Susan’s Place founder shares her story of becoming herself and being an example as an LGBTQ+ person
CLARKSVILLE, TN (NOW CLARKSVILLE) – Susan’s Place is a transgender peer support website that Susan Larson started to blog about her transitioning process. Little did she know at the time that her story would inspire millions and her site would become one of the largest resources for transgender people in the world.
Larson told Clarksville Now that dating in a less than accepting environment has allowed her to become an influence for many transgender people today, which is why she started her blog.
At Suzanne’s is a Clarksville-based online forum with over 30,000 members from around the world.
The website provides a space for LGBTQ+, but specifically trans people, to chat with each other and find community with each other. Larson runs this site and has done so since 1995.
“I’ve been running Susan’s Place for almost 27 years now, and when I started it was more about getting support for myself. But as she grew and the community grew, it was more about helping others,” Larson said.
In addition to chat services and a Discord channel for members, the site also has articles on the arts, LGBTQ+ bills, and more.
The website’s slogan is “we stand at the crossroads of the sexes, balanced on the edge of a knife”.
Growing up, Larson said, she sensed something was wrong from the age of 4 or 5, but couldn’t put a name to it until she saw an advertisement for a documentary at the 7 years old which gave some background on transgender people.
“You get bullied because no matter how hard you try, you’re not seen by your peers as fair or normal,” Larson said. “Unfortunately, at the time, trans kids were forced into hiding and couldn’t get treatment when they were young.”
Larson said she knew she couldn’t do anything about it until she was 18, and when she was 23, she started taking hormones.
“I came out as an adult because I was pretty sure my family wouldn’t support it,” Larson told Clarksville Now. “I realized it’s something society sees as negative even though it’s not.”
“As I progressed, we had Christine Jorgensen who was one of the first trans people in the public eye. We have had Renee Richards who was a tennis player who sued for the right to play sports,” Larson described some of the transgender people who influenced her in her youth.
Larson also mentioned the Nashville native Calpernia Addams as an influence on her. Addams was a drag queen who became well known in Clarksville for dating a Fort Campbell soldier, Barry Winchell, who was later murdered by another soldier for his relationship with Addams.
“There have been several cases over the years in Clarksville where people have been killed or seriously injured because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Larson said.
“The only thing that heals is becoming who you are inside”
After the incident with Addams became widespread, Larson went back into hiding and began to detransition.
“I started to feel unsafe,” Larson said. “I started dressing in public, I had long fingernails, and it was in the early 90s, but after that I went back into the closet and didn’t come out until 2016 .”
Larson said many transgender people spend their lives in the closet and try to live normal lives according to the stereotypes assigned to their birth gender.
“Many get married, have children, try to live a normal life, it never works. Frequently you turn to drugs, alcohol, even suicide, you want to die. I even prayed for death .
“The only thing that heals it is becoming who you are inside, accepting who you are and who you were meant to be,” Larson told Clarksville Now.
Come of age
Larson began his public transition in the 1990s, after coming out to friends and family. A few years after launching Susan’s Place.
She was born in California, which gave her more freedom to make whatever changes she felt were necessary to her identity, such as legally changing her birth certificate, which is still not allowed in the state of Tennessee.
“I felt the same way from when I was 4 years old until I was 40, or 50,” Larson said. “My gender identity has never changed, not once.”
In 2016, she publicly returned to Facebook, in an online letter she wrote:
“Telling someone you’re transgender is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Before you tell them, you feel like you’re carrying a bowling ball in your stomach. Once you tell them and they accept you, it’s like being on a rocket to the moon.
You can read the full letter here.
One of Susan’s Place community members stepped in and funded her downstairs operation in late 2016.
“In fact, I thought for a long time that I could never make the transition because of the financial aspect,” Larson said.
In January 2017, Larson was able to have surgery in Thailand, and when a clinic heard about the work she was doing with Susan’s Place, they donated $25,000 worth of facial feminization surgery to her.
Larson said there are two sides to acceptance of trans and gender non-conforming people: one side is gender euphoria, where the individual is accepted and has the space to be who they are through her expressions, her clothes or even gender affirmation procedures and therapies.
The opposite is gender dysphoria, which Larson says is hard to describe if you haven’t experienced it firsthand. It goes beyond a gender mistake or someone’s dead name.
“I once described gender dysphoria as looking in a mirror and seeing an alien staring at you — someone you don’t recognize as yourself,” Larson said.
It was a feeling Larson said she knew all too well early in her transition.
“You look in the mirror and start to see an alien staring at you with your true self trapped inside, helpless,” Larson said. “It gets to the point where you don’t want to see your reflection again because of the pain it’s causing you, when your own voice betrays you every time you speak, when your body no longer represents who you are.”
Larson said people who make a conscious decision to call someone the opposite sex to who they want to be referenced to are harmful.
Larson underwent several surgeries, which she says ultimately allowed “her soul to match her body.”
“Trans people are not mentally ill, we are not monsters, we are fighting a terrible genetic or biological error,” Larson said. “We don’t ask for your approval even though that would be nice too, however, we rightly demand your acceptance.”
Push back past reviews
Although Larson has been open about her sexuality and gender identity for some time, she still receives threats of violence or cyber bullies suggesting she should harm herself.
“Running a forum with 30,000 members tends to toughen your skin a bit,” Larson said. “The best way to understand the trans community is to get to know trans people, once you know someone it’s harder to be afraid of them.”
Larson encourages people to keep an open mind and understand that there are more similarities than differences between everyone if only we choose to see it.
“We are also people. We are not something to be feared. We’re not people living a different life than yours,” Larson said. wouldn’t believe.
She said some of the changes she would like to see locally would be the return of a Pride festival to Clarksville, as well as more local groups that present information and safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community.
“Pride is a protest; it’s trans people standing up and saying we want to be treated in society in a way that every other person on this planet expects (to be treated),” Larson said.
“I’m out and happy, and you can be too,” Larson said.
- PFLAG: An information site founded in 1973 for parents and allies in the LGBTQ+ community.
- At Suzanne’s: A support site for transgender people, including a blog, news from the LGBTQ+ community, and a chat.
- The Trevor Project: The world’s largest site for crisis prevention and advocacy among LGBTQ+ people.