Bruce Jenner (Photo swiped from Google)
Last night I watched the Bruce Jenner Special with Diane Sawyer with great interest and compassion.
In my career as a journalist I’ve interviewed many transgendered people over the years. In fact, I’d be the first to volunteer to write the articles as my way of showing support and enlightening the public on a very sensitive topic. One of the most significant things I’ve ever done in my life was writing the article “Transgendered People, Transgendered Lives” for The Montclair Times. In my research I’ve interviewed many transgendered people, both male to female and female to male. One of the most touching stories was from a mother who had a transgendered child (male to female). Her daughter was young, only in her 20s when she made the full transition. She was living in California and very happy, and in love and engaged, when she got killed in a car accident. The mother thanked me several times for the article (as Montclair is more of a township than a city and we’ve run into each other a bit over the years).
Prior to my support of the transgender community at Montclair Times, I interviewed a very famous transgendered celebrity for a body modification magazine called “In the Flesh.” (Though for some reason the article didn’t run in “In the Flesh” and a local music magazine picked it up instead). That celebrity was Jayne County, a punk rock singer who was formerly known as Wayne County (and the Electric Chairs) — and I was a fan. Jayne spoke to me very candidly about her operation (nose job, breast job, but she still kept her penis because she shared that her psychologist said she wasn’t mentally ready for that yet).
Me (left) and Jayne County, early 1990s
(Photo by Diane McGowan)
According to the Diane Sawyer interview, about 80 percent of people have gay friends, but only eight percent know a transgendered person. I knew many and was close enough to two to have them in my home (one who met my mom at an Elvis impersonator show) and a third, a much older male to female (probably Bruce Jenner’s age) who I went to parties and shopping in NYC with.
Living in harmony with transgendered people was so easy and natural for me. They were always around and they were fabulous. At parties, night clubs, dress shops (I used to buy most of my party clothes at a place called “Dressing for Pleasure” that catered to transgenders by carrying larger sized shoes) and even in my own back yard. Yes, in my own back yard! One evening, when I was still single and living alone in an apartment complex, a woman named “Debbie” was hanging out with my neighbors. Debbie was transgendered and she took a special liking to me. Debbie wanted to be like everyone else and have what everyone else has: love, acceptance and a place to feel secure in her own skin. Debbie shared that she was looking for a place to live where she could be accepted. We encouraged her to move into our complex. My neighbors and I accepted Debbie with open arms and she was always welcome to come talk to us. Then she mysteriously disappeared and we never knew what became of her. I do hope we were able to make her just a little happy in that short time, knowing she had cool people who really liked her.
In more recent years, a transgendered woman approached me to tell her story in book form. I was eager to get started. This woman was on Oprah Winfrey sharing her story. We never did get started and I’m guessing it could have been a money issue. Her name was Denise and I’m sure I still have her photo hanging around on my hard drive as I did promote her upcoming book in one of my newsletters.
I suppose by Law of Attraction, the universe put transgendered people in my path because it was a safe place for them, as I’ve always been loving and accepting. I learned a lot in the early 1990s when I read a book called, “All She Wanted” by Aphrodite Jones. It was the devastating story of a female to male transgender, who went by Teena Brandon and was brutally murdered, motivated by trans-homophobia. The story was later on a movie called “Boys Don’t Cry” starring Hillary Swank (who I met at a charity function around the same time she received her well deserved Academy Award). “Boys Don’t Cry” was one of my favorite movies, but I could only watch it once because it was so horrific. Just thinking of Teena’s tragic story makes me cry like a baby. It was because of that book, that I sought out transgenders and the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender community during my time as a journalist and wanted to write articles to help and support (as well as attend rallies, the gay parade in NYC and Wigstock).
Everyone deserves the right to live their lives as they feel most comfortable. Even if we don’t understand, the best we can do is to love and be a friend — that is how you learn. And always allow others to be safe around us.
Always remember, we are all human beings.
In closing, here are some transgender FAQ from GLAAD: http://www.glaad.org/transgender/transfaq