James is a Georgia native who grew up in a small rural town and now lives and works in the Atlanta area. He is also a transgender man, and he has been out about his gender identity since the early 2010s, although he knew from a very young age that he was different from other kids. Assigned female at birth by the doctor, that designation never seemed to fit for James. James said that he often fought with his parents about his gender presentation and their expectation that he should ‘act like a girl.’ Eventually, the fighting became tiresome and at around the age of 13, James said he felt like he had to give up. He started wearing his hair long just to get his parents off his back. It wasn’t until James graduated high school and began taking women’s studies classes at the University of Georgia that he learned what the word “transgender” meant. It was like a light-bulb going off in his head.
For James, societal acceptance and legal protections are a matter of urgency. “Working in public health, the vast majority of trans people I encounter on a regular basis have no access to health insurance,” James said. “But what’s worse is, even if we get over the financial hurdle of accessing care, we then have to get over the hurdle of how we’re going to be treated at the doctor’s office. I don’t know a single trans person who doesn’t have a really bad story about an experience at a doctor’s office – myself included.”