You never know when a teachable moment will present itself. You’ve got to be ready.
This morning at work in our breakroom whilst I was waiting for the tea kettle to heat up the water for my morning tea a coworker asked me “Miss Leigh, why did you come out as transgender. With all the hate and killing that’s going on, why did you do it? Ain’t you afraid of your safety?”
At first, I was speechless because I would have never expected this particular coworker to ask me anything about being trans. He’s a very street savvy young black man who exudes black male masculinity but is the nicest, sweetest person on earth. It amused me how he stumbled over his words oh so carefully measuring what he said as not to offend me. The tone in which he presented the question was so genuine, heartfelt, and sincere. After he finished his question I wanted to just go over and give him a gigantic bear hug. His concern moved me.
I asked him what prompted his inquiry and concern. Don’t get me wrong I greatly appreciate it, but it just caught me off guard. He said that it came because of famous YouTuber and beauty blogger Nikkie de Jager came out as transgender and all of the hate that she’s getting. He’s been hearing about it on the news and radio. He stated that he doesn’t understand why we, Nikkie and I, decided to tell people that we are transgender. especially with all the violence and hatred towards trans people.
I told him that I had heard that Nikki was about to be blackmailed and was getting ahead of the situation. It’s pathetic that in 2020 people can’t stay in their lanes and let people just be themselves. That people are so desperate for money, they do anything to get it even at the expense of others.
This is a very interesting question. Why did I come out as transgender?
I explained to him I came out because I was miserable not living as my true authentic self. Coming out as a transgender woman allowed me to develop as a whole individual, allowed for greater empowerment, and made it easier for me to develop a positive self-image. Coming out freed me of the fear of being “found out” and helped me avoid living a double life, which can be extremely stressful, demoralizing and soul draining. Finally, coming out made it easier to connect with people who are trans, therefore giving a sense of community and family.
I was tired of living a life of lies, secrecy, and self-harm. Also, that my story is unique and if by telling my story I can help another intersex or trans person, then it’s all worth it. I come out to help dispel myths and stereotypes by speaking about my own experience and educating others. If a trans person in rural Missouri hears or reads my story and it gives them hope that they too can be their true authentic self, then I’ll gladly take the risks. Hopefully I can be a role model for others.
Yes, I am very aware of the transphobia that exist in our country. How trans people are thought of and treated like second class citizens. How our lives are not valued, especially trans women of color who are hunted and killed and left to rot. I stated that in 2019, 26 trans women were killed by violence, 28 in 2018. I spoke of Ally Steinfeld, a trans teen brutally murdered right here in Missouri by “friends” in her own community.
Yes, I am aware of the risk that I take every time I go out on a date or show interest in someone. I have precautions in place for every date I go on. First, I take a picture of my date’s license plate and text it to 3 friends. Whatever venue we arrive at, I text that address to a friend. If we change locations, I text that address as well. I have check in every 15 minutes until I get home safe and sound. Is this a bit extreme, yes. But It’s necessary. I value my life.
As Nelson Mandela once stated, “Education is our greatest weapon in this war against intolerance.” I believe this is true and that’s why I believe that “Educations is Activism!” That’s why I go out and do Gender Inclusivity presentations to any and all organizations, corporations, businesses schools, churches, whomever will listen. Through education, misgivings, myths and stereotypes can be eliminated.
It’s funny, I have never been asked why I came out as transgender. To be honest I never thought why myself. Hum?
I came out because I wasn’t scared.
Cover Photo | Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast