Trans Woman // Colorado Springs, CO // Middle Aged. Twice Married. Once Divorced. Parent of 2 Adult Daughters & 7 Fur Babies. Plays Rugby.
With the infinite possibilities of gender identity and expression, when did you know….
“I was 4 years old… it was around Christmas time, and my cousins had decided that they were going to put on a little Christmas play, and I was going to be the donkey – which meant they wanted me in tights… I fought them tooth and nail… I really did… just fought them and fought them. Then finally they got me in the tights, and that was it. That was the moment. Now, it took me another 50 years to come to grips with it, but that was really the moment when I knew something was different.”
How old were you when you came out, and how was that experience for you?
“I really came out twice… the first time I came out to myself, because for 50 years I denied who I was. Part of it was, at the time, there really was no literature or nothing really to explain exactly what I was going through. I knew I wasn’t gay, because I liked women… well technically I was, because I liked women! Those are technicalities. And so, nothing clicked for me. Finally I got to the point where, in my early 50’s , I started experimenting with wearing women’s clothing. I had played around with it before, but it took until then for me to actually want to pursue it. I convinced myself there for a little while that I was a crossdresser, but that was only part of the story… Eventually I came to a realization that it wasn’t the clothes… it was never the clothes. I was in the wrong body. That was coming out to myself… I was probably 53/54 by that time.
Then it took a little while longer to start coming out to my family… My wife knew almost intrinsically that this was going on. I came out to my daughters first – I have 2 daughters. My eldest daughter had a bit of a challenge with it, but she has since come around and is my strongest advocate in some cases. My youngest daughter said, ‘Oh, I knew that…’ She knew before I did. Going from that, I just started coming out to various family members – my sisters, my step-sisters… I did it by email because I’m a big chicken… I convinced myself that it was because it gave them an option to reflect, and really I think it did. That way they could think about it, before they had to react. Face to face was always a challenge. At the time, my mother was living in Texas, and I was here in Colorado… so in her email I laid out the whole thing telling about the Christmas play, and all of that… sent the email…. The email that I got back [from her], was that she was pissed she wasn’t the first person I told. Which by the way, was the reaction of my oldest sister, because I told me 2nd sister before I told her. And she’s still pissed at me…haha!
I’m very lucky because a lot of trans folks do not [have a supportive experience], and they lose everybody… they lose their entire support structure. I’m just super lucky that it didn’t happen to me…
All of the fear and trepidation that anyone has about coming out, was there… I was lucky that the people that I told were very accepting. I was lucky in pretty much all aspects of my life. At work, I had the same manager before and after my transition. It was seamless. Before, I was one person… After, I was Vicki. My manager didn’t have a problem with it, and treated me exactly the same. My friends on Facebook… I think for my entire transition, and coming out on Facebook, I think I lost maybe 2 friends… which blows me away, because I have friends in all walks of life. I have friends that are devout Christians, that are conservatives, that are Republicans… I mean, across the spectrum… and none of them saw fit to turn their back on me. I’ve been very lucky, but because I’m lucky doesn’t mean I was any less scared…”
Biggest fears or concern about coming out…
“I was scared I was going to lose everybody… Because the one thing we don’t want to be is alone. Being alone is so scary… Then there’s the idea of, ‘Who’s going to love me?’ I’m old… I know I’m not the most attractive person in the world… and there’s that fear of, ‘Am I going to be alone for the rest of my life?’ ‘Is my wife gonna leave me?’ ‘Are my kids going to abandon me?’ All of those fears were there, and they’re very real. In fact, my fears kept me from telling my father until it was too late. That was my one regret… not being able to tell my father before he passed. The rest of my family knows. At least I get them out of the way. He was the last one I was going to tell… He was in the hospital at the time… he was recovering, and I didn’t want to complicated his recovery by adding additional stress to it… so I wound up not telling him, because right around that time is when I started coming out to the rest of my family.”
Favorite part about the community?
“As a group, we have a tendency to accept people for who they are… We don’t necessarily have to take people at the way that they appear to the world, but really with how they interact with us. My rugby team for example… being a trans woman, my fear of going and playing rugby is… let’s say I go to a tournament somewhere, and they say they don’t want me to play… what’s the reaction going to be from my team to the other team objecting to me playing? And, I know, my team would say, ‘If you don’t want her to play, then we’re not going to play either… see ya!’ It’s just a general feeling of belonging, and acceptance… and it doesn’t matter that I’m 59 years old… it doesn’t matter that I have emphysema… or that I had a heart attack. It doesn’t matter… they’re accepting me as somebody who wants to play the game…”
Frustrations within our community?
“It’s like there are barriers between every little compartment [in the community]… there’s the lesbian group… there’s the gay guys group… everybody has their own little pocket. Their own little world. And in a lot of ways, their own problems… which I totally get. My experience, my problems are not going to be the same as a gay man… they’re just not. And I get that, but when we really take a step back and look… we’re all striving for the same thing. Recognition. The right to be who we are. The right to feel the way we wanna feel. And love who we wanna love. Once we grasp that that’s really the basis of what’s behind it all, then we all are looking for the same thing. We have to include cis-gendered straight people too… because they’re looking for the same things we all are… they want to be loved and accepted for who they are…”
What is something you would tell a younger you? Advice for anyone out there who feels like they can’t come out, or they don’t have a community to be a part of?
“To the younger me… Don’t hide from who you are. I was in the Army for 12 years, and part of that was trying to be more masculine, trying to be the testosterone fueled over-the-top… I was never that to begin with, but it was in part, trying to change myself to fit what I was supposed to be. I would tell the younger me to stop it… Enjoy who you are because you only get one chance at life.
As far as people that are afraid to come out, or feel they can’t come out… Coming out is the hardest and scariest thing you are ever going to do in your life. But in the end, when you get up in the morning and look in the mirror… you gotta be true to yourself. And if the people in your life can’t accept you for who you are, then they’re not the people meant to be in your life. Be yourself.”
Someone once told me you shouldn’t ask a transgender person their dead name, what’s your opinion on that?
“For me personally… I don’t care. You can ask, and depending on who you are, I may or may not tell you. I’m not going to be insulted by you asking. That’s me. I totally get people not wanting to share that. For a lot of trans folks, it’s a very painful subject… and I understand that pain. I lived with that name for so long, that for me it’s whatever. Having said that, there are times where, for me, there are times that end up being very painful… for me it’s when someone that should know better, does it. Somebody that should know better, uses my dead name. First of all, it’s not a dead name. I was this person. My history is wrapped up in who this person was… we all change through time, just because I’m different now, doesn’t mean I’m invalidating any of the things that happened before. So, ask away and I may tell you… I may not… but I’m not gonna be insulted if you ask me.”
What in your life are you most proud of?
“My daughters… Yeah, like kids everywhere, they do stuff to disappoint you, but when it comes down to it… they’re a couple of amazing women, and I’m really proud of them.”
Most people go by or keep the name given to them at birth, as a transgendered person you have the unique experience of finding a name that fits you – how did you decide on your name?
“Funny story… my wife loves The Addams Family, and so when I was looking for a name, I wanted a name that sort of spoke to my history… and I wanted it to include 2 of the more important women in my life. One of them is my first girlfriend… she went by the name of Tori. So I chose Victoria, or Vicki as the first name. I’ve since gone by and revised that, so I kept Vicki as the nickname, but for a number of reasons… in my last message from my father – I really think he knew something – he said something about me not changing me birth name… not changing my last name. So I want to honor that as much as I can, so I actually found a equivalent name to my birth name… the name I was given when I was born is old Swedish for wolf, so I found the female version for that which is Ylva. When and if I get my name changed officially… that’s what I’m going to go with. I’ll still use Vicki as my nickname…”
With the state of the nation and the world in its current state, what’s one thing you would change if you had the power?
“Actually, it’s kind of funny because I just did my last paper for my last class in College (CONGRATULATIONS, VICKI!) – It had to do with doing research around the opinions about transgender individuals within the world, and in the United States. One of the things that struck me when I took a look at the data was how much animosity there was towards the LGBT+ community as a whole. I think if I could change one thing it would to educate the world to have a better understanding of what we’re going through… or where we are as people. We’re not trying to change anybody else… we’re just trying to be ourselves. It’s having the country come to that understanding that we’re okay with you going to the First Baptist Church… we’re good with that, you do you… Just don’t look at me weird when I walk into church wearing a dress and a fabulous hat… because that’s me doing me. It’s bringing that understanding to everybody else… we don’t want to change you, we just want you to let us be us.”