WATERVILLE — Quinn Gormley, president of the Maine Transgender Network, began her talk at the Universalist Unitarian Church with an anecdote about the first time she came out as a transgender woman to someone other than friends and family.

She was applying to work at Carpenter’s Boat Shop in Bristol, a community that teaches traditional wooden boat building. A woman named Cam was driving her around town and trying to get to know her better, although at the time she knew Gormley as “Tim.”

“Let’s start with that name. It’s not my name,” Gormley said.

Gormley said she went on to explain that she didn’t “just fit into the ‘G’ of LGBTQ,” but also the “T.”

It was a stressful moment for Gormley, she said, but Cam just asked her what her name was after that.

“In the lives of transgender people such as myself … there comes a moment where we have to choose to be ourself,” Gormley said.

Gormley gave her talk, titled “In and Beyond Transition,” to nearly 50 people Sunday morning at the church on Silver Street. Ray Winship, who is part of a worship committee with the church, said the talk is part of an effort to include more services on transgender issues, which have been “overlooked.” The church also held a service in October on transgender issues and plans to hold more, he said.

Gormley discussed transition, which she said many cisgender people, or those who identify with the gender they had at birth, seem to be interested in, though that often leads to dramatizations in the media. She said transgender people have to think about legal, social, medical, personal and interpersonal issues when transitioning.

There is the “trans tax,” which is the money and time spent on legal matters such as name changes and new identification cards. There is the social aspect of being openly transgender, which can leave people vulnerable to assault, she said. There is the medical aspect of hormone therapy or surgery, which can be costly and inaccessible, and also spark interest from near-strangers. Gormley warned the congregation against asking transgender people if they’ve “had the surgery,” because no one else really needs to know.

“You’re asking out of curiosity what their genitalia looks like,” she said.

Then there are the issues of relationships, both with family and friends and with oneself. There is a popular narrative that transgender people always have known they’re transgender and don’t experience change in themselves because of that, but Gormley said she doesn’t believe there is much truth to that. The process of transitioning is so difficult that the person can’t help but grow and change as a result, and the relationship to oneself and one’s body changes as well, she said.

Along with her work at the Maine Transgender Network, Gormley, who lives in Portland, works with the Health Equity Alliance nonprofit to advocate for communities affected by HIV. She discussed the disparities the transgender communities faces and the difficulties of transition.

A lack of data, Gormley said, is a large roadblock to fixing the disparities transgender people face in achieving equality in a number of areas. While a comprehensive national survey was recently conducted, the results are disheartening: Forty percent of transgender people have attempted suicide and 47 percent have experienced sexual assault, according to the study. The transgender HIV rate, 1.4 percent, is also nearly five times that of the general U.S. population, and it jumps up to 19 percent for black transgender women.

“I think (the data) tell a fairly stark story about this community, and there are significant disparities,” Gormley said. “And those disparities are rooted in our way of being human.”

The disparities only grow when you add color or disabilities, Gormley said, explaining that what she called “intersectionality” is key to advocacy because people “exist at intersections of disparities.”

“If I’m only working for transgender people and I’m not thinking about race or disabilities, I’m not going to be able to help the whole community,” she said.

Now Gormley is looking ahead to the new administration and the threat it poses to policies that the transgender community fought to win. While she said President-elect Donald Trump’s statements about LGBTQ issues have been “mixed,” his administration and the Republican party have been clear about their intent.

“Though those policy fights may be difficult, they will continue to happen and we will continue to win, though it may not be as often,” she said. “Gender is a beautiful part of this human experience. … Gender is only a problem when it is assigned and determinative of a person’s existence.”

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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