Plans for a new LBGTQ center serving the Upper Valley
The journey from woman to man began decades ago in Neil Allen’s mind and heart. Soon, it will begin to unfold in his body — and in the wider world.
Allen, a 46-year-old bisexual transgender man, adopted a new legal name and moves comfortably in his work with the TLC Family Resource Center in Claremont. (Read Part One of his story here.) And while he’s cut his salt-and-pepper hair short and tries to dress like a guy, he still looks and sounds female.
“Honestly, I look more like a butch lesbian than a man,” Allen tells me.
If all goes as planned, that will soon change. He plans to take testosterone, a hormone that will cause his voice to crack like a teenager’s and deepen like a man’s, uncurve his curves and cause hair to grow in some places and perhaps disappear from others.
And then he will make some decisions about surgery, which could include removing breasts and female sexual organs. And, he adds, “if you’re really brave and want to go full monty with it, you can also get a penis.”
He plans some surgery, but declines to say how far it will go. “The only people that it matters to are me, my partner and my doctor,” he says. “They are the only three people who need to know what’s under my clothes.”
Allen doesn’t have a partner now, and that brings up a broader point. In a mostly rural, small town place like the Upper Valley, it can be hard for LBGTQ people like him to make social and romantic connections, to find community.
Allen would like to change that by establishing the Pride Center of the Upper Valley. His website just went live this week, and he hopes to secure funding and establish a physical location in Lebanon in the not-too-distant future.
“I just know there’s a huge population there that’s not getting anything,” he says.
He's been lucky, Allen says. His 22-year-old daughter, Caitlin, helped him recognize the conflict between his inner and outer gender identification and supports him fully. When he worked as a reporter and editor for the Claremont Eagle Times and a related publication, his colleagues and sources embraced his transition. And as a Vista worker at the family center, he goes to work each day at an office with a rainbow flag out front.
“If I worked someplace where I didn’t have that support, I might not be sitting here” speaking openly, Allen said, as we met over lunch at Farro Deli this week. He might not even have participated in Claremont’s first-ever Pride celebration Saturday.
“I might have just stayed home.”
He hopes the Pride center will be a place where LGBTQ people and their allies can feel at home and draw strength from a community that has been for too long hidden.
Progress comes one conversation, one sandwich, at a time.
“The guys here, they know I’m transgender, they know the pronouns,” Allen says, sitting at a sidewalk table outside Farro. “I’m not some weird transgender person — I’m just Neil.”