In this Pride month 2017, I have some random thoughts, queer and otherwise.
First, after recently moving into a new condominium in downtown Minneapolis, I attended my first condo association meeting only to delightfully find that many of my fellow unit owners are extremely cute men married to other cute men. There are also two adorable late twentysomething guys a couple floors below me whom I often see sharing a jacuzzi-sized puffy-pillowed love seat that’s centrally located on their tenth floor patio. “Ellen,” one of them yelled the other day, “we’d love to get to know you.”
While I look forward to becoming acquainted with my new neighbors, I’m also reminded of how far we’ve come as humans who want to love and be loved. The anti-marriage amendment battle is a distant memory; was it really just five years ago?
Think about that.
Separately, my oldest daughter recently came out. Well, sort of.
Those who’ve read my memoir know that I use “Emily” as this daughter’s pseudonym, in part to protect her and in part because it took her several years to overcome her shame and hurt over my gender transitioning. Still, even after our reconciliation, “Emily” was very reluctant to acknowledge publicly that she was my daughter (for example, she never shared with her best friend that I was transgender). That was fine with me; simply having my daughter back was all that mattered.
I had thought that’s where things would stay: “Emily” fully in my life, but still in the closet relative to letting anyone know that she had a transgender parent.
“Emily” has turned out to be a writer like me (although unlike her parent, she’s far more naturally talented). She recently began writing under her true name for Book Riot, an online book review site. One of her first pieces, titled “When Your Parent Writes a Memoir,” details how she’s an unwitting subject in my memoir. After acknowledging that she’s my daughter (“But, hell, cat’s out of the bag now…Hi, I’m Emily”), she writes:
So, what is it like knowing that there are strangers across the U.S. who are now privy to your family’s secrets? Well, to be fair, they’re not really secrets anymore. And, frankly, it shouldn’t have to be a secret. There’s no shame in being your true self. As a writer, I understand the desire to tell your story — especially if your narrative is one that a majority of society still don’t quite understand. In a world of Bathroom Bills and bullying, I think it’s important that these stories and individuals are given an outlet.
My daughter’s name is Kate.
Thank you for showing up, Kato, fearless and honest. You rock!
Moving on, whenever I speak about what it means to be transgender (I have a “Trans 101” presentation), I ask for a show of hands from audience members who know a trans person. Five years ago, at best, 20 percent of people in the audience raised their hands. Since then, more and more hands are being raised: 40, 50, sometimes even 70 percent of the total number of people in the room. Recently, as I presented to a group of 30 or so lawyers, everyone (100 percent!) raised their hands to reflect that they know someone who’s transgender.
Are the higher numbers because Caitlyn Jenner’s convinced a bunch of cisgender (non-transgender) dudes that wearing a Catalina bathing suit is cool?
I strongly doubt it.
What Caitlyn’s done (along with Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono, and thousands of other trans role models) is show that it’s possible to live authentically as one’s true self, despite a society that doesn’t fully “get it.” This isn’t any different from how gay and lesbian folks started appearing in greater numbers after Stonewall in 1969. Heck, depending on where you live in the U.S., coming out as a G or L today is relatively no big deal. In some instances, it might evoke the response, “Congratulations! Now, can you please pass the salt?”
Someday coming out as trans will produce the same reaction. I won’t be around for that day, but so what?
Finally, it was two years ago while watching the Pride Parade in downtown Minneapolis that I took my last drink. I’d like to say that I can remember what kind of alcohol it was, but I can’t. Hence part of the reason why I’ve been sober ever since.
It’s not been easy and, for sure, I still yearn for a nice big glass of chardonnay on Sunday afternoons. Still, knowing that I’m not alone — we on the GLBT alphabet are particularly prone to substance abuse issues — makes it a bit easier. What’s more, I’m accountable to many sober queer people. For those folks who have my back, I am very thankful.
Happy Pride 2017 everyone!
Ellen (Ellie) Krug is the author of Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change (2013). She speaks and trains on diversity and inclusion topics; visit www.humaninspirationworks.com where you can also sign up for her newsletter. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.