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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 14, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 37
'What's on your mind?'
Section One
ALL STORIES
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'What's on your mind?'

A Seattle Transgender woman comes out on Facebook, receives a tidal wave of support

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

On September 8, Gina King logged in to Facebook the same way she would any other time. But this time, when she looked at the status bar, she became fixated on the generic question generated to all who faithfully log in, 'What's on your mind?' For the first time in her online life she genuinely obliged with an answer, writing:

'14 years ago, on the 1st day of the freshmen school year, a young boy without a true sense of self became the young girl suppressed within 14 years prior.

Still living among you as family, a friend, acquaintance, or colleague, but most importantly as a Trans-woman that believes the complex yet beautiful mind behind the view of my eyes, will always be much greater than whatever exists or existed between my thighs. I am the sum of all parts; mind, body, soul, past, present, and future. If you didn't know, now you do, and I hope it doesn't change your point of view & Thanks for sharing in my reality & I am truly fortunate'.

When I read her status update I was shocked - and a little confused. I had always known Gina was a Transgender woman. She explained to me, however, that she spent a good number of years doing her best to blend in with 'normal' society. It would be safe to say that Gina came out as LGBTQ, only to go back into the closet, just to come out again, and so on and so forth.

Nearly 100 people liked the profile post.

Gina was shocked. More than 70 comments of love and support - some from complete strangers - were posted to her wall. Each message was unique and different, but a common theme began to emerge: that what Gina had done was brave, and her online (instant) fan base wanted her to tell her story to anyone who might listen in hopes that she might inspire others the way she has inspired them.

A SECRET BARBIE COLLECTION
Born Gerardo Corrales Alcazar VI, Gina was the first-born son of her generation.

'Growing up I was known as Gerry King, a nickname coined from my biological grandfather who went by Gerry and taking my step-grandfather's last name when I was legally adopted by him and my grandmother in 1987,' Gina said, adding, 'I don't recall the origins of how or why I started going by Gina, but my name was legally changed to Regina Corrales King in the summer of 1998, right before the beginning of high school.'

Gina says she was five or six when she became aware of her disconnection from the male gender she was pre-assigned.

'Our society is so obsessed with gender roles and tries to define them as early as the crib - blue pacifiers and pajamas for boys but the pink blanket and bib for a baby girl, and these trends only expand as you get older,' she points out.

By the time Gina was in first grade she admits to having had a secret collection of Barbie dolls and My Little Ponies that rivaled the number of GI Joes and Hot Wheels any of the boys in her class had. 'I didn't understand it at the time but I did know that I really enjoyed playing with girls who were more than happy to play make-believe, dress up, and share dolls,' said Gina.

'I wasn't shy at all - in fact I was very assertive - so when the parents of the other kids I played with thought it inappropriate for a boy to be so into 'girlie' things and stopped letting me play with them, of course I acted out,' Gina said. 'Again, I was too young to understand an adult perspective or adult fears. Especially in the same culture that tries to instill the notion that 'we can be whatever we want to be.'

When Gina was a teen, her step-grandfather mentored her. 'He was very attentive and advocated for me when I chose to live as a girl,' she said. 'After many years spent fighting for social and racial equality, he found himself with an opportunity to really make a difference in the world with me by loving me unconditionally and supporting my choice to pursue the life I wanted.'

Gina is currently pre-operative yet post-hormone therapy.

Surgery of any kind has always been a fluctuating topic for many years,' Gina admits. 'While I jokingly say that if I had the financial security to have gender reassignment surgery today, I would schedule my consultation for tomorrow, the truth is I still struggle with the concept that if I don't love and embrace the skin I'm in now, what is surgery really going to change?'

'TRYING TO BE THE BEST GIRL I COULD BE'
Gina says she began to identify as Transgender well after she transitioned full-time, in her early 20s. 'Being 14 is difficult enough for anyone, with puberty rapturing at the body from within, coupled with facing a gender role reversal in the same period of time and actually caring enough to deal with the emotional significance is really tricky stuff.'

'Fitting in and just trying to be the best girl I could be was always of the utmost importance and on the daily agenda,' she recalled. 'While my classmates were busy taking notes on an upcoming assignment, I was busy observing how my female peers interacted with each other. I taught myself the little nuances and mannerisms that come so natural to biological girls. I trained myself to speak softer, keep my chin level with my shoulders, even how to flex my facial muscles to keep my eyebrows arched and lips pursed to enhance the fullness of my cheekbones.'

'I became super-aware of how I appeared, and in retrospect I realize I was subconsciously creating a solid foundation of from which I built the woman I am now,' said Gina.

In the Transgender community, for some, the goal is to be able to 'blend' in with mainstream society so you could be referred to as 'passing.'

'I see both sides of the spectrum,' said Gina. 'As a Trans woman who is fortunate enough to 'blend' doesn't mean that it you get to pass Go without paying the toll. Dating and meeting new people in general is difficult in terms of disclosure - when and when not to bring up your past, and dealing with the anxiety of rejection.'

Granted, there is always the other extreme - not having a 'passing' ticket and dealing with the ever-scrutinizing eye of society, judgment, discrimination, and ridicule.

'Either way you flip the coin,' said Gina, 'the proverbial sword will cut both ways.'

After transitioning, Gina dated mostly outside of school to avoid the gossip- and drama-filled hallways. 'Besides, within the first few weeks of the freshman school year, everyone already knew my secret, and while I'm sure that any number of the boys were curious about me, I'm sure dating me openly would be out of the question.'

'The year before I transitioned in the eighth grade, I 'played it straight' for a semester and dated two different girls,' she said. 'Both of whom soon found out I was more interested in taking off their clothes to wear them and putting on their make-up rather than making out.'

'I've loved and lost. I've been truthful and dishonest.' Gina says. 'I remain optimistic that one day I'll have what I want ultimately in a relationship. Someone who accepts my past, loves my present, and looks forward to a future, together.'

LET'S SEE HOW FAR WE'VE COME
Gina says she has been fortunate not to be singled out for being Transgender. 'I am not as confident that I haven't been discriminated against for just being a woman. I have been sexually harassed in the workplace and walking down the street minding my own business. Again, the sword cuts both ways.'

'My existence doesn't revolve around being Transgender,' she reminds. 'I am truly fortunate to have lived the life I have and have the perspective I do. I would say that for the most part I am only reminded that I am Transgender when I'm forced to. Specifically when dating.'

'Otherwise, I find it much easier to accept my reality for what it is - single moments of time compounded into days, months, and years,' said Gina. 'Since I've lived as I am for this long I find that all the other details that make up my life - my dog, friends, career, and family - are much more important than the fact I was born a boy.'

'Acceptance,' Gina believes, is what the Trans community still has to conquer. 'Accepting that not everyone will understand the struggle and that the struggle is what makes living life worth living,' she continued. 'If it were easy for everyone, what would be there to live for?'

Accepting that who we are today isn't who we will be tomorrow, she said. 'Accepting that while things could always be less difficult, they could always be a shit-ton worse. Accepting that the beliefs you hold so dear aren't going to be the very same for the next person, and accepting that this is okay, because what makes us all so beautiful, Transgender or not, is that we are all so different.'

Gina was helped to this place of enlightenment by her mentor in the Trans community, Vanessa Grandberry, whom she met at a youth outreach panel at Seattle Central Community College when Gina was 17.

'I showed up on a whim and was absolutely bowled over by her strength and courage to stand before a group of strangers and tell her story,' recalls Gina. 'It was the first time in my life I ever met a Trans woman doing something positive for her community. After years of seeing Trans people demoralized on Jerry Springer and other shock-media television shows, it was a welcome relief to finally be in the presence of someone real.'

A WORK IN PROGRESS
Gina believes 'you can judge a book by its cover, but that won't change the context within - that is written forever.'

At the end of the day, Gina says, she is most thankful for her support system - 'my family, but especially my friends both new and old.'

'When I came out on Facebook I was completely blown away by the sincere and genuine messages of love I received,' she said. 'I never could have dreamed for a better outcome. The dread and regret I felt just moments after posting have been replaced with an amazing sense of freedom and unification.

'I love to laugh and joke and I especially enjoy making others laugh too,' she said. 'I can take any situation and make it funny.

'Life is too short to take things too seriously and if you're not laughing, then you're probably being laughed at, so I say, 'Laugh right back, louder even!'

Gina says her 'true self' is yet to be determined. 'I believe I am a work in progress,' she said. 'While it is safe to say I can stand on my current convictions, I am also very conscious that I am not who I was 14 or even seven years ago. I've grown so much and yet I feel like there is still much yet to be learned.'

'To sum it up, my true self is someone who understands that my journey and evolution is constant, and that while being Transgender isn't something everyone I meet needs to know in the first moment, it is certainly not something I should be ashamed of.'

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