For a rare, second What’s Underneath episode this week, we collaborated with Upworthy, one of our favorite sites, in order to explore the multilayered, human experience of being transgendered. A couple of years ago, we had the great fortune to have met Zoe Dolan -- a trial lawyer whose transition from a he to a she is the definition of heroic. And we knew we had to share her story.
“Growing up was torture,” Zoe states. Like anyone faced with the magnitude of marginalization that a person born in the wrong body has to face, Zoe had to find coping mechanisms. As a kid, this meant hiding in a treehouse 24/7, absorbed in fantastical books that would take her to other worlds. As a teenager, Zoe turned to sex addiction, or, in her words, “any kind of sexual activity that involved self-effacement or me trying to erase myself.”
Pretty much to the day that Zoe started hormone therapy, her sex addiction ceased -- a testament to how much she really knew her authentic self. Though devastated when her own mother told her that she would never be seen in public with her if she transitioned, Zoe followed her truth and began the process of attaining a female body.
Zoe’s journey makes us conscious of privileges that we take for granted, like being called the gender pronoun of our choice by a pharmacist -- an “aha” moment for Zoe while transitioning. But pre-op and vulnerable to ridicule should her body be exposed in an emergency situation, Zoe, despite her enormous fears of a horrible outcome, flew to Thailand for a sex-change operation.
Now, with all the parts literally in their rightful place, Zoe has found the skin that fits her. Reconciled with her mom, Zoe told us, “My mom said to me, ‘I don’t understand men, they’re different from us.’ However, Zoe doesn’t need to tie a neat ribbon around her plight, and that’s one of the reasons why we love her — she tells it like it is: “I would not relinquish a single experience that I've had on this earth, but if you said to me, ‘Zoe, I can wave a magic wand so that you could grow up, experience the things that other little girls experienced, get your first period and not lose 98% of potential boyfriends just because of the way you were born,’ how could I not say yes?”
Elisa + Lily