A memorandum from the Trump Administration surfaced earlier this week that laid out plans for the administration to define gender as corresponding to one’s genitals and chromosomes, and fixed at birth. That memo earned quick and deserved uproar from the LGBTQ+ community, as well as parents and scientists at large. Chromosomes are not uniform. People are who they are. Trying to define gender in such a way will only worsen the issues that transgender adults and children face at disproportionate rates such as suicide and gender violence.
In short: It’s a chilling and cynical move by the administration — one that shows they care more about shoring up votes than science or humanity or ethics. It’s also deeply troubling, especially to people such as Dana Pizzuti, transgender woman, author, and medical executive. Dana transitioned well into adulthood after having two kids and sending them off to college. She knew for a long time she was a woman, and when she transitioned, she was surprised by certain things, namely how differently she was treated in the workplace. That spurred her to write a book about that experience, Transitioning In The Workplace: A Guidebook. In general, she know first hand that what kids need now more than ever is more, not less, protections for transgender people. Here, in her own words, Dana shares her story, thoughts on the Trump Administration’s plans, and her fears and her hopes for the world.
I’m old and grey. I transitioned later in life. I knew there was something different about me when I was a teenager, in my early teens. I wished that I was a woman. But there were no real options for me to pursue that — I had a strict Catholic family. It was just one of those things that I just had to deal with what I had. The hand that I was dealt.
So for a long time, I suppressed it. I never told anyone about it. When I was in my 20s, I was a physician, and I was in training. I toyed with the idea of transitioning then. But I was worried about my career. There was no internet back then — I couldn’t seek out support. Being transgender wasn’t accepted. That transitioning was an option wasn’t accepted. So I just put my identity back in the closet. And I met a woman, who I fell in love with. We had a family. I told myself that I just had some kind of fetish and that it would go away over time. But it never did.
If I could talk to my teenage self, I’d tell me to not be afraid to be honest with who I was. I’d tell myself: My feelings are not shameful. Don’t be ashamed of who you are
After my wife and I ended up separating for other reasons, I decided to pursue getting to the bottom of this. It took courage for me to talk to someone about it. When I did, the doctor quickly pointed out that I was the classic case of a late bloomer. After I talked to them, and then found a therapist, everything just started to fall into place. I realized I needed to transition; my therapist recommended that I live as a woman in my spare time to see if it was something that felt right.
As soon as I started doing that, immediately, I just felt incredible. That was the confirmation for me — that I needed to do it. As I spent more and more time in my preferred identity, I felt more and more like I was crossdressing as my other self. I had to keep two lives going. That really was the realization that I needed to do it.
Where I grew up in the 60’s was a small Connecticut town. It was really traditional, almost Norman-Rockwell-esque. I went to an all-boys high school. There were kids there who I knew were probably gay. But no one talked about it. There wasn’t the frankness now around sexual orientation or gender identity. It wasn’t talked about — and it was ridiculed.
But for kids these days, gender identity and orientation is not a big deal. Kids these days are incredibly concerned about fairness. They treat people consistently, regardless of who they are. When I came out to my kids, my son was just happy for me. He said it was probably who I had always been. My daughter, by the time she had to go away to college, we worked things out. We’ve had a good relationship ever since.
I am almost jealous of kids these days. I wish that when I was a kid, who I was, my thoughts, didn’t feel shameful. I think that was the Catholic part of me — but I felt shame for who I knew I was. So I never talked about it. I think it’s the same way, at the time, that gay people were forced in the closet. And a lot of this stuff was illegal, too. Not even talking about the Trump memo, today, there are still 18 states where you can fire someone based on them being trans or gay and for no other reason. It’s still not easy in the workplace. That’s why I wrote my book.
What this transgender memo is doing is making it okay to discriminate against trans people.
There’s this conference I’ve been to a few times, called the Gender Odyssey conference. It’s extremely family oriented. A lot of kids and a lot of parents bring their kids there. Their kids are maybe questioning, or not particularly sure of their gender identity, but the parents are supportive enough to help them find out. It was incredible. Those parents are so open minded.
In the current environment now, what this transgender memo is doing is making it okay to discriminate against trans people. It’s giving people a reason to other us. And that’s what I never felt before. I never felt othered as a white man, as a doctor. As soon as I transitioned, that changed. I walk down the street, wary, now. I don’t do things that I used to do before. I am scared on dark streets where I park my car.
It’s chilling. The memo enables discrimination and encourages people who maybe weren’t comfortable with trans people anyway, to find a reason to say, “Well, yeah. They don’t deserve this; they don’t deserve consideration. They can’t be who they really are. That’s a whole figment of their imagination.”
Basically, they’re expunging us. I transitioned late in life. I came out late in life. It’s scary. There are a lot of us around. There are a lot of people who are coming to the realization that I came to. Some of them are kids. Some of them are in their 60’s. They’re afraid and this isn’t making it any better.
It’s chilling. The memo enables discrimination and encourages people who maybe weren’t comfortable with trans people anyway, to find a reason to say, “Well, yeah. They don’t deserve this; they don’t deserve consideration.”
I have my sense of self; I have my age. For kids who are thinking about themselves — for kids who are exploring — this mandate puts them back in the closet. A lot of kids, sometimes, they can’t completely hide it. They get bullied. They commit suicide. So many of these kids have considered it.
If I could talk to my teenage self, I’d tell me to not be afraid to be honest with who I was. I’d tell myself: My feelings are not shameful. Don’t be ashamed of who you are. I wish I didn’t deny who I was. I wish I had transitioned in my 20’s; when I had really thought about it for the first time. But then I wouldn’t have had my family or my kids. It would have been different. So I’d tell myself not to regret that that happened. But I still wonder.
I feel so comfortable with who I am, and that I’m in the right body now. I think I had a lot of traits that were probably more feminine in the past. But I hid them. I hid them well. I’d tell myself: there is nothing wrong with you. You are not mentally ill to feel this way. I guess that would be the most important thing to tell myself: there is nothing wrong with you. This is just like any other aspect of your personality; you have to be who you are. You will grow into who you are.