Digital Transgender Archive

Interview with Ben Singer

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Ben Singer identifies as a trans man and was assigned female at birth. He was born and raised in Sterling, Illinois in a working-class family. For the past 25 years he’s been estranged from his family who were abusive towards him. He grew up isolated in a small rural area and doesn’t remember having many friends. Singer’s grandmother was the only person who gave him permission to be who himself. His mom would force him to wear dresses which he didn’t like since he felt exposed, so he would wear pants underneath. He says he didn’t have a relationship to his experience of gender for a long time since he felt there was something else that he never experienced and yearned for in his life. He was uncomfortable in his body from the time that he hit puberty. He went to college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Madison, Wisconsin, and he was involved in radical lesbian separatist feminism. He took on a butch dyke identity in his 30s during the 1980s. Singer lived for at least 15 years as a highly visible female-bodied masculine person and experienced violence directed at him, people yelling and throwing things out of cars and someone telling him they were going to kill him. When he found out about the term transgender it was phenomenally important to him since it gave him a diagnosis for what he was. Before starting hormones, he describes himself as extremely rigid about his masculinity and feeling unable to speak in public or do other things since he felt he wasn’t in a body that he wanted to present to others. He’s been on hormones for a while now and had top surgery. He helped organized the first public trans event in Philadelphia called Bridges to Coalition: A Community Forum on Trans Issues. It drew in about 200 people from across the east coast and the Midwest, and Leslie Feinberg was the keynote speaker. The event became the catalyst for various political actions, including starting the Transgender Health Action Coalition, or THAC. He has a PhD where he studied transgender health, history, politics, and ethnographies, and he is also an activist.

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