Connecticut Voice

Your LGBTQ+ Voice

Finding Trans Joy: It’s Out There

Stories of hope amid heartbreak in the transgender, nonbinary, and trans nonbinary community

By Dawn Ennis


For months now, the headlines have been full of articles detailing outright oppression and discrimination against transgender people, with social media hammering the hate home with everything from mockery to threats and violence.

And if you find a story profiling someone who is trans, nonbinary, gender nonconforming or any other kind of gender expression under the transgender umbrella, you will read, see, or hear heart-wrenching tales of rejection, isolation, loneliness, and desperation. Recent months have even included stories about mass murderers who are trans and nonbinary, as if their gender was responsible.

Dig deeper, press harder, look further, and one finds the narratives the straight press often ignores: The success stories, the uneventful transitions and the instances of trans joy. That’s what CT Voice spent months accumulating, during even the darkest days for this marginalized population. Positive outcomes, fulfilling relationships and inspiring accomplishments that didn’t happen despite someone being trans or nonbinary, but, in fact, because they are living authentic lives.

We received close to 100 responses from trans people all around the world, from Connecticut to California, from Canada to Australia and even the Philippines, all sharing stories of trans joy.

Dr. Richard Stillson, the nonbinary psychologist in Hartford known to many as Mucha Mucha Placer, said they found joy in helping young adults “cross the gender divide.” For Pride Month, they’re planning an outing in Torrington to view the drag comedy, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.

“Seeing trans, gender nonconforming or nonbinary people live lives that defy the horrible narrative about us,” is what out trans woman Kelli Huber of East Hartford said brings her joy. “Joy comes from living full lives despite that hate,” she said. “I also get personal joy from the love of my family and friends and time spent with them.”

Isaac Griffin agreed: “Looking forward to my first summer with the ability to sunbathe shirtless.”

“I’ve been in the military for over 18 years now, and I find joy that we have leaders that actually care about DEIA [Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility],” said Alexandria Holder. “We’re doing our best to help make the military a more inclusive and equitable employer.”

Erika Gieseke and Barbara Curry said their joy comes from music. Curry is a trans woman who said she was welcomed into Another Octave: the Connecticut Women’s Chorus. “The music alone is therapeutic, let alone the true camaraderie of a sisterhood of women.”

“Art,” said Melody Ann. “My pets and husband,” Oz DiCampanetti told CT Voice. “My trans activism and my positivity,” said Deja Nicole Greenlaw. Reid Sindelar said, “My children.”

“I have had several moments of joy since I came out as nonbinary to my family but the biggest one would have to be when my mom surprised me with my first binder,” said Kay E. of Indiana. “At the time I hadn’t even realized how much I was missing until I put it on and started crying, I was so happy. The amount of love and support I have from my mom is incredible.”

The essential need for joy was cited at the State Capitol in Hartford in January, at the news conference announcing the formation of a new LGBTQ+ rights group. “Equality Connecticut’s founding principle is to harness our collective power by fostering the joy of being LGBTQ,” said executive director Matt Blinstrubas. “When we come together and when we truly see each other, we become a force that’s unstoppable. We look forward to building a sense of power and joy together with everyone in Connecticut.”

Trans joy also can be found in corporate boardrooms and in academia. A transgender trailblazer—Schuyler Bailar, the Harvard graduate who was the first out trans NCAA Division I athlete to compete on a men’s team—started an online coaching business in which he shows how cultivating “radical trans joy” can help every employee. Queer PhD. candidate Brendon Holloway published a paper in February calling on practitioners, researchers, and educators to understand the importance of highlighting trans joy in research, higher education, and practice settings.

Some folks, unfortunately, are still searching for that elusive experience.

I myself struggled for weeks writing this because of the overwhelming onslaught of new legislative attacks I am responsible for reporting. Our hope is that in reading and learning how others have found joy, all of us will continue to strive toward that goal.

Meghan Crutchley

“To find joy, I like to be in community with other people, friends, people who love and support me,” said Meghan Crutchley of Stamford, a queer nonbinary board certified health coach, educator, speaker, and corporate consultant. They’re also the CEO of Habitqueer, which services the LGBTQ+ community, and a columnist for CT Voice.

Crutchley said they find joy by spending time in nature and doing things that they said, “give me peace or empty my stress bucket. Also, things like riding bikes, reading, gardening and being in the fresh air, in the sunshine,” they said. “Those are the places that I find the most joy.”

Through their work, Crutchley also coaches those struggling to find their own joy. “To invest in our health as queer people is a revolutionary act,” they said. “There is such a resurgence, or at least a loudness to negativity and to hatred right now in our society. So, I have been actively turning up the joy. That’s what I talk about with people in my community.”

Blu del Barrio

“I’ve been a year-and-a-half on ‘T’ [testosterone]. I’m at the horrible cracky-voice phase,” said actor Blu del Barrio, whose pronouns are “they/them” and “he/him.” I caught up with del Barrio in March, as they walked the red carpet at the GLAAD Media Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif., wearing a yellow raincoat with the words, “Trans Joy.”

“I wanted to do something that brought some trans joy. And my roommate helped me paint this,” they told CT Voice.

The actor plays Adira, a nonbinary character on the streaming television series Star Trek Discovery, who came out to the starship crew at the same time del Barrio came out to family, friends, and their co-stars. Now, at 25, they’ve become an inspiration to LGBTQ+ fans.

“That makes all of it worth it because that’s what I wanted,” del Barrio said. “It truly is. That is a massive reason why I want to keep doing this, and I enjoy doing this. I love doing this as myself and being really transparent with my personal life as well. Because it’s what I wanted. It would have changed my life for the better, the fact that kids are identifying with Adira, at the age where I was trying to find someone to identify with.”

Wynne Nowland

“I am just happy to wake up every day and be the person that I am,” said Wynne Nowland, when asked about trans joy. “I enjoy my life. I enjoy my friends. I enjoy my career. I do a little bit of activism here and there. I enjoy that, and I’m thoroughly enjoying my life.”

Nowland, the out trans CEO of a financial services and insurance firm on Long Island who came out more than six years ago, has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal. She said she refuses to be intimidated by the legislative moves to oppress, ban, and restrict trans people and their healthcare, which she called “draconian.”

“Probably due in part to the force of my personality,” Nowland said, “I’ll be damned if they’re going to intrude on my happiness.”

She’s aware of her privilege. When she went to the DMV to get a new driver’s license with her gender marker changed from M to F, Nowland said she was questioned by a suspicious clerk about her doctor’s letter, proving she’d transitioned. She called her doctor’s cellphone and got a new letter faxed to the DMV within minutes. “The fact that I run this $150 million insurance company, I’m not an easy person to say ‘no’ to. So, I was able to get it all resolved,” the 61-year-old said. “But I remember walking to my car and saying to myself, ‘What if I had been a 20-something year old Black woman, trying to get this done? It would have been horrible, and I try to be cognizant of that.”

Tanner Arnold

“My wife has always been my biggest champion,” said Tanner Arnold, an out trans program manager for Intuit in Tucson, AZ, who spoke at the company’s annual Trans Summit in Mountain View, CA. He said the event, now in its fourth year, was a source of joy for providing a safe space to discuss trans issues. But nothing compares to the story he told CT Voice about his wife, Sandra.

Arnold came out to her as a trans man five years ago, as they prepared to renew their vows for their 10th wedding anniversary. The 46-year-old said he was nervous, but he knew he couldn’t keep this secret from his beloved.

“I can’t ask you to marry me again without me telling you what’s going on,” Arnold said. And she told him: “This is new territory for both of us.” But as he recalled, she then said: “I love you too much to keep you from being yourself and stop you from being who you are.”

“That absolutely brings me trans joy,” he said. “And we’re still together!”


“I am not only a transgender woman, but I don’t pass so well in terms of physical appearance or voice,” wrote Saoirse on Medium, and gave CT Voice permission to quote portions of her essay, Weathering the Storm of Overwhelming Transgender Hatred.

“I pass well enough that no one has any doubt of my identity, but I also pass poorly enough that no one has any doubt of my identity,” she wrote. Saoirse described a women’s religious retreat she attended with five cisgender women, sharing sleeping quarters and a single bathroom and shower. In addition to studying women cited in the New Testament, they discussed what she called, “details of the female experience that I will never be able to fully experience myself.”

Saoirse shared her own experiences as a trans woman. “This retreat was an oasis of safety and hope,” she wrote, during the current “storm of political expedience,” the hundreds of bills and laws oppressing the trans population.

“I know this time will pass. It may pass soon, or it may get worse for a while yet. But it will pass,” wrote Saoirse, echoing the words of my own rabbi when I sought his counsel. “Please don’t hide from those that would care for and support you.”

That is exactly the point of the International Trans Days of Visibility, of Awareness, National Coming Out Day and Trans Day of Remembrance, and most of all, Pride Month: Stepping out to celebrate our transness, sharing our joy in defiance and resistance to those trying to extinguish it.