Equality

New York’s Bravest Is Trans FDNY Firefighter Brooke Guinan

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“The world doesn’t have language to actively allow me to identify myself.”

Leaning over the kitchen countertop in her two-bedroom apartment in Queens, Brooke Guinan tries to explain, via four horizontal lines she has plotted on a piece of paper, how the notion of gender is far more complex than the two extremes of “male” and “female.” The lines represent four continuums: biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.

“I don’t have a sexuality!” Guinan exclaims. “How does the world define a woman who was born male who likes men? What is the sexuality for that? You could say I was gay, but I don’t identify as male. Trans is my gender identity. ‘Transgender’ is about my gender; it has nothing to do with my sexuality.

“Our society doesn’t have language to define that!”

Guinan (pronounced GUY-ninn) tends to get worked up on the topic of gender. “I hope I don’t sound angry,” she says. “It’s just something I’m passionate about.”

Not surprising, given that she is New York City’s first and only transgender firefighter. The FDNY employs more than 10,400, only 44 of whom are women, and Guinan is the only member who has served the department as both a man and a woman. Since September, when a poster of her wearing a tight T-shirt reading “So Trans So What” went viral as part of an awareness campaign for the LGBTQ-advocacy group V.O.I.C.E. (the Vocal Organization for International Courage and Equality), Guinan has seen her profile rise as a role model for others who battle gender stereotypes in male-dominated professions.

Guinan does have something in common with many in the FDNY: The department runs in her family. In fact, she’s third-generation. Her father, George William Guinan V, is an FDNY lieutenant; her grandfather George IV retired as a captain. Growing up, she heard stories about the escapades of her forebears — both of whom are heterosexual and, as she puts it, masculine and athletic. “There’s such an attitude in society that firefighting is for straight, masculine men,” Guinan says.

She, of course, is none of those things. That said, unlike many women who aspire to join the FDNY, she had no trouble meeting the job’s physical requirements. Standing six feet tall, Guinan weighs 240 pounds and doesn’t lack for strength. “I’m broad. My body has a lot of natural strength to it,” she says. “I’ve never had a problem with strength. When my mother needs furniture moved, she calls me.”

When it comes to stamina, though, Guinan says a lot of women in the department would best her. “You don’t have to be six feet tall and built like a linebacker to do this job,” she says, arms folded across her chest. “You have to compensate. You have to know what you have and know what you have to work for.”

See also: Ask Andrew W.K.: How Do I Make My Family Understand I’m Transgender?

On this particular evening, she’s wearing a black sweater, black top, and tight blue jeans. A silver necklace with a dolphin pendant hangs around her neck, a gift from her boyfriend. Guinan doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t feel mostly different from everyone around her. Now she talks about not wanting to “let down” other transgender men and women who see her as an inspiration for bucking convention and stereotype to enter a profession where she is looked upon as an outsider.

Although she has grown accustomed to feeling separate from the norm, she admits it took years of burning under society’s intolerant glare for her to emerge stronger, certain of who she is and her place in the world.

“I couldn’t get the voices out of my head of people telling me I’ll never be a woman, I don’t look like a woman, I don’t sound like a woman, and it’s never going to happen,” Guinan says.

“I had to get to a point where it didn’t matter if the world didn’t accept me as a woman, because I identify as one. I don’t care who believes it. This is me. This is my truth. This is my identity.”

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Brooke Guinan was born George William Guinan VI in 1987. Her parents, Susan and George V, moved the family to the Long Island suburbs when Brooke was a year old. She’s six years older than her only sibling, Janine, who is autistic.

Her father, now 57, remembers Brooke as a perfect child. “Honestly, not just because she’s my child,” George V says. “You always wonder when you enter into parenthood: What do we do? How is this going to go? There never seemed to be any problem with Brooke.” Sensing Janine’s handicap, he says, Brooke became the helpful older sibling who never asked for much and never wanted to be a burden.

As early as second grade, Brooke discovered how some peers react to an effeminate boy who prefers to play with girls: A bully slammed her head against a window in the school bus. Over the next several years, she would be shoved into lockers and called names, forced to live in constant fear of being beaten up.

“We tried to encourage Brooke to stand up for herself — don’t be afraid to stand up and speak for yourself and say, ‘I’m not taking that and I’m not going to put up with that,’ ” her father recounts.

Brooke always had size on her side; Susan remembers telling her son jokingly, “Just sit on them! You’re bigger than all these other kids!” But Brooke wasn’t the confrontational type. “She just kind of always turned the other cheek,” her mother says.

As Brooke remembers it, fifth grade marked the first time she heard the word “gay.” It came from a classmate who chided her for “laughing in a girly way” at something funny a teacher had said. It was also the first time she remembers finding “language to define myself.” Although the term didn’t sufficiently identify who she was as a person, “it seemed to fit at the time,” she says in retrospect.

Susan and George V signed their son up for Little League. “I kinda sensed not too long after we started to get Brooke involved that there was not that kind of interest,” her father says now.

What Susan noticed, though, was stronger than apathy. “She hated it,” Susan Guinan says of her child’s attitude toward sports. “She got hit in the head with the ball. She danced on the field. She did soccer one year, and that didn’t work either.”

Instead Brooke gravitated toward theater, singing, dancing, and acting from fourth grade until graduating high school in 2004. George won leading roles in musicals like Amadeus and Dracula and acted in plays as part of a theater group called the Kids for Kids Production. Onstage, there were no bullies, no name-calling. “Theater became her niche,” Susan Guinan says. “She fit in.”

Not quite, Brooke says: She always felt different from her conventionally male peers. “I wanted to play with Barbies. I wanted to have fashion shows,” she says.

At age eleven, after three years of wrestling with self-loathing and consulting with a school guidance counselor, George Guinan VI came out as gay, announcing in a typed two-page letter, titled “Decisions,” that “I’m not the manliest man of all.”

The letter continued: “I have been questioning my sexuality for about three years now. I have, and still do sit up crying until the morning comes. I can’t feel bad any longer.

“I think I am gay and love you so much. I have dealt with this and I need to know where you stand on this because I love you and I don’t want to do this journey without you.”

Susan says that while she wasn’t initially sure what to make of the pronouncement, she was determined to be supportive.

“Listen,” she remembers telling Brooke. “You’ve had years to digest this. I’ve had two minutes. I love you. I will always love you. I don’t care if you’re gay. But I can’t talk to you about this right now because I need to process it.” Then Susan gave her son a hug and a kiss.

For George V, the letter spurred questions: “What went wrong? What happened? How could you know? You’re so young!”

Both parents say that while there had been signs, they’d never considered the possibility that their son was homosexual. George V describes it as “an out-of-sight, out-of-mind kind of a thing.” Earlier in their marriage, they had decided Susan would be a stay-at-home mom. The Guinans did not want other people raising their kids. Because Susan didn’t work, George Jr. moonlighted to supplement his firefighting income. Because he was out of the house so much, he never noticed Brooke playing with dolls. “I saw the withdrawal and the problems socially, the not wanting to do sports,” George V says. But it wasn’t something the family dwelled on.

The Guinans consulted a therapist. “I have friends with doctorates that cannot speak as well as your child does,” Susan recalls the psychologist informing her. “He has researched things. I sit here and he tells me what states allow gay marriage. He has thought about this. This is not a whim.”

Brooke continued to identify as a gay male through high school and into college. But it was at Staten Island’s Wagner College that the label began to seem an inexact fit. Brooke didn’t feel a sense of belonging with the campus’s gay community — or, for that matter, with anyone else.

Then she met Shayne Zaslow, a fellow freshman who was struggling with gender identity. A Connecticut native, Zaslow had been born female and came out as bisexual at fourteen, as a lesbian at eighteen, and as trans at nineteen.

“We both had similar interests,” says Zaslow, who since has transitioned to male. “We were both queer. We were both involved in activism and queer theory and we sort of read all the same things.” Both were active members of the university’s LGBTQ student organization. Both ran for the group’s presidency (they eventually became co-presidents). And they navigated their coming-out journeys together.

“I’m pretty quiet. I’m a stereotypical introvert in every sense of the word,” Zaslow says. “Brooke is a little bit introverted too, even though she’s sort of loud and outgoing.”

The pair’s mutual interests didn’t stop at gender and sexuality issues. They bonded over “nerdy interests,” as Zaslow, now 28, calls them. (“We share a Disney obsession,” he admits.) Zaslow had intended to become a math teacher and Guinan was a theater major, but both switched to sociology with a minor in gender studies.

“We’d use each other as sounding boards and bounce ideas. We’d talk about our identities with each other. I’m really grateful for that,” Brooke says, crediting Zaslow for helping her to come out as trans. “I don’t know how long it would’ve taken me otherwise. That’s when I started being able to place language with my identity.”

As sophomores, Zaslow and Guinan reached the consensus that they were genderqueer, meaning they saw their gender identity as falling outside the traditional binary of male and female. Guinan was eighteen at the time, and says she chose the name Brooke after the character Brooke Davis from the CW series One Tree Hill. “It was a name that sounded cute and womanly to me,” she explains. “She had a sort of husky voice but was very sexy and womanly.”

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Gender identity aside, Brooke tells the Voice, much of her college experience was spent struggling with another profound, if more universal, question, one that frightens all college students: What would she do after graduation?

In a move that surprised everyone in her family, she decided to follow the patriarchal career path and take the FDNY entrance exam. Those close to her were dismayed. They’d hoped she’d go into education instead. “Brooke is a genius,” Susan Guinan says. “She could do anything. Her college professor wanted Brooke to continue and get a master’s in gender studies and then get a doctorate in teaching. She wanted her to become a professor. She felt that the way she could talk to children and college kids, that she’d be so helpful and good. She was so disappointed.”

As a child, however, in addition to playing with dolls, Brooke had been attracted to the idea of superheroes. She was an avid reader of comic books, her favorite being Marvel’s X-Men. Susan surmises that that desire — to be larger than life — never went away.

“I think in her eyes, being a fireman is a superhero,” Susan says. “But that wasn’t what I had hoped for her, because of the danger.”

Brooke has never forgotten tagging along to work with her father at seventeen and watching the firefighters respond to a call. Her father remembers that day too.

“We ran in and did what we had to do and we came back all beat up and she asked, ‘This is what you do?’ ” George V recalls. It was the first time he can recall hearing her say, “I think I want to be a firefighter.”

Brooke says watching her father in action crystallized her desire to make her life about helping people. “That was sort of the epitome of what I wanted to do with my life,” she says now.

Even seven years into her career as a firefighter, there’s still something about putting on the gear that makes her feel “badass,” like her favorite X-Men character, Rogue. “She sort of breaks gender boundaries as well,” Brooke says. “She was sassy. She walked around calling people ‘sugar,’ but she was tough. She had superstrength. She could fly. She could beat people up more than most of the guys. She’d always save the day.”

After graduating from Wagner in 2008, Guinan passed the FDNY exam and entered the fire academy as a cadet that July.

The process threatened to bring with it a new round of discrimination, a prospect Susan Guinan found impossible to bear. With that in mind, the Guinans attempted to dissuade Brooke from wearing her sexuality on her sleeve. “Can’t you just go into the firehouse and do your job and not talk about your sexual orientation?” Susan remembers asking. “But she wasn’t going to hide just because the job wanted her to.”

At the time, Brooke had gone back to identifying as a gay male. Everyone was required to wear work-duty uniforms: navy-blue trousers and long-sleeved shirts of the same color. So Brooke wore navy-blue trousers and a long-sleeved white shirt. All the male cadets had to shave their heads. So Brooke shaved her head. But there was still the effeminate voice. The nail polish. The tote bag. People began asking questions about Cadet Guinan’s sexuality.

Sarinya Srisakul was a probationary firefighter at the time, who assisted in teaching classes for FireFLAG, a fraternal body that represents the FDNY’s LGBTQ community. Guinan was so effeminate, Srisakul says, that even members of FireFLAG were unsure how to react.

“They were worried about how she would be treated,” Srisakul says, adding that they eventually told Brooke bluntly: “Listen! You gotta butch it up!”

At a FireFLAG mixer shortly after graduation, some group members were mortified at Guinan’s beverage of choice, a Midori sour. “They said, ‘You can’t do that. Try beer!’ ” Srisakul recounts. After tasting several “macho” drinks, Guinan finally settled on an acceptable option: a screwdriver. “But they were like, ‘You can’t call it a screwdriver! You have to call it an “orange juice and vodka!” ’ ” she says.

Guinan is now close friends with Srisakul, who would go on to become president of the United Women Firefighters (UWF), a sororal group within the FDNY.

“We didn’t tell him to stop being him,” FireFLAG president Steven SanFilippo says of group members’ advice to Brooke at the time. “It was more, ‘This is what you’re going to expect, this is what is going to happen, so be prepared for it.’ That’s why we kept special awareness of how he was doing. Even when he was in the academy, I was specifically out there as an instructor just to make sure he didn’t have a problem.”

According to departmental statistics, 85 percent of the FDNY identifies as white and male. Most of FireFLAG’s 26 members — as well as other gay firefighters who aren’t part of the group — tend to convey more traditionally masculine characteristics and therefore find it easier to acclimate with their colleagues. Of FireFLAG’s membership, SanFilippo says only about eight are out as gay. Guinan was the department’s only outwardly effeminate gay male, according to SanFilippo. “It was all new,” he says. “Everyone was on a learning curve.”

SanFilippo, 50, has been a firefighter for 21 years and joined FireFLAG in March 1999 as a closeted homosexual because of what he characterizes as a “homophobic atmosphere” that existed in the firehouse at that time. FireFLAG meetings are often held in secret in order to protect the identities of closeted gay firefighters. Some members opt not to march in the Gay Pride parade.

“People worry about being excluded in their firehouses, so they don’t take the risk of coming out,” says SanFilippo. “It’s up to the individual, because they are the ones who have to live their lives.”

After graduating from the academy in 2009, Guinan was assigned to Engine 330 in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

“It was really difficult in my first firehouse, because I wasn’t being honest about who I was, so it’s hard to fit in to a group of people when you’re not being honest with who you are,” Brooke says today. “It’s a whole other level of not fitting in.”

To identify as gay was difficult enough — Guinan was the only openly gay person assigned to Engine 330. But to identify as genderqueer would have isolated her even further.

“That would be a whole other level of separation,” Brooke says. “That was a lot to deal with. Not to mention you’re fresh out of the fire academy. You’re brand-new in the workforce. You’re learning in this new job, which you’re doing for the first time. You have no seniority in the job, so all of the grunt work falls to you. I was never able to just relax in that firehouse, because I was so actively guarded.”

That anxiety is ultimately what convinced her to transition. “I needed to find a way to function,” Brooke says. “To not be on guard all the time.”

SanFilippo, who at the time was FireFLAG’s vice president, says that while assigned to the Bensonhurst firehouse, Guinan was faced with “one or two people that just couldn’t deal” with someone so different. He says Guinan contacted FireFLAG to reported the harassment.

Brooke declines to go into detail about what transpired at Bensonhurst, and the FDNY repeatedly refused to answer questions about her experiences there. But SanFilippo says that in 2010, Guinan was on the verge of quitting before FireFLAG stepped in and managed to arrange for a temporary transfer to a desk job at FDNY headquarters.

Brooke says she welcomed the transfer because she had decided to begin hormone treatment and wasn’t sure of the implications of the process. During the two years she spent at headquarters, she was “offline,” working in the recruitment unit. Still, it was a rough time. In 2011 she was diagnosed with depression. The sense of self-loathing reached a point where she began cutting herself, she says now.

She attributes much of her travails to the difficulty of fully embracing who she is as a human being. Trans people may face threats of violence, but denying one’s own identity presents an even deeper peril. “The sort of violence to your own soul by not being true to who you are — I think for a lot of trans people, that’s a fate worse than actual physical violence,” she says.

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“Once a rig is ten years old, you’re supposed to get a new one,” George Guinan V says as he shows off the five trucks at his firehouse on Rockaway Avenue in Brownsville, Brooklyn. He’s a big man, bald and blue-eyed, his russet eyebrows now streaked with gray. He speaks measuredly, and you’d be hard-pressed to guess he’s the “old-school, gung-ho fireman” Susan Guinan describes — until the alarm goes off for an emergency call.

A 36-year veteran of the FDNY, Guinan now serves as a lieutenant at Engine 233/Ladder 176, a snug firehouse in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. He describes firefighting as more of a calling than a job, and the firehouse as a home away from home.

“The fire department has been everything in my life,” Guinan says. “It’s a brotherhood like no other.”

As far back as kindergarten, Guinan wanted to put out fires. It didn’t hurt that his father was a firefighter, but his fascination grew on its own.

“At [age] thirteen or fourteen, I was going to work with my dad,” he says. “I did a couple of overnights. The whole hero-helping-people [aspect] drew me to it.”

One piece of advice from his father has stuck with him to this day: to always remain quiet. “Even when you talk, just have a quiet attitude, a quiet tone about you.” (George IV, who retired in 1989, declined the Voice‘s interview request for this story.)

The job brings with it an adrenaline rush that’s almost ineffable, Guinan says. “You get a ring at two o’clock in the morning, you’re sort of groggy and you flip out of bed. They give an address, a report of a private-dwelling fire, and you’re like, ‘Hmmm.’ ” He rolls back his eyes and shakes his head as if savoring a delicious meal. “You’re all pumped up.” He mimics more radio communication: “We’ve got people trapped on the top floor.” Then, ecstatically: “Here we go!”

“We always joked that the firehouse was my dad’s first home and our house was his second home,” Brooke says. “He loved those guys. My mother knew when she married my father that she was settling for being his second family, because his first family would always be the fire department.”

The attacks of September 11 represented a pivotal moment for the Guinan family. George V wasn’t supposed to work that day, but when the call came, he responded. He remembers the smoke, the wreckage. He remembers the lives lost and the friends he could not save. He remembers 9-11 as the time when the brotherhood became more important than his family.

Assigned to the Millenium Hilton Hotel across the street from the World Trade Center, George V was spared the carnage. The firefighters before and after him were assigned to the towers. He’d always been a reserved man — so much so that Susan would jokingly call her husband “The Quiet Man,” a nod to the title character portrayed by John Wayne in John Ford’s 1952 film. After 9-11, though, he returned home even quieter. “I lost my dad that day too,” Brooke told her mother at the time.

The Guinans divorced in 2011. He sought professional help for post-traumatic stress disorder. There was nothing he could do for his brothers on the day of the attacks, so he poured his soul into the brotherhood. In the firehouse, at least, he’s surrounded by people who understand his pain.

“When he goes to the firehouse, he fits in, he’s one of the guys,” Brooke says. “There’s no differentiation there. There’s this camaraderie that you can have when you can completely identify.”

It’s an esprit de corps he fears his daughter will never truly experience. “Why shouldn’t there be doubts in her mind?” he admits. “This grand old thing that Dad talks about,” he says, imitating Brooke — “well, what about me?”

Brooke agrees that she’ll never be able to look at the FDNY the same way her father does.

“When I go to the firehouse, I don’t have that camaraderie that comes from mutual identification, like a shared lived experience,” she says. “No one is going to come up to me and be like, ‘I don’t like you being here because you threaten the cohesiveness,’ but I’ve definitely felt it.”

George V says before being able to embrace Brooke as his daughter, he had to put the idea of having a son “to bed.” During that transition, he concedes, he blamed himself for Brooke’s struggle with her identity: Would it have been different if he’d spent more time at home? Things were different in his day. When he started out with the department in 1978 at age 21, there were no female firefighters, no FireFLAG, no organized LGBTQ groups. No one thought there might be a gay firefighter in the ranks. No one knew what LGBTQ meant.

Guinan says Brooke’s grandfather, George William Guinan IV, is still coming to terms with having a granddaughter who used to be his grandson. “Dad is very old-fashioned,” he says, explaining that George IV couldn’t grasp that this was not a conscious decision on Brooke’s part. He’s still working on his father, Guinan says. He reports that it has reached the point where, at the very least, George IV realizes that if you don’t support your family, you risk losing it.

“Brooke is being truly the person she is,” her father says. “This is how she’s created. She has no control over who she is. This is her genetic makeup.”

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Brooke has been on active duty at Engine 312 in Astoria, Queens, since 2013. Her mother says Brooke’s co-workers now only tease her good-naturedly — they call her the “She-Hulk” when she loses her temper, Susan says with a laugh. For her part, Brooke prefers not to discuss her work environment, and requested that the Voice not speak with her current ladder mates. But the FDNY brass have nothing but high praise for the work she does. “She’s brave, she’s strong, and she demonstrates on every tour that transgender people can do one of the hardest jobs anywhere,” says deputy commissioner Pamela Lassiter, who serves as the department’s chief diversity and inclusion officer.

With six years on the job, she’s already looking forward to retiring in another thirteen.

While she loves the chance to help others and the opportunity to use the FDNY as a platform to educate people about LGBTQ culture, in the end it is just a job, she explains. “It’s a great job. It’s a wonderful job. The pay is great. The benefits are wonderful. It allows me to live my life in a comfortable way. It allows me to have health insurance. I’m not saying there aren’t guys in the firehouse who I think are great guys and who I consider to be great friends and co-workers. But my family, my brothers and sisters, are other trans people.”

Brooke might not identify with the brotherhood, but she has become active with the UWF. She has taken part in hearings designed to re-evaluate the department’s physical-fitness requirements, and helps prepare women for the FDNY’s entrance exam at the New York Sports Club. She’s eyeing a secretarial seat in the UWF leadership.

During the Fire Academy graduation ceremony in November 2014, she joined other UWF members in applauding and cheering all four female probationary firefighters who graduated out of a class of 280 that day.

“They are my sisters,” she says. “We always have to have each other’s backs.”

She and her boyfriend, Jim Baker, have been together for two years and have just closed on a house together upstate. He’s a witty, introverted military vet and is also Brooke’s first serious boyfriend — a fact that made meeting her dad all the thornier.

“It’s always weird. It’s like, ‘Hi, I’m the guy who’s nailing your daughter,’ ” he jokes. The two are seated at a diner near Baker’s Netcong, New Jersey, home. “I don’t know what he was thinking. Was he looking at me as his daughter’s boyfriend? His son’s boyfriend? His son’s sugar daddy? I don’t know what he was looking at me as.”

Brooke laughs. Both agree her father can be inscrutable.

Brooke is Jim’s first trans girlfriend. “Jim is attracted to the feminine gender — it doesn’t matter what body it comes in,” Brooke explains.

Unlike his girlfriend, Jim isn’t an LGBTQ-rights activist. “I’m not an advocate for much of anything,” he says. His belief, albeit simplistic, he says, is live and let live. He considers himself a realist.

“I tend to have more faith in humanity,” Brooke says as they discuss the negative comments people left on the FDNY Facebook post of Brooke’s “So Trans So What” poster for V.O.I.C.E. As expected, reactions have been mixed. While some users applauded the department for being more diverse, others wondered why it should care about the sexual orientation of its firefighters. One user wrote, “If this is a ‘so what’ campaign then why are we celebrating this? If no one cares then why should we? Nice going FDNY!!! Way to make everyone else uncomfortable.” Another user wrote, “Leaving this page. What an abomination.”

Brooke was in Baker’s house when the post went up. What hurt her most were comments like “she is just a man wearing makeup” or those that sought to dehumanize her. “There are even a large number of people who go even further than that and they take away my identity altogether and say things like ‘It’s gross,’ ” she said in an earlier interview. “It’s still really sad, because you have people who not only want to take away your gender identity, but there are people who want to take away my humanity and turn me into an ‘it.’ ”

“I warned her about it,” Jim says. “I know how people are, and I was glad she didn’t take any of it personally.”

At another time in her life, she might have cut herself. Now some of the scars have been covered with tattoos. One, on her left hand, features the slogan “Keep Moving” inked over a tongue of flame.

“I’ve learned to love myself,” she says. She knows she wouldn’t have found love if she hadn’t.

Brooke is motivated by other transgender people who are making their voices be heard, particularly the likes of Laverne Cox who portrays the character of Sophia Burset, an FDNY firefighter-turned-inmate at the fictional Litchfield Penitentiary on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black. Burset turned to stealing to pay for her sex-reassignment operations as a trans woman. “Laverne Cox continually shows strength, integrity, and heart in all her works both on screen and in activism,” Brooke says.

“It’s always inspiring to see trans women and characters portrayed as actual people with real and honest stories and backgrounds,” she says. Speaking of Cox’s character, she says, “[she’s] a multifaceted character. She’s a mother, a partner, a trans woman. She’s a well-rounded person and that’s rare for mainstream trans characters.”

The “So Trans So What” campaign was Guinan’s way of celebrating her self-discovery. But she emphasizes that she has yet to uncover much more about herself. A trans person is never really finished transitioning — and it has nothing to do with hormonal therapy or gender-reassignment surgery.

Brooke declines to go into detail about the medical and physical aspects of her transition.

“When it comes to trans women, society wants to know what you’re doing in the bedroom, what your body is, and all of that stuff is very personal,” she says. “I don’t want my body to be analyzed. My body is my thing. There are things about my body that I don’t want everyone to know.”

Her journey has inspired her to assist other trans people with theirs. “I can’t enjoy my life if there’s all kinds of problems that other people like me are facing,” she says. “I can’t live with the guilt of ignoring that.”

See also: The FDNY Is a Force of More Than 10,000. Can You Guess How Many Are Women?

[news@villagevoice.com]

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