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Apr
14
2024
Village Life

My Name Is Iden | Happy Iden-pendence Day

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This past July 5 was my three-year “traniversary,” the anniversary of my coming out as transgender and beginning my transition. A day I’ve dubbed “Iden’s Day.”

The closeness of Iden’s Day and Independence Day was not intentional, but the irony of the coincidence has not been lost on me.

July 4, 1776, was a sort of coming out for our nation. A day when we — and by “we,” I mean a small group of elites speaking for an entire diverse populace — decided to stand up and declare our independence. That day we announced to the world that we rejected having our lives determined by powers that did not understand us or value us as individuals. We rejected the hypocrisy of a system of government that demanded the loyalty of a citizen while denying us the rights of a citizen.

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It was an unprecedented assertion and a courageous one. War followed.

We all know how it played out. We hear that story every year. Every year, we march in parades. Every year we wave our flags, and every year we rip the night sky apart. All of it to commemorate our historical coming out.

Now let me tell you a story that maybe you haven’t heard.

July 2, 2020, was the first day that I dressed completely in women’s clothing. I had been planning it for several months, waiting for a few days when I would be alone and could go shopping. That opportunity finally came to me when my wife and kids left for a week to visit her family. I didn’t let it pass.

I was beyond excited. I finished my shift at the fire department, jumped in the car, and drove straight to Target. I waited a half an hour for them to open and was the first customer through the door. Another hour and I was standing in front of the mirror, sobbing.

There had been a part of me, a big part, that did not want what I knew to be true to be the truth. I didn’t want to be transgender. I barely knew what the word even meant. But, standing face to face with myself, there was no denying it and there was no going back.

I struggled through a 48-hour shift. I counted down the seconds — 172,800 of them for the math enthusiasts among you — until I could get home and change back into myself. The time passed, albeit begrudgingly, and I found myself back in front of the mirror. This time I was getting ready to go out. It was July 5.

By then I had decided on the name Iden. This would be a big day for her. I planned on spending the entire day in Columbus shopping and just hanging out. It would be my first real chance to try on the new life I was about to commit to and the last chance to prove that I might be wrong about this.

I wasn’t wrong. It was the best day of my life. It was the day I began coming out. It was the day that I swore to never live in shame or shadow again.

I have walked the world as Iden ever since. The irony of this, this conjunction of coming outs, is that my coming out was a declaration of independence from the government of the United States. It is a sad situation we find ourselves in when simply existing is an act of defiance. It is ridiculous that using a public restroom has become an act of rebellion.

Today, 247 years — numbers, you just can’t get away from them — since our founders stood up and demanded fair treatment, trans/nonbinary people face the same choice. This time, our oppressor is the very nation founded on the value of the individual. Two-hundred-forty-seven years ago, we fought a war to secure the right to pursue our own happiness. That war isn’t over.

As of April 2023, there have been 491 bills, introduced across 49 states, that would limit the rights of trans/non binary people (www.aclu.org). These range from limiting access to healthcare to outright criminalization of people like me. It is a likely future that coming out as transgender and claiming the inalienable rights endowed upon us all by our creator will be illegal.

The irony is as thick as the midwestern July air. The hypocrisy is as loud as a fireworks show. The war is not over.

Our colonial oppressors underestimated our numbers and our determination. They underestimated the strength of our allies. It cost them a continent. We have seen, time and time again, our oppressors do the same. One by one, the repressed have fought for and won the rights promised to them all those years ago. We can fight back. We can secure our right to exist as individuals. We can make right the hypocrisy of the past 247 years, but only if we stand up.

The powers that be — that small group of elites who think that they speak for this whole, beautiful and diverse populace — underestimate us. It is time to show them our numbers. It is time to show them our determination. It is time to stand up, to come out, to declare that we will not be denied our freedom.

Right now our community seems small and, by extension, weak. A handful of rebels peeing in the girl’s room or brazenly shopping for bras at Target seems inconsequential, but I know that if all of my closeted trans/nb siblings made themselves known, our numbers would eclipse any parade. If all of our allies raised their voices, the shouts of outrage would drown out any fireworks display.

That sort of declaration takes courage. I know it does, but I swore three years ago that I would never live as anyone but myself. I want that freedom for all of us. No government has the right to force anyone into a closet. No person deserves to walk in shadow, but that is where we will be unless we — and by “we” I mean all of us — demand better.

Today is the day for us to stand up, to claim our rights and our heritage, and declare our independence. We must be visible and be vocal or we will be erased. Some opportunities don’t come twice, and freedom can’t wait for tomorrow.

*The author is an artist and writer. She lives in Yellow Springs with her wife and three children. You can follow her work at mynameisiden.com.

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