After We Happy Trans, which began as a simple Wordpess blog, garnered a bit of positive attention, I was eager to grow into it a full-fledged website. Basically I wanted it to be purty. As purty as all y’all.
I put the word out for a web designer. Since the pay was to be . . . well, nothing, I didn’t think I could be particularly picky. I had little to offer aside from an appeal to the better angels of the designer, and the anticipated gratitude of the trans community. Perhaps a few cups of coffee. Nonetheless, I boldly hoped for a particular combination: I wanted someone in Chicago I could personally work with, and hence offer those few cups of coffee to, and I wanted a trans person. This needs to be a site by trans people as much as for them.
To my tremendous surprise, and eliciting my deep and abiding gratitude, a friend introduced me to Kai, a lovely and obviously talented trans woman who was eager to help the community. She didn’t even want my coffee.
Full Video Transcript
Hi Happy Trans*! It’s me. I’m finally out to my family and friends, so it’s about time for me to record my own WeHappyTrans 7 Questions Introduction.
Alright, let’s get started.
Number 1 : What’s your name?
My name is Kai. It’s — I chose it for its sound, I chose it because it’s a Finnish name, in Finnish it means ‘probably’, which I really enjoy. It’s actually a Finnish boys’ name, but it has a multitude of different meanings. In Hawaiian it means ‘Ocean’, in various other languages there’s ‘unbreakable’, ‘recovery’, or like ‘harbor’ or ‘pier’… I like its ambiguity — my motto in High School was ‘ambiguity thru ingenuity’. I’m comfortable with my trans identity, I don’t subscribe to gender norms or gender expectations too much. I’m comfortable being androgynous, and I think ‘Kai’ fits that nicely.
Number 2 : Who has been most supportive of your transition?
That is without a doubt my Girlfriend Leigh, we’ve known each other our entire lives but despite our sort of sexual tension in High School, we irritated the crap out of each other. After a little bit of college, after we grew up a bit we realized that the aspects in the other person that we couldn’t stand back in high school was kinda not really “us”, that was the part of us that we were upholding to conform to what was expected of us, or just habits that we’d fallen into. After we both found each other, after we both found ourselves a bit, we proceeded to find each other again and just immediately knew we had to be together.
That was about 3 years ago now, started out as a heterosexual relationship, and I came out to Leigh first, just several days after I realized myself. And although it’s added a new dynamic to the relationship, it hasn’t at all been the sort of “wrench in the cogs” that I was expecting. We haven’t had to — it’s adjustments obviously, and it’s certainly been a different sort of transition, coming out together, like if I come out to somebody I’m coming out for Leigh as well — I’m trans, and she’s dating a trans person. And, um, it’s — I’ve found that where you might expect that it would be more difficult, that I’d have to be more careful around her, [conversely] she’s been much of the source of my strength, and my confidence. I don’t know if I would’ve been able to come out without her, if I was alone — I’m just… not sure where I would be. So, just, without a doubt. It’s most certainly been Leigh.
Number 3 : What do you enjoy most about your life since beginning transition?
For me, it’s really coming from a place of confidence for the first time. I’ve always had plenty of supportive people in my family [and friends], but sort of taken their words as patronization, or I was distrusting of compliments or anything like that, just because I had really low self-esteem myself. I kinda held on to this “oh, I don’t care what you think” perspective, I always was relatively expressive of my femininity but one of the major trials of my life has been the self-censorship that I applied to myself because of the fear that I was presenting “too femininely”, and that I’d be rejected for that.
So when people ask me questions now about my transition or about my motivations for such, the answers are kind of already there. I don’t have to be calculating, or kind of fitting a role that I feel people are expecting, but doesn’t feel quite right for me. When I answer questions now, I can just be more honest. I can — just… ah, it feels great. I feel more comfortable, surprisingly, in nail polish and makeup and whatever, even with the funny looks on the train or whatever, I feel more comfortable this way than I did wearing a t-shirt and baggy jeans and its — really interesting.
Number 4 : Who are my trans* role models?
So at the beginning of my transition, as I came out to myself, really my only exposure to “real” trans women, who weren’t media concoctions, was through the Reddit community. It was on reddit that I saw a timeline post of a very real, very strong woman who came out from a very dudely-looking dude to a very beautiful woman. It was the first time I acknowledged that possibility, and it just very rapidly changed my outlook on myself, and it essentially snapped me — you know — “about face” essentially in my life. So really, so many people in the reddit community have been role models for me, just in the way they discuss thing, or post pictures of themselves, just being very forthright, being very confident in themselves.
But a specific trans role model is Laura [Jane Grace] from Against Me! She came out very recently, in a very public way, and a very positive way, in Rolling Stone. I’ve always loved Against Me!, she’s been one of my favorite lyricists for maybe like 6-8 years, so it just made me burst into tears that morning when I saw that she’d come out. And just the article, and the things she said, and the photos and everything were steeped in such confidence and positivity that it really reminded me that when I wanted to come out to my family and friends that I wanted to express more so my exuberance, what I would call my unabashed exuberance. I don’t know how to dance, but I always loved dancing, but I would always censor myself from doing it because I considered it too much of a feminine attribute. I thought I already acted “too femininely”, that if I were to dance that I would sort of give myself away, and people would finally start asking me these questions, “why are you acting so girly?”, but I didn’t have answers for that, I didn’t want to face those questions. So yeah.
Number 5: What changes would I most like to see in the world?
I would love it if everybody just got out of each other’s’ business, you know? I don’t understand sort of that anger that’s incited by other people living the way that they want to live. In politics, or in people speaking out in media or blogs — everybody’s entitled to their opinion of course, but I don’t think it’s fair to create laws against the personal choices of people, or to discriminate against people for the way that they act, whether it’s through verbally calling them out on the street, or acts of violence or protest, I would love it if we actually became post-racism, post-sexism, post-misogyny and transphobia, and just accepted that everyone — everyone just wants love, everyone just wants to be happy, I think. This is like *the* most cornball answer, right? But that’s all I want to work towards, people understanding that we can disagree or even have completely opposite viewpoints, not even somewhat different viewpoints, but I’m still willing to give you the benefit of a doubt, I will still start from a place of love, start from acceptance — and that’s what I hope you’d do for me. So that’s what I’d like to see most in the world.
Number 6 : What am I doing to make these changes happen?
Ah, no. I don’t consider myself much of an activist — I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that. I like to speak my mind on my facebook posts or in groups of friends, but my — what I feel is kind of “enough” for my right now is my form of activism just, you know, being “out” in public and wearing nail polish on the train, and dancing on the train, it’s not, like, dancing, but just like moving, and enjoying my music. I’ve always found it ridiculous how everybody on public transit has their earbuds in, everyone’s listening to their favorite music, but nobody’s dancing, nobody’s even moving, or swaying, or bobbing their head — they just kind of look angry. And I think that sort of speaks to the sort of self-censorship that everybody feels — that everybody feels subjected to. And I know that not everyone *wants* to be dancing, but *nobody*? I think that’s rooted in embarrassment. So that’s my little form of activism — even though I’m trying to resist getting funny looks from people, I will dance on the train, it’s just, f*ck you, I’m doing it.
I am *such* an activist. But, you know, speaking to the change I would like to see in the world, I just, I act that way. I give people the benefit of a doubt, I live in love, and I’m just as accepting and as non-prejudiced as I can possibly be. And when I encounter the sort of examples of people being [in my estimation] wrong or acting in a way that I’m ‘working against’, then I… may call them out? I’ll at least make a snide comment. I’m workin on it.
And finally magical number 7 : Tell us something, anything special, unique about you, your interests, your story, never forget gender is just one part of the larger project of becoming a fully authentic human being. Alright so there’s 2 things about me that I kinda feel ‘define me’, as of recently anyway.
First is that I have a hearing condition, it’s called hyperacusis, it’s described as a ‘collapsed tolerance’ to sound. It’s possible there’s nothing physically wrong with me, it could just be a mis-wiring in my brain, but in any case the volume of my life and my sensitivity to noise is around 2x (at the baseline) – 10x (during bad moments) as loud as I remember it. There’s a constant ringing, a constant ‘whooshing’, just because of sounds of air that are all around, and even sounds as low as conversational — if people talk too loud it can result in really intense pain for me.
What’s interesting about it is — it comes and it goes, according to the environment that I’m in, the sounds, but mostly the amount of stress that I’m under. So when I acquired it, there was nothing I would like for than for it to go away. Obviously. I was a person who very much enjoyed my quiet moments. But being resistant to it, allowing it to get me so upset, and actually angry and depressive, just made it much worse. It was when I realized that I couldn’t get upset about it, I had to learn to love it really — and not just say “oh, it’s ok, things are loud, I can deal with it”, but to actually learn to appreciate the fact that I was in pain. Which is… some mental gymnastics, but it’s helped my relationship with it, which has helped how intense it is for me very much over the years.
So it’s interesting what that’s done to me. I’ve always considered myself a sort of “post anger” person, I *never* got very angry (after middle school or so) — pretty relaxed or whatever. But I feel that I’ve actually succeeded in turning my brain into a ‘positivity machine’. It’s difficult; I’m essentially living in my personal hell. In sophomore year, our English teacher had us describe our personal hells. I said I’m in a white room, there’s a very loud ringing, and a whooshing in my ears, and everything just very loud, and I can’t escape it, it just claws at my soul, and drives me crazy. And it’s just… not 6 years later, that’s exactly what happened to me. It’s tragic, but, I’m smiling now because it’s had such a positive effect on me. I feel like taking stock of my hearing condition caused me to evaluate what I wanted out of life, so I’ve become much more achievement-oriented. I don’t think without evaluating things like that I would’ve realized I was trans quite so soon. I love where I am right now in my life, so anything that’s gotten me there — which, hyperacusis has most certainly… got me there… I can only appreciate it.
Secondly, I’m just very proud of the fact that I’m a self-made woman. I have a buddhist perspective, I very much appreciate the sort of interdependence, and everybody I depend on for putting the food in my mouth and the clothes on my back, and my girlfriend, and my therapist, and just, absolutely everybody. However the goals that I’ve set for myself to achieve independently I’ve gone out and I’ve accomplished. I moved from Detroit to Chicago and found success in working and living here. I always wanted to date my high school sweetheart, and I’m doing that today. I’m self-trained in my professional field — I screwed up my chances at college for various reasons but still, it was very important for me to prove that I was a success, to myself and my family, so I spent a lot of time training myself, and running my own business, and I’m finally self-sustained in that, I don’t have to work a side-job, I consider myself very good at my job, and so do the people that I work with (laughing).
So that’s very vindicating, ah — I just hold a lot of pride — I know it’s not the path for everybody, but for me having achieved the things that I set out to achieve, whether it’s moving, or my career, or now transition, I’m doing it. And, I know I’m not doing it “by myself”, but I consider that a bragging point, that I’m a self-made woman.