Trans Talk: Transition in Prison

Trans Talk: Transition in Prison

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Listen to the Kansas City Community Radio interview with JoAnna Ramsey, a transgender woman who experienced a harrowing time incarcerated in Kansas within the male prison population, and she will be speaking with us about herself, what she went through in prison, and her transgender activism behind the wall.

Our very own, Caroline Gibbs, founder of the Transgender Institute of Kansas City, joined them to discuss how the Institute worked to help JoAnna, as well as plans for a future outreach project for transgender prisoners.

Click here to listen to Trans Talk: Transition in Prison on Kansas City Community Radio.

Your story, my story...our stories.

Allison’s Story

In the simplest of summations, I am currently in my ninth year at my job. A place where I not only transitioned but stood my ground. Soon, I’ll have my B.F.A. All the clues are here. In my life, I have lived in Spain, Germany, and across the United States where I would eventually settle in Kansas City with my cat, Grimlock. None of these things is particularly relevant without the context of what it is I have become, which I’d have considered a monster before transition and a hybrid where it suits the world after. I’ll gloss over my many potential deaths, both at my hands and at the hands of others. I swear they’re as mundane as humanly possibly, if not haunting in my lore.

If I were to start anywhere for my so-called gender highlights I would start in Florida. You know things about yourself and you know things about the world, even at two or three or seven and ten. When you extrapolate what you know, you learn that no one can ever know what you are. Having a word for it doesn’t matter. My Floridian adventures as a child offset my physical dismay. Adventure waits for no one.

At eleven, I moved to Germany where I would spend ample time with anything I could if it were to accommodate the sex I was. Clothes are a type of magical boon when you can’t quite reach what’s under the skin. It had to do. I continued to keep my secrets for years. Although the locks loosened when a friend I found in Virginia mysteriously began pretending to be female characters from the comics we’d read with me. We did what we assumed normal girls did. Maybe we didn’t assume incorrectly.

When I was shoved through the magical pubescent doors is when worldly collapse became imminent. It was at this time, aged thirteen years, like a goodly liquor, that I came to Kansas City. Years after my arrival I would come out. Terrifying experiences, these. Unfair, ultimately, that I will have to come out for the rest of my life as I date, as people learn of me, etc. However, no friend let me down, turned me away, or violated my physical or spiritual form.

Kansas City would be the place I would tell my ex-girlfriend, now my bestest of best friends. She is my cosmic friend forever. She wrestled with me as much as I did. It would eventually be her to force my hand in my transition. From there I called Caroline, who, in a cab, helped me until we could meet by appointment. Her office was cozy, and tiny, and hot. We formed a plan to tell my family involving letters, blackmail, and breaking and entering with a touch of evidence planting. We were prepared for two frame-ups and body disposal, where necessary.

Only the letters would come to pass—mostly because the rest was illegal, and I just now made it up—but the case of my transition became strangely compelling to me nonetheless. My family just added it to my black sheep list of traits and continued loving me as they always have. Ish. My grandparents still use male pronouns and deadname me, but I’ll take what I can get. I haven’t lost a single person in my life from my transition. From there I was put on hormones. The door had been pried from its frame.

On the other side, however, was a war I was determined to win. Believe me, the tyranny of the many is formidable, but not impossible. If I choose to stand, I will. The effort of no longer pretending to be someone is as abstract as it is burdensome; it’s terrifying to be so exposed. I chose a name that would give me a goal, but more than that, it would give me armor. My personal image would spring from this single word that I claimed as mine, and I have spent years tempering it. My middle name would follow not only the flow but also the precedent.

Caroline mused about other things, such as teaching voice feminization, compartment, groups of therapy, and things like shows. I was there when they began and stayed at her disposal if she needed a volunteer to help out for a few years. I would pull away from the trans community here. To be fair, it had been pulling away from me.
Now, I tend to think of my name as a whisper echoed only in passing by ghosts long departed for the past. The future, though, couldn’t be brighter.


Allison B.

Lecture on the Bible and transgender identity

What does the bible say?

Ever wonder? Join us on July 31st at 3pm for this FREE lecture:

A Presentation on the Bible and Transgender Identity

Presented by our very own, Una Nowling.

Click the Event’s link below for more information or visit the TransCity post.

DATE: July 31, 2016

PLACE: Johnson County Central Library, Carmack Community Room

                 9875 W. 87th Street, Overland Park, KS 66212

TIME: 3:00 pm – 4:51 pm


Your story, my story...our stories.

Michelle’s Story

Your story, my story...our stories.I am new to the whole transgender thing, I am 65 years old and at the age of 64 I realized I was a TransWoman. In March, 2016, I started going to The Transgender Institute and seeing Caroline Gibbs on a regular basis. I literally feel she has saved my life!!! The Transgender Institute and all of its staff have been very helpful, informative, and caring. I have felt extremely comfortable while in their care.

This can really be a life saving event if you are as troubled as I was. I came there initially for Voice lessons, and having seen a previous therapist and doctor and already on small dosage of HRT. Caroline recognized I was not really being cared for properly and got me with the right local doctors who I feel really care for me.

NOW, I am on track to be the Woman I am. I have always been able to get an appointment when needed, and the Group Voice Therapy is the best. In addition, I have gained new friendships (in the group voice lessons) and am feeling so much better about myself.

A special thanks goes out to the staff at the Transgender Institute.

Michelle W., 65 yr old Engineer


Transgender Bathroom Hysteria, Cont’d.

Transgender Bathroom Hysteria, Cont’d. –

After the withering backlash against North Carolina for passing a discriminatory law against gay and transgender people last month, it would stand to reason that lawmakers and governors in other states would think twice before peddling bills that dictate which restrooms transgender people can use.

Please check out this article Transgender Bathroom Hysteria, Cont’d. – for the rest of the story!

Transgender History Event

Transgender History: Stories of Our People

Who are we as a people? What is our shared heritage? Who are our pioneers?

Please join transgender historian Una Nowling, the hostess of “Trans Talk” on 90.1 KKFI and founder of the Transas City Project, as she takes us on an audiovisual journey through transgender history!

Presented in honor of the affiliation between the Transas City Project and The Transgender Institute.

Transgender History Event

DATE:  Sunday, April 24, 2016

TIME: 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm

LOCATION: The Transgender Institute: 8080 Ward Parkway, Suite 400, Kansas City, MO


Refreshments will be provided. There is no cost to attend, although donations will be accepted for transgender persons in need in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

Hope to see you there!

Review of “The Danish Girl”

Screening of The Danish Girl

The Danish Girl Review
By Samantha Kay

4.5 out of 5 Stars


I saw “The Danish Girl” as part of a special screening sponsored by The Transgender Institute on December 15, 2015.  Purposefully I refrained from reading any reviews prior to the viewing, but I did read up on the life of Einar Wegener so as to gain some historical balance.  (It should be noted that while the movie is based on historical notes, it is not considered a documentary.  The timeline and some of the finer points, including the details around her surgery, have been met with creative licensing). Besides viewing the movie with members of the LGBT community I was joined by my wife, Julie.  For the record I am a transgender woman and this review reflects my opinion with input from Julie and others.

Be aware there are spoilers and possible triggers.

The Danish Girl is a movie inspired by the lives of Einar and Gerda Wegener played respectively by Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander.  The movie was directed by Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech” and “Les Miserables”).  It is based on the true the story of how Einar transitions and becomes one of the first transgender women to undergo gender reassignment surgery.

The movie portrays a story of love between Einar and Gerda Wegener, a married couple, set in Copenhagen during the 1920s.  Both Einar and Gerda are painters with Einar being an accomplished painter of landscapes while Gerda is struggling to gain an audience for her portrait paintings.  They live a somewhat bohemian lifestyle with friends that participate in the arts including their friend Ulla (Amber Heard) who is involved in ballet.

During one of Gerda’s painting sessions her portrait model was unable to attend so she asks Einar to sit in as a temporary replacement.  While hesitant he succumbs to Gerda’s pressure and sits for the painting with a dress draped over his legs and his feet in heels.  During the session he is taken back by the feeling of the dress and fabric against his skin.  A few moments later Ulla drops in carrying a bouquet and after a bit of innocent teasing places one of the flowers on his lap and dubs him Lily.  Later that evening Gerda asks if there is something he wishes to tell her and he replied, “Is there something you want to hear?”  In one of the proceeding evenings she discovers he is wearing women’s undergarments as a way of sharing his femme persona.

Gerda later paints his portrait while he is sleeping and adds feminine characteristics.  Jointly they go to the backstage of the theatre and pick out an outfit and wig.  Gerda continues to paint the portrait of a freshly made up Lily with porcelain skin, auburn hair and red lips.  Shortly thereafter Gerda’s portraits of Lily catch the eye of a local art dealer and her painting career takes off.  Then while preparing for a social gathering they both decide to present Lily to the public as part of a social experiment and game. The ruse becomes real for Lily, and the ensuing transition begins.  During this time their relationship changes.  In one scene Gerda announces, “I need my husband”.  This line resonated with both myself and Julie.  The tears in both our eyes began to swell while we clenched hands and a glance was shared.

During the middle part of the movie several things take place.  Lily begins to present more frequently and Gerda continues to paint her portraits.  Lily begins to seek medical advice and is met with skepticism and is diagnosed with everything from schizophrenia to homosexuality.  The medical community even suggested shock therapy, brain surgery and placement in a mental facility.  After the initial shock therapy the reply to the question, “how are you doing” was a somber, “you hurt Lily.”

In part to avoid further scrutiny, and due to Gerda’s painting career, they move to Paris and Lily begins to present full-time.   Lily researches her gender identity at the local library and while heading home she is assaulted and severely beaten.  At about this time a third character is introduced, Hans Axgil, played by Matthias Schoenaerts, an old friend of Einar whom Gerda seeks out.  Gerda learns from Hans that Einar and he shared an innocent kiss when they were young and Einar was wearing his grandmother’s kitchen apron.  He rekindles his friendship with Einar and meets Lily.  Hans acts as an ally for both Einar/Lily and Gerda.

Eventually they end up moving back to Copenhagen, and they learn of a surgeon that has developed a procedure for transsexual surgery.  The process is explained as a two-part operation.  The first one removes the male genitals, and the second is to implant a womb.  After recovering from the first surgery Lily takes a job at a local department store and blends with the other women selling cosmetics and perfumes.  Their relationship stays strong although Gerda is struggling and seeks out support from Hans. Eventually Lily decides to undergo the second surgery so as to align her body and possibly bear children.  The organ transplant is rejected and Lily passes while recuperating at the surgical hospital.

The movie ends with Gerda and Hans visiting the homeland where Einar grew up and viewing a landscape depicted in one of his earlier paintings.   A scarf that belonged to Lily blows away into the wind as the movie credits begin to roll.

Overall I think the movie was great, and has been nominated for a few academy awards.1  The costume and set design were excellent and captured what life must have been like in 1920s Copenhagen.  The muted colors with bluish tint along with the cobblestone streets and brick buildings were exquisite.  The camera angles, slightly above eye level, highlighted Redmayne’s femininity.  Casting a cisgender male has been criticized by some but I didn’t see that as a problem as I believe it added to the realism.

Ten years ago I would have been considered cis and the transition as portrayed resonated with me.  By the way there is a transgender actress from the “Boy Meets Girl” series, Rebecca Root.  She plays acisgender woman as a nurse in this movie.   She and many other transwoman consulted on the movie. Seeing transgender actors and actresses in non-trans roles is an important milestone.  Besides, Redmayne is an accomplished actor, and I believe he captured the struggles I face as a transgender woman.

While Redmayne’s acting at times seemed technical and crafted, I felt that also added to the realism as I have often acted my way through life as I presented cis.  Even when learning to present as my feminine self I would have to act out as a woman and mimic women I admired until I was comfortable.  The same thing happens with Einar as he transitions to Lily.   Take for example when Lily was walking down the cobblestone street towards the middle of the movie, a 15-second scene but one that could earn him an acting Oscar.

In contrast, the acting of Vikander was exquisite and at times did not seem like acting, which is the hallmark of a great performance.  I do wish they had expanded on the depth of her character as well as the challenges a partner goes through while the other is transitioning.  Although they did touch on this subject, I think it could have been further developed without taking away from the main story.  I also enjoyed the character of Ulla, the glamorous friend of both Einar/Lily and Gerda, and Amber Heard deserves a nod for her supporting role, both in the movie and with Lily’s transition.

In some reviews there was criticism of the characterization of Einar becoming Lily as sexualized and fraught with femme erotica.  I didn’t get that although I did sense the enjoyment and excitement Einar experienced while touching and wearing stockings.  I think being attractive can be sexy without introducing aspects of erotica or fetishism and I believe the writers pulled that off.  There is a scene when in a dysphoric state Einar rushes to the theatre and pulls clothing and accessories from the rack and stops in front of a mirror.  He quickly discards his male attire, like a suit made of fiberglass, and examines his body while tucking his genitalia.  In another scene, Einar/Lily mimics a girl from behind glass during a peep show.

I also think the surgery procedures could have been explained a bit more especially for the segment of the audience that doesn’t understand the process.  The timeline seemed a bit disjointed with gaps that weren’t explained and others that jumped too quickly.  The ending was somewhat of a cliché with the scarf blowing in the wind; however, I did like the tie-in to his earlier landscape paintings when revisiting his childhood home.

All in all I enjoyed the movie.  To me it was a love story between two people who both endured challenges as one transitioned.  Bottom line is go see the movie and decide for yourself.  I do suggest going with supportive friends, loved ones or both.  P.S. Bring along a few tissues just in case.

Academy Award Nominations for The Danish Girl

  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Eddie Redmayne
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Alicia Vikander
  • Best Achievement in Production Design: Eve Stewart and Michael Standish
  • Best Achievement in Costume Design: Paco Delgado

Did you see The Danish Girl? What did you think?