Monika: Today’s interview will be with Beth Horner, an American living in greater LA. She works in the bicycle industry and has won some design awards in the past, written 2 technical books, played music in a local band and has traveled extensively to Europe, Asia and South America for work and pleasure. Hello Beth!
Beth: Hi Monika and thanks for what you’re doing. There are lots of transwomen leading normal, interesting and successful lives. This is important for all people to know.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Beth: I was born in Afghanistan where my Dad was a USA diplomat. My Mom was Dutch and during my childhood we traveled a lot, living in many different countries. I must have been about 5 when I put on my Mom’s dress, in Greece, in private, and had an awakening. I revisited that theme many times over the years and dreamt, “if only I could have been born female”, or that there could be some magical intervention to make it happen. Basically the feeling was of inner peace and that things would be better compared to the estrangement I felt.
I had a fairly conventional upbringing, outside of the rootlessness of moving every few years, and never feeling connected to any location, or of having long term friends – always an outsider.
Finally when I was 19 I made a surprising connection to bicycles quite by accident, and over time it came to define the professional course of my life. Basically I became immersed in its lore, mystery, and science and over time industry people helped propel my career by believing in my work.
I ended up in design and international business and moved in this universe fluidly. I lived to work, I did not work to live -- chief reason being that it filled a void in my life, sadly enough, and ‘defined’ me as I had no inner compass as to who I really was or how to get there.
|In the desert, Sept 2013.|
Meanwhile I kept the career going while the marriage and relationship to my daughter crumbled in the quicksand it was built on. I kept involved with music as a creative outlet to balance myself during all the turmoil to keep my sanity.
The big final push came at the end of 2011. I could not stand living between 2 genders anymore as the old life became a hated mask preventing true expression. I had to put it all on the line and roll the dice for real, and to put in practice all the training and rehearsal for 24/7 and transition to the one remaining area, my work environment.
I have to say I was terrified and it was only my own survival and inner pain that pushed me to confront the possibility of abject failure in a key area of life.
Monika: You transitioned on the job. What was the reaction of your co-workers?
Beth: I was in South America getting FFS when my “coming out” letter was distributed by management along with management’s own letter affirming a clear policy of non-discrimination and support for me and workplace diversity.
Basically management was very cool and understanding. It turned out the president had known a transperson from his old high school and that his wife was a MFT, a marriage and family counselor, so he had exposure and informed thinking. We worked out my transition timetable, the needed statements, and policies in advance and then gave the coworkers a few weeks to get mentally adjusted before my return.
Very quickly they got used to it and the positive helpful attitude I’d always had ensured that they would still like me and value our work together. I was not asking them to do anything except to be professionals so we kept it at that level. The same happened with our vendors, I was quickly accepted.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Beth: Honestly the hardest part was internal. I had had no positive role models to guide me on this as a kid and was totally polluted by the media portrayals and the bad stories. Being a guy with guy privilege is supposed to be ideal, and I had certainly tried that, so what was wrong with me?
While I had heard of Christine Jorgensen or Rene Richards, they seemed to be from another planet, and maybe delusional. Please remember much of my social conditioning was in the pre-internet age. In therapy I was diagnosed with transphobia, it was the last thing I wanted to do, or so I believed. I was convinced I’d be ridiculed, shunned, loss my job, and lose any remaining dignity.
It took a lot of internal education and then finding suitable role models and inspiration to move forward and get past the way I thought I was supposed to be, as taught by society.
|Las Vegas, Sept 2013.|
Beth: I would say the years 2006-2011 were my coming of age. I read every book I could by Kate Bornstein, Jennifer Finney Boylan, Helen Boyd, Alice Novak, Christine Beatty and more more, spent a lot of time on the internet gathering information telling me that just maybe I was not crazy, going to self-actualization group therapy, individual therapy, immersed myself in the “scene” going out more and more, made friends and connections and even had some love interests. It was a lot to process.
Many of my heroines were local girls who were either pretty, or brave, or simply pushing boundaries that I was terrified of. Many are completely unknown yet ones who figuratively took me under their wings and showed me kindness, encouraged me, or taught me things. There were a ton of baby steps to overcome my jitters.
Another huge boost was the trangender band I was in. Working on something together as a team and all us being TG was very exciting. We had real camaraderie and it was inspiring. I could feel strength building and more assurance.
In terms of the bigger picture all the writers I mention were inspirational and people like Andrea James, Lynn Conway and many more showed me that we can be successful and that this life is fine. I enjoyed reading their stories for filling in the blanks of my personal knowledge.
I have seen many movies like "Ma Vie en Rose", "Breakfast on Pluto", etc. The books and documentaries are more real portrayals and help put a human face on this often misunderstood phenomenon, something rare yet not unusual.
Over time your skill will improve and appearance will improve. Remember you are doing this for yourself. I have met hardcore transwomen 24/7 who will never blend perfectly, yet by the power of their conviction, they are still following the path and glad for it and getting recognized for their actions positively even by strangers.
|Nov 2012 with her honey, SLC.|
I do dress up on special occasions. I like red, purple, black, blue, multicolor designs and animal prints especially leopard, etc, for those nights dancing. I have skirts and dresses of various types, but the jeans get the most use!
I would love to be in another band, or record, or refine my skills with a collaborator. One song I put on reverbnation.com and there are others I have not (yet) posted.
Personally I have to say life is better now. Sure I have problems and worry, but not like before with all the inner confusion. I can hardly remember my past gender and the agony.