I found a gray hair. Not one of those hidden grays that you only see in a certain light. No. My grays have taken prominent positions on the sides and top. It’s not the first, but it is the first to make me wonder if maybe I’m getting old.
I have joked about being old since I turned 35, but there’s something about the last few years before 40 that are making me feel it. Getting old is no joke. Things start to hurt for no reason. My ankle will give out on me if I stand wrong let alone take on some obstacle race like I did in my 20’s. That’s why I have committed to consistently visiting the gym to build mobility and strength before I officially enter my 40’s. I want to do as much as I can to heal my joints and strengthen my body while my muscles will allow it.
That means most mornings around 6:30 I’ve been going to Planet Fitness. I went often enough that I began to recognize the people at the front desk. But this week, I met someone new. As I walked into the door, I saw their big smile. They ran over to help check me in. The thought crossed my mind that this was unusual. Most people don’t go out of their way to help anyone.
A few days later I saw them again. I was carrying my water bottle that has a big sticker on it. “I like your water bottle,” they said as soon as I approached the desk. The sticker they pointed out said Protect Trans Kids. That’s when I realized this was a young queer kid watching me live with awe.
When I am in the South I’m hyper-aware of how I’m seen, but I think about it less when I go to Illinois or places where they have protections in place for trans people. I operated for so long believing that the subtle cues of belonging matter most to kids in the South where trans people are hated out loud. I was wrong. The kid that needs a subtle cue of belonging will always notice that cue.
The reality is that no matter where these kids live, if they are trans they probably think people hate them for being who they are. We read about it on the news. We watch laws get passed here in the United States. It sends an anything-but-subtle message that trans people are not welcome somewhere. It’s easy to draw the dotted line in our minds that says if you’re not being welcomed somewhere, there are at least a few people everywhere that hate you just for existing.
This hate is so strong that it ends trans people’s lives. Aging is a privilege most of them never get. To be clear, that’s not some plea for you to care. That’s a fact reported in multiple studies. In one study conducted by Duke University, at every age, trans people were at a higher risk of death than non-trans people. When a similar study was conducted, they found that the mortality rate for trans men was almost double that of non-trans people. Trans people were six times as likely to die from non-natural causes as cis people. People that never got the chance to panic over a gray hair or feel the ache of age on their bones.
All of the older trans people I know lived a life with a thousand secrets. They hid in plain sight. Those who lived out loud got us to this place where I can put the word trans on my water bottle as a subtle cue to those trans kids. A sign that while there may always be people who hate us, there are people who want them to have a full life where they can live out loud the whole time. A life where they don’t have to wonder if someone can love them and their truth. A life with rights. A life where aging isn’t such a privilege and they see lots of trans people with gray hair like me.
Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.