As Pride month comes to a close, we’re honored to share this photo essay by Dr. Allie Taur, a beloved member of the PAAC community. Dr. Taur is the Physician in Charge of Nuclear Medicine for Kaiser Permanente in San Bernardino, CA, where she’s practiced for 15 years. She’s also the wife of Dr. Joyce Taur, a mother of three, a bass player, a restorer of old cars, and a trans advocate. She transitioned in 2014, and she generously shared with us photos and stories about her life before and after. We’re deeply grateful for her candor and her advocacy for the trans community in healthcare and beyond.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
I look at the person sitting back there and honestly, even looking in that person’s eyes, there’s not that much recognition. Right after transition, it was very quick; all of sudden your brain just says, “Nope. This is who I am.” I looked in the mirror, and even though I was still healing up — I was swollen, I was bruised, even through bandages — I could tell: This is who I am. You know the watch or clock that’s going when you’re doing a search on a computer? I felt like my whole life, it was spinning along and tying up the process. That describes a lot of gender dysphoria: Your brain is searching for something, but it isn’t finding the result, and it isn’t going to stop. You spend so much of your resources doing that in the background, and it chews up your processor. So you have no resources. As soon as I could open my eyes, my brain instantly said, “That’s me.” You didn’t know what you look like, but as soon as you saw it, you knew that’s the way it was always supposed to be. So I look at this photo and I just say, “Huh.” It looks like it could be a cousin. There’s not that flash of recognition. There’s not even echoes. There’s minimal emotional attachment to it because once you know what you look like, you look at that and say, “Who’s that? That’s not me.”
At that time, that’s the best smile I could possibly muster. And there weren’t many laughs. I was always so distracted running around, just trying to distract myself. I didn’t know how to slow down enough to even take in something funny and be able to laugh at it and be in the moment. I was never in the moment. Again, my brain was running a search, and I was always frantic. Life was frantic. Even parenting was frantic. It felt like a series of activities that I had to do without really sitting in it, acknowledging what it all meant. If you’re not present, you can’t be aware of the importance of a moment, right? To be in the moment requires a whole shitload of things. So a lot of it is shutting off those background searches. You just have to free up your CPU.
I felt like an obligate ram ventilator. That’s what some sharks are. Because they don’t have moving gills, they need to have oxygen passing through them. That’s why some of them can’t stop moving or they die. I felt like that: If I ever stopped moving, I would die.
My youngest, Jacob, was five when I transitioned. There was a day about three years ago when I said, “Hey Jacob, do you remember what I used to look like?” And he looked at me all funny, like, “Uhhh… what?” He looked at me as if I told him I’m a Martian. He has no recollection of it because by that point, my dysphoria had gotten so bad, I wasn’t there. If I wasn’t present emotionally, even though I was physically there, I wouldn’t make a mark on anybody, you know? So for him, I was always Allie.
I never liked the word “dad” or “daddy.” For some reason, they just never sat right. Even before I was aware of what’s happening, even before I was aware of dysphoria, it was like, I appreciate the sentiment, but it was still bittersweet. And I didn’t really understand why. So much of what happens when you’re trans is you have thoughts and feelings that there are no words for. They’re unformed, but they’re just as real. And you can react in a very visceral way with something, and there’s a clear reason for it — you just don’t have the vocabulary for it, nor are you aware of the process. The process doesn’t have a name yet. But it is just as real and it can be just as devastating. It just strips joy. So even these cards — I didn’t delight in them. I didn’t take pride in them. So many of these things just ended up on a file. They never got displayed in my office. This was long before gender dysphoria — before I was aware it had a name. Even back then, I just filed them away.
I’m proud of “mom,” though. I feel like that’s a title you earn and moms are badasses, so that’s a title that I absolutely relish, that I treasure. Every time I hear the kids call me “Mom,” there’s still a little surge of delight. It feels right. It’s like music to my ears, music to my soul.
This morning, I was on the phone with a company and someone said about me, “This is what she wants.” Even when I hear the word “she,” there’s still something about that which delights the soul. You light up a little bit and you feel like, “That’s all I ever wanted to hear.” As much as being mis-gendered hurts, being properly gendered is like a salve. It’s deeply satisfying. It doesn’t feel like you’ve made it or you feel triumphant — there’s something else about it. It’s the absolute rightness of it.
I look at this photo and that’s joy, right there. I’m completely in the moment and also at the point where I can experience pure joy now. Like Brene Brown says: Vulnerability is a strength, right? In order to truly experience joy, you have to be vulnerable because the same things you do to shut out pain and shut out the hard things keep you from joy, shut out joy as well.
I didn’t think life could ever be this good. I know I’m living my best life. I don’t know anybody on the planet who has it better than me. I don’t think anybody’s more grateful than I am because I didn’t think this could ever happen, and here I am. When you spend your whole life dangling over the precipice, you’re profoundly grateful for solid ground. This is what it feels like. This is what it looks like. This is everything that I ever wanted but didn’t know was possible.
So maybe that’s why I fight so hard for the trans community. Because I had resources — Joyce and I, dual-physician income, we had all these resources. I was able to fully transition and live my best life, but everybody deserves to live their best life. And to be able to live your best life should not be limited by your socioeconomic status. That’s why I fought so hard to make sure that at least the healthcare part of it, all the transition-related care, wouldn’t be a barrier. Because I know how good it is when you can truly be yourself, be comfortable with yourself.
Everybody’s transition is different. It’s cisgender folk who basically think genitals equal gender. The only thing they offered back in 2014 when I transitioned was bottom surgery, nothing else. I had to say, “But that’s not what I need.” That’s not what my dysphoria came from. It was from looking in the mirror and saying, “That’s not right.” So I spent $40,000 out of pocket for transition. And how big of a barrier is that for almost everyone? You can’t put that on the credit card. Some people just save pennies and so many trans people are underemployed or unemployed. And they’re devastated. They don’t have family resources. And how many other trans people you know have a Joyce?
I had everything. I’m acutely aware of how much privilege I have in the trans community. But what do you do with privilege? Privilege is an umbrella. And it’s not for yourself — you use it to shelter others who don’t have it. So that’s why I’ve been fighting. They’d never had a physician, a trans voice in those spaces. I’ve fought the system and guess what? In 2020, any Kaiser member can get all that done — every procedure, all the therapy, all the treatments that I had — for $200. A $200 copay for facial feminization surgery, which is a $40,000 surgery.
I’m proud of Kaiser for this. It feels like trying to steer the Titanic with a very small rudder or a paddle, but slowly but surely, it does move. That’s the journey, right?