Trailblazer, Mentor, Friend: Remembering Matt Kailey
By: Kate Bowman
Kate Bowman is a member of One Colorado’s board of directors. She served as a board member and officer of the Gender Identity Center of Colorado and is a dedicated leader of the transgender community here in the Centennial State.
Last month, Colorado’s LGBT community lost one of our heroes with the passing of trans* author, advocate, and pioneering educator Matt Kailey. Over the weeks that have followed, we’ve seen an outpouring of emotions, fond memories, and tributes to Matt. It’s a powerful testament to the unforgettable impact he had on so many individuals – transgender and non-transgender folks alike – who saw Matt as a mentor and a friend as they completed their own journey to becoming who they truly are.
Those who knew Matt already know his time with us was far too short, but there’s no question that he used that time wisely – changing lives and blazing new trails for all of us. I still remember being in bed one night and reading his memoir, Just Add Hormones: An Insider’s Guide to the Transsexual Experience, cracking up at every page while my wife proceeded to ask me what the heck was going on. Matt had an uncanny ability – both in writing and in person – to combine pitch-perfect humor with breathtaking insight. His body of work gave many of us the hope and inspiration to make it through our own transition.
That same vision made its mark on the academic world here in Colorado, with the local college courses he taught and designed – including a groundbreaking transgender studies course at Metropolitan State University called “Writing Your Gender.” Remembering the lives he touched as an educator, I was delighted to learn that MSU has chosen to honor his legacy by dedicating a part of their library to his memory.
And while I’m proud of every single one of Matt’s achievements and contributions to our community, at the end of the day, the gift I’ll cherish most is the privilege of having called him a friend. Matt and I began our transition right around the same time, and from the moment I met him, he never changed his outlook on life. I liked to call him the Energizer Bunny – if he ever saw something as a roadblock, he just stepped right over it and kept on going. With his trademark ear-to-ear grin, Matt was able to take the incredible hardships, struggles, and challenges that many of our transgender brothers and sisters shared with him – and help them move on from those experiences to look toward a brighter future.
I saw Matt’s transformative optimism in action all the time – at conferences and public forums, on discussion panels, and at events organized by LGBT community organizations like One Colorado and the GLBT Center. And that is the biggest lesson I want people to take from Matt and practice themselves: holding on to a positive outlook and trying to share that optimism in their own lives. Above all, I know that’s what he would have wanted.
This Friday, June 6th, we’ll be coming together to celebrate Matt’s life from 6:00-8:00 p.m. on the rooftop of the GLBT Community Center in Denver. I hope you’ll be able to join us, as we take this important time to remember all that Matt stood for and the beautiful legacy he leaves behind.