This story is part of “At Risk in the Trump Era,” a four-month investigation by USC Annenberg advanced radio students, exploring how vulnerable communities across Southern California react to the first months of Donald Trump’s presidency. The series profiles individuals burdened by new worries — looking for work, signing up for school, or even deciding whether to publicly express their sexual orientation or religious affiliation.

Renee Gross brings us the story of Olive, a transgender 20-something in Los Angeles who says her home life with her parents has gotten more hostile since Trump took office. Olive and her parents have asked only to use their first names. 

Olive is parked in front of a grocery store miles away from her home. She pushes back her seat, undoes her pants, and pulls them down over her hairy legs. Then she slips on a skirt, top and jean jacket.

“Aaah, freedom!” she exhales.

Olive calls herself “vampire trans” because she dresses as male during the day, but at night puts on makeup and wears women’s clothes.

Olive performing stand-up at the Comedy Store. She jokes about her family and her love life, among other things. (Renee Gross)

She chose the name Olive partly because she used to imagine herself go-go dancing in olive-colored clothing.

But at home, she goes by her old name: Richard.

She lives with her parents, immigrants in their mid-60s.

“The transgender. That is ridiculous for me,” says her mother, Tatiana, who’s from Romania.

Olive and her mom often fight about Olive’s identity. But there are days they’ll spend time together, even making Olive’s favorite comfort food for breakfast, a Romanian dish of sweet meatballs.

“We love him, you know,” Tatiana says while they mix the meat. “But we don’t like what he’s doing, what direction he chooses in life. So we are very worried about him.”

Tatiana turns to Olive. “What’s your response on this?”

“I feel like you just don’t, you don’t see what my life is like,” says Olive. “I don’t think you will ever really see much of it because we don’t agree on how I should live my own life.”

“It’s something [like] the end of the world, you know, [that] even the president is against and everybody’s against,” says Tatiana.

Olive hugs her mother. (Olive )

Olive’s parents are big Trump supporters. Olive vehemently opposes the president.

Later, Olive says that conversation left her feeling depressed. She and her parents are always getting into dramatic fights.

Olive is trying to save up money to leave her parents’ house. She has a degree in film and she eventually wants to be a cinematographer. For now, she works as a production assistant on a TV show.

Olive puts on nail polish in the car. She says she doesn’t feel like she she’s good at applying it yet, and often feels she ‘overpaints’ her nails. (Renee Gross)

Olive says during one recent fight, Tatiana told her she wanted to commit suicide. She just couldn’t deal with her child’s gender identity anymore.

“I was thinking about her killing herself,” Olive tells me. “And then I was thinking about just me killing myself. Like, who’s going first?”

Olive says around the time Trump got elected, she seriously considered killing herself.

“The energy in the house was just kind of upsetting.” Olive recalls. “Right as he got elected, both my parents were screaming and shouting, “Woo-hoo! Go Trump!’ They were just pointing at me like, ‘Haha we won.'”

As the weeks went by after the election, Olive says she just felt alienated. “And then I was in a lot of pain. I decided I didn’t want to deal with it anymore.”

She knew of a bridge that she used to go to with her dad. It’s on the L.A. River near a bike path.

“I just left my house one night when it was too much,” she says. “I drove there. I got there. And then my friend called me. And I was like OK, I’ll do this later.”

Olive practices her jokes at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. (Renee Gross)

A few months after Olive planned to kill herself, Trump rolled back protections for transgender students in public schools.

Olive talks about it with her dad, Harry, a hefty man with black hair and a receding hairline. At one point in the conversation, Olive brings up the high suicide rate for transgender youth.

“You don’t like hearing that, right?” she asks her dad. “That trans kids kill themselves?”

“Well, I always believed that trans is a mental problem,” says Harry. “I don’t get it. For me it is disgusting. Disgusting.”

Olive says she’s heard comments like this from her parents many times. She just tries to let the words run right through her.

“They are not trying to hurt me,” she says. “I don’t need to feel hurt by them.”

She says this fight with her father is a little easier than the ones before.

“We’re fighting less these days. It’s not as bad now. It’s, like, calmer.”

It’s calmer, in part, because the fighting takes so much of out of them. They feel spent.

Olive puts on lipstick in her car. She says she loves the name of it: Rage. (Renee Gross)

But even though both parents thoroughly reject Olive’s gender identity, she wants to take care of them. She can’t remember a time when they weren’t struggling with depression. Olive is an only child, and even as a teenager she worried about her parents’ health and their ability to navigate old age.

“I felt like I was responsible for them, like they’re my kids,” she says. “Sometimes it still feels like that.”

For now, taking care of them still means hiding her identity. At least while she still lives with them.

In the parking lot where she changes into her skirt and blouse, Olive puts on her makeup. She dodges her stubble as she outlines her lips in red. She says she loves the name of her lipstick: Rage.

“The intensity of it is nice,” she says. “More than a mask, it’s like armor on my lips.”

“And I just feel a little stronger for some reason.”

Life as a Transgender Woman Whose Parents Voted for Trump 5 May,2017Sarah Craig

  • Jennifer Winslow

    Thank you, Renee, for this story.

    Thank you, Olive, for telling it.

    It’s something I can’t imagine. I know it’s how it would have been when I was younger. Transitioning as an older adult, there’s less at stake.

  • Agnes

    Olive, you are brave and good. <3

  • Ronald Mexico

    Interesting article. It seems Olive wants converts to her way of thinking. Even if Olive liked girls or guys someone somewhere is going to disagree with it. At a certain point you have to make your own choices. You will not convert everyone you meet and she needs to face that fact. I tend to think she is transgender because of her reaction to her parents. A cry for attention.

    • XLancer

      “I tend to think she is transgender because of her reaction to her parents.”

      She’s transgender because she was born that way. She doesn’t want “converts to her way of thinking,” she just wants her parents — her *parents,* for chrissakes — to accept and love her the way she is.

      I give you props for using the correct pronoun, though.

  • jake3_14

    Olive’s father is a gorram troglodyte. She needs to get out of that toxic environment as soon as possible, form a new support network, and for her own mental health, break contact with her family for at least a few years. I know a number of young adults in transition who’ve done so when their families of origin were unsupportive, and their lives brightened considerably.

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