Dee Culp

LIVING YOUR TRUTH: Why I’m proud to be transgender

LIVING YOUR TRUTH: Why I’m proud to be transgender
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NEPA PrideFest is coming up next week in Pittston on Saturday, Aug. 15, and I’m excited! I’m really looking forward to this year because we’ve got a lot to celebrate. Between the passage of marriage equality and seeing what’s going on in the fight for equality in housing and the work place, plus my own little personal victories, I think we’ve got a lot to be proud of. I’m looking forward to getting together with my friends to remember the past and look towards the future.

But I wasn’t always this stoked about Pride. In fact, I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately and what it means to me to be proud of who and what I am, and I think I have a few things to say.

I attended my first PrideFest ever last year in Wilkes-Barre’s Kirby Park. It was also one of the first times I went out presenting as myself, and I was pretty nervous about it. I did myself up as best I could and set out to see what I could make of the day. Would I be accepted? Would I pass for a woman? Would people make fun of me and make me feel unwelcome? I just didn’t know, but I felt it was something I had to do.

Aside from being addressed by the wrong pronouns for most of the day, I met some new friends and managed to have a great time. The food, the music, the people… Everyone coming together to join in this celebration of diversity, with all of the variety in genders and sexualities represented, was overwhelming. Too overwhelming, in fact.

At some point during the festivities, things took a turn. Maybe it was being misgendered and wondering if I’d ever pass for female that set me off. Maybe it was realizing how much work I had ahead of me. Maybe it was some confusion about myself that had me wondering, “Was this real? Was I sure I wasn’t just confused or mentally ill?” I just felt so out of place, like I didn’t belong. As I sat there, feeling sorry for myself, I wondered, “What have I got to be proud of?” Really, what one thing could I think of that made me proud?

Well, I felt proud of the people who came before me. A lot of folks had to go through hell to get us where we are today, and I will always remember that. And I felt proud to know that this space existed at all for people like me. I felt proud that I was not alone, that I had people I could talk to about all of this. But being transgender, at the time, it just seemed like the worst thing in the world to be. How could I celebrate being something the world didn’t seem to want to exist? I thought I was ugly, I didn’t pass, and I was miserable about the whole damn situation. I wasn’t proud because the world told me I shouldn’t be, through various media, the attitudes of those around me, and the experiences that I had through the years. I was told that I should be ashamed, so I was. That’s when I knew I had a long way to go if I was ever to accept myself and expect the world to do the same.

I hear, quite often, from people who are not proud to be trans, and I feel for them. I empathize with them because I was there once. There was I time I hated myself, not so long ago. This state of being is often defined by the things we lack, and it can become quite easy to get locked into the mindset of never having enough, but I decided to change that point of view in myself.

Physically, things are just different, and they always will be. I’m not denying that. But what I am denying is the idea that I should be ashamed of that fact. That, somehow, I am not a woman because of my internal organs, or my bone structure, or my outward physical appearance, or my DNA, or whatever other biological factor someone else wants to use to measure me and dictate the way I should feel about myself. The idea that I, or anyone, should be treated as less than equal and undeserving of respect is not going to fly with me anymore. Those days are over. I am past the point where I sit and quietly sulk when someone mistreats me, and I’ll be damned before I stand idly by and watch it happen to someone else.

My hope and goal in life is to get other people to realize how proud of themselves they should be, just as they’ve helped me to realize how proud I should be of myself. Living your truth should never been seen as “problematic” or inconvenient to someone else. And if it is, don’t apologize. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed; there’s nothing shameful or embarrassing about you. You are beautiful, you are worthy, and you matter. Stop apologizing that you exist. Stop telling yourself that you can’t do it. Stop wasting time, and stop feeling sorry for yourself. Whether you are a man, a woman, both, or neither, you are a person. So act like it. Be that person; be you. And be proud of who that person is. I am proud of myself, and I’m proud of you, whoever you are out there, reading this. And I’m not letting anyone take that away.

If nothing else, we must be proud of ourselves, even if no one else is – especially if no one else is – your family, your friends, whomever. When it comes to respect, we must demand it because it’s the only way to save lives and make sure we are all treated fairly. We must show the world that we are not afraid to be who we are because trans lives matter. Black trans lives matter. “Non-passing” trans lives matter. Gender non-conforming/non-binary trans lives matter. We must stand up for ourselves and declare that our lives matter, because they do.

So, tell me – what makes you proud?

Living Your Truth is a weekly column about the empowerment that comes from being true to your authentic self. It focuses on the LGBT community in NEPA and the news and events that impact it.