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WUSF has been reporting recently on a difficult issue — legislation aimed at transgender persons. To help highlight other stories of the trans, nonbinary and gender noncomforming community, we asked residents what "Trans Joy" means to them. Daylina Miller is sharing their stories.

Trans joy: Out and proud at 50

a woman with long hair and sunglasses and wearing a pink dreamcatcher shirt stands next to a semi truck with Pride logos on it.
Daylina Miller
WUSF Public Media
Denise Johnson stands next to a semi-truck emblazoned with Pride logos.

Today we hear from Denise Johnson, a former law enforcement officer who shares her experience coming out as transgender at the age of 50.

"Trans joy is being able to live your authentic self — to just be you. I did not come out until the age of 50. And I call everything before that my 'pretend life.' Since I came out and started living my authentic self, boy, you know, the stress is gone.

"There's, no secrets, I don't have, you know, I don't have any baggage to carry around. I'm just, I'm just me, love me or not, I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life.

"Trans people are of all ages, backgrounds, socioeconomics. And we've been here ever since the world has existed, all walks of life, every culture; we've been around for centuries.

"You know, today, the movement, I equate it to the gay movement of the '80s, the civil rights movement of the of the '60s.

"Today, the transgender community is, and I hate to use this word, because I think society just uses it all wrong, but you know, we're 'awake,' we're here, we're visible. We're not hiding anymore. We are who we are.

"I have only been living myself for 13 years. Now, I wish that I knew back then what I knew today and had the support. Believe it or not, we really do have a lot of support in the community in society. There's always going to be haters in all aspects of life.

"No matter what you do, or where you live, there's going to be somebody who doesn't agree with it, and has their own views on it. But you know what, I wish that I knew what I know today at the age of 20.

"And I wish I was 20. Again, just because I would be able to live my whole entire life as my authentic self and all, boy, what joy that would bring.

"And so for the young people today, who have the information that I did not have at their age, and for them to recognize and realize who and what they are. I think it's absolutely fabulous. And I do everything that I can to help people in these situations.

"I'm the loudmouth advocate, the grouchy old lady that just, I'm tired of whatever society, the negative views and stuff, so I like to educate and I just, I don't back away and I'm not ashamed of who I am today."

I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.
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