“Fuck your human rights!” Was the phrase yelled at Kayden and their fellow protesters this weekend in La Crosse, Wisconsin. What was so offensive that a passerby felt the need to yell this out their window? A sign that said “Trans Lives Matter.”
I met Kayden my freshmen year of college and we became fast friends, sharing an interest for Battlestar Galactica and copious amounts of food. At this time Kayden hadn’t come out as trans* but had come out as gay to their family. It wasn’t until only last year that they came out as Trans-Masculine and changed from she gender pronouns to They/Their. It has been an amazing experience to be a part of Kayden’s life because not only are they one of the kindest and strongest people, but they’re going to change the world.
With the recent recall of Obama’s bill to protect transgender bathroom rights, I did a short interview on some things Kayden has been doing to show that Trans* lives matter. If you’ve had questions or never met a trans* person, here’s some things you should know. Words hurt, actions hurt, be respectful.
Has being trans made you more politically motivate?
I would say that I was always motivated for social justice, but I think transitioning and developing an awareness of politics I’ve learned that the political is personal. When the government starts to regulate human bodies or spaces for humans, it becomes a very personal issue. You can’t separate the two. That’s why I’ve started contacting my representatives and engaging in protests. And having a lot of one-on-one conversations with people. When in the past I used to try to smooth things over with the “agree to disagree” angle, but that’s not good enough anymore. Because ignorant opinions are pretty detrimental to oppressed communities.
What has been the most difficult part of transitioning in your twenties?
I think the most difficult part was probably having to navigate coming out to so many people, because up until I was 22 they had known me as as somebody who wasn’t accurate or authentic. So it’s only been about a year, but a lot of people have these misconceptions about who I was and this was something that I had been wanting for so long. Having to justify to to people was really hard because they say I don’t have to, but I really did. Having to explain takes a lot of energy. They want an explanation for why it’s happening now, and there’s a multitude or reasons and some of them are the reasons it didn’t happen earlier. Most people don’t have to justify who they are but you’re expected to justify yourself when you transition.
What was the best part of transitioning?
I think just finally feeling relief. I don’t know how to describe the daily anguish when you feel disconnected with your body. It goes so far beyond feeling like you put on extra weight and you’re not ready for the beach. It’s feeling so alienated from your body.
You know that feeling in the summer when you’re in bed and hear a mosquito buzzing next to your ear? Then you turn on the light and you can’t find it but it’s still buzzing. It’s like you finally hunted own that mosquito and squashed it and that buzzing sound of something not being right is finally gone.
If every person could know a few things about being trans* what would you tell them?
I wish other people knew how much it sucked. I’m so tired of hearing “stop feeling anxious about your body.” Not to equate trans identity to mental health, but it is similar to things like depression and anxiety, you can’t turn it off, snap your fingers and it goes away. There is so much pain and anguish and daily anxiety. And even after you’ve taken steps to physically transition, there’s so much, every single day when you walk through the world there are every day reminders that you aren’t normal. It’s emotionally taxing when someone approaches me and says something to me, I’m dealing with so much already I don’t’ need this stress as well.
Other things, I wish people understood that you don’t have to take physical steps to transition and be trans*. Things like hormone therapy and counseling are a class luxury, if you have insurance and time and money you get to do these things. Most people who identify as trans don’t have the money or the resources to transition, but that doesn’t make them less trans. For some people they don’t want surgery, I’ve had top surgery and that was a huge point of disphoria for me, it was a huge part of my mental anguish. Maybe I’ll have bottom surgery, but it’s not something that I feel will make me feel more aligned with my body right now. It’s not just about surgeries, or about looking like a stereotypical man or anything. There isn’t an end goal of a checklist of things I have to check off before I’m a real boy. I’ve had family and friends tell me that they won’t respect my chosen name or my pronouns until I showed physical signs of transition. That’s really disgusting to me because I’m having to reach your level of expectation to reach who I am, but I am who I am. I don’t need to be something to gain your respect.
With recent legislation what are you doing to keep yourself and others feeling safe and welcome in the community?
One thing I’ve been doing is being more forward about who I am. I don’t like calling attention to myself if at all possible. But there are times you can have a really powerful conversation with complete strangers. Even is someone misgenders me and used the wrong pronouns, it’s an opportunity, it can give you a chance to expand their lens on gender.
I recently applied to be a board member at the The Center: Seven Rivers LGBTQ Connection here in La Crosse. If everything goes well, my goal will be to help the human resources portion of the center. Pulling in volunteers, going out into the community to get the word out there and what needs we have. Also to train volunteers who are coming in.
I’m also starting up a Youth Trans-Masculine group with the center. It’s been brought to my attention that there’s a bit of a generational gap in our regular Adult Trans group. Up until this point it’s been individuals in their 40’s and 50’s range. The youth that have attended the group haven’t felt supported because when they talk about their experiences older members will say things like “Well at least you can transition before you hit puberty.” and “Things are easier now then when I was your age.” To be clear, the feelings of the older generation are accurate and valid, but when you’re a young person transitioning today there are different hoops and barriers you have to overcome. I’m hoping this group will give these young people the support that they need to be healthier and have more fulfillment.
Trans-Masculine youths tend to drift towards more patriarchal values and actions. My other goal with this group is to demonstrate that you can be Trans-Masculine while keeping your newfound passing privilege in check.
Thank you so much Kayden!
If you’re trans* and living in La Crosse or Madison, there are resources to help. Never feel like you’re alone. If you need a bathroom buddy? There are people who will stand guard. The world is a scary place but understanding each other is how we’ll make the world a safer place for everyone. Trans* youth and adults are being killed at an alarming rate because people don’t see them as human. That’s just a small minority, we see you, we love you, we’ll keep each other safe.
The biggest thing that places trans* people in the “other” category is that people don’t understand. Read stories, watch videos, find information, and get informed. Ignorance is the worst thing for us all.
If you feel like you need to talk, please call the Trans Hotline: (877) 565-8860