Hello, everyone! Those of you who have read Raven’s Rest may have noticed that it’s dedicated to Maggie. When I first knew Maggie, she went by a different name. She’s a beautiful, sweet person…and, well, I’ll let her talk about herself. Here’s a short interview with Maggie:
-Tell us about yourself (a brief bio!)
Well I grew up as a boy in the suburbs on the South side of Indanapolis, IN, with a pretty normal life around me. A childhood of hyperactivity led me to be a quiet reserved teen, except when it came to those things that excited me.
I met Stephen when I was in high school, back when I worked at B. Dalton in the Greenwood mall. To this day, it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had; it’s funny, looking back, it seems like a lot of that owed to Stephen’s ability to nurture a kind of witty sarcasm around the workplace. And he knew his way around improv games, which made for some great parties.
After getting my bachelor’s at Indiana University, I headed off to the west coast to find myself. A marriage, divorce, and slow, but constant sea change later, I’m here at home in Portland, Oregon. Although I’m not opposed to becoming an ex-pat if the political climate gets too bad, I do really love it here.
-When did you know that you wanted to go through the process of transforming to Maggie?
It’s funny, I look back and see how obvious it is that I knew who I was all along, but it took me a really long time to decide on this. I had to confront all the shame and stigma that our society heaps on trans women, and it was so much easier to hide. And hiding worked long enough for me to find myself free-floating through life, miserable, distracting myself. I finally went to therapy and started to confront all the monsters.
But in Portland, in my circle of friends, I’d found a safety net: A lovely little queer and polyamorous community, artists, communal houses. I came out as gender-queer back in 2010, but I feel like nobody really knew what that meant. It even took me a while to connect it as a transgender identity. I defined myself as a gender other than the one I’d been assigned at birth. I joined a couple social groups at the local Q center. Talking to people who were contemplating the same choices finally led me to seriously consider hormones.
At first I’d been infatuated with this idea of presenting exactly down the middle, finding an uncanny valley of gender presentation that would turn heads and cause passerby’s to question what they knew about gender. But I’ve always been feminine, always felt like I was a girl; Plus my need to cling to a male identity just because of my hormones and genitals kind of evaporated when my body and emotional capacity began to shift. So things keep changing. But I’m seriously loving the woman I am today. I’ve never felt so at peace with who I am as I do now, though I still think there’s a lot of problems with our society’s binary view on gender.
-Have you encountered any difficulties since your gender change? What support have you received?
At times it’s felt like endless problems. I honestly don’t know how much of it is hormonal, and how much of it is related to my acceptance of myself, but my all my walls came down and my emotions flowered in ways I never knew to expect. I just felt so raw. Just going to the grocery store became an eye opening experience for me. Transition is sometimes referred to as second puberty for a reason.
Relearning how to socialize, convincing my friends to use a different name, different honorifics and pronouns for me has been a bit of a challenge. I struggle with my dysphoria manifesting as a constant desire to cis-pass or define myself by normative beauty standards. For months, I spent at least two hours of my day perfecting my makeup and presentation before I could leave the house. The need for validation is very human. It’s nice to be seen. But it doesn’t change who I am whether or not I get it.
Coming out has changed everything for me. Though I’m often confronted with the realities of discrimination, I’ve also found this core network of friends and allies who respect and appreciate my existence. So yay for being visibly marginalized, I guess.
-How do you view gender identity in today’s society?
Gender is kind of a dance we do with eachother; it’s deeply rooted in the biological imperative, but it’s about way more than parts and procreation. It pops up in all sorts of social dynamics, like ways we express ourselves, different ways we support or encourage one another, different types of labor. Some of these are problematic, because they create false expectations and barriers for those who don’t really fit the common narrative.
I don’t think we need to get rid of gender, but we need to tear it away from the essentialism of body parts and the standards that lock us into viewing people from the angle of whether they’re “normal” or not. If we could do that, we’d probably end up with as many genders as their are people.
My favorite way to think about gender is to imagine a society 200 in our future that’s long moved on from issues like gendered access to toilets.
-What advice to you have for anyone who feels they were born the wrong gender?
I’m going to be a bit pedantic, but I think that perspective is really important here. No one is really born in the wrong gender. Someone sort of takes a guess and assigns us a gender. Sure, chromosomes are a thing, but we’re so much more varied creatures than we usually get credit for. That imaginary bell curve that defines what is normal. It’s really more of a random looking scatter plot. So really, it’s up to us to decide what gender we are. Those who don’t match their assignments aren’t really wrong or different, they just don’t fit the narrative.
So my advice: Find your safe place. Find your people. Reach out, to whoever you can. Ask as many questions as you can. Find your home. Plant that little seed of authenticity, vulnerability. Nurture it. Experiment. Treat yourself with respect. Know that your choices are valid, your expression is valid, no matter what anyone else might tell you. If you decide to go forward with a tough choice, remember your courage is contagious.
-What has been the reaction of old friends (high school, etc.) and family?
I’ve had a surprising number of old friends from my hometown reach out to me to offer support or encouragement. I would’ve never expected it, since transition is just everyday life for me, but my choice is pretty rare where I’m from. For a lot of the people I grew up with, I’ve been the only real life trans woman that they’ve known of.
Everyone of my old friends or family members who has reached out to me has told me that they admire my strength and appreciate that I’ve shared my journey with them. Sometimes I get questions about how to talk about gender related things or how to treat others with respect. One of my friends even dedicated a book to me.
-What’s the funniest story you have about your transition?
I’ve tried to answer this a couple of different times, and currently can’t think of anything. I’ll let you know if I do.