Thursday, June 18, 2009

#133 The Survival of Rahne Alexander

Rahne Alexander was given a different name when she was born in 1969. She was raised Mormon in Central Valley, California, and the early grade school years were a blurry time. Rahne remembers feeling displaced and fearful as the boys and the girls were divided into separate groups. At 8, the age of accountability, Rahne let herself be baptized even though she was skeptical about the church. She knew the family would be ostracized otherwise. In the late 70’s, Rahne’s mother (an artist, dancer, painter) was diagnosed with MS and, so, at an early age, Rahne took on more of a caretaker role in the family. In high school, Rahne became more social but, at the time, it wasn’t okay to be out and gay, which caused difficulties even though Rahne wasn’t a gay boy. Rahne had done some research and there wasn’t much anecdotal information back then, but she had at least a medical understanding of transexualism. There were times when Rahne snuck her mother’s clothes, but this felt weird (probably not because they were woman’s clothes, but because they weren’t Rahne’s style). To get through, Rahne threw herself into school. She was just trying to survive until she could leave for college. Rahne attended USC and met her first girlfriend there; she was the first person Rahne came out to; she was so open and helped Rahne to explore her identity. It was weird, but great. Rahne didn’t think it would be possible, to do what she was doing, but it became okay over time. The next year, they both transferred to Redlands and Rahne studied philosophy, psychology, and women’s studies. Rahne delayed her public transition until she graduated. Then, in 1992, she legally changed her name to Rahne Alexander (see Rahne Sinclair, Wolfsbane of the New Mutants, and Alexander Woolcott, who sometimes cast himself in female roles) and had to invent Rahne’s self. And so it was during her time in Santa Cruz that Rahne began to figure out how to live her new life, figured out how to dress differently, how to present herself as a woman to the world (also to be employable). At first, she dressed in pleated slacks and pastel blouses from thrift stores, but then Rahne developed her own sense of style. This transition also involved bureaucratic steps (DMV, SS#), as well as living in the role for a year while seeing a psychologist. Rahne came out to her family, started taking female hormones (Rahne hasn’t had the surgery, prohibitive cost), and seeing an electrologist for facial hair. Rahne thought it would be harder than it was, and the threat of discovery, of violence at any point, still exists, but Rahne is prepared for it, has the language for it, the strength. In 2002, Rahne moved to Baltimore and slept on a friend’s couch. The move was impulsive, but Rahne has become more herself in Baltimore—writing stories, writing music, starting a band (The Degenerettes), meeting her wonderful partner Kristen (the drummer in the band). Rahne didn’t think it would be possible, but, in under 40 years, she has become comfortable in her body. People have told Rahne that she is brave, but she has always thought of it as survival.

Update: The Degenerettes just released a new CD Bad Girls Go to Hell.
More Rahne Alexander here.

1 comment:

bender said...

I think it's brave to survive.