kennedy-a transman in the world of cis thoughts

usually on sunday mornings, we drag our butts outta bed and go and get coffee at this locally owned coffeeshop.  it’s usually quiet, it’s local, the coffee is good, and the owners are pretty cool.  so there is usually a group of us weirdos that meet there.  from our household it is usually amy, sam, sometimes jeff, and myself, but we always go and get kennedy, he is a part of our family too.

i met kennedy last march.  he and a group of friends came to the pride group i had founded.  kennedy jumped into the group head first, attending all the social events, the youth group, and doing any community service that we had set up.  it was impressive to say the least.  so it was pretty easy getting to know him.  and it wasn’t too long before i heard his story.

see kennedy is trans.  he was born female but identifies and feels male.   he lives as a male.  he struggled with self-identity for many years, which is common, especially when you have never met another trans person.  he went through the gambit of well i am just a really intense lesbian, also normal.  but that wasn’t the end.  the search went on and on for the answer to the question most of us never have to ask “what am i?”  he came across an article about a trans person and he saw that was the exact same thing he had been going through his entire life.

i personally was extremely confused about trans identity for a very long time.  like many others i thought that gender was wrapped in sexual identity and therefore a transguy was a really wicked butch lesbian who it would be easier to identify as a man, and a transwoman was a over the top flamboyant gay man who it would just be easier to be a female.  i don’t think this varies much from the mainstream ideology of what is and isn’t trans.  but i was lucky enough to have someone teach me.

just before i started dating amy, when i first met her, i was in a relationship w chris, a ftm transperson.  i thought it was extremely strange when i first had a crush on him bc he would have been the first male i was attracted to in decades.  it left me w an odd feeling bc for so long inside of myself i had identified as at least bi and leaned more towards lesbian.  the relationship with chris taught me alot about gender v sexuality.

it was also an inside view into the reactions to a trans person, not only in the hetero world but in the lgb culture too.  in the hetero world there is an ever rising fear you will be “found out” and that leaves you open to extreme violence, emotionally and physically.  in the gay culture, it’s usually not so abrasive.  trans ppl are left out of events, they aren’t really taken into consideration when those of us on this side of the rainbow are fighting for equal rights, there is extreme prejudice and not alot of support-look at where the lgbt orgs were concerning cece mcdonald.  i saw that trans ppl had really nowhere to turn, very little acceptance and not a huge group of ppl who were advocating for their rights to be who they are.  there wasn’t a huge movement of public acceptance or education.

later on i met several other trans or gender queer ppl, who really really taught me alot!  i was lucky enough to have friends who would come into my home, drink coffee and just discuss issues of gender identity, what it means to be female, what it means to be male, etc.  these conversations fueled me to learn more.  i am sure everyone got pretty sick of hearing my wow gender is weird and awesome and not at all black and white epiphanies, but luckily noone told me to shut the hell up!

when we moved from maine to oklahoma, i started a pride group in the town that i live in now.  i started it mostly for the youth to have a place to be, a mentoring program, and an outlet for all those others in bouncing around in the world trying to figure things out.  i also was extremely insistent that trans ppl were not just welcomed but i actively searched them out.  i knew from before the bigotry of the gay community and i was not about to participate in that sort of hatred.  the youth was always my primary focus.  they needed the most support, and for the most part their parents, if they knew their kid was queer, were usually not so accepting.  our youth group did alot in the community, we held a rainbow ball an all ages prom open to the public where you could dress how you wanted and bring who you wanted if anyone as a date (we don’t have that luxury here in the school systems) and it was free, we went bowling, we cleaned the parks, we went on walks against sexual violence, and we talked alot.  the pride group overall started moving in a direction that i could not participate in with inside politics and popularity contests rumors and hatefulness.  i pulled myself out of the entanglement with the intention of staying to lead the youth, but there were ppl who for one reason or another decided that i shouldn’t do that, and started rumors making it impossible for me to continue my work.  the rumors became so bad and so wide spread i will not leave my house alone, and when i do leave it is pretty rare, but i see kennedy almost every week.

kennedy is amazing!  not only is he well articulated he is patient.  he doesn’t usually lose his cool when referred to as the wrong pronoun on accident, he will take a step back then explain what it means to be trans as long as the person he is talking to is willing to be respectful and listen.  it is such a wonderful thing to watch!  today on his facebook page he wrote:

ive come across a lot of people who say ‘well its not /that/ big of a deal when i misgender you’ or make jokes about how i’m trans because that’s /totally/ something to joke about anyways (if you can’t tell that is sarcasm then you might need to learn context clues) and i just want everyone to understand the fact that i wake up everyday having to deal with feeling out of place and disgusted in my own skin and i hate myself so much because of my body and the fact that it isnt who i am and you reminding me of it does not in any way make me want to keep talking to you whether you are family or not
please be considerate when talking to me or about me because it is a huge part of who i am and how i see things and just dismissing it as a phase or something to laugh and joke about is not okay and im not going to associate with people who make me feel like shit

i think he says it best!

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4 comments

  1. transiteration · January 4, 2014

    Your post really hit home for me. There is definitely an interesting dynamic between the LGB and the T. That’s really neat that you started a pride group in Oklahoma! It’s always neat to run into another person that lives in OK. Do you still run the group? That’s especially wonderful that it’s accepting to trans people. Good on you!

    • cakeleevannila · January 4, 2014

      they are still around-the pride group, i just don’t participate. trans-issues are extremely important to me, and the fact is there is alot we don’t know, but what i do know is that it is real! i have talked tgirls out of self mutilation, stopped kids from purchasing online hormones-which is so scary! i see that the rift between the big gay orgs and the adaptation to trans issues as a huge deal. i believe we need to do trans-education!
      when i was the youth director, the kids would come w me to the local unitarian universalist church. that is where we had the meetings and the kids would go clean it once a week bc they let us use the space for free. anyway, uu’s are not christian and they are welcoming and affirming for the lgbtqa community. here the church is a big group of extreme intellectuals. there were many who claimed to have been involved with the human rights movement for racial equality, but they could not get their minds around trans ppl. they were respectful of pronouns and things of that nature but a true understanding wasn’t there. i did a presentation at the church introducing them to lgbtqa issues with a primary focus on trans and gender issues.
      another thing i have noticed that really gets at me is a lack of transwomen in feminist circles. i don’t think this is due to transwomen being indifferent to feminist theory and activity. i see that many feminist are saying “well, they aren’t real women!” yes they are! we don’t have the right to tell any person how to identify or what to think or thinking that gender determines equality-isn’t that what the whole feminist movement about?

      • transiteration · January 4, 2014

        Whoa, that is definitely scary, but I can’t say I haven’t been thought about that before. They should really make trans healthcare more accessible.

        I went to an LGBT group at a UU church before. They are definitely welcoming.

        People don’t usually think of transguys as feminists but I think a lot of us are because we’ve been there lived it. Some feminists (radfems) reject us too because they think we should accept our identity of butch lesbians and that leaving our female life behind goes against feminism. I can see their point, but at the same time I know my identity.

        Thanks for being such a good trans advocate.

      • cakeleevannila · January 5, 2014

        feminism in itself is a movement towards equality not domination. there are some radicals that believe that is the only way to get the female back is to take the power, but history has proven that when you start off by overpowering someone you end up oppressing in the same way you were oppressed, it’s cyclic and weird. we have the power within ourselves and don’t need to be validated from the outside in.
        i think i have been incredibly lucky to know the ppl i do. we advocate for human rights, the rights of everyone to be safe and secure in who they are bc everyone deserves that, not just one category of human being but every sentient being on the planet.
        some of the best feminists i have met were men, cis and trans! putting their own security and comfort on the line for the idea of equality, which is wonderful. kennedy is a true hearted feminist and he studies not just gender, trans, fem issues but also issues of ppl of color, immigration etc. the kid is really walking encyclopedia and it is awesome!

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