Haley Klug is 27, identifies as lesbian, is a mechanical engineer, is transgender, and is a Co-Founder of TransActive. Haley was kind enough to take some time to talk with me about being transgender and about TransActive. While talking with Haley, I was amazed at how much she has her life together at only 27, not to mention having helped to start a non-profit. I certainly did not have my life nearly as directed at that age. Haley is very close to her parents and brother. As Haley talks to me she emphasizes how close she is to her parents and that while it took a bit of time for them to adjust, she is grateful for their unconditional love. Haley grew up here in Portland, Oregon and this is a part of her story.
What age were you aware of feeling different?
I first realized some things when I was five but I could ignore them so I could still do things that I wanted to do. Then puberty started to happen and I thought oh no now there is no going back. By 11 or 12 I kept wearing my mom’s clothes and so my parents started to take me to some shrinks in the area. A confounding factor was that I was a gifted child and I could hide behind my intelligence—I’m not a sissy, I’m a nerd—so that was kinda something I could hide behind. The therapists that I went to thought I was acting out because I was gifted and one of them thought it was because I was a kleptomaniac, because I was stealing my mom’s clothes. My parents did the best they could do and they did not want me to be subjected to all the slings and arrows. I ended up stuffing it all down and that lasted until college and then my senior year in college it all came to a head. When you become emotionally intimate all of this stuff comes out and you can’t keep up the wall, which was a source of frustration. I happened across a web comic—Venus Envy and I read through the entire archive and I empathized with the main character a lot more than I thought I would. I had this really intense period when I was writing in my journal every day and talking to my parents everyday and came to the conclusion that I am a transgender woman and I don’t want to live a lie—I don’t want to get to 40 years old and live a lie that effects other people like a wife and children.
What age did you decide to take action?
It is a long process of transition. I finally went “full time” in 2007 at work. “Part-Time” is when you live your life as one gender and then live part of your life as the other gender for some of the time. “Passing” becomes very fraught with tension and I was so caught up in passing as a woman that I was not even passing as a guy, so when I went full time I stopped getting looks from people. My parents always knew something was different. They kinda of came to terms with that I might be gay, but they really didn’t consider being trans as an outcome of this. At first they were very guarded –I was very skilled with the tools of negotiation and that helped them understand—it came much quicker for my mom then my dad.
What do you want people to take away from this interview?
There are a whole number of ways to be transgendered and we have many things in common. The LGBT community tends to focus on sexual orientation and ignores the roles of gender and misogyny as they play in their own oppression. It is really about gender expression. They are fair game because of their gender expression. The subtext of our culture is that if boys don’t fit into the male idea they lose their credibility and this results into gender violence and is neglected in our dialogue of sex and gender. I think more than anything I would like people to come away just to just appreciate the perception of gender and gender expression and how it plays into the oppression of gender; they will then be able to help themselves and help straight people and help other transgendered people. Gay marriage will not address the problem of gender expression. It is not the answer. We need to focus on the common threads of oppression. We need to address the roots of the issue. One of the hardest things for me as a transgender woman was my coming to terms with my own transphobia. One time I was at my friend’s house and having some fun with makeup and I remember putting on makeup and looking in the mirror and instantly wanting to scrub it all off—a lot of my process of coming to terms with my own transness, I wasn’t going to be one of “those trans” people you know affected femininity—I have since come to terms with it but I had an initial revulsion. I have learned to cope with and work around but I can’t ever say that it is gone. I reflect on my own sense of the overt trappings of femininity.
There is not an appreciation of what it feels like to grow up female in a male body. It can poison a relationship. A doctor is the first point of contact and needs to point them to the right resources.
Thank you, Haley for your time and for your willingness to help others. You are a true do-gooder!