1980s: Seeing Trans Women for the First Time


Growing up in a Long Island suburb, Egyptt LaBeija lived a sheltered life. This changed, however, in the 1980s when went on a school trip to New York City and encountered trans women for the first time. Seeing herself in them, she returned to the city frequently to be around them and begin her own transition. Ultimately, her parents gave her an ultimatum – either she live her life as a cis man or she leaves the family home.

I grew up in a town in Long Island called Freeport.
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And I grew up basically in a middle-class home.
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My parents grew us up as Catholics, going to church, going to school.
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Growing up, trying to live the way my parents wanted me to live, it was kind of difficult
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because I knew there was something different.
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The clothes, trying to get me to get these girlfriends and all that stuff, it just didn’t
00:45
fit right with me.
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Didn’t know what it was, but I knew it was something.
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One day, I went to the city for a school outing and we went to see the Statue of Liberty.
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And this is in the early eighties.
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So when I went to the city for the school trip, I disappeared into an area, just because
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I didn’t want to be with anybody else.
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And I saw trans women.
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It was intriguing for me because I saw something that I felt was where I was supposed to be
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but just didn’t know.
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Back in those days, in the early eighties, trans women – trans people of experience was
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not a word.
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You either called a drag queen, transvestite, crossdresser.
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I didn’t know exactly the terminology for what it was, but I just knew that this is
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where I needed to be.
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They intrigued me.
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They showed me that there – that I wasn’t alone.
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That the way I felt inside, there were other people.
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Not just one or two, there was a whole community of them.
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So that’s what made me decide at that moment that I need to explore this and get more in
02:11
depth about who they are, how they did it, and why they did it.
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During the process of going back to Long Island, I kept thinking about it.
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And would sneak to the city, like twice a week, to go see where these trans women were
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doing, where they were hanging out.
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But I would always stay in the background because I know them.
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I didn’t know if they were going to hurt me.
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So I stayed quiet until one day, one of them actually says something to me.
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She says, “We see all the time and you don’t speak.
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Who are you?
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What’s your name?
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Where are you from?”
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So I felt welcomed.
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They said to me that this is a life decision.
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It’s not something that you should take lightly.
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This choice is yours to make whether this is where you want to be.
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So I would sneak to the city and get dressed up on the Long Island Rail Road, in the bathroom,
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to go to the city.
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During this process, I decided to start taking hormones and my parents found out.
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So they told me I had to stop doing I was doing because it just wasn’t right.
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It was basically like, “You can’t do this.
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This is wrong.
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We didn’t bring you up like this.”
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Because I was sheltered as a child.
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At that time, I really hated him because I felt that they didn’t really understand
03:59
me, which they didn’t.
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So I tried to stop but it just didn’t work.
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Then they found all my stuff that I had hidden – my girl clothes.
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So one day, they gave me an ultimatum.
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“Either you stop doing what you’re doing or you’ll have to leave.”
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So I decided to leave because I knew living there would not be comfortable for me.
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So I packed up and I headed to New York City.
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It was a struggle, trying to find a place to live, trying to find work, to survive.
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Comfort is not where you are, it’s who you are.
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Yes, I had a beautiful home that I grew up in and I had a beautiful family, and it’s
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not like I wanted for anything.
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It’s just that I wasn’t happy.
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Being unhappy in a place where you stay is worse than anything, because what happens
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is you start to regret yourself.
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I was not happy in Long Island because that’s not who I was, living in their cisgender life.
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And it made me miserable.
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So when they gave me an ultimatum, it was an easy is an easy choice to just get up and
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go.

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