Contact, Personal, Blogs

America's Foremost Transgender Woman


My Darkest Days

My Story: The BeautifulUgly Girl

Want to succeed at transition? I’ve got six simple words of advice: “Don’t do what Renee Reyes did.”

Parts of my voyage were unhealthy and especially painful. I made many bad decisions: many are embarrassing to even recall - let alone share with strangers. I also hurt people: including myself.

Bottom line? I’m ashamed.

Also? My heart was repeatedly broken to pieces. I struggled to survive with only the remaining shards to pump life and love through my body.

No sane person would purposely duplicate my path.

However…within all my ugliness lies the seeds of beauty: I’m still here with a smile on my face and making a difference with my life. You can too!
Renee Reyes - 112509-03

I’m now in a great place with my life, career, friends, family and my transsexuality. I share my reality - including dreadful parts - in hopes those who feel downtrodden can know there’s light at the end of most dark tunnels. Sometimes? We never realize how close we are to brighter days.

I almost quit - in every sense of the word.

I count my blessings I survived that labyrinth and relish my present path.

The Brutality of a Gender Transition
I suppose my gender transition “as a whole” was the most brutal aspect of my life journey since the associated challenges lasted an eternity. Early in my life, my need for transgender expression was a basis for shame & emotional distraction. It continued imploding my business projects & love-life.
Renee Reyes - 112309-01

Like many transgenders, I endured emotional & verbal abuse by simply “being me” - particularly early-on with my transition when I was in that awkward “trans adolescence” phase of androgyny - when nobody was ever sure whether I was a man or a woman. During those times? I often returned home to shower for hours in an attempt to wash away negativity from my day.

Once I began my gender transition in earnest I quickly discovered people can and do say mean-spirited things to individuals different from themselves: bullying sucks! The nightmare is it usually happens early in transition when we’re insecure & most vulnerable to negative impulses. It’s also at a time when our pillars: friends, family & loved ones - often pulled away because of discomfort with our decision to transition. Sadly, we also sometimes lose our means of “earning a living” in the middle of this downward spiral - heaping financial stress, anguish and shame upon an already dismal existence: ugh!

That combined recipe is a prescription for complete devastation. Our rate of suicide is overwhelming - 41% of all transgender people attempt suicide during their life compared to a national average of 1.6% of the population.

Transgender people are unique amongst the “GLBT” community: it doesn’t cost $50,000 - $100,000 just to be gay. If all I had to do was learn to suck dick and not be afraid to tell everyone I’m queer? That would have been a freaking cake walk. Guess what else? The financial barriers to a successful transition are exactly what people often harp about with transgender people. “If they knew how to shop and look better – it would be easier to embrace them” - I heard more than one born-female friend tell me about transgender people they encountered.

These same women forgot how many years it took as a teen girl to develop the skill for a lovely female presentation. Also, do you realize how much it costs to create a decent wardrobe when starting from zero? No starting stuff from mom or siblings, no female clothes at Christmas or birthday - totally starting at "zero". The beginning of transition is like being dropped into a totally different country – different clothes, new language, different customs – and facing prejudicial ire the whole time you’re trying desperately to adapt to new surroundings. It’s expensive and its tough! You might have detested your mother’s words: “you can’t wear that” or hurt by sneers from classmates over a fashion faux pas - but it’s not likely these mistakes threatened your ability to keep a roof over your head or food in your tummy.

Unfortunately, lots of transgender gals end up slinging dope or prostituting. Transgender women are more likely to end up in prison than virtually anyone else.

The oft-quoted statistic about African American men - that one in four has a history of incarceration? It’s dwarfed by available stats on people who are male-to-female, or MTF.

A San Francisco Department of Public Health survey conducted in 1997 found that almost two-thirds of MTF respondents had been incarcerated. More than 30 percent had spent some time behind bars during the preceding 12 months: ouch! Thankfully, I that’s improving as there’s improved awareness of transgenderism helps in the job market.

Those “Mean He” & “It” Comments
One of the most common & demeaning insults endured by beginning transgenders are the mean “he and it” comments. There’s a big difference between an accidental “he” and a mean “he”. Alas, old friends slip & use “he” when referring to us. That’s understandable: it’s not easy changing pronouns after knowing a person for many years.
Early Stage Transition Phase

However, some people use this moniker as a weapon adding special emphasis to the he when referring to us in public. I can’t begin to describe how painful that feels. We’ve already endured such shame. We mustered the courage to embrace our reality: and we get this? Sucks.

Equally humiliating is when someone goes completely out of their way to not use the “she” moniker in communication. I once had a co-worker pull this card of disapproval via email. Do you know how ridiculous a long email sounds when you repeatedly use a person’s given name throughout that communication? I would have almost preferred she just go ahead & call me “he”.

Even lower is the “it” moniker - from those who don’t consider us worthy of humanity. I remember staring at a young woman who just called me that & wondering why she felt compelled to throw rocks at my soul. I was simply ordering lunch & paying for my meal.

Another irony?

The worst wrath often comes from other minorities. I found it interesting the nastiest inappropriate public lashings I received in Atlanta were from African American women. You would think another oppressed minority group would be sympathetic. I eventually surmised that few blacks had the experience of learning to hold their tongues & considering accepting someone they considered different from themselves vs. non-oppressed minorities. Just an observation - based upon my own personal experiences.

If you know or encounter a transgender individual, try to be respectful of the journey we face. I can assure you we’ve heaped more shame on themselves for having been born to this reality than you could ever pile on our shoulders. Likewise, friends & family often taunt: “Well, you chose this path - it’s hard to feel sorry about what you’re going through”.

Come on…really?

Who would “choose” a path fraught with destruction & isolation unless they knew they could not proceed without otherwise killing themselves?

A Human Paradox
Here's an interesting paradox...

If a woman endures ten torturous years battling cancer, nearly dying in that process, losing most of her possessions in the turmoil...including a marriage, her home & her career - and she survives this trauma?

What do we call this woman?

A hero.
I Survived

However...if a woman's deadly cancer is transsexuality and she suffers & survives a similar plight...know how most people often describe her?

A selfish pervert.

You 'gotta love human beings...

As a species, we're roughly 25,000 years old. Modern man represents only about 4,000 of those years...yet somehow every present generation is convinced they know everything...about everything - when it comes to what’s “right” about humanity.

We're a nation only a hundred years from “knowing” left-handedness was a sign of the devil, seventy-five years from “knowing” women were too inept to vote, and just fifty years from comprehending the color of one's skin meant no more about human nature than the color of one's hair.

You'd think after all this time one point would be exceedingly clear...we're just now learning who we really are - as living, loving species. Alas, mob mentality rules. Male & female seem concrete to those unaware of the complexities of transsexualism. Additionally, we're socialized to relate with people based upon gender. We're taught from childhood how we're to interact with men & how we're supposed to treat women. Thus, when someone learns a trans-person's identity after first treating them as the gender they represent - they're sometimes angered...even violent.

These circumstances add anguish to an already tough journey. I liken our experience to the emotions shared by soldiers returning from Vietnam. They didn't choose to fight that battle - it chose them. When they returned a survivor from doing what they had to do? Some were spit upon. Others remained forever scarred from the battles.

We’re likewise survivors. We fought a war...a battle within ourselves, a struggle between mind & body. Know what else? We won. The world can think as it pleases. If we learn anything from this voyage it's that self-image is the only impression that matters.