Hey there! I’m Sarah, creator and host of SarahTalk, and I’m a transgender woman. I started hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in October 2015 and socially transitioned shortly after. I’m also an atheist and scientific skeptic, so not only do I disbelieve in unproven god claims, I also don’t believe in unscientific claims about pseudoscience, crystal healing, “the universe”, “the secret”, mystical energy, auras, astrology, homeopathy, naturopathy, alternative medicine and so on.
I started this show in July 2015 mostly to sort of document my transition and help others. That quickly grew into a whole different beast during the 2016 US presidential election. Now I describe the show to people like, “ohhh we talk about all the things you shouldn’t talk about at work: politics, religion, etc.”
I lived in a log cabin that my family built in rural Illinois for the first 7 years of my life. It was the coolest house and I hated moving. But around 1986 we moved about 5 miles “to town”. Bethany, Illinois is a town of ~1400, and while I lived there, we had no chain stores or restaurants, no stoplights, but NINE churches. We had a very small local grocery store, an arcade (which in addition to arcade games and pool tables, was where we rented VHS tapes and Nintendo games), and of course – a grain elevator. It’s a pretty stereotypical midwestern rural town. It hasn’t changed a whole lot in 30 years – though they do have a Subway restaurant now. Bethany is a farming community and for a few years while we lived in the country, my dad tried his hand at farming, but eventually returned to work at the Caterpillar plant in Decatur, IL nearly an hour away. It’s the kind of town where multiple generations live and only rarely leave. There are still people from my high school class of 32 who are still there, now raising their families. But that environment eventually became problematic for me.
In the 90’s (not that it’s changed that much in places like this), “gay” was a whispered word and everyone was so surprised when some kid was revealed to be gay. Responses like “I never would have guessed!” or “… [but] he’s such a nice kid!” were not uncommon. Geeks were picked on by the popular, athletic bullies and nobody gave any thought to creating an “anti-bullying” program. “That’s just how kids are. You’ll have lots of bullies in your life, best to learn to deal with them now”. My grandfather read the newspaper aloud, including grain prices, and I heard adults around me talk about “people coming in from Mexico who take our jobs and want everything handed to them”. Sound familiar? My mother would lock the doors on our old Aerostar van when we turned down certain streets in Decatur, where the crime (read: black people) was. Nobody ever said “be afraid of” or “you are better than” – but the sound of that car door lock spoke volumes, especially as I consider it in hindsight as an egalitarian champion of equality.
In a small town where the population is overwhelmingly straight, white and Christian, being different just doesn’t work out well.
After high school I moved to a suburb just outside of Decatur, Mt. Zion. I worked for a local Talk Radio station for a number of years and eventually opened my own business doing computer repair, website design, etc. This was where I met my first wife, and we moved together to Winter Haven, Florida in 2007 to work at Walt Disney World.
It was in Mt Zion where I really started exploring my gender expression, but it was an all-too-common story. I identified then as a cross-dresser, because that’s the only word we had, though it didn’t completely fit. I’m from the generation of Xennials that grew up on the front edge of the internet. My first connection was an external 12 baud modem on Prodigy – AND we had to make a long-distance call to connect! But that meant that I eventually found bulletin boards and forums where I discovered I wasn’t alone in the way that I felt. Back then, I couldn’t imagine there would ever be a time where I could live freely like this.
Growing up in a small, rural community with more churches than you can shake a stick at lends to a pretty conservative upbringing. I don’t remember my parents being political at all, and I don’t think I ever saw them vote. Later when I auditioned for and took on the role of Producer for the #1 Morning Show in the Central Illinois market, I was being inundated with conservatism, though I didn’t realize it at the time. 19, young, and generally care-free, I didn’t see voting as important. I mean, as I often heard, our voice didn’t matter anyway. Chicago would always go blue and override us rural folk.
Moving to Florida was freeing in a lot of ways. I was working for Disney, which (at the time) I was over the moon about, finally maybe creating a career out of a job, but my then wife was less than enthusiastic about the cross-dressing. It was still something I only ever did in private, I’d tried to put it up on a shelf in the closet and forget about it many, many times, including throwing away lots of clothes in a purchase-purge cycle that’s pretty common among trans experiences. I felt like I couldn’t explore it any further though I needed to, and I really needed someone enthusiastic about walking that path with me, especially because I still didn’t personally know anyone else like me at the time. Eventually, between that and several other issues, I separated and divorced my first wife and ultimately connected with Becca who has supported me from Day 1 like no one ever has. But still I packed away my weird identity quirk and pretended to be this man everyone expected me to be. We had our first child, and after a few years that internal struggle over my identity surfaced yet again. Once I finally realized this isn’t something that I do, this is who I am and I need to make changes to live more authentically, Becca had a couple of very solid questions. But through therapy, once she was satisfied that she wasn’t losing the person she fell in love with, she really became my biggest supporter and best ally. When it came time to pull the trigger and take hormones, she expressed that she wanted to have another baby first (after hormones the shop is closed); and so we had our second child.
Living out loud as a transgender person (nobody mistakes me for anything else, listen to 3 seconds of the show, my voice is deep!) pushed me into activism and ultimately to the creation of SarahTalk. I hope that my own visibility will help those who live in the closet as I once did, to know that the possibility of a fulfilling life that includes living your truth really is possible – and for the ones who can’t be out just yet, I hope to be an advocate. That goes for people who feel trapped in religion, too.
I became vocal about my atheism and skepticism watching North Carolina’s 2016 House Bill 2 thrust transgender people into the spotlight, questioning our motives and very identities by making public restrooms and other gendered spaces the new battleground. Texas followed quickly in 2017, unsuccessfully trying to push through their own version: Senate Bill 6. I recognized that there is really only one organized group of people who actively work against my queer community, and that’s religious people. They lost the battle over marriage equality and now they are coming for me and others like me. They’re the people who think being gay or trans is a sin against god, that we can be “cured” with a little prayer (or worse), they want to legislate what a woman can do medically with her own body… the same people who clamor for their own freedoms whenever someone suggests that maybe… JUST MAYBE… we have too many guns in America are the first in line to take away MY freedom to even exist.
I was forced to reconcile having grown up in Christianity which touts their book as the true and inerrant word of God but which then describes that very God as an unhinged, deranged, immoral monster, and whose most devout followers hate my kind and would just as soon see us dead. That got me involved in a few online atheist communities and changed the tenor of the show drastically from “fluffy, feel-good let-me-share-my-journey” to “we have to fight for our right to exists and for those of other marginalized and minority communities”.
Feel free to reach out here on the website or at my social media below. I try to reply quickly, but I also work crazy hours and try to keep my wife and kids ahead of the line. I’ll probably add to this over time, but for now I hope this helps you understand a bit about me!