Transitioning to selfhood

'It's who you are': Transgender people share their stories, lend their support


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Photos



  • From left: Samantha Spellane, Trish Dunn, Calli Kaufhold and Petra Simone Kraus (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • E6 Technical Sergeant Tommie Victoria Parker (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • E6 Technical Sergeant Tommie Victoria Parker (second from left) with her wife, Colleen, and two of their three children, Benjamin and Mikaela (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Tri-Versity’s growing library (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




By Frances Ruth Harris

— Petra Simone Kraus said she went through "the whole male thing." She had a job in construction. She had a wife — and after 37 years, she finally told her what she'd been hiding.

Gender dystopia had taken over her life. She was on hormones for four years, and could see her innate femininity blossom.

Kraus said she was lucky. She'd had a good life. But her wife isn't getting the retirement she'd been dreaming about throughout their marriage, with the white picket fence and two old people holding hands. Kraus said her wife has courage.

"What it comes down to for us is our marriage vows," she said. "Our extended cousin family has kept us together. They accepted me. I learned what the word 'family' means. Their motto is 'We are a functional/dysfunctional family.' No matter what, you're family, you're accepted. Family is family no matter what. It all comes down to congruence, and that's when it fell into place for me. When you come out to people it's okay until they see the reality of being out with you, and then they drift away because they are afraid they are going to be judged."

Kraus and others told their stories at a recent Tri-Versity transgender support group, which believes education is the best way to bring gender dysphoria to light. Tri-Versity will soon showcase a video developed to help the community learn about sexuality and gender.

At Tri-Versity, transitioning to another gender is a process that leads to selfhood.

"This has nothing to do with who you're attracted to," said Tommie Victoria Parker, an Air Force Technical Sergeant who has transitioned to female. "It's who you are."

A show of maleness Calli Kaufhold, stormwater manager at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, is transitioning, with surgery planned when she has enough money and can take time off from work. Her family does not accept her as Calli, she said: they talk to her as if she were a man.

"I'd still be lost without Tri-Versity," Kaufhold said. "It was a long road to get here, but I'm here now."

Tri-Versity understands who she is, and is welcoming and accepting, she said. She told her family, "Come August, everything changes because of the surgery and the fact that I'm coming out at work."

Trish Dunn grew up with bikers in Lancaster County.

"It was a challenge being who I am because they would ridicule me," Dunn said. "Many of my friends were rednecks, and I was right with them. I had to put on a show of maleness. Eventually, people would say things to me about my girlie aspects, and eventually I was unable to hide who I really am. In my later 20s and early 30s, I came out for who I am."

"I live with another trans who has kids," said Dunn, who is taking hormones. "She's my girlfriend."

She said that, in the beginning, it was uncomfortable using public toilets.

"As a trans woman, if I went into a male bathroom, I'm female in a male bathroom," she said. "When I was doing name changes and went to use the bathroom following a court appearance, the guard from the courthouse wouldn't let me use the female bathroom. He told me I had to show proof of my gender by identification, and my ID didn't have my new name on it, so he wouldn't let me use the female bathroom until I actually argued that I should be allowed to use the bathroom. First I argued with him, an older gentleman. Then I went to see the head judge of the courthouse, his supervisor, who decided he would educate the guards for future success."

Ten years later, she had a much better experience, this time at Walmart. Customers would hug her and say, "We got your back. Just be yourself."

"I'm no longer male," said Dunn. "I'm female in everything I do, and I don't think about it anymore."

Samantha Spellane spent more than 25 years as a professional wrestler. She wrote and co-produced the soon-to-be-released movie "The Second Self."

Her back sustained serious injuries, and she has three damaged herniated discs. For ten years, she's had three swollen lymph nodes and doesn't why. She believes they may be connected to her autoimmune diseases."

Lawsuit against Trump banSpellane has known that she was female since around age five. She hid that knowledge because of social and cultural pressures.

In 2016 she decided the time had come to begin her transition. Since taking hormones, she said, her levels of stress have decreased considerably.

"The hormones I've been taking for 20 months stabilize my mental condition," Spellane said. "I'm not out of balance anymore."

Tommie Victoria Parker is from South Jersey and now lives in Sparrowbush, N.Y. She began transitioning in 2015 and came out in 2017. She began hormone therapy two years ago.

Parker, her wife, Colleen, and two of their three children, Benjamin and Mikaela, met with The Courier on Nov. 18. Their children are actors and singers.

Parker is on active duty as an E6 Technical Sergeant at Stewart Air Base in Newburgh, N.Y. She was in the Marines for four years and then joined the Air Force.

Parker said the military is her second family. She lists a military LGBT group on her Facebook page: https://spartapride.org.

Parker is one of six transgender members of the armed forces named in a lawsuit against President Trump. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), ACLU of Maryland, and Covington and Burlin LLP filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on behalf of Parker and five other trans members of the military when Trump tweeted that transgender people will be banned from the military. The Baltimore Federal Court issued an injunction against the ban on Nov. 21. Parker is still on her job at Stewart Air Base. Since 2006 she has been a supervisor, refueling airplanes, driving trucks, and doing anything related to jet fuel.

'In utero snafu'One transgender person who spoke anonymously spoke about the "in utero snafu" that occasionally occurs prior to birth. Science now knows that sometimes an incongruity occurs, and in his case, he was born with a male brain and a female body, he said.

He is currently taking hormones. Surgery changed his female chest to a male chest. He is growing a mustache. He said his brain is much sharper as a result of hormone therapy.

"I always knew I was a male," he said. "I have no gender problems."

He said he's remaining anonymous until he tells everyone he knows about his new identity.

Another anonymous speaker who spoke anonymously found Tri-Versity two weeks ago. She was married for 20 years, and her wife never knew. After her wife died, she moved in with her parents.

She said she thought the news that she was transitioning to female would be hardest on her dad. It turns out that her dad, a Korean War Vet, said he was happy if she was happy.

It was harder for her mom, she said, but now her mom comments on her female presence and gives feminine advice. And a friend she had not seen for 10 years, a kindergarten classmate, said, "That's incredible!" and was extremely supportive.

"I was blown away," she said.

She hasn't come out at work yet, fearing backlash. The last year has been a rollercoaster ride.

"In the last eight months, I don't think I've ever been this happy in my life," she said. "I been happy with situations but never really happy with myself before now. I always knew there was something wrong, but I couldn't put my finger on just what it was."

Additional information is available on Tri-Versity’s Facebook page, web page: udglbt.org, or by calling 570-832-4955.






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