In the seventh part of this series, we meet Susan Lalone. Susan was introduced to me by fellow do-gooder and mutual friend Kathy, whom TSM celebrated a few months ago. Susan is such a delightful and wonderful person–a true do-gooder to the core and a perfect fit for TSM. Susan is 61 years old and served in the Vietnam War in the Marine Corps before joining the National Parks Service, from which Susan recently retired. Susan serves on the Board of Directors at the YWCA in Clark County, Washington. Aside from the interview, it was a great pleasure talking about the efforts of the YWCA to eradicate racism, misogyny, transphobia, and homophobia.
Susan is originally from California and was raised by grandparents. Susan has a sister who is lesbian. Susan identifies as agnostic. Susan has been happily married for 37 years. As we were talking, I was caught by something Susan said that really took hold of me: “I believe in educating people and reaching people through conversations.” Coming from a military background, Susan is clearly dedicated to listening to people and making the world a better place through conversations. Here is Susan’s story.
Gender Identity: How do you identify?
I identify as Susan.
I am heterosexual, rather than lesbian. I suppose that is the male part of me that is there. I have been married for 37 years and incredibly happy with that.
Age of Awareness?
I would probably say about 7 or 8. There were two things that happened. My mother had left a bag of girls’ clothing in my closet and they were probably for my sisters, but I wanted to try them on and it felt really, really good. The bag of clothes disappeared and I never asked about it. About the same time I saw an old Burt Lancaster movie, The Crimson Pirate, and he had to dress as a woman. I thought wow! I like that idea. I did not do any other cross dressing until junior high school. In high school I did a lot of reading and the word transvestite came up. I don’t remember the context but I remember running off the school bus into the library to look up the word, quick to make sure no one looked while I was looking up the word. That was the first time I realized that there were other people out there like me. That was a huge moment.
Age of Action?
Initially about 8, then on a more steady basis through junior high and high school. After my wife and I were married, we moved to Fresno where I went to school. I went to the Goodwill in the 1970s and I bought a set of clothes and a wig.
What do we, as the LGBT community, need to do to be more supportive?
I would say put aside the sterotype beliefs people have and learn! Take the time to talk with transgender people. Push us a little bit—we need to increase our visibility—involve us, engage with us. We are a part of the LGBT community. Help us grow. We are everywhere and we are out in a positive way. I think a lot of people now know the word transgender. My goal is to take the trans community and put us out in a good light, more visiable and more accepted and we must get out of the closet.
I want to thank Susan and also to say thank you for raising the visibility of transgender people and for making the world a better place for all!