Until I was in my seventies, my fierce desire to become who I really was could only be acted part of the time. While I wanted to live openly as a woman when I was forty, I learned that I could not do so without divorcing the love of my life. When she passed away in 2008, I felt alone in the world and had to face the realization that I had to rely on myself—my whole, true self.
Following this slow process of maturity, I learned to lean heavily on the transgender community as a source of guidance. Initially, I joined a local group to discuss common struggles. Soon they became a family that I could explore simple joys of the world – such as a trip visiting Mt. St. Helens.
There is goodness and light within the transgender community in spite of some horrific realities facing our marginalized population. Poverty and homelessness is especially prevalent in the transgender community with 19% of us having been homeless at some time. Through the years I’ve come to know the people impacted and have realized that that we face not so much a homelessness problem as a hospitality problem.
I have always believed that ‘where there is room in the heart there is room in the home.’ So I opened up my little bungalow in order to share it with those in need—many of them fleeing the wrath of family members. Trans women have stayed there for days, months, and sometimes years, with as many as ten people bunking down in a house built for two.
It is important to note that we are not a drop-in center or a crash pad, but a launching pad for personal transformation. Through a “Fairy Godmother” program, generated by my very first housemate, we go thrift store shopping to secure new wardrobes. With hardships shared, we not only get by, but thrive, and are in constant awe of the support we receive from outsiders. The ability to give back to a community that has helped me so much feels good—there’s something contagious about it!
While the love and kindness that we are surrounded by is inspiring, it has been an especially hard year. There have been politicians that have demonized us nationally, organizations that are working nonstop to restrict our rights here in Washington State and there is a lot of misinformation being tossed around. However, our home serves as a reminder that sisterhood is stronger than the abuse and prejudice that a harsh uncomprehending world can throw at us.
The bonds that unite us are strong because of the struggles we face together. As we look ahead, it is important to lean into that support so that we can continue to live our lives as who we truly are.