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 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 and a job that is supportive of who I am. That is not the case for everyone. Transgender people just want to feel safe and respected. We should be protected like all other people.