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Crystal Gray: 'I am proud of who I am'

Transgender woman aims to start advocacy group here

Published: Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
(Sarah Nader – snader@shawmedia.com)
Crystal Gray flips through an old scrapbook that shows her transition from male to female while at the home she shares with her partner, Shari, in Wonder Lake. Gray was born a man and transitioned into a women after her wife died in 2006. She is a transgender advocate who worked her way up through the advocacy ranks in Colorado, where she worked for a state office. Now she’s back in McHenry County and is in the midst of setting up an advocacy group here.

The last time readers met Crystal Gray, she put on a brave face and talked about the torment she endured growing up on the receiving end of bullying.

Gray, of Wonder Lake, opened up to readers about her childhood as an outcast, her suicide attempts, and the fact that she was born Christopher Gray.

As a transgender woman, and as the face and muscle behind the United States Transgender Advocacy group, also has made Gray a target for hate crimes, she said.

“Doing this work means you’re putting yourself out there, and putting yourself in the possibility of having harm done to you,” she said.

Potential threats of violence is something Gray thinks about every day. She and her partner, Shari Miller, also a transgender woman, have sought police protection on many occasions.

So why put herself out there like that? It’s because Gray is passionate about fair treatment for transgender men and women.

“The organization is not here to push the gay agenda or the transgender agenda,” she said. “The organization is here to help the transgender community.”

Once a successful transgender advocate in Denver, Gray moved to McHenry County, where she grew up. She started the advocacy group as a way to protect transgender individuals from discrimination, violence and harassment. USTA’s status as a registered nonprofit is pending.

“We want people to understand that we’re just like everybody else,” she said. “The body changed, but the inside didn’t. I’m still the same person.

“The most important thing is, we all are human beings, and we all need to be treated that way.”

Gray identified as transgender at a young age, but it wasn’t until after her first wife died that she transitioned.

“I knew from the time I was 2 years old that I ... was in the wrong physical body,” she said. “And I spent my life trying to change that because I want everything to be in harmony. ... I was living a lie every day, and I was in hell every day.”

But after years of trying to find and understand herself, she hopes she can bring that experience to the advocacy groups, and says, “I am proud of who I am, that will never change.”

The Crystal Gray lowdown

Who is she? A transgender woman and advocate, head of United States Transgender Advocacy.

Age: 41.

Family: Partner, Shari Miller; two cats, Molly and Rascal.

Favorite food: Alaskan king crab legs.

Favorite Move: “Titanic.”

Information: www.ustransgenderadvocacy.org.

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