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T IN THE LIFE Stephanie Dykes
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

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PronounS: She, her

Identifies as: Woman, transwoman, transsexual woman

Neighborhood: Lombard, Illinois

Relationship status: Single

Hobbies: "I enjoy singing, and I currently sing with my church choir. I have also begun to do musicals with community theater groups. I also enjoy reading, and I have become a real fanatic about walking."

Career: "I am fortunate to be the director of research for a Chicagoland nursing school (though I am not a nurse myself). The school I am with knew I am transgender, yet chose me anyway based on my qualifications.

What is the best thing about being trans?

"Being transgender can really stink. You lose a lot and experience a lot of pain in daring to be yourself. I think people who are transgender learn to be courageous and brave; we really don't have a choice."

When did you start questioning gender?

"In my 6th grade year, I began praying to God that I would wake up in the morning and be a girl. This was all very puzzling because my favorite toys as a boy were my plastic M-16 and my toy soldiers. Around this time, as I began going through puberty, I realized I was attracted to girls. (I'm still attracted to women). This was a time of great confusion for me."

Do you consider yourself an activist?

"I believe every out transgender person is an activist, whether they want to be or not. I would say I am an activist in that for many people who I meet, I am the first transgender person they have ever known. In that sense, just by being out about who I am helps fight a lot of the negative stereotypes that exist about my community."

Whom do you admire most?

"If I had to name a person who has been influential in my life as a transsexual woman, it would have to be Kate Bornstein. Her book, Gender Outlaw, helped me reach a deeper level of self-acceptance.

I would say I also admire all of the brave transgender people who came before me who had things much more difficult than I could imagine. They helped pave the way for folks like me."

In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing the trans/ gender-variant community?

"I believe the key issue facing the transgender community is employment. We tend to face unemployment in greater proportion to the population in general. Without a job — and I mean a real job with benefits — a person — whether transgender or cisgender — lives at the survival level."

Photo by Eric Noeske. To nominate a person for T in the life, email: Kate Sosin,

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