Former truck driver building a future for transgender youth in Oscelola Mills
(This story contains a correction)
Dot Johnson once was a suicidal, male truck driver. Now the 51-year-old from Osceola Mills is an empowered woman determined to change the fate of transgender youth.
Johnson says she is focusing on bettering the lives of those whose experiences parallel her own by founding Auntie Dot’s Home Inc. in Osceola Mills with her wife, C-C Johnson.
Auntie Dot’s Home Inc. is being built to provide a safe home for transgender youth and young adults to complete their transition safely through counseling, support and training provided by the Johnsons. Clients will also have access to a church, if they choose, which the Johnsons personally attend that is accepting of the LGBT community.
“I want the ladies who come to my home and the guys who come to my home to feel comfortable being who they are and not feel embarrassed,” Johnson said.
The home is almost completed and ready to open its doors to its first client. While one room is finished, a bathroom is still being re-modeled. A half-bath has been installed in the lower level of the three-bedroom house.
The home will only accept one client for its pilot program through the first year. Eventually, the program will be open to two individuals at a time. The Johnsons said they feel their home will open opportunities for transgender individuals and allow them to aspire to their best physical and academic self. Clients are not expected to bring anything, including a suitcase. Clothing or other necessities which fit their preferred gender will be provided by the Johnsons.
“The whole idea of Auntie Dot’s Home Inc. is to be able to save the young adults from going through the same headaches [as Dot did]” C-C Johnson said, reflecting on her wife’s past.
Dot Johnson said she believes transgender youth are not as successful as they could be in the workforce or academia related to their gender dysmorphic. Auntie Dot’s Home Inc. will help build character and confidence individuals can use in school or the workforce.
Dot and C-C Johnson hope to fund their facility through state grants and funding as a non-profit organization and donations from any interested party, including parents of clients. Auntie Dot’s Home Inc. is already being recognized as a 501 organization by the IRS and state of Pennsylvania.
The primary requirement for admission into Auntie Dot’s Home Inc. is to be removed from one’s household.
“I say that because that’s what happened to me,” Dot Johnson said.
She said she grew up in several cities in California. Johnson said she was born with “extra parts,” meaning she had both male and female genitalia at birth. Her parents chose to have the female “extra parts” removed and raised her as a male. Her birth mother left when she was very young. She and her three older siblings were then raised by their father and stepmother.
Johnson said her childhood was good “at times” regardless of her parents’ strictness.
“I could not be who I was in front of my parents,” Johnson said.
Her father worked for multiple law enforcement agencies and received a master’s degree in criminal justice after finishing his service as a military police officer in Taiwan. Her stepmother has a doctorate degree in Christian counseling and is an ordained minister.
“Everything is biblical for her,” Johnson said in regard to her stepmother. “[Everything for my dad] is black and white.”
Johnson’s relationship with her family has been complicated, especially with her stepmother and one brother. Because of her devout Christian faith, her stepmother always viewed Dot as being a straight male through God.
After a suicide attempt on a cruise ship (Johnson said she sliced her scrotum from the base of her penis to her rectum), she said her stepmother was more concerned about having a “faggot for a son” and her reputation in the Christian community, rather than Johnson’s physical and mental health.
Johnson said she also faced years of sexual abuse from her older brother. A visit from him later in life led to her first suicide attempt by driving a motorcycle into a telephone without a helmet at 50 mph. Her relationship with her brother helped shape her view of most men as being like “tampons,” saying they should be used once and then thrown away.
She hasn’t spoken to either relative in years.
Johnson says she hopes to begin interviewing for Auntie Dot’s Home soon. The Johnsons want to eventually expand Auntie Dot’s Home Inc. nationwide, potentially globally.
(Correction: Auntie Dot's Home Inc. is located in Osceola Mills. An incorrect location was used in the headline and text of an earlier version of this story.)
(The video for this story was produced as part of the 2017 Short Doc Workshop at Penn State.)