By: Katie Porter
Her wrist bangles jingle as she flips her hair back behind her rhinestone studded headband. She rests her arm on her waist and takes a deep breath.
“I thought I was the only boy who knew he was a girl, and that terrified me,” Darya said in a deep voice.
Darya, who withheld her last name to protect her identity, is a transgender person.
She came to Santa Ana College on Oct. 2 to deliver a personal account of her struggle, being perceived as someone socially taboo.
Most people view sex as dualistic, she explains, but there is some gray area. Individuals who defy traditional gender roles find themselves somewhere in between.
As a child, she slipped on one of her mother’s dresses and felt a sense of peace. The urge continued throughout college, where girlfriends couldn’t sexually excite her — but trying on their shoes did. She kept her identity a secret, and settled down with a wife and two kids.
West Hollywood in the 1950s was the perfect backdrop of false appearances and two-faced personalities. While other people in her town were hiding their addictions and putting on white picket disguises, Darya was also pretending.
“I thought maybe I was just a cross-dresser. I didn’t really know. I was just trying to make myself whole,” Darya said.
Desperate to fit in, she molded into whatever roles she needed to play, in front of teachers, friends and parents. She was unfamiliar with and afraid of herself, running from her identity by putting on masks for others. But the more she suppressed it, the more it persisted.
She was a doting family man, and a spiked stiletto party girl. Darya felt like she was playing the roles of two different people.
“[Life was like] a furious tennis game, my identity moving from one side of the court to another, back and forth,” Darya said.
Hours after picking up her children from school and fixing their dinner, she would be waltzing down Santa Monica Boulevard with a bearded man in a tutu.
As a self-described immature 15-year-old girl in a man’s body, Darya’s true sense of freedom came from the confidence of a corset and makeup.
But the weight of two inharmonious worlds began to take a toll on her, and she came out to her therapist, who suggested she tell her wife. One night in bed, she blurted it out.
“I felt so much lighter. The tennis ball stopped switching back and forth and the net came down,” Darya said.
Life is easier nowadays, since she has accepted herself and does not hide who she is.
Having the support of her family has played a huge part in the peace she now feels.
Her relationship with her wife has never been better, and their kids, now adults, accept her, rhinestone headband and all.
Society, though, still views transgenderism and other nonconforming gender identities as perverse, bizarre or a sign of weakness.
“You are only limited by the gender roles you accept,” she said. “I am grateful to have stopped caring and have learned to embrace the full flavor of myself.”
Her journey, which is still evolving, has taught Darya many things about herself.
“I am a better man for having realized the woman that I am.”
Transgender refers to someone who does not necessarily conform to the roles society imposes on the gender they were born as. Their biological sex does not reflect their inner sex, and they may dress or act like the opposite gender. It deals with the person’s sense of self and is completely separate from sexuality. Some transgender people choose to have surgery to transform their bodies, while others do not.