Jenner transformation cause for pride, reflection for trans community

Video: Transgender advocate talks about Caitlyn Jenner

Sacramento transgender advocate Rachael Hudson talks about Caitlyn Jenner.
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Sacramento transgender advocate Rachael Hudson talks about Caitlyn Jenner.

Like much of America, Rachael Hudson watched the arrival of Caitlyn Jenner with a touch of trepidation.

Unlike most, she’s lived through a similar transition.

“I couldn’t imagine having cameras follow me during the most awkward part,” said Hudson, who lived most of her life as a man and now as a woman helps others through the process.

For those living under a rock, former Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner’s re-emergence as Caitlyn Jenner has engrossed millions.

As one might expect, Jenner – who spent a decade as a reality star dad to the Kardashian clan – has been a big subject of conversation around the Sacramento’s Gender Health Center, where Hudson works. She comes up in group sessions. She come up in small talk. She comes up a lot.

An eight-part “I Am Cait” reality show is set to air on E starting July 26.

“I think we all see her as a new member of the community. Most people welcome her,” Hudson said.

But Hudson wishes some of the media attention would focus on the unemployment disparity, poverty and housing instability among the transgender population. A 2011 study by the National Center for Transgender Equality found the transgender jobless rate to be 14 percent – about twice the national average.

“Focus on the things that we can do to help the rest of the community,” said Hudson. “She obviously doesn’t need help.”

Whatever concerns Hudson has, she’s quick to acknowledge Jenner’s transition has already been positive for the transgender community — millions of Americans now “know” someone who is transgender.

Even without Jenner, its been a big year for those seeking expanded rights for gay, lesbian and transgender people. That excitement is expected to be on display today as thousands expected to gather on Capitol Mall for the Sacramento Pride Festival.

But, as Hudson points out, it wasn’t that long ago that whether to include “transgender” in the city’s LGBT center’s new name caused a row.

“We thought ‘What about us,’” recalled Hudson as Sacramento’s Lambda Community Center changed its name to the Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center in 2006.

“They felt like they could now say ‘gay and lesbian’ but they couldn’t say ‘transgender,’” Hudson said.

In 2013, the organization changed its named again tothe Sacramento LGBT Community Center.

Before the Internet, it wasn’t easy to find information on transgender people, said Hudson, 47. Growing up, Hudson said she remembers not sharing her male friends’ excitement about puberty. Despite not feeling like the others, at Hudson married his first wife at age 22.

“It felt like it was what I was supposed to do,” Hudson said of marring a woman. That relationship produced a son. It ended with a (then) embarrassing discovery.

While living as a man, Hudson felt drawn to woman’s clothes.

When Hudson’s wife discovered the clothes, she assumed it was evidence of an affair. Hudson came clean and swore to never do it again. The relationship didn’t last.

Like many transgender people, Hudson had trouble sorting out her feelings. Like many, she took a razor blade to her wrist.

“I was one of that 41 percent (of transgender people that attempt suicide),” Hudson said.

Still living as a man, she married again at age 32. This time around, Hudson found a more supportive partner. The two even went out as gals. The problem: Hudson increasingly identified as transgender, but was afraid to uproot her life.

“I knew what I wanted to do but was denying myself,” Hudson said. “I didn’t want to lose my wife. I didn’t want to lose the house we built together. I didn’t want to lose my job.”

In the ensuring years, Hudson and her now husband Ben Hudson took on leadership roles with Sacramento Gender Association. In 2007, the pair (Ben Hudson underwent his own transition) co-founded TransFamilies Sacramento and the Sacramento Transgender Coalition.

She said the hardships don’t go away, but the center can help navigate the courts and convoluted medical systems.

“It helps them to realize that they have someone here to help,” Hudson said.

If you go:

What: Sacramento Pride Parade

When: 11 a.m. June 6

Where: Capitol Mall