Scottsville, VA

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My name is Donna. I am 64 years old, a lawyer, retired Navy, and live open and notoriously as a trans woman. Since I was about six-years-old, I knew I was different. In the 1950s, there was no information about people like me, and I was a bit of a late bloomer, anyway. I was raised as a boy, and it was very important that I carry on the family name, so I tried to take that role very seriously. The more I tried, though, the worse I felt. It was not until I was going off to college that I learned about Christine Jorgensen. I remember thinking “Wow! There is one other person in the whole world like me,” and I kept it to myself. I served on active duty in the Navy for 25 years until I retired 15 years ago, which is when I began what I call my discernment period about the possibility and beginning of transition.


I have “passing privilege,” so when I interact with strangers, they do not automatically assume that I am a transgender woman. I recognize that this is something others may not have and that it does help keep me safer. I have even had friends say, “You won’t even have to tell anyone you’re trans!” when I moved to a new city. I know where they are coming from, but I do not like the idea that if I were any different, I would be less acceptable, less worthy. I see being trans as a blessing. God has given me an opportunity and a platform to be an “Ambassador to Transunderstand.” I have the chance to change the way people think about the transgender community by being open and visible. People need to know we exist because from ignorance comes fear; from fear, anger; from anger, hate; and from hate, violence. By getting to know me and others like me, I hope that people will feel more open and welcoming.


I want to speak out about protections in housing, employment, and public accommodations for people like me because I am fortunate enough to be in a place I can do so and I believe everyone is equal before God. Everyone should be equal before the law as well. I am fortunate that I have a welcoming place to live, a job that is supportive of who I am, and the ability to generally go anywhere and not be harassed for being trans. That is not the case for everyone. Transgender people just want to feel safe and respected. We should be protected like all other people.