By Jeff Walsh
When I went to the San Francisco stop on the book tour for Cris Beam's "Transparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers," I got a chance to chat with Christina, the trans girl Beam primarily wrote about in her book. While Beam was busy signing books, we went outside on Castro Street for a quick chat for Oasis. Having read about the shy, withdrawn Eduardo in the book, it was certainly a much different story being with the boisterous Christina, who had such a great energy about her:
So, you first met Cris when you were how old?
I was around... 15? 14? It was briefly that I met her at the school, the first time. As she explained, I was always running off. I never wanted to be in class. I was just not a school for learning. Everybody was doing their own thing, having their CD players, going to the computer room. The teacher was never, like, around so...
What kept you showing up at all?
Exactly, huh? When I could have hung out anywhere else? I think the fortunate thing was my parents were always implementing education on me? And even though they weren't demonstrating how, because my parents never graduated, or completed junior high.. so it just gave me a reason to keep on going. I wanted to prove how good I can be.
So Cris shows up... she doesn't know how to teach. She wants you to make a magazine. What's your impression when she shows up?
Oh God, here goes someone else trying to tell me what to do. (laughs)
And she follows up and then she's showing up and you're going out to eat. Now, I'mjust starting the book, but you were the one she took to all the different restaurants, the Ethiopian and such?
Yeah, and it was gross. It was all these weird foods and I never quite wanted them. One time she wanted to go get sushi. That was the grossest part. I had yellowtail. That yellowtail, man, I was tasting it, savoring it, and smelling it, and my mother used to give me bacalao oil (cod liver oil) when I was a kid. Do you know what that is? It was really gross, and I was forced to drink that.
So, what are you thinking when you keep getting together and she's recording your conversations...
I wasn't expecting what was going to come out of it. I thought I was just opening up about issues that, as teenagers, we go through. Like the ditching, the boys, the drinking, which... I never really got into drinking. But it's just that constant stuff that all your friends are doing. I did get into smoking cigarettes, because I was all 'this is not going to lwaste my brain too much. I'm not going to get all crazy-retarded.' But Cris and Robin, that's her partner, they just kind of changed me. They guided me in stuff I always wanted, but I just didn't know how to get to.
And I guess it's hard because, even myself growing up, you know you're different. I just went right to gay, but kids on the site aren't sure if they're trans, gay, bi... and now some people will transition and be gay after they transition...
Yeah, it's awesome. I'm getting girls that will come in to my agency, telling me that they have a girlfriend who's a biological female, and here they are feeling like a woman inside, wanting breasts, wanting their beard to go away, and still wanting to have sex with their partners, but they're lesbian, and it's so awesome to see that. It's so awesome to see people finding out who they are.
What was your own journey like?
I always loved men. (laughs) Even when I was in elementary school, I never knew the different until junior high that 'this is the girl's bathroom, this is the boy's bathroom, and the locker rooms.' And I'm, like, I felt really uncomfortable even showering in the boys locker room, and I would go in there with my little underwear and cover up as much as I could, because I was shy, I'm petite, I'm little... so it was just scary.
And did you ever think you were gay at some point?
Yeah, after a certain point of thinking there was nothing different with me, the kids were the ones who were the cruelest. But I guess that comes from the adults' fear, and they implement these thoughts onto the kids. So guys would call me that, girls would sometimes be shady, but in the end it's just something... you have to know who you are. Even among us sometimes, we'll say, 'Oh, that bitch is a man,' but in the end it's not about how manly you look or talk. It's about who you are in your head.
Once you accept yourself, there is no questioning anymore.
It sucks. Sometimes we're too concerned with what others are going to say, what others are going to think... they're always going to talk. You're never going to satisfy the world.
So, I'm sure a lot of people would like their teen years to not be documented. You'll always have a book where you're always going to be the awkward boy, wanting to dress up, and this relic will always be sitting out there constantly in your past.
It's beautiful. In the beginning, I was very scared, like I told you. You're sharing so much with someone. I didn't know this woman seven years ago. And then that constant abandonment that goes on sometimes, you know? Well, it went on in my life. I don't like to generalize it because I can only speak for one person. But that constant abandonment can traumatize you, so I was thinking, 'Oh, she's going to leave. She's going to disappear.' And that's how I felt when she moved to New York. But they're still around. But it was scary, because I was sharing so much, opening up so much. And the journey and the struggle and the stuff... and the partying, it was fun, but there's no shame in my game. (laughs) Everything's beautiful. In the end it's about holding through and not falling in the cracks.
And you graduated high school. You're in college now.
Yeah, I'm very glad I did that. I'm going to college. I found people who surrounded me with their love, and it's great.
And Cris is your foster parent? That's an official thing?
Yeah, they gave her that after I was in a group home. They didn't quite know what to do with me, because they changed my group home after some incident had occurred at a high school, and the probation officer was going on vacation, and the first thing out of his mouth was, 'Send her to juvenile hall.' And they didn't want to send me there, so the staff just said 'Get out.' I ran away and was staying with them for a moment, and they were making me call my probation officer. I was just going to say, 'Fuck it, I'll run until I'm 18 and get off probation.' But they were constantly, 'Call your probation officer, call your probation officer.' And I would have probably stayed on the streets and screwed up my life.
And you always hear teens saying if they go to Los Angeles, or San Francisco, or New York, their life will get better. Your whole book is set in Los Angeles, so do you think that's true?
No, that's running from your fears. But I have a MySpace page and I'm totally up for answering questions from the girls or the boys. I have a girl who is beginning to transition into male, and we're just starting to talk. It's cool, because she read the book and it's super-fun. The more people know about themselves at a young age, and the more they're able to explore their bodies or minds, it's cool. Then at least they know what they like.
And what are you studying in college?
Right now I'm getting my AA, but I want to major in psychology and, at some point in my life, open up a center for transgender women and men, because it's pretty damned hard. There are resources out here now, which are amazing, but I just hope I can help with the evolution and be of service or some assistance.