Before we get to Kaig’s interview, I wanted to let everyone know that Portland City Counil unanimously voted to end insurance exclusions against transgender City employees. I was able to attend the hearing this morning and was quite impressed with Mayor Adams and with Jeana Frazzini from Basic Rights Oregon. I have to admit the testimony from a couple of very ignorant and bigoted people turned my stomach, but I was happy that these teabaggers were in the minority. I was going to report some of the nasty comments they made, but I would rather not give them the air time.
Kaig is a 31 year old white transgendered male, born during the Reagan administration. He identifies as Queer, rather than heterosexual (you will see his reasoning later in the interview–this is where I was able to learn a great deal from Kaig). Kaig is originally from Seattle, but he lives in Portland. He is close to his family of origin and receives a great deal of support from them. Like Haley and Jenn, Kaig is also a great do–gooder and a Co-Founder of TransActive. I want to thank him and acknowledge how much he is helping others that are not cisgendered. Here is Kaig’s story.
What age were you aware of feeling different?
Some sort of awareness at 5 or 6– having an older brother I wanted to be like him. I have a memory of running around in swim trunks like him and realizing I would not be able to do this forever, that was about 5 or 6. Then I went through adolescents knowing something was not right, but not knowing exactly what that was. I was always a masculine presenting athlete, even though I was not clear enough to say that I identified as a boy.
What age did you decide to take action?
When I was about 20, I came out to my parents as gay. The word lesbian never fit for me, which speaks to my gender identity. I was in college and still really never thought about my gender identity. I think I was 26 when I came out to my parents as trans. I started going by male pronouns when I was 24 with my friends. A lot of things relolve around my parents—after I came out to my parents both times I felt much better and relieved. They were very supportive each time. I was not real confident at first, but I was pretty sure, so I had to go for it. It was the right thing to do. I have been on testosterone for three years and the first year was bizarre—I felt connected and disconnected to my body at the same time. Ultimately this has lead to greater happiness. Now, I’m very invisible to the Queer community and the trans community. I look very gender conforming—I’m able to infiltrate different communities because of the way I look. –It is a mixed blessing but it does open up different conversations.
When I came out the first time in my early 20s they did not shun me or do anything horrible—I got immediate support, but they did struggle with it, but we did not talk about it right away. About six months to a year later, they processed their way through it. They were interested in relationships I was having; it took me awhile to get comfortable sharing with them. The really strong support came out from them when I came out as trans. They have been incredibly open and willing to hear about all sorts of ideas around gender and sexuality and masculinity. They want to know things that I’m willing to share. They refer to me as their son, as Kaig. It took them about a year to get used to the pronoun change. They have become much more politically aware of the issues that the LGBTQ community face. My dad was Republican and conservative and he has changed that tune a lot—he is a fantastic fantastic man!
What do we, as the LGBT community, need to do to be more supportive?
What do we, as the LGBT community, need to do to be more supportive? I really think there needs to be the understanding that we are really one community. We are all in it for the same fight. We all want to feel safe, we want equality, we want the same things. I would love to see more attention being drawn to transphobia, and what does that means. I would love to see a more of a coming together of our community. We need to have more conversations. For the younger generation, it is important for everyone to remember that every trans person, or gender non-conforming person was once a child. We need to give a chance and some space for kids that are going through gender identity transitions.
Thank you, Kaig for your candor, courage, and for educating all of us. I hope, as you do, that we come together as a community and have many more conversations.