Bugs Bunny: Transgender Inspiration... or Insult?

Cartoons have been a staple in culture since the 19th century. They have been used to show the hypocrisy and corruption in our political environment, economic policies, and religious beliefs as well as for general entertainment to escape those same problems in our culture. In the world of cartoons, no idea is safe from criticism and no subject is taboo. Over the years many cartoon characters have crossdressed, mostly to escape the shenanigans of the episode's antagonist or strictly for a laugh. But one character throughout the history of cartoons embraced the practice of cross-dressing unlike any other. That character is Bugs Bunny. I'm pretty confident that Bugs is such an icon in modern culture that I don't have to detail the extensive history of the character. However, a brief summary should be appropriate.

Bugs was created in 1940 and appeared in various episodes of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies produced by Warner Bros. During the golden age of animation his popularity surged and he was assigned as the official mascot of Warner Bros. He is one of a handful of animated characters that have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is the first animated character to earn the honor. He has been portrayed in more film than any other cartoon character. And is the ninth most-portrayed film personality in the world. Three episodes he was portrayed in were nominated for Oscars, the third of which won.

While the character is identified as a male, many episodes that Bugs appeared in portray him dressing in drag to escape the clutches of his antagonists. It is a trait he has exemplified throughout his entire existence. In one of his earliest episodes, there is a scene in which he is in a dressing room and begins to explore dressing as a woman, admiring himself in a mirror as he progresses in donning a feminine form and identity. In many of these early episodes, he would yelp or give a frightened shriek when discovered dressing as a woman and eventually began to dress in "public" regularly without embarrassment. In these early years, he did a relatively poor job at portraying a female but, as time passed his skill at impersonation greatly increased. His makeup skills improve, his shape becomes more feminine, and his mannerisms become exponentially more sensual over time. His latest appearance in the full-length feature film Looney Tunes: Back In Action, there is a scene in which he is dressed in drag with a resemblance to Marylin Monroe. (He's absolutely gorgeous, a picture from that scene is below.)

Creators, producers, and writers for his various appearances have maintained that Bugs' portrayals in drag were simply to register a laugh from the audience. One went as far to say "We believed someone in drag was one of the funniest things a person could see in real life and it would translate well into our cartoons." However what many of these creative people fail to realize is how they built the character. Bugs loves dressing as a female often portraying flamboyant female archetypes, until Space Jam, he resisted the advances and showed no interest in female characters, and unlike many of his looney costars, Bugs portrayed his femininity with a style and grace that exemplified the idolization of the feminine form...rather than mocking it like his counterpart Daffy Duck. Even when efforts were made to introduce female versions of many of the Merrie Melodies bunch, Bugs' counterpart Lola eventually embraced his feminine ways and became the one who "wore the pants" in the relationship.

Now in some circles in the transgender community, the debate over whether Bugs is an insult to our community or an inspiration persists. In my own personal opinion, Bugs is an inspiration. To best understand why I believe this, one must view the character through the eyes of a child that is experiencing gender confusion. When I was a child, seeing Bugs dressed as a female gave me consolation that what I was experiencing was ok. Even when Bugs was around other characters dressed as a female, he was accepted and believed to be a female without suspicion. This gave me hope that eventually, I would experience the same acceptance from those around me.

Profiles of Transgender Courage: Alexis Arquette

Alexis Arquette was an accomplished American transgender actress, underground cartoonist and activist. She was born July 28th, 1969. She is the sister of other well-known Hollywood celebrities David, Patricia, Rosanna and Richmond Arquette and the daughter of actor Lewis Arquette and Brenda Mardi.

Her first acting gig was in 1982 in the music video for "She's a Beauty" by The Tubes. She made her debut on the big screen in an uncredited role in the film Down & Out in Beverly Hills in 1986 as an androgynous character. The earlier part of her career was spent performing as female impersonator Eva Destruction. Later she appeared in a plethora of films and television shows, including Last Exit to Brooklyn, Pulp Fiction, The Wedding Singer, Threesome, Lords of DogtownBride of Chucky, Buffy the Vampire SlayerXena:Warrior Princess, Roseanne, Felicity, Californiacation, and Friends where she worked directly with her then sister-in-law, Courtney Cox. Overall, Arquette had over 70 credits in film. In 1994 she(then he) was nominated for best actor in the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards for her role in Jack Be Nimble and in 1997 won an award for Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film for her work in Never Met Picasso.

In 2004, Alexis began her transition, seeking hormone replacement therapy and gender confirmation surgery. She finally completed her transition in 2006. She documented her entire experience which was pieced together in the documentary Alexis Arquette: She's My Brother which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2007. In 2005 she was announced as one of the house guest in the sixth season The Surreal Life on VH1. That appearance was hailed by the transgender community as a triumph in terms of transgender representation in media as she was the first transgender woman cast in a reality show. Her presence on the show turned the house upside down, bringing the topic of gender into discussion in many of the episodes. (I remember watching that season and admiring her courage. She was the first exposure to another transgender person who wasn't fictionalized.)

Arquette was a supporter and advocate for transgender people, she supported Chaz Bono's transition which began in 2006. In a 2009 interview, Alexis explained that her decision to come out to the public was an effort to raise awareness saying "Coming out as transgender in America from a celebrity family is a lot easier than it can be for private individuals anywhere else in the world. In fact, if you come out as transgender in certain parts of the world, you may be murdered in the street.". Later in her life she became more gender-fluid, referring to the concept as "gender suspicious".

Alexis Arquette died on September 11th, 2016 from complications from HIV. She was 47. At her funeral she was serenaded one last time by one of her favorite songs,"Starman" by David Bowie. (That's a really good choice if I must say so myself.). In 2017 she was snubbed at the Academy Awards by being omitted during the In Memorium section of the program. Her sister expressed disappointment at  her lack of inclusion stating later in an interview, "[Alexis] was a great actor, and had 70 credits, and was really brave to live her truth as a trans woman, and they didn’t include her in the memorial. I think that was a real slight to the trans community, especially at this time, when trans kids can’t even go to the bathroom in the United States of America at school. It says a lot about the lack of inclusion. Trans kids can really never look at anyone and see their heroes, and I think that was a big mistake. The reality is, trans people are ignored all the time in our culture and our community. They have their civil rights taken away. They’re a very disrespected community."

Profiles of Transgender Courage: Alan L. Hart

Alan Hart was a transgender American physician, researcher, and novelist. He was born in October of 1890. His father died when he was very young and his mother remarried when Hart was only five years old. For the early part of his formative years, he was allowed to present as a boy and his gender expression was supported by his family. When his grandparents died, he was even listed as their grandson in their obituaries.

When he was twelve, his family moved to Albany, New York where he was forced to dress as a girl in order to attend school. However, he was allowed to write essays under his chosen name as authors commonly used pseudonyms, including names of the opposite gender at the time. He tended to write about masculinized female figures, often portraying them as athletes.

Hart attended a variety of colleges from 1912-1917 including Albany College, University of Oregon, and Stanford. In 1917 he received a Doctorate of Medicine degree but was dismayed that it had been issued in his female name. Hart felt that it would limit his opportunity to use the degree in any effective way because it had been issued in that way.

In 1917, Hart underwent gender confirmation surgery. At that time, the procedure only involved the removal of female sex organs and the implanting of testicular tissue in place of the ovaries. Hart was the first medical case in the U.S. in which a doctor recommended the removal of a healthy organ for the sole reason of the person's gender identity. After his surgery, he legally changed his name and began practicing medicine in Gardiner, Oregon.

After he was outed by a former classmate as transgender, Hart moved around the country and continued his education in the medical field. He attended the Trudeau School of Tuberculosis and the University of Pennsylvania where he received a Masters Degree in Radiology. In 1929, he was appointed the Director of Radiology at Tacoma General Hospital. He also worked in a couple of sanitoriums and was also appointed as a medical adviser at the Army Recruiting and Induction headquarters in Seattle, Washington. In 1948 he received a Masters Degree in Public Health from Yale.

Hart dedicated most of his career to researching and developing treatments for tuberculosis. The disease was a major killer in the early part of the 20th century and Hart was one of the first physicians to discover and document the fact that a plethora of other diseases was actually tuberculosis that had spread from the lungs to other areas of the body. He also discovered that X-rays could be used as an integral part of early tuberculosis detection. This allowed for the early treatment of patients, often saving their lives. By the 1940's, the death toll from tuberculosis had been cut down to 1/50. A severe improvement thanks to Hart's efforts.

Hart was also an accomplished writer, having a variety of work in both fiction and non-fiction. Some of his fictional works were about doctors, much of it has inspired medical fiction throughout the years.

Alan L. Hart died July 1, 1962. After his death, a fund was set up for research into leukemia. The interest on his estate is donated annually to this fund.

Kristelle's Story: A Mockingbird Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Staying in a suicide watch facility is like living in a ghost town. Nurses, doctors and counselors are surrounded by the living dead. Broken souls trudge through the halls, begrudgingly clinging on to life. The mood at a funeral can't even rival the air of sadness that haunts these places, and I was just the most recent arrival in this dismal abyss.

My doctor was a man of short stature. Other therapists and counselors I had visited with over the years were easily manipulated and hardly effective. This guy saw through me. He could tell when I was avoiding a subject or dancing around a question. Rather than coddling me he confronted me. He explored my family life, and my history. One question he asked was "Why do you keep burning all these bridges?". He thought he had me at a loss...he didn't realize who he was to.

"Tell me doctor," I replied, rising to the accusation, "How can you burn a bridge that was never built."
He tilted his head in intrigue. Apparently he wasn't used to patients challenging his analysis.
That first session seemed not long enough for him. I couldn't get out of there faster.

Throughout our sessions we had very interesting conversations. I laid out everything. My abuse as a child, the disassociation from my family, my ever persistent gender confusion, and the debilitating depression it was causing in my life. He told me about the life of Steve Jobs and loaned me the copy of his autobiography he kept in his office for me to read during my stay. I couldn't put it down. The guy was brilliant but he also experienced a variety of hardships in his life. But even so he never let anything stop him from achieving his goals. The doctor said that was what I needed to learn, but failed to provide an idea as to how I was supposed to do that. Little did I realize that my fellow patients would provide such a method, which was simply to observe their behavior and learn from their experiences.

The first person I met, was a young black boy no older than 19 or 20. For the most part he seemed very normal. But I soon learned that he suffered from schizophrenic apparitions. They were so intense that he couldn't focus on a game of Connect-4. I don't know what became of him, but I never saw him after my first full day.

The next person I met was a girl who suffered from manic depression and anxiety. She would be calm, cool and collected one moment and the next she would be yelling and throwing things across the room. She always apologized for her actions afterwards but it was clear that she couldn't control her fits. After my third day, she was moved to the permanent wing.

The permanent wing was separated from the 10-day wing of the facility by only a  locked set of heavy doors with large windows. Occasionally I would glance over and see the people who inhabited that space. It was severely depressing to see them. Many of them fit the stereotype you might think of if I was to say "think of a crazy homeless person". But others looked like normal people... Or what used to be. They looked as though their souls had been ripped from their bones. And some of them were people who had down syndrome. Why were they in there? What could possibly be the reason their families would place them in a hell such as that?

The third person I met was a Vietnam War veteran who had tried cutting his wrists. He explained some of the things he had seen, what he had done. These horrors haunted him in his sleep and his waking hours. He tried to kill himself to get rid of the visions. We would talk about astrophysics, philosophy and sometimes he would ramble about Quantum mechanics which I didn't really understand. His therapy sessions did him well. You should've seen the smile on his face when his wife picked him up.

The last person I met was a girl who was about my age, 22 or so. She was pretty, but obviously worn out. She had made an attempt on her life. In therapy she was in tears. She told us she was addicted to heroin. She wanted to stop. She could see the burden she was causing her family. Her parents were going broke taking care of her kids and providing every dime of her medical care. The father of her kids had given up on her and their family, walking out on them only a year before. She so desperately wanted to quit, but her demon had her firm in it's grasp. She was found, hanging from the shower head of her bathroom by her bed sheet on New Years Day.

As I observed these lives in despair, the lyrics of Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles continued to play in my head. "All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?". As I watched, I slowly began to ask myself "Why am I here?". Not in the existential way either. I realized that all these people had real problems, they all had situations in life they couldn't control. And here I was trying to kill myself because life isn't fair, no one loves me, and I don't know how to love myself. I was a mockery of their plight. While I was certainly struggling and having a hard time figuring out where my life was going, I knew nothing close to the struggles these people were enduring. I felt ashamed.

I knew what I had to do. I didn't know how I was going to do it but I knew that I would have to take whatever steps necessary to become the woman I know I was meant to be. Consequences and others opinions be damned. The only way I was going to be able to love myself and learn to be loved, was to live as authentically and honestly as I could.

Kristelle's Story: Jumper at the Break of Dawn

I was on edge, literally and figuratively. My mind was racing, my heart was broken and my soul was longing for leaving. The rain was pouring down and I was surrounded by darkness, with flashes of lightning occasionally lighting the sky followed by the applause of thunder. I had resigned myself to death and was set to jump off the overpass onto the train tracks below.

Just then, the rain stopped and I heard a car door slam shut. I turned to look and found a man in a raincoat getting out of his car. A woman was in the passenger seat on her cell phone, looking on with a concerned look on her face. The man cautious approached and finally spoke up.

"Hey what you doing out here?! It's been pouring down for hours now!".

I turned away from him and  tried to gather myself with little success. I wiped my face of water and turned in reply.

"I'm trying to kill myself do you mind?! It's kind of a private moment!"

He relaxed himself and more casually approached but made sure to keep a safe distance. He leaned against the wall I was standing on about 10 feet away. All he said was "OK " crossed his arms and diverted his attention away from me, appearing disinterested.

Now I was confused. Every moment like this I had seen in the movies never played out like this. It always has some hero talking the jumper down or preventing them from killing themselves through more forceful means.  This guy was just chilling there... What was his angle? I decided to ask him.

"Aren't you going to stop me?" I asked.

He replied "Nope. You seem like you know what you're doing. Figured I'd stay here and wait for you to do it, then I would tell the EMTs what happened when they got here."

Now I was really confused. But relatively calm... and woozy. That bottle of seizure meds must have been kicking in. I looked away and thought for a moment, looking down at the tracks wondering if this was worth it.

Finally I said with a tone of aggravated surrender, "Get me down from here."

The man sprang into action and helped me down. "Whew. You had me going for a second there. I really thought you were going to jump." I told him it wasn't over yet as I had already downed a bottle of medication. He waved the woman over. She came out and handed him the phone. He stepped away and I just cried and cried into her shoulder.  She didn't say a word, she just held me as I soaked her blouse with tears and the rainwater that continued to drop off me.

The paramedics arrived quickly. They took my vitals, gave me some oxygen and transported me to the hospital. I had my stomach pumped. If you have never had that experience, I don't recommend it. Afterwards I had a long chat with a counselor with an officer in the room. It was decided that I should spend at least a few days in a suicide watch facility, and about an hour later I was on my way.

When I arrived at the facility, the sun was just starting to come up. The air was fresh and crisp. And I smelled like a wet dog. I went through the intake process, had some breakfast, took a shower and laid down for a few hours before I had to begin the road to recovery.

Ancient Transgender History: Hermaphroditus

Mythology. The ancient stories of our ancestors. These stories remind us where we came from and who we once were. Like all stories, the art of the storytelling within these myths imitated the life of the ancients. They are filled with elements that reminded our ancestors of the reality that surrounded them, and these stories gave an explanation to the experiences one might encounter within their life in ancient times. And for the same reason, these myths still hold cultural significance today.

Hermaphroditus was a minor deity in Greek mythology. And is the basis for the word hermaphrodite, (an outdated term to describe someone who is intersexed.) S/he was born the son of Aphrodite and Hermes and was the patron god of unions, androgyny, sexuality, and fertility. One account of the tale suggests that Hermaphroditus was also linked to the institution of marriage. The account explains that because they embodied the physical sexual qualities of both men and women, they represented the bond between the sexes through a sacred union. Hermes and Aphrodite also played the role of protecting and blessing brides. The earliest mention of Hermaphroditus is by the Greek philosopher Theophrastus(3rd Century BC)... take that Christianity.

The tale states that one day Hermaphroditus was walking in a patch of woods in Caria near Halicarnassus (Modern day Bodrum, Turkey) when he came upon the water nymph Salmacis in her pool. She became lustful of the boy and made several attempts to seduce him, but he rejected her. After he thought she was gone, he undressed and entered the pool. When he was deep within, Salmacis revealed herself and wrapped herself around the boy, forcibly kissing him. As the two struggled, Salmacis prayed to the gods that the two should never part. Her wish was granted and their bodies were fused into "a creature of both sexes". Hermaphroditus then prayed to Hermes and Aphrodite and requested that anyone else who bathed in the pool would be similarly transformed .

Hermaphroditus is commonly found in art, literature, and music throughout history. From stories by a variety of philosophers and poets to the song "The Fountain of Salmacis" by the band Genesis. The deity is depicted in many artworks that were created throughout the centuries and there are a variety of sculptures that also represent the deity. One such sculpture was placed in a public bath in ancient Greece, symbolizing that the bath was meant for all genders. (Even the ancient Greeks opposed bathroom discrimination.) The most famous depiction of Hermaphroditus is the statue Borghese Hermaphroditus (Sleeping Hermaphroditus) an ancient, life-sized piece of the deity laying on a blanket. In 1620, artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini sculpted a mattress which the original piece now lies. It is on display at The Louvre in Paris, France and is pictured below. Isn't she beautiful?!

Kristelle's Story: Table of Contents

Table of Contents Portal

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Childhood Dreams and Nightmares
Chapter 3: Pubescence of a Closeted Teenage Transgirl
Chapter 4: Approaching Adulthood
Chapter 5: Post-Grad Blues
Chapter 6: The Closet is a Dark, Dark Place
Chapter 7: The Darkness Before Dawn
Chapter 8: Jumper at the Break of Dawn

Profiles of Transgender Courage: Holly Boswell

Holly Boswell was an American transgender woman and activist, advocate and organizer who carried out most of her work in North Carolina. She was an author and is credited with creating the first transgender symbol of the emerging transgender movement in 1993.

She was born in November of 1950 and studied English literature at Oberlin College in Ohio. Many of her family members were religious and she endeavored to follow in their footsteps until she realized that her deepest sense of spirituality existed in nature. This and her background in literature and performing arts led to a movement of free gender expression in Asheville, North Carolina in 1980. She founded the Asheville Phoenix Transgender Support Group, the first open transgender support group in the southeast corner of the United States and organized innovative seminars at transgender conferences starting in 1991. In 2000, she built a year round retreat facility for people who questioned their gender identity or their spirituality.

In 1990, Boswell published an essay which appeared in Chrysalis Quarterly which was entitled "The Transgender Alternative". She also had many other essays published in a variety of other publication outlets. Boswell wrote in one of her essays. “We need to recognize that each of us, in our own small way, are makers of our culture, We can exercise that function best by expressing our true selves, not by simply fulfilling our culture’s expectations. We are all in transition.”

Holly Boswell, a pioneer of the modern transgender movement, died on August 12, 2017, of heart failure. She was 66 years old.

History Transcending: Transgender Beauty Pageant Contestents

Disqualified Transgender Miss Canada
 contestent: Jenna Talackova
Beauty pageants have been a staple in American culture since 1921. The contests gather women from each state( and in state contests from various localities within a state) to determine which is the most beautiful. Over the years the contests have evolved to include talent portions and question rounds where the contestants are asked questions regarding current events and policies. Additionally, many contestants and winners are chosen based on noble ambitions, charitable contributions, and acts of community service. But at their core, every beauty pageant is about beauty.

Throughout history, the most popular beauty pageants have only included female contestants, prohibiting transgender women from competing in any pageant organized by The Miss Universe Organization. It wasn't until 201 that a change.org petition convinced Donald Trump (oddly enough) to change the rules after the organization disqualified the Miss Canda contestant Jenna Talackova after learning she was transgender. This allowed Kylan Arianna Wenzel (and trans women like her) to be allowed to compete in the contests. Wenzel was the first openly transgender woman to compete in one such contest in California in 2013. And now Anita Green is the first openly transgender woman to compete in the Miss Montana, USA contest.

2013 Trans Miss California, USA
 contestant: Kylan Wenzel
There are other beauty pageants around the world that are only for transgender women, but the inclusion in the most recognized beauty contest in the world is a big step for the transgender community. Many of us watched beauty pageants as kids and adults in awe and wonder, dreaming of being able to compete one day. However, we still have a long way to go. The only open contestants that have competed so far have been contestants in states that are usually liberal. Additionally, these contestants did not get selected as finalists in their respective contests and genetic women have resigned from various contests within the Miss Universe Organization simply because of the rule change.

2017 Trans Miss Montana, USA
contestant: Anita Green

In 2015 Caitlyn Jenner (once deemed: the world's greatest athlete) came out as a transgender woman. The 20/20 interview with Diane Sawyer and her public status were controversial, even within the transgender community. Her decision to go fully public with her transition in a special Vanity Fair interview and the cover was greeted with a great deal of respect from the media, many of them commenting on how beautiful and brave she was. It brought the discussions of transgender rights, equality, and acceptance onto a larger stage.
With Jenner's reception and the slow but steady inclusion of transgender women in traditionally cisgender beauty contests, perhaps one day a Transgender Miss USA or even Misss Universe will be crowned. Perhaps there is already a young transgender girl who watches beauty pageants on T.V. and dreams of the day she will walk across that stage and be crowned Miss USA. Perhaps she is already on her way.

Kristelle's Story: The Darkness Before Dawn

December 26th, 2012. The darkest night of my life. I had been staying in hotel rooms for awhile, paying for it with the remnants of an inheritance I  had after paying for cosmetology school. The 24th I had realized the money had run out and of course the next day was Christmas. That Christmas was my first one on my own, completely alone. It was also the last night I had in the hotel room unless I was able to pay for another week. Of course, I wasn't going to be able. I had tried contacting friends and family that Christmas day, just to see if I could get out of the room and have some company on Christmas. No one responded, no one answered my calls. Not even a simple "Merry Christmas!".

The next day I went to class, exhausted from a lack of sleep and anxiety from wondering what I would do for shelter that evening. I wore it well though. No one was aware of how depressed I was, and I felt that no one really cared. So I went through the day as if nothing was wrong.

The school day came and went. At closing I left and just walked up and down the main road of the city. Picking up all the change I came across, hoping to have enough to get some food the next day. At some point in the evening it began to sprinkle, bringing literal meaning to the phrase, "When it rains it pours."

My emotions were getting the best of me. I was feeling extremely depressed and anxious, unable to calm myself down. I started feeling dark, having thoughts of death and how no one would miss me when I was gone. I knew I needed help, so I started heading towards the hospital.

At that time of night, the streetlights along the road the hospital is on are turned off, as hardly anyone is on the road and if something happens...the hospital isn't far away. The sprinkle had turned into a steady fall of rain. I was soaked and becoming even more unstable. There is a certain part of the road that turns into an overpass, it crossed over railroad tracks and had been built in that way to allow easy access to ambulances. When I got to the middle of the overpass I stopped and looked over the edge.

I stared at the railroad tracks and became envious of their existence. Railroad tracks are cold and solid.  They bend around any obstacle in their way, unbothered... unstoppable. They follow the path laid out for them, accepting their purpose without question or rebellion. Why couldn't my life be like that? Why couldn't I just accept the fate I had been assigned at birth? Why was my life more like those rails rather than the locomotive, a locomotive that was about to derail and crash in a rain-soaked chaos.

I reached into my backpack for my seizure meds (seizures are something I have suffered from since I was 16) and started crying about what I was thinking about doing. At this point the steady rain had turned into a violent storm. I started yelling toward the sky,  begging my maker for answers and mercy only to receive streaks of lightning and the crash of thunder as a reply.

I gathered a mouthful of rainwater and downed the bottle, thinking "If these pills don't kill me, the fall will. And if that doesn't the train will when it comes along." I climbed up on the side of the overpass and screamed at the sky for a few more moments. Finally I prepared myself to jump....

Kristelle's Story: The Closet is a Dark, Dark Place

I was at a point in my life where everything was falling apart. My family relationships were very strained,  my love life was... well broken, and I was having an identity crisis on multiple levels. On the one hand, meeting my father had proven fruitless. I had only met the shell of a man that was once my father, and I was facing the harsh reality that my questions would never be answered. On the other hand, I had reached a point with my gender confusion where it was affecting my ability to function in life. I was so depressed I wanted nothing to do with anything or anyone. I spent many days in bed, crying and having thoughts of how sad everyone would be if I died. The only happy moments were when I was alone and able to dress like my true self. It wasn't nearly what I truly wanted,  but it was just enough to get my mind off the misery for awhile.

I had left my first job, and was in and out of other jobs that I had no interest in, I was only there to mask the pain I was feeling and keep myself busy. Eventually, I couldn't do that anymore either. I stopped working and ended up on the street for a few months. This was my first encounter with homelessness. My grandfather caught wind with what was going on and got me a job and set me up with a place to stay.

The job was working in a machine shop, getting berated for no reason by a boss with a  Napoleon complex. Of course that wasn't in the actual job description, but it happened so often it might as well have been.

I had been buying clothes again and dressing up when I got home. I started telling friends and dressing around them.

Then I finally got the guts to tell a family member. I talked to my aunt about what I had been struggling with my whole life. She was I guess half-surprised. I don't remember much of the conversation but it was a good first step. I do remember her asking if I wanted my Mom to know. I said yes but I  didn't want my Mom to know right away. A communication breakdown occurred and led to the full outing of my secret. Now everyone knew.

I decided to start dressing at work. Which was a mistake. My boss made my job there a living hell, making me do tasks that were not in my job description and to put it quite plainly, inhumane. It reached a point where I couldn't bare it any longer, so I quit and tried looking for a job presenting as a woman only to face rejection making me bitter with the world. I became so oppressed and depressed that my femininity retreated back into her closet.

I became a recluse, only allowing my closest friends and family to visit me. I wasn't making money...so I wasn't paying rent. As you might expect, I was eventually evicted. I went to live with my aunt and her family for awhile. I remember being there for only a few weeks and breaking down in front of her. Pouring my heart and frustrations out. She consoled me, and tried to inspire me to do something better with my life. But I was so broken on the inside it was difficult to rekindle any aspirations.

During that time, I started cosmetology school. I was able to present as a woman, but due to some legal reasons had to put my legal name on all of my paperwork and schoolwork, leading to confusion among classmates, teachers and clients receiving services in order for me to practice in regards to what they were supposed to refer to me as. Additionally I wasn't working, which led to some stress at my aunts house. I was just still so depressed I couldn't focus on so many things. Especially when I wasn't really able to fully transition the way I wanted to. I just wasn't ready... for anything.

I ended up receding back into the closet yet again. Reverting back to my male self and digging into a deep depression.  I started lashing out at everyone. Even my aunt,  my closest ally. Things slowly deteriorated and I ended up on the street again after a short stint of staying in a hotel room. It was the beginning of winter in 2012 and I was approaching the darkest moments of my life.

Profiles of Transgender Courage: Candy Darling

Candy Darling was a transgender American actress best known for her work as one of Andy Warhol's Superstars. She was born James Lawrence Slattery Jr. As a baby born male, Candy won a most beautiful baby contest, but because of a mistake by her mother.... won as a girl. At the age of 17, Candy's mother confronted her child about being seen regularly in a gay nightclub in drag. Candy left the room briefly and returned en femme. Her mother spoke of the moment in an interview, stating "I knew then... that I couldn't stop Jimmy, Candy was just too beautiful and too talented."

She began hormones sometime between 1963-1964 and was performing under a variety of stage names at that time. There is some debate as to how she came to the name Candy Darling, but the most popular (and likely accurate) comes from fellow Warhol Superstar and transgender actress Holly Woodlawn, who believed she arrived at the name because of her love of sweets and because a close friend of hers called her "darling" so often it stuck.

Darling met Andy Warhol in 1967. The two met through mutual friend Jackie Curtis at a play that Curtis had written and directed called Glamour, Glory, and Gold which had Darling and a young Robert De Niro among the cast. In 1968 Warhol cast Darling in a minor role in his film Flesh and later in the central role in his film Women In Revolt in 1971. 

Candy Darling (right) pictured with friend Andy Warhol (left)
Darling was a muse for a variety of pop culture stars. She was the subject of the song "Candy Says" by The Velvet Underground and was tributed by the Rolling Stones in the song "Citadel". She was cast in many plays from playwrights Jackie Curtis, Tennessee Williams, and Tom Eyen. She appeared in Andy Warhol's artwork and films and appeared in a variety of other films through 1974, working with stars Jane Fonda, Robert De Niro, and Sophia Loren. However, after campaigning for the main role in the film Myra Breckenridge to try and break into the mainstream movie business in 1970, she was rejected which led to bitterness with the movie industry. 

Candy Darling on her deathbed.
Candy died in March of 1974 from lymphoma at the Columbia University Medical center in New York. In a letter on her deathbed, she wrote,  "Unfortunately before my death, I had no desire left for life ... I am just so bored by everything. You might say bored to death. Did you know I couldn't last? I always knew it. I wish I could meet you all again."

Her funeral was attended by mass crowds and was even attended by her long lost half brother, who was unaware of her transition and was visibly shaken by her appearance. She was cremated interred at Cherry Valley Cemetary in Cherry Valley, New York.

In 1997, My Face for the World to See: The Diaries, Letters, and Drawings of Candy Darling, Andy Warhol Superstar was published. The book contains entries from Candy's diaries,, drawings and sketches by Darling, and pictures from her life. The diary entries talk about her sexual confusion, depression, experiences, and desire to become fully female as well as her dreams of stardom and notoriety. Most pages reflect her desire to belong in a society that was unappreciative of her life experience. Her life is summarized in a poem at the end of the book, the poem is entitled "Stardusk". This memoir documents the fact that Darling was a talent who could not be fully appreciated by the culture of the day .My favorite quote of hers speaks volumes to the reality of the struggles one faces with gender dysphoria.

"There is one thing I must tell you because I just found it to be a truth . . . You must always be yourself no matter what the price. It is the highest form of morality."

Profiles of Transgender Courage: Jacqueline Dufresnoy (a.k.a. Coccinelle)

Jacqueline Dufresnoy was a French transgender actress and activist. She was born in Paris, France in 1931. She was the first widely publicized transwoman in Europe during the post-WWII era that had received a successful gender reassignment surgery.

In 1953 she debuted as a transgender stage girl, taking on the stage name Coccinelle ( the French word for ladybug). In 1958, she received her vaginoplasty from Dr. Georges Burou. She later stated in an interview that Dr. Burou had "rectified the mistake that nature made, now I am a woman on the inside and outside". She knew the procedure had been a success when she awoke and Dr. Burou simply said "Bonjour Mademoiselle!".

Dufresnoy became a very successful entertainer often being compared to various famous cisgender starlets during the same era. She built a modest discography (A collection I am currently scouring the internet for!) A few of her songs appeared in a variety of films from 1959-1968. 

Coccinelle also worked intently to advocate for transgender women. She founded the Devenir Femme with the goal of providing support for those individuals seeking surgery. She also assisted in the creation of the Center for Aid, Research, and Information for Transsexuality and Gender Identity. Perhaps her most notable accomplishment was the first marriage being the first transsexual marriage recognized by the French government, establishing the policy that transgender people had the right to marry equally and setting in motion the beginning of the marriage equality movement in Europe.

Jacquline had a self-titled autobiography published in 1987. (Another of her works I am scouring the internet for!) She passed away in 2006 after complications from a stroke however her story and work will bring hope and inspiration for generations of transpeople in the future.

Kristelle's Story: Table of Contents