Photo by Roger Lynn/Flickr

This happens every time I go back to Montana. Photo by Roger Lynn/Flickr

Hullooomosexuals! Did you miss me while I was ever so far away, exploring the misty mountains of Montana?

Well of course you did. I missed the heck out of you right back, believe you me.

My yearly sojourn to visit my beloved Montana family is the very soul and definition of “roughing it”: There’s not even so much as a damn gay bar or sexy underwear store for several million square miles, at least. Syphilitic pioneer women suffering from vagina dentata never had it half as rough, I’m telling you. But a ladyboy needs a little vacation every now and then, a small chance to get away and reboot, and I’m sure you quite agree.

Which quite conveniently brings us around to a remarkable young woman I’m just bursting to introduce you to. I met her on my latest trip into the wilds. Her story is quite remarkable. Her name is Blaine. She is a mere 14 years old (her Facebook claims 23, but you know, big grain of salt), she’s my dear niece Katy’s best friend, and she lives in the very same small, mean, infamously hardscrabble Southwestern Montana mining town which spawned yours truly, somehow.

Also, she assigned the gender of male at birth.

To provide a bit of perspective, picture it: My very own high school crew (not all that long ago, thank-you-very-much), six nervous, mostly skinny and quite pimply drama and band geeks, each as gay as goose eggs from a gander, and deeply closeted to a one.

The atmosphere of that hard mining town was so hostile, so unreasonable, so small-minded that not even one of us could ever dream of stepping a toe outside of the closet without facing utter social devastation and a real fear of physical harm.

We were already preyed upon for being even perceived as gay — i.e. smarter than a brick, as sensitive as a butter knife, and cleaner than a cat-box — and an outright admission would have been suicide. Not even to each other, in confidence, in desperation, in secret, could we let our true selves be known. And so we didn’t.

And please to note: My little closet-queer High School posse was nothing but your run-of-the-mill, garden variety gaymos, common as cotton, basic as beige. But outing ourselves (even to each other) was unthinkable. As terrible as it was for us, I’m confident that none of us could even begin to properly define being transgender, let alone fathom how an openly trans person would be treated should they live out and proud, as Blaine so bravely does. Gay alone was trouble enough.

It is often noted that “we still have a lot of work to do”, as far as LGBTQ rights go. Which is very true, especially where trans issues are concerned. But Blaine’s story underscores how much we truly have accomplished, how far we have come. Her bravery and optimism are astonishing, and heartening, and refreshingly typical of young LGBTQs these days.

“At a young age I knew I wasn’t like other boys”, Blaine explains. It’s a common enough sentiment in our community, but for Blaine, it went far beyond being attracted to other boys.

“I had feelings that I just didn’t understand. At age of about three, I asked my mom, ‘Mommy, was I born a girl?’ Obviously, the answer was, ‘no’.”

But of course that was far from the end of it.

“About a year later my father had passed away, and it was very hard on my family,” she tells us.

“My mom was under a lot of stress trying to raise a young child as a single parent, as well as trying to deal with the loss of my father. Since I didn’t want to put any more stress on my mom, I decided to keep my feminine thoughts and actions to myself. But, throughout my childhood I put on makeup, dressed up in girl clothes, playing with girl toys, and tried to be as feminine as possible, all in secret.”

“I had always known that I wanted to be a girl, but most of my family was very religious.”

Butte, Montana (our mutual hometown) is per capita the most highly Irish Catholic town outside of Boston in the United States. Its feelings toward homosexuality predictably reflect this.

“Then I finally realized that this entire time I hadn’t been gay, but transgender.”

And if anybody should wax cynical about Caitlyn’s motives or methods, there is no doubt that she’s already had quite an impact — especially on Blaine.

“What gave me the courage to come out as transgendered in such a small town was probably Caitlyn Jenner.”

“When I had watched the interview with Caitlyn in April, it gave me so much courage,” she tells us. “After the interview I decided to finally come out. I have not yet come out to all of my family and friends yet, but I hope to come out soon so that I will not have this big secret to keep from them.”

And highlighting just how very much times have changed for the better, Blaine’s coming out as transgender has mostly been met with acceptance and support — even in that small, mean, desperately Catholic mining town.

“So far the response has been so supportive and great. Some of my friends and family have even started using my preferred pronouns!” Although having seen it firsthand, Blaine seems to have infinite patience with those who don’t fully understand, who slip and sometimes call her, “him”. “I can only hope that all of my other family and friends are just as supportive.”

It’s an optimism and generosity of spirit that is the hallmark of many in the trans community.

“I hope that my story inspires others, and maybe to even help some trans kids out there who live in small towns that are very close minded and religious. I just hope that this might encourage some transgender boys and girls to come out and embrace who they are.”