This blog post is part of a series of posts on trans survivors’ experiences of the pandemic. Katie (she/her) is a white, rich, trans girl survivor currently living in occupied O’odham Jewed (Tucson).
Please describe your context and how you’ve coped with the pandemic.
I had just moved to Olympia, WA, to live with my best friend and their kid when the pandemic hit.
It felt really grounding to have a young person to hang out with a lot, as well as dogs to walk, plants to water, chickens to feed, etc. I tried to go on socially distant walks with the handful of friends I knew in town. I left and listened to sooooo many voice memos with loved ones who were far away.
I got insurance stuff figured out so I could get bottom surgery!
I started taking ketamine.
We created a pod that included another family who lived with my friend in a separate house on the property. When people started to have to go back to work, it sometimes felt scary, but ultimately we were able to communicate and make compromises that worked for all of us. For example, the last couple of weeks I lived there, my friend went and stayed at a friend’s house so they could see more people and I could have a low exposure before bottom surgery.
Since July, I’ve been in Arizona waiting to have bottom surgery, which got delayed twice.
But I finally got surgery three weeks ago! I’ve been watching so much TV and switching between being in a pod with two of my friends and being in my partner’s house’s pod.
How has the experience of the pandemic intersected with your experience of your gender/ your experience as a trans or non-binary person, if at all?
It’s been nice not to go out in public very much. I don’t feel much pressure to pass, and I’m around people who gender me correctly all the time.
It was hard to deal with the uncertainty of scheduling surgery during the pandemic, and I’ve felt a lot more isolated during that process than I think I would have at another time. People have been really sweet about dropping off food and hanging out in the yard, but it’s sad not to be able to have lots of visitors. However, my friend and my partner were really supportive when I was in the hospital– they quarantined beforehand and came to stay with me! It’s been intense to rely on specific people so much but I’ve felt really celebrated and loved when I get to talk to people on the phone.
How has the experience of the pandemic intersected with your experience of survivorship, if at all? For example: What, if anything, has triggered associations with trauma? Some folks describe needing to live with someone who harmed them or feeling increased anxiety. What, if anything, has triggered coping skills you learned from your trauma? How has that gone?
When I moved to Olympia, I had a really triggering time hanging out with the person who abused me. The space I had during quarantine helped me set some hard boundaries with them, and it was nice to not have to make choices about seeing them in public. I eventually blocked their number and felt really good about that– it feels like I’m moving on in a new way after 2 years since we broke up.
Getting support from my current partner has brought up a lot! Sometimes I’ve been really triggered when I’ve relied on them for transportation, housing, and care after surgery. It feels really vulnerable, and reminds me of times when I couldn’t have space from my abuser because we were living together or travelling together. Talking about those memories with my partner now has helped me feel safe with them, and remember the ways I’ve learned to have healthier relationships.
How had the pandemic intersected with any other identities you’d like to share (race, class, disability, etc.?) How do these identities, as well as your experience as a trans survivor, relate to each other?
Having a chronic illness has made the pandemic more isolating than it has been for a lot of people I know. I feel like I have to be really careful to not get sick. It’s like an intensified version of the isolation I already felt being sick all the time, or being trans, or being a survivor. On the other hand, I feel a lot of connection with other ill and disabled and traumatized friends right now.
The pandemic has also highlighted how much class shapes my experience of the world: My family is rich, even if a lot of the time I’m personally broke. My parents gave me money when I got surgery, and knowing that I had a safety net made a lot of the pandemic so far less stressful. I’ve tried to push myself to share more resources and ask for more from my family.
How have you built community among other trans folks and/or survivors?
I feel like most of my friends are trans and are survivors, so I just try to check in on my friends and I also try to ask for help around surgery and times when I’ve felt really triggered and suicidal. I’m learning that letting people know how I’m doing and asking for help can be supportive of them too, and doesn’t have to be transactional or depleting.
How have you found strength, resilience, and creativity during this time?
Humor. I feel like I’ve laughed harder this year than any other time in my life!
I’m also really in love with the two people I’m dating and a bunch of really important friends.
I’ve tried to prioritize taking care of my physical needs (like food and shelter and rest) and my relationships and letting go of doing productive things. I’ll be able to get more work done someday.
Having the project of getting bottom surgery through Medicaid was challenging but it gave me something tangible to focus on this year.
I also work at a trans non-profit, and so I get to see how the work I do helps people even when I can’t save the world.