IMITATION OF LIFE: An Intimate Look Into The Life of an Historical Transgender Woman; The Erica Kay Story

For most of my life I existed in a paralyzing fear that I survived in an imitation of life. I never felt safe to be my authentic self and announce to the world that I am an intersexed transgender female. Life in most ways was a burden created not by my shame, guilt, and personal self loathing but by my owning the beliefs of others. With a relentless furor I was told that I had a mental illness, had been condemned to hell for changing what God created, was a disgrace, and somehow a pervert caught in deviant behavior. Every stereotypical denigrating comment deepened my shame until I was convinced that I was less than human.  In addition I lived with a deep inner sadness that I was never able to give birth to a child, experience a menstruation period, or to become a mother and grandmother.  Over the years I have delved into the innermost recesses of my being and found something quite different as I finally began to question my own self-worth as a human being. As I began the journey to a necessary healing process I began to visually see that this shadow of my true self had lasting value. I found a loving, gentle person, who had contributed a great deal to society as a whole. At every step in my life I had attempted to treat those around me with kindness, generosity, and patience while lifting those around me to new-found heights. I had shared everything I’d learned that made me successful after learning that we are never truly successful in life until we are willing to assist others in achieving their own greatness. I found no deviant behavior and certainly didn’t suffer from a mental illness. I began to remember who I truly was before this awful nightmare began. This has been a long road to full awareness of Erica Kay and as I became more aware the Imitation of Life has fallen to the wayside crumbling like a bomb damaged building from a war zone.

As a child growing up in the 50″s and in a family where communication of these types of issues could never be discussed I lived with this shame for much too long. I began to fight for my  freedom from the beliefs of others and have emerged from the ashes after watching my life burn to the ground. It is a rebirth of sorts as I formed my own beliefs and carefully defined who and what I would become.

Much of my life was lived without complete honesty about my entire being. Instead of being proud of the human being I was, I tortured myself in this misguided shame. I had to ask some pretty tough questions during this entire process of self discovery and this is what I found. For some of you, you will remember the great classic film Imitation of Life, the story of a young black girl raised within a white community who could pass easily as a white girl and did just that only to be outed as a black repeatedly by her own Mother. In this film she was raised by a black mother working in a white privileged household whose mother was a maid and the best friend of the white employer. Unless you have walked in the shoes of discrimination you may have difficulty understanding the desire to be anything different from a condemned class. For those of you who are not familiar with the film, it is a must see. Because I was always considered a beautiful woman who could easily pass as a biological female (normal,) I chose the easy way out and languished in my secret. It was only to those closest to me that I would share my painful and most protected secret until I was finally outed by the tabloids in 1997. Those tabloids forced my resistance to ever go public with this sacred information by the wayside in one day. My secret was now going around the world in a frenzy of media attention.

After 4 years in prison when my marriage was invalidated as a same-sex marriage for theft of community property (an automobile,) I began to fight back. I studied the law and filed my own habeas corpus and later a civil rights suit in the Federal Courts challenging my conviction. Eventually but years later my conviction was wiped clean. The tabloids repeatedly surfaced destroying my life not once, but four times, my arrest and conviction in Florida which was later overturned, and a complete nervous breakdown, I finally said “enough is enough.” I finally became prepared to tell my entire life story in Bound Between Love.  Writing my story has been vital to the healing process and has spurred me on to become an activist determined to see a TRUE HUMAN RIGHTS ACT to the US Constitution protecting the rights of all humans residing in the United States passed into law.

It was during my healing process that I came to realize that everything I’d carried for too many years was not established by me. I had absorbed the fear, shame, and loathing from the comments and beliefs of some very ignorant, hateful, and cruel persons in this world. I have watched religion and discrimination single others out so they could feel superior in their arrogance of separation. I also witnessed this during my earlier years in the treatment of Blacks, Hispanics, Jews, and Asians. Today we also see these same beliefs attacking Muslims, Hindu’s, and many others who are not Fundamentalist Christians or right-wing conservatives.

What is it about humanity that would cause many to see other humans below other humans with a need to control their way of life? Actually, I am ashamed of those who would tell others that if you are different from me in any way, there is no room for you in our world. I am incensed at this attitude which kept me trapped in a relentlessly deep torment and in an increasingly devastating fear for almost 60 years. This is what caused me to live an imitation of life while suffering a needless shame in silence. I was born and experienced  life as a transgender in a different era.

Today we have young children born with the transgender birth condition or intersexed who have the loving support of their families who have sought the assistance of properly trained medical professionals who are familiar with this birth condition which is enabling four, five, and six years olds to live their authentic lives. I am deeply grateful and proud of the parents of these young children who will prevent their children from experiencing years of needless shame and guilt.

We are growing and changing in this new world but not fast enough. Around the world the ignorance which creates devastating hate and the deaths of so many innocent victims whether through murder, violent attacks, or the emotional scaring of another human must cease. This concept of reparative therapy or beating someone back into another’s version of normal, or simply hating because of differences is insane.

President Obama and his administration has leaped into the future of protections for all humans taking a strong stand for the LGBTQ community during his first term in office and the right-wing would love nothing better than to see him out of office so that our rights can be stripped once again. I keep hearing the Republicans blaming our economy on President Obama. This is crazy, have they forgotten that the economy had already collapsed prior to him taking office. I imagine they would like us to forget. I am one who has a long memory. I do support him for re-election yet believe he can do more and should to guarantee the rights of all humans through the introduction and passage of a true and complete human rights bill.

We are fighting the same fight as Martin Luther King and our African-American community of the 50’s and 60’s.  I am asking you to stand with me as we open the Foundation For International Justice and as we take our pleas to Washington this coming year. We must first find a willing participant in Congress to write and introduce the bill. The time to unite has arrived and I am pleading for your support in whatever way you can contribute. I also ask you to support Obama for re-election in 2012.

Let us change the world together.

Erica Kay


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