Transgender Woman Learns To Embrace Uniqueness

Michelle A. Enfield lives in Los Angeles, California. i i

Michelle A. Enfield lives in Los Angeles, California. Courtesy of Michelle A. Enfield hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Michelle A. Enfield
Michelle A. Enfield lives in Los Angeles, California.

Michelle A. Enfield lives in Los Angeles, California.

Courtesy of Michelle A. Enfield

As part of LGBT Pride month, Tell Me More is exploring the sometimes difficult process of informing others about one's sexual orientation. Guests and friends of the program who are either lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are sharing their stories of coming out to those closest to them: family, friends, and even co-workers.

Today: Michelle Antoinette Enfield, a transgender woman who is an HIV Prevention Training Specialist in Los Angeles, California.

MICHELLE ANTOINETTE ENFIELD:

I was born on the Navajo Reservation in Fort Defiance, Arizona. I am a member of the Navajo Nation. One of my earliest memories of feeling different was when I would sit on the bathroom sink and watch my mother get ready for the day as she brushed her beautiful bouffant hairdo. I would think how wonderful it would be to have her style in the future. I remember that I would secure a towel on top of my head with a rubber band so I could pretend it was my long hair.

In the first grade, I was attracted to the boy next door. His name was Edward, and he was so cute. We had a mutual friend named Becky who had long, flowing hair and played the guitar in church. They got along very well; they played together, and teased each other. I had wished I could have been born a girl so that I could do those same things with Edward.

I was always very effeminate; so in grade school, I was picked on a lot. I was called "sissy" and sometimes even a girl, which was so ironic, because that's what I wanted to be. The other children would say I threw like a girl, ran like a girl, and even wrote like a girl.

In the seventh grade, I began wearing eyeliner that my female cousin would leave in the bathroom. I would put it on very lightly, so not to cause attention, but dark enough to create change for me. I began to feel more beautiful and I began to embrace my uniqueness. The derogatory words continued and, as I got older, became harsher and more powerful. While "queer" and "sissy" were common for me to hear, it was the word "gay" that constantly bombarded me. But none of those words fit.

I heard the right one in 1987 when I was a sophomore in high school. I was watching the Maury Povich Show. His guest that day was Tula, a beautiful, articulate, poised woman who had been cast as a Bond Girl — as in James Bond. "She" was a post-operative transgender! I then realized this is what I am! Finally, someone like me. She became an inspiration to me. No longer was I just a gay boy wearing makeup. I was a girl!

I legally changed my name and began hormone replacement therapy in 1997 — that was my coming out!

My family had already been accepting of me through all the different stages of my life because as a Dine' (Navajo), our people see LGBT individuals as having many healing energies.

I have been discriminated against; I've been sexually and physically abused; I've loved and have been loved. Learning to take care of myself emotionally requires me to be happy with all of me. I must accept and learn from all of my experiences because they make me who I am today.

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