It’s June–and it is PRIDE month, even though in many ways it does not feel the same this year.
It feels heavy
It feels like death
It feels like grieving
It feels like fearing for the lives of my black and brown friends and family
It feels like fearing for the lives of the nonbinary and transgender men and women I love
It feels like fearing for my own future, career, and ability to access healthcare as the Trump administration revoked its healthcare protections for its transgender and nonbinary citizens
It feels like celebrations have taken a backseat as high school and college graduations have happened without ceremonies, as weddings have been postponed, as PRIDE parades and events have moved onto a screen.
This is a coming out tale.
I came out a few years ago as trans non-binary–a move that fit my discomfort with she/her pronouns and being gendered as a woman. It felt closer to accurate, and somehow a “more acceptable” form of “trans-ness” in a world that has continuously made me feel uncomfortable and unsafe in public spaces–always on the receiving end of double-takes in bathrooms and innocent “are you a girl or a boy?” questions from children and blank stares from parents who don’t know how to talk to their children about differences.
I watched my family cry and panic after my twin brother came out as transgender and started taking testosterone years ago, changing his name and presenting as the man he had always been.
I listened to their complaints and their cries as many family members and friends anxiously said, “you’re not transgender though, right?” looking for some kind of consolation as they fitfully protested that their “daughter, granddaughter, neice, etc. might be ‘taken away’ from them (a common complaint of cisgender folks when someone they love comes out as transgender). “It’s like she’s dying,” they’d cry to me–though I never understood it. He wasn’t going anywhere. He was just a guy. He had always been a guy. Did they just ignore everything about who we had been all along–running around with no shirts on, shopping in the boys’ section and throwing full blown tantrums at anything that felt feminizing…
All of the memories of my family’s complaints and struggles, of my brother losing his job after his transition, of some of his best friends walking out of his life…flood me with fear and the stress of how my life might grow more complicated.
So I avoid mirrors, don’t drink fluids when I know I have to go out in public, and sweat profusely beneath the chest binder and layers of undershirts I wear to try to pass as male with the hope that I might get lucky enough to be called “sir” just once in the day–a euphoria that might lift my dysphoria enough to remind me what self-confidence feels like, when most of the time I just try to keep from being noticed.
I still remember as if it were yesterday being about eight years old on the playground with my friends. All of the girls gushing to each other and to me about which boy they had a crush on, until it was my turn.
I didn’t know at 8 years old, how to say that I couldn’t relate to them–that I didn’t have a crush on any boys. That I was the boy I wanted them to have a crush on.
So I picked one out.
I picked out the boy that I wanted to be.
with the cool hair
and the muscles
and the cool name
that all of the girls had a crush on.
His name was Wade.
Just two days ago marked the four-year-anniversary of The PULSE nightclub shooting, where a man held a three-hour standoff with a SWAT team during Latin night at the LGBTQ club.
The deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
I remember feeling afraid the next time a friend wanted to meet up at the Metro (an Indy gay bar). I still get intrusive thoughts asking me if I am sure I want to go when I consider going to any kind of public PRIDE event. Will I be safe? Will my friends be safe?
I think we all know the answer as to whether or not any marginalized populations are really safe in this country. In 2019, advocates tracked at least 26 deaths of trans or gender non-conforming people in the U.S. due to fatal violence (the majority of whom were Black Trans Women). In the last two weeks three black trans people have been murdered–one Black trans man and two Black trans women. #tonymcdade #riahmilton #dominiquefells
As JK Rowling openly proves herself as a TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist) by tweeting hateful, disturbing, and transphobic comments, she brings up trauma and stress to transgender people by stirring up and publicizing the mass amounts of discomfort so many people have with our simple existence in this world.
I resent feeling an obligation to make a “Public Service Announcement” to come out
about my gender
about my pronouns
about my name.
It feels so uncomfortable and yet also necessary.
I just want to feel at home in my body.
I want to feel connected to my name.
I want to be called by the pronouns that make me feel seen.
I wish I was “coming out” with some badass spoken word piece on a stage at a PRIDE event. That I could celebrate with all of my friends. That we didn’t have to “social distance” and I could bury myself in their couches, cuddle their dogs, and have a place to fall apart when I get peppered with questions about whether or not I have considered how this might affect my daughter…or if I am only choosing to transition because my twin did (WTF).
I am glad, though, that we get to be “identical” again.
The world is not okay right now.
I’m not really okay right now.
My friends are not really okay right now.
But we can’t stop living. We can’t stop celebrating.
We have to keep finding joy.
I am happy to find freedom in being “out” as a transgender man. I am happy to uncover my most authentic self that has been suppressed for so long.
I am relieved to be out of an incredibly long and toxic relationship with a transphobic person who mocked and belittled me and other trans people that I love.
She misgendered me, dead-named me, and continued to call me by she/her pronouns after I asked her to stop. It was toxic and I’m so glad to finally be free of it.
I am grateful that I am now on this journey–of changing my name (I’m waiting on a court date), of starting testosterone (soon) and one day, hopefully sooner than later–getting a top surgery.
I am grateful at the chance to find new love
and to be loved as myself
not having to suppress my gender
to make anyone else more comfortable.
I am grateful for joy
In the midst of a really,
I have not “found myself.”
I am not “finding myself.”
I am UNCOVERING MYSELF.
I have always known
who I am
and who I was always meant to be.
I’ve just had to throw off
all of the layers
of selfish expectations
thrown on top of me
by my family
by the church
who continues to oppress people
in the name of “god.”
I know who I am.
and have always been
the boy with the cool hair
and the muscles
and the cool name.
I am Wade.
***As a note, I will still be using the name “K.D. Roche” in my work and career (at least at this point in time). This name is an alias that I have been using for years to protect my identity so that I can remain safe from my traffickers and keep a personal life that is separate from my traumatic past that does not define who I am.***
I will be using he/him pronouns in those spaces, too, but my work can still be followed as “K.D.”
But outside of those “professional” spaces where I am sharing my lived experiences as a human trafficking survivor, I just want to be myself.