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Texas Monthly long read on transgender issues

Mostly about someone I know, as it happens.

Colt Keo-Meier

Boy. Girl. Man. Woman. These terms reflect a binary view of gender. Our language doesn’t allow for the in-between. And yet there are girly girls and tomboys; fey men and macho ones. As the trans community has become more visible, it has become clear that gender, like sexuality, can exist on a spectrum.

Nevertheless, the very first thing that Colt’s parents, Bob and Pam Meier, learned about their only child was which distinct category he fell in. “It’s a girl!” the obstetrician announced as she delivered Colt into the arms of his mother one August day in 1983. And it was on this bit of information that Bob and Pam—a psychologist and an ob-gyn, respectively, both admired in their community—began hanging their dreams and expectations.

Colt’s understanding of himself would turn out to be considerably different. Like many who are transgender, he felt the devastating disconnect between, as he put it to me, “the gender others tell you you are and the gender you know yourself to be.” In keeping with Colt’s wishes, I will refer to him only as Colt, even though his parents gave him a more feminine name when he was born. And I will refer to him only as a “he,” even though it took him quite some time, growing up in Beaumont, to embrace his masculine identity.

As a child, Colt hated Barbie dolls, long hair, and anything overtly feminine. When the family’s real estate agent said that he was a pretty little girl and that she would nominate him to be a princess at the annual Neches River Festival once he was old enough, three-year-old Colt replied, “No, thanks. I want to be king.” Because he wriggled out of dresses as soon as his mother had slipped them over his head, Pam got permission from the principal of his Catholic school to fashion him a modified school uniform: overalls made out of the same plaid fabric used for the girls’ pleated skirts. Once he ran around his ballet class giving girls loving kisses. “Ew, that’s gay!” said another four-year-old, leaving Colt hot with shame. Before his first confession, at the age of seven, Colt prayed in his pew: God, please don’t make me a lesbian. He didn’t know what a lesbian was, but he got the sense that it wasn’t good.

In high school, Colt was a straight-A student, a Eucharistic minister, and a black belt in tae kwon do. He still refused to wear dresses, but to avoid scrutiny, he grew out his hair. Though he had boyfriends, he never wanted to be intimate with them. It wasn’t until the summer after his sophomore year at Rice University that his best friend, a girl in his Catholic youth group, helped him figure out why. Standing in the upstairs hallway of Colt’s parents’ house late one night, the friend leaned in and kissed him. Then she ran down the stairs, afraid of how he might react. He stood in shock for a good minute, his body lit. Then he ran down the stairs to kiss her back.

Colt was ashamed of what this meant, because the church had taught him to believe that homosexuality is a sin. Yet the love he felt suggested otherwise. More than a year later, when he told his parents about the relationship, they were accepting, though Bob was certain it was a passing phase. Then twenty, Colt made a similar assumption; he was not a lesbian, he believed. He just loved this one girl. But after they broke up, he fell for another woman. A fellow student at Rice, she was proud to be a lesbian and encouraged Colt to be proud too.

In 2006, several months after Colt graduated with a degree in psychology, he and his girlfriend attended a one-man show at the Rice Student Center. Scott Schofield, now an actor on The Bold and the Beautiful, took to the stage to dramatize how he had come out as a lesbian and then later as a trans man over the course of several Southern debutante balls. Sitting in the dim hall, Colt was transported back to his forced appearance, as a sixteen-year-old in a poufy white dress, at the Neches River Festival. Colt had only ever heard the word “transgender” used as a slur, but looking at Schofield—who was blond, Texan, and transgender—Colt saw himself.

Read the whole thing, it’s well worth your time. I knew Colt when he was a student at Rice – we both played saxophone in the MOB. I haven’t seen him since then, but we’re friends on Facebook and have a lot of friends – some from Rice, some from local politics – in common. I’m happy to see him doing well and helping others walk the same path he did.

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One Comment

  1. Candace says:

    This is a great piece. Thank you for sharing. I don’t know enough about the transgender community, however I respect their desire to present as they feel inside.