Tuesday, November 29

Transness, Judaism, and Orchids: Interview with Trans Elder Ginny Millas

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by Lou Barrett

Ginny Millas is a 60 year old transwoman. She works as a Judge’s Magistrate at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Justice Center dealing with difficult cases with parents and children in which it’s decided whether or not parents are fit to parent. The goal is always to see what can be done to help support the parent and later reunite the parents and children.

Very gut wrenching stuff.

She loves it.

“I love children,” she smiled, “I always have.”

Ginny ran for Domestic Relations Court Judge this year. She ultimately didn’t get past the primaries, but said it was an incredible experience.  “It was good to push the envelope. I got good exposure. I changed people’s minds. It was really positive for me on a personal level. I felt like, due to the exposure, I did win.”

Early on in our conversation, it was clear how positive a person Ginny was. She was absolutely lovely, and smiled ear to ear throughout our conversation.

I asked her about her coming out experience.

“I never knew who I was. My whole life.” She talked about how people describe realizing who they are as an out of body experience. One morning, seven years ago, she woke up and got ready to go for a swim. “I just felt something moving up and warmth and embracing. Almost like a whisper in my ear saying you are a woman and you’re sexually attracted to men.” At the time, she was still married to her wife and the mother of her children.

This began her journey in reconstructing her life’s history, and remembering moments that brought her feelings of discomfort. “This was nothing bad. There were nudges to me over time… little clues and hints. I just wasn’t ready to hear that.”

Ginny is Jewish and has a spiritual practice. This was clear early on in our conversation, and she exudes a religious presence through how centered and relaxed she was.

We talked about our shared dislike for the term deadname.

“I think one of the things different in my journey is coming out late,” she continued, “I totally embrace my past. I hate the term deadname. Why not have it be positive. Like cocoon name or transformative name. Those experiences still made you. I’m not ashamed of any of that history. I had beautiful times and a lot of joy, but a lot of- I’m Jewish, they call it tsuris. So a lot of anxiety and mental illness over it, but lives are complicated and messy.”

 “I also don’t want anyone to call me by my birth name, but I don’t want to give it so much power either,” I offered.

“I agree,” she smiled. “I also feel very nonbinary. As a professional, I nudge myself to be a little more female in certain choices. It’s not necessary. None of it is necessary.”

I really admired Ginny’s take on gender, and was happy that she continued with this idea.

“If you pushed me as an intellectual, I’m really hard pressed to define what gender is.” She laughed. “I find it a bit perplexing. I wish people weren’t so hung up on it. If you look at science, and biodiversity in nature, like it is so utterly diverse. There are hundreds of thousands of orchids! People are okay with that. Why can’t there be millions of genders and gender blends.”

Ginny went on to talk about politics in the queer community.

“I think we need to be careful when we’re talking to each other as differentiated as when we’re talking to just the greater community.” She paused, “For example, I know Cailtin Jenner is one of those people who invites a lot of strong opinions. But to me, as an LGBT community, we need to defend her even if that’s not our political view. We all need to stick together. We also need to be on board with Black Lives Matter. We’re all in this together. If we separate, we’re all going down.”

I couldn’t agree more. 

Ginny moved on to talk about her Jewish background. She’s interested in writing about her Jewish identity and how that fits into her trans identity. “How do you make sense of it when it’s so heteronormative and we’re such a part of the other and forbidden? Which is a challenge, I gotta say, but Judaism has always been really important to me. I’m still struggling with, where do I fit in within the world of advocacy?” 

She continued talking about her relationship to religion, “All religion is about love. The rest is commentary. The bigger messages are love and inclusivity. You take the people who are the downtrodden and the poor. Those are the ones you’re supposed to be the best to! Not kick them in the face and the groin. [Anti-queerness in religion] is so antithetical and hateful to me. So that’s an area I think I might have a positive contribution to [make].”

I look forward to reading Ginny’s work on being trans and Jewish and making sense of her Jewish identity while still feeling comfortable in her transness.

To close, I asked her what advice she’d give to younger LGBTQ+ people.

“I think, first and foremost, it’s that there’s no formula. So many people are giving advice. Don’t listen. Go at your own pace. Listen to your heart. Take your time. There’s no right way. The only way is the authentic way for you as an individual. For every trans person there is, there’s another way to transition.”

Ginny was so delightful. I look forward to talking to her again. 🔥 

Lou Barrett (they/them) is dedicated to writing and publishing work that improves queer lives. They write creative non-fiction focusing on desire and gender performativity as it relates to their own life. They started Purpled Palm Press in 2018 in order to create books that empower queer people to create a better life for themselves and the people around them. When they’re not working, Lou loves walking into kitchens and launching into a monologue about whatever they’ve been thinking about.

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The Buckeye Flame amplifies the voices of LGBTQ+ Ohioans to support community and civic empowerment through the creation of engaging content that chronicles our triumphs, struggles, and lived experiences.

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