Trans woman speaks of hope and acceptance in the West

Alastair Baker
News Editor
Thursday, July 23, 2020
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Photo by Alastair Baker Contemplating her future, Gwendolyn Gunn is one of the leading lights of the LGBT movement in Red Lodge.

Gwendolyn Gunn is one accomplished woman.
Gunn not only runs a successful business in Red Lodge where, as a masala chai specialist, she excels at making an extremely good brew for customers at her Phoenix Pearl Tea shop along Broadway, she also publishes and writes fantasy novels with feminist and transhumanist themes and is one of the leading lights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in the town.
And she is the happiest she has ever been.
It’s no mean feat to feel this way by your late 20's, but Gunn has achieved it after a lifetime of self-loathing. She owes her happiness to one moment in her life when she transitioned into who she is now, a trans woman.

“I am happier than I have ever been in my entire life,” she says.
Everything about her previous life she states was met with struggles of self-hatred and self-doubt.
“I never liked myself or anything about me and for the first time in my life, I like who I am, what I do, and how I look. I like who I am. And I have never experienced that before and it’s incredible,” she said.
“It’s like finding the sliver in your foot that’s been bothering you and you walk weird your entire life,” she said.
Becoming a trans woman was “the cure to a pestilence that plagued my mind.”
The decision to change didn’t come lightly and Gunn is mindful of others who find the calling to err on the side of caution before they swap genders.
“As much as I would encourage everyone to explore their own gender and tell everyone that it is never too late, I’m also never going to be an advocate for jumping the gun too soon. I spent a year in therapy before I made the decision and I would recommend anyone with those considerations to do the same,” she said. “Explore yourself, find out what works but take the steps, it is a huge life change, and if you are not positive, don’t do it until you are positive.”
Gunn started transitioning four years ago but spent several years beforehand contemplating if this was the path to take.
“I’ve been seeing a therapist all my life and started figuring this out six years ago. At 5 years, I decided this was the course. At four and a half years, I actually started it and four years ago I legally changed my name and gender,” she said.
For Gunn it wasn’t just to become a transgender person, it was a realization that she was the wrong gender and had no choice.
“It was a decision to move forward with it, not a decision to be trans. It was a realization,” she says.
“I struggle with a metaphor with this one so not to downplay it, but if you realize that your job makes you completely miserable and you hate your life, you have a choice to leave your job and move. When I realized I am living the wrong life and I am the wrong gender and portraying myself, and living as the wrong person there was a choice to fix that but it wasn’t a choice to be this. There wasn’t much of a choice at all,” Gunn says.

Being The Educator
As Gunn is openly trans and is fairly sure she is the only out trans adult in Red Lodge it, therefore, follows that she has assumed the mantle of a counselor of sorts to others thinking about their sexual orientation or gender.
“I’ve had a couple of people already talk to me about this and I am okay with that,” she said. “I’ve been told I’m inspiring and that is super weird for me to hear and I’m not sure how I feel about it but it feels really good.”
“I will happily counsel anybody, partially because I want to and partially because who else are you going to talk to? If you are trying to consider this stuff, you obviously want to talk to someone who has been through it. It would be kind of terrible of me to say ‘no’ but aside from that I do genuinely want to help. I am here,” she said. “I have unwittingly accepted the role of ambassador to "the straights" but I don’t mind it. I’m patient and open to people coming in to ask me questions in good faith, I’m open to people asking me about themselves and my experience, I’m open to telling people what not to say and what to say because you don’t know better until somebody tells you and that’s most of the people I’ve found here, I haven’t found a lot of people that are outright disrespectful.”
“I had a trans guy who came in a week ago and it was so unbelievably nice and refreshing to talk to another trans person about what we had been through,” she said. “I didn’t think I would feel as relieved as I was in talking to him so there is a major significance in being able to talk to people with shared life experience.”
As with anything in life, there are bumps in the road.
“I have found people that don’t know how to act and say stupid things and I correct them and they might carry on until they catch themselves and stop and we do that over and over until they learn what is acceptable,” she says.
Gunn is particularly peeved when she is referred to as ‘a trans’.
“Trans is an adjective, not a noun. I am not 'a trans,' I am a trans woman or I am trans, both of those are accepted. You don’t say that’s ’a black’ you say ‘he’s black’ or ‘a black man.’ That’s the big one. There are a few others, you used the word ‘decide,’ well it’s not correct because it isn’t a decision. If you are staving to death it is not a decision to eat food,” she said.
“It is an education process and I will take the role of educator and help as long as people have faith,” said Gunn.

Next week: Pt 2, Small Town Acceptance, Centuries-Old, Fear and Loathing, Good Family Support, And In The End