Bella Kaldera is a transwoman currently living in Hubbardstown, Massachusetts. Hubbardstown is a small town, and Bella has made a conscious decision to be actively involved in her community. She sat down to talk to TBC about how important she believes it is to give back to the community in general as a member of a gender minority group. For Part 1 of the interview, please click here.
I know you live in a small town. What importance do you see in participating in your community?
I see a whole lot of benefits from that. I feel very strongly that if we’d come and kept to ourselves, we’d be those people over there. It’s a security issue. Some people feel that having lots of guns is good security. But while I have lots of guns, I don’t necessarily feel that is good security. I think good security is knowing your neighbors, and having good relationships with your neighbors. And knowing your community, and having good relationships with your community, so that you have social network.
This is something I discovered a long time ago. I never had hardly two nickels to rub together, aside from a couple years after I was gifted the money for my surgery. So what I’ve learned is that social capital trumps financial capital every time. This is a primary reason why I get active in my community - to build social capital. Because where am I going to need social capital? One place I’m going to need social capital is in my community. Now we may still be those weirdos over there, but we’re THEIR weirdos over there because we pitched in and made ourselves useful from day one.
When I transitioned in 1987, I did so bang, all at once. I had a vision, that basically told me, Stop being a wannabe. If you’re going to do this, do it! And at that time I also came to the conclusion that survival belongs to the useful. So I wanted to try to be the kind of person that other people would want to have about. I’ve always been susceptible to loneliness, and I’ve had a lot of time in my life when I was alone. I prefer to be with people, frankly.
It’s decisions that I’ve made that I’m still looking for new ways to implement, such as running my town’s recycling center, which is one thing that has nearly covered me with glory in the town. But I keep looking for other things to do too, like running for Constable, which I did on a lark.
So why did you choose to do that?
I had actually had the idea that it would be fun to run for Constable a few years ago, but I kept passing on the opportunity. So after I healed from surgery and I’m restarting my life in all sorts of different ways, I said to myself, “Well, gee. There’s an open slot. Why don’t I run for it?” I had the notion that if I were to run for it, I found out that there wasn’t anybody presently in town who was bonded and certified for serving legal papers. So I said to myself, this could be a source of income. So I decided I was going to run for Constable.
Partially, the other reason is that I have occasionally thought that I would like to run for State Representative. But I’ve also said to myself, “You’re a tranny girl. No one’s going to vote for you! You’re nuts to even think of it!” I had a dual purpose with this, to actually see if anybody would vote for me. To my surprise, about 200 people did! Which was enough to win me the office in a literal landslide! Because there was nobody else running, for one, except for one write-in candidate who got 5 votes. I had heard about this guy who had taken out nomination papers, but apparently he didn’t get his 25 signatures. So he ran as a write-in, and I crushed him! (laughs)
Now it hasn’t been as lucrative as I had thought, but it’s still a great way to meet people, and I think that it could evolve into being a bigger job than it is. I also thought that it might be useful in that I run the recycling center, and occasionally people will give me a ration of shit about things. I figure it could be handy to be a Constable in that case. (laughs) It gives me more authority.
I have been a paranoid individual all of my life. I grew up in a cult that’s fairly paranoid, and I grew up getting bullied. Then I discovered I was a tranny girl, and had to do that, which also could tend to make a person paranoid. So security and things like that are always on my mind. People talk about “When the Shit Hits the Fan,” and looking at the state of affairs, we’re closer to complete social collapse than we ever have been in the past fifty years of my life. There are all sorts of various reasons that all seem to be adding to a great deal of social unrest coupled with various other external factors that tend to exacerbate it. If the shit is going to be hitting the fan, I don’t want to be outside the community structure. I want to be inside the community structure. Being an oddball in a household of oddballs, there is the possibility that we would be thought of as completely unnecessary when people are building the barricades. But if I’m already ensconced in the fabric of the town, then I’ll be in there, building the barricades with everybody else. And again, it’ll be, “Sure, she’s a weirdo, but she’s our weirdo.”
And she’s building a great barricade!
Yeah. I’m good at barricades. (laughs)
So, my last question is, what advice do you give to trans kids? Or to younger trans people that you meet?
Things have gotten so much better for young trans folk. I am now hearing about kids transitioning while still in childhood. A lot of the problems that I faced are gone with the wind, just because social climate has advanced. People are recognizing more and more that it is an identity issue, and it’s not an issue about who you want to have sex with. It’s about one of those most basic factors of human development and personality.
So what would I say to people transitioning? For kids transitioning, I would say persist. You have a right to be who you are, and no one can deny you your own identity. So stick up for yourself and persist, and you’ll get there.
But there are still a lot of people I have met who transitioned old. The people who I see for the transition being most problematic, are those individuals who attempted to build straight lives for themselves. They had kids, they got married, and all of this. So they say to themselves, I know I have to do this, but I have to wait until the kids are graduated from high school. With me, they said, “Why couldn’t you have waited until your grandmother died?!” Well, no.
What I would say to older individuals who are transitioning is that your body has a biological clock. One of the things that is fortunate about my life is that I got myself on the hormones while my flesh was still plastic. I hadn’t really hit male puberty, and was probably never going to hit male puberty, so I had that slight advantage. My body took to hormones very nicely. It was like the missing ingredient. My brain works a lot better on estrogens. I did have terrible rage attacks for a few years there, while the testosterone was battling with the estrogen, but then after I had my orchiectomy in 1995, that problem went away. It’s been very nice sailing, aside from some liver issues, since.
But because I transitioned when I was still in my twenties, my flesh was still young, and I’m fortunate enough to look this good now. It is kind of important! I’m a woman! You’re a woman! We’re concerned about how we look! (laughs) We want to look good because it’s a thing about being a girl. And yet I have met so many t-girls who didn’t transition until they were in their fifties or sixties, and by then they had just put off the clock too damn long. Their body doesn’t have the elasticity and plasticity to be able to transition gracefully. I’m not saying they shouldn’t at that age, I’m saying there are some things you can’t put off. So I would advise if there was some would-be t-girl out there in their thirties kicking the idea about, I would say DO IT. It’s a slippery slope, and you will not be able to avoid it or you’ll feel terrible. And it literally is; it’s something that sucks you in, and it becomes more and more important until it’s entirely irresistible. That’s why it’s an identity issue. Tranny cooties are inescapable. It’s just the way it is. (laughs)
Thank you, Bella! And thank you Jawniffer Media for the photography!