It’s not unusual for people to be surprised when they meet Kimi Cole.
“They’ll say, ‘I did not expect you to be so normal,’” she said. “And I wonder, what they did expect?”
Cole, 58, the chairwoman of the Douglas County Central Democratic Committee, was raised in Reno and moved to the Carson Valley 20 years ago. She married, raised children and started a business as a man.
But from the time she was 4 years old, she didn’t feel right as a male. She went to years of counseling to try to change how she was feeling.
“They told me I’d outgrow it by 50,” she said. “But my anxiety just got more and more escalated after 50.”
Four years ago, she made the decision to become a woman.
“Life is absolutely awesome now,” she said. “I wake up every morning ready to start the day. I’m just having a ball.”
That’s the simple version. Real life has been anything but easy.
“I wish it was that simple,” she said.
To help ease he angst of people who identify as transgender and to raise awareness, the Carson City Chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays is hosting a showing of “Trans,” a documentary showing the lives, loves and challenges of transgender people from all walks of life.
A news release for the documentary describes the transgender community as “perhaps the most misunderstood and mistreated minority.”
“An issue like that seems to frighten people because they don’t understand,” said Pam Graber, secretary of Carson City PFLAG. “When they’re frightened, they say things that aren’t nice. They do things that aren’t nice.”
She said the organization’s leaders decided to bring the documentary to Carson City because of the surge in participation from young people who are either in the process of making the transition or are considering it.
“This is a message we have to bring to town,” she said.
The only catch is that the group has to sell at least 50 tickets by Saturday.
“We have a threshold we have to meet for them to actually come to town,” she said. “It would do my heart good if everyone in the fields of education or medicine or psychology would attend. It would be wonderful if they would come and gain a greater understanding of this community.”
Since her own transformation, Cole has dedicated herself to advocating for the rights of others going through the same.
“I don’t go out to grab attention, but I’m not afraid to talk about it,” she said. “If I could save anybody else from going through the grief I did, that’s more important than blending in and going about my business.”
While she initially feared that her small, typically conservative community might not be a safe place for her once she made the transition, she has found Carson Valley to be more accepting.
“They’re conservative in the ‘live and let live’ kind of way,” she said.
Graber said the gay and lesbian movement has made much progress in the past 20 years. She hopes to see the same for transgender awareness.
“It’s time for the transgender community to say, ‘I can’t live my lie either. Please accept me.’”