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David Stewart loved pink. 

The little boy didn’t know that his zest for the rosy shade, which flirted sweetly with crimson and white, would be the first of many favorites he would begin to hide.

Soon, he learned that people got uncomfortable when a boy said that he liked pink.

“When they asked which color I liked, I would answer gray or black or green or yellow,” he said. “But I could never answer what I really liked.”

He hid his favorite color — just one of many things he believed he would have to hide from people who loved him, for years.

“I was only 5 or 6 when I first had an experience dressing, and I was happy. I felt OK, and a person close to my life threw a fit, and it was just very difficult for me,” Danielle Stewart, now 48 and a transgender woman, recalled. “It was at that point I really started to question, ‘How can something that makes me so happy be so bad to everybody else?’

“Even answering simple questions... for so long, I couldn’t even tell people the honest truth,” Stewart said. “I lived two lives.

“I had the life that I had to live in public, that matched my physical appearance,” she continued. “But I also had this whole other life I was living, basically, inside my head.

“Inside my head, I was a woman. I am a woman. And it was a constant struggle to try to reconcile those two halves of me.”

In 2017, Stewart, a Beckley resident, “came out” as a woman to her family and friends and on social media. She has begun a series of operations to physically become female. These days, one of her favorite pieces of jewelry, she said, is a $5 necklace that spells, “I love pink.” 

The necklace types out Stewart’s emotional truth for the whole world to see.

• • • 

Today, at 6:30 p.m. at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center, Beckley Common Council will vote on the first step toward amending the local human rights ordinance to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identification” as protected classes. 

The ordinance aims to make it illegal to discriminate in the City of Beckley based on gender identification and sexual orientation, which includes heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality and asexuality. The ordinance would exempt churches, religious nonprofits and private clubs.

On Monday evening, the eve of the first reading of the LGBTQ ordinance, Stewart “came out” once again.

Stewart and Christina Baisden, whom Stewart identified as her girlfriend, partnered with Fairness West Virginia and Planned Parenthood to host a public meeting at The Raleigh Playhouse and Theatre to help local residents better understand what it means to be transgender. 

Stewart and two other transgender individuals invited attendees to ask questions about their lives, relationships and other issues. Stewart asked that media not attend the workshop, because the goal was for pressure-free, friendly interaction.

Kelly Elkins, a Beckley Human Rights Commissioner, said she thought the workshop was very informative.

“The speakers were a variety of ages and backgrounds,” Elkins said. “Stories included acceptance from friends and family in the early stages, while some stories were quite the opposite. Some told stories of family rejection, and as a parent, that really hit home for me.”

She said the crowd was supportive, and audience members were free to ask the panel questions about their life. 

“We were comforted to know that there were no dumb questions when it came to the process of transitioning from male to female, or female to male.”

By the end of the evening, Elkins said she left with a better understanding of the process of transitioning, medically and psychologically. 

“More importantly, I left with more respect for the courage that each of them had to tell their story.”

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