Native American transgender woman lets identity shine

Native American transgender woman lets identity shine

Growing up near the Four Corners on a small reservation, Trudie spent the first seventeen years of her life as a male. When she came to Phoenix, she began dressing and acting like a woman.

“You couldn’t be open on the reservation –- everyone knows everyone,” she says. “My parents were involved in traditional Native American events, and I didn’t want to bring shame to my family.”

Trudie began working in Phoenix as a female prostitute, where she hustled to put a roof over her head. She fell in with a clique of other prostitutes, a crowd filled with sex and drugs that consumed Trudie like a black hole for fourteen years. Ultimately, she was stabbed by another prostitute.

“It was just a street fight among trans women,” Trudie says matter-of-factly. “It’s part of the turf — you have to stand your ground.”

After being in and out of jail for several years, Trudie left for the last time in 1999. She mentions an individual she met, who had one thing to say to Trudie: “This place is not for you.”

Eleven years later, Trudie is a recipient of the Udall Scholarship, a $5,000 national grant given to eighty individuals annually, designed primarily for Native American students pursuing public-policy degrees. Through the scholarship process, Trudie met Janet Burke, associate dean for national scholarship advisement and internships at ASU.

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