The journey a Transgender person takes is unique to each individual. There is some commonality, though. It takes great courage to face what one fears and attempt to live an authentic life.
Transgender people face losing everything they have in order to live their lives. This is not a lifestyle choice. For most, it is a matter of life and death.
A qualified therapist, counselor and guide is so important to help the Transgender person find the way on this journey. This is not just any guide. If the guide does not know the way, everyone gets lost. Yes, the guide should be knowledgeable about gender identity and gender expression issues.
The journey is made so much easier when the first appointment is made and the first steps are taken. There are bumps along the way and some choices need to be made.
Eventually, the Trans individual finds the way to where they feel balanced, authentic and happier than they have ever been in their lives.
The journey never ends but it is far more enjoyable which is something many people do not quite understand, if they have never addressed the issues in their own lives.
Living life 'transgender'
Sarah Delage, Multimedia Journalist
ORONO, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Though Claire Folsom lives life as a woman, she was born male.
She says had a pretty average childhood growing up in Holden. But when her male body started to develop, she realized it was a body she didn't feel right in.
"I'd say middle school probably," Folsom said. "When you start to realize there's a difference, an actual difference not just a social one, between girls and boys. But even then I didn't know what it was, I just didn't feel right. It was kind of like a persistent feeling of just wrongness, and I didn't have any words for it, I didn't know what was going on."
Claire tried to get involved in activities with her peers.
"I was involved in Cub Scouts, briefly in Boy Scouts," Claire told NEWS CENTER. "I was in Odyssey of the Mind in high school. I was on the chess club. I was involved in things, but I could be in a room full of people and I always felt alone. And I just didn't know why. And I didn't have any words for that until about the end of high school."
Licensed clinical social worker Cheryl Daly has worked with transgender people for more than a decade. She says they often know about their gender issues when they are children, even if they don't know what those feelings mean.
"People know from a very young age just that they're different," Daly said. Not different in a bad way, but that they're more aligned with the other gender."
At the end of high school, things became clearer for Claire thanks to the information she found on line.
"It was confusing, it was scary it was frightening, I didn't feel like I could talk to anybody, and I still didn't really for years." Claire recalled.
Folsom finally talked to councilors at the University of Maine in her second year in college. Cheryl Daly says once a transgender person is ready to take that step, they work to identify how they feel and what actions they need to take to make them happy. Claire descibes it as peeling back the layers of an onion.
"The goal is to reach a point of calm, of equilibrium, of sustainability, if you will," Folsom said about her own counciling. "So, you rule out things. You say, 'this is how I feel, this is not how I feel'"
Folsom slowly began to change her appearance to look more like a woman.
"You do steps," Claire said. "So maybe there will be some dressing in the other gender's appropriate dress or whatever it is. For some people that's great and that's enough, and they can live their life and do that on the side and they have have perfectly normal, coherent lives. And for some people that's not enough."
For Folsom, it wasn't enough. She chose to begin a treatment called hormone replacement therapy, taking hormones to make her male body develop female characteristics. She has continued that treatment for several years.
Cheryl Daly says transgender youth can also seek medical care to change their bodies. If both a doctor and young patient feel it is the healthiest decision, the doctor can put the child on medication to postpone puberty.
Daly says to try understand where a transgender person at any age is coming from, you have to accept that gender doesn't always fit neatly into two categories.
"Someone's born, and the minute they're born it's, 'it's a boy, it's a girl,' and everything seems so black and white and it's just not that simple" Daly said.
Claire Folsom's transition will be complete when she can afford gender reassignment surgery, a procedure not covered by medical insurance. But for now, she says life is pretty good.
"I feel a lot better, a lot more sustainable than when I was younger and before I started that process," Claire said with smile. "I feel as though I belong in some places."
In part two of this special report, NEWS CENTER will be taking a look at proposed guidelines from the Maine Human Rights Commission. They state that transgender children should be allowed to use the bathroom of their gender identity. We'll hear reactions to that proposal from attorneys, conservative groups, and parents.
For more information about trans issues in Maine, click here.
Friday, April 30, 2010
Posted by De Sube at 4/30/2010 10:50:00 AM