Interview with Kelly Metzgar - Part 2

Monika: And books?
Kelly: I love reading books written by our transgender youth and young adults. It is important that people know the struggles and successes our children and their families go through. It is important not only for members and allies of the Transgender Gender Non-Conforming/Non-Binary community to read these but more importantly non-community members. It is important for parents of Transgender Gender Non-Conforming/Non-Binary children to read these books to know they are not alone in their struggles that others have and are currently walking the same path. I personally have in my collection books written by Jazz Jennings, Nicole Maines, Katie Rain Hill, Aaron Andrews, Terri, and Vince Cook among many other titles. I heartily recommend these to anyone interested in gaining an understanding of life as a Transgender person.
Monika: Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Kelly: Again I wish to take gender out of the equation and talk about Transgender Gender Non-Conforming/Non-Binary people which include Transgender Gender Non-Conforming/Non-Binary men.
I think Transgender people can, will, and do make a difference in everything we do. That includes politics! In the US this year, several Transgender people were elected into various state legislatures. Many more are or will be on the ballot in the coming years. We see “haters” voted out or not elected to begin with. More Transgender people need to enter the political arena, win those important seats on the local, state, and national levels.

Demonstrating at NYS Governor's State of the State Address
 in 2014 for the passage of the Gender Expression
Non-Discrimination Act - (GENDA) with other NYS activists,
including Juli Grey-Owens.

For the past several years I have been involved in groups working to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act – GENDA in New York State. Every year the bill does not pass, the following year we need to start over from the beginning with our legislature which becomes very frustrating. GENDA has passed the New York State Assembly for 10 consecutive years! The Senate has refused to bring the bill to the floor for the past 15 years for discussion, consideration, or a vote!
In November of 2015 our Governor, Andrew Cuomo issued an Executive Action whereby the New York State Transgender community was “granted” implicit protections by redefining the States Human Rights laws to include transgender under the categories of “sex” and “disability”. As we have seen on the US Federal level, the Executive Actions and Orders of a past leader can be overturned by the current leader. That is why having these protections written “explicitly” into New York State law is so vitally important. Our work and struggle continue!
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman yourself? Was it a difficult process? 
Kelly: For a woman who will freely admit to being in my mid to late ’40s, I lead a dual-gender life for my entire life. My “secret” was hidden to most people (including family and close friends) known only to a select few. After two terrible years in 2010 and 2011, in the winter and spring of 2012 when I made the very hard decision to “live” I slowly began the process of planning my transition.
As stated above I began taking hormones in August of 2012, then sought medical assistance in August of 2014. My transition, for me personally, was initially a very slow process. I knew what I always wanted, but was never really sure transitioning would be something I could successfully accomplish. Still, my body was changing, transforming.
I came out to my sister in the spring of 2013. Her comments to me were: I am so happy for you!, Why did you hide this for so long?, Do you know the fun we could have had all these years? Do you know how long I’ve always wanted a sister?
Monika: So sweet!
Kelly: My female cousins met me in November of 2013, and they were very accepting and supportive. In a very emotional conversation in March or April of 2014, I came out to my then 84-year-old very Irish Catholic mother. After her initial confusion as to what Transgender actually meant and what it meant for me, she was not very supportive. With help of my sister, Mom slowly began to learn concepts of being transgender but did not wish to see me as a female. She thanked me for telling her of the lifelong struggles I lived with, but when I came to visit (she lives 440 miles and 7+ hours away from me), she only wished to see “her son”.
In late June 2014, still having issues with who I was becoming, she went to see her local parish priest. They had a 10 – 15 minute conversation in which the priest told her, “Mary, you love your son and God loves him also. You need to find a way to make this right between you.”
Without talking to me, Mom went home and took it upon herself to out me to all my aunts, telling them that I would be coming home the following week, and I would be dressing as a woman and my name is Kelly Metzgar. If they did not like that, they could stay away. Mom called me that evening to tell me what she did and that when I came home the next week, she wanted “Kelly” to come, and for “Kelly” to be at all the family social events including her 85th birthday. Suddenly I would be “out” to my entire extended family. Surprisingly this went very well. There was some confusion, but my coming out to family was very positive.

Jazz Jennings's memoirs via Amazon.

Monika: How about your workplace?
With coming out to family a success the next hurdle was to come out at work. As I stated previously, my body by this time was defiantly changing and I was showing obvious breast development that was extremely hard to hide wearing male business dress shirts. Hiding under sweaters as I do during the bone-chilling Adirondack winter, is not an option in the hot summer months!
I worked with a Transgender mentor for my coming out at work which my employer ultimately rejected. I presented my boss (at the time) with a formal letter outlining my transgender identity and transition plans. We immediately booked a meeting with our Human Resources manager and had a meeting that same day. While I wish I could say that the whole process was positive, there were many hurdles (some very negative experiences) that had to be overcome. I could write an entire essay (which I have already done to a great extent) outlining that experience.
With time running out at work for my debut, and the company not having any corporate training lined up, things were looking rather scary. At the very last minute, the company was able to find a person to do a “Coming Out in the Workplace” training. I demanded to have a part in this training process to make my own “announcement” to the company, then with a follow-up email letter to the rest of the staff in the organization who were not able to attend the training.
Monika: So when was your final liberation day?
Kelly: At age 55, my “Rebirth” day was officially November 1, 2014. Two days later I finally came to work as my true self! The reception that first day was very positive, not only from staff but also from our Inpatient clients. (I worked in the Information Technology department of an Inpatient/Outpatient alcohol, chemical dependency, substance abuse treatment, and recovery organization.) 
One of the most affirming presents I received that day was my new nameplate – Kelly Metzgar! In the Saranac Lake and surrounding community I was warmly greeted with comments such as “Well it’s about time”,” we’ve been waiting for you to come out for a long time”, “We’re so happy you are finally able to live your life as you want”, “You deserve to live and be happy in your life”. I am so very blessed to live in such a wonderful and affirming area! Who Knew!
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Kelly: I joined the Vanity Club online international sorority of transgender women in 2003. We are small, by invitation only sorority. I think more than any celebrity role model, the amazing women in my sorority were the people I admired and looked up to.
As I was able to finally attend regional Transgender Conferences in Boston MA and Harrisburg Pa., I think the amazing people to attend those conferences also became people I admired.
I cannot say I really had celebrity role models for very few existed at that time. 
Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now?
Kelly: There are several Transgender people I admire and respect. First, of course, is my dear and good friend Juli Grey-Owens from Long Island NY. I admire her leadership in the New York State Transgender movement for equality and basic rights protections. She is a constant source of inspiration for continuing the work we do.
Next, I admire all the Transgender youth who are coming forward into advocacy roles. People like Jazz Jennings, Nicole Maines, Katie Hill, Juliet Evancho, Gavin Grimm are becoming the next leaders. I am also a big fan of Janet Mock. She is a very positive and inspirational person in our community.

Laverne Cox.

Monika: We all pay the highest price for the fulfillment of our dreams to be ourselves. As a result, many trans women lose their families, friends, jobs, and social positions. Did you pay such a high price as well? What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Kelly: As stated above, my initial coming out was unexpectedly easy and uneventful so, initially, I really did not lose too much in terms of family and friends.
Subsequently, however, five weeks after returning to work in October 2016 from CGS that summer, I was told my job was “no longer needed”. I was affiliated with my previous employer for 17+ years, 10.5+ of which as a full-time employee. (I was a shared resource and a consultant for 6.5 years) The reason given was the new electronic health record system the company recently upgraded to did not require a programmer and they no longer needed me as an IT help desk support person.
It is now well over a year and I cannot find full-time employment in my region in or out of the Information Technology environment. Personally, I would much rather find a non-IT position as that was my old life, but not being employed in a full-time position for so long is becoming VERY SCARY and DESPERATE! I have so much wisdom, professionalism, and talents to offer a new employer. I don’t know if it is because of my age, the fact that I’m Transgender, or what! This girl needs a full-time job!!!!
I also have no contact with my two children - a son and a daughter both now in their mid to late 30’s. They have totally disowned me for the past several years. I have two new grandchildren I will never be able to meet, even with my son now living in an apartment two houses down from me!
I try my best not to focus on the losses but rather try embracing the positive, the people who know and accept me for who I am today. Many in the present day do not even know the person I “use to be”, they only know me, Kelly, the person I am now! 
Monika: I have read somewhere that cisgender women were liberated thanks to the development of contraceptive pills whereas transgender women are free now thanks to the development of cosmetic surgery, so they are no longer prisoners of passing or non-passing syndrome …
Kelly: I believe transgender people, myself included, are obsessed with passing. Whether one is transmale or transfemale, being able to go out in public and be taken for the person you identify as is vitally important to our sense of self. Billions of dollars (or whatever currency you may use) are spent on looking good or having a physical body that matches our gender identity. I do not see that ever not being an issue we face. After all, that is what we are fighting gender and body dysphoria.
If anything I see the advances in cosmetic surgery playing an even bigger role in trans-identity issues. Unfortunately, many of these cosmetic surgeries from GCS, breast augmentation, and facial feminization surgery are not covered by all insurances (in the US) making such procedures out of the financial reach for many transgender individuals. Passing vs. Non-Passing issues I am afraid will remain for quite a long time.

Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Kelly: Friends have encouraged me to write my story, but I am not sure who would really be interested in it. I have had newspaper articles written about my life, been featured in radio and television interviews, and certainly share my life stories in some of my educational training.
If anyone wishes to know about me, my previous or current life, or what I’ve encountered in my life, I am very happy to share those stories. I am not sure who would be interested in yet “another” Transgender book about me. I watch my dear friend Terri Cook and many other people who write books at the various conferences I attend being “stuck” at their tables selling their books. I would rather enjoy and actively participate in those conferences and events meeting and talking directly to attendees.
Still, if anyone is interested in writing my story, please drop me an email and we could talk! 
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Kelly: I think every person whether CIS or Trans would like someone special in their life. For me, personally, there has not been that special person for far too many years.
In my previous life, I have never identified as gay (being attracted to men). I have always been attracted to women. I was married with children, had girlfriends, and always enjoyed the company of being (dating or more intimately) with women. Sorry Gentlemen! This goes back to my earlier statement of CIS Gender/Heterosexual normativity sexual orientation/gender identity confusion.
Still, there are times I wish I had someone special to share my life with! Someone to have lunch, dinner, go to the movies or theater with. She would have to enjoy downhill skiing, kayaking/canoeing, bike riding, gardening, and life in a small rural Adirondack North Country town.

Currently, my heart belongs to one very special little girl – my little Lexi (Lexianna Maria). I am reminded and I will paraphrase something I read recently, -- I don’t want to be a person who needs someone, but rather a person who someone wants to be with! Who knows, perhaps someday that special person (CIS or Trans female) will come along. Until then…….
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Kelly: My biggest project is finding a full-time job that pays a decent living wage! After that, I am involved in assisting with getting GENDA in New York State passed in 2018!
I am also a founding board member of a new statewide Transgender advocacy group – Gender Equality New York lead by my good friend Juli Owens. Getting this new statewide advocacy organization started I think will be the big item for this year.
I am also looking to get my Adirondack North Country Gender Advocacy and Education, consulting business set-up and running. My goal is to bring Transgender Gender Non-Conforming/Non-Binary education, training, and consulting services to area schools, colleges, universities, civic, business, and religious-based organizations. This will be a formal continuation of my education and advocacy services over the past several years.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Kelly: Again I prefer this question to be gender-neutral! I think any Transgender person (transmale or transfemale) needs to find loving and supportive people to help with their sense of self. Not everyone is able to see trained therapists. Indeed, sadly many therapists are still not trained in Transgender Gender Non-Conforming/Non-Binary issues! Still, there are support groups one can reach out to if not in your local, regional community, then online support groups regardless of age.
Finding a person you can reach out to, trust (I know that’s a hard one), and share your “secret” with. I also know many parents and family members are not supporting so family even extended family may not be an option. 
Perhaps there might be a trusted teacher, neighbor, accepting religious member, someone in the medical or behavioral health field, someone you can feel safe with! The important thing is to reach out and not suffer in silence. If you are visiting this website, find someone to connect with!
Monika: My pen friend Gina Grahame wrote to me once that we should not limit our potential because of how we were born or by what we see other transsexuals and transgender people doing. Our dreams should not end on an operating table; that’s where they begin. Do you agree with this?
Kelly: I think is it important to realize your dreams whatever they are! Our dreams and aspirations should not be dependent on our gender status. I understand for many Transgender people, myself included, their goal is to live daily in their authentic gender identity, but that should not be the main focus of our existence. Yes, I believe living an authentic life is a goal we seek to achieve, but not our dream! Gender Confirmation Surgery for me was not my dream! In fact, for many years I believed it to be far out of my realm of possibilities. My dreams of a better life did not begin nor end on the operating table.
As I realized my goal of living full-time in my authentic gender identity in November 2014, CGS fin 2016 or I was just part of the “next logical step” in my life process. It was not my dream, but a goal I was finally able to realize. CGS I do not believe “changed me” in any significant way. In many ways, I am still the person I was. I live in the same town, in the same house, have the same friends (sort of), enjoy the same hobbies and interests as I did previously. No one sees my body except Lexi & I know she will never tell anyone.
No, my life did not begin after I transitioned (socially or medically), transitioning was just one part of my life!
Monika: Kelly, thank you for the interview!
Kelly: Thank you so much Monika for this opportunity to tell at least part of my story with your readers. I hope you and they find parts of this interesting.

All the photos: courtesy of Kelly Metzgar.
© 2018 - Monika Kowalska

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