Digital Transgender Archive

Interview with Valerie Spencer

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Valerie Spencer identifies as a black trans woman and was assigned male at birth. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, California in the suburbs. She had an older brother who was murdered when she was 4. She remembers her physically abusive father beating her mother when she was a child. When she was 2 her parents divorced, and she lived primarily with her mother where her great aunt helped raise her. Spencer loves her mother dearly and currently lives with her. She describes her childhood as innocent and playful, skipping through the neighborhood and picking flowers on the way. In kindergarten, they were playing dress up, and she automatically went to the girl’s box. Her teacher called her mother who told her it was fine for Spencer to play in the girl’s box. She hid and isolated a lot as a child since she knew she wasn’t safe. People responded to her differently, which made her feel unsafe. Her father attempted to violently instill masculinity into Spencer from a young age by expressing rage towards her, but she describes herself as a soft, frail child. Her father wanted her to be a boxer like he was and to be his son. He took her to a playboy club to butch her up but failed. She hasn’t spoken to her father since she was 16. She was put out of churches and picked on and beat up by the neighborhood because of her femininity. Spencer came of age in the 1980s and came out through the gay experience. Spencer says she was raised by “old bulldaggers and faggots” during her late twenties. She became a drag queen after her friends suggested it. Her mother even helped her purchase fabric, gave her money, and took her to get her nails done for her first drag show. Her mother and her grandmother even attended the show, thrilled to be there. By 17, she began to feel that she wasn’t a drag queen. Her doctor suspected that she might be trans and so referred her to a support group at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center where she discovered that she was trans. She began transitioning with her mother’s help by changing her name and wearing feminine clothing full-time. She has a Master’s in Social Work and is close to finishing her doctorate at One Spirit Interfaith Seminary based in New York, studying to be an interfaith minister. She was honored by the White House and was invited to meet Caitlyn Jenner, but she declined the invitation. She is also a therapist.

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