story by Tori Schneider
Vaysa has never met another transgender person in the city. She made the transition from male to female three years ago.
At 22, Vaysa moved to Paducah from Idaho. She no longer speaks to any of her family members, except for phone calls with her mother, who doesn't know about her daughter's gender transition.
Vaysa was married to a woman for 10 years.
"Even though I felt feminine on the inside, I still tried to be masculine on the outside," she says of her marriage.
In the 90s, Vaysa struggled with alcoholism and experimented with crack cocaine. That led to addiction, rehabilitation and eventual sobriety. After her divorce in 2012, she fell back into the cycle.
“Alcohol and crack cocaine was my mother, my wife, my best friend, and it was the only relationship that turned on me that tried to kill me," she says.
While addicted, Vaysa forged checks and was charged with a felony. She has been sober ever since her five-month jail sentence, and celebrated her three-year anniversary in August.
"Jail was the safest place for me to be," Vaysa says.
In Paducah, Vaysa is a bit of an outcast.
"I was always on the outside, because everyone knew I was different," Vaysa says about her life journey.
Sometimes she is harassed.
"I just shake it off like water off a duck's back," she says.
She has considered leaving Paducah but has stayed 33 years.
"Every time I had a chance to move, somebody or something was always put in my way to keep me here. So it's meant for me to be here. I would love to move to Florida or something, but no, it's meant for me to be here and I'm very happy," she says.
As a 12- or 13-year-old, Vaysa knew that she was born in the wrong body.
"Being transgender is not what's on the outside, it's what's on the inside," Vaysa says.