Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘I felt my soul went into the wrong body. But now that it’s in harmony with the way that I think, it just makes more sense to me.’

Freeport

“One of the misconceptions about people who are transgender is that it’s a lifestyle choice. I laugh inside. A lifestyle choice is I’m going to move to Manhattan! This is not a choice. It’s not a psychological disorder. This is being authentic. It’s just who I am in the spectrum of all that is possible in being a human being. My brain thinks one way, my body is another, and I can change the body.

“At the age of three, I instinctively thought I was a girl. My mother one day just said, ‘You know, you gotta take that off. That’s not your dress. You’re a boy.’ When she told me that I wasn’t a girl, I said, ‘Well, when will I be a girl?’ She said, ‘You won’t.’ And that broke my heart.

“I quickly learned how to behave so that I was accepted. You learn how to do that throughout your entire life to the point where, when I finally said that I’m going to transition in my mid-forties, people said they were surprised. And I said, ‘Really? I’ve carried this with me my whole life.’ I did a great job of blending in and keeping it quiet—but it ate me up inside.

There are many things that you can do to shape the way a child behaves. You can’t shape them innately knowing who they are. A child knows who they are.

“When I was younger, I had no role models. This was the seventies. You wouldn’t go to the library and pick a book out on it. There was no internet. There wasn’t even the term transgender really, I just always knew I’m a girl trapped in a boy’s body. I tried to kill myself when I was 15. I didn’t know how to stifle who I was and how to continue that throughout my entire life. It’s only nowadays that we’re really listening to children when they tell us this. I wonder how many children that weren’t listened to many years ago are no longer here with us?

“I had wonderful parents. They didn’t recognize this any more than I did. As far as parents today, I can say this: There are many things that you can do to shape the way a child behaves. You can’t shape them innately knowing who they are. A child knows who they are. You’re not going to shape them away from that.

“I felt my soul went into the wrong body. But now that it’s in harmony with the way that I think, and the way that I feel about myself, it just makes more sense to me. I think what I would tell my younger self is that it gets better. You get to be you.

“Aunt Barbara was an explosion of everything that I kept inside of me my whole life. Aunt Barbara was a release of all that pain I carried with me. And I think getting rid of a lot of that pain allowed me to say, you know what, I’m going to transition. Transition is one of the hardest things you can do. It is physically, mentally, emotionally difficult to do. People have walked away from me in my life. People that I’ve loved have walked away. A wise friend once told me, ‘You will be too much for some people…those aren’t your people.’ And that’s how I get through my day.

“I’ve had instances where people have treated me not so nicely outside. The underlying dirty look, the look away, that sort of shunning. Then there’s the microaggressions where it’s like, ‘Here’s your change, sir.’ That happens to me. If you’re not tolerant of someone’s differences you don’t have an open forum to be aggressive because it’s something you don’t understand. But the minute I call people out on it in a very respectful, professional way, I have a huge fan base of people who come right to my side.

“When the pandemic hit, I started doing an online show every week. It’s anything and everything. I’ll do a Tupperware party one week. It’s a talk show. It’s movie reviews. It’s interactive. And people from all over the country are tuning in. I have a whole new following. And there are people that have met each other. There are people that are in relationships because they bonded over watching the show. People look forward to it and they accept me for who I am.

“They went through my transition with me. I came back from the hospital where I had reassignment surgery and I had gift baskets, pajamas, slippers, robes—you name it. This place was filled with flowers and goodies. A really supportive group. And they love Aunt Barbara for who Aunt Barbara is. Cause she’s a part of me.

“When I put the camera on and I go live, the first thing I see are their comments coming up in the feed, and what I see is, ‘Hello family!’ That’s the first thing. They all know each other. It’s getting more and more people, and they consider themselves the Aunt Barbara family.”