Honestly, I can't remember the first picture I ever posted up on the internet. It may have been the one above. That makes sense. I was with my terrible old digital camera (it was one of the first ever- it could hold maybe 15 400 x 600 pixel photos). My big old pre-flat screen monitor is sitting there in my craptastic first apartment in New York City. I'm wearing a late-90s vintage spaghetti strap mini-dress. And I'm hiding my face. At the time I was still afraid to post up any photos of my face, maybe for fear of my Christian Republican family somehow finding them online.
|Because it's so easy to recognize me with a face 15 pixels wide. |
Luckily, it didn't take me too long to start putting my pictures up on line. It's been about 14 years, three versions of my website, a killer Myspace page, about a hundred and twenty YouTube videos, 35,000 worth of reddit karma, 4,000 flickr followers and I'm still happily going strong. You see, I just happen to love posting up pictures. Yeah, I'm a little bit narcissistic, but then again I've never thought I was that attractive as a guy. But as a girl, I've always felt beautiful and I just loved to share that. Yeah, I'm vain and I love to get compliments and things.
One nice byproduct of my vanity and narcissism is that my willingness to get out did manage to actually have positive effects. Can you believe it? It seems that over the years my courage to get dressed up as a girl and go out in public and then post up those pictures online has actually helped to give other people courage too.
That makes me happy. Also it makes me feel important (hey, remember I'm a vain narcissist after all). Despite my dubious moral character, people have been inspired and that really make me happy that I could be even a small part in their stories.
"You are amazing, and one of the big reasons I got the courage to start posting [to Reddit]. Even if you are no longer posting pictures, please stay around this community and occasionally comment...you are an inspiration for us all!"
"You're pictures are always so inspiring and beautiful."
"I love to see your posts, you make such a beautiful woman and you just look so happy out there, a great role model for us all."
"You've truly been an inspiration to us all."
"Your pictures were always inspirational."
Me: Wow! I'm impressed! You give me so much hope!
Redditor: Coming from the woman who gave me hope several years ago when I was trying to figure out this whole trans thing, this means an awful lot to me. Thank you.
"I read some of your blog and Flickr, you said Kristin Ritter
is an inspiration for you. She is amazing, BTW. I have a feeling that many girls on reddit find you to be one. Well done, you are fascinating.xoxox."
"I think you're pretty inspirational."
"You inspire me. You have for a while now actually. Just thought you should know."
"You're the reason I had the courage to go through with my own transition."
"I always see your posts and it's inspired me to be a little bit braver every time."
"I am inspired by how pretty and funny you are!!"
"You were actually one of the people that helped me come out as a trans girl and for that I can't thank you enough!"
Okay, posting this is pretty much bragging, but let me just say that it does really mean a lot to me that people think I'm inspirational. I mean, some people lose limbs and then ski across Canada and some people cure diseases and some people get shot and then keep on promoting education for girls. Me? I just put on a dress and go outside.
|Look upon my dress, ye mighty, and despair. |
I'm seriously blown away by all the amazing things people have written to me. But, I would never have been able to wear a dress so far had I not been standing on the shoulders of giants.
From my earliest ages, I've known I was a little different, but being raised in the Southern evangelical, Republican bubble like I was, I wasn't exactly in a place where being "different" was a good thing. Back when I was growing up, there wasn't even an internet (I mean, not really), so I didn't even have a chance to be exposed to things that weren't Jesus, Republican politics or sports.
Luckily, though, I was eventually able to find inspiration from many different amazing people. I hope I can one day thank them all for how they helped me get where I am today.
People who inspired me:
Okay, K.D. Lang isn't transgender, but this issue of Vanity Fair came out when I was 12 or 13. It was the first time that I realized there was more to gender and sexuality than the evangelical preacher was telling us. These images were at once confusing but also reassuring. For years I had spent my life with some vague understanding that I wasn't normal and seeing images like the above made me realize that, even if I wasn't normal, I at least wasn't alone. Also, I totally wanted to be Cindy Crawford (and I still kinda do).
My first glimpse of RuPaul was also when I was about 12 or 13 and it was in Parade
magazine. There was a photo and a brief blurb about how she was really male and I couldn't take my eyes off that photo. I just stared and stared and stared. How could someone who was a boy look like that? I was a little boy. Could I be that pretty one day? That photo of RuPaul started to open my eyes. Someone who was born a boy could be a beautiful woman. My mind was blown and the world got a little bit bigger and a lot more interesting.
Luckily, my mom was an early adopter of the internet. In the early-90s, she had one of those modems you actually had to set a phone receiver on. We had CompuServe in our house starting around 1994 or so. When I was first allowed on the early internet, I looked up song lyrics, I played in MUDs and I looked up information on transgender people. Back then, I found a few crossdresser pages, mostly fetish pages or chat pages for middle-aged married men who were really into pantyhose. And then I found out about Caroline Cosey. She was an amazing woman who had gotten a sex change in the 1970s. Not only was she beautiful, but she had been in a James Bond movie! She had posed in Playboy! Amazing! It's still amazing to think about even today. She was the first person who made me realize that a transgender woman could be real, could be successful and could be strong and courageous.
Coccinelle was another pioneer trans-woman I read about on the that early internet. A performer in Paris in the 60s, Coccinelle eventually made the transition from drag queen to woman. It was amazing to me to read her story; how she transitioned at a time when few people even knew that sex changes were possible. Reading about her, she seemed to love the spotlight and love the attention in a way that I think I do too. Flamboyant and outspoken, her brash, bold life inspired me to understand that being transgender didn't mean hiding away. Even in a cruel world, it was possible to be who you really were and be accepted too. That's a big thing for a young trans person in a Red State to learn.
Authentikate was the name of this amazing woman's website. Back in the 2000s, she posted up a detailed diary of her transition, starting when she was just deciding her future, and then going through her all her changes, her surgeries and every moment of her journey and transition. Even with the internet at my disposal, transition was still a mystery to me, still a blank spot on the map labelled "Here be dragons." What an amazing resource Authentikate was! With each update we learned about how she quit smoking, broke up with her SO, started hormones, came out at work, came out to her family and began her new life and relationships. She posted up the letters she sent to family and to HR at her job. She put up reviews of doctors and information and so many resources. And perhaps my favorite thing; one day she posted up photos of her attending a friend's wedding as her new self, there among her friends and family. How beautiful!
Kate's blog disappeared one day and I guess she went stealth, but I'm so glad that for a few years she shared her everything with the world so that for young, frightened person like me could have the mist lifted just a little bit on the great mystery of transition. Thank you so much for that, Kate.
Kelly Van Der Veer
A reality TV star in the Netherlands, Kelly Van Der Veer blew me away when I first saw her. Sure, she started her transition early, but she was one of the first people my own age that was a real celebrity (though not in the US). She not only had the courage to transition, but to appear on television too! One day I hoped upon hope that I would be a beautiful girl too, and maybe even have half of her courage. One day, I read an article about her and she told about the first time she woke up after SRS. Her sister was there in the room and Kelly said to her "Finally, this summer we can go to the beach in bikini's together." There's something I just loved about that moment between two sisters. One day I hope to go to the beach too.
Back in 2005 or 2006 (when did YouTube start? I forget), I started making my own videos and posting them online. As I've said before, back then most transgender or crossdressing or gender-variant videos consisted on people sitting silently smoking or perhaps walking back and forth across their living rooms in pantyhose. Frustrated by the lack of quality, I determined to make my own videos. And I decided that I would try and make my videos funny and insightful and entertaining. I did okay, but Lady Vixion showed up and did it a thousand times better. She was silly and funny, played different characters, and produced insightful, crazy, heartfelt videos about life, relationships, family and transitioning. At one moment, she'd be funny, then next meaningful and emotional. It was so great to see such a talented, heartfelt person out there to show us all that a transgender woman could be crass and funny and real and outspoken and smart. Of course, she was edgy too, sometimes too edgy for the apparently family-oriented YouTube who deleted her channel one day without warning. But she's still out there being funny, strange, cool and insightful. Check her out!
Seriously, I don't think anyone inspired me quite as much as Jamie Clayton did. Maybe it was because we were both New Yorkers who had moved to NYC at the same time and about the same age, maybe because we had slightly over-lapping social circles, maybe because in many ways she seemed to share some of my circumstances. She wasn't some far away person on the internet but was a real person just like me.
One Saturday morning over coffee, I remember finding a link to an article someone had written about her called The Second Most Beautiful Girl in New York. That morning, right after I read that article, I left my apartment and took a long walk around the neighborhood. Then, an hour or so later, I came back and wrote an email to a good friend of mine. I sent her the link to Jamie's article and said I knew I had to become a girl. That day, I sent Jamie a Myspace friend request, which she accepted, and wrote her an email, asking how she got on hormones. She told me about Callen Lourde and the rest is history.
Jamie has seen so much success in the years since then, and I am so happy for her. When I see her on TV, in the various shows she's stared in, I feel so proud of her, like I'm rooting for the home team to win the World Series. Her success has given me so much inspiration. Even today, when I see pictures of her, I think to myself "One day you'll be a girl like her too."
One day, out in the East Village, I saw her walking with a friend, but I was in boy-mode and didn't want to say anything to her. In NY we do our best to ignore celebrities anyway, but Jamie was different. I wanted to stop her and tell her how amazing she was and how much she inspired me in my own journey. But I was in guy-mode and felt stupid doing that. So I let her pass and ignored her the way we do. Maybe next time, I'll be a girl too and then I'll feel confident enough to stop her and tell her how much she's inspired me.
Many, Many, Many Others
Oh my gosh, I wish that over the past twenty years, I had taken the time to start a list of every amazing transgender or gender variant person that I've read about or been lucky enough to meet online or in person. So many nights I spent online, talking to people on Myspace or Yahoo chat, so many blogs I've read, videos I've watched, how-to guides I've followed. So many great people out there who inspired me in so many ways. Thanks to you all and seriously, I wish I had kept in touch with so many of you that I've lost along the way. Thank you all for the inspiration.
Let's all keep on inspiring each other!