Transgender, the unspoken T in the LGBTQ community that has long felt like the stepchild that gets awarded the spacious room in the attic during the winter. This is how Chase Calling depicted her view on the part of the community that she has felt so conflicted about.
Standing at 5 feet 11 inches, Calling, 27, said her style is more on the lines of being ambiguous, but it was not always so easy for her to describe. Wearing a black fedora, cardigan, jeans and a t-shirt that read “I Am A Faggot,” Calling often tip-toes on the line of masculinity and femininity.
“I feel like I’m a little more complicated than most when it comes to my identity,” Calling said. “Growing up all of my experiences were gay with men, but now I would consider myself queer because sometimes I enjoy being masculine or feminine with both men and women.”
Calling considers her sexuality fluid; she is physically attracted to men, but emotionally invested in women. Looking at Calling it’s hard to see any remnant of a man that once was, but she has been called it all. Throughout the years she has been referred to as a fag, lesbian, a tranny and just a woman; all of which she embraces as herself.
Growing up, Calling’s mother became a huge influence on the path that she has taken. Her mother did not approve of her being gay, and prevented Calling from going to cosmetology school because she felt it would be too flamboyant of a career choice. Calling was given the ultimatum to either stay with her mother or go to school and be forced to leave.
“My mother never approved of the way I lived my life. She even said that I was the reason she started using drugs again,” Calling said. “I decided to just join the Air Force because I hoped that they would make me masculine, straight even, but that didn’t work.”
While in the Air Force, Calling began to do hair on the side for many of the other women members in the service. They would come to her room and each time she would hope no one would say anything to a higher ranking officer.
Her decision to transition was not the easiest, but it was sparked while in the Air Force. She had been at a club and noticed a woman sitting at the bar. The woman had a natural beauty about her as she gracefully turned down men and their drinks. Calling said that the woman, who revealed to her that she was transgendered, was not over the top or really exaggerated in her environment.
“Deciding to transition is a difficult step to make in your life, but for me I feel like it’s an experience that was bound to happen,” Calling said. “When I was younger I would wrap a sheet around me and walk down the stairs holding my ‘dress’ up just like Cinderella.”
After getting out of the Air Force and starting her transitions, Calling began to do work with Howard Brown, the Midwest’s largest LGBTQ health organization. Here she worked as a facilitator for the Life Skills Research Project. The purpose of the program was to teach transgendered people about self-value in hopes of decreasing the HIV rates within the community.
Stereotypes like sex workers changing to sleep with straight men and the myth that all transgendered people have HIV are obstacles that Calling can remember facing when she first began to transition. “If I was even in a position to offer advice to anyone it would be to go online and do as much reading as possible, and don’t accept society’s view of what trans is; talk to people that have been there.”
Calling liked the work at Howard Brown because it made her feel like she had a family. She considers herself to be family-oriented, and is looking forward to having kids in the future. She said that for her, the desire to have kids has nothing to do with hormones but rather it has always been an innate feeling. Her only regret is that she wished she had done the transition earlier in life and stored some sperm for children later down the line.
Today Calling is working at a salon and she plans to open up her own salon in the future. “I’m glad that I went through all of the things that I did because it really taught me how to fight for myself, I’ve always been so sassy,” Calling said. “People just need to learn that gender is not connected to genitalia.”