Oregon has earned headlines more than once on the transgender news front. The tabloids went nuts in March 2008 after a Bend man named Thomas Beatie announced via the Advocate that he was—drumroll, please—a Pregnant Man. Born a woman, Beatie transitioned from female to male, but kept his reproductive organs so he could give birth. He is currently pregnant with his third child and due to give birth again sometime this year.
In November 2008, the former lumber-mill town of Silverton elected the nation’s first transgender mayor, Stu Rasmussen, who trounced his opponent by 13 points. “I’d always wanted cleavage, so I went out and acquired some,” he told KGW after his victory. Despite being criticized for dressing a bit too revealingly in low-cut dresses and miniskirts, Rasmussen, who identifies as male and female, has been lauded for his fiscally conservative, no-nonsense mayoral style.
Kintz’s transition has been far less publicized, but its effects are still reverberating throughout the Portland community. She’s received an outpouring of support from students, parents, colleagues, and former pupils, some of whom have come out to her as gay or transgender themselves. She’s also aligned herself with various advocacy groups in Portland, which she says have embraced her for being a “warrior,” and she’s started a part-time gig of sharing her story in public forums. “I finally realize what I’m doing now is a higher cause,” she says. “I’m thankful I finally know this.”
Kintz has also made peace with “the whole church thing,” which is to say she hasn’t set foot inside one in over a decade. “If God knows everything, and he knew what I was going through, why would I be born if I was just going to go to hell?” she wonders. “If church brings peace to people, that’s great. It just didn’t do that for me.”
While Kintz has gone through the fire to reach a peaceful point in her life, there are some in the transgender community who feel that such public transformations lead people to believe that transitioning between sexes is merely something to gawk at.
“We just want to go the grocery store and get on with our lives,” says Laura Calvo, a transgender woman (and former Josephine County deputy sheriff) who was elected treasurer of the Democratic Party of Oregon in 2009. She is a frequent sounding board for transgender issues in Portland. Calvo commends the school district for how it handled Kintz’s transition, but she’s quick to point out that Kintz isn’t the first teacher to do this, nor will she be the last. Transgender people, she says, are everywhere.
“We are in Obama’s government and corporate America. We drive buses and police cars,” Calvo says. “The more we make of each person’s transition, the more we continue highlighting how ‘different’ we are. It’s a constant battle between our privacy and ‘bravery.’ But as I constantly remind people, it’s not brave what we do; we simply have no choice.”
For the first time in her life, Kintz lives by herself, and she’s been dying to show off her Milwaukie bachelorette pad. I can tell she’s relishing her independence as she leads me on a tour of the spacious walk-in closet—one of her favorite parts of the house. Hangers fill every inch of rack space, each one draped with blouses and skirts bought at thrift stores (creating a whole new wardrobe on a teacher’s wages isn’t easy). These days, she rarely wears pants. “It reminds me too much of the guy thing,” she says. Below the racks are a small makeup table, a mirror, and two styrofoam heads topped with the wigs her male-pattern baldness make essential. “I love sitting here, just being in here,” she says. “I wasted money on cheap wigs that never did look very good. Now I buy quality, and it is so worth it!”
Back in the family room, Kintz kicks off her flats and relaxes into a leather recliner. She wants to show me a DVD someone made of her giving a lecture the week before to a human sexuality class at Portland State University. A crossed leg reveals a run in her stockings as she cracks open a Heineken Light. She may be new to womanhood, but she’s already got the whole calorie-consciousness thing down.
The wall-mounted plasma screen lights up with the image of Kintz standing in front of a chalkboard inside a packed college lecture hall. “I get such a kick out of seeing myself in this,” Kintz says, taking a swig of her beer and chuckling. “It’s so wild! God, I’m such a teacher, aren’t I?”
As I watch her watching herself—her pacing, her hand gestures, her charm, her self-deprecation—the fear for her well-being that overcame me last summer when I first heard about her transition from Mr. to Ms. Kintz is replaced by an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I was just one of Kintz’s many students from just one of his many math classes so many years ago, and yet here I am witnessing firsthand the anatomy of a second chance.