Kendall Balentine gets a call from her distressed friend and transgender mentee Kendra Heathscott. (photo: Kristina Barker/Washington Post)
Sandhya Somashekhar | The Washington Post | Reader Supported News | April 28, 2016
fter decades of fighting her family, her community and herself over her gender identity, Kendall Balentine finally made peace with it. She became content to live out her retirement quietly, for the first time in her life as a woman, with her wife and dogs in the relative isolation of Deadwood, S.D.
That is, until last month. The South Dakota legislature advanced a bill requiring transgender students to use the bathroom matching the sex on their birth certificates. When an organizer with a national gay rights group called to see if she would come forward to call for the governor to veto the bill, requiring her to push herself into the limelight in a way she never imagined, she didn’t hesitate.
“All my life, I put myself in harm’s way because I couldn’t be who I was,” said Balentine, 49, a retired Marine and deputy sheriff who fully transitioned from living as a man to a woman last year. “I decided now I was willing to die for who I am and fight for those who didn’t have a voice.”