I am Jorge Gutierrez, a queer, brown immigrant who was born in Nayarit, Mexico, and grew up in the Tustin and Santa Ana area in Orange County. I have been living in Los Angeles for over 6 years now. There is so much hateful and racist rhetoric and violence happening in the U.S. and across the globe but I am grateful that I get to run a national grassroots trans and queer Latinx organization, so I get to channel a lot of my anger and frustration into the organizing and advocacy work we do every day. But I also do lots of dancing, hang out with friends and family, and eat lots of tacos to find joy and celebrate who I am. Being authentic is so important, so needed, and truly a revolutionary act when you think about all the racism, discrimination, and violence folks are facing for being black, brown, trans, queer, undocumented, and so on. I think visibility can be a good thing but it’s also complex and tricky. Just because we see more trans people, queer people, and immigrants and more people from our particular communities in movies, music, and politics, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all of us are getting the same opportunities or have access to resources or power. I am interested in being visible and counted for the purpose of ensuring that all of us in our given and chosen communities have justice, freedom, opportunities, and joy to live our most authentic lives.
With the increase of visibility of the trans community, many individuals are now able to transition in their teens and twenties. I was thirty-five. While that may not seem particularly old, to completely change my life when I was pushing forty presented many obstacles. It was daunting, it was scary, but it was necessary.
I was fortunate that I worked for a Fortune 500 company that offered great benefits and was very inclusive. A couple months after beginning my transition, I began a new position at the same company, and I was able to go into that position as my authentic self. While I hadn’t had my name legally changed yet, it was relatively easy to go in, introduce myself as Jace, and not have anyone bat an eye.
As far as work, I recognize that I am extremely privileged. Transitioning a little later in life meant that I was established in my employment. Within five months of beginning my transition, my insurance took care of both my hysterectomy and top surgery. I was able to have my birth certificate amended and obtain a new passport in two years’ time.
I was also fortunate that in my personal life, I was supported. I had a large circle of friends, many of whom were trans. When my relationship fell apart, I knew I had a strong support system. My family took my transition well, making the immediate effort to use the correct name and pronoun.
I spent the majority of my life being inauthentic, struggling with depression, being unable to really connect with anyone on a truly intimate level. My decision to transition finally came after a six-month bout of extreme depression that affected my relationship, my work, everything. Saying the words “I think I need to see a therapist about transitioning” took such a massive weight off my shoulders. In that instant I felt more free than I had ever felt. However, as the months went by and the pieces of my transition mostly fell into place without too much resistance, I began to feel an extreme guilt, because it was so easy. So I made the decision to use my privilege to educate, to inform, to teach. I chose early on to not live “stealth,” so that my being visible might help or inspire others to live as their authentic selves. Also, because I am familiar with the process of dealing with court and insurance issues, I am able to pass that information on to others to help make their transitioning processes smoother and less intimidating.
Today I am out and proud, and I continue to be visible. It’s important that we are seen and that we are seen as “regular” people. The transgender community is just like everyone else. We are parents, brothers, sisters, doctors, lawyers, teachers. We are here.