Written by XaXa McQueen.
Photo by Lexi Webster.
It’s already hard enough being a transwoman. Far too many of us have little to no familial support. The discrimination that we endure has been normalized, to the point that we have even been killed without recourse over and over. The current presidential administration has done everything to destroy and subvert all of the policies that have protected us. After years of somehow tapping our resilience to overcome these and many more barriers, then we’re challenged with facing them in the midst of a pandemic and quarantine.
I chatted up a few trans professionals to see how they are dealing with isolating while being trans. I spoke with the star of Amazon’s ‘Big Dogs’, Pooya Mosheni (she/her) an Iranian American actor, writer, script consultant and trans advocate; Emmy Morgan (she/her) a transgender advocate, author and host of The Spilled Tea Podcast; and Curry Kautz (they/them) a student at UMass Amherst and advocate member of the university’s True Colors – Out Youth Theater Program.
Having a support system is key to survival. I asked the subjects how they’d been finding support during quarantine personally, professionally and in terms of community connection.
Curry reveals, “My network has changed a lot because of the pandemic. I ended up staying with faculty for 2 months.” They continue, “I didn’t even have a personal connection to these faculty before I lived with them. They heard that I wasn’t sure where I was going to be living and reached out to me, and it felt like a good decision. I have a handful of close friends who I call pretty regularly, as well.”
Know that you are stronger than you think. Know your value. Surround yourself with those who allow you and inspire you to be your best YOU. And whenever you lose the opportunity to connect with others, take that time to connect with yourself.
Some of us have one or two close friends we can rely on, but then there are those who have no one. It is up to those with resources in this area to reach out and help those who need it most. While Emmy says that her personal network has been “extremely supportive,” she noted that in general, “support from the black community [would be most helpful during these times]. I wish they would stop killing us and justifying it with trans panic.” The dread that black transwomen have been feeling about the disdain coming from our OWN black community is very real and prevalent right now. Knowing that we have marched for Black lives and acted to protect Black women but some of those same Black folks couldn’t care less about us, and often even condone the harm done to us. This is important to me because the point she made was something that I had been feeling engulfed by the whole time I was trying to write this article. On many occasions, it was a sentiment that impeded my progress in doing so. I chose not to highlight those feelings, but they still came through when they were affirmed by Emmy, and that connection was something that I needed.
Pooya relays, “My network of artists, extended queer family and immediate family were very accessible and somehow the pandemic made them even more accessible as everyone was just a phone or skype call away. But, I also heard that there were many people who felt very isolated on their own. I’m very much a self-sufficient person, maybe it’s because I grew up without a community, so I relied on myself and that’s who I am. But there were dark days of not knowing what w[ould] happen and on those days, a simple message or text from a friend that said hi. was thinking of you was very much welcomed.”
Maintaining and nurturing supportive relationships seems to be the most effective way to cope with the distance. Pooya notes, “Having Skype, Zoom, Facebook, Instagram and [the] phone makes it very easy to stay in touch with people around the world and those apps and technologies have definitely shown their value in this period of isolation. Looking back, some relationships emerged, some completely died and some strengthened. I’ve come to believe that hard times show us who we are and who others are. My mom and I were staying together which was maddening at times, especially in a studio, but it made me realize that there are young queer kids out there, either in the US, or Iran, or somewhere in between, who needed to feel connected and seen. And I tried to make myself available for video chats with those people to just keep them grounded, until we know what to do next.” Curry agrees, “Calls have been my go-to for socially distanced interaction. I’ve made more calls to people now that I see people less often. I didn’t have a love or sex life before quarantine! So I had nothing to sustain, lol. I’ve tried to stay updated with my chosen family. I’ve gotten more involved in organizing that I was previously doing, and there’s been a lot more mobilizing around the idea of abolition so there’s a lot to plug into. I usually have a few calls a day, and I’ve made a lot more connections to people as I get more involved.”
Since earning money presents a magnified hurdle…for transwomen historically; maintaining that “trans-ness” through this pandemic can be a challenge.
For me, one of the hardest things about being a transwoman is the lack of access to resources. As anyone familiar with the trans experience knows, medically transitioning is expensive. The cost of getting hormone therapy meds is no joke. The auxiliary costs of transitioning; clinical visits, hormones, civil document upgrades and psychiatrist visits are approximately $25-30,000 per year. Not to mention the cost of gender affirming surgery. Bottom surgeries average around $25,000. The rigor of updating civic documentation is even less funny. Navigating a transition while being quarantined makes obtaining those resources that much harder. Since earning money presents a magnified hurdle, as it has been a significant obstacle for transwomen historically, maintaining that “trans-ness” through this pandemic can be a challenge.
When I asked how her transition had been impacted, Pooya acknowledged her privilege saying, “I transitioned 22 years ago, but I know people who were in stages that need care from different doctors or other healthcare professionals, and those appointments, whether they were for psychiatric care or surgery, were all indefinitely postponed.” Emmy shared, “Some of the feminine luxuries that help curb my dysphoria aren’t there. Nail salon, hair salon, gym.” Curry affirms, “My transition hasn’t been interrupted. [But] since my self-care has gone down, there have definitely been days where I am unhappy with my appearance.” Detransitioning is not something transwomen want to experience because, looks aside, not being able to procure and partake meds can be lethal. This is why, sadly, a disproportionate majority of transfolk- particularly transwomen of color- resort to using less reputable methods to get treatment and HRT medications.
With clients practicing isolation, funds have been cut off. Without access to their clients, there’s no money to buy the necessary meds to continue treatment.
Many transwomen rely on support from benefactors or significant others for assistance. While food and shelter may get covered by the funds earned from tricking or performing, hormone meds and other necessities still lie beyond their financial grasp. Some of the clients acquired from their sex work become long time benefactors. Some even become full time lovers and fiduciary providers. Unfortunately, this pandemic has disconnected a vast amount of those relationships. With clients practicing isolation, funds have been cut off. Without access to their clients, there’s no money to buy the necessary meds to continue treatment. Curry confides, “I have been really lucky regarding resources during quarantine, my housing has been somewhat shaky but I’ve had people to support me. Being in quarantine has caused me to neglect self-care more. This negatively affected my mood and how I felt about myself, but I’ve recently started to try to do better, and it has helped a lot.” Pooya tells us, “I’m an actor and a massage therapist, and both those fields were heavily impacted by the Quarantine. In other words, I was mostly out of work, however I was fortunate enough to collaborate on zoom and self taped pieces with other artists around the country during the month of May and June which was a welcome change. I live in midtown Manhattan, which was the epicenter of the pandemic in the US and suddenly going to grocery stores became an adventure. But on the other hand, because I live in Manhattan, I could walk to the different stores, which is something that minimized interaction with other people and made it a little less difficult to keep food in the fridge and necessities in the apartment.”
Pooya leaves this bit of advice for her fellow transfolk: “Know that you are stronger than you think. Know your value. Surround yourself with those who allow you and inspire you to be your best YOU. And whenever you lose the opportunity to connect with others, take that time to connect with yourself. The things you find may surprise you, but even if they don’t, knowledge is power and who better to have power over you, than YOU!”
Here are some resources that have focused on supporting transwomen during this pandemic and could help navigate the quarantine a little easier:
About The Author
XaXa McQueen is a writer and contributing editor at Salty. She is a model and advocate of equal rights for trans and non-binary individuals. She also devotes her time to the Persist 4 Peace Initiative by focusing on her latest project, Connect + Commune.