Skirting the Issues: Making Room
I’ve had the honor of writing for Lavender since the summer of 2011. I calculate that more than 100,000 of my words have appeared on these pages, where I’ve shared what it means to be an older transgender woman with a still-masculine voice attempting to navigate the world.
In that time, over the course of all those words, a couple things have become clear to me.
First, most of the challenges and joys I’ve experienced are really no different than those for anyone else, whether they’re trans or cis or gay or straight. In the end, all of us want to love and be loved, along with being free of physical or emotional violence. Yes, this darn voice of mine often results in me being made to feel “Other,” but it’s not something that I won’t survive. Indeed, there are many people who tell me that after a while, they forget about the pitch of my voice.
When I hear that, it warms my heart. On the other hand, it’s still damn difficult to get a date—but I digress.
The other thing I’ve learned in the decade writing for this magazine is that it would be foolish for me to think that I could ever speak for the transgender community. It took a while for me to understand that there’s no such thing as a homogenous Twin Cities trans “community”—rather, there are many different voices and presences existing under the umbrella of “transgender” (including many folks who identify as nonbinary or gender fluid).
The latter point was driven home to me when I attended a meeting in the mid-2010s to chart the course for messaging about transgender people. There were 40 or so trans people in attendance, and except for a couple others, I was the oldest in the room.
As the group collectively listed priorities on a chalkboard, I was reminded of how my view of the world was quite different than that of most others. Many—almost everyone was in their early 20s to mid-30s—put bathroom access at the top of a very long list. Along with that I heard much around “demanding” our rights and how cisgender people better get used to our visibility.
Hearing this churned something in my gut. Mindful of the fact that we live in an LGBTQ bubble here in the Twin Cities, and that most folks in greater Minneapolis (which starts at Monticello to the west and Rosemount to the south) have no idea of what it means to be trans, I was struck by how the younger folks—wonderfully vibrant and passionate—seemed to subscribe to a one-size-fits-all approach.
Moreover, I know that my writing those words now in 2022, years after the fact, likely just made some readers wince. However, from what I can tell, this approach still seems to apply even today.
After an hour or so of the same comments—and because of who I am—I spoke up for the first time that evening. Among other things, I told the group that they were shortsighted.
“Most people outside the Twin Cities have never knowingly met a trans person,” I said. “If the first thing you do is go in and demand bathroom access, without first getting them to understand that we’re human like them, all you’re going to do is scare the hell out of people. It will hurt and not help us.”
That’s true. I believed it then and I certainly believe it now: achieving acceptance can only come after cisgender people see us as human, just like them. That takes nuanced messaging and anything but shaming or demanding.
Most of the folks that night didn’t appreciate what I said. I’m certain it put a big fat “X” on my forehead as it relates to the “community” at large. For example, there’s a city-sponsored trans-focused conference every year and I’ve never been approached to present.
Honestly, all of that is fine with me. I’m committed to my approach, and I’ll do my work in greater Minnesota (and the rest of rural America) building bridges my way, thank you very much.
Still, the experience that night left its mark on me. I’ve always been concerned about my trans voice being the only one (with regular exceptions) showing up on these pages. It recently got to the point where I approached Lavender’s Managing Editor and asked that we find a younger transgender writer to share this space with me, either under the “Skirting the Issues” banner or their own. To the Editor’s credit, he readily agreed.
Thus, I’m thrilled to announce the beginning next month, the words of Chris Hinze, a 27-year-old transmasc, nonbinary person, will grace this publication. Trust me, the phrase “grace” is entirely appropriate, because you will absolutely love Chris’s writing—as I’ve told them, with words that flow like hot butter, they’re a much better writer than me. I’m actually quite envious of Chris’s talent.
As for me, I’ll still show up every other month. Many of you dear readers have supported me since 2011, and for that I’ll be eternally grateful. Now, however, we will have a much younger voice from the greater trans community of the 2020s.
Finally. That’s a really good thing.
Ellen (Ellie) Krug, the author of Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change, speaks and trains on diversity and inclusion topics; visit www.elliekrug.com where you can also sign-up for her monthly 9000+ recipient e-newsletter, The Ripple. She welcomes your comments at [email protected].