Digital Transgender Archive

Interview with Barbara Satin

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Barbara Satin is a bisexual trans woman assigned male at birth. She was born in 1934 as the youngest of four kids and raised Catholic in St. Paul, Minnesota. Since her father died when she was a baby, her mother raised her with the financial support of her two uncles. She grew up with feelings of liking feminine things, which made her feel good, excited, and wonderful, but she hid these feelings since no one around her talked about those things. As a result, she became macho to prove herself as a man, eventually becoming a jet pilot in the Air Force. She went to a conservative Catholic preparatory seminary school for two years during high school where she saw this girl in an outfit Satin loved. Satin knew then that her feelings around gender weren’t going away. She graduated from Cretin High School, went to St. Thomas College, joined the Air Force, and married a woman believing that would resolve her feelings around gender. She also had three kids, a successful 30-year business career as Public Relations Director for St. Paul Companies, which is now Travelers, and a lovely home and church life. She was even asked to run for mayor of St. Paul, but she didn’t want to open the opportunity for others to discover her gender identity issues. She took an early retirement, and then one day her son asked to talk. Her son told her she was different, more harsh and critical. He asked her what was going on, and she decided then to come out to him as transgender, something she never did before. Her son placed a hand on hers, and told her, “Dad, we’ve been waiting for you to tell us.” Her wife, on the other hand, was not as open to the idea, and she said, “I wouldn’t want anything like that in my life.” Her son, a psychotherapist himself, suggested therapy to Satin. She went, and it helped her overcome her negative attitude towards her identity. She was a member and later president of the City of the Lakes Crossgender Community, CLCC, where you had to swear secrecy and get references to join. After the 1993 Human Rights Protection for GLBT passed, however, it gave the trans community the right to be more public and open. Growing up Catholic, she never divorced but she left the marriage and her church, which was challenging. She moved to Brooklyn Park and found Spirit of the Lakes Church, a GLBT church, which led her into her work within UCC, the United Church of Christ as the first trans woman in leadership as the chairman of the board. Satin has now returned to her wife who now struggles with arthritis and hand tremors. Her wife acknowledges Satin now for who she is, but she also isn’t entirely supportive. She’s done advocacy work for trans issues, even performing a piece on stage about her trans identity in Chicago after a worship service. She was recently promoted Deputy Faith Work Director for the National LGBTQ Task Force. She’s served the LGBT community as well by being on the board of OutFront, PFund, GLBT Generations, Training to Serve, and Clare Housing.

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