What it’s like to be transgender

February 24, 2023 6:50 am

Author Simone Kraus tries to explain what it's like to be a transgender woman living in New Jersey in 2023. (Getty Images)

We’ve all had that moment where a total stranger with hesitation in their voice says, “Can I ask you a question?”

For most of us, the question may be, what aisle is the laundry detergent in, or where is such and such a place. For me, it’s often something else, something more personal.

“What is it like to be transgender?”

It feels like a gut punch. It means I was clocked, as we call it in the trans community. Someone figured out I am trans. I have passing privilege for the most part; I blend into the female part of society most of the time.

I knew at five years old that something was off. At nine, looking through an encyclopedia, I read about Christine Jorgensen — the first person widely known in the United States for having sex reassignment surgery — and I knew who I was. That was 1966. I hid it for 51 torturous years.

In 2017, I retired and started my transition. I lost the majority of my family support and friends, and I was pushed out of the dojo I trained at for 33 years and taught for 26 when I came out.

Under the 44th president, trans people gained a lot of rights. The 45th tried to erase those rights, and in 2020 finalized a regulation erasing protections for transgender patients by health care professionals.

In 2020 state governments started to legislate us out of existence, and it’s gotten worse each year. In 23 states, I can be denied housing, public accommodations, credit, and lending services for being trans. Fourteen states have banned using Medicaid for gender-affirming care. Six states have outlawed this type of care for those under 20.

Though New Jersey affords me a lot of protections — it’s the main reason I retired here — it is not immune to anti-trans legislation. In October, Sen. Ed Durr (R-Gloucester) introduced a bill targeting youth gender-affirming care.

As of a few weeks ago, 80 bills to restrict gender-affirming care have been introduced across the country, according to the ACLU.

So what is it like to be transgender?

Well, I get a lot of intentional misgendering when I’m clocked. It’s the most bizarre thing: You can actually see the moment when the person realizes you are trans, and the look goes from a friendly expression to one of hate and disgust. Being called an “it” is one of the kindest words leveled at me. And I do glance over my shoulder a lot more often now.

But honestly, I have never been happier or more fulfilled. I smile almost all the time now. I look forward to each day. When I look in the mirror, the image looking back is who I’m supposed to be. I know in my heart and soul that I am home now in that reflection.

I was involved in bringing the HBO show “We’re Here” to Sussex County last summer. A show starring three drag queens, it tries to educate and teach understanding in not-so-accepting parts of the nation. And often it does.

This is why I am a very vocal advocate for the transgender community — it’s the hope that maybe, just maybe, I’ll say one thing, and that person who may have misgendered me or looked at me strangely will have a lightbulb moment of understanding and acceptance.

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Simone Kraus
Simone Kraus

Simone Kraus (she/her/hers) is co-founder of and former vice president of Triversity Pride Center in Milford, Pennsylvania.