MICHELLE

Jamaica Plain, MA

What are your pronouns?

I go by “she” and “her.”

Where do you work?

I work at the VA Boston Healthcare System up the street. The best way I describe myself to people is, I’m a research psychologist. I do a lot of research with older folks that have memory problems. A lot of Alzheimer patients come into our lab and we do experiments on them to better understand their memory problems and see if we can do anything about it. I’m basically a cognitive neuroscientist, that’s the technical term, but I don’t think a lot of people know what [that is].

Do you have any hobbies or special interests?

So, in terms of hobbies, I am a huge nerd, a huge geek – a lot of my time I spend playing games. Board games, video games, basically anything game-oriented. I grew up playing lots of video games. My first game system was a Nintendo. So that’s very ingrained in me. So much so, I have a tattoo from Legend of Zelda.

So that’s one thing I do to wind down at home in my free time. The other hobby, which is more like work these days, is just participating in as much activism as I can. It was a hobby at first as a way for me to integrate into the community, but now it’s more than that. I find it very productive and a positive use of my time. So those are the two main things, I would say. And reading books.

I guess I’m sort of a tech geek too. I have my own computer that I built. It’s a really expensive hobby. My computer at home is pretty decent. I built it under $1000. I have a lot of leftover parts that I re-use, so that’s part of it. When I was in fourth grade, we had an informal computer lab in our classroom. It was all these old IBM PCs from the 80s, and I learned how to do DOS and all that stuff back then, and that got me interested in hardware. Eventually at some point I started fiddling with hardware when I was in high school, and then built my first computer when I was in college, and then I’ve gone through probably at least 5 or 10 different iterations of a PC at this point in my life. 

How do you handle the issue of pronouns and being gendered when interacting with strangers / mixed company / etc?

What I tell myself in my head is that if I get misgendered, I will correct a person. What actually happens in practice is that I just sit there and smile. If it’s company that I don’t know, I don’t want to ruffle any feathers and make people feel bad or anything like that. I guess I just sort of take it. If it’s within company that I know, I’ll be aggressive about it, but with strangers, it’s a lot harder. Especially if they read me the wrong way, I just don’t know how to respond. I get super frustrated, and I feel lots of angst and self-doubt, like: What’s even the point? It’s a lot for people who haven’t encountered a trans person, and they fuck up with the pronouns. What they don’t see is our internal thought process when that happens, and why we get angry about it, and what it makes us feel like. For me, being misgendered in public space by folks I don’t know is overwhelming. That’s what it boils down to. To the point where I just don’t act.

[It doesn’t happen] very frequently. It’ll happen to me like once every couple weeks or so, and by strangers for the most part. I think the last time it happened to me was with a patient that I was working with. I don’t know if he even knew that I was trans or not, maybe I was just a little more on the masculine side or had a deeper voice than cis women, but yeah, it still gets me down. I’m better about feeling less angsty about it these days, but it’s still hard because I feel like I’m still not seen the way I want to be seen 100% of the time, and a lot of cis people don’t have to deal with that. But that’s something that I’m ever-vigilant about, and is always in the back of my head.

Have you had difficulties with changing your name and the way it affects you moving through the world, being recognized how you want, or being misgendered?

Yeah. When I first changed my name, people had a hard time. It was very hard for people. At first I was giving people leeway about it, because I understand for some people it would take time. But even a month in, I still had people calling me by my dead boy name, and it was really aggravating, to the point where I would correct people. “That’s not my name.” I would sort of shame them a little bit. There was this one instance where a co-worker of mine was asking me for tech help, and she defaulted to using my boy name when asking me the question, when she had been doing so well for the past couple of weeks. I guess she associated maleness with technology or something like that. And afterwards I went to her office, and I told her about that, and what I had been doing for the longest time was that when people misgender me or use the wrong name, I would drop my register of my voice. “Hey, this is Mike, and if you want Mike to talk, this is how I’m going to talk. It’s going to be weird, and you’re going to have to deal with it.”

And I guess that was one way of expressing my anger, by shaming people like that. Because I just want people to get the point. Like if you don’t get it right, I want you to apologize. 

I don’t want you to give me some lame excuse, like it’s so hard. Just apologize and walk away. That’s it. I don’t need to hear excuses. And people give me excuses. Just about how hard it is to change calling me by something else. That’s mostly just work. I haven’t had much difficulty with family; some difficult with friends. But most of my friends were quick to make the change. I work at a supposedly very progressive organization, because they always promote a lot of LGBTQ healthcare stuff, but the internal structure is very conservative. It was really hard for me to penetrate this mindset of, Yeah, I’m queer, I’m trans, I changed my name, this is something you have to understand about me, do your homework. I was feeling like I had to do a lot of the homework for people to get them to understand why I was frustrated.

 

What word(s) would you use to describe your identity?

To put it succinctly, I describe myself as a transfeminine individual. The reason I describe myself that way is that I do not feel like I fulfill the binary, at least internally, whatever that female binary is. I experience enough fluidity to not say that I’m a trans woman, because that feels wrong to me. So I use the term transfeminine because I try to emphasize that there’s a spectrum of what that means, and it makes me feel comfortable. I sleep well at night with that label. A transfeminine queer person.

Are there ways that you dress / act / speak / etc. to specifically make a statement to others about your identity? Why?

I don’t feel like I really act that much different from when I was a guy. That in and of itself could be a political statement. I wear a lot of buttons as political statements and also statements of my identity. I, most of the time outside of work, do not dress very femme at all. I’m mostly tomboy-ish most of the time, if even that, but I do like to be really femme from time to time. The reason I do that is an expression of who I am, my sense of how female I feel from day to day. Sometimes I’m lazy as crap and don’t care about looking nice, whatever that means. And other days I like to dress up.

How early on did you know or suspect that you did not identify within the binary?

I knew probably in my early teens that there was something off. I didn’t know what that was, I just knew that there was something that wasn’t right about my gender. I didn’t even have words for what gender was back then. What I knew was that I was attracted to the idea of being female, and that was super confusing, and continued to be super confusing until two years ago. It wasn’t until high school that I discovered that trans was a thing, and that’s when a lot of the questioning started. Am I trans, or is this something else? That idea persisted in my head for a good 10 years or so. This cycling through that anxiety of, Am I trans or not, or is this a sexuality thing? And I came to realize that it wasn’t a weird sexual thing, and even if it was, why is that a problem? But I realized, yeah, this is gender dysphoria I’ve been experiencing for a significant part of my life, and I need to do something about it.

Do you think anything about the way you were raised or where you grew up affected how you drew conclusions about your identity?

Maybe. I grew up in the Midwest – Ohio, whatever you call that. I grew up in middle-class white suburbia, so I was very much in my own bubble for the most part. I wasn’t really exposed to much queer culture when I was a kid. That’s what I really missed out on. I knew sort of what gay people were. My conception of gay people was ridiculously flamboyant men or something like that. I knew my idea of what trans was when I was in high school and college was very hyper-feminine, hyper-sexualized men who wanted to be women. And that’s pretty much all I knew up until I started really facing the facts about my identity and engrossing myself more in queer culture, and also deconstructing my own internalized transphobia and ideas of gender binaries. So being in a small town – being in Ohio – really secluded me from a lot of queer culture in general. I went to a big school, but even then I wasn’t really exposed to too much.

And on top of all that, I come from a very traditional Chinese conservative family. We don’t talk about feelings. We don’t talk about anything personal. So I didn’t even really know how to express myself, even if I did know what was going on with me. I would not know how to find an outlet for it. So it was really hard. And now I feel like I’ve been doing so much catch-up for a decade and a half of stuff I’ve missed out on. I don’t feel angry about that, but I do feel a little bit forlorn that I missed out on a lot of those experiences that people had in their 20s.

Can you give any examples of misconceptions people have about those who identify outside the binary? Have you personally dealt with them?

I think honestly, the fact of the matter is, most people who are not in trans circles do not know that anything exists outside of the binary. I was talking to some sort of non-binary folks last night, and I always hear their complaints of, “I don’t exist. Bathrooms don’t acknowledge my existence. People read me as either being male or female when I’m neither, and I think I’m being very clear about being neither male or female.” I think it’s a misconception to some extent that maleness or femaleness lies on a single spectrum, and that you fall on this line and that’s where you are. You’re either somewhat male or somewhat female and that’s it, when I think it’s a lot more complicated than that. It’s a lot more multi-dimensional, because there are people I know that I see more than being just male or female, it’s something a little bit different. I think for my own experience, when people found out that I was trans, they immediately thought that I was going to fall right into the binary of what a female person is.

My experience and my continued experience is that people have learned a lot more, and are surprised about how I behave and how I dress; how unlike the trans experience that they’ve had, how different it is from what they’ve experienced – which is a very small little tiny bit of experience, it’s probably only stuff they’ve seen in movies and TV.

And for me, it’s like, Well, other women dress like I do every day, and also go back and forth about how they dress, this is not anything out of the norm, the only difference is that I guess I’m gender-nonconforming or something like that. It’s just funny how the framing of being a trans person influences the perception they impose on you. And that’s also just really frustrating, because I feel like society has placed me in a box and I have to break out of it. And I can only imagine for people who are genderqueer or who identify as non-binary, there’s not even a box that exists for them, so people don’t even have an idea of how they identify. So they are always on the outside looking in, and it’s sad to hear about that.

In your own words, how would you explain that gender identity is different from sexual orientation?

What I have to offer is actually a little bit more of a layered answer to that. This is my belief from my own personal experience. I believe that sexuality and gender are two different constructs in our head and our bodies, and they are very distinct from each other, but they’re not mutually exclusive, and that’s my belief. What I mean by that is I think there are lots of different ways that gender and sexuality come to interact in circumstances that are surprising. I just use my experience in my own transition as an indication of that. When I was a guy, a lot of my gender thoughts were very yoked very strongly with my ideas of gender. Like I mentioned earlier, I always felt very physically attracted to the idea of being a woman. That’s actually very common in a lot of trans women, or transfeminine people. And ever since I transitioned, that confusion no longer exists. What I can say is I understand it more. I understand how it comes to interact now, and feeling less ashamed about how that interacts.

I think that people really try to oversimplify the question. What popular mainstream LGBT culture would like you to believe is that sexuality and gender are two different things, and they never ever will come together or do anything; you’re always going to be female and you might be straight or gay, those things don’t intertwine. But maybe – and this is true [for me] – because I’m a transfeminine person, I find different aspects of different genders attractive, and I’m willing to engage in sexual activity with trans men or more masculine trans women or different types of cis people. I think being trans has allowed me to understand how my understanding of my gender and my attractions sort of mix with each other.

When I transitioned and I started understanding my own sexuality and gender, finding myself attracted to all these different trans people and different cis people, I was like, Okay, I’m just queer. I’m definitely attracted to [people] on the more feminine spectrum of things, but I’m a lot more open to different things rather than boxing myself within, “Oh, I like females.” I had to question what I meant from my previous belief system. “Well, I like certain types of females with this certain body type and hair color and blah blah blah” – and that just didn’t jive with me after a while.

How do you feel represented in media and society at large?

I feel like the media has come a really long way. I feel like they’re doing a better job at representing us in media and TV shows and movies. That being said, they could do a lot better. The biggest mistake that any show producer ever [made] was putting Caitlyn Jenner on a TV show and perpetuating, basically, a gender binary. There’s this boom of TV focused specifically on the trans experience, and part of me is like, “That’s great, more exposure for us,” but part of me is like, “So, are we just like these unicorns to you? Is that all we are? Why aren’t there more of us in other TV shows, not related to trans things?” I think the entertainment industry could do better about our representation. I think that they’re getting there.

There are a couple TV shows that have done a really good job with representation. Transparent, for example, did a really good job, despite the fact that they didn’t cast a trans person in the main role. I would’ve liked to see a trans [actress] in the main role, but kudos to Jeffrey Tambor for still doing a pretty halfway-decent job at depicting someone who is transitioning later in life. I think he depicted Mora’s character very accurately to the struggles that a late-life person has to deal with. Aside from all the crazy family stuff in that TV show. So I was very pleased with that. And also, in that TV show, Mora became less of a focus in the second season, so it was less about overt trans stuff, and [about] how the threads of trans stuff influences other folks in a very indirect way.

Other trans representation I’m happy with is: there’s this SciFi show called Sense8, and I’m very happy with Nomi’s character. They did a really good job with her character. Also queer representation in the San Francisco scenes was cool. And there’s also a web series I’m very happy with that I watched several months ago called Her Story. It was a 6-episode web series, each episode about 10 minutes each. They cast actual trans people for all the [trans] roles, and it sort of followed the life of a trans woman who was in sex work for a while and was trying to navigate her life in California. It really highlights a lot of the different things that transfeminine people go through on a daily basis, or on a long-term basis. So I enjoyed that. I very much resonated with it.

What improvements would you like to see happen inside your communities, and in society at large?

Let’s start with inside my community. I mentioned I was an activist. I have lots of feelings about how our activism is conducted. Here in Massachusetts, I am probably 75% pleased with how trans rights have been progressing, and how we’re treated and seen by folks in Massachusetts, especially here in Boston. What I am very displeased with is the continued lack of representation of people of color in my community, and how policymakers continue to underrepresent or flat-out ignore people of color and other underprivileged trans people. What I’ve seen a lot, being involved with Freedom Massachusetts and a lot of the bill that was passed this year, was a lot of the media coverage and a lot of the social media stuff was very much focused on white people who had steady incomes and steady jobs or white parents of trans children, and stories about how hard their lives have been as trans people or parents of trans children. “Oh, think of the children!” I know many people, both directly and indirectly, in the POC community that refuse to buy into that narrative and are disenfranchised from it. I had a discussion with another trans POC person and they were saying, “I don’t know how I can even connect with the rest of this community. How can I get involved?” They are invisible. And, quite frankly, a lot of the legislation and policy that we passed impact them the most. Yet we continue to do a poor job of connecting with them in a better way. That’s my next activist goal is to really bring up those voices a lot more.

Society at large could also be doing a better job at that. I’m very much influenced by the idea that racial politics and trans politics are more or less the same thing. My impression as a lighter-skinned trans person, or just being a trans person in general, a lot of the oppression I face is the same as what black and brown people face. I see no difference in that. And I think society at large should understand that trans people are a minority, not in a way that you’re used to thinking about minorities – we’re not a racial minority – but we’re definitely a minority in the same way that queer folks are a minority. And that just because it’s sort of hip now to be trans, just like it was hip to be gay 10 years ago or even now, there are so many things that need to continue being talked about, because all of us, whether we’re queer or trans or both, face so much discrimination day in and day out. Society needs to do a better job realizing these things. We don’t have it easy, and I don’t know if we’ll ever have it easy.

Could you tell me about an experience or moment in your life that was very impactful for you? It can be in regards to your identity, or not.

The first most impactful thing that happened to me was moving across the country to Arizona from Ohio. That was really a very big growth experience for me, pushing myself out of my comfort zone and picking up and moving 2000 miles. Which was great. I’d say I would want to do it again, but I want to settle here for a while before I go back anywhere else. That taught me how to be a person, because I was always a very introverted kid, and it forced me to develop a lot of social skills I didn’t have before. [I moved out there for] grad school. Also while I was out there, my mentor in grad school really gave me a kick in the butt in terms of becoming more of a person. What I mean by that is she realized how shy and introverted I was, and she sort of took it upon herself to shape me a little bit more and get me to come outside of my shell a little bit, but also give me a hard time about the weird awkward things I would do. I was an awkward person, and I’m still sort of awkward sometimes. That helped me realize a lot of things about myself during that time. So I felt like I became a person during that time, that 5-year period I lived out in Arizona – I felt like I learned how to connect with people in ways I didn’t know how to before. And it felt like the first time I had a community of friends.

The second most impactful thing that happened to me in my life happened to me this year. This was the year of continued transformative experience for me. I came out to folks 2 years ago this August, and I went through that whole transition process from there on out, but starting this past September [2015], I decided that I wanted to start dating again. I met this person who is a very special person to me, and we’re best friends, and she got me into activism. She pulled me into phone banks, she pulled me into doing a lot of stuff with Black and Pink [http://www.blackandpink.org/] here in Boston, and I went down that rabbit hole of activism. And it wasn’t only just activism. The activism piece sparked a lot of self-discovery for me. Discovery of who I really wanted to be, how I wanted to represent myself in the world, becoming more comfortable with who I am and what my identity is, instead of being a fearful trans person. I came to find that there’s this large community of queer and trans people which I feel very strongly connected to that I consider a family here. That’s something I never had before. I consider [them] a family a lot more than my birth family. I’ve found for myself that I’m proud for who I am, and that I try as hard as I can not to be ashamed of my identity to myself and to other people.

And that all just snowballed. I found confidence in myself this year to do the things that I didn’t think that I would do, and put myself in front of challenges that I didn’t think I would put myself in front of. And that was a very strange but awesome experience to go through. This year has been both the best and worst year of my life, just with how tumultuous it’s been, but I’ve found lots of things about myself this year that I didn’t think I had in me. Maybe it was me coming out as trans, or maybe it was something else. I don’t know. I like to inscribe it to my trans-ness. So I’ll just put my nickel down on that.

Could you give me an example of something difficult that occurred in your life how you dealt with it? It can be in regards to your identity, or not.

I think the hardest thing I have continued to deal with, and still deal with in my life, is my sense of isolation and alone-ness and loneliness that I have. Just in general. I continually feel, even though I know this is not true, alone in the world. Whether it comes to friends or family or relationships. Sometimes I feel like the fact that I’m trans excludes me from all spaces in some way or fashion. For me, it takes me so much effort and cognitive function to even get to a place where I’m treading water, to feel like I’m okay, that I’m not alone in that struggle and that there are people that are wanting to pick me up. I’ve always felt that my whole entire life because I never really had support from people and my family. I mentioned I come from a very traditional, conservative Chinese family, and so I never had emotional support from them. I never learned how to get emotional support from people until really I got into grad school, and even now I have a lot of internalized feelings like, Oh, I’ll carry my burdens on my back without needing help from people because I don’t want to bother people with my stuff. It sucks. And I’m ever so slowly unlearning all that stuff, and all my internalized emotions, and why I feel the way I feel. That’s been the hardest thing I’ve had to overcome in life.

I think the way I try to deal with it is I try to hang on to a couple of things. Hang on to the fact that I have made very good relationships since I’ve moved here to Boston, with the queer community, with trans people. And I would not trade that for the world. I have been met with so much love by lots of different communities here that I try to hang on to that. It’s very important to me. And the second thing that’s sort of what I try to build my confidence off of is – I’ve been through this whole transition bullshit, I’ve been through this thing that 99% of the country will never, ever have to go through. And if I can do that, the sky is the limit, quite frankly. Only until after I’ve gotten past most of it – because transition never ends, is something I tell people – in a lot of the hindsight I see now, I realize how much energy I was spending on dealing with the world and dealing with people and dealing with crap. Just holding it together in the face of society judging me for everything that I was doing. And I made it out fine, and parts of it were really traumatic, but it made me a stronger person for it.

Who in your life do you feel you can trust or depend on?

I really trust a lot of my friends in the community, and I know I can depend on them for support when I need it. I know I can go to people and say, “Hey, I just need help. I need someone to come out and hang out with me and listen.” And I know someone from the community will at the drop of a dime come out and do that for me. Or if I need housing or something like that, I know someone from the community will just come out and say, “Hey, I have a roof for you, you can stay here until you get back on your feet.” Aside from that, I have a very close friend, the same person who sort of helped shepherd me through a lot of stuff this year, who I have complete utter confidence in supporting me in everything that I do, and listening to everything that I have to say.

She’s my best friend Anja. She is a fellow queer woman here in Boston who’s unfortunately moving, so that’s difficult. She’s one of those people that I inherently trust, and that I don’t have to explain why I need to be trusted. I don’t have to ever explain myself. There’s just sort of an understanding of things I say, and how I feel about certain things. And on top of that, when there is a lack of understanding, there’s very much open communication. I can trust that she won’t judge me for how I feel. She’s just non-judgmental. It’s like I talked about sexuality earlier, it’s really quite varied once you’re queer, and I understand that. Relationships become quite varied amongst the queer community. When people ask me what kind of relationship I have with her – she is my best friend, but I elaborate a little bit further with queer folks. It’s a little bit more than that, and it’s not something that I really can put my finger on, and I’m okay with that. I put my trust in my community, I put my trust in my best friend. I know they can be there for me in times of distress.

How has your identity played a role in your relationships, romantic or otherwise?

My relationships with cis people have not really changed all that much. They’re sort of interested that I’m trans, but the conversation just sort of stops once they realize [I am]. There’s no greater understanding of what it means to be trans. When it comes to queer people, my relationships with folks become much deeper. There’s a much deeper understanding without having to say much about the experiences that we go through, and then those entrenched experiences that we all have allow us to be more open with each other. I’m able to connect with people in ways I have not been able to before I transitioned, and I’ve been able to be more open to people in ways I didn’t feel like I could before I transitioned. The amount of depth I have in my relationships now, even with friends that I only hang out with very infrequently, is much different and more intimate. It’s very refreshing to me. Rather than having a lot of superficial cis friends, which was my experience from before. I feel like once you connect with a queer person, you’re really connected to them. And it’s great. It’s great.

Are you able to find adequate medical care?

Fortunately, yes. Like 99% of other trans people here in Boston, I go to Fenway. I have not had any problems with Fenway, other than the wait times just because they serve the greater Eastern Massachusetts queer community. I have not had any problems with their service. That being said, I understand the problems that Fenway has, and I continue to talk about them. They have a problem with diversity, they have a problem with the customer-facing side of Fenway where everyone who is in a service position is basically a person of color, and everyone who is in a medical professional position is not. That’s problematic to me. On the internal side, most if not all of the leadership are white gay men. And that’s a problem too. I think, since Fenway is the LGBTQ health facility in Eastern Massachusetts where most people get their care from, they need to be serving underserved communities. They need to be representing underserved communities better. That’s really just the bottom line. I’ve heard people say they don’t go to Fenway because they don’t feel like they’re served well there or represented well there, or understood well. And that’s just sort of sad to me.

How has your view of yourself changed since you were younger?

A lot. The main thing is I am so much more confident in who I am and who I want to be, and how I want to hold myself. Whereas when I was younger, I just wanted to hide from the world and not have anything to do with social impact and be in my own little bubble. I look back to even 3 or 4 years ago, and I think to myself, Who is that person? Who is that child?

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I struggle with this. Part of me is like, You should’ve transitioned, you should’ve become a full gay trans queer so much earlier. And I struggle with that because I don’t know if I would’ve been afforded the same opportunities back then that I do now transitioning later. One concrete thing I would tell myself is, Be more fucking confident in yourself. You have so much to be proud of that you don’t know about yet. You’re a smart, capable person. You can do all the things that you want to do. Put yourself out there. Take risks. Meet new people. Just don’t give a fuck. [laughs] Easier said than done. My younger self would probably have a glazed look saying, “What’s going on?”

What are your concerns for the future?

Personally, my concerns of the future are around my own employment, because it’s omnipresent for me, but more specifically my employment as a trans person. How is that going to look like in the greater Boston industry here? If I go on an interview, if I get read as trans, does that automatically put me in a different pile (both implicitly and explicitly)? Is that going to affect my income? Is that going to affect my career trajectory? There’s so many work-related questions that I have for myself.

For greater societal things, I’m just concerned about how the trans community is going to keep moving as a whole and where we’re going to go next. What the next fight is, or even what the current fight is. The current fight now is all of this bathroom stuff. Once that’s solved, what do we do next? “Trans people can use bathrooms, hurray! Let’s stop giving a shit about them!” I fear the same thing that happened to the gay and lesbian and bisexual community when gay marriage started to become a thing will happen to the trans community once the bathroom stuff is sorted out. That we’ll be forgotten. Or it’s trendy and it’s hip. Like, “You’re cool, you’re a trans person.” It’s like, “Oh yeah, that cool gay person. It’s fine. It’s all cool.” And it really isn’t. You’re making all my issues invisible. It’s not cool, because growing up, we carry lots of trauma with not knowing who the fuck we are. That’s not cool. Being gay, I guess it’s cool now, or whatever, like I’m cool with being queer, but I don’t want it to be trendy. It also implies if you’re queer or trans, it’s because it’s popular and it’s cool for people to do that. And that’s so fucked up.

I really want specifically queer liberation issues to be more in line with racial politics. And I fear, at least within the trans community and the greater queer community, that we will continue to fracture. We already have fractured as a community. I look at something like HRC and how their organization is set up, and how they conduct their policy and politics, and how degrading it is to be a trans person in that organization. How incredibly white gay male it is in leadership. That organization does not represent me. And furthermore, that organization should not represent the greater queer community. But they have the most money, and you know how capitalism works. My frustration with something like HRC, where it’s very implicitly, covertly trans-exclusionary – I’m sure it’s unintentional, but more based on implicit biases that people have toward trans people – I want the trans community to understand that racial politics within our community are analogous to that.

When I was helping with the action [at Spirit magazine’s networking event] several months ago, I was doing a lot of the social media management, even after the fallout, and whenever QTPOC stuff came up on Facebook feed, the POC people would get up in arms and complain, and make good points about things – and I was with them – and all the white people would get super offended. 

All the white trans people and parents would get super offended that they’re being called out about their racism within our community. We’re in the same community! Why don’t you understand these oppressive systemic things that are affecting us, they’re worse for those of us who are of color. It’s the same thing, only amplified. Why can’t you just see that? It was super frustrating for me, and I just hope that organizers and advocates and organizations do a better job of diversifying themselves.

What do you look forward to in the future?

I look forward to society being a safer place for us. Because I think that will happen. I don’t know when it will happen, but considering the progress that’s being made so far – I know people who didn’t even know trans people existed 2 years ago, and all of a sudden there’s this whole trans thing. That’s a step in the right direction. But there’s still a lot of work to do. Personally, I look forward to continuing to discover more about myself as I further find my place in the greater Boston queer community and find what it means for me to be not only trans but also queer, and how I fit within the umbrella here in Boston. I don’t know what lies ahead, but I’m excited to see. Because everything that’s been shown to me so far has been quite exciting. I have no reason to be afraid of what happens next.

What have been the important frustrations in your life, and the most important successes?

Important frustrations in my life have everything to do with having intimate relationships with people. Around dating, around friendships, and the lack thereof and my inability to connect with people. In terms of dating as a trans person, I am utterly frustrated. It’s really hard. At least that’s my experience. But every time I go on a date with someone, I see a glimmer of hope that there are some queer ladies out there that see me the way I want to be seen. [Some] can sort of never see past my masculinity or whatever, or that I potentially have the wrong equipment that they don’t like or something like that. I think that will continue to be a frustration, and I think that’s just a thing that we have to address in the queer community as a whole.

Important success – that I fucking transitioned, and continue to do that. That was really important. I checked that off the list. An important success in my life has been really finding my true identity as who I am and who I really always wanted to be this past year. I know I talked about it at length, but really, truly, I look back and I see myself 10 or 15 years ago, and I say to myself, I had all the potential to be who I am now back then, I just didn’t know it nor did I know how to pull that potential out or find ways to pull it out. I feel like the best success I had was really finding that identity. Coming to that identity and having all the right things happen at the right time, and finding that part of myself in this past year. Which is why I like to be excited about things to come. Because if this is how I feel now, what’s going to happen down the road?

Do you have a philosophy of life? What’s your best piece of advice?

This is easier said than done, I realize, and it’s a little bit cliché, but I believe in it. Live your life authentically, whatever that means to you. If you’re trans and still questioning, try to find out what it means for you to live authentically. For me, I wish someone could’ve really told me what it was like to live authentically and explain to me what it was like to live authentically and not have to hide, and showed me what it was like to be who I really wanted to be, and give me examples of that. And I try to live by those words, and I try to show what I mean by those words by trying to be as visible and as confident as I can for my community, because I want people to do the same. I want people to not give a fuck about society. Do what you want to do, and be who you want to be. So those are my words of wisdom.