Often overlooked in our LGBTQ community are transgender men and women. I feel it is important to be able to share some of their stories. It is time for us all to set our differences and beliefs aside. We must unite and fight we lose all the progress we have made. That requires us coming together as one community, no matter our points of view. Each of us live our lives on our own means. We are forced to make a living and must, in doing so, be ready to fight how it best serves our greatest good, do not judge someone by their words as much as their deeds or actions. Remember that I share stories of our community and how we/they live in it. Names are only changed when asked to do so, words are only changed for spelling or ease of flow. So, join with me as I share their stories and let’s celebrate their fight and stand with them. Be supportive, without judgement.
Today, let me introduce you to Ray Wats, a 22-year-old living with his boyfriend on the East side of Cleveland. Like many others I have interviewed, Ray wants you to understand that day to day lives are no different between Trans/Gender Non-conforming people and Cis-gender. We all eat, sleep, work, and have the same worries.
Tell me about yourself. Name, age, where you live, and what you do.
My name is Ray Wats on, I am 22 and I just bought a house in Eastlake, Ohio. I work as a supervisor at a local restaurant. I love watching anime, cosplaying and going figure skating on occasion.
What does transgender mean to you?
To me transgender means I’m pretty miserable with the body I was born with. It also means I work every day to present myself as the gender I believe I truly am, without letting society tell me “You were born this way therefore…” or asking “Are you a REAL man?”
What are some common misconceptions you face about Transgender men and women?
First one that comes to mind is that we’re all straight (heterosexual). Same as cis men having different sexualities, trans men have different sexualities. For example, I am bisexual and have a boyfriend who is very gay. Following that, another misconception is that I am supposed to be “MAN-ly man.” Nah, I am a male who figure skates, cooks, and occasionally goes to hockey games. If that’s manly, cool, but if it’s not, oh well.
How should someone ask a Transgender person which pronouns they prefer?
I prefer one-on-one, straight forward asking. I don’t need a long roundabout. If you suspect I am trans* and are confused, just ask me.
Do people ask you if you have had any surgeries and how does that make you feel?
A few people have asked me, and personally, I don’t mind them asking. I like to be a reliable information source. Ignorance spawns fear, and knowledge is power. So hopefully one day if that curious person has another interaction with a different trans* person, they can be respectful and everyone can leave the interaction happy and feeling respected.
What are things that we should avoid doing with Transgender person?
I’d appreciate if people didn’t ask my “Real” name. There is my legal name, but you don’t need to know that. My real name is Ray. It’s the name I chose, it’s real.
What has been the hardest part of your transition so far?
My Mom’s denial and rejection. A number of my family doesn’t know that I’m transitioning. Others do not accept, but it really hurt when my Mom said she’d never call me Ray. It’s been five years since I came out. I came out as bisexual seven years ago, and even that she never truly accepted. She’s never given me the ” I’ll still love you” talk. That hurts, but it’s gotten easier since I’ve moved out.
Tell me about your normal day? –being a parent of a Transgender child/ Transgender person–
I live a pretty domestic life. I make breakfast for my partner, we do some reading and research into ways to counteract his diabetes, and it seems to be working with the Keto diet. The company I work for has been a great place to work. So many people who work there are supportive, if they know that I’m trans*. Some new people don’t know, which I call a success for being stealth. I come home to Lewis, and we geek out and watch anime or we just sit and talk.
What are some microaggressions that make you feel unsafe? (“Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”)
People out right ignoring my pronouns, or ‘slipping up’ makes me feel rejected. Going into public bathrooms can be very uncomfortable when someone does a double take.
I am a cisgender Gay male, and always want to know how to be a better ally for trans* individuals. What are some things I can do to aid in trans* visibility and helping to create a safe environment, based on your personal experience?
Honestly the best thing cis people can do is just treat me how you would any other guy. Don’t over think the conversation or anything. Let’s talk about anime, how annoying guests can be at work and your crazy ex.
How can people best support Transgender children?
My first piece of advice is give them time. Don’t worry about rushing them into a support group and the opposite side of the clothing store to find them their gender identifying clothes. A lot of kids go through stages where they don’t like their bodies. So it’s best to give them time. Let them go through their journey, and if they want help and more support then help them, but make sure they are putting in some effort themselves. The last thing you want is a little girl who just doesn’t like her developing body and societal pressures and people encouraging her to go on hormone suppressants, when she doesn’t believe with her heart that she is a male. Do research together about what this journey can be like, and tell them you love them, and will support them if they believe they are trans*.
I’d love to give a resource past finding a chapter of PFLAG, but to be honest I do not have one that I follow. I suggest reading “Always My Child” by Kevin Jennings, to start with. It’s a support book for parents that have a kid/teen that is question or has come out as part of the LGBT* community. It gives a brief description of what your child might be going through and how you might be able to help.
Do people question your sexuality when you tell them you are Transgender?
All the time. Before I realized I was trans* I knew I liked girls and guys. When people ask about Lewis and I, the easiest way I describe us is “He’s pretty and I squish the bugs.”
With the recent news of cis-gender actors/actresses being offered a role pf trans people, what are some common misconceptions about Transgender people portrayed in Hollywood?
I think a lot of trans* people are portrayed as a drag queen type or a butch aggressive type. Like with most stereotypes, that is only a minor percentage of how the trans* community acts. A lot of those type of people are newly trans* that, in my opinion, are trying too hard. I’m of the opinion that it would be cool to see more trans* people playing trans* roles, but just like other roles, the best actor should get the part after auditioning. If they don’t have a lot of experience in a field, then they should consult professionals. It would be cool if big name actors got trans* roles on occasion so that the trans* community would start becoming more visible and people may take more interest in understanding the people a part of that community.
What gives you strength day to day?
My partner Lewis has been an enormous help. Just treating me like a person, as his boyfriend, is great. Putting one foot in front of the other is my mantra through hard times. Other times I reflect on my accomplishments. Through time and effort I have put myself through college, moved out, working on my way to becoming a manager at a restaurant. These things give me hope.
Can you describe for me why it is important that our laws and people treat each other equally?
I believe it is important because everyone is human. Even if they act different from what you know, it doesn’t mean they don’t have day to day lives of their own to live. Their triumphs and tribulations are just as as valid as anyone else’s’ therefore they should be treated just as equal as anyone else.
It is always an honor, for me, when someone wants me to share their story. I feel it is important to share their experiences and views for our community to continue to grow and evolve. Seeing the world through other people’s eyes makes us realize that we still have a fight to finish before we are all treated as equals. We have witnessed legislation being enacted and taken away in the last 20 years. Ray shows us that it is more important for the day to day issues, for each person to be accepted as the person they are. No matter where you start your journey or where you are on it, we all have similar daily lives and each person’s is as valid as another’s. Giving proper respect to a person causes a much larger impact than any legislation that can be passed. It is how we interact with people on a daily basis that shows the type of people we are at our very core.