By: Caragh Donley*
Oct 11, 2023
"I had become resigned to living the rest of my life as if it belonged to someone I emailed with a few times but never actually met."
I never thought I’d be here. And yet just a few months ago, at the age of 63, I came out as a transgender woman.
First of all, I’m well aware there’s a cultural expectation in America that once you hit the age where 401(k)s become reality rather than theory, the most exciting experience you have left is seeing which closes up first — your arteries or your mind. This is supposed to be the time to start thinking about endings, not beginnings. Given all that, I realize how unlikely it is that anyone would take on perhaps the biggest do-over there is: gender transition.
Even worse, I’m doing this at a particularly treacherous time, when far too many presidential candidates and groups with words like “liberty” and “freedom” in their names have turned people like me into their political piñatas. To them, we’re just trying this out for some perverse thrill. However, being trans isn’t like experimenting with bangs. It’s not something you dabble with and then grow out of. It’s a feeling we’ve spent a lifetime trying to ignore until we either die fearful and silent, or decide that living whole and happy is worth having people hate us.
I’ve been trying to figure out which choice to make since I was 7 or 8 and had a recurring dream where Tabitha from ”Bewitched” would ask to hang out with me. I just had to eat this pudding-like stuff in a little paper cup first. I complied and suddenly I was a little girl, and we went off to play.
A few years later I started having another dream, in which I’d grow breasts that gave me the ability to fly. Then there was the dream where I felt super itchy and when I scratched myself, my skin peeled off to reveal that I looked just like Olivia Newton-John.
It’s taken so long for me to find my path, but now that I have, walking along it appears to suit me. Recently, I had drinks with some friends I hadn’t seen for a while. After a couple of minutes, one of them stared at me, waving her hands in my direction, and said, “This just feels right.” That was a phrase I honestly never thought I’d hear. Now that I’m here, and it isn’t merely a dream, I just hope it’s not too late to set up that playdate with Tabitha.
*Caragh Donley is no longer hiding her age, so it’s safe to reveal she’s been at this writing thing a long time, working for outlets including People magazine, TV Guide, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, Emmy Magazine and Vanity Fair. She’s the author of “The Can’t-idates: Running for President When Nobody Knows Your Name.” In addition to her print work, she’s worked as a producer on shows including VH1’s “Behind the Music,” “The Queen Latifah Show” and “The Martin Short Show.” She is currently a senior producer with “The Kelly Clarkson Show.”