“I guess I could be your trans mom”, and other stories of the many ways trans women can truly see one another
Just before I come out, I start writing letters to T. It’s 2013 and I still use they/them pronouns and go by my punk name. She’s the first trans woman that I talk to about gender stuff – we discuss why we do or don’t want hormones and workout routines that don't emphasize our upper bodies. I found T through a Black and Pink prisoner support group; she’s incarcerated for life.
Our correspondence is awkward, stuttered. We trade poetry and pictures, telling stories about where we’re from and how we grew up. She tells me about the girls that she shares cells with and the sex they have. She won’t go into details about exactly why she’s locked up, but the picture I get is that someone raped and abused her and now he’s dead.
That fall I decide to start hormones and come out to my family, and my letters become less frequent. I’m too busy crying on the phone in the rain to be a good pen pal, but I send money to T when I can and write her, excited, when my tits finally start to hurt.
Four months after coming out as a trans woman, I am called out for hooking up with someone after they were dosed at a party and my world falls apart. I’m excommunicated from my political scene and friend group and I spiral into self-hatred and despair. I can’t talk to my parents without getting into a screaming match, and I can’t walk down the street without being harassed. I don’t write to T again.
A year later, the lights go dark and the audience leaps to its feet around us, bursting with applause, but A and I are sobbing too much to do anything else. I had clutched her hand in mine in the middle of Sean Dorsey’s The Missing Generation, a dance performance that collectively mourned the loss of so many gay men and trans women to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Living in queer community, I was no stranger to this story; in my work I’d had conversations with men who had survived and struggled through the plague.