Lynette Matusik during pre-transition times while at work in the circus.

Welcoming a new writer to the qnotes team is always a special moment. This issue, we’re proud to introduce Lynette Matusik, a pioneer in both her career and her approach to transitioning from biological male to transgender female.

Matusik is a bold, creative person dedicated to self-love and developing her skills as one of Charlotte, N.C.’s only resident circus arts performers. She and her partner, Rachel MacNab, launched Circus Innovations, a company that performs and teaches these arts.

“A lot of people that do [circus] arts, they get good at it, and they leave to somewhere else,” Matusik told qnotes “I want to get good and stay, build it up…I want just a pure entertainment, just fun circus that’s open to everyone.”

Inclusion is key in Matusik’s career as well as her personal journey. Even before beginning her transition, when presenting as a male, she always included her partners by discussing her gender identity. Though it strained some relationships, she knew it was the only way to have a healthy relationship.

“I’ve always felt you should bring your partner in on this stuff,” Matusik said. “If you can’t be open with your person then, like, why are you even together?”

Now in a relationship with MacNab for over a year — beginning a company and a transition together — Matusik says that her number one supporter has been essential to becoming her true self.

“My partner’s been with me the whole time on this,” she said. “She actually helped me get insurance, which I didn’t have before, and this wouldn’t even be possible without it, not the way I want to do it.”

Matusik chose a process of medical treatments, but pointed out during the interview that there is no uniform way to transition. Currently three months along in hormone replacement therapy (HRT), she plans vocal lessons and eventual surgery. Seeking a medium to document the journey, Matusik agreed to write monthly columns for qnotes.

“I’ve got one [column] starting from scratch that was about two weeks in that was just a little bit of background on the transition process, more science-based, very objective,” Matusik said. “The second one is another month in. My dosage jumped up, they doubled my dosage.”

More than the medical process, Matusik strives to shed light on other issues that have affected her personally during her transition. Of course, one of these is the importance of having a voice in the conversation around gender identity, and combating ignorance with testimony.

“As much as there’s bigotry and hatred in the world, which I feel like we’ve eroded in 2017, there’s also just misconceptions,” Matusik said. “I feel like having my own unique perspective on this, I can offer something. I’m a performing artist, I like to share things with the world already, so just sharing this experience might… benefit the world somehow.”

The benefits of expression also reach inward, as any artist knows. One issue that Matusik hopes to address is the way that family relationships can transition parallel to physical changes. Within her own family, there has been resistance to discussing her gender identity with siblings’ children.

“My nephews and nieces, I’d like them to know who I am,” she said. “There’s a neutral [term] for almost everything. Mom, dad, parent. Son, daughter, child. Brother, sister, sibling. What do you have for aunt and uncle? There’s nothing.”

Beyond terminology, family relationships can impact mental health as well. Matusik stresses the importance of evaluating whether a certain connection — relative, friend, or business partner — is healthy and beneficial to you as an individual.

“My experience with family is mostly that they’re not around,” she said. “A lot of that is because it’s for my health. I believe that trying to nurture a relationship that’s toxic is just dangerous for you.”

Despite emotional challenges, Matusik describes herself as “leagues happier” since she began her transition. As an artist, athlete and LGBTQ person, she believes above all that self-acceptance and being committed to progress leads the way to physical and emotional health.

“Sometimes you have unrealistic goals and that just — it doesn’t help,” she said. “A healthy body transitioning to another healthy body is just ideal… you can’t transition an unhealthy body. An unhealthy male can’t transition to a healthy female. Healthy is healthy.”