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Stop Staring At My Parrot Beach Shorts
Stop Staring At My Parrot Beach Shorts

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Unlike my wife, Pat, I didn’t come out until I was 40 when my youngest child was 16. Growing up, I thought if I got married and had a baby, I wouldn’t have to tell my mother that I was gay and could be normal. However, pretending I was something that I was not for all those years to avoid the punishment of social and familial shame did not make me feel normal at all. In reality, I felt suffocated and trapped. I took out all of my repressed frustrations on others, including members of the LGBT+ community. After I got divorced from my husband, I realized I wanted to start living as my authentic self. While the seismic shift caused friction in my family relationships, the burden of living a lie was gone. But I still faced numerous challenges along the way, including discrimination and racism for simply being myself. Later in life, having just moved from Long Island to East Harlem, I fell head over heels for Pat. The romantic spark was real. We were married on April 10, 2018, at the age of 67. Today, we reside in East Harlem – an area of New York once notorious for being hostile to those in the LGBT+ community — and walk hand-in-hand through the neighborhoods as our authentic selves. —Paulette Martin

Elizabeth Coffey-Williams

Photo credit: courtesy of Coffey-Williams

Assigned male at birth in 1948, I knew I was a girl from an early age. Despite attending a parochial school, I wore my hair shaggy and dated boys. As the oldest of five kids, I first came out to my family as transgender in the late 1960s, when the language of gender identity wasn’t what it is today. My family didn’t know what being transgender meant and were afraid it might be “contagious,” so I was sent to live with a relative across town and was forbidden to see my younger brothers and sisters, which was traumatizing for me.

In 1970, I hitched a ride to Baltimore where I met rising film director John Waters and quickly became one of the Dreamlanders — Waters’ ensemble of regular cast and crew members. I later appeared in four of his films, including a memorable role in Pink Flamingoes. While there, I heard about John Hopkins’ groundbreaking work as the first American academic institution to offer gender confirmation surgeries. In 1972, I received the surgery and completed my transition, becoming one of the first women to participate in the Johns Hopkins program. I remain a defiantly out and proud trans woman.

Stop Staring At My Parrot Beach Shorts

After my siblings learned about my transition, I got an unexpected knock on the door. It was my little brother, Billy. His visit was a big step for my family, who was dealing with understanding me as a woman. It made me feel loved, wanted and like I was getting my family back. I’ve been a strong advocate for the transgender community for nearly 50 years and I have no intention of sitting down. Currently, I co-facilitate the TransWay support group at the William Way LGBT Community Center, help conduct tours of the Center, serve on the endorsement committee of the Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club, and as a board member of the Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund, as well as a tireless advocate for LGBT Senior housing. An avid quilter, I’ve served as a facilitator of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, a national collection of quilt squares commemorating those who died from HIV/AIDS and my quilting work has also been shown in the Art Institute of Chicago.

 

 

 

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