I was terrified when I transitioned to begin presenting authentically full-time in early 2015, but I’ve since had the great good fortune to instead experience the triumph of kindness.
Though it may not happen in my lifetime, I hope for every trans person who needs to transition to present authentically an experience as affirming as mine. As I write this, I’ve disclosed to thousands of friends, colleagues at my law firm, lawyers, judicial staff, and judges throughout the United States, and all asked accommodated the practical requirements of my transition, such as a name change. From 2015 to now, not a single person posted anything, anywhere on the internet disclosing my history; all respected my need to communicate that information myself. I only publish it now in the hope that it might help at least one trans person—as the President pretends that we don’t exist—to survive and then find happiness.
Because of the great luck of being born into a family of means that prized education and with the ability to work in a field where I’ve been successful, I was able to afford world-class medical support. Extensive therapy to prepare my mind and guarantee my survival before changing my body; an endocrinologist with a deft touch and vast experience; a psychiatrist sought after by many who seek out responsibility and create but, at times, struggle with the burdens they assume; and an excellent surgeon, who reminded me of some of the best I’ve known in other specialties.
I like to think of myself as the liberal lawyer with the best conservative pedigree—I went to a college that, in addition to Robert Reich, produced some of the loudest conservative voices; I went to the University of Chicago Law School, where Milton Friedman, Justice Scalia, and other conservative scholars’ influence still looms large; and I clerked for a Judge appointed by Ronald Reagan. I never felt I had the space to do anything but test my ideas and beliefs against the most articulate of those with opposing views. At some level, I remain puzzled why we all seem to want to participate in echo chambers now: at best, it’s boring; at worst, it could lead to grievous errors.
In 2015, as I disclosed, everyone was shocked but many offered medical referrals, not understanding I’d already found the best, but that impulse was admirable and affirming. And the support was widespread and crossed any political boundaries. One of my best friends in the world, both conservative and with impeccable conservative credentials, told me I’d have to reveal far worse for his friendship to falter. Another prominent conservative with whom I’ve worked over the years asked: “You mean we could have had more women at the firm?” At my law school reunion, the first I’ve ever attended, a conservative friend said: “Well, you’re certainly the talk of the reunion. And the consensus is you’re better looking.” I responded: “That’s because now I smile.”
Few, if any, of my fears materialised, and I owe so much to so many who refused—at any point—to see me as anything less than human. Vanishingly few trans people have the advantages I do: the rates of un- and underemployment are far too high; many are cast out of their birthparents’ homes at a young age, with a lifelong impact in too many ways to count; many are also people of colour; and almost all lack access to the education I was lucky enough to receive.
But my transition and the support of so many around me are proof of concept. There is nothing inherent to being trans that has prevented people from supporting me; my performance as a lawyer has improved; and I was able to achieve my second-greatest dream, finishing and publishing a novel that speaks to the personal importance of equality and respect for human beings. It is possible, which I hope offers some hope to trans people in darker places than I ever was, even on the eve when, as a teenager, I tried and failed to kill myself.
To dysphoric or depressed people in that place—Don’t kill yourself. There’s nothing romantic about it; the only guarantee is that you’ll eliminate any possibility for happiness in this world. Survive because happiness is possible, even if now you can only barely imagine it. If you made it through yesterday, last week, and last year, you’re tough as nails; you can make it through tomorrow, next week, and next year. And you’re even tougher if you had the courage to paint your nails pink. Live.
I always wanted to be a girl, then woman, but not because of any illusion that being regarded as female makes life easier. But when I see a woman like Emma Watson or Katharine Graham or Justice Ginsburg or so many others navigating through life toward success and happiness, there’s a beauty in it that’s breathtaking. I’ve often thought that if a man’s appearance and presentation are made of 100 details, a woman’s is made of 1,000. And to have the chance to use my appearance to communicate authentically and at a different level; to appreciate the nuances of facial expression; to sit and move naturally and authentically; and to use the wider emotional range permitted for women, have all been among the happiest experiences of my life.
My happiness is something for which so many deserve enormous credit. Thank you.
Grace Mead this week releases her new book - Defense Of An Other - which you can order on Amazon here.
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