Last month we peeked into my past, covering everything from the trauma of puberty to my decision to identify as “gay.” But after 32 years, I just couldn’t carry my secret anymore. Nearly two summers ago, I risked everything to come out as trans.
1. Rock Bottom
All good stories start with a precipitating action that triggers a series of reactions by the protagonist. Mine was a break-up. A 9-year relationship coming to an end in Summer 2016. That summer I lost my fiance, who was also my best friend. My world came crumbling down.
A few months later, my Dad tried to console me by saying I’d “dodged a bullet” before presenting me with a mint-fresh study-bible so I could “get right with God.” As he lectured me on the “positives” of the situation, he also compared my sexual orientation to the likeness of a drug addiction. Many hurtful things were said. My 2-hour shaming ended as he got up and asked for a hug. I declined then held open my front door, inviting him to leave. Now I’d lost my fiance and my Dad. Rock bottom.
2. Rebuilding via Creative Mornings and YPAL
In October 2016, the Yelp events page led me to CreativeMornings Louisville. If you’re not familiar, it’s a free breakfast lecture series that features a TED-talk style speaker discussing a global monthly theme. When I showed up at the Henry Clay for my very first #CMLou, the topic was TRANSPARENCY. Carolyn Kopprasch, Chief Happiness Officer at Buffer spoke. Her talk about being open and honest with yourself and others changed my life. Watch her full talk.
The idea of being transparent really resonated with me. (Obviously…#TRANSparentKasen). I started being more open about how I was feeling, displaying my vulnerabilities for the first time. The same month, I started listening to “A Complaint Free World” by Will Bowen on Audible. Transparency and reframing thoughts helped me have a different outlook and approach to life. I began to express gratitude for my experiences and patience with others. I also really began to embrace the notion that “everything happens for a reason,” and that all things also happen when they are supposed to.
By Spring, I’d moved positions at work and was seeking to be seen as more professional. I applied to participate in the YPAL Emerging Leaders program and was accepted. Over the next 5 months, I put a great deal of time and effort into identifying my strengths, my values, and my purpose. The $350 program tied together months of personal growth and by graduation in May 2017, I felt like a new person. A better person. A more compassionate person. A person full of confidence and self-love, despite not speaking to my Dad for almost a year.
3. Just a Routine Check-up
The last week in June 2017 really marks the beginning of my trans journey. During my yearly check-up at the Norton CMA Office, which is safe and affirming in case you’re looking, I put my newly found confidence and transparency to the test by disclosing to my doctor that I was trans. This led to a candid conversation about hating that “time of the month” and her laying out a few medical options to help me feel more at ease in my body.
I’d always wanted to transition, but I’d never known HOW to transition, or even where to start. Turns out, having an honest conversation with my doctor was all it took. She offered to refer me to an Endocrinologist, i.e., a hormone doctor. (I had to google it too.) My insurance was changing at the end of that week, July 1. I asked her if there was any way I could see the Endo that week. She kindly smiled and said, “No.” This particular doctor is highly regarded as literally the best in Louisville. His waitlist is typically 5 months long.
Disappointed, I accepted her referral offer. The next morning I got a call from the Endocrinologist’s office. They told me there had been a cancelation and I was offered an appointment the next day! (serendipity)
4. Jumping Through Hoops
Starting my medical transition came with a lot of hoops, and a lot of appointments. After seeing the Endo, I had 5 weeks to return with lab results for 10 different blood tests and a letter from a therapist stating my diagnosis of “gender dysphoria.” The labs presented an expense I hadn’t anticipated, and I started to feel alone and overwhelmed. Serendipitously, I ran into a friend in the waiting room. I had no idea they had recently started their transition. They put my mind at ease about the process and gave me the name of an affirming therapist who could help me get my letter.
Those 5 weeks caused a bit of mental chaos for me, and as much as I thought it was silly that I needed a letter to medically transition when someone can undergo plastic surgery for vanity without one, I am grateful for my therapist and the time we spent together. She affirmed who I was and helped me face a great deal of childhood trauma I’d pushed aside. I got my letter after a few visits, but I also got some clarity and relief. I also had the chance to talk through some of my fears. I left my final session equipped with the confidence to call and face my Mom.
5. Risking It All
The doctor’s visits, the labs, the therapy, they were all easy. It was my family I was afraid of. I feared their rejections more than ever. I feared no longer having them as a part of my life, I feared disappointing my grandparents, and I feared for the loss of financial security that came with keeping my mouth shut. I also felt alone and feared that no one would ever love me, romantically, again. But, I had hit rock bottom the previous year. I was now happily single and barely had a relationship with my family now. I realized in therapy, that their love wasn’t unconditional as promised, it was WITH condition, and I was tired of living my life for someone else. I was suffocating and so tired of the emotional agony that came with not being seen as a man.
Having already lost it all and survived, I knew that I would be ok. Spiritually, I felt at peace in my relationship with God. Everything had serendipitously lined up in the most unbelievable way. All my appointments and barriers were a breeze and to be starting testosterone 6 weeks after a conversation with my doctor was unreal. There was no way to explain the timing other than knowing that it was all happening as it was meant to. As my “T-Day” drew nearer, I felt at peace. All the arrangements were made and I was so eager for my body to finally match my mind and soul.
6. Social Name Change
I decided on my chosen name a few days before I started testosterone. I made a list of masculine names I liked and started mentally referring to myself by those names. Kasen stuck with me. It just felt right. On July 27, 2017, I took a deep breath and posted this to facebook:
The response was overwhelmingly positive. When I got to work the next day, I called my company’s IT Manager to request my name and email address be changed in the company directory. She created a new email address and changed my name on the internal caller ID in about 10 minutes. She then congratulated me and suggested that I send out a companywide email. I followed her advice and sent similar messaging out to my 350+ coworkers. The response of support and excitement was the same, but my favorite response was from a coworker who had googled “Kasen” and sent me the name’s meaning:
Serendipitously, (there I go again) the description was me to a T! “Fight being restricted by rules and conventions.” Check. “Optimistic, energetic…excited by change and adventure,” Check. And now, as I write this column and see “Able to make constructive use of freedom,” I am humbled and hope my story and transparency is doing just that.
7. Bonus: Realizing that #CrystalBallin’ Psychic, Jessica Tanselle Predicted It All
In February 2017, a group of friends gathered at Jessica Tanselle’s apartment. One by one we went into a private room where she drew cards and gave us a reading. At this point, Jess was a new friend. We had only hung out in a group a handful of times and had never spoken about anything deeply personal. That night I skeptically sat in front of her as she drew three cards. Transformation. Purification. Don’t Back Down.
She went card by card, telling me what she saw. She described my aura. She said it was beautiful, that I was a good person, but it wasn’t shining as brightly as it should be. She told me there were some things I needed to let go of. (Purification/My Break-Up)
She then told me that I was taking a stance and I was right. Not to give up because I was doing the right thing. She had no clue that I wasn’t really speaking to my Dad and that my family was divided as one brother took my side. (Don’t Back Down/My Separation From My Parents)
Lastly, she told me she saw something really good coming in 6 months time. I assumed it was a new girlfriend. At the time, I had no intention of transitioning, but I was lonely. I was in the midst of focusing on my growth as a more transparent and compassionate human. I felt ready to have a new partner in crime, so I was excited for whoever I was going to meet in 6 months!
As any good Yelper does, I snapped a picture of the cards. I pondered a few things that night but put everything else on the shelf in the back of my mind. It wasn’t until September, over a month after starting my transition that I remembered her prediction. February to August is 6 months. Mind. Blown.
June is Pride Month, so it’s fitting to be sharing my story this month. I’m now 1 year and 10 months into my medical transition. Next month I’ll tell you all about my “Summer Firsts” since undergoing my lifesaving top surgery last May.