SWAMPSCOTT — Trevor Boylston and Kay Gordon each told their transition stories at the Swampscott Public Library, which invited members from SpeakOUT Boston to share their stories of being transgender.
Boylston, 40, and Gordon, 27, spoke with attendees before opening the room up to questions. Library employees also surrounded the room with a number of titles and books that related to trans issues, including picture books for kids, at an all-ages range.
“The thought behind this was we wanted to put together an event where people know, here at the library, we are a place for everybody,” said Laura Williams, Swampscott librarian and head of the circulation and collection departments. “We are enthusiastic people who believe in the freedom of information.”
Founded in 1972, SpeakOUT is a community of speakers working to create a world free of homo-bi-transphobia and other forms of prejudice by telling the truths of their lives, according to the website. It has more than 100 members who travel to different venues to share their stories.
Boylston, assigned a female at birth in South Carolina, was raised on the North Shore in Salem, they said. At 8 years old, Boylston said they didn’t feel welcome to play with boys or girls in the same age range as them.
“I knew I was a boy but no one else around me knew this,” said Boylston.
They started their gender transition in 2005 and currently identify as a heterosexual male, said Boylston. According to the Associated Press, gender transition is the process by which transgender people change the physical characteristics associated with the sex or the gender they were identified as having at birth to those matching their own gender identity.
“Once I was out and able to be myself, I was finally able to connect with people,” said Boylston.
Gordon uses they/them pronouns and identifies as genderqueer and/or nonbinary, which is when their gender identity is something other than strictly male or female, according to AP. They grew up in Los Angeles and did not come out as bisexual until college, because no one in their high school was “out” in 2008, they said.
Now, they identify as pansexual, which is the attraction toward people regardless of their sex or gender identity.
One resident, who wished to remain anonymous, asked the two speakers how they processed the gender transition and how they stopped remembering their old selves.
“It helped to surround myself with people who validated my gender,” said Gordon.
On the topic of how to properly address someone without being offensive, Gordon said it is not necessary to greet someone using gender but there is the option of using “mix,” which is a combination of miss and mister. They also defined “trans masculine” as being more about the gender direction a person is headed toward, the one that brings them closer to their truth, said Gordon.
“You are what you are because you say it,” said Gordon.
Boylston touched upon the difference of living as a man and as a woman. Things such as job interviews and getting an oil change are different experiences for men and women, they said.
“Male privilege is very much a real thing, whether you want to believe it or not,” said Boylston. “I’ve seen it from both sides.”
Attendees also asked about the best ways to have these conversations with children. Salem resident Sheila Benger shared the story of her 7-year-old grandchild who is transgender. Assigned male at birth, Benger said her grandchild now identifies as a girl and is suicidal since the father and other set of grandparents don’t agree with it.
Gordon and Boylston told attendees not to be afraid to ask anything, even if they didn’t know how to phrase it. The conversations during the hour and a half-long event were positive, open, and informative.
“I came to support a program like this and to hear, learn, and understand,” said Swampscott resident Sue Burgess. “It’s important to be informed about this.”