“This law is really important for Georgia,” he notes. “Bullying is an education issue; it’s about understanding that bullying should not be tolerated – especially not in schools. Teachers need to realize that it is their duty to advocate for the victims and to speak out and report this type of behavior.”
Elliott says along with providing much-needed support for students, this law also endows teachers with important powers.
“It gives support to teachers to step in when they see bullying without the fear of losing their jobs,” she says. “It helps teachers to get involved without the fear that they will be perceived as being supportive of certain issues for stepping in.”
G. lived openly as a young lesbian woman throughout high school and for two years at the University of South Carolina.
“I’d gotten teased so much for being too masculine, so I reverted to extreme femininity,” he remembers. “I wore lots of dresses and make up. I felt like I was putting on a mask every day. I had an inkling that something still wasn’t right, but I felt pressured to change who I was.”
The missing piece of her gender identity puzzle became more apparent once she transferred to UGA and joined its Lambda Alliance, an LGBT advocacy group. The experiences and feelings shared by several transgender members resonated strongly.
“I finally had the language to describe how I was feeling,” he says. “I’d hear their stories and think, ‘that sounds a lot like me; that sounds like how I feel.’ I realized that I was not a lesbian, I’m actually a male in a female body.”
G. gradually began transitioning back into a more masculine look, but camouflaging her feminine features on her petite curvy frame, made the process difficult in public.
“It was tough because sometimes I was identified by other people as male and sometimes I was identified as female,” says G.. “There were times I was in the woman’s bathroom and told to leave; other times I was in the men’s bathroom and asked to get out. It’s a very dangerous situation.”
Hormone replacement therapy – weekly testosterone injections administered in his thigh – for the past two years has accelerated the transition from she to he. G. no longer gets mistaken for female.
“The body reacts rapidly to the hormones; basically you go through a second puberty,” he says. “My voice started to drop, I slept all the time and I was really horny. My body fat distribution changed dramatically, my chest flattened out, my curviness went away and my hands and feet got bigger.”
The dark brown goatee and moustache he now sports is just six months old, he notes proudly. They compliment his hairy arms and legs and bushy eyebrows, all of the same hue.
G. says he doesn’t hanker for the days when just to interact with his family he felt forced to change out of men’s clothes into female ones – down to the underwear “just in case my mom did my laundry,” he says.
He does, however, miss interacting with his dad and brother. Both have shut down all communication with him since his transition. His mom and sister still struggle with his new identity, but they do talk weekly. Mom still refers to him by his female birth name, which he politely declines to share with us.
G. says he has done what he can to help his family embrace his life choice. At one point, even creating a website dubbed “Gendersaurus Rex” for them to view his transition through photos and audio “voice” clips.” The acceptance process has been slow for his immediate family, but the extended family has been supportive.
For what attitudes he can’t change in his own family, the self-proclaimed “activist” works tirelessly to raise awareness in the greater Atlanta community. He makes a living as a paralegal with Lambda Legal, a law firm that specializes in LGBT rights issues. He was even featured in a scene from Chaz Bono’s (child of singers Sonny Bono & Cher) transgender themed documentary Becoming Chaz. Bono was filmed speaking to G. and others at Southern Comfort, an annual transgender conference held in Atlanta, purportedly the largest of its kind in the world.
He legally changed his name to C. last year. A light stroke of White Out craftily obscures the “F” signifying his gender on his Georgia driver’s license. G. has no plans to undergo the full gender reassignment surgery. He does, however, hope to have a hysterectomy and reconstructive chest surgery in the near future though, to remove the breast tissue and excess skin. He’s secured health insurance through his job that will pay for the bulk of the $5,000 – $10,000 price tag. He’s saving money now for the additional cost of traveling to Ohio to be treated by a surgeon who specializes in the procedure. Until then he’ll hold off on going shirtless in public. He wears a constrictive garment under his clothes, similar to a woman’s sports bra (“but much tighter,” he contends) to flatten out his chest.
He’s optimistic that his family members will eventually become more accepting of him and his decision to live as a male. It’ll take time, but they’ll come around, he predicts.
“I love them very much, but there came a point in my life where I realized that I can’t go on living my life as a girl; I can’t go on living my life for anyone but me.”
[This is Part 3 of 3 a part series on LGBT issues. Visit this page for all the updates.]
Photography** by Clay Duda, JJIE.org.
Lambda Legal’s toolkit for transgender and gender non-conforming students is available online here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/publications/bending-the-mold/order-bending-the-mold.html