I started this diary about 15 years ago. I'd read an essay, "Swimming in AIDS" that'd been penned a couple decades ago in the middle of the AIDS epidemic. It was a moving commentary on those days before we had drugs that were effective against AIDS. Back then in the gay community so many gay brothers were sick and dying of AIDS that you were caught up in the tragedy, literally swimming in AIDS, even if you were HIV negative.
So back in the Clinton administration I started this diary on my ancient laptop. I told of my experience in the trans community, of all the hallmark symptoms of PTSD I'd seen in trans people back when I was an activist and counselor. Then I forgot about it- the nineties were a time between wars when we at least didn't have veterans wounded by PTSD discharged onto our streets and into our consciousness, so it seemed like a poor time to write about PTSD. Sadly, PTSD is back, but for the trans community PTSD never went away.
I'll start with the stories of a couple trans veterans. In fact, there were a lot of trans veterans- I was doing research on the pre- Stonewall female impersonator show the Jewel Box Revue and was amazed that most of the drag performers were vets. And who can forget veteran Christine Jorgenson?
Sis and Brenda both served during the Vietnam era. Neither ever made it to Vietnam, but both got hit with as bad a PTSD as you can get in 'nam, thanks to the bigotry of their fellow americans. Sis was kicked out of the service when she was caught with women's clothing in the trunk of her car. She lost all her veteran's benefits and was disowned by her family. None the less she maintained her dignity, transitioned, and studied martial arts. Then she was brutally beaten by the dogo mates she had trusted. I was so mad that I went off on an FTM that was recovering from surgery- my apologies to Al if you read this. The next day while we were moving Sis to a different apartment for her safety her landlord had the nerve to show up and hand us papers evicting her for getting beat up. Sis is a survivor, finished vocational school, and is an upstanding member of the community. But pretty much unable to work and denied even the most basic of veteran's benefits she's lived most of her life in poverty.
I haven't seen Brenda in person for a decade, but she calls me almost every day. Her PTSD has intensified to the point where she'll only leave home with her spouse, and I suspect she won't meet me in person because I'm too confrontational for her comfort. Brenda lives in a prison of fear that the VA locked her in. Brenda could never pass for a man, but she managed to stay in the military barely long enough to get kicked out with veterans benefits. That got her a job in a VA hospital, where she was harassed until she was driven insane and then further punished by being locked up in said VA hospital's psych ward. Fortunately she got a good lawyer and as a result she's still getting worker's comp from the VA even though she hasn't been able to work there since the 70s. But a steady government paycheck is little solace when your panic attacks are so bad you can't drive and won't even allow your spouse to drive on four lane divided highways. Brenda can't drink anything stronger than milk and eats pretty bland food. She buys vans with dark tinted windows so she can use the porta potti she always carries with in privacy when the stress overwhelms her spincter muscles.
John is a small guy, and he was beaten in the 60s by the teenage girls that towered over him because he wouldn't wear makeup. He was a great friend of trans women, but their heavy makeup sometimes brought back his PTSD. He's found his calling, but last I spoke with him he's still having a tough time of it.
Maggie is another one who never really could pass as a guy. Then throw in a family that couldn't decide whether to give her a girlish or boyish name and you have the makings for psychological disaster. Then on her first day on the job as a county park worker just out of high school she was beaten by her "coworkers". Then her family disowned her when she transistioned 3 decades ago. Is it any wonder the TG community accuses her of "horizontal hostility"? Note to the TG community- cut the PTSD victims some slack and give them some space to heal. I've seen her go into flashbacks because her trans friends big hands reminded her of the "coworkers" who beat her. When you get on your high horse, get all macho, and lecture her you're just setting off her PTSD with predictable response.
Cassandra was repeated victimized as a drug addict and sex worker. She can't handle the stress of cities and lives a hermitic life in a small town thanks to a benevolent trans sister that shares her home with Cassandra. Even in that small town, she's still a prisoner of PTSD, afraid to leave the house for anything but medical appointments and grocery runs. She can't sleep regular hours and can only keep bland food down. As a result she's put on a lot of weight and chain smokes... her doctor tells her she won't live to see 40. She hasn't smoked in two weeks so there is hope though.
We had a murderer in Minneapolis a few years back who murdered 4 women he thought were prostitutes. One of those women was trans. There was a survivor, another trans woman that the perp left for dead. Thanks to a hard working female Minneapolis Police detective her identity was never revealed to the ravenous press. But while her physical wounds have healed, her PTSD remains. She's an addict and alcoholic and has lost a couple good jobs. Anything sets her off- I've walked away from a fight she picked with me even though I could have kicked her butt.
And then there's my experience. I've been a fellow traveler of the trans community, having been born intersex, raised as a boy, and lived my entire adult life as a woman by choice. I had a family that maybe didn't understand me, but they didn't bash me. I taught myself self defense and developed quite a rep on the wrestling mat, so if anyone started a fight with me I finished it. But it was some bigoted managers at the Postal Service when I was in my 50s that gave me personal experience with PTSD. After I was outed they forgot about their duties and made it their full time job to harass me. I was so terrorized that I ended up in the emergency room due to dehydration from Irritable Bowel Syndrome caused by their harassment. Fortunately retirement removed me from their victimization.
That experience and the frank writings by some of our Kossack veterans about their experience with PTSD motivated me to finish this decade and a half old diary tonight. PTSD is the elephant in the trans community's living room, and we're not going to move forward until we deal with this demon. The first step in solving a problem is admitting it- let the discussion begin!