Transgender people scared me.
I am a straight white male and transgender people scared me. It was not just because of my background that I say this. It was because my first experience with a transgender person was not a pleasant one.
In 2001, I moved from Rapid City, South Dakota to Minnesota. Being a roleplaying gamer, I made the trek to Minneapolis every couple months to visit the big city gaming store. While there, a person walked in wearing a dress but didn’t look feminine and started talking to me. After a little while, the person grabbed my shoulder and commented on how big my shoulders were. I did not know how to handle it and left the store.
I’ve since come to realize this person might not have been transgender. But the experience colored my experience of transgender people, nonetheless. To be fair, I probably would have felt the same way if any stranger would have done that.
I know the lecture that one person does not determine the whole of a group. I play role playing games and I have used that thought plenty of times. The problem is if the experience you have is negative, it’s hard not to be colored by it.
That’s why good restaurants will make things right if you’ve had a bad experience. That’s why if you have a poor first date with someone you likely don’t have a second. Before that, I was ignorant of transgender people. But since that happened, I was not interested in getting to know a trans person. I did not care about transgender issues.
I did not wish them ill will, I was apathetic towards them.
Lawrence enters my life. I met him at the gym, he is a part of the early morning crowd at the gym. This crowd of people bond since we are the only ones crazy enough to work out at 530am. We were no different. We’d talk on the treadmill or elliptical and slowly we opened up to each other a bit. I would notice when he was not at the gym and would
razz him for it. He would return the favor.
During this time, we learned a bit about each other. I knew he was keeping his distance. I was working in sales and trained to learn the signs of people not being open. This skill is something that’s hard to turn on and off. I kept it on most of the time.
Until one day, we decided to get some coffee for he wanted me to show him some of my tricks at keeping on task and making sure stuff got done. I gave him some advice and thus began my journey in coaching him on getting his shit done.
There was a friendship that grew from our coaching. One day Lawrence told me about being transgender and how he at times struggles with church stuff because of it. I would like to tell you that was the day I became interested in being a transgender ally but it wasn’t.
That happened about six months later. Lawrence and I talked on and off regarding productivity and various other topics. The Caitlyn Jenner story broke. Was I interested then? Nope, she had a ton of money to take care of herself. She had all the things she needed to take care of herself. Hell, I even had to look up what she was famous for in the first place. What made me want to be an ally for the transgender community?
Over 40% of transgender people attempt suicide and most make less than 10 grand a year. I immediately thought that was bullshit. People should feel comfortable in their own skin and we as a society should not make them feel unsafe or unwelcome.
Does being transgender mean you cannot make money? Does that mean they don’t have the rights to enjoy life as everyone else does? We are all human, aren’t we? I should have known how bad it was. That was my own fault. Growing up I was the fat kid. And like a lot of fat kids, suicidal thoughts and actions are not uncommon. How I beat them is a post for another day. But as someone who was suicidal during childhood, I knew I should try to help.
I now want to help this community. I know I will make mistakes since this is all new to me. But I’ve talked to Lawrence about helping and he’s helping me mitigate my mistakes. He’s excited that I am willing to help. My wife finds it curious that I am game for such a task. Then I remind her that I fight for the underdogs. She smiles.
Please let me know how I can help the transgender community.