After Families Disown Them, 2 Transgender Vets Share A Bond

Aug 17, 2018
Originally published on August 17, 2018 7:48 am
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NOEL KING, HOST:

All right. It's time now for StoryCorps. Today we have a rebroadcast of a conversation from earlier this year. It's a story about courage on and off the battlefield. Sue McConnell and Kristyn Weed are Vietnam-era veterans. They also share another kind of sisterhood. They are transgender.

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KRISTYN WEED: I didn't start transitioning until I was 58.

SUE MCCONNELL: I guess I was 50.

WEED: How'd your family accept you?

MCCONNELL: Well, my son disowned me. He told his mother that he didn't want anything to do with the [expletive] freak, so I don't get to talk to my grandson or my granddaughter.

WEED: My family's similar to yours.

MCCONNELL: Your daughter disowned you?

WEED: Both my daughters disowned me, yeah.

MCCONNELL: Yeah.

WEED: Yeah.

MCCONNELL: When I was growing up, I always knew there was something different. I didn't like the same things the other boys did. You know, they wanted to play Army and cowboys and Indians, and I wanted to be the girl on the wagon that was sewing and making coffee (laughter).

WEED: Right.

MCCONNELL: But you know, I had to be who I wasn't so that I could survive.

WEED: I spent 15 years in the Army. And I enlisted, of all places, as a paratrooper, going to the 82nd Airborne Division. And the units I was in, the soldiers were pretty hard-charging, so that was the image you had to portray. I didn't start wearing women's clothes until I was out of the military. I wouldn't do it because I was afraid.

MCCONNELL: Oh, in the military, yeah. But then we met at the transgender support group...

WEED: Yeah, the VA support group.

MCCONNELL: ...And we started joking and then just, like, nitpicking at each other and stuff.

WEED: (Laughter).

MCCONNELL: And people said, well, you guys really are sisters. We do sit around and talk a lot. We would sit in Denny's for coffee at, like, 2 o'clock in the afternoon. And it'd be dark before...

WEED: And leave there at 10 o'clock at night (laughter).

MCCONNELL: Ten o'clock at night.

(LAUGHTER)

WEED: The servers all know us. The managers know us.

MCCONNELL: She flirts with all the waitresses.

WEED: Me?

MCCONNELL: Yes, you do.

WEED: We get 20 percent military discount.

MCCONNELL: Yes, we do (laughter).

WEED: You know, it hurts to have lost my daughters, but I found out love is not a two-way street. Love's not unconditional.

MCCONNELL: It is for some of us.

WEED: You're always there for me. There's never a doubt or a question as to whether you would be or not.

MCCONNELL: You are my sister.

WEED: I'm glad of it.

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KING: That was Kristyn Weed and Sue McConnell in Tucson, Ariz. Weed is getting married this fall, and McConnell will be officiating. Their story will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALIALUJAH CHOIR SONG, "LITTLE PICTURE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.