JULI

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I’m a trans woman. I was asked that the other day--what would I call myself--I would call myself what I am.

I was not born in a classically female body, so I don’t have the history that you have. I can’t possibly have it and I don’t want to present myself as if that was my story. I am me, and what I went through was vastly different than a non-trans woman would have gone through. I was much older when I had to learn how to deal with having my tits stared at. I was much older when I had to learn how to be talked over. Plus, none of you you all had to go through what I did, so we aren’t the same. I was born with a brain that was ready for a body like yours, but it didn’t get a body like yours, so now I have to call myself something that I’m [physically] not.

I have no trouble identifying as a trans woman. I’m not embarrassed of it, I’m not a ashamed of it. I am a woman, I just have a different adjective in front of “woman”. It’s like white, black, Asian, whatever--we’re all women. There are just different qualifiers.

Among my earliest memories, are of understanding that I was different. I guess it’s about 3 years old when who we are becomes cemented in there. Our brains are really mushy, and they’re still pretty mushy, but the basics of who we’re gonna be are cemented by around age 3--the type of lover, the type of friend, what our study habits are going to be, our gender identity, our sexual identity--all that’s in there. We know who we are before we’re able to say who we are. We just don’t have the capacity when we’re that young to say “Excuse me mummy, I think you’re mistaken, I noticed some blue things over there. I’m a girl.” All you can say is “This isn’t right.”

Gender roles exist because we want them to.

I think they’re built off of characteristics that have always been observed or prevalent in either gender. Those characteristics are neutral in the sense that, that they’re neither good or bad. They just are. Women tend to be more nurturing. Men tend to be more direct and reckless. I hesitate to use stereotypical terms, but there’s a reason those terms have become codified. The problem is that we took what were generally observed characteristics, and we made them requirements and it’s the requirement part that is wrong. It’s saying that you have be this way just because a lot of other people like you have been this way. Humans are really shitty like that. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with accepting gender roles that a child adopt on their own. A lot of girls like to play with dolls. I don’t think it’s something that should be either encouraged or discouraged. You just accept your fucking child for who they are because then it’s not a binary, it’s a billionary. Each child is whoever the the fuck they are.

The biggest difference for trans kids or gender nonconforming kids is that everything in society tells us something different than how we feel. I knew looking at my sister that’s who I am, that’s who I should be. But how do you say that to someone? There are more and more parents today listening to their children and believing them, which is sadly a radical concept. We should listen to, and believe everything our children tell us but we don’t. Imagine if your parents told you the basic thing you know about yourself is wrong? As a child, you think they’re right about everything else, so it throws you in a tailspin. It’s the strongest child who can push back and say no. Most of us didn’t get to be that strong though.

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I found true love. She [my wife] is fucking amazing. She’s absolutely the most perfect human being I’ve ever met.

She’s my third wife. My first wife I married when I was 21 and we married for all the wrong reasons. A part of my reasoning was I could make myself live the stereotype [of a man]. She already had a little girl when we met and I adopted her and then we had two of our own. It wasn’t a great marriage. Neither of us should have gotten married. After ten years she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and so, the marriage was effectively over. My second marriage...did you ever do something where...I compare my second marriage to like when you’re drunk and you wake up and there’s a tattoo somewhere and you really didn’t want a tattoo? Yeah, that was my second marriage. But I have the most amazing daughter out of that marriage so it wasn’t a waste. It was just somebody again, who I should never have married.

And then I met Melissa. We met on Yahoo! Personals. I didn’t know what i was looking for. I was open to meeting a guy or a girl. I just didn’t want to be alone. I was living at the time in a little shit kicker town in Pennsylvania--I grew up in Pennsylvania-- and there was no woman around that I wanted to meet. One morning, the 25th of September 2006 I was just scrolling through and I widened my search just to read different profiles. I got to one, this girl that lived 50 miles away. She happened to live in the town where I graduated high school. She had the this look in her profile picture, these steely blue eyes and this resting bitch face stare that was just gorgeous. And her profile was written with proper grammar and spelling, which was everything.

The tagline on her ad was what I thought was a movie reference but it turned out to be a song reference. It was was “Looking for my Huckleberry”. I thought it was a reference to the movie Tombstone, but it was a reference to a Toby Keith song called Huckleberry. Her profile also said “I enjoy intelligent conversation” and I don’t know why, but I sent her message and knowing her town, I said “If you’re looking for intelligent conversation, you’re in the wrong pace.” and I wasn’t expecting a reply. I was outside of her age range, I was shorter than she was looking for, she didn’t want anyone with kids. I didn’t fit anything. But I thought, what did I have to lose? Later that afternoon there was a response and we exchanged emails and eventually phone numbers, and we talked on the phone for 6 hours that night. And eventually we had our first date and that was it. It’s funny because I had buried the fact that I had kids at the bottom of my profile and she always says that if she had paid more attention to detail, she would have messaged me. But she did. We eloped in Niagara Falls a year and 3 days after we met. At least one of your weddings should be in Niagara Falls it’s so beautiful.

[I educated my children] by talking about who I am.

Letting them ask questions, introducing them to trans woman if possible. Just letting them know that this is who I am and I don’t know if I’m gonna do something about it one day or not. By the time I transitioned two of my children had children of their own. It’s an adjustment for any family to go through this, but they were in a better place as far as being able to accept it. They call me “Anya” which is the Hungarian word for mother. That was something my youngest and I came up with. My mother’s family are Hungarian and always big in genealogy and so we wanted to come up with something where they could avoid calling me “dad” in public, but I didn’t want to be “mom” so we picked a word that sounded feminine, that means mother but it’s not the same word. The thing I’m proudest of on this journey has nothing to do with being trans, and that’s my kids. I lucked out. I won the lottery four times.

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