Editor’s Note: This is, in fact, part 4 of a 4 part series. We want to thank you for following along through Jessica’s journey.
The term ‘being in the closet’ had been used for years at this point. I, of course, wasn’t for sure exactly what it meant until I was about to out my secret; it was then that I realized I had been in the closet for the first 35 years of my life. I was nervous and scared about it. I’d heard many stories of families disowning their kids for coming out as LGBTQIA and losing friends over it. Being transgender is a bit different. I’m still being me, just bringing the real me out if that makes any sense.
I found some emotional relief about it with a few of my close friends who I had confided in about what I was doing. I had just gone through a breakup with my most recent ex-girlfriend. I was finally moving out of my place and in with a friend of mine. One of my friends told me if you feel ready to come out just do it because you’ll know then who your true friends are.
A few days before that, I had written my coming out post. It was long and beautiful. I was happy, and my one year hormone anniversary was on April 2nd. Coming out on the 1st would probably not be the best of ideas if I want people to believe me, considering that it’s April Fools Day, but I was ready. I was determined and I was going to do it no matter what.
Nine a.m. came and I was off work. I walked out to my car and had everything typed out and ready to go. All I had to do was one thing; so I took a deep breath, and at the potential risk of losing everything again, I pressed the post button.
There it was. My biggest life secret was now out in the open. I was content on whatever happened, including deciding not to tell my parents in person, but it left me with a huge sigh of relief. Everything that was hidden for so many years was now out. I said to myself, whatever happens, I must be strong.
To my delightful surprise, I happily received so much support; to the point that I sat in my car for a good 30 minutes and cried tears of joy. I could now finally be me. It was such a liberating feeling. I could finally live my life how I’d always wanted to. It reminded me of a quote from my grandfather who passed away in 1998, “You can do anything and be anything if you put your mind to it”. Remembering that gave me strength and hope to keep fighting through my dark years. I made a commitment to be open about my transition and to answer questions and to educate people on what it’s like being transgender. In my opinion, that’s what leads to mainstream acceptance.
Later on that year, I started up an online National LGBT talk forum talking about all of the current political and issues people in the community experience. It later turned into a podcast show that I hosted for a few seasons, educating people and putting myself out there as well as having guests on the show to help. One day in March of the next year, I had a state representative on the show and afterward, she mentioned to me about how she would love to have a transgender elected official and talked to me about a program called Emerge.
I thought about it and with my interest in politics, I decided to apply later that year and proudly got accepted into the program. I was the second ever transwoman in Wisconsin to go through it! Emerge is an elite training program that trains women on running for office and winning elections. So yes I have my heart set on running for office someday.
Over the last few years, I did lose some friends over being transgender. I’ve learned that’s ok; it’s not me who has the issue it’s them. I’ve learned how to be strong and stand up for myself and to not be afraid to speak out. I also love traveling the world and experiencing different cultures. I’m very proud of the person I’ve grown into during this crazy phase of puberty again.
My parents weren’t the best about accepting me at first and we are still somewhat distant because of that. They say they love and accept me but showing means more to me than just saying. However, I still try to have a relationship with them to at least keep the peace. I often think it’s more of the religion that separates us and I wish it wasn’t that way, but I have come to find paganism as my religion and have connected myself with that awesome and accepting community. I have the best friend family in the world. They’re pretty awesome at sticking up for me and supporting me in my endeavors.
My hope is that reading this will help people to learn and know what it’s like to go through these struggles because at the end of the day all it takes is just having an open mind, reaching out your arm and showing support and say I’m here for you. And for those who are experiencing similar struggles, there is always hope for a better future. Having that little bit of hope that one day I can truly live as myself is what got me through those dark years.
I have no idea where my ex-wife is today. I don’t really care to see her for obvious reasons but I hope she has found her peace. I do in a crazy way have to thank her for how strong I have become. Just like in Kesha’s powerful song, “Praying”, the first few lines are “You almost had me fooled. Told me that I was nothing without you. After everything that was done, I can thank you for how strong I’ve become. Because you’ve brought the flames and put me through hell, I’ve had to learn how to fight for myself”. These words are so powerful and reign true for me today. Later in the song, she says, “because I can make it on my own”. Anyone who has been through this or is going through it can get through the hell and there is always hope at the end of the tunnel.
Today I am a beautiful and strong person. I don’t care what people think of me. I am me and that’s all that matters. That is powerful enough. I look back at my previous life and everything I went through has shaped me into the person I am today.
My hope is for my story to help people, strengthen those who need it, and empower those who need empowering. Everyone is special in their own way and can make a difference in life. You are beautiful for you, just as I am for me. I believe in myself that one day I will be a strong leader in an elected position. If people don’t like that I’m transgender, then let them not like me. I’ll finish this with one of my favorite poetic quotes from the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul”.
Jessica Katzenmeyer, 39, West Allis, WI
Currently self employed full time as a Uber/Lyft driver in Milwaukee, Events Coordinator for Erica Flynn for State Assembly, Emerge Wisconsin Alum, interviewed in “Why She Runs” film documentary, former host of “Be Yourself Show” LGBTQ+ podcast talk show for a few seasons, world traveler, has made several guest LGBTQ+ panels and speaking appearances, has musical stage acting experience in the Milwaukee area.
Editor Credits: Jennifer Nicholson and Veronica Spicer