-By Aneesh Sheth
The light-bulb moment I experienced when I made the decision to transition happened almost instantly when I met a transwoman who had come to share her experience at a training during my social worker days. Growing up in NYC, my exposure to transgender women were the sex workers and drug dealers along 8th avenue. However, this was the first woman I could relate to coming from an upper-middle class family1; she was educated, worked in corporate America and defied all the stigmas I had come to learn of. It was because of her I decided I wanted to transition.
I began my journey as a transgender woman in early 2008. In the beginning months I attended a trans support group, but mostly sat quietly in the circle. I never shared, nor felt the desire to and I never socialized with the other girls. Having identified as a gay man for 10 years before I transitioned, most of my friends happened to be gay men and cis-gendered women. As my life took me across the country to San Francisco, the friends I began to make also happened to be gay. I think of how randomly I met some of my best friends here; at a gay bar. And even though my life was fulfilled being surrounded by so much love and support, there was an unknown variable still missing. I did not realize what it was nor how to get it until I met a young woman whom I now consider my little sister.
Miriam, as I will refer to her here for the sake of anonymity, is the first transgender woman I began to grow close to. I met Miriam when she attended a panel I spoke on at the LGBT Center of San Francisco. During this intimate panel of only 15 or so, panelists and guests shared their stories on coming out. Miriam raised her hand and asked to share her story. Although professionally I kept composure, inside my jaw dropped when she disclosed that she was transgender. I find it funny that I was so shocked and tried to convince myself that “that doesn’t make sense”. She was young, vibrant, beautiful and exuded a confidence that seemed it could only be genetic. I had expected her to share a story of coming out as a lesbian, but was personally thrilled to meet another woman who in just a short time had gained immense respect from me. The problem I found in my experiences in meeting other trans-women was not that I never met any; I just hadn’t met any I could honestly relate to. Miriam changed that.
It was a love affair to remember. In the following weeks after the panel, Miriam and I began to hang out periodically, and ultimately nearly every day. Within months she became a confidante, a best friend and someone to share war stories with. Ironically, our relationship hadn’t been built on, nor revolves around the fact that we are both trans, but that we are both young urban women. Our days are filled with chatting and texting about our jobs, boys and relationships and our evenings are filled with laughter , more gossip and bad tv. And even though I am nearly a decade older, I am constantly learning from her. There are days when I am in awe of the good-hearted nature of her soul and immensely grateful for having met someone who challenges me to be better than I am, and coincidentally happens to be a Sister.
Not having Miriam in my life is something I can’t imagine now. That subconscious unknown variable had worked itself out. I am very blessed to have someone who understands the daily struggles and victories of being a transgender woman, without even having to say a word. She just gets it. And that feeling is incredibly priceless.
When you’re in time of need, always remember the SOFFA; (significant others, friends, family and allies).
1 Please forgive any insinuated mal-intent. Classism was not intended.