‘Walking Through Time Down Memory Lane’

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Business before pleasure.

First there was this post:

Sometimes language has its limitations compared to our expression.

My spirit friend Cara cried out in agony, ‘Damn it! Just… DAMN IT!’.

Her words do not quite speak enough in language; we can comprehend the emotion.

Thank you, Cara, for enduring.  Being the messenger is a tough job.

Then came this news post at ‘Susan’s Place’:

This amounts to Cara’s ‘Damn it! Just… DAMN IT!’ times 53.  Yet, again, linguistic verbiage fails to pose the full emotion.

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I found an older article at Susan’s that piqued my interest:

It sure was quite a walk through my personal ‘memory lane’. Allow me to share among my own remembrances as well as some of the recent history that I did not know beforehand.

  • I noticed an entry for Lynn Conway – they honoured her with a picture. Cool – six degrees beaten. Maddy (my new friend) knows her; Maddy’s work in aviation and graphics is based on Conway’s trailblazing. Our generations are succeeding each other – building one upon another.
  • That 1970 entry about April Corbett, the post-op woman declared ‘still a man’, refreshes me. I certainly did not know her but I knew well about her circumstance and other similar cases. I do not know when it began changing, but for my timeline, I lived that possibility that had I done any surgical change at the ‘wrong’ time, the courts and the law would have persisted recognising me as ‘male’. It is why I am quite amazed that I got through when I did during both 1978 and 1980. Considering my anatomical mix, such a legal hodge-podge would have been a nightmare to explain as my condition unfolded – causing a judicial process to go into their own fits of illogic.
  • This ‘Timeline’ omits that Renee Richards won her court case, was fully admitted into the women’s professional tennis circuit, and that her court victory led to the demise of DNA testing in sports at all levels.
  • The 1979 entry that mentions ‘… over 1,000 transgenders had undergone sexual reassignment surgery …’ does not quite surprise me. I had a feeling that there were few domestic cases, I did not know how few we were back then. Seeing that published number puts in my grasp how I was in quite an uncommon position both when I began in 1974 and the randomness of my encounters with two transsexual people on three occasions. It puts my solitude at Utah a bit more comprehensible. It adds explanation how I was a ‘first’ for nearly all my medical and mental health members of ‘Team Sharon’.  This published record now supports me when there are those who require fact-checking from me.
  • If you can find it on-line (maybe YouTube and elsewhere), HBO produced ‘What Sex Am I?’ (1985); it is a transsexual documentary. I recently read that two of the M-F present in the documentary died of AIDS. That sadness reflects upon the fact that, though here were two reputable subjects, they still fell into the mire so unfortuneately common among transsexuals – both then and now; nothing is really changing among the greater society while our numbers accumulate.  Another reason I thank my lucky stars that I of that era managed to survive that era.  This film included people from Stanford and Janus – I corresponded with those same people (1977 – 1980) as I established my own final transition period.  Their declared ambivalence still present in 1985 demonstrates how we had to fight with our counsellors for them to comprehend what is transsexual.  Their erroneous concept still floating at least through the 1980s was that a transsexual is a homosexual male seeking to ‘normalise’ his relationship with his homosexual male partner.  Otherwise reputable counsellors wrongly directed en masse many homosexual males into SRS based upon their faulty psychology – also presented in ‘What Sex Am I?’.  BTW, the $8.000 fee cited in this film was big bucks in 1985, maybe equivalent to $30.000 today; the results were nowhere as good then as they are today.
  • Billy Tipton died in early 1989. Until my final revision surgery, I had nightmares along the way that if I died in a similar surrounding as Tipton, my portrayal would go through the same insanity as did his, maybe worse because I had no family to protect my image.  While I was eager to create such a commotion in 1983 as part of my post-op transient suicidal thoughts, I mellowed over these intervening years and worked to keep my life in stealth.  I also wonder about every other transitional transsexual enduring that same mal-treatment.  You can see it in the various news stories published about assaults and murders of transitional transsexuals. (RIP Uncle Frank.)
  • Christine Jorgensen died in mid-1989, weeks before my dad died.  He was quite cogent to be well aware of her death when I was with him during various times when the TV news discussed it.  You know my Christine Jorgensen story – possibly ‘one degree of separation’ from her that I can not prove nor has anyone yet disproved.  I eagerly await someone who knew her since George to resolve my questions.
  • The 1998 entry about Julie Hesmondhalgh amazes me – from some ways as ‘It’s about time!’ to other ways as ‘What took you so long?’.  This milestone could have been set at 1977 instead of 1998.  I wrote to the producers of ‘The Young and the Restless’ in 1977.  I was trying to ‘sell’ a transsexual story-line as well as sell my own transition biography to them.  To my amazement, the creator sent a personal reply addressing my story-line points – demonstrating his was no common ‘auto-pen’ generic ‘Thanks, no thanks’ letter.  Yeh, my story-line was declined, yet a few years passed and two characters became permanent to the Y&R script – Sharon and Nick.  I can’t prove anything; in my own heart, I take a private glee however came the creation of those two characters.  I have family who follow that soap.  The very appearance of those two characters is more than enough to make me smile wide inside knowing those relatives who hate me must endure each episode thinking of me when those characters occur.  ‘The Bold and The Beautiful’ began a story-line about Maya Avant, a transsexual character last year – the same producers as Y&R.

There you go. For tonight’s dining and dancing pleasure at the ballroom high atop Mount Cucamonga.

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Then my friend Alana alerted me to this news link:

  • ‘Fact Checking Janice Raymond: The NCHCT Report’ (By Cristan Williams, @cristanwilliams)
  • ‘The Transadvocate’, 18 Sep 14; by Cristan Williams

Cristan Williams’ article is quite extensive; perhaps I shall post my thoughts and reflections to her points in future posts to this website.

For now, allow this personal commentary that follows.

I was not aware of any funding before 1981. Certainly none of my doctors ever presented that availability. My dad gave his Blue Cross / Blue Shield card to me when he went to his Brasil teaching assignment (1974 – 1976), but I dared not ever use it for anything that would have shown suspicious on it. I paid everything on my own before I ever had my own insurance. I made my co-pays when insurance did not otherwise pay and / or cover when I had insurance as a federal Forest Service employee (1978 – 1985). Of course, if there was this funding, then my novice ‘Team Sharon’ had no idea themselves.

Nor do I recall in all the communication between Stanford, Janus, and me (1977 – 1980) that they referred me to wherever was this pool of money – they would have known – at least I expect they should have known.

My having had my Social Security Administration file changed to Sharon / female (1978) and then legalised by the State of Arizona as Sharon / female (1980) helpt advance my presence as Sharon / female and wipe Nick / male out of existance. My Flagstaff ‘Team Sharon’ used my Sharon / female identification, not Nick / male. Perhaps incidental niceties to my mental awareness were fortuitous to my insurance that followed, therefore …

  • My psychological records at Coconino County community mental health are as Sharon / female, not Nick / male.
  • My medical records with my original, Flagstaff internist are as Sharon / female, not Nick / male.
  • My first, then-active bank account (confirmed and verified by my SSAN) was as Sharon / female, not Nick / male.
  • My admission to University of Utah Medical Center Hospital (1982) and Cottonwood Hospital (1983) are as Sharon / female, not Nick / male.
  • My medical records with my doctor at Costa Mesa, California, are as Sharon / female, not Nick / male.
  • My records at the Salt Lake County mental health clinic are as Sharon / female, not Nick / male.

Thus, getting treatment for female medical conditions caught no undue notice for patient Sharon / female that would have raised red flags had I gotten those same services as Nick / male.

All this and much more is what I can glean from that simple ‘… 1,000 transgenders …’ notation. I lived it; I was there. Looking back is quite a review for me. We were so rare, in a sense, that there was no watch the way there eventually developed these later years. My compatriots and I of that 1970s era managed, whether by deliberate plan or total serendipity, to work our way through whatever system (or not) existed before those gates got locked tight and all those hoops to jump through were later imposed.

I’m tripping on my attendance at MVD Flagstaff (1980). That poor MVD agent! I had papers and reported that I was there to get my licence issued as Sharon / female. I obviously must have been the first transsexual he ever saw, he had no idea how to manage my application other than fumbling and mumbling. I was equally nervous with uncertainty; I also was trembling and mumbling myself.

I did not present quite in what is called ‘mode’ – e.g., ‘Sharon mode’ or ‘female mode’ – yet my attire was ambiguous and my appearance had not developed into ‘male’ (as seen in that 1981 work ID picture). I managed to ‘pass’ in my MVD photo as, at worst, a female-appearing male (long hair, no ‘shadow’). My first ERT (Diethylstilbeastrol 6mg per day, 1979 – 1981) allowed me to fight a heroic battle that delayed ‘male’ – all the while attracting hostility at work (‘She’s a he!’, ‘No, he’s a she!’).

Those following two years (1981 – 1983) was losing my battle as I would eventually go down into ‘male’ while off-meds. Phyto-estrogen was too late to disrupt a process that began perhaps mere months before my first ERT. Timing was everything; I failed that in this instance.

I resumed ERT (purple Premarin, 6.5mg per day) with my medical appointment at Costa Mesa (February 1983) and my female restored like gang-busters so fast that it got me under ‘Separation’ action within months (mid-1983). In other words, my federal agency initiated firing me as a F-M transsexual. ‘I know you are a female working here as a male and we can’t have that here’ were my supervisor’s words in her office as she threatened to expose me and fire me. Clearly, this was retaliation for which she never faced sanction while I fought for my pride and privacy; not limited to my words, Utah’s Unemployment Insurance agency and Supreme Court agreed my employer’s acts constituted both a hostile work environment and retaliation.

There is a certain irrelevance to whether or not that funding or insurance exists. If insurance covers anything, then the issue is finding a physician or surgeon who accepts that payment level. Physicians are not obligated to accept insurance, MediCare, MedicAid, or any other method – or any patient for that matter. If all they want to accept is cash or plastic, then they can do it. That is the block I had during early 1980s trying to find doctors and surgeons at Utah. Not only would none accept me for treatment, none would even take FEHBA health insurance (I kept Blue Cross / Blue Shield throughout my entire tenure). Had I not become a fixture at the University of Utah Medical Center Library and make fortuitous acquaintance with the ‘right’ people at the ‘right’ time who saw me and befriended me, then who knows where I would have been at 1982 and 1983.

This ‘right place, right time’ seems to have been my story throughout my life. Not an always occurrance, but clearly there were those key times.

  • Some as incidental as a street meeting with Denise (1974), then again in 1977 when she told me about Stanford. Brief moments she has no reason to remember; I saw her as my mentor.
  • Or what if I took that Pharmacy Tech job at Kirtland AFB rather than go back home to Sierra Vista, return to my Summer appointment at Fort Huachuca, and meet Linda who connected me to Janus (1978).
  • And that is based upon my having gone to New Mexico with my dad. Suppose he would have allowed me to stay home at Sierra Vista and work my temporary appointments at Fort Huachuca. How different might have been my contacting Stanford! Maybe I could have found a way to have sneaked to San Francisco for an appointment with them during that school year had we resided separately rather than when I was otherwise stuck under my dad’s ever-watchfull eyes that entire time we resided together at New Mexico. Amazing – I got away with so much. Or else it explains why he was so abusive with me. Perhaps he did track all my correspondences or maybe intercepted one and knew all along.
  • And what if I had gotten a CETA job working for the City of Bisbee rather than resuming attendance at Cochise College (Autumn 1978). I would not have been on any federal government Career-Conditional appointment register and never would have been selected to that Forest Service appointment (December 1978). That is a pivotal fork in my road.
  • Imagine all that never would have fallen in place had I not been available for my Forest Service employment. Everything that happened would now have been non-existant.

Of course, who knows what would have happened along that other time track, but I can’t imagine any better prospects had I remained there at Sierra Vista / Fort Huachuca / Bisbee. I had made the beginnings of real transition when I met Bob and Nicki Oliver at Tucson (Autumn 1978).

Maybe that long haul to Tucson (90 miles from Sierra Vista) might have complicated any real progress. I lacked reliable transportation. Sierra Vista was quite a small, isolated community in those days; transitioning to female would have caught attention among the people who knew me to suddenly see me as Sharon, not Nick. Shopping was limited to K-Mart, Thrifty, Safeway, Food City, and a small Sears store as for chain / franchise businesses. There were the numerous locally-owned businesses who certainly would have recognised me. Gloria, a school-mate from high school yearbook and fellow member of our Saint Andrews Catholic Parish learned of my transition. What if she saw me and spread local gossip?

Life is sure filled with these options. Deciding to take one ‘fork’ rather than another leads to further options missed when not taking that other. But maybe that ‘other’ would have been worse rather than better. So much philosphy and logic to these ponderances. WHEW!

I recall hearing Yogi Berra express his ‘When you get to a fork in the road, take it’ comment. I had not thought of it as inane; rather, it held a level of common sense. He explained that he lived at a branch of a road that ended in a circle – whether you turn left or turn right, you got to his home because the circle road led you there regardless of which direction you chose. I once resided at such a road design – Ironwood Circle – and that was how I comprehended Berra’s quote long before hearing his explanation. When you drove down the main road to get to Ironwood Circle, you could either turn left and travel a clock-wise direction to my home or you could turn right and travel in a counter-clockwise direction to my home. Either way got you there to that same destination.

Maybe life is that way.

Maybe we can make all these ‘fork in the road’ decisions we want, but no matter what we decide, we always travel a road that will end at whatever our fate ordains is our destination.

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Qian taught me about Chinese Lunar New Year.

Today is Lunar New Year.  We are beginning the Year of the Monkey.

Happy Lunar New Year to all my friends celebrating at that part of the Earth.  As they say:  ‘Happy Year of the Monkey!’.

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