By: Charley Burton
Charley Burton is the National Program Director for Black Transmen, Inc., is a board member for Cville Pride, and has previously served as a board member for PFLAG of the Blue Ridge, and a founding board member of Diversity in Recovery.
I have spent a lot of my life searching for resources. Growing up, and well into adulthood, I never saw anyone who looked like me: a Black transman. This lack of representation, combined with an overall fear of how I would be perceived and treated, left me confused about who I was for decades. I finally admitted to myself about 10 years ago that it was necessary for me to transition. In fact, it was life-or-death.
Once I came to that realization, I looked all over the Charlottesville area for support groups or health care with no success. I knew starting my transition was imperative for my mental and physical health, so I decided to start traveling to receive the hormones I needed to begin my transition.
This decision did not come without sacrifice. I was driving over an hour away to Richmond twice a month to get my hormones and go to support groups. While the members of my support groups were younger than me and in much different life situations, I finally felt like I was understood. I began to siphon gas from my lawnmower just to have fuel to get to Richmond. But those decisions saved my life.
I’m thrilled that there are many more resources available today in Charlottesville. Planned Parenthood’s Charlottesville health center now offers gender-affirming hormone therapy to anyone who needs it. And they use the informed consent model, which means patients are not required to have a mental health referral in order to get the care they need. Groups like Cville Pride and PFLAG of the Blue Ridge provide support groups and resources for trans people and their family. Through my struggles, I have become an advocate, now serving as the National Program Director for Black Transmen, Inc.
But there is still a long way to go. As a 61-year-old transman, I am passionate about providing elder care in the trans community. We often talk about ensuring young trans people have the resources they need, but older trans people tend to be forgotten in that conversation. I am proof that a person can transition and become their authentic selves at any age. Trans and transitioning people cannot wait another 10 years for the help they need.
Despite all of the trials I have faced and the rocky roads I have traveled, my life is now rich. I am my happiest self as a transman, and transitioning is truly the best thing I have done for myself. I am proud to be an advocate in my community and am thankful for organizations like Planned Parenthood for the services they provide for people who need them most.