Peninsula couple Susan and Cindy Brittain were featured in the documentary “Just Gender,” which will be shown at the second annual Transgender Day of Remembrance in Port Townsend. The two will be attending the event to take part in the candlelight vigil and participate in a discussion about life as a transgender couple in Jefferson County. (Susan Brittain)

Peninsula couple Susan and Cindy Brittain were featured in the documentary “Just Gender,” which will be shown at the second annual Transgender Day of Remembrance in Port Townsend. The two will be attending the event to take part in the candlelight vigil and participate in a discussion about life as a transgender couple in Jefferson County. (Susan Brittain)

Port Townsend woman to speak of transgender experience

PORT TOWNSEND — Susan Brittain of Port Townsend once was named Bob.

She will talk about her experience along with other members of the Jefferson County Transgender Support Group after a screening of “Just Gender,” a 2013 documentary that features her, among others, at the second annual Transgender Day of Remembrance tonight.

The event will start at 7 p.m. with a candlelight vigil at the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall, 2333 San Juan Ave.

The documentary will be shown at 7:30 p.m. and will be followed by a discussion facilitated by the Jefferson County Transgender Support Group.

“We’ll just be answering questions about what it’s like to live in this community as a trans person,” Brittain said. “We’re trying to keep things as nonpolitical as possible since it is a day of remembrance.”

She will attend with her wife, Cindy. The two were married as Bob and Cindy Brittain in 1983.

“Cindy knew I had some gender issues that I didn’t understand at the time,” Brittain said.

“But back then, if you transitioned, you had to divorce your wife and leave your kids. It was like being in the Witness Protection Program.”

At the time, she was working as a schooner captain on the East Coast and the two had a son together, so she said transitioning just wasn’t an option for her.

“You think these things, new jobs or having a son, will make your gender dysmorphia go away, but it doesn’t,” she said.

She hit the breaking point in 2010 at the age of 53.

“I knew I couldn’t go on living like this,” Brittain said.

“I just couldn’t go on living as a man.”

The documentary follows Susan and Cindy Brittain, along with other transgender people from around the world, through stages of transition. The Brittains were filmed from 2010 to 2013 — the first three years of Susan’s transition from male to female.

“It covers all aspects of the transgender experience,” Susan Brittain said, “all those issues that transgender people have when they’re coming out to their family and community.”

She said that film now is used in colleges for educational purposes because it tackles everything from growing up as a transgender child to the discrimination that transgender people can face in the workplace, when trying to get medical care and in social situations.

“It’s not a lightweight documentary,” she said.

Tonight’s event will be the second annual Transgender Day of Remembrance in Port Townsend.

Nationally, it began in 1999 and is held on or around Nov. 20 each year to honor “the memory of those whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence,” according to GLAAD, once the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, on its website at www.glaad.org/tdor.

It was begun by Gwendolyn Ann Smith in honor of Rita Hester, an African-American transgender woman who was killed in Massachusetts in 1998.

“We’ll be reading off 70 names of people from around the world who have died this year,” Brittain said.

In the United States alone, at least 24 transgender people, many women of color, have been killed in 2016, according to the Human Rights Campaign at www.hrc.org.

“With the number of murders that go unreported and suicide, the number is probably much higher,” Brittain said.

________

Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at cmcfarland@peninsuladailynews.com.

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