Digital Transgender Archive

Interview with Aria Said

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Aria Said identifies as a black heterosexual transsexual female or trans woman, and she was assigned male at birth. She was born and raised in Portland, Oregon as well as Beaverton, Oregon, which is a suburb outside of Portland. She was a ward of the court and was placed with an adopted family until she was 16. She has one biological brother and some significantly older siblings within her adopted family that she doesn’t know too well. At 3 or 4 she took a bath with a cousin who was assigned female at birth and realized something was wrong or something didn’t match up. She began to feel as if she was born in the wrong body. She went to a Jesuit school, public school, and then to Catholic schools. She went to school as a girl in 4th grade, and she was never outed but she was eventually told by her adopted family to stop after neighbors began to express concern that a boy was wearing girl clothes. She then went into the closet. Going through puberty was uncomfortable and so Said gained and lost weight as a result. She wanted to shave her face, but her parents wouldn’t allow her to do so. She was teased, made fun of, and harassed in middle school for being seen as gay. She came out as gay freshmen year of high school. Her junior year she started wearing girls’ and boys’ clothes, abbreviated her dead name, and was pretty fluid. After seeing Isis King on America’s Next Top Model, she learned what transgender meant and realized that’s what she was. She was also boy crazy, baking cupcakes and writing love notes for them when she had crushes on them. She didn’t come out when she decided to transition so her parents ended up finding her using lip gloss and wearing a rhinestone mini-skirt and a tank top. They forced her to move out at 16. She had a job and lived with roommates until she finished high school. A program called Upward Bound paid for her tuition at Portland State. Her parents still don’t really see her because of their religious convictions. She contemplated and attempted suicide, motivating her to transition. She moved to San Francisco, California where she lived in non-profit housing called Ark House. She also met other trans women that she had more in common with than in Portland and worked as a sex worker. She then started working at NGOs and community-based organizations before getting a government job. She talks about Miss Bobbie Jean Baker, a matriarch in the trans community who she met at City of Refuge Church in San Francisco. Miss Baker mothered Said and showed her how to navigate systems and taught her street smarts. Said also talks about Miss Major, who developed the TGI Justice Project and who was involved in the Stonewall riots. Said has pursued hormones along with orchiectomy and laser treatments to remove body hair. She still lives in San Francisco, California.

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