‘Life Without Pockets’
Author to discuss transgender experience
By Angie Landsverk
Carla Ernst is a writer, musician, composer, volunteer and consultant.
She is also a transgender woman.
“I always remember feeling I was a woman since birth,” Ernst said.
Growing up in suburban Chicago in the late 1950s and early 1960s, she was the oldest of seven children in what she describes as a happy, Catholic family.
For years, Ernst tried to suppress her feelings and conform to a gender she did not believe she was.
She married and divorced twice.
“I’ve known my whole life,” Ernst said. “It just took a long time to getting here.”
The 67-year-old has been living fully as a woman for years and is visiting Waupaca this month to share her story.
She is the author of “Life Without Pockets: My Long Journey into Womanhood.”
The book was published this past spring by HenschelHAUS Publishing, of Milwaukee.
Ernst lives and works in that area, but has a local connection.
Her family has had a cottage near Wild Rose for several generations.
During the summer, she plays in the Waupaca City Band.
She is speaking about her book at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9, in the Waupaca Area Public Library’s meeting rooms.
The meeting rooms are located in the library’s lower level.
Locally, Ernst’s book is being sold at The Bookcellar, in downtown Waupaca.
Those who attend her Aug. 9 talk will also be able to buy copies of it at the event.
There will be a book signing as well.
She worked on the book over the course of four years.
It is the result of someone struggling to understand and accept her, referring to it as a “choice” she made.
Ernst prepared to respond to the person by email, but never sent the message.
It turned into a 200-some page book instead.
“I’ve never met someone who decided to become a women, gay, etc.,” she said.
Ernst describes it as the “realization to becoming your authentic self” and said her journey was an imperfect, challenging process.
The gender assigned to her at birth did not match the gender with which she identified.
Her book includes stories about being marginalized, beaten and mugged.
She was in the midst of writing it when her friend, Karis Anne Ross, took her life due to being bullied.
Ernst dedicated her book to Ross, who was also a transgender woman.
“There’s a real purpose to this book,” Ernst said.
If she prevents one person from committing suicide, she will consider it a success.
She wants to help people understand gender dysphoria, identity and transformation.
Ernst said her book is about how to enjoy an authentic life.
“The key message is we’re just like anybody else,” she said. “It’s about treating people with dignity and respect, regardless of where they come from.”