The day I transition I finally became Free to live my life as Karen. When I was Tony, I was happy, but never the way I am now. In this article I will be speaking about myself in the third person about Tony. I am doing so because I am no longer him and he is so different than I am today. He was highly active with friends, women, volunteering and going out and just enjoying what he thought was being happy. The problem, Tony was not truly happy due to a big secret and double life he was living. Tony, I felt was a wonderful man, but living a lie to who he really was inside, and it was tearing him up. June 2010 he was invited to attend the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. After years of praying to God to show him why he was dressing like a woman, at the conference Tony found out the answer. To hear other Transgender people’s story, he understood who he was deep inside. For three months Tony and his job worked on him coming out to his family, friends, and co-workers on October 1, 2010.

Understanding back in June of 2010, I realize my truth and knew I wanted to be free. So, on October 1, 2010, the chains feel off and what I will say in the jail doors were now open wide for me. Once I walked out that door that kept me captive for 40 years, I became 150% happier. No more hiding who I was and living the dream of what I had been thinking about for years. I was free to be open with my family, friends, co-workers, and most of all with all of my volunteer groups as myself. Later I was asked to join the Maryland Defense Force, which I was happy to join. One year later I started speaking at small events about my transition and how good things were happening to me ever since I became Karen. Ever since I have been making a lot of appearances with the police and fire departments, county and federal governments, military, schools, colleges, universities, religious organizations, and community organizations, etc. In my speaking engagements, it is not changing people’s beliefs, it is about gaining respect and getting people to understand who I am, who my community is. At a lot of my speaking, I have changed minds on how people view the Transgender Community.

Soon when the Federal Government lifts travel for the program and agency I am volunteering with the Department of Justice / Community Relation Service, I will be speaking around the country to bridging the gap between Law Enforcement and the Transgender Community. I hope by me speaking out about my life and the transgender community, law enforcement officers will have a better understanding and respect towards us when they stop or detain the Transgender Community. How to treat our community when our identification and how we present ourselves does not match. How to act when making an arrest as well as doing a frisk. Understanding how an officer approaches a Transgender person, will make a big difference in a health response from us. In our minds we have no idea what the officer is thinking about during a traffic stop. I remember one night when I was stopped by DC Police 10 years ago before my transition. The officer after looking at me dressed and my driver’s license did not match, asked me how I would like to be addressed. In my head I am thinking, “I don’t care, I just don’t want to be arrested”. He explained why he stopped me and let me go with a verbal warning. As I drove off, I felt so good inside of how that officer handled the traffic stop.

You can find my TEDx Talk when you Google my name. If  you need to talk you can email me at or visit my personal website at  In my next article I’ll talk about “My Family and Friends Transition Too”. What I want to leave with you all is to get out and Vote come November 2020. Do Early voting and if you go to the polling center, wear your mask and Be Safe. Until then Shoot for the Moon and even if You Miss, You’ll Be Among the STARS!

Author Profile

Karen Kendra Holmes
Karen Kendra Holmes
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.