I am DW and This is My Story

My name is DW Trantham. In my thirteen years of life, I’ve faced far more adversity than your average teenager because I am transgender.

My story began in Las Vegas where I was born as a “male”. The first three years of my life I spent perfectly happy to play with the vacuum and cuddle with my favorite rainbow blanket my daddy bought me. My parents did not notice the fact that I loved dolls and the color pink. In their minds, I was a baby and my behavior did not warrant any concern.

When I turned three, my parents suffered the loss of my baby brother. Unable to console themselves, they divorced. I moved with my mother to a minute town in Northern Idaho named Mackay. Though I had many family members surrounding me, I missed my daddy tremendously. The first few months living there were terrible. My mother and I did not have the close relationship my daddy and I did. My mother suffered enormously from personal issues and as a result, I was forced to grow up very quickly.
At this stage in my life, I knew nothing of gender identity. I didn’t even know that boys were not allowed to play with Barbies. Eventually, my daddy could no longer bear being away from me and he moved to Idaho. I was elated! He made an effort to resolve things with my mother, but it was not to be. Instead, we chose to focus on building a healthy father/child relationship.

DW TranthamWhen I entered school, I was so innocent in my ways that I believed other girls had the same makeup in their private area. There was nothing about me that thought connected with the boys. It was only when I began to pay attention to the lessons my teacher taught that I realized that there was an enormous difference between “he” and “she”. Because I referred to myself as “she”, I was ridiculed. It wasn’t long before I began to think that the doctor had made a gigantic mistake when I was born. He must have accidentally written boy on my birth certificate instead of girl!

The years fell by and with it, so did I. My mother’s personal problems in addition to my gender confusion caused me to fail in school. The issue of gender was a constant reminder to me and I felt completely out of place. Though I knew I was born a boy, everything in me fought that notion. I tried to act like one – many times, I copied my daddy’s ways hoping I’d pick up on how to be a boy, but it was to no avail.

When my dad moved to New Mexico, it was as if it was the end of the world! I missed my daddy again and could barely stand the person my mother was becoming. Each day grew more and more difficult to deal with and the costume of being a boy began to rub me sore. Relief came in the form of a boy at school. He was cute and I quickly developed a crush on him. My femininity did not seem to bother him and though his father was a policeman and people didn’t allow their children to be friends with him, we formed a tight bond. Eventually, he began spending the night at my house. It was so much fun to have a friend who cared about me! One day, we were jumping about on the trampoline and I felt the urge to tell him that I liked him. I didn’t have to wait long because he said, “I feel something different about you.’. Distracted, I answered “Like what?” and he responded, “I’m not sure, but you’re not like the other boys.’.
DW Trantham
At that moment, I froze. The truth had surfaced and I didn’t know what to say. Quickly, I blurted “That’s because I’m really a girl. My parents wanted a boy when I was born so they dressed me like one.’. To my amazement, he told me that he thought I made a beautiful girl. He went on to be my first secret boyfriend. We lasted one year.

As I began to embrace my femininity, the children in my grades noticed and not much time passed before the bullying began. I was very open about my gender identity and though some were accepting, most were not. At first, it began with name calling. Then it escalated to physical assault which became a daily routine. Though I reported it, the school did nothing. One particular time, after a long day of school, I missed the bus and had to cut through the baseball field. When the teenagers on the baseball team saw me, they caught me, then beat me with their baseball bats. The sexual harassment occurred every single day of my young life. I became so depressed and scared of the daily beatings that I tried to commit suicide.

After a year, I confided in a close friend of my daddy’s that I felt like a girl trapped in a boy’s body. I told her I needed help or I would kill myself. She ended up showing me a documentary on transgender children. It changed my life. I knew who I was meant to be and what I had to do. I just didn’t know how to go about doing it.

DW TranthamMy daddy finally moved back to Idaho and I moved back in with him. He knew nothing about how to raise a transgender child. Indeed, he had so many misconceptions about the gay community that it was scary to tell him I was in fact, a girl. It was months before I finally confessed it to him. Understandably, he was shocked and tried to push it all under the rug. He distanced himself from me. With his new job, he traveled a lot and I was forced to stay with his new wife. Cruel and unable to accept my choice, she forced me to act like a boy. Her anger toward me was unforgivable. Deep down, I knew I was a girl and I needed to act as such. I had to be true to myself! But still, I was trapped in the costume of being a boy. It was excruciating.

 

When school began, we were informed that a dress code would be instated. Boys would have to cut their hair short above the collar and would be forced to wear polo shirts with khaki pants. Two weeks before the beginning of school, my step-mother dragged me to the barber shop and cut my long sun-bleached hair off. When I got home, I locked myself in my bedroom and cried for two days, but there was nothing I could do. When school started, people saw me as a boy and treated me as such. However, once they saw my femininity, rumors began to circulate that I was gay. Once again, the bullying started. One boy tried to “cure” me. I thought it might help and attended his church. All it did was beat me into the very depths of hell. There was no “curing” me.

DW TranthamSurprisingly enough, my step-mom finally grew to accept me for who I was. She stuck up for me at my school and did not allow the counselors to try to push me into being a boy. She supported me in that she bought me dresses and makeup. It was nice to be accepted and it helped me tremendously.
It was around the time when my father and step-mom divorced, that he was hurt at a construction job and was given a desk job. During his hours of boredom, he surfed the internet looking to understand his child. In doing so much research, he learned what a transgender person was, how they felt, what they endured. Finally, he began to see what his child had been through. Slowly, we became closer and soon, we were stronger than ever. He told me he loved and accepted me. The relief at being acknowledged as a girl by someone so important to me meant the world to me! With his blessing, I began my outward transition.

My father and mother attempted to renew their old life together and we moved back to Mackay. That summer was one of the best! I was finally transitioned and made friends with a few girls from the neighborhood. I even reconnected with old friends. My daddy gave me the option to be homeschooled, but I wanted to attend school with my friends. Unfortunately, in my complete happiness at being accepted, I did not realize that others would not be as accepting and the harassment immediately began. Even today, I am not comfortable with discussing the abuse I was forced to endure. Not only did the abuse come from the students – it came from the very people I respected: my teachers.

11106304_898545670206321_393235092_nThankfully, Daddy was offered a job in Boise and we moved. My dream was being fulfilled – I could attend school as a girl without anyone knowing my secret! This time it would be different – I would just be me! I was instantly accepted by the students. The principal, counselor and my father discussed my special situation and came to the conclusion that despite accepting me as a girl, I was not allowed to use the girl’s bathroom. Living this lie did nothing to help me feel accepted. It was not me. It was not authentic.

Despite the tragedy I have endured, I will fight rather than allow myself to be railroaded. I decided to contact the local news station and share my story with hopes that I could gain some support. I never would have imagined such support! Not only did they follow through with covering my story, they have been there through my medical transition and supported me with Add the Words. Repeatedly reporting on my updates, they have been a major voice for me. As a result, I have become an advocate for transgender teens. Hundreds of supporters have voiced their concerns and openly accepted me! I am so grateful to them for stepping forward and endorsing me!

dw+1This year, I met a wonderful person who eventually became my boyfriend! A big supporter of transgender teens, he and I are a perfect match. My daddy and Jacob are among my biggest supporters. My journey has been long and it is ongoing, but there is nothing more that I would like to be doing right now. I am woman. I am strong. I am brave. I am DW.

Dear LGBT Community | Every Story Matters

Dear LGBT Community,

Like Heather Barwick, I too am your daughter. I too am the child of two dads and I was raised in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. Like Heather, I understand the complications of being the child of two same-sex parents during those decades, and as a result, I too, am hurting.

But here is where Heather’s and my stories diverge.

I’m hurting because in my formative years, my dads never had the option of being married since the law didn’t allow it. My family experienced a great deal of discrimination, marginalization, and direct hatred because society took a prescriptive approach using heteronormative families as the baseline for “acceptance.” Therefore, any family falling outside of that norm was categorized as aberrant. I longed for my family to be seen as good, and whole, and holy, but none of the laws, nor society, nor communities of faith supported that option.

When you are told for years that your family is not valid, it hurts.

Children Need a Family

My family (both my dads, and my mom and step-dad) fought to provide me with an upbringing that involved all four voices. And though my mom and my dad divorced when I was six years old, they managed to co-parent with a consistent voice that has helped me become the woman I am today. A professional woman. A woman of deep faith convictions. A woman who had a successful educational experience. A woman who has a robust and diverse community of friends. I am who I am because of my family.

To LGBT parents please know that your sexual orientation/gender expression has no bearing on your ability to develop a healthy attachment with your child, so don’t let anyone tell you that it does. You are a good parent because you care for and love your child. Period. I am 44 years old and I have a very healthy and life-long attachment to my father. That attachment is valid, and wholesome, and good.

To straight parents who were formerly married to an LGBT individual, know that when you make the incredibly difficult choice to co-parent with your LGBT ex, it makes a positive long-term difference for your child. When you choose to create opportunities for your child to develop a healthy relationship with the LGBT parent as mine did, you are giving your child the gift of a fully-developed identity. When you choose not to disparage your former spouse, but instead build them up as the co-parent of your child, you are positively forming your child’s self-esteem and ensuring that your child knows they are loved by their entire family. YOU as well as the LGBT parent are key to the healthy development of your child. Never abdicate that because, as you can see in Heather’s post, the disappearance of her father was a devastating, and life-altering loss. YOU matter.

Why can’t Gay People’s Kids be Honest?

Heather and I happen to agree on this one point…children of LGBT families have not been able to be fully honest about our experiences because often people have not inquired about our narrative. When I grew up, people were either fighting for or against the validity of gay families, so children’s voices often became lost in the fight. Thankfully organizations like One Million Kids, Family Equality Council and  COLAGE are fighting to change that.

My heart breaks for the narrative Heather brings to the table. It breaks because I’m a daddy’s girl and I can’t imagine life without him. She has a right to have a personal narrative and it is important for her to find her authentic voice.

However, I would request that Heather not make her case at the expense of the rest of our narratives because ALL of our stories are valid.

What is not conducive to the health of all families is when Heather takes a prescriptive approach based on her solitary experience. It is healthy and good to look at our family narratives descriptively, but universalizing policy based on one specific experience, or worse, creating an overarching prescriptive narrative from one experience weakens everyone’s rights.

At the end of the day, children need a family to grow up healthy and when those family systems are globally protected under the law, it shows a greater, not a lesser, concern for all children (many of whom are already a part of LGBT families).

My Name is Jeff, and I’ve Been Bullied

Growing up in the South, the fact that I would rather hang in the kitchen with my mom and aunts instead of playing ball in the yard with my dad and uncles made it clear from an early age that I was not the boy my dad expected me to be. The obvious disdain for his son made me know that my father and I would never be close, never be respectful, that we would never love each other. At the age of twelve, I asked my father what he would do if I told him I am gay, and without hesitation, his response flew out before I had fully formed the question, “I would disown you.”, he said as he looked me square in the eye. This was the day I knew, without doubt, that I had no father. It would only be a few years later when he showed me that my thoughts were valid.

By the age of ten, the manner in which I was treated simply because I was different, had led me to the point of my first of many suicide attempts. I had no idea how I could live in a world that hated me for feelings that I myself had no understanding of at the time. I didn’t know what “gay” was as a child. I was called queer for years and had no idea what it really meant, I simply knew it wasn’t good. From spending my daylight hours facing torment and trauma at the hands of my classmates to going home to a father who knew he was raising a queer, and despised me for it; I saw no purpose in living in this Hell. After failing dozens of times at ending my life, at the age of fourteen, I chose to come out of the closet. I didn’t do this out of some need to be clear and honest, nor out of a desire to be accepted; I honestly looked at coming out as the one surefire way to end my life without failure. After all, I had been told for almost fifteen years that fags should be killed, so this had been what I was waiting on to happen, my final release. Ironically, most of the kids who had made my life hell for so long didn’t seem to care. The bullying stopped, and I felt free and normal for the first time in my life.

That peace did not last long, because my parents soon got wind of my new found freedom, and decided to “help” me by sending me to a new school where I could be pumped full of the love of God, and be freed from my sin of gayness. My nickname at this new school quickly became “Faggot Jeff”. This name haunted me for the first decades of my life, until a realization hit me– I do not have to hide from being who I am. I took Faggot Jeff and gave him a makeover. I began referring to myself as Gay Jeff, and soon found myself becoming known in the LGBT community as The Gay Jeff, someone who spoke out against the wrongdoings and immoral behavior of those who saw me as less than human. I took a name that had been used to destroy my peace as a child, and I turned it around to make it into a battle cry of sorts, a secret identity that freed me from being the oppressed, tortured little boy that I was, turning him into a force of good and truth for those who have faced the horrors that I have known. It was in doing this that I discovered something which I had never truly believed– It does get better. It gets better if we do not allow ourselves to remain victims of our tormentors, we have to make it it better.

The road to a better life is a road that is specific to the person traveling it, however, the pit stops often tend to be in the same area. For this reason, I would like to share with you how I was able to survive and strengthen myself. First of all, it took me discovering that I was not alone in my trauma. I believed that I was the only person who had ever faced such hardships and pain, yet once I started speaking with others and listening to their struggles, I found that I had been alone simply because I hadn’t reached out to anyone. By becoming a part of the growth and self-acceptance of others, I was able to become a part of my own personal growth and acceptance, this changed my life forever. I found that I was able to not only listen and actively care for those who shared the issues that I lived, but that I could actually do something to be sure that no one else ever had to suffer the way we did as children. This treasure of an idea was the birth of my adult life. It was my Jean Grey moment, the fires of hatred had been extinguished and I was finally able to rise from the ashes as the mighty Phoenix to strike out the hatred that had inundated our world and destroyed the peace living within our future’s most precious asset– our children. Which is why I chose to sign on as a member of the One Million Kids team, I know all too well how important it is for the children of today to know that they are loved and cherished for whomever they may be. They are our future, they are our legacy, and they are important.

My pledge to you is this: Whether you are a child who is currently facing the fear of getting on that bus and dealing with one more day of bullying from your peers, or you are an adult who is still reeling from the trauma you faced as a child– I need you to know that if you rise from the fall, if you reach out to those who are around you, if you seek a better life, you will find it.

    My Name is Jeff, and I’ve Survived Being Bullied

Voices of Children Amicus Brief Filed On Four Landmark Marriage Equality Cases

“You don’t think that a simple piece of paper designating your parents as ‘married’ can have a tangible difference on the bond you have with them — but it does. I watched decades of marginalization of my family fall away in the moment that the judge pronounced them as husband and husband.” – Jenny Rain, 44

Today the Family Equality Council filed an amicus brief (Click to Download Brief) with the United States Supreme Court in support of challenges to marriage bans for same-sex couples out of the Sixth Circuit. One Million Kids for Equality is proud to have joined in the collaborative effort to help youth across the country share stories of the effects that marriage has on their families.

“As a child of two dads, it’s such and honor to have a voice in this conversation. Often the Stories of Children of LGBT parents get lost in the shuffle of day to day advocacy, so being able to share our stories and perspectives about the parents we love has been a freeing experience. After four decades of not having a voice, today is an awesome day.” – One Million Kids Board Member Jenny Rain

As noted in Family Equality’s press release, “there are more than 18,000 children being raised by same-sex parents in the sixth circuit. The amicus brief, authored by pro bono counsel at Bryan Cave LLP, highlights the voices of children and young adults raised by same-sex couples. It asks the Court to consider the unique perspectives of children for whom the unavailability of marriage for their parents affects their legal standing and self-esteem. The youth at the heart of this brief assert that their parents are no less deserving of marital protections and privileges than families with different-sex parents.” “Additionally, the brief includes the voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth who themselves may be the next generation of LGBT parents.”

“One Million Kids for Equality’s mission is to engage, educate and give youth a voice around equality. That being said, I cannot think of a better way to give youth a voice, than our partnership with the Family Equality Council to get the stories of youth in front of the Supreme Court. This is an amazing opportunity to change the lives of millions of children, parents, and families across this nation, and one we are proud to have been a part of.” –One Million Kids President Brad Delaney