From the age of four, folk punk guitarist and Long Beach local Katherine Shepard had known she was a transwoman but continued to live as a cis-gendered male into early adulthood after growing up conforming to the ideals of her father and the patriarchal environment she was surrounded by.
“So much of my brain happened under the influence of testosterone and being welcomed on the side of patriarchy, being privy to conversation from men who felt safe to be shitty… boys are very good at policing each other,” Shepard said.
She recounts being in 5th or 6th grade and slipping on a pair of striped hand gloves she got from Hot Topic as she got ready for a sleepover with a boy who was a good friend of hers at the time. She liked the gloves because she had been trying to explore her femininity more but her friend felt differently.
“My best buddy stopped me and was like, if you wear those gloves in that house they will ridicule you and call you a faggot up and down, just so you know a what you’re getting into… I just put them away, it’s ruthless” Shepard said.
Katherine grew up in the early 90s to late 2000s when there was a lot more of a negative stigma towards being transgender and the media often portrayed trans people as making a mockery of them. Visibility of transgender people has improved since then but they are still one of the most marginalized demographics to date and protection laws across the U.S. are constantly under attack.
Katherine moved away from Long Beach to New York at the age of 21 after deciding she needed space away from her family to find who she was. She went to New York with the intent of leaning into the idea of being a cis-gendered male for the rest of her life.
“I thought, okay, maybe I can learn to be masculine enough to where I’m happy with it… maybe I can just lean into this role, but it’s impossible to deny yourself of who you are and if you do it comes out in negative ways like alcoholism ”
While living there she had decided she would finally come out as a woman after creating a list of things she wanted to accomplish in her life before making the transition and having conversations about her transition with people she could trust.
“I was having a drink with my bartender after work and I told her that and said ‘well why don’t you just do it, just do it who cares.’ I felt so empowered. I set things in motion and went to the LGBTQ hospital and got set up for a consultation,” Shepard said.
From that moment forward Katherine began to openly identify as a woman and moved back to Long Beach in 2016. The transition caused Shepard to deal with trials like having people from her past accept her as her true self while also trying to find the kind of woman she wanted to be.
“So much of my early transition was me projecting my preconceived notions and impressions of femininity out on the world and I would get some funny contradictions… the nicest thing is when people still respect me when I don’t perform traditional ideas of femininity,” said Shepard.
Like other transgender people, being able to identify how she pleases has helped Katherine feel more like herself than ever before and has allowed her to focus on her day-to-day goals as a musician and creative rather than focusing on how she is seen in the world.
“When you meet people and they tell you their pronouns it’s understanding somebody’s sense of self and who they are,” Shepard said.