People who are transgender—meaning that they identify with a gender different from their biological one—face a difficult road to self-acceptance.
They endure bullying and higher rates of discrimination in housing and the job market. But less obvious is the psychological toll that being transgender takes. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, a startling 41 percent of transgender people in the United States have attempted to commit suicide.
This statistic is part of the reason why Stephanie Mott, Executive Director of the Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project is so involved in educating the public about transgender issues. KCUR's Susan Wilson talked to Stephanie about her journey.
“Something about having to hide who you are that innately tells you that there must be something wrong with it. And so there was this concept of believing that there was something wrong with me. I can tell you that as a child at 19 years old I spent hours sitting in the stairwell at our home looking through every volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica trying to find what was wrong with me, not something that described what was going on with me.”
“It is like entering into a play and you enter into the play in the morning and you assume the part of this character that has been assigned to you. And this character is assigned to you on the basis of your biological sex, but it’s not really who you are. So you enter into the play in the morning and you play the part of this character, this boy that wasn’t me, even growing into a man that wasn’t me. And you do it every day. And at night you come out of character and you dream for a little bit that maybe it will be different someday. But then the next morning you wake up and you enter into the same play and it picks up where it left off the night before…”
“I don’t think you can build any kind of relationship on a lie. And my having to pretend to be a man, which is what I was doing was, was a lie about who I was. And there was no real chance for me to be the person that I was supposed to be and to take part in life with joy and happiness. And I continued to drink….used drugs, in attempt to hide from that reality still.”
“You know some things fell into place for me. I did get to go to Valeo to the drug and alcohol treatment program. And then a few months after that I got to see a therapist about my gender identity, and start trying figure out exactly what I needed to do and how to do that. And then in July of 2006 I got invited to a church. The friend of mine who asked me to come to this choice, told me that there were other transgender people at the church. And I was like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe that you know that there’s actually transgender people in a church.’ And I had to go.”
“I sat down in the sanctuary and I looked up at the cross and I felt truth and self in the eyes of the Lord for the first time, and Stephanie was born. And I just haven’t looked back since then. It was just that knowledge that it was ok to be who I was, and that I could do that. And that there were people that would help me, it just changed everything.”
Topeka‘s Stephanie Mott is the Executive Director of Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project. She speaks nationally on transgender issues and is a columnist for Liberty Press. You can hear the full story of Stephanie’s journey, and transition, and how she’s grown into the role of an educator. Just click on ‘LISTEN’ button at the top of the page.