A lesbian who became a bathroom bathroom flasher for a local gay bar in Florida, becoming an advocate for the transgender community, became bisexual as a result of her experience.
And now, she’s speaking out about her own journey.
“I have a lot of self-doubt and insecurity about my sexuality, and I just thought, ‘Oh, I need to be more confident,'” she said in a phone interview from her home in San Francisco.
“I think I’ve learned that I’m not really that confident.”
A lesbian who came out to her family as bisexual as an adult in her mid-20s, Lauren is now a proud member of the lesbian community, and has been a vocal advocate for transgender issues, including the importance of safe, inclusive restrooms.
In the last few years, Lauren has also become an advocate and speaker for other lesbian and gay women in the LGBTQ community, working with the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force, as well as the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.
“When you’re a transgender person, you’re at a crossroads,” she said.
“If you’re trans, you have to decide if you want to live a life that is a lifestyle that you can be proud of or you have an identity that you’re afraid to be who you are.”
While she was still growing up in Florida during the AIDS crisis, she was diagnosed with the rare disease, which left her physically disabled, and she said she struggled with her identity for years.
“It took me years of therapy to finally be able to be comfortable in my body and be able be myself, and now that I have the ability to be myself in a way that I feel comfortable with, I think I’m very proud of who I am,” she explained.
“It’s very much like a blessing that this is my life now, because now I’m able to give back to the world and to the LGBT community and I feel really privileged to be able do that.”
Lena Caudill, who was also diagnosed with AIDS and had to undergo several surgeries, also experienced gender dysphoria, a medical condition in which the body does not match one’s gender identity.
“The gender I was assigned as in childhood was the wrong gender, and it’s the wrong body for me,” she told New York magazine.
“When I transitioned, it was like a big transformation in my life.
I was able to have a life, to be with my partner and children, and to not have to worry about my health or being on the street or going to prison.
It’s a really big deal.”
As a result, Lena became a certified mental health counselor, which allowed her to provide services for transgender people in her area.
While she said it’s not her place to speak on her own experience, she said that she’s seen a shift in her community’s understanding of transgender issues since she transitioned.
“People are starting to recognize trans people who have been living their lives, and who are just living a life they feel comfortable living, and that they’re not just being trans,” she recalled.
“People are just recognizing that trans people are people, too.”
“I think the more people are aware of the experiences that trans women have, the more comfortable we are going to be as a society.”
While her transition was difficult at times, she feels proud of herself and grateful for the progress she’s made, and her experiences have helped her become a more confident person.
“To be honest, I’ve gotten better at dealing with my anxiety and my depression, because I’ve had these experiences,” she added.
“So it’s a lot easier when I’m going through those things, because it’s real, it’s in my own head, and when I get to go to a psychiatrist, it feels like, I’m doing better.”
Lana Heti is a journalist and writer based in San Diego.
Follow her on Twitter @lanaheti.