Transgender lawyer Grace Mead: ‘We are tough as nails’

Trans people are “tough as nails” says out and proud transgender lawyer Grace Mead.

Growing up in Louisiana, Mead had a sense she may be transgender from the age of seven. Many years later, as an established lawyer, she realised transition was her “only possible path” to happiness.

She began to “present authentically” and is now the author of Defense of an Other, her debut novel.

“I had history of depression that was so entwined with dysphoria it’s difficult to disentangle the two,” she told PinkNews.

“I always wanted to be a girl and then a woman but it wasn’t within my vocabulary or my understanding, and it was a thought that was shut down by myself as soon as [it] arose.

“I’ve never had anyone tell me that I appeared effeminate. I can remember the last thing that I gained control of was crying easily, around age six or seven. And this was before the conservative US politician John Boehner made it acceptable for men to cry, which is a good thing.

“It’s difficult to overstate the burden of keeping something secret for 25 years.”

— Grace Mead

“When I entered puberty it was a bad time that didn’t make much sense because I was fortunate—I never worried about a roof over my head, I never worried about missing a meal, my parents were a doctor and a teacher—and that only increased the confusion for me.

“At 18, I tried to kill myself. I was diagnosed at that point with unipolar depression, was still depressed at college, and sought out a professor of abnormal psychology.

“She became my therapist and was extraordinary, and it managed to take the edge off enough to survive so that I never again attempted suicide.

“I had a couple of manic episodes and brief hospitalisations and in 2014 I realised that really the only possible path to anything that looked like happiness would be transitioning.

“So at the beginning of 2015, I began telling people professionally and presenting full-time authentically.

“It’s difficult to overstate the burden of keeping something secret for 25 years. I was very afraid despite the advantages.

Trans author Grace Mead is happy to be visible

Grace Mead, an out and proud transgender lawyer, grew up in the deep south (PinkNews)

“But I was blown away by how supportive people were professionally of my privacy, of my desire and need to continue performing professionally, which had been a real anchor to me throughout my life and remains so.

“The levels of support was overwhelming and is one of the principal reasons I wanted to be more open about being trans. Both because of those people, the majority of which are cisgender and straight, and because we live in very turbulent times for trans people in the United States.

“You are as tough as nails and you are even tougher if you have painted them pink.”

— Grace Mead

“Trans people need know there are wonderful people out there. And it crosses boundaries of age, politics, religion—fundamentally they’re just people who regard being human as important and worthwhile.

“They understand that being trans and presenting authentically is tremendously important to women like me, and largely irrelevant to them.”

Grace Mead on being trans under Trump

“Obviously the Trump regime is very, very hostile to trans rights. The trans ban [from the armed forces, which Trump first proposed in a tweet] in particular is the most high profile example I think,” Mead explained.

“I’ve known fear and can only imagine it’s a fraction of what many trans people of colour, many trans people without the good fortune of the education I’ve received, many trans people who are not as fortunate to make the good money I make, many trans people who are not surrounded by as many good-hearted people as I am.

“There’s much work that need be done on the part of the medical community as well as the society at large.”

“The real question is: how many people will suffer in the interim, and how long will that suffering last?”

— Grace Mead

Despite the current climate, Mead remains hopeful, citing “hope in the fact that there are so many people willing to fight for us” who want to learn how to be a trans ally.

She added: “There are certainly seeds of hope and ultimately we will get there. The overwhelming medical consensus among every legitimate medical organisation in the world that conversion therapy does not work. It fails.

“It tells them they are inherently bad, they are inherently immoral, it dehumanises them.

“I think there is also a consensus that for trans people who need transition, that option is the best option once you control for the negative effects, created by society, on trans people.

“Dual consensus will, in the long run, win out. The real question is: how many people will suffer in the interim, and how long will that suffering last?”

Grace Mead on writing Defense of an Other

After a 17-year-long career in law, Mead has just published her debut novel.

Defense of an Other follows a gritty murder trial. Matt, a young lawyer, plucks up the courage to visit a gay bar but is attacked in a traumatic hate crime and an attacker winds up dead.

“I’m pretty much a genius, it only took 11 years,” she laughed. “About a year after I began presenting authentically full time, I started rewriting it again.

“For trans people reading, I hope they take two things away. One is, anything I’ve done in my life—fancy schools, doing well there, being a lawyer, writing a book—nothing was as hard as presenting inauthentically. And I say that not to discourage anyone who does not have the space to do that now, but to give them courage. You are as tough as nails and you are even tougher if you have painted them pink.

“The second thing I would hope that trans people would take from the book is there are many wonderful people in this world who will respect your decisions and what you need to do. Navigate toward them.”