For this year’s #NaNoWriMo, I’m writing a book with a transgender character. As I was not terribly educated in this area prior to my project, this led to a steep learning curve. Along the way, I made the acquaintance of a transgender woman named Natalie and a transgender man named Milo.
Neither of my interviewees are currently “out” in part because, in their respective states, they can still legally be fired for being transgender. Their stories are both fascinating, heartbreaking, and at the same time hopeful, and I wanted to share them with you in a blog series.
What made you realize you were transgender? About how old were you? Did you discuss this with anyone at the time?
I didn’t realize I was transgender for sure until I was in seventh grade. My parents could tell I was unhappy, they tried to get me to do things like play baseball, but it didn’t help. I was very confused about what I was, but I knew I wasn’t a boy. I was terrified, but I was drawn to more “girly” things like clothes, shoes, fashion, hair. I will say I was molested for two years growing up, but I can’t say that caused me to be trans. I remember playing with my sisters toys when she wasn’t around before that ever happened. I didn’t tell anyone until I was in high school about myself because I was so scared. Growing up in a small conservative town does not give a lot of options.
There wasn’t really a word for it till I joined the Internet. I just always thought I was on the outside of this feeling of others. They just knew they were boy or girl. I felt like sometimes when they asked me what gender I was this white void would fill the answer. What was I? Sometimes it was definitely boy but never girl.
What were your first thoughts and reactions after realizing you were transgender (or after realizing something about how others view you)?
I thought there was something wrong with me. I remember praying to be a boy, that I could just be normal. I didn’t want to be different, I just wanted to blend in. Depression consumed me for a long time until I accepted myself. Then anxiety decided to play with me as well. I’ve never been able to be truly happy for sustained periods, but when I realized what I was and what I couldn’t be for anyone else, I was miserable.
Something must be wrong with me, critical error! Nobody else is like this! And then secrecy, like if someone found out it would end badly.
At what age did you choose your new name, and why did you choose it?
I didn’t figure out my name until I was 21. I fought myself for so long that I couldn’t look at it. Once I knew it was like trying on a comfortable pair of shoes you’d wear daily. I went through hundreds of names, none fitting right until I said Natalie. Then it was looking in the mirror and I couldn’t stop smiling as it was like duh! That was it all along.
Most people called me [similar nicknames] anyway so when I started writing Milo everywhere they didn’t seem to notice. I was… 14? Milo was the name of my favorite Disney character in the movie Atlantis. He was awkward, looked like me, and was interested in languages [like I am]!
Have you ever had a “close call” where you were nearly “discovered” by someone you didn’t want to know? Could you describe that incident?
I’ve been very careful. The closest was when I moved away from home and was hospitalized for a week. My dad stayed in my apartment and I just had to hope he didn’t search it while I was away.
I’m a sarcastic person on the side. I made way too many jokes. One girl said she date me if I was a guy so I said “give me 5 minutes, I’ll be your dream guy.” [The response was:] HUGE GASP *giggle* oh you’re so playful!
Want more? Visit Mica’s the other transgender interview blog posts. If you’re an author, also visit Mica’s Free Online Writing Events Calendar for chances to get free professional feedback or to win contests, or read some of Mica’s Writing Tips posts!
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