Being transgender in La Crosse

Two transgender people in La Crosse speak out

Approximately 700,000 people are transgender in the U.S., according to a survey by the University of California Los Angeles. That includes La Crosse’s Cindy Munson and Jackson Jantzen, who have each dealt with gender identity their entire lives.

“I’ve been Cindy for about 13 years now,” Munson said.

Munson’s story really began 66 years ago when she was born in a boy’s body. She grew up in the 1950s as Todd.

“I remember telling my mother once that I was a different kind of boy,” Munson said.

As an adult, Munson knew she wanted to make the physical change to female but as a husband and father she held off.

“I knew what it was like growing up mixed up about gender and identity and I didn’t want have her have her have that problem with a transgender father,” Munson said.

But around 2002,  Munson began medical treatment to make the person she always felt like on the inside appear on the outside.

“People who knew me as Todd saw me as a very edgy person,” Munson said. “Since I became Cindy, became myself, I am a lot more laid back than I used to be.”

She admits the transition was tough at times but has since become very vocal about her journey in effort to help younger transgender people.

“Being out is actually making it easier for them,” Munson said.

She’s hoping to make it a little easier for people like Jackson Jantzen, 43.

“When I first came out I came out, as lesbian because my attraction came out as lesbian,” Jantzen said. “I was in a female embodiment, although it was very butch, and it wasn’t until I could not handle it anymore that I decided to look at the gender identity piece.”

He made the official transition in 2009.

“It was an incredible, because for the first time in my life, I didn’t know what it felt like to be so happy and comfortable,” Jantzen said.

While Munson and Jantzen said their experiences in La Crosse have been positive overall, being transgender here isn’t without its struggles.

“People sometimes have challenges getting into rental properties,” Jantzen said. “Healthcare can be a concern; there is not a lot of doctors who really understand the steps that need to take place and the process.”

But Jantzen said most local businesses and groups have been open to learning about what it means to be transgender.

“There are a lot of people that are like, ‘This is going on and we want to understand, we want to support our employees, the members of our church, the kids in our school districts,'” Jantzen said.

It’s also willingness to talk that both Munson and Jantzen said will make everyone in the community stronger.

“I think when they actually get to know a transgender person, personally and see them as a human being, I think that covers a lot of ground. It really explains things to a lot of people,” Munson said.

“I love this community, I want to make this a safe space for everybody, not just LGBT community but all of our community members,” Jantzen said.