The premier of this series will feature Decker Moss. Decker Moss is a writer, public speaker, dog-lover, hopeless sports-a-holic, and a twin. And he was born female. At 43, Decker transitioned genders. But the decision was not an easy one. Growing up, Decker always felt like a boy. But he looked and sounded identical to his twin sister. And he loved that. As a result, he’d spent a lifetime emotionally torn between two deeply held identities: his own as male and the one he shared with his female twin. But to become who he truly was on the inside he realized he’d have to walk away from the person he was on the outside—and in doing so not only forever alter his own identity but his twin sister’s as well.
Q. Hello Decker, I am so excited to speak with you. Why do you think it is so important for people to hear your story?
Oftentimes we fear what we don’t understand. And fear can be very short stepping stone to intolerance, discrimination and violence. Transgender people are attacked, or worse, every day in this country simply for being themselves. That has to stop. But before that can happen, we must open ourselves up to understanding. And the best way to do that is to experience something through the eyes of someone who’s lived it. My story shows that I’m no different from anyone else. I get up, I go to work, I hang with my friends, I love my partner and my family. I live my life just like you. I just happen to have been assigned a different gender at birth than the one I am today.
Q. What do you think the biggest lesson is to be learned from your experience?
Patience. In myself and in others. Transitioning gender doesn’t happen overnight. I wanted it to, believe me, but it didn’t. The physical changes take time; I was misgendered along the way more times than I can count. The societal hurdles take even more; changing legal documentation is ridiculously difficult. Plus, when I transitioned, the people around me did too, in their own way. They had to adjust to a new name, new pronouns and a new level of understanding about me. They had to figure out how to cope with it all. And how to tell their friends, and so on and so on. It’s a loooooong process with a ripple effect that seemingly has no end. Learning to be patient was the most important thing I did.
Just be there for them. Talk to them, let them know they have your support no matter what. If they don’t feel comfortable confiding in you,point them to other resources. When I was struggling with the fact that I was gay 14 years ago, my parents knew something was up. But I wouldn’t tell them what it was. So they paid for me to see a therapist. That made all the difference. It gave me the tools and courage to eventually come out.
Does the internet count as its own part of the world? Ha! If so, I’ve found that people are far more likely to say something negative online. Every once in a while I’ll read through the comments on YouTube below my TEDx Talk and there’s some messed up stuff! So I know there are people out there who don’t get it. But just about everyone who knows me either accepted me or learned to adjust over time. As for Arizona, it’s hit and miss. My family doctor who I’d been seeing for over ten years refused to see me anymore simply because he suspected I was having top surgery. And the politics here are pretty disturbing. Of course there was the infamous bill 1062, known as the Turn Away the Gay Bill, that would have allowed companies discriminate against GLBT people under the guise of religious freedom Plus we had a bill, known as the Bathroom Bill, make it through committtee last year that would have made it a crime to use the restroom of the gender other than the one on your birth certificate. Fortunately neither were signed into law. Still, we have a long way to go here.
Q. Who has inspired you to be strong through your journey? Are there any famous faces you look up to?
My partner, Ethan and my sister, Jenny. They were my closest confidants throughout this process. Whenever I got really scared or was struggling with something, they were always there to listen. The owner of the company I work for, Nancy Kramer, was also a huge supporter. She’s the one who made my TEDxColumbus Talk possible and was one of my biggest cheerleader along the way. But so many people have been there for me during this process. As far as famous people go, I definitely look up to Laverne Cox. She’s such a phenomenal spokeswoman for the transgender movement. She has the perfect mix of intelligence, compassion, patience, fierceness and star power. Ethan and I got to meet her at NYC Pride and walk behind her car in the Pride March. It was the highlight of my year!
Q. I have three sets of twins in my family (from both my parents sides), my mother is a twin too! They say a twin relationship is like no other, how would you describe your relationship between your twin now? How was she able to find strength through your journey too?
How cool! My mom is a twin, too and she’s the best! As for my twin sister, our relationship now is phenomenal. But it always has been. I give her huge credit for how she handled my transition. We used to look and sound identical so she could have really resented me for the decisions I made, and for taking away a part of her identity. But early on she developed a mantra: “None of this is about me. It’s about how he feels.” Understanding that gave her a lot of strength. And allowed her to help people who came to her because they were angry or uncomfortable with what I was doing. She knew it was about my happiness and nobody else’s and wwas able to explain that to them. She supported me 100% along the way.
Q. Do you think the mainstream media is doing a better job explaining or showcasing the transgender community?
It depends on the media outlet. FOX News, not so much! But I’ve seen reports and personal profiles on other networks that have done a wonderful job of telling trans stories in a respectful and compassionate way. On the flipside, there’s definitely a preoccupation in mainstream media with surgeries, and thinking it’s okay to ask a trans person which ones they have or haven’t had. Thank you for not asking about that by the way! By going there, the interviewer immediately objectifies the trans person and prevents the viewer from getting to where they really need to go—to hearing about real human experiences. Those stories are what move the needle from confusion to compassion, and eventually understanding.
Q. Last but not least, can you give a simple answer to what you believe makes a happy person?
Happiness is knowing who you are and showing it to the world.
To hear more from Decker Moss and experience the W Empower series, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 480 970 2128. Doors open at 6PM on September 18th 2014. This event is complimentary.
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