Being transgender in a rural Virginia town
By Kristin Plenger
I grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles. I was 28 years old when I started my journey. I remember that first year as being exceptionally hard. I had doctors, therapists, and other professionals trying to help me understand what I was going through, and how to become who I saw myself to be. Despite the help I was receiving, it was still a difficult time for me. A time full of doubt, self-hate, pain, and fear.
It was during that time that I lost the protective shell I had created since the nightmare that was high school. My whole being had become exposed to the world and I became overwhelmed. It worsened until I finally felt suicide was the only answer.
Fortunately, I had family and friends who loved and cared about me. They saw my suffering and even though they didn’t exactly understand what I was going through, the hurt I felt was very clear to them. They didn’t want me to continue to suffer – they opened their arms to me and offered all the support they could.
Unfortunately, getting that support required me to leave my work, my friends, and my home in Los Angeles. At the time nothing else mattered, so I went running to my family and the love they offered. This brought me to my new home, a little town in rural Virginia.
With that love, I healed. I had time away from the world to think and reflect, to despair and regain hope. Even with all that support, I felt isolated and alone. Not from friends and family, I now had those wonderful things in my life. However in rural Virginia, I couldn’t find anybody to talk to who has shared a similar experience – somebody who could really understand.
I started longing for my California home. I tried a lot of things. I went online and made friends, but there is something to be said for a physical presence that online support just can’t match. I moved away from Virginia to places I thought would give me better support for my journey. But without my family, my pain and hurt returned very quickly. Feeling defeated, I moved back to my Virginia home.
Again I recovered and finally decided to make the most of it. I felt ready to try and move forward, but this time using resources near me. I had tried before when I first had arrived and found nothing. This time, I convinced myself I had just not tried hard enough before. I joined PFLAG in a town an hour away. I sought therapy even though the therapist knew nothing about transgender issues. I hid my true self from doctors and others so that I could at least get some support.
I gave it my best shot. I invested myself in my journey. Eventually I found I had just been treading water. I could get so far, but no further. It took a couple years, but I accepted this as the way things would be. For better or worse, this was my life.
I still try, but I am not as invested as I once was. I hide in plain sight most of the time. I can only be myself with people I trust. But I still have hope. Each time I reach out, I find something new. It is a small step, but a step forward nonetheless. My newest search helped me learn there is an endocrinologist coming to a town near me. Hopefully they will see me and be willing to help.
My dream is to one day live as who I know myself to be. To live without the fear of being judged for what I look like on the outside and to be seen for who I am on the inside. I’m not so different from anyone else, really.
This blog is part of Equality Virginia’s summer 2014 blog series about transgender Virginians. Learn more about Equality Virginia’s work by signing up to receive our emails! Another great way to stay in touch is by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter.
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Equality Virginia is the leading statewide, non-partisan advocacy, outreach and education organization seeking equality for LGBT Virginians. EV believes in a truly inclusive Commonwealth where all are equally welcomed and valued, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
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