–0–309–28313–7) lists these benefits:

  • Available evidence suggests that mathematics and reading are the academic topics that are most influenced by physical activity. These topics depend on efficient and effective executive function, which has been linked to physical activity and physical fitness.
  • Executive function and brain health underlie academic performance. Basic cognitive functions related to attention and memory facilitate learning, and these functions are enhanced by physical activity and higher aerobic fitness.
  • Single sessions of and long-term participation in physical activity improve cognitive performance and brain health. Children who participate in vigorous- or moderate-intensity physical activity benefit the most.

But what about sports? Sports, especially team based ones, add a social component. Sport after all is really just socially organized exercise. Athletes learn how to better interact with others. Some team members will develop into leaders, while some may take on a counseling or supporting role, and still others may only benefit from having a consistent structure and schedule. All who participate learn how to interact with each other and their coaches during their combined successes and failures. Individual sports such as track or swimming allow each athlete to compete more against themselves than others while still maintaining the social aspect of a team. Lifelong friendships and personal support networks form through these experiences.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) transgender inclusion guidelines from 2011 state:

School-based sports, even at the most competitive levels, remain an integral part of the process of education and development of young people, especially emerging leaders in our society.

We know from the previous articles in this series that transgender people experience depression, anxiety, stress, a higher rate of substance abuse, a higher rate of suicide, and isolation brought about by fear for our safety. Many of these issues are due to social influences outside of a trans person’s control. We don’t have to look up census statistics to know transgender females are a subset of a minority population. If there was a way to reduce or eliminate these issues should we not choose to apply it?

Let’s apply what we know to only one issue trans people face, depression. It is known that sport can in some cases eliminate said depression. It only follows that sport should be highly encouraged for trans people, even more so than antidepressants. Since team based sports foster more of the social aspect, they should be the preferred activity suggested for a trans person. The most tangible benefit of this combination would be a decreased risk of transgender suicide brought on by depression. The other benefits listed above would also apply to a trans athlete, including becoming a well rounded and socially adjusted person who no longer fears their environment but one who can live and thrive in it.

We as Pennsylvanians should be focusing on the things we can do to improve not only our lives but the lives of those around us, especially those who comprise a minority.

It has often been said one of the greatest gifts one can give a child is the freedom to be who they are. Components of this gift should be the ability to participate in sports and all the benefits which come with that ability. I am asking you to offer this gift to all Pennsylvania’s children, not just the cisgender ones.

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