By: Megan Gillen
Self-empowerment the most important component to great self-esteem. Many women face troubles with each of these concepts in our beauty-obsessed world. However, it is safe to say that trans women struggle with self-esteem and self-empowerment the most. Trans women face some of the highest death rates in the world, and many of these deaths are due to suicide (source: avp.org). It is hard to forget the national news story of Leelah Alcorn, a young trans girl who committed suicide because of the way the world can react to trans women. In today’s times, self-empowerment for trans women is imperative to survival. I spoke to a friend of mine named Denny, who is a trans woman, about self-empowerment and how it impacts her daily life.
As a trans woman, what does self-empowerment mean to you?
‘My self-empowerment comes from reclaiming my story. My transness is a huge factor of my identity. For me to openly say “Yes, I am a woman of transgender experience” is my way of saying
“I know who I am best, therefore I will narrate my own journey.”
For transgender people, self-empowerment is also a responsibility. If you do not put your needs first, whether that is coming out to yourself and the world, medically transitioning, or correcting legal documents, the world will sweep you off your feet and fight to let you ground yourself. Sometimes, I just have to do what I need to do. Significant or not, it will always be empowering in that it is my own personal choice.’
What are some things you do to keep yourself empowered?
‘I find existing is empowering in itself. With the amount of trans sisters who are killed every few weeks, staying alive and open about my transness is dangerous. But I learned to shift my mindset and see this as a wonderful yet painful privilege—to wake up every morning and continue on with my advocacy. In order to keep myself feeling empowered, I deal with my dysphoria strategically. I felt dysphoric about my face, so I got my ears pierced; I hated my hair, so I got a more feminine haircut; I wanted to medically transition, so I called my local doctor and started hormones. In short, I tackle the issues I have one by one. It’s frightfully easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of issues that comes with being trans, but I am lucky enough to be able to deal with them in this way. I learned patience from this.'
You’ve had more experience with physically transitioning than some trans women. Do you have advice for these women and how they can feel empowered?
‘Yes! I actually started hormones at the age of 18, and in the first few months, I found myself getting frustrated. The changes that were happening were too slow paced for me. But I soon realized a few things: 1. A slow transition or a fast one, I am a woman regardless. 2. I am very young. Many of my trans sisters transition at mid-age. Everyone’s transness is different, however, they are all valid. Just because I transitioned earlier in my life does not mean my trans womanhood should have a higher value. We must destroy the idea that a “passing” trans woman carries a more “heroic” story than trans women who get clocked more often, because that means we are imposing cisgender beauty standards on transgender people. One thing I have learned is that gender is not about labeling as this, or looking like that, but more about comfort. Do whatever it takes to feel comfortable in your own home that is your body.’
From a small-town suburb two hours away from New York City, Megan Gillen loves to write about everything and anything. A poet with slam poetry experience, she also loves art history and is passionate about women’s and gender studies, coffee, and the television show Twin Peaks. Find her on Instagram.