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Lois Bates

July/August 2008

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It was during this incredibly progressive period of her life, however, that her roles unexpectedly began to shift.

One sunny afternoon last summer, she was talking on her cell phone while waiting to have her oil changed at a gas station on Chicago's impoverished West Side. A man walking past mistakenly thought that her conversation was directed at him. While assuring him that it was not, Lois believes that the guy suspected that she was not a physically born female. As a result, he attacked her.

He was much bigger than she, and she was wearing high heels. She fell hard to the ground when he hit her, bruising her knee pretty badly. In spite of her fall, she was able to reach for the blade that she kept in her purse in case a situation arrived where she would happen to need it. She never really expected to use it.


He hit her again and then she cut him. At that point he ran away, leaving her with a deep cut on her face and a twisted wrist. In shock, she drove herself to the hospital.

It wasn't the first time she'd ever been in an altercation as a result of transphobia. It was, however, the first time it had happened while she was alone. Aside from the physical scars, the incident has left her with a bruised spirit that, still to this day, she is working hard to mend.

And as if that wasn't enough, approximately a week after the incident, Lois received news that her donated kidney had failed and that she would need to begin dialysis soon. In retrospect she admits that she slipped into a severe state of depression at that time. On top of the stress associated with her involvement with Windy City Pride (which was extremely chaotic at the time, to say the least) and being the victim of a brutal hate crime, learning that her kidney had failed was the final straw.

Despite overwhelming support and encouragement from her mother and from the LGBT community, Lois opted not to pursue charges against her assailant. Not only did she feel that she just didn't have the energy to go through with the process, considering her current health challenges, she also wasn't sure if she wanted to live in the spotlight that would come with being a poster child for violence against transpersons. After all, her HIV status, kidney trouble, and diagnosis as diabetic were not public knowledge. Therefore, coming out as a victim of assault could potentially open the door to out her about many things that, until this point, she was dealing with in private.

While in preparation to be added to the list to receive another kidney transplant, however, Lois had what she describes as a wonderful epiphany. She realizes now that the self-preservation her parents spoke of is bigger than just being able to support oneself so that you can live your life as you please. Self-preservation also involves having all of the elements of your life -- physical, mental, spiritual, professional, etc. -- work together to create a more cohesive and fulfilling life experience. Lois admits that for the greater part of her life things have been working, thank God, but they have not been working together.

Today, she is in a different place. Her health is stable, though not perfect. She's never had to take medication for HIV and, ironically, the challenges she was having relating to her diabetes have subsided. Agreeing to be a part of this very special issue of Positively Aware is her first major step at bringing all of the elements of her life together. It's the first time that she's publicly spoken out about the assault, or having renal failure, or diabetes, or about being HIV-positive. She has also begun to more aggressively incorporate a more holistic approach to her work with transgender people.

She wants it to be clear that she doesn't regret any of her life experiences or choices that she's made until now, because they've all helped to make her the proud transwoman she is today. What she hopes that people will get from her story, especially other transwomen, is that all of the components of your life must work together in order for you to live your very best life.

The other thing that she wants people to understand is that transition is a lifelong journey and that, for transpersons, the physical part of it is just one piece to the puzzle. Life is filled with transition. Therefore, approaching it holistically and with self-preservation in mind is the best advice that Lois can offer to anyone.

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This article was provided by Positively Aware. It is a part of the publication Positively Aware. Visit Positively Aware's website to find out more about the publication.


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