Charlotte Clymer, a military veteran based in Washington DC, has come out as trans in a lengthy series of tweets.
We’re reprinting the text from the tweets below so you can read her entire story. She also has advice for others on a similar journey, or those who want to know more about trans issues.
‘Well, I’m not sure there’s a “right” time to announce something like this, but I’ve reached a point in my life where I finally feel comfortable, for various reasons, to be my true self, and were the world to end tomorrow, I don’t want that truth being buried with me.
‘I’m transgender, which means that although I was assigned “male” at birth based on anatomy, I’ve always felt that, at least on the inside, I’m female. Your “sex” is your designation at birth based on some biological factors; “gender” is how you express your identity.
‘I would love to live in a society that doesn’t have the concept of gender. Sounds like heaven. Be whoever you are, and that’s how people will acknowledge you. But we don’t. We’re given a binary: male or female, boy or girl, man or woman. It’s a system and chosen for you.
‘I want that system to change but in the meantime, for the purposes of navigating it with a sound heart + mind, I have arrived at a place where I can no longer attempt to bend myself into a pre-fabricated shape that looks nothing like who I really am.
‘Society mocks people who fall a little outside that binary’
‘Society mocks people who fall a little outside that binary, shames those who fall “a lot” outside of it, and isolates those who fall entirely outside of it. And all who color outside the lines, regardless of their distance, are vulnerable to discrimination and bodily harm.
‘So, you see how compromise and silence can be tempting incentives here.
‘I have always known, by a mile, on which side of that binary I am most comfortable. I have known this about myself, in some form, from an early age. Maybe I didn’t know the right words. Maybe I couldn’t quite articulate the feeling. But I knew it deep in my bones.
‘For 20 years, from the time I was first acutely conscious of it, I simply denied it. Even as a young male child, I’d deny it. I went through all the appropriate masculine rites of passage. I tried to be traditionally “male”, and in many ways, I succeeded. At least on paper.
‘I tried to embrace all the cultural cues inherent in maleness, particularly as a kid’
‘I had decided when I was a kid that I didn’t feel like a boy or man because I hadn’t suffered enough to earn it. So, the natural solution was more suffering. Taking pain. Staying quiet. Don’t cry. Earn your stripes. That’s the code, and I needed to stick by it.
‘I tried to embrace all the cultural cues inherent in maleness, particularly as a kid. Some of them I genuinely liked, some not so much. And some I hated and refused to do. But I gave most of them a go.
‘Playing “male” sports in high school. Serving in the military. Protecting others. Having romantic partners. Being an adult who does adult things. Praying the switch will flip. My brain will right itself. Signposts blowing past me: age 10, 15, 20, 25. It has to come. It will.
‘Maybe doing one more “male” thing, I thought—or getting through one more year of being in this body with this presentation—will erase the deep, gnawing pain in the pit of my stomach that says I’m actually a woman.
‘But at 28, the heavy truth just collapsed on me. I could no longer hold up that weight and pretend that I simply hadn’t suffered enough. Something had to give, and I hated the thought of living a full life trying to be someone I’m not.
‘How would my partner still love me?’
‘But I was still scared. It’s a hell of a mountain to climb. There are so many barriers that stand in your way when that fog lifts. And always on the terms of others.
‘How would my partner still love me? How would anyone else ever date me? How could I pass as a woman? How can I afford to transition? How will I ever get a job? ‘’’How will I feed myself? How will my friends react? How much am I risking my personal safety? How, how, how, how…
‘I have lived as a “genderqueer” person for three years because I felt it was the closest I could get to authenticity while still being able to answer those questions comfortably. All I needed was the room to do some code switching. Being “male” when required. Just get by.
‘But last year, I had grown tired of it. It was not as close to authenticity as I’d hoped. Just a softer compromise. There are genderqueer/non-binary/ folks who occupy and love that space. I admire them. To me, they’re heroes. But I couldn’t continue to do it and stay happy.
‘Then, the election happened. And my partner (a truly lovely person) and I broke up and went our separate ways. Same week. A lot of instability for anyone. That was not the time, I thought, to venture into the great unknown.
‘This summer, I asked myself what a good time would be. When Trump is out of office? When I have enough money to transition? Just the existence of those questions in my brain made my skin crawl.
‘And I considered my transgender friends, particularly trans folks of color. They’re living out their true selves, despite the immense obstacles, and while not perfect, at least they have something real. I want that.
‘Folks who are LGBTQ should live on their own terms’
‘Folks who are LGBTQ should live on their own terms. I will always stand by that. But visibility, when possible, is monumentally important. I’ve often thought of what 8 year-old trans kids in Central Texas are thinking when they walk on the same ground I did when I was 8.
‘And although my financial resources are still quite thin, I am lucky enough to live in a city (thanks, @MayorBowser) that is making the greatest effort to be inclusive of transgender citizens. Help is here, and I should take advantage of it.
‘This won’t happen overnight. It’ll take time and patience’
‘So, what’s next? I don’t know. This won’t happen overnight. It’ll take time and patience. But I am starting the process of transitioning. I am going to live my life, in time, as a woman. I’ll still be an imperfect human being, but I’ll be imperfectly me.
‘For the time being, at least socially (if not legally and professionally), I am changing my first name to Charlotte. I’ve always thought it’s a pretty name, and it’s fairly close to “Charles”. Might be easier for folks to say.
‘I want to be visible. Those kids in Central Texas? I want to be visible to them. I want them to see me.
‘You all have questions. I know you do’
‘You all have questions. I know you do. That’s okay. But it also has to be okay if I don’t want to answer them all. Here are notes that will hopefully answer some of your questions.
‘Pronouns? I would love for you to refer to me as she/her, but that’s quite confusing for now. It also may be a sore point for some while I still have a male presentation. They/them is also fine. In return, I will be graceful as I can. Mistakes happen. Let’s help each other.
‘This is important: I don’t speak for other transgender folks. Our experiences vary widely. We have many deviations from each other. I respect their journeys. I will fight for them as my siblings, especially trans folks of color, who face greater rates of violence.
‘As long as I present as male, I have male privilege. Full stop. Also, I can’t speak for folks, cisgender or transgender, who have lived as women their WHOLE lives. I’m new here. I have a lifetime of male privilege with inestimable psychological benefits in that regard.
‘But having lived in the closet as transgender my whole life and needing to hide it is something no cisgender person can truly understand. Be mindful of that. It’s not the same thing as being a cisgender male. It’s psychologically different and damaging.
‘I also have white privilege. I’m also able-bodied. I’m also a Christian. These things are not erased just because my gender identity changes. I have a responsibility to be a good ally to other communities, just as I would expect cisgender folks to be a good ally to me.
‘Please don’t tell me I’m better off as a man, even as a compliment’
‘This has nothing to do with men. At all. I love the men I choose to have in my life. Honorable, lovely men who value the humanity in themselves and others. But while I respect their healthy masculinity, I do not share their level of comfortability in a male body. Never have.
‘I’m told I have a male body that’s decently attractive. Great! But I don’t like it. Each day feels like I’m wearing an ill-fitting, garish suit, a terrible inside joke, one between only me + my brain. Lonely. Please don’t tell me I’m better off as a man, even as a compliment.
‘Gender identity is not the same as sexuality. Two different things. Some transgender women are attracted to male persons, some to female persons, some to all people. While my sexuality is certainly more fluid, I am nearly always attracted to women. Curiosity satisfied? Good.
‘Will I have surgery? That’s really none of your business’
‘Will I have surgery? Maybe, maybe not, but—and I mean this with great respect—that’s really none of your business. If I choose to talk about it down the road, you’ll know.
‘Other transgender and genderqueer/gender-nonconforming/genderfluid folks do not owe you answers to these questions. If they don’t want to humor your curiosity, please respect that.
‘But there’s an amazing new website that will help you find answers to your questions! It’s called Google, and it may very well change the world. Please use it. For your convenience, here’s an FAQ from @HRC to get you started: https://www.hrc.org/resources/transgender-faq
‘I want to thank @LaverneCox, @JanetMock, @SarahEMcBride, and other transgender folks, many whose names you’ll never know, many who have died for being who they are, that gave me the confidence to make this decision. I owe them a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid.
‘In closing, I want to thank all my loved ones who have stood by me and pledged their support with this change. Their confidence in this path of mine amounts to riches I cannot adequately measure. And lastly, I thank you—yes, you—for your support.
Since posting the original tweet late last night, it has been liked over 14,000 times and re-tweeted 1,300 times.
Charlotte, ‘stunned’ by the response, says she has received a tremendous number of messages of support. She stayed up most of the night writing replies to people.
‘The terror I felt has given way to a flood of relief. Thank you x1000000.’
She was particularly touched by the number of friends who sent her screenshots to demonstrate that they had already updated her name in their phone contacts.
She also suggested that anyone touched by her words may wish to make a donation to a Washington DC-based non-profit, Casa Ruby. It works to support trans and non-binary people: casaruby.org/donations.html
GSN has reached out to Charlotte for comment.