We are not monolithic, however experimentation, denial, concealment, and finally acceptance are all integral steps in our life's journey.
Today I found a story on the Pathways Blog that illuminates the integral steps that make up our shared life's journey. The Pathways site is the official site for a transgender support group in the New Jersey / New York metropolitan area. Diana, thank you so much for sharing your story published on the Pathway site in 2009.
I don’t know that anyone really cares, but I’m self-centered enough to want to tell my history, so here it is….
My earliest memory is from when I was about 3. My sister is 3 years younger than I am, and I remember seeing her body for the first time, as my mother was changing her diaper. Up until that time, I don’t think it registered on me that there was a difference between boys and girls. I had just assumed that I would grow up to be a woman like my mom, meet and marry a man like my dad, and have babies. When I saw my sister, I realized that boys and girls were bult differently. I asked my mother about it, and she had to explain to me that I was going to grow up to be a daddy…I was NOT happy.
A year or so later, my older sister (13 years my senior) was babysitting. I went into my mother’s closet and came out wearing a pair of her shoes. My sister, seeing me, asked me if I wanted to be a girl. Of course, I said yes. So, she dressed me up and put makeup on me, and called me “sis”.
Over the next several years I engaged in a number of gender incongruent activities…putting a pillow under my shirt to look pregnant, stuffing socks under my undershirt to resemble breasts, etc. I didn’t play much with boys in the neighborhood, tending to prefer quieter activities.
When I started grammar school, I quickly made two close friends – both girls. Nancy, Estelle and I were inseparable. We spent our entire recess together, and walked to and from school together. The fact that I was hanging out with a couple of girls didn’t go unnoticed by the other boys. I was teased quite a bit.
One day, Nancy had the idea of playing “double Dutch” – for anyone that doesn’t know, that’s a form of jump rope using two counter-rotating ropes. So, it takes 3 people – two to twirl the ropes, and one to jump. Stupid me, I went along with the idea and spent an entire recess twirling or jumping rope. That afternoon, on the way home, a few boys decided that I had crossed some line…they cornered me about halfway home and started taunting me. When I tried to push past them, one of them punched me in the stomach. The rest then joined in. That was the first time I got beat up…but not the last.
After that, I stopped going out for recess. I’d sit in the bleachers in the gymnasium and read instead. I stopped hanging out with Nancy and Estelle. I had no real friends in school after that. But at home, in the neighborhood, I had one friend – his name was Mitchell. We used to hang out, ride our bikes together, and just generally explore the area. One day, when I was around 10 or so, I asked Mitchell if he ever thought about what it would be like to be a girl. Of course, he said no…why would he do that? “Girls are icky.” However, Mitchell couldn’t keep his mouth shut and told some of the other kids in the neighborhood that I wished I was a girl. That was the next time I got beaten up.
All through this my parents were on me all the time to act “more like a boy.” My mother used to scold me all the time because I “walked like a girl.” I started wearing her clothes around this time too. I used to take pictures of myself, and learned how to develop film and make prints so that I didn’t have to send the film out. I remember once forgetting to take off nail polish, and my mother noticing it. She tried to be understanding, but she made it pretty clear that she never wanted to see that again.
I didn’t stop of course, I was just more careful. I dressed at home, put on some makeup, and wore my mother’s wig (a hideous short, curly, frosted style). Towards the end of the summer when I was 14, I dressed in her clothes completely and went outside for the first time.
I was a bright kid…I skipped a year of elementary school and a year of High School. Since my birthday is in October, I started my senior year of high school at 14. My earlier years in high school were mostly marked by a lot of name calling and ridicule. The most serious event up to then was that someone wrote the word “faggot” on my locker. The investigation by the school seemed more intent on finding out if it was true, rather than who had written it.
But at the end of PE class early in senior year, as I was about to leave the showers (I usually dawdled so that I could be alone in the showers) three other boys came back in. They were members of the varsity basketball team. We had been on the same team for basketball in PE – a game in which my ineptness had contributed to my team losing. They cornered me and told me they were “going to teach this c**ksucker his place.” They forced me to perform fellatio on one of them, and then the other two sodomized me.
I never reported the rape. After the reaction of the school to the locker incident, I didn’t feel I could turn to them. My grades suffered…I went from a straight A student to a C- student, but no one seemed to think I was having a problem – I was just being lazy.
In my mind, I connected going out of the house in female clothes and my rape – I was being punished for what I did. I decided that I was not going to be that kind of person – the kind that gets raped, and called queer, or faggot. So I created a new persona – a facade to present to the world. I lived inside that facade for the next 38 years.
I had my first girlfriend at 24. I met my wife when I was 27. We married 10 months after our first date. I resolved to never think about cross-dressing or wanting to be a girl again. I didn’t for 8 years.
But then it started again…the desire to feel feminine…to look like a woman. I struggled against it, trying to control it. I did control it for many years. But I was never able to completely suppress the desire to be female. My wife and I had a great sex life, and we had two children. But I always imagined I was a woman when we made love.
Finally, my son went off to college last year, leaving me alone in the house 3 days a week (I work from a home office). The facade had been crumbling for years, now it totally collapsed. On an impulse I bought a complete outfit of female clothing, and a wig and makeup. When I finally saw myself, I recognized my image as my mental image of myself over all these years. I realized this was no longer controllable, so I told my wife, and we went into therapy.
Several months later, I accepted that I am a transsexual. Inside, I am a woman named Diana. My only challenge was to find a way forward that lets me be happy without making my family miserable. Not an easy path to find, but I keep trying.