Weeks ago I celebrated the sixth anniversary of being outed as a queer person. March 21st has become for me personally what July 4th is for Americans. It is a day when I celebrate the incredible fortune I had to be propelled so unceremoniously into the spotlight as a scared and confused transgender person, still wholly unaware of what my identity was or what it entailed. It is also a day when I mourn the loss of innocence which soon followed. The time immediately after and for the next three years was one of pain, exploration, and eventual freedom.
Two years after the outing of the century, I came to the realization that I was a transgender woman. This realization came from dissatisfaction with life as a gay man and from further education in queer identity. It was in a Women and Gender Studies course that I came to the biggest crossroads in my life. Would I continue to perform a gender that was not my own, or would I embrace who I have been since my life began? Ultimately, I made the decision to embrace myself.
For me, embracing myself completely meant embracing transgender identity completely. I have never desired to be “stealth” or “passible” because these concepts, for me, reek of transphobia. They imply that to be transgender is shameful or wrong, a thing to hide. For my entire life, until that point, I had been in hiding. I had been passible and steath as “a man.” Living this way was shame-inducing, fear breeding, and emotionally corrosive. If I were to embrace myself, and embrace myself to the full, then I was going to celebrate my identity openly and proudly.
Soon after beginning my life as Darcy, I had the opportunity to tell my story to the small newspaper on my college campus. It was anxiety-provoking, to say the least, to think about having my identity out in the open for everyone to see and to know. While I had been open with my friends and colleagues, I wasn’t broadcasting my transness to the world. This article would make me permanently visible. I only hesitated for a minute before accepting their offer. I justified my decision by arguing that it might help other trans folk in my small southern town to be brave enough to be themselves.
On the day the article came out, I was having a pretty rough day. When I grabbed a paper to read what I assumed would be a small story in the inside of the paper, I was horrified to see that I had made it on the front page above the fold. This coveted position would delight me today. Back then, it sent chills down my spine. “If I wasn’t out before, I am now,” I said to myself. Every time I passed someone on the concourse walking to my first class, I felt like they were staring at me. I was pretty sure I was going to be murdered. A saw a guy point at me and run up. “This is it,” I thought, “I’m done for.” “DUDE!,” he said, “you are the shit. This is some ballsy-ass shit.” And then he hugged me and walked away.
Since that time, I have built a career on visibility and “ballsy-ass shit.” Being visible has made me friends and enemies and has impacted my life in good ways and bad ways. Death threats have been, and sometimes still are, a regular occurrence for me. Relationships are nearly impossible because of the stigma surrounding dating a trans woman. I’ve lost jobs and not gotten offers of employment because of my prominent transness. On the flip side, every day of my life for the past four years has been dedicated to loving the woman I’ve become. And this makes it all worth it.
Even with all of the horrible things that have happened to me because I am visible, I would not change one minute of my experience. Indeed, my experiences, good and bad, have made me a stronger, more confident, and happier person. Moreover, they have given me the ability to be strong, to fight, and to be visible for thousands of people who simply can’t. Whether it’s due to economic stability, personal safety, or other personal reasons, many transgender people cannot be visible. No person should ever feel bad for not being visible. For me, my life as a transgender woman would be incomplete without total visibility, but that is what works for me, and I totally understand that what works for me may not work for you.
That is why I’ve transformed my experience into an online resource to help transgender folk and their loved ones navigate the early stages of transition when visibility is hard, there are more questions than answers, and fear is more common than courage. MyTransitionPartner.com is the product of three year’s work. Currently, the material is being peer reviewed, but we have the site up and running so more than 300 people per day can benefit from it. I hope that if you are reading this and are afraid of visibility that you will consider checking it out. I hope that if you are reading this and are unsure of how to love your transgender loved one that you will consider checking this out. Finally, I hope that if you are reading this and you want to learn more about gender identity that you will consider checking this out. This process is scary and difficult, but you are not alone. The greatest benefit of visibility, other than being totally free, is that we are here for those who aren’t there yet. You are not alone. We are here for you.
MyTransitionPartner is a program of the Darcy Jeda Corbitt Foundation, a community foundation registered in North Dakota. Please consider making a gift to keep this, and other programs, available to transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.