MICHEL MARTIN, host: Now we have the latest essay in our coming out series. As part of LGBT Pride month, TELL ME MORE has been talking with guests and friends of the program who are either lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, about how they shared their sexual orientation with those closest to them.
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. 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.
MARTIN: That was Michelle Antoinette Enfield. She's an HIV prevention training specialist in Los Angeles and a transgender woman, and she shared her story about coming out.
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