‘1978: It’s Gonna Be A Good Year’

*1972-04-xx-knossos-slim-and-the-bull-horns

‘1978’

Life is a continuum.

For me, fresh starts were built upon foundations that came upon obstructions and new opportunities.

This narrative will describe my actions that some may find objectionable.  My behaviour, in fact, aligns with those as defined as ‘true transsexual’ for a M-F transsexual.

*

My earliest memories begin at age 3.  I have a fix in my mind a segment of ‘Romper Room’ when they were teaching dates.  My memory still sees ‘December 1959’ on our black-and-white TV screen.

*

Allow this set-up.  My father was an engineering drafter for an aerospace corporation located at the other side of the metropolitan area.  My mother worked part-time as an actress and at a local radio station.  My sister Kathy, two years older, was already attending Kindergarten at our local public elementary school.

Here was my home life as a three-years-old child:

  • Sometimes my mom brought me to work at the radio station; I had fun going to the radio station and watching the DJs.
  • Sometimes she brought me with her when she went on dates with her boyfriend who owned a local furniture store; my mom’s cheating on her husband would be one issue leading to the demise of her marriage to my dad.  Her boyfriend knew how to treat this pre-schooler:  he welcomed me with soda and a bag of M&Ms, he entertained me when he took us for lunch at the local exclusive steakhouse.
  • Sometimes I stayed home on my own; my mom rarely dumpt me at day-care for which I am extremely gratefull.  I got into Kathy’s clothes and wore them while she was at school.  I also wore my mom’s clothes.  This was more than ‘dress-up’.  I identify as a girl and wanted to wear the same clothes that Kathy – a girl – wore.  Kathy and our mom and dad knew what I was doing; there were days when I wore Kathy’s clothes when playing with the neighbourhood children.  My parents scolded me for wearing Kathy’s clothes without her permission, not for wearing them.

*

This was the time when I began experiencing sinister events in my life, but I did not know them for that when they occurred nearly 60 years ago.

Kathy took me into her room, she stript me naked, she got naked, and she sexually molested me.  Other times she molested me during our communal bath.  I did not like it, but she was bigger than me, she bullied me at our dad’s behest, and I complied with what she told me to do.  I do not recall how many times she did this; her actions ended by the time she was age 9 and I was age 7.

I came to understand many years later that children who perform sexual molestation were themselves molested.  My questions for many years included who and how and when was Kathy sexually molested by age 5.  Kathy to this day denies she did this to me; I can’t fault her for her denial, she was a child who did what an adult commanded her to do.  Our dad repeatedly bullied Kathy to beat me.  Those events were more of the same.

In fact, it was not until about 10 years ago when I learned more of the whole picture.

The answer to Kathy came when I read a newspaper article about the Catholic Church’s pederast priest scandal.  There it was in writing – the parish’s children’s pastor was named front-and-center among the notorious priests.  My dad was the parish’s lay director of religious education and oversaw parish youth programs.  He worked alongside that named pederast priest during the course of many years during the 1960s and into the early 1970s.  How much was my dad involved with the pederast priest piddling the children?  Was he the one who ‘taught’ Kathy what to do to me?

Seems my dad was ahead of the pack and years in the future:

*

Looking back, entering Kindergarten at age 5 would have been a great time to have transitioned from ‘boy’ to girl.  My parents would have none of that.

My parents’ divorce finalised during my early school years.  The courts back then routinely ordered child custody to the mom no matter what evidence proved her delinquency.  Our mom was well-known among family and the neighbours as a boozer and as a child abuser; they testified to that fact in the legal proceedings.  Evidence made no matter; that divorce judge ordered custody of Kathy and me to our mom and allowed restricted visitation for our dad.

Our dad won custody of Kathy and me during my 1st Grade school year, but not to take effect until the end of the school year.  Second Grade was another opportunity that my parents could have transitioned me to female.  I would be starting a new school – our local parish Catholic school.  Oh, wait, no way!  It was enough that the nuns would not have me use the girls’ room.  My dad was hardly in touch to present me as a girl.

*

Kathy and I residing with our father did not end my wearing her clothes.  The opportunities were less, however.  I lacked much of my single time alone:

  • Kathy and I walked to and from school together.
  • We stayed with neighbours til our dad arrived home from work.
  • We had babysitters watch us whenever our dad went to night college.
  • Our paternal grandmother came to live with us for four years.

There came one event that turned our home:  my Catholic ‘First Communion’ during 2nd Grade.  Boys were required to wear a white shirt.  I had no white shirt.  My grandmother brought one of Kathy’s white blouses to me to wear.  There I was at my service wearing Kathy’s white blouse.  Dear ol’ dad wailed but could do nothing.

Grandma returned to her New Jersey home in early 1967.  Kathy in 7th Grade and I in 5th Grade meant we no longer were under constant watch of our grandmother, our neighbours, or babysitters.  We no longer walked to and from school together as much as earlier times.  Whenever I arrived home first, I frequently wore Kathy’s clothes when I knew that I had time; I quickly changed to my boy clothes when she arrived home.  Do you remember, Kathy, why I was suddenly either in the bathroom or locked in my bedroom when you came home?  How could you not know?

*

Seventh Grade was another mixed blessing.  I missed one school assignment; my nun teacher wrote a nasty note and directed me to have my dad sign it and bring it back to school.  I could not bear to present my teacher’s note to my dad and endure his expected wrath.  Instead, I went into his medicine cabinet, partially emptied the contents of my dad’s prescription capsules, and swallowed the accumulated contents.  I wanted to die rather than face another beating from Dad.

I remained ill from September through the end of October.  My dad had no idea why.  He repeatedly yelled at me.  Not once did he take the time to actually talk to me in a kind, gentle manner to ask why I was ill and what I had done.  He could not be bothered to take me to a doctor.

Kathy knew about my string of suicide attempts during those two months.

*

Kathy moved back to our mom’s home that school year – November 1968.  Perhaps she had enough as she witnessed our dad abuse me day after day.  Perhaps the beating my dad gave to me following that teacher-parent meeting early November was Kathy’s last straw; Kathy told me that our dad beat me for more than 30 minutes.

Kathy’s departure meant free time to change into her clothes after school and no rush to change back.  My dad did not come home until late because he was attending evening college classes through 1971 (9th Grade).  I was puzzled how I made a nice fit in her bras – I was developing my own ‘A’-sized anatomy.

*

I could have transitioned to female when I graduated from 8th Grade and would be starting a new school for 9th Grade.  Nope, my dad would have none of that.  In fact, my life really went downhill.  I hated that my only 9th Grade option was the Jesuit boys’ school and I hated being bullied by those boys with their haughty better-than-thou attitude.  My dad and that school demonstrated their failure to ‘make me a man’.

The turning point of that school year was early-February 1971.  My dad suddenly arrived home from work at 4:00 p.m.  I had not noticed he was home until I saw him in the driveway ready to enter through the kitchen side door.  I made a mad dash to my room and tried to quickly change clothes.  Too late.  My dad entered my room and saw me.  He did nothing at that time, he merely made a nasty stare at me and left me to finish changing.

My dad was silent at first.  We ate supper in silence.  I did my homework in my room rather than in the living room while watching TV.  I wondered in the back of my mind when our next confrontation would occur.

My dad came into my room toward my bed-time.  At first he merely asked what was I doing and if I thought I was a girl.  Here we go again, another feminine protesting event was about to commence.  ‘Yes, dad, I am a girl!’  He escalated the confrontation into violence.  He grabbed my right arm, twisted it around my back, and taunted me to scream.  He eventually let go and left me alone to go to sleep.1972-04-xx-knossos-hall-of-the-procession-dad-nick

The next day, my dad told me his news when he came home.  He informed me that he went to the university’s recruitment department and scanned job opportunities available at foreign nations.  He told me he applied for two opportunities – teaching jobs at either Afghanistan or Greece.

I did not want to go.  I wanted to stay at home.  I wanted to transition at a different school for 10th Grade at home, not travel to some far-away land.   That would not happen.  As you have read elsewhere here at my site, Dear Reader, we moved to Greece for two school years (1971 – 1973).

*

I hoped this move to Greece could have been an opportunity to transition to female where no one knew my ‘before’.  Nope.  My dad made several threats to me during the months that elapsed from February into September 1971 – I’d better not make any female overtures ‘or else’.  I took his threat very seriously.

I apparently had the wisdom and smarts to take advantage of the learning experience residing at Greece and traveling throughout Europe.

*(1974 05 23) Nick (Graduation Pic at Ceremony)

We returned state-side in 1973.

I again hoped for the opportunity to transition to female wherever new we might re-settle for my 12th Grade.  Another ‘No!’.

No matter.  My dad had to begin realising he was on the losing end of this mental war.  He frequently threatened me that he would buzz my beyond shoulder-length hair only to withdraw that threat.  Those were not so much empty threats – he was quite serious – rather, perhaps he was coming to understand that cutting my hair would not change my female identity.

*

Good fortune came my way the next year.  My dad took that two years contract to teach at an American international school at São Paulo, Brasil (1974 – 1976).

Free at last to begin transition at age 18 (age 17 actually)!  Looking back, I seized upon this amazing opportunity that my dad unwittingly put in my lap considering that many others – even in today’s environment – do not transition in their teens or 20s.

I was cautious.  I was not totally independant from my dad.  I began my transition in ‘stealth’ – I came to know that term last year.

I attempted to tell my then-best friend Clint during August and September 1974.  I tested the topic of transsexuals with him.  He had little more to say than derision and snide remarks about ‘those’ people.  He had worse to say when he came home from duty with the US Navy.  Hey, Clint, I hoped that knowing me more would have made this better when I told you in 1985.  I hope your life has been well these past decades.

*

I used my early years to read and study and search my soul.  I had little direct knowledge and experience in 1974.  Information was negligible in those days.

Then I had more good fortune to chance meetings:

  • Denise in 1974 and 1977 led me to Stanford in 1977
  • Linda in 1978 led me to Janus in 1978.

And so, 1978 became a good year – pivotal to my transition.

*

Stanford’s counsellors advised me to get a medical check-up to verify my health status sufficient to undertake my endeavour; they would not accept a patient in poor health.  I had my first transition medical appointment in April 1978 at Gallup, New Mexico.  The doctor gave a clean bill of health to me.  This was my first medical approval to proceed.  I was elated.

*

I had been employed as a substitute teacher during the 1977 – 1978 school year.  That time was good for experience but difficult for what I endured.  Many high school students – bullies – openly called me ‘F*g’ during class, in the corridors, at lunch, before and after school.  No administrator did anything in my support.  I held my head high against their cruel behaviour treating me no different than another class-mate to taunt rather than respecting me – whether as their teacher that I was or the member of the community.

My 6th Grade students posed an odd question to me one day during the Spring of 1978.  A few asked me if I am ‘gay’ during quiet time as we ended one class.  I was taken aback that children of that age knew that, but hey, why not.  I felt that I owed no reply to their intrusive question as their teacher.  I did answer it anyway.  I told them ‘No’.  A couple responded that it seemed to them that I ‘acted gay’.  I did not continue the conversation.   There was an old joke from ABC’s ‘Three’s Company’.   Someone asked Jack Tripper if he was gay.  He replied, ‘No, sometimes I get depressed.’  That was my closing reply to the students.

*

In my box of mementos, I kept correspondences of special mail that I received that year – it began with Stanford, then these:

  • I, as Sharon, wrote a letter to the producer of ‘The Young and the Restless’. I thought hey, why not submit my transition as a story-line. It was a serious lark. One of the primary characters was a physician – my character could be one of his patients. It would be ground-breaking having a trans character on a daytime drama; it would be shattering to have a real trans person performing that role. I received a personal letter from the producer explaining that my story-line could not be done. Wow! A personal reply to me from among probably thousands of daily ‘fan mail’; he took time to write to me personally. A few years later, ‘Nick’ and ‘Sharon’ began as characters on Y&R. Hmm? As the soap world knows, trans characters have recently made it. ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’ introduced Maya as a trans character last year; her best friend and personal transition confidante is ‘Nick’, played by a trans person.
  • I, as Sharon, received a postal card from Tom Snyder as a reply to my letter thanking him for having Ariadne Cane on his show.
  • I, as Sharon, received a letter from Sarah Ward. She hosted her self-titled show on BBC short-wave radio; she played music requests and dedications. I submitted a request; she replied to me that she accepted my submission: ‘Eve and the Apple’ by Shocking Blue (https://youtu.be/SWC_yKYME_E). Oh, yes, I have the recording of this episode on audio cassette tape.

Did my dad see those pieces of mail? Was he curious? Did he think ‘Sharon’ was me?

*

My dad and I completed our school year at New Mexico and returned home.  I knew my future could be frustrating if I did not continue to advance.  The Summer of 1978 brought surprises.

I found special strength through two music albums during 1978:

I had been a fan of those two artists for many years.  That year, their music brought me into focus from a curious depth of near suicide.  I took a positive message from both recordings – especially Smith’s ‘Privilege’ (https://youtu.be/u-7fibt4DU8) and ‘Victory’ (https://youtu.be/66zvtINC9kE).  Indeed, I was on my way to victory in 1978 – a good year indeed.

Thank you, Patti!

Thank you, Genya!

*

I told my dad that I was staying out late on various Summer nights of 1978.  I told him that I was hanging out with the guys after softball games or practice.

Did Dear Ol’ Dad really believe me or did he suspect otherwise?

In truth, I made numerous trips to Tucson that Summer dressed as Sharon; I cruised the University of Arizona environment.

*

Then there were those two weeks during July working with Linda at the military base.  We exchanged anticipatory glances that first week; secret knowing glances occupied us the second week of her assignment.  She was a font of new information as we spent several hours one Friday after work.  She was my new cheerleader, my next hand-holder.  She directed me to Janus.

These correspondences with Janus would also go into my box of special mementos of 1978.

*

Janus was a fabulous resource for both the trans person as well as for their family.

Janus sent resource books to me for my own good.  Their reading material helpt me focus on my own self, what I needed, what I needed to accomplish.

Janus sent papers for me to complete and return.  Some were multiple answer items that I check-marked to a score sheet and returned for their analysis.  Others included a multi-page free-form questionnaire that I answered in my own words.  I commented on my life, my attitudes, my expectations.

I eagerly completed my papers, sent them for review, and awaited their comment.  Long-distance counselling by written word can be clumsy and complicated.  Nevertheless, Janus’ approval to proceed to transition gave hope to me that I continued on my path.

Janus sent a booklet to me – their information for families of the trans person.  I sent this to my mom.  My mother still refused to consider that I was doing transition.

*

With Janus’ guidelines, I submitted my application to change my Social Security file from Nick / male to Sharon / female.  Was I surprised!  My dad went to bring in the mail from the mailbox one quiet Saturday in September 1978.  He commented to me that there must be a mistake – the Post Office delivered a Social Security card to someone named Sharon; he told me that he would take it to the Post Office on Monday.

Relatives came to visit later that afternoon.  That diversion was my opportunity to see what this was about – this mail from Social Security Administration for Sharon.  My heart raced as I saw that envelope with ‘Sharon’ on it.  It was obviously for me – it was my mail, not that for a stranger.  I opened it and I saw what I admittedly never expected to see.  There in my hands was my new card with my new name.

OMG!!!

Yippee!!!

I must admit that I wondered again what my dad thought.  There was another article in the mail for this mysterious Sharon.  All those letters delivered to us at New Mexico during the past year.  Now came this piece from Social Security Administration addressed to that ‘Sharon’.  How many items did my dad intercept and return that I did not know arrived for me Sharon?

*

Did my military employer receive a Social Security discrepancy report about me?

  •  Did they receive one in September 1978?
  •  Did they receive one in October 1978?

No matter, my temporary appointment ended effective 30 Sep 1978.

*

The Autumn months continued in hits and misses.  I had no idea how or if I could locate anyone to take my case.

I discovered that there was a counselling couple at Tucson – Bob and Nicki Oliver.  Their specialty was sex therapy – ‘IAMME’.  I met with them a couple times off the record to determine what they could do for me.  Yes, they agreed to accept me for transition by November 1978.

One more Yippee! – but controlled by reality.  Now I had to figure how to hide these sessions from my dad.

*

Uh-oh.

I received a job offer for employment with the USDA Forest Service effective December 1978.  What to do?  I already rejected one job offer that I received in June from Kirtland Air Force Base as a Pharmacy Tehnician.

Amazing results from that one decision …

  •  allowed me to meet Linda,
  •  provided Janus’ instructions for me to change my Social Security card,
  •  brought me to the Olivers,
  •  boosted my psyche with music from Patti Smith and Genya Raven.

Should I take that job and perhaps lose all my momentum?  Should I not take that job but remain stuck at home totally dependent upon my dad?

Looking back, I made the correct choice.  I have no way of knowing how my life could have gone better if I:

  •  remained at home,
  •  was unemployed,
  •  sneaked visits to counselling at Tucson,
  •  tried to intercept mail delivered to me Sharon.

My dad was angry about my pending departure from his control.

  • How dare I leave home – leave him home alone!
  • Did he suspect what I suspected?
  • Did he hope that I would have declined that job offer so that he could continue undermining my life?

*

Thanksgiving Day 1978 was truly a day for me to be thankfull.  I held no fear of my unknown future.  I was eager with anticipation and true freedom.  I knew that I could obtain new referrals through either Stanford or Janus.  It might require driving long distance to Phoenix; I would do it, do anything and everything.

I packed my car and made my way to my Forest Service duty station early in December 1978.  I spent the next couple months requesting references from both Stanford and Janus – deciding my future.  Two or three hours driving to Phoenix would be quite a burden.  Maybe I could locate medical help closer to home.

My residence was a small community of barely 3000 residents.  There was only one doctor.  I made an appointment with him.  I was nervous.  I told him that I understood if he could not accept me; maybe he would know someone at Flagstaff, a community 45 minutes distant.

Meanwhile, Janus delivered on a new counsellor.  I arranged for an appointment to him during a day off from work in February 1979.  No way!  That guy creeped me out.  I had to find someone else.

*

Good fortune followed me.

My hometown doctor’s referral brought me to an internist in private practice.  He accepted me.  I was his first.  He referred me to the county mental health program for counselling.  I passed my therapy sessions with flying colors.  My counsellor approved my internist to prescribe ERT – my subsequent medical approval – in 1979.

Kathy Q let me try her Norinyl birth control as another test.  I passed.  My physician issued 6mg of Diethylstilbestrol per day by late-Summer 1979.

I was now doing it for real.  I knew there was no retreat.

*

There you see, Dear Reader, my small steps in the old days.  Little by little.  One step followed the other – advancing toward my goal that I was sure to achieve.

I knew from my youngest years.  I held no doubts.  I endured hardship.  I came upon good fortune compared to many.  I am thankfull and gratefull.

I have come to witness many who question their very core and motivation.

One spirit friend recently wrote of her doubt and despair.  She felt that she was doing little more than mimicking what others expected her to be.  Please, Dear Friend, find your peace.  Be your self as you are.

Sahwdee Kah!

*

(Up-date:  14 Sep 16)

To those of you who returned to re-read this post at later dates you found that I added pictures to this page.

The top photograph is Slim sitting at the Knossos Bull Horns.  The second one (down the page) is me at the Knossos ‘Hall of the Procession’.  Knossos is an archaeological site at Northern Crete not far from Iraklion.

The third picture is me smiling at High School Graduation.  That gold rope at my shoulders is among my school awards.  We students received the gold rope as symbols of high academic achievement – graduating ‘With Honors’.  My GPA was 3.235.

*

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One thought on “‘1978: It’s Gonna Be A Good Year’

  1. If I had only had the courage to come out at an early age as you did Sharon. But you helped to pave the way for the rest of us who came out later in life. I hope that many of our sisters can read your story of what it was like transitioning in the 1970’s.

    Like

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