‘Sunday Sermon: Religion In My Transition’
(1 Nov 2020)
Today’s composition comes courtesy of inspiration from Nicki (my social media friend) and Mary G (my Pinewood friend).
– ‘What role has faith (or lack thereof) or a belief system played in your Transition? Has the nature of your beliefs changed through Transition?
My family raised me strict Catholic during the 1950s and the 1960s; my father placed my sister Kathy and me in Catholic school – I from 2nd Grade through 9th Grade. My father was our parish’s lay Director of Religious Education. My extended family are nearly all Catholic; those who aren’t now Catholic converted to other more Christian Con-servative than Catholic.
As a young adult, I was a Catechist for our Salt Lake City parish – I taught 1st Grade and was a Youth Minister. That required attending weekly classes in Catholic doctrine, teaching methods, sociology. Oddly, rather than becoming more devout, the doctrine began to turn me
Mind you, all this was happening while I was growing up an out M-F Transsexual child, teen, adult. I began my adult Transition at age 18; I still presented male to my SLC parish throughout my adult Transition.
Also, my father and I had many arguments about my Transsexual behaviour, called ‘Feminine Protesting’. Frequently, those arguments became my father beating me during my younger childhood, assaults as a teen and dependent young adult living under his roof. Sometimes, in lesser antagonistic exchanges, my father demanded that I talk to a priest. I refused. I knew from my own experiences that my father was demanding a self-fulfilling prophecy – the priest whom he would demand that I talk to would command me to cease my being Transsexual, cease my Transition. Thus, there was no point talking to a priest when there would always be that one and only conclusion.
I moved a couple times along the way during my Transition, I completed my Transition at the Salt Lake City area. After my Transition, I eventually moved to Tucson, a city about 90 miles from where my father was living. I learned that one Catholic Pastor from the parish when I was a teen was now Pastor at a local parish. I re-introduced my new self to him. We had a very positive conversation, so much that he hired me to teach 1st Grade at his parish school. We all agreed that my presence would be Stealth, my past would be no one else’s business.
Dear Ol’ Dad was not amused that my Pastor welcomed me.
All went well til one day in November 1985 after class. The mother of one of my students approached me and said, ‘I know what you are.’ I waited til the families picked up their children, I went to my Pastor, and we talked about what happened and what to do. I resigned against my Pastor’s request. I never returned to that parish.
Years passed. The Catholic Church paederastery scandal became public. A court ordered the diocese where I grew up to publish in the newspaper the names of their paederast priests. I read the list and was floored. There was the name of my childhood parish’s Children’s Pastor. My father worked side-by-side with that Children’s Pastor. A worse realisation hit. What did my father know? Why did he do nothing! How much was he involved?
Considering continuing Catholic doctrine, I can’t return to the Church. Considering continuing Christian political intrusion into all aspects of American life and law, I strenuously oppose religion.
Yes. As I perceive it, my father and my entire extended family considered me their embarrassment.
I was not the only one. My mother’s younger brother Frank was also M-F Transsexual. I had to listen to vicious gossip about him while I was growing up, gossip that family also applied to me.
Family murdered Uncle Frank in 1970. Apparently, they had enough of him. I wasn’t certain if his fate would be my fate. It seemed possible because of my father beating me because I wore Kathy’s clothes or I simply didn’t act masculine enough to suit my father.
There were not many Transsexual people back then – the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s. Well, we were here, but not public. We were kept private – Stealth in today’s parlance. Trans people were scorned and derided for being public. Families abused their Transsexual members.
It was as you mentioned, however it works. My family chose me as a newborn infant. Family refuses to talk to me about the facts of my birth and my adoption. One fact that I know for certain is that my mother repeatedly told me that I am not her natural child. My father found ways to evade my questions. So, somehow, my parents obtained me from somewhere. I actually suspect something within my extended family because they encouraged a close bond to Cousin Nancy.
Cousin Nancy’s parents had children every other year – typically Catholic. But there is one time when there are four years between children – between Nancy and her next older sibling. What happened to the child born that year, 1956, the same year as my birth? There was never any mention of a still-born or other mis-carriage.
Nancy does not have the same physical features as her siblings – she is blonde hair and blue eyes, her siblings are black hair and black eyes. Both my mother and Kathy have black hair and black eyes. My father had black hair and black eyes, but his mother had blonde hair and blue eyes. I have brown hair and green eyes.
My father’s older brother and his wife had a very rocky, cold marriage. They never had children. I never knew why.
I have my suspicions, however fanciful they could be. My suspicions are based upon fact. Both my father’s older brother and the wife of my mother’s older brother are listed as Sponsor on my Baptism Certificate; family never told me of this, nor why them. I saw my Baptism Certificate for the first time five years ago and that’s when my theory first hit that they could be my biological parents.
New Jersey sealed my Birth Certificate. No one at their state’s birth records agency will tell me what is on that document – not my birth name, sex, or the parents listed. My mother gave a hospital document to me in 1979, but it does not identify parents names.
However it went, there I was. Presented to my parents as a ‘boy’. What my father wanted was a boy, a male heir, to keep his family name. So Patriarchal!
I grew up challenging my father’s Patriarchy. I told him that I would not get married. I told him that I did not want children. My attitude was as much influenced by my parents bitter separation, divorce, custody battle. Certainly, my declarations hurt my father. His expectations became disappointment.
As Catholics, my father wanted children, many children. He frequently told me that he wanted at least 12 children. I can see this as a reason for his divorce from my mother. She barely wanted Kathy, her sole natural child. She frequently boasted having an abortion when she got pregnant with her second husband, that she was ‘one and done’ with Kathy.
My father and I had a big fight on the Thursday before the first Saturday of February 1971. It was more him than me.
It started after I returned home from school, 9th Grade.
My father rarely came home before my bedtime weekdays. He taught mathematics at school then attended college classes at the university. Both his school and the university were several miles away in congested urban traffic.
I felt safe changing into Kathy’s clothes as soon as I arrived home from school each afternoon. My father would not see me, he would not beat me. I would be asleep in bed wearing Nickie’s boy pyjamas by the time my father arrived home.
But that Thursday was different.
I was doing the usual – my homework and watching TV. It was about 4pm. I casually went to the kitchen to do something, get something. I happened to look out the front kitchen window to see my father walking up the driveway. Oh, sh*t! Another argument, another beating.
I ran into my bedroom and tried to change into my Nick clothes as fast as I could. But I was not fast enough.
This was only my father and I living at our home – two guys, no need to close the bedroom doors. But my door was closed as I scrambled to change before he saw me. My father came down the hallway, noticed my closed door, and opened it while I was still changing.
That afternoon, he mostly just looked at me with cold eyes.
He left my room.
I finished changing. We ate dinner mostly in silence. I cleaned the dishes. I returned to my bedroom to finish my homework. No TV that evening. I wanted to not be anywhere near my father during this quite different occasion of his silence. I hoped going to bed and waking up the next morning would soften my father.
I was SO WRONG. He came into my room while I was doing homework, it was probably about 9pm. He started quietly, ‘Why do you want to be a girl?’ ‘I don’t know. I AM a girl. I want to live as a girl. I’m NOT a boy.’ was my reply.
He escalated the scene. Yelling. Screaming. Hitting me. He grabbed my right arm, twisted it behind my back. He taunted me, ‘Scream! Scream as loud as you can! The neighbours can’t hear you.’ I did scream – in pain and in agony. I don’t know how far he would have gone, but I later looked back at and suspect that he might very well have killed me that night.
Eventually he let up. He yelled more then left me alone in my room.
We did not talk much Friday morning before he left to go to work and I left to go to school.
The Assistant Principal summoned me to his office Friday afternoon. He told me that my father called and spoke to him, told him that it was I who assaulted him. Me? A skinny teenager against my 250 pounds 6’ 2” father? The Assistant Principal spoke sternly at me, that I would be in trouble at school if there was any further incidents at home. He refused to hear my side of what really happened.
I arrived home scared that Friday. I sat alone in my bedroom. No changing into Kathy’s clothes that afternoon.
My father came home and came directly into my room. He told me that he went to the university’s job office at their teacher’s department. He said that he applied for work as a teacher at both Afghanistan and Greece. He expressed assured confidence that we would be moving for the coming school year. He blamed my mother and her family as a ‘bad influence’ upon me, that he had to remove me from their ‘bad influence’.
Not long afterwards, maybe a few weeks, my father came home to announce that Pinewood hired him to teach mathematics. He showed pictures of Pinewood School that Mr. Pliska sent to him. I remember, it’s burned into my mind, a photograph of Mr. Pliska at Pinewood’s Field
Day event that Spring.
I did NOT want to move. Not to Greece. Not to anywhere. I comprehended that staying where we lived and where I attended high school was complicated. I was stuck attending the Jesuit boys school; I was bullied at that Jesuit boys school, it was bad, but I felt it was the least dangerous. I could not attend the high school of my Public High School District – there were bullies who attacked me at my paper route during my 8th Grade, they would attack me every day at high school. I could not attend any of the other local Catholic high schools for much the same reason – bullies from my Catholic elementary school attended those other Catholic high schools.
I was still fighting going to Greece after we moved out of our home and we were staying at my father’s older sister’s New Jersey home during August 1971. I pleaded to not go to Greece, to stay at their home, to attend school there – either the Public high school or the Catholic high school.
Nope. You pretty much know what followed. There I was at Pinewood come September 1971.
My father frequently talked to me the entire time since Pinewood hired him. He demanded that I behave. I am certain that he expected to control me at Greece.
My father warned me, he would be in charge of my luggage, he would be sure that I brought only what he allowed, he would not permit me to pack any of Kathy’s clothes with me. He sent me to live with my then Bestie Jeff for the last two weeks before we departed from home so that I could not sneak any contraband inside my suitcases.
I remember one evening early when we lived at our Harilao apartment. He came into my room and spoke to me. No yelling at me for a change. He told me that I need to take advantage of the opportunity living at Greece and travelling throughout Europe. That was one of the fewer times when we agreed. I knew that I certainly wasn’t going anywhere else for two years.
We did have one truce that began with Pinewood hiring him. That April 1971, he no longer imposed the Jesuit boys school military haircut requirement – he would allow me to grow out my hair. Growing my hair would be acceptable to him, for me to express my Female self. The school could do little at the end of the school year with another month to go. He did make me get a haircut for my Passport picture, but it was not a severe cut. He would not force me to have my hair cut til December 1972; that became a trim for Christmas vacation, not what I wanted, not as much cut as it could have been.
I did my best to control my Feminine Protesting outbursts during our two years at Greece. My father did his best to control his anger at me.
You ask why my father didn’t dump me when I was a child, return me from wherever he got me, when I started acting out. I was only three years old, too young to probably know any different. Perhaps he had some sense of responsibility. I suspect that dumping me was actually part of his plan at Greece – his long term plan that I would never see coming.
In May or June 1973, our last day at Greece, our Maggana apartment was clear and clean from everything. All the VOA and Pinewood household furnishings and supplies were returned to inventory. All our personal property had been literally mailed home via United States Post Office through the VOA postal privilege.
It was late morning or mid day, as I recall. Our car was packed with our suitcases for travel from Greece to Nederlands – my father would take the car to ship it from Antwerp, Belgium; we would fly home from Nederlands to the States.
My father told me that he needed to make one last run to the VOA campus, to check the Dasahori school, to say goodbyes. Just Slim and me – we sat on the stair steps there at the empty apartment and listened to my radio. Afternoon became evening, became dark. Every little bit, our landlord and his wife came to me, asked where was my father; I did not know. I did not know why he was taking hours. Why did he leave Slim and me alone with nothing?
The landlord’s family took us in and fed supper to Slim and me.
They were getting angry at his long absence.
I literally thought that my father abandoned me right there.
He eventually returned later that evening. We left that night.
My father never explained what he did that day. He never answered my innumerable questions throughout our subsequent years. I was still asking the same questions at his deathbed in July 1989; he still refused to answer, he would turn his head away and lie there in silence.
I don’t know that my parents specifically blamed me for their divorce. They already had too many issues.
I recall watching his home movies on 8mm movie film. Movies he took of his life during the 1950s before he was married. I looked at what I saw as if I was looking at my contemporaries, my peers. I remember one time, in 1976, I caused quite a stir amongst family. I remarked something about how my parents interacted with each other, how I perceived that they did not get along with each other, that they should never have married. Family expressed their anger at me, my observation, persisted for several years.
I don’t see my life much different than anyone else’s life. We each get what we get and must deal with it. I’ve seen what appeared to be perfect families have far worse issues than mine, matters that I doubt that I could handle. But those people manage.
I do suspect, perhaps in similar ways, that my parents demeaned me, abused me, damaged my potential. I suspect that they did that deliberately to harm me. Decent families don’t do that to their children.
My father professed to be the honourable Catholic leader of his parish, the upright school teacher, the war hero. I read comments written by his students in school yearbooks – all quite pleasant, praising him. But his life that he lived as my father was nothing close. He was his own Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
I have come to realise, looking back at my early life – my childhood and teen years – that I was probably more of a girl ‘tomboy’ than I was an actual boy.
Girls could not participate in Boy Scouts, could not go camping and hiking – notably, I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and to the top of Grand Teton National Forest. This girl did it because everyone else thought that I was a boy.
Nor could girls play Little League, not at any level. But there I was playing Little League. My final season (1970) was an advanced Little League of the best players selected. We played our games at the Major League baseball park. I still remember, in awe, looking out to the outfield while I was up to bat, or looking at the stadium seating when I played outfield. I got that exact same view as Major League players. Okay, not 40.000 cheering fans, maybe 40. But how many girls in the 1960s can say that they did what I did?
With that, no, it was not easy. Not by any stretch. It was difficult, for sure. I’m certain that it was difficult for me, equally as difficult for any of you, as any child growing up under lesser parents and families where children lacked support.
I know that I had my own questions as a child, teen, young adult, adult. I lived inside my cocoon for much of my first two decades of my life. I knew who I was, but neither family nor society allowed that, they suppressed that, they forced me to conform to their standards.
My Transition from living as a boy / man to a girl / woman was hardly over-night, even how I saw my self. It made no matter how much I lived out at home during my childhood and teen years. My life was a balance of both male and female, boy and girl, that was my normal, same as whatever is your normal. I don’t know any different.
My father was of little real help during my life. As I write here, I suspect that he did what he could to disrupt my efforts to succeed.
He was a teacher, but he rarely offered to help me with my schoolwork and my homework. Even mathematics. I struggled. My elementary school grades were horrible – hardly any A’s and Β’s, mostly C’s, a scattering of D’s, no F’s. I pin my grades on my issues with my self and at home. I began to become better at self control and attention to my education by high school. My grades show quite a change – A’s, B’s, a few C’s, only one D (Trigonometry) that was because of our moving from Greece to Arizona and having to start the school year late in the 1st Quarter. I made the high school ‘Honour Role’ nearly every school Quarter, I graduated high school ‘With Honours’ (3.25 GPA). Was Dear Ol’ Dad pleased? Nope. He complained that my GPA was not better, he acted as though I failed.
College was more of the same – A’s, B’s, a few C’s. Not good enough for him. Nothing seemed good enough. Nothing brought his praise.
You are correct. Parents really miss the practical life lessons of how to live on our own.
I attended college because I applied for, and received, that one year scholarship. That simple $300 scholarship probably did more to keep me home rather than forcing me to go to Brasil for two years.
I did not ‘apply’ for my early jobs as an adult.
– I got my radio station job because I helpt people who worked at the radio station and they befriended me.
– The mobile home park where we lived noticed that I had no job while they needed someone to hire to work setting up mobile homes. That lasted maybe a month during Summer 1975. Then a golf course hired me another month to help do landscape work to get it ready for its opening. Those were jobs where employers hired me by word-of-mouth.
– My father asked the owner of a service station to hire me to pump gasoline; the owner was another member of our Catholic parish at Sierra Vista.
– I did not really seriously need to apply for a job with the concept of employment til I applied for Civil Service at Fort Huachuca for Summer student appointments. I worked that in 1977 and 1978.
– I don’t recall an actual ‘application’ when I worked at my father’s elementary school at Ramah, New Mexico, or at Pinehill High School at the Navajo Nation. My father simply told me that I had to come to work at his office and do substitute teaching, that the school district approved of him hiring me because we lived quite distant and rural and there were no people available to perform the necessary school duties that I would be doing. The Principal of Pinehill High School wanted me to substitute teach on days when I was not teaching at my father’s elementary school.
– During that school year, that was when I began submitting requests to take Civil Service exams and when I began flooding the federal government with job applications.
All of that was potluck. I’m glad for my opportunities.
The Forest Service hired me from the Civil Service register effective December 1978. A real job, an actual career.
But guess what. My father was not satisfied, not happy for me.
It was control. He could no longer control me now that I moved from his home. Now that I had my own home, my own life.
That’s when my Transition hit full steam ahead and Dear Ol’ Dad could do nothing to stop me, though he and family did nothing to support me.
Yes. Much changed since our childhood years.
As I write here, my last time I did trick-or-treating was at 4th Grade. I attended a Hallowe’en party at 5th Grade, my then Bestie Jeff and his family invited my sister Kathy and me to go to the State Fair with them. I don’t recall much about 7th Grade or 8th Grade. At 9th Grade, my dad picked me up from school and we went grocery shopping and other shopping all evening.
I hope you don’t mind me sharing with you about one Hallowe’en party that I attended when I was a child. It was a Hallowe’en party for our Boy Scout troop. It turned a bit odd. I don’t recall what year, one of my Boy Scout friends Tom dressed as a girl. He was absolutely convincing. That event eventually, thoroughly, upset my father who stayed there.
There Tom was, he was all dressed and my father did not initially realise it. Afterwards, he at first thought that Tom was cute doing it.
Then my father apparently began to get angry the remaining time at the party. He got quite nervous whenever I looked at him and at my friend Tom.
My father had to grasp some sense of his hypocrisy, about that party versus what he did to me dressing in Kathy’s clothes. Remember, I was dressing in my sister’s clothes at home and my father was beating me for it, yet he was seemingly complimentary of Tom at the party. There was no way that my father ever would have allowed me to dress in my sister’s clothes as a Hallowe’en costume. How could he do that, then justify beating me at other times!
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