StoryCorps: A Transgender Woman’s Journey from Hiding to “Walking in Love”

Alexis Martinez (left) worried that coming out to daughter Lesley as transgender would mean giving up any relationship with her grandchildren. But she needn't have worried.

Alexis Martinez (left) worried that coming out to daughter Lesley as transgender would mean giving up any relationship with her grandchildren. But she needn’t have worried.

Alexis Martinez grew up in a rough neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side in the early 1960s. She knew she was transgender from an early age.Alexis (whose birth name is Arthur) struggled with her identity, as did her family. At 13, she came out as transgender to her mother. Alexis’ mother called the police, who laughed and told her, “You’ve got a fag for a son, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

As a result, Alexis joined a gang and “went as macho as [she] could be, to mask what [she] really was underneath.”

Alexis has a daughter, who accepts her for who she is. Says her daughter Lesley: “You don’t have to apologize. You don’t have to tiptoe. We’re not going to cut you off. And that is something that I’ve always wanted you to, you know, just know—that you’re loved.”

Listen to the full exchange on StoryCorps website.

Alexis’ story is one that is often untold and illustrates the complexities of being marginalized on multiple fronts.

In 2012, Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) and the National Center for Transgender Equality released the report Improving the Lives of Transgender Older Adults: Recommendations for Policy and Practice. Download it here.