Written by Caden Campbell (they/them), Development Associate
Today is Trans Day of Visibility. A heavy day given today’s political climate and the mass of anti-trans legislation we are seeing across the country, places like Arkansas, my home state. I think about the lives lost to violence — murder, suicide, untreated illnesses, homelessness.
Recognizing my transness was a process that took many years of hard questions and confusion. We didn’t talk about trans existence in the Arkansas public school system. We didn’t talk about HRT or gender dysphoria in health class. It wouldn’t be until 2009, that I would begin to understand and have access to the language that described my experience as a trans person. When I was able to claim that agency, a weight had been removed from my chest. But it didn’t necessarily make things easier. I could love me, but so many others could not…would not. Fighting for my existence was hard. Dealing with people’s ignorance, my own ignorance, was hard. Being tokenized and harassed was so hard.
On November 18th, 2011, I had my first dose of HRT. I had waited a long time, and when I finally could, I drove around blasting John Williams’ “Super Man.” It felt so good to be able to take this important step. First, I had to drive to Roanoke to see a therapist who would sign off on the process. Then I had to drive an hour in the opposite direction to meet with the only endocrinologist I could find who would provide HRT. There were no doctors in Lynchburg, Virginia, where I went to college, who would provide gender affirming care.
I could go into depth about the hard experiences in those early years. About how people asked about my genitals, about how people asked, “how I have sex.” About how I was made to feel like a problem for advocating for myself so often that I became too afraid to try. I could also tell you about some of my teachers, who supported me, fought for me. Acts of love that would keep me alive.
I could tell you about how I was called a “freak” an “it” a “confused young woman” by adults in my life, by people I knew and didn’t. I could tell you the moment I met my first trans masculine person, years later, and how I cried. Finally, I wasn’t alone. I could tell you about my name change and my gender change on my license. I could tell you about top-surgery and having to drive to a different state (Texas) to get that care; getting stopped in bathrooms along the way.
I could tell you about not seeing a PCP in years, because I couldn’t find one who was informed about my trans body. I could tell you about all the times that people have talked about my body, and how I became afraid of being seen; that standing up in front of people became terrifying. How all I want is to be invisible. I could tell you about my anxiety, my suicide attempt, my PTSD and my chronic depression. I could tell you about the fear that is always there.
I wish I could tell my experience eloquently. I wish I could write something compelling that would change the hearts and minds of those who hate us. But I can’t because I’m tired. I can’t because truly writing what I feel and what I’ve experienced is too hard, too painful, too rage inducing.
But things were getting better. I saw kids and young adults in Arkansas who finally had access to gender affirming care. Through organizations like Lucie’s Place that supports struggling LQBTQ+ young adults. Like the gender clinic at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences that provides HRT. There had been so much progress in Arkansas.
Last week that progress became stagnant. Arkansas State Legislators have passed three anti-trans bills, two of which have been signed into law by Governor Asa Hutchinson. All mirror the anti-trans bills we are seeing at the Texas State Legislature this year. Bills that will ultimately cost lives of adults and our children. I thought that trans kids growing up in 2021, would have an affirming and safe experience of the world. More than I had, more than our trans elders had before me. But as it stands, things are now getting worse in Arkansas. And if we don’t do something, they are going to get worse in Texas, too.
Hate and inaction led to the 44+ trans deaths in our country this past year. Hate and inaction has led to anti-trans legislation being introduced and passed. Hate and inaction is killing me. Hate and inaction is killing us all. Do something, anything, please. Help us save our kids and communities. Help us fight for human rights. The right to live freely without fear of discrimination. The right for medical care. The right to play. The right to live. And maybe, when that happens, the things I’ve experienced will stop. And our children will have a chance to grow up authentically and safe. Our children will have a chance to live. But only if we do something.
Senate Bill 29, Dan Patrick’s Transgender Sports Ban, will be debated on the Senate floor soon.