Why Do People Publicly Identify Themselves as Trans?

Laverne Cox arrives at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Jan. 25, 2015, in Los Angeles.

Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

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Answer by Krystle Hannigan, fiftysomething woman who’s experienced many changes:

I can only speak for myself. In my case, I transitioned in my late 40s. Over time, it became evident that some people never suspected I was trans. Some people sensed I was somehow different but couldn’t specifically figure out how. Other people knew immediately, or at least strongly suspected, that I was trans. So I simply couldn’t be bothered to invest the energy in caring one way or the other.

Also, when getting to know new people as friends or co-workers, how do you share aspects of your background and not give away some pretty obvious clues that you’re trans? We talk about raising children, past marriages, dating experiences, work history, life accomplishments, and so on. It’s kind of difficult for people not to find something odd when discussing my ex-wife (who I remain friends with), building my own house (not many women from my generation did that), adventures in hunting, and various other activities typically associated with men.

I have never been embarrassed or ashamed of being trans. I live an open life, which means things are just simpler and less dramatic. I don’t have to worry about being “found out.” If people want to be part of my life, I know that my being trans isn’t an issue with them. It helps filter out folks with bias toward the community.

Another factor is that I know I’ve been a sort of learning moment for many people, especially in my early days of transition. From my electrologist, to the ladies at the cosmetics counter, to various physicians, educators, co-workers, and employers, I have been the first trans person they have known. They all came to see me as just a person—not anything weird, exotic, or to be feared or despised.

So although I may not ever have the impact on society that Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Caitlyn Jenner, and other more celebrity trans women have, I like to think that each of those people who I helped educate were then able to educate others or to help fight prejudice by virtue of their having known me as a person. My way through life as a trans person was made easier by those who came before and who were visible and shared their stories. Hopefully those who follow me, and others like me, will find their roads also easier. If we all simply seek to blend in and be taken as simply women, then how does society ever really learn?

Take me or leave me, like me or hate me, I am who I am. I am a woman of trans experience. I make no apologies for it. I know I am a better person today for having gone through transition, having my own eyes open to discrimination, ignorance. I gained greater empathy and acceptance toward others who would be considered different.

If the goal for trans people is acceptance for their true gender, why publicly identify as trans? originally appeared on Quora. More questions on Quora: