Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility. Here’s what you should know

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Portraits depict ‘struggles and joys’ of older transgender adults

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Portraits depict ‘struggles and joys’ of older transgender adults

Bobbi, 83, Detroit“I think people talk in either/or terms, right? Before transition and after. But to me, it’s really development. I’m proud of both lives. I’m proud of both ‘me’s, if you see what I’m saying. And I feel it has been a remarkable thing to have happened to a person. I’m grateful.”

Portraits depict ‘struggles and joys’ of older transgender adults

D’Santi, 54, Santa Fe“People need to know they’re not alone. Because that was my battle. For 50 years. I was in it by myself.”

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Portraits depict ‘struggles and joys’ of older transgender adults

Dee Dee Ngozi, 55, Atlanta“I’d go the clinic for my HIV, I would do stuff. I’d push patients, walk them to the car, sing church songs. I was just having a ball while I was waiting for my appointment. And a guy saw me one day who ran an agency, and he said, ‘Miss Dee Dee, you work down here?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘I got a job for you.’ And that was God just setting me in right there in that clinic with my own desk and I was my own boss. I could go to work as myself.”

Portraits depict ‘struggles and joys’ of older transgender adults

Duchess Milan, 69, Los Angeles“I just know I’m me. I don’t think in terms of names and forms and all that. It doesn’t matter. I’m just myself and that’s who I am. I am at peace with myself. It is the most wonderful feeling in the world, because you’re never in a hurry to get somewhere, you know, to prove to anyone that you’re who you know you are.”

Portraits depict ‘struggles and joys’ of older transgender adults

Grace, 56, Boston“I still see myself as on a journey. When I received an award a few years ago at a conference I said, ‘In the ’60s they called me a sissy. In the ’70s they called me a f****t. In the ’80s I was a queen. In the ’90s I was transgender. In the 2000s I was a woman, and now I’m just Grace’.”

Portraits depict ‘struggles and joys’ of older transgender adults

Hank, 76, and Samm, 67, North Little RockSamm: “Hank and I have been together 44 years. We met after her time in the military, through some Chicago lesbians I had met … She was different from anybody I have ever met in my whole life and I knew that she would be in my life for the rest of my life. There was this immediate connection that would always be there. The way we are today, we started out that way.”

Portraits depict ‘struggles and joys’ of older transgender adults

Jay, 59, New York“I got cancer and I was facing discrimination where doctors wouldn’t even give me my biopsy results. The man who was supposed to be my breast surgeon wanted to send me out to psychiatry. Wanted to send me to psychiatry before giving me any breast cancer care! And he didn’t even call me to give me my biopsy results. I didn’t even know that I was sick for a long time.”

Portraits depict ‘struggles and joys’ of older transgender adults

Lee Anne, 64, McClellanville“You have to have a thick skin to survive in the South being transgender. Unfortunately, I know too many who don’t. And most of them are young. I think that over the years, I’ve developed this thick skin because it’s either that or die.”

Portraits depict ‘struggles and joys’ of older transgender adults

Jude, 75, Yuba City“In school, we were forced to wear dresses. Even if the snow was two feet deep, you couldn’t come to school in pants. I was mortified on a daily basis that I had to dress the way I did. In high school, other adults began to pick at me and be cruel. When I was a junior, the teacher gave me an F in gym. I was a straight-A student and an excellent athlete. She gave me an F in gym because I wouldn’t take showers, but I wouldn’t take showers because I didn’t want to expose myself publicly with the body I had.”

Portraits depict ‘struggles and joys’ of older transgender adults

Preston, 52, East Haven“When I was younger and I looked in the mirror, I saw a boy. And I remember when I came out to my parents, my mother was like, ‘I always knew that there was something a little different,’ but she didn’t know what. I was born in 1964, so my parents, being born and raised down south, they had no idea whether it was transgender or gay or lesbian or anything. And so now we know what it is.”

Portraits depict ‘struggles and joys’ of older transgender adults

Sky, 64, Palm Springs“I failed miserably as a lesbian. I had sex with too many men. So it just wasn’t right. I moved to San Francisco in 1986 and became very involved in the women’s SM community. I am one of the founders of International Ms. Leather. I had to hide being a trans man for a while because I thought they would take my ‘card’ away. Well, I finally committed and said, ‘This is not right.’ So that’s when I began to transition and never looked back.”

Portraits depict ‘struggles and joys’ of older transgender adults

SueZie, 51, and Cheryl, 55, ValricoSueZie: “Years of self-administering hormones caused a complication that threatened my chances for surgery. I said to Cheryl, ‘I’ll die as female. Nothing is stopping that surgery.” If there was a 95% chance of failure, of dying on the operating table, that was a risk I was willing to take. I could not go on how I was. My greatest challenge, it came from within. It was having the confidence to face the world out there.”

Portraits depict ‘struggles and joys’ of older transgender adults

Cassandra, 50, San Diego“I’m a trans woman. I’ve always identified as female, but it took a while to get to that point, because I am originally from the Caribbean and the church is very strong there. I always knew that I was different. I remember going through puberty and asking my mom, ‘How come I don’t have breasts?’ and she said, ‘Well, it’s because you’re a boy.’ That didn’t seem right to me. It just didn’t match.”

Portraits depict ‘struggles and joys’ of older transgender adults

Stephanie, 64, St. Louis“Even though I’ve transitioned, I can’t deny or completely separate myself from the past because it did happen and those memories are with me. It wasn’t until I got into my 50s that, through internet research, I discovered there was a name for all this. It was a great relief. “

Portraits depict ‘struggles and joys’ of older transgender adults

Sukie, 59, New York“In the Hispanic community, you know, a lot of cisgender men, they don’t take trans very easy. So that’s why I just make sure I’m careful. It’s really a safety issue. I don’t trust too much. Being Hispanic, I have to be more masculine.”

Portraits depict ‘struggles and joys’ of older transgender adults

Vanessa, 51, Atlanta” I joined the military when I was 19 and did six years. I was a woman on the weekends. I looked forward to getting my hotel room and being Vanessa. And six years of weekends, you know, it just got old. The reason I didn’t stay in the military was because I had to be Vanessa full-time.”

Portraits depict ‘struggles and joys’ of older transgender adults

Caprice, 55, Chicago“Before trans was even labeled as trans, it was sissy. I was a sissy. But my mother knew enough to be supportive … I was like, ‘Well, you know, I’m living as a girl now.’ And my mother said, ‘We are not going to say living ‘as’ a girl. We are going to say you are living in your womanhood, your sisterhood. It gives you power, it gives you authenticity’.”



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