Since my transition I’ve faced some challenges and changes in my life.
When I hear people say, I made a choice, they really don’t understand that it was a “decision, not a choice.” The way society treats us, we lose our spouse, children, family, home, work, and friends. People want to attack, even murder us. Knowing all this is possible, we still want to be our true selves. Sometimes the pain is so bad, we end up committing suicide. After many prayers, I felt from God a total peace that I was doing the right thing.
One of my biggest challenges was telling my mother I was transgender. My mother tends to worry a lot about things and most of all about me. Getting my mother to start using my new name and using the proper pronoun was going to be a challenge. One of the most embarrassing times was at the store and she would say “he,” which would drive me crazy. I had to get her to understand that when she uses the wrong gender in front of people, we don’t know if they are transphobic, and that it could possibly put my life in danger. Now, my mother is much better, and occasionally she may slip, but is quick to correct herself.
Another challenge I faced was transitioning on the job. With staff who knew you before, they either accept you or not, and you need to know how to deal with it. You need to understand that your transition is a process for people in your life. It will take them time to adjust. When you transition, they transition too. For new staff coming on, it is a matter of others not outing you to them, so that you can tell them when you are ready. One main thing to keep in mind is you may be fired from your job.
I tell other transgender people to carry themselves in a positive way. Build yourself a “platform” for yourself, so when you tell others you are transgender, they won’t care. You want people to know who you are on the inside, rather than focusing on your outward appearance. My mother wrote in a letter to a friend of hers, “Just because the cover of the book has changed, inside the story still remains the same.”
Some challenges I didn’t totally anticipate. It used to take me five minutes to wash my hair, but now that’s 45 minutes to an hour. At concerts or sporting events, the bathroom lines I face are out the door. Buttons on blouses and zippers on pants are on the other side. Sometimes I find myself changing outfits three or four times to match shoes and purses. I’ve had to learn medical terms of the other gender, which you are now.
In my next article I will talk about “Living a Double Life.”
Karen Kendra Holmes works for the Federal Government as a Safety Officer. Besides her full- time job with the Federal Government she is a part-time radio host on WPFW 89.3 FM on the “Inside Out LGBTQ Show” on WPFW 89.3 FM. She also writes a column for Baltimore OUTloud under the column called “Trans Lives”. Karen received the Engendered Spirit Award from Capital Pride on June 7, 2018. She also was a TEDx Speaker with TEDx Asbury Park, NJ on May 19, 2018. In April 2017 she received the “2017 Monica Roberts Advocacy Award”. She was selected in January 2017 by LGBTQ Nation as one of the “Top 50 Successful Transgender Americans You Need to Know”. In May of 2015, she was honored in a special edition among 41 other women from around the world in The Platform Magazine, for up and inspiring females who have made a difference with their platform and inspired others with their positive values towards others. In April 2014 she received the “Willis Greene Community Service Award” and the “Unsung Hero Award-Team” by the Corporation for National & Community Service. In October 2013 she received “Soldier of the Year”, out of the country, by the State Guard Association of the United States out of 24 states and 23 thousand soldiers. In December 2012 she received “NCO Soldier of the Year” by the Maryland State Guard Association and The Maryland Defense Force. She was selected in August 2012 by The International Women’s Leadership Association, "A Woman of Outstanding Leadership in the Business Owner Division".
With the Maryland Defense Force under the Maryland National Guards she was a Staff Sergeant with Force Protection, the Chaplain’s Unit as a Chaplain’s Assistance, Honor Guard, and MWR. She has been doing volunteer work with the American Red Cross for the National Capital Region since 2009 on the Disaster Action Team. For several years, she has been volunteering with Community Emergency Response Team (CERTs) in Prince George's County, MD, and also with the Medical Reserve Corps. She sits on the board for the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) in Prince George's County, MD. Karen also use to sit on the board for DC Metro PFLAG working with the Transgender Community. She is now the chapter president of the Transgender Veterans Support Group (TVSG) for Maryland. Before Karen’s transitioned, she previously volunteered with the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission Park Police Prince George's County Division for 7 years, 5 of them as their President, and received several awards for her service, such as two Commander’s Awards and two Volunteer of the Year Awards. In December 2005 she received the Governor’s Crime Prevention Award for her outstanding work and leadership with Park Police Volunteer Association. She has her own side business called SafetyFirst DMV and is certified as an instructor through the National Safety Council (NSC). Karen believes whole heartedly in the importance of and Giving Back to her Community.