The question you may be asking is “Who is Karen Kendra Holmes?” To start things off, I am an advocate for the transgender community. But let me take you back to the time before I became an advocate for my fellow sisters and brothers in the community.
I recall as early as 13 years of age when I started dressing in clothes designed for women. I wasn’t sure why or when I decided to do that, but I felt right within myself to wear women’s clothing and I was more comfortable with myself when I did. For years I purchased women’s clothes, shoes, and wigs to dress in.
I kept the clothes for a year or so and then packed them up to throw them away, only to return to dressing as a woman a few months later. I felt awesome and at peace when I dressed in women’s clothes.
I never talked about my feelings to anyone, not even my parents. Later my parents felt something may be wrong and sent me to see a psychiatrist, who later said I had a chemical imbalance and put me on lithium. After months of using this drug, I realized this was crap – I was able to get off that drug by faking everything was okay. But deep down inside I knew everything wasn’t okay. I was afraid to talk to my parents about what was going on with my dressing because I didn’t understand it myself and couldn’t find the words to explain it. I was confused when I was a young boy and my confusion continued as I grew into a young man.
In my 20s I got married and my wife was okay with my dressing, but six months later she realized that it wasn’t okay and divorced me. That was my first marriage. My second marriage lasted 18 years, and during that time I suppressed Karen and hid her from my wife and her kids. Between marriages I thought I would remove Karen from my life for good by throwing away her clothes yet again, but this time it was over a cliff. About five months later, Karen was back in my life. I couldn’t shake Karen loose, it was a consistent battle and she would return with force each time I tried to remove her from my life. So I embraced the fact that I was a crossdresser, but my soul was still in turmoil.
It was in June 2010 when the start of my life really began. A good friend invited me to the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. I didn’t know what the conference was about, but it sounded like fun – I felt free to crossdress all weekend. The thought of that was exhilarating! The first day of the conference had in attendance about 1,200 transgender people from around the world. I attended the workshops and for the first time in my life, I started to understand why I was in such turmoil. It made me nervous about what I was hearing and now feeling. On the second day, I saw young children who were transgender who were supported by their parents. This helped me to realize that my parents would be supportive and accepting of me being transgender. The third day I was now on fire because it all made sense. It opened my eyes to “me” and forced me to make a decision on the most important part of my life, and that is to be who I really am. I’m not a crossdresser, I am a woman.
I left that conference like a runaway freight train on a mission. I embraced the woman I’ve been hiding from for 40 years. After returning home from the awakening at the conference, my mission to fully become who I was meant to be began. On October 1st, 2010, I began living as a woman full-time. On April 8th, 2016, the actual day of my second birth, my transition from male to female was completed after having sex-reassignment surgery. During my transition, my friends and family were more supportive and understanding than I imagined. I am very thankful to have great friends, great co-workers and the most understanding and supportive parents anyone transitioning could have.
I’m so much happier now and my soul is at peace. My commitment to support the transgender community is stronger than ever because now I’m stronger than ever!
Baltimore OUTloud welcomes Karen to our family of writers! Watch for new column coming in a future issue.
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.