My Story: The BeautifulUgly Girl The Boy to the Girl Some transgender women are inherently feminine from the onset - never physically or emotionally connecting with their in-born male traits.
For others - like me?
The path isn't quite so obvious.
Transgender people tend to understand their gender reality at an early age. I was no exception to that rule. Alas, children inherently see truths. They're not hampered by man-made prejudices regarding skin color, religion, socioeconomic conditions, sexual orientation or gender. They only see things the way they are at their essence...before society inflicts scrutiny upon that crystal awareness.
Many of us subsequently spend years battling these leanings in an effort to find happiness in our born gender. Some of us are left with no other choice but to correct nature's mistake. The only other option? A life of misery...or suicide. Not surprisingly? 41% of all transgender people attempt suicide during their life compared to a national average only 1.6%. I lived many years in misery and also explored taking my own life. I finally decided that as long as I had another card to play? I was going to stay in the game.
In my opinion, being transgender is a lot like belief in God. You can't prove it exists but you know it within your heart since your earliest development. You subsequently explore this belief, questions its validity, become disillusioned, and sometimes even take its name in vain. However, in the end? The truth is your path to freedom. As in the world of spirituality, men & women in various majorities inherently harass those different from themselves. You'd think a nation founded by such persecuted orphans could comprehend this irony better than most. Our forefathers anticipated this foul side of human nature: hence our well-conceived US constitution. Here I explore some of the most profound events that affected my early journey from male-to-female. Naturally, I include photos long before my transition. Most of my dearest friends from today can’t imagine me ever being masculine. However, I was once a poster child for the typical “all american boy”. Thus, when my old acquaintances first heard of my plans to change genders? They were equally challenged by trying to envision how I could become female. This isn't a life chronicle. However, by default...it includes lots of history about my life. I like to think this process might eventually help mend old wounds: that's possible. However, it's my experience the deepest cuts never fully heal - we just learn to live with the scars. Thus, I hope that by sharing these details I might help another find solace or illumination along their own path.
If I could make it through this?
Anybody can... Outward appearances are often deceiving When I graduated from Owensboro High School in 1979? I was voted "Most Likely to Succeed". However, as class president & football team captain? I could've easily been chosen: Least Likely - to ever become a woman. Outward appearances? They're often deceiving.
After the death of my closest friend from youth: Rob Puckett - many teenage acquaintances became aware of my gender transition since Rob and I were synonymous as kids. Subsequently, I attended my 30-year class reunion and reconnected with many old friends. Know what's most ironic? How skewed most childhood friends imagined my life back then. Between battling my gender identity plus grappling with sexual abuse that left me scarred and caused my sister to suicide – those early years weren't picturesque. The worst thing that came from all this ugliness? I learned to lie. I learned to lie very well. I first lied in order to survive. Subsequently? I lied to never face my reality. It took me another twenty-five years to discover how not to lie & begin living a life of truth. Along the way I ventured along a bizarre path of gender exploration and remained on a collision course with my future transition.
First Bouts with Gender Dysphasia I arrived on earth in Owensboro, KY on June 3rd, 1961. The only thing notable about my birth? I was the first local child to be extracted from a womb using a new suction cup-device. Thus, my poor mother was positioned in stirrups - accompanied by a full room of doctors hoping to gain insight into this novel apparatus. As for me? I started life naked in front of a bunch handsome, successful men: couldn't have been all bad, huh? *Laugh* Unfortunately, my genitals registered "male" and so did my birth certificate...thus started my lifelong battle with transsexualism. My clearest recollection of my first bouts with gender identity? When we moved into our new home just after my fifth birthday. I vividly recall being convinced I could somehow miraculously become a girl as a part of this relocation. I was brought up to believe anything was possible with enough prayer and God’s blessings. Thus, I intently prayed on this matter each night before bed. My desires included a comprehensive change of clothing in all my drawers & even a bit of decorating refinement. It was actually a fairly detailed wish for a preschooler. I was pretty certain that if I prayed hard enough? These dreams would come true. On more than one occasion I awoke very slowly scanning my room to see if the gender Santa paid me a visit. Alas, it took the Almighty another forty years to grant my early wish.
Both my parents were married before they connected & each had children from their first marriages - my mother had a son, my dad a pair of daughters. There were substantial age differences between myself & these three siblings - none of them lived with us longer than a quick visit.
That left me to grow up with my sister Valerie, who was two & half years my senior and the first person to catch me in girl's clothing. That happened because I was often “borrowing" - hers. Did she get mad? Nope…but she traded her silence for my slave labor. You 'gotta realize: as a child? My sister pretty owned me. To say she was an alpha persona...is to miss the point of what Valerie was all about. *Laugh*
Mom busted my stash about a year later. Honestly? That - was a good thing since it freed me from worrying over threats from my big sister. My mother wasn't really upset by this discovery. Thus, when she found me wearing girls undergarments the next time she just shook her head & warned me I'd be teased by others. She probably assumed I'd grow out of it. The only thing I grew out of? The sizes I wore.
Like most transgender gals, I vividly recall my first encounter with another transgender person. I was twelve years old & visiting New York City after attending Joe Namath Football camp in Dudley, Massachusetts. We subsequently stayed in the City for a few days. As it turned out? Gay pride was being held in New York that same weekend and I saw some Queen in red satin pants. At first we all thought it was hot girl. When everyone else realized she “was a dude” the reaction was as expected by my cohorts: disgust. I, on the other hand was left to deal with an inherent bond while quickly learning first hand how repulsed others were by that same imagery. Quite a combined experience. Overall? My earliest years of childhood were a healthy & joyful experience. I enjoy lots of vivid recollections from these developmental years and most are pleasant.
One of the best-worst habits I developed was the practice of not dwelling upon the past. My mother was its disciple: "If something bad happens?" Move on...focus upon what's situated directly in front of you or your horizon. Generally speaking? That’s good advice. I'm rarely weighted by life's mishaps. What's the downside? Some things you can't get past. In fact, some wounds never heal because of such neglect. They cut so deep that you'll eventually have to go all the way back to the moment where the hurt occurred...re-sort it out & try to heal - if you ever expect to be healthy.
My devastating injury?
It happened at home.
Sexual Abuse by my Father Unfortunately, in his earlier years - my dad was a very screwed up guy. And like a lot f****ed up individuals? He perpetuated his chaos upon those situated close to him. It started with physical & emotional abuse of my mother...most often when he drank - which became increasingly frequent. Eventually, dear-ole-dad expanded his mistreatment to include both me & my sister. It was terrible. I'm not up for exploring these horrors except for their profound impact on me as a trans-person. I'm forever stumped to consider if my father sexually-abused me earlier and I'll simply never recall that exploitation. This possibility haunted my dreams of transition for decades. For the longest time I remained paralyzed by fear he'd caused my gender dysphasia via sexual mistreatment. Thus, if I transitioned? I was simply extending my father's control beyond his death. Probably the worst byproduct of his abuse? My sister & I came to detest one another for the most bizarre of reasons: we battled over who was favorite...in the eyes of our father’s perverted actions.
How sick is that?
The irony of this aberrant competition? By winning that battle - she ended up losing the war.
The absolute bottom of this repulsive barrel was my mother's attempted suicide after I tried talking to her about what was going on with my father. We were in Sanford, North Carolina at that time where my father followed the tobacco market. Both my father & sister privately blamed me for mom’s attempt to take her own life. After that? I again discussed the subject…even after both my sister & father passed away. Much of this period remains a blur.
Have you ever survived a very bad situation? Its like carrying a bowl of hot soup across a room: it's difficult to recall details about your surroundings as you fixate upon not spilling the liquid. To me? The heat singeing my fingers was the abuse from my father - it hurt. But the real horror was the liquid itself: it represented my mother. If I spilled it? I'd possibly kill her.
I spent a lot years carrying that damn bowl of soup!
My therapist once challenged me to recall something good that happened in the midst of this misery. I cheated: talked with my old friend Rob Puckett who recalled those early times with vivid detail. I chimed in...but honestly? My memory remains slighted. To this day most of my detailed recollections remain post-facto through the eyes of others - I was distracted.
My Sister's Suicide
My sister took her own life just before the start of her senior year of high school: she was seventeen. I suppose in retrospect her suicide was inevitable but I'll never forget those morning shrills...was a lot to absorb at my fifteen years of age. There's no sound like a mother losing her child. At that point? We're primal.
What’s my toughest recollection from her death? We never got to be "friends". Alas, as I began to increasingly detest my father...she'd offset my loathing with nearly directly proportional increases in his defense. We remained pitted on opposite sides of love. That sucked.
Took me several months following Valerie's death to garner enough courage to enter her bedroom. I waited until my parents went away for an afternoon trip on the houseboat. I adorned her clothing and spent the day trying to resurrect her memory. I cried for a whole day. Honestly? My tears weren't rooted in her death. They were from my own shame. As Valerie deteriorated emotionally, she began to threaten telling the world all that happened in our early childhood. I was so afraid of the truth: she was much stronger. I’m left to live with the fact she died because I refused to stand beside her on that issue. In fairness, I was just fifteen years old and the last thing I was prepared to handle was the whole world looking upon me through a different set of eyes. These are some of the worst memories of my existence.
Throughout the years leading up to my sister's death my attitude, my grades in school, my life...remained a seesaw existence. I'd do well to secure a "C" average...then I'd make all A's with little effort. The only logic to my life was that it wasn't remotely logical. I took one final emotional dive during my sophomore year following Valerie's death: was troubled finding much reason for living.
Then...I went into “perfect-child” mode.
A “Perfect” Child Both my parents remained a mess following Valerie's death. Holidays were just another reason to cry more intently over all that wasn't. I honestly didn't give a damn how badly my father hurt from this process. At this juncture? I absolutely hated that man.
But my mother? I couldn't bear seeing her miserable.
Somewhere along this path I began to believe if I was somehow good enough? I could make all her pain go away...make all the bad memories vanish.
Thus, I tried to become the perfect child.
The result? My grades soared & my activities knew no end. Generally speaking, this period included lots of great memories: good friends, good times & I even fell completely in love for the first & only time in my life. Importantly, a couple of other male parent-figures took a healthy interest in my life and they had a profound impact on my life & self image.
My alternative gender activities were limited & shared by only one person. Honestly? I thought perhaps I'd gotten around this issue & that my life would eventually become "normal".
My First Taste of Transsexualism
I started college in the fall of 1979 at the University of Kentucky. Lexington, KY provided a whole bunch of firsts in my life. Trans-wise...it was the first place I ever went out-on-the town...as a girl. "Johnny Angels"...what a club that was. I can honestly say my first visit to this establishment was purely accidental...a late-night vigil with friends for dancing. However, the moment I walked in & witnessed a pair of DRAG queens situated at the front bar...any delusions I had about being past gender issues? They came to a screeching halt. After a bit of trial & error, I eventually befriended by a local DRAG queen. I secured a nearby storage locker & would invest an entire day wrangling free of my fraternity house & friends in order to finally get transformed at her place & hit the scene. It wasn't a common occurrence but always special. Like most of my earliest gender-acquaintances? She died of AIDS in the late 1980's.
Some of my funniest memories remain the number of times I “almost” got caught. How I lived in a fraternity house & remained active as a student leader without getting outed as a transgender person remains a modern mystery.
This phase of my life was a time for great healing. I was away from home & no longer constantly reminded of bad memories. I had my first healthy familial relationship with an older man who also became the only real sense of a father I ever knew.
Lexington was also where I was first tested for transsexuality by a therapist. I was recommended to begin female hormone replacement therapy during the latter part of my senior year in 1983. I was pretty confused & ended up not pursuing the matter.
This - was Kentucky, in the early 80's. The only transgender women I met were a handful of DRAG-queens & one older TS-woman that creepily reminded me of my second grade teacher. There was no internet, precious little support...and no role models to visit or connect.
However, my biggest hesitation?
I remained concerned my desire to explore a female persona might be born from the sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of my father.