Meet Eileen: : Our friend, Equality Ohio Board Member, and an extraordinary performer and advocate.
Over the course of June, The Defenders of Equality are bringing you stories from Trans folks across the state of Ohio about the joys and very real struggles they are experiencing, often at once. We invite you this Pride season to hold space for these realities in the Trans community, both good and bad.
As you sit with these stories, consider contributing to the continued fight for our Trans community, by joining the Defenders of Equality. Our Trans siblings deserve our support, today and everyday.
Our very own superhero mascot, The Lavender Legend is a proud member of the Trans community! The Gay Guardian and Captain Carnation are excited to support their friend this Pride season (and beyond).
What’s one piece of advice you would currently give other Transgender folks?
I’m a 34-year-old non-binary transwoman. I began my transition in 2011 after I realized that my life was possible on my terms, and that our detractors are absolutely wrong about us. We are loved, we are strong, and we have such a valuable contribution to give to society.
Our existence is a profound gift.
We prove that it’s possible to change, to adapt, to grow, to survive, and to overcome insurmountable challenges—the risks of exclusion, destitution and despair—if those things can’t stop us, what can?
We are diamonds forged in the heat and pressure of adversity. To my trans family, I see your power, your resilience, and your divinity. I am in awe of you, and I stand with you. Don’t give up, we will outlast the night.
Think back to when you first began your journey. What resource do you most wish you had access to back then? Moving forward, what do you still need?
When I first realized that I could no longer live within the constraints of the gender role in which I was socialized, and that the solution to my problem was to transition, the most difficult barrier was knowing where to start.
At the time, simply wearing a women’s shirt in public felt overwhelming, let alone navigating the complex social and bureaucratic structures necessary to fully participate in our society—structures that were not designed to recognize or trust the lived experiences of trans people.
Though I was a student at a large college, the healthcare and other resources available to me did not provide guidance on what my transition could look like, connect me to other trans people, or set me on paths to becoming the person I wanted to be. We had to find each other, and we somehow did.
Together with a handful of fellow students, we created the first specifically transgender-focused student group, a group that did not yet have a faculty or staff sponsor. What we needed was a support network that included trans mentors and therapists and healthcare providers that had experience treating transgender patients, and that network just didn’t exist.
What I need now are virtual and physical spaces to plan and dream and fortify with trans loved ones. We need to be able to land, take off our armor, triage, heal, put our armor back on, and launch back into the world to fight our fights and live our authentic lives. What I also need from my cis-gender loved ones is to witness our struggle, speak out against transphobia in spaces we don’t have access to, and help lay the tracks for a future where all of our lives are possible.
This means attending demonstrations, contacting representatives, supporting organizations and businesses that defend equality, and having tough, necessary conversations with friends and family to broaden their perspectives.
Has there been a meaningful moment of support that has stuck with you?
Not to be that person that gushes over their partner, but when I think of something meaningful, I celebrate him.
When I met my partner, I was a young gay man at the start of a very femme, very non-binary, very transgender journey. We experienced many challenges while navigating those waters, and I wouldn’t have blamed him if it turned out that our relationship could not support the changes I was going through. However, even after 12 years we continue to choose each other, and I think the process actually led us through deeper conversations.
It caused us to investigate who we are as individuals, who we are as a couple, and what it means to be in a relationship. Given the chance, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
What does Pride mean to you this year?
Pride is a season that carries the weight of both protest and celebration in varying amounts.
This year, Pride reminds me of our community’s hard-won victories, and the extent of the struggles that lie ahead. As we celebrate, we must not forget the ongoing discrimination, counter-protests, and legislative attacks our community and our young people endure.
Pride is a call to action, urging us to march in solidarity and demand justice for all marginalized people, within and beyond the LGBTQ+ community.
Above all, Pride is a means of creating liberation by practicing liberation. Pride is laughing, cheering, hugging, and dancing over oppression toward a world where we are completely and finally free.
What brings you joy?
The good news is, joy is all around. If I keep an eye on what my body and mind need and build those into the schedule, it’s a lot easier to access joy.
Other than being onstage, one thing specifically that brings me joy is potting plants on my deck, taking care of them, and watching them grow. When the weather gets nice and I can sit outside, I love to watch them wave gently in the late afternoon sunlit breeze.
Make a move to fund the continued fight for our community members, like Eileen, by joining the Defenders of Equality. With rates as diverse as our community, we hope you will be able to find the one that works for you.