Meet Sylvia Jane
In 2014, a stranger assaulted me on 14th street as I was leaving my favorite gay bar. I was lucky in some ways; I only got roughed up. I’ve seen worse.
In 2011, I was walking with a friend on 13th street in the middle of the day, just in front of the Center. He was brutally assaulted in front of me and required emergency reconstructive surgery. During that moment I felt so incapable, frozen in time. After the initial shock wore off, we realized he needed medical attention. There was an unspoken agreement among us that we couldn’t go to the emergency room because of how they would treat us as Queers. I remember the cops barely able to feign interest as I filed the police report with them. I tried to take care of him for the next few days but I felt powerless and incapable. I had to leave for a research trip to London, Rome, and Croatia; my guilt over having abandoned him destroyed our relationship. We were once incredibly close.
Eight days later I would be forced out of a bar in Croatia at knifepoint for seeming too gay. I was trying to play it straight, even.
In 2017, when I was staying with my partners in Portland, I had a case of persistent genital arousal disorder. Imagine an uncontrollable 26-hour long orgasm. It’s torture. There was a palpable fear among all of us as we called 911, and it was as bad as we had feared. Constantly belittled and misgendered, the first responders refused to help and actually cancelled the ambulance. The only silver lining to that storm cloud is the memory of D constantly policing my pronouns to, well, the police. I don’t think anyone has ever loved me in that way before. On my way back to NYC from that trip, two different TSA agents called me ma’am. That was awesome. Then one of them apologized and called me sir. That wasn’t.
Earlier this year, I had a severe case of orthostatic hypotension as a result of spironolactone, an antiandrogen that is commonly prescribed to transwomen as part of HRT not because it is great, but because it is cheap. The side effects were way too much for me. At one point I fainted and concussed in my own apartment. When the first responders got here, they misgendered me. “I thought it was a lady.” I called them out for it by saying that that’s the exact kind of behavior that prevents me from seeking help when I needed it. I refused to go to the emergency room because my experience in Portland was so traumatic, so the EMTs had to observe me for an hour at home. My roommates sat with me the whole time, and that was really sweet. And before he left, the cop that misgendered me came up to me and gave me the most sincere apology I’ve ever gotten for being misgendered, and that was actually really special. Thanks for giving me a little bit of faith, random cop.
I stopped taking spiro after that, and my T count surged to levels higher than they were before I started HRT in some kind of frustrating rebound effect. During this period I was catatonically depressed, literally unable to move my body for hours at a time because I forgot how to connect the desire to live with the mechanics of living. Amazingly, I was able to get a super-advanced antiandrogen that has enabled me to live without dysphoria for the first time since first puberty. However, it costs $12k/month, and that feels a bit like a sword of Damocles, insurance-wise.
I’m sorry if I can seem needy or combative or out of touch or completely unpredictable. My life as a queer person has woven trauma and bliss side-by-side for as long as I can remember. I’ve become so terrified of the potential trauma that I ended up with a legitimate clinical diagnosis of agoraphobia. This political climate hasn’t helped. Trump is trying to take away transgender protections enshrined in Obamacare and that makes the sword of Damocles feel even closer. Sometimes I don’t know if I’m taking care of myself or making things worse.
But I do know that last Thursday, I met this beautiful girl at the Best Friends animal shelter in SoHo, and took her into my home a day later. And the few days we’ve been together have been the first time in my adult life that I’ve been able to leave the house on a regular and predictable basis without having to confront a mountain of avoidance behaviors. When I'm out, I am talking to multiple strangers in a short period of time without having a panic attack. It's incredible.
I decided to name her Sylvia Jane. Sylvia for Sylvia Rivera, a trans activist in New York City from the 60s until her death in 2002. When I knew it was time to transition legally, it was the Sylvia Rivera Law Project that had the resources I needed. Jane, for the interim name I used before I settled on Juliana. Plus, in my headcanon, she’s gonna marry my friend Lindsay’s pup Harvey Wallace, and that makes her a SJW ❤️
Nobody’s gonna fuck with a transgirl with a pit bull. The secret is that I’m the fighter and she’s the marshmallow. Thanks for changing my life, girl.