We're excited to share this letter from Monica Helms, an excerpt from the book To My Trans Sisters. Edited by trans activist Charlie Craggs, To My Trans Sisters gathers letters from 100 trailblazing trans women, inluding Laura Jane Grace and Isis King.
Monica Helms is the creator of the transgender pride flag. She donated the flag, which she created in 1999, to the Smithsonian, the world’s largest museum and research complex. Monica served in the US Navy for eight years and is the founder and former President of the Transgender American Veterans Association. She was notably the first trans person elected to a Democratic National Convention from Georgia and the South, and is an author, having written over 20 short stories.
To my trans sisters,
I’ve been asked to write you an inspirational letter because, for some reason, I am a trans woman of some notoriety. If this is true, I sure as hell didn’t start off hoping I would become well known by other trans people. The journey that I started in 1997 was one that scared the shit out of me. "Why me?" I asked myself. "Why do I have to make this change in my life?" Now, 20 years later, I look back and say, "I should have started sooner."
At this very moment, I am looking at 66 years on this planet, and there was no way I could have started any sooner than when I did. At the age of five, I prayed to God to turn me into a girl. I was raised Catholic and in 1956 I thought of God in the same way as we see Amazon today. Put in your order and God will send it to you. Apparently, I wasn’t one of God’s Prime members, so it took him 41 years to fulfill my order. I guess for God, that’s one-day delivery.
The life ahead of you is filled with many dangers. I won’t sugar-coat it for you. Depending on where you live in this world, you could be well protected by your government or hunted like a wild animal. Don’t isolate yourself. Make as many face-to-face friends as you can. We are stronger in numbers. Learn ways to protect yourself and your friends. Laugh as much as you can. Cry when you need to. And remember, a smile can be very disarming.
I was lucky in where I was, what job I had and what friends were with me when I started my transition. I only wish my sisters the same luck. But not all will find that when they start. The rest of us have to be there for them. Don’t let the good luck you have in your life make you turn a blind eye to those less fortunate. Use your new-found voice to speak up for your trans brothers and sisters. I know this book is geared toward the trans sisterhood, but you can’t turn away from our brothers. Their strength adds a lot to our survival. Embrace them as you do your sisters.
Fight for our rights. Fight for our lives. Fight for our right to exist. "Fighting" can take many forms, and violence doesn’t have to be part of that. I have been on the front lines for many years, and I have lost some battles and won many others. Keep this in mind. You are not fighting for yourself but for the lives of those trans people who haven’t been born yet. It makes me smile to think that some of you who are reading this weren’t born when I started my journey 20 years ago. I fought for you, so you now fight for others.
I guess that is all I can say for now. I have a great love for all of you out there. You have to remember, you have been selected to be a trans woman for a reason. I think I found my reason. I hope you find yours.
published October 16, 2017
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