‘Today Is A ‘Coming Out’ Day’
(11 Oct 2019)
I am already ‘Out’.
Lemme share about my experiences. Maybe someone is new here, hasn’t browsed this ‘Slim and Me’ web-site or social media. Or maybe you are familiar to my life. Either way, I’ll try to use a different angle to write about things this time.
I was Out since at least age 3. Perhaps I did not use Transsexual for my self, but I did know about two people:
– Uncle Frank (my mother’s younger brother) was in Transition from boy to girl (as my child’s mind perceived it) and
– Christine Jorgensen’s name came directed at me during times when my parents were shouting at me about what I was doing (though I don’t recall knowing why her name was mentioned when I was a child at that time ).
I knew that I am a girl, same as my sister Kathy. Family frequently referred to Kathy and me as ‘The Twins’. My only childhood definition of twins at that age was two siblings born at the same time – two girls or two boys, not one of each. Being called a twin of my sister didn’t help me differentiate from my sister, it brought me to identify same as her.
Oh, family was humoured by me. I wore Kathy’s clothes and we painted our nails. Or I put on my teen cousins’ make-up and nail polish during visits to their homes. The family gushed:
– ‘Oh, Nickie! What a cute little girl!’
That name – Nickie. Here’s probably the first time that I shall have described in my essays how that came. On the one hand, I hated Nickie because family used it as part of their verbal abuse against me. Yet I came to want to embrace it when another reality hit. Our father acquired child custody of Kathy and me following our parents’ divorce; he took us out of Public School and put us into Catholic elementary school. My name at home, among family, among play friends, officially at Public School was Nickie. No more Nickie at Catholic school, the nuns would not allow Nickie, the nuns forced me to use Nickolas. No more Nickie – a name I began observing used by girls, not boys. I resented the loss, I resented adults and authority denying another element of my girlhood.
Curious, I might not have sought a different name during childhood if the nuns had allowed me to continue using Nickie. Instead, in my retaliation against authority, I explored innumerable girl’s names throughout 2nd Grade and 3rd Grade. I decided upon Sharon by late 3rd Grade. I told my mother first. It was one Saturday morning during visitation as she cooked breakfast; we had quite a row in the kitchen. I’ve asked Kathy many times; I’m surprised that Kathy tells me that she didn’t hear us where she was in her bedroom. Taking it further, I don’t know what would have happened with my decision to keep Sharon – me as namesake for the other Sharon – a few years later. Or maybe I would not have needed to have made it permanent and changed my name as part of Transition. Small moments develop into major consequences.
Likely I would have changed my last name in any situation.
Life got difficult as I grew up. My father was beating me for my Feminine Protesting, my female inclinations, my wearing Kathy’s clothes by the time when I was of older elementary school and high school age. The worst was February 1971. My family murdered my Uncle Frank a few months earlier to put an end to his Transition – to be done with him, one way or another. I feared that this fate was happening to me that Thursday evening. Crazy thought – I made numerous past suicide attempts and there would be other attempts wanting to end my life in later years, but there that night, that time and place, I really wanted to live, at least survive, somehow.
My teen years were living on that proverbial razor’s edge. My father and I moved to Greece for two years during my high school. I promised to control my Feminine Protesting, to cease wearing female attire, to study well; my father allowed me to grow my hair, tried to end his beatings.
I got lucky after I graduated from high school. Dear Ol’ Dad took his two-years contract to teach at Brasil; I stayed home. I had a fortuitous encounter with Denise, my next mentor; I promptly began my adult Transition at her encouragement. That uneasy truce began to crack when my father returned home. He snooped in my bedroom and through my privacy:
– he discovered my Library books about Transition – especially Christine Jorgensen’s biography and books about the psychology and the sociology of Transition,
– he found my correspondences with Transition programs, miscellaneous postal letters with Sharon as the recipient.
He resumed beating me. What was I to do? This was the 1970s. There was no such thing as Domestic Violence as a crime back then. I could hardly call the police. Report my father? The devout leader of our Catholic parish? The respected Principal of our elementary school? Police would have arrested me as an abusive son.
What if police did arrest him, prosecute him, sentence him, incarcerate him? What was I to do still financially dependent upon him?
I finally gained employment and lived on my own.
My Transition still was not to be discussed. Or, at least, family spread gossip among themselves making me fair game while they prohibited me from sharing my experiences and progress with them, such as:
– I yearned to share my Transition advances at Christmas dinner 1979 (that year was one of the most momentous to that time). This had been the first time in several years that so many of us would be together at one time and place; I so much wanted to share my joy with my family as a family. Family shut me down. That gathering was to be the last time when our father, Kathy, and I were together in good cheer. If I recall correctly, the next time would be when our father was dying a decade later.
– I showed my Diethylstilbestrol pills to my mother several months later; she laughed at me, she countered that she didn’t consider them real, she blathered to me that they were a trick, that they were candy.
Our Transition is not always a direct route. My detour was when doctors diagnosed me Inter-sex (1982) and offered a surgery six months later. The hospital psychologist was not supportive of my Transition, provided no guidance to me how to explain my Inter-sex to family.
– My father came cross-country to visit me for Christmas 1982, he saw evidence of my exploratory hospitalisation, and asked for details; I did not know what to say. My father snooped through my box of medical papers while I was at work. Not once did he bother to talk with me; instead, he made his own conclusions (wrong as he was).
– I travelled to visit Cousin Nancy from Texas a few weeks after my surgery. I hoped that I could have figured things out enough to share with her and her family. Nope, there was no good time to talk seriously.
– I later tried explaining Inter-sex to cousins Carole and Bev (1993). I gave an audio cassette tape and diagrams to them, they were from Dr. Paul MacDonald’s Inter-sex lecture to the University of Arizona Medical School (1974). I hoped that they would comprehend Dr. MacDonald’s explanation of Inter-sex. They didn’t seem to grasp anything – Carole is a college graduate (I don’t know her degree), Bev is a Pharmacist.
It’s all well-worn history when I finally managed to achieve full-time in 1985. I had one interim situation during May when I stayed with my father at the home where I once lived with him during my years as a teenager. This visit was home base for me to seek and secure my own home before I made my final departure from Utah. I seriously considered presenting as Sharon during that two weeks or so, but decided that I should wait til I had my own home if this visit went bad.
My father hoped that I still was going through a phase when he invited me to my birthday dinner that July. Nope. I already had been living full-time for more than a month, my apartment registration was Sharon, my neighbours (including Clint) knew me as Sharon, my college enrollment and ID was Sharon. I could not possibly do anything other than what was long overdue.
I presented Sharon to my father that evening – permanently, once and for all, no more part-time, no more denying my self to please Dear Ol’ Dad. The subsequent 18 months was rough – he wanted nothing to do with me, did not communicate with me. He refused my goodwill offer at his birthday (January 1986). He was facing his denials. All my years since the time when I was a toddler apparently did not prepare my father for this inevitability. I am empathetic. His wife denied a son to him and now his adopted son denied his son to him.
Our relationship settled into another truce by late-1986 – my father and I came together when the Mets played and won the World Series. My father was becoming at ease with me, was no longer reticent about being with me in public. Soon, he would frequently drive to visit with me. He would pick me up from work, he observed how my co-workers accepted me, he made no slip-ups to them about my past. We would go grocery shopping together, dine out together. We were making progress together. Those were among what few good times we would have. We had a tumultuous Thanksgiving Day 1988. He died of cancer the next July.
I had one brief visit with Grand-Aunt Lena, Grand-Uncle Vic, Uncle Jack, Uncle Artie, Cousin Amber at their home (1992). I was on exhibit for them – Look! It’s Baby Sharon, she walks, she talks, she drinks, she wets. I felt stiff, unable to relax, under their scrutiny the entire time. Amber did present her drawing to me.
Last time when I saw Kathy was 1993. It didn’t go well. It has been downhill since that time.
Fast forward to family living here in town – Aunt Pat and cousins Bev, Carole, Gail, Jack. They invited me, then they un-invited me, to Thanksgiving Day 1993. That was the last time I heard from them til a series of awkward telephone conversations with Bev a few years ago.
For years, my ‘self’ perceived me as Transsexual. Then came Inter-sex; then came doctors specifying that I am Female XXY. I studied Transsex and Inter-sex at the University of Utah Medical School and then at the University of Arizona Medical School during the first half of the 1980s. I had been especially familiar about my Transsex circumstance. Adding Inter-sex was quite a new dimension to handle, accept, comprehend, alter my self-perceived consciousness.
Living stealth did much to suppress my perspective about Inter-sex more than Transsex. During these past four decades, I gradually came to embrace my Inter-sex though my more commanding Transsex perspective told me different. I ponder the reversal when I learned that Inter-sex persons generally remain as Assigned At Birth versus Transsex persons who generally change from their Assigned At Birth.
– What if I knew about my Inter-sex during childhood?
– What if doctors and family offered the opportunity to me to have Transitioned during childhood?
– How different would I have perceived, accepted my anatomical anomaly if I knew as early as my childhood that I am Inter-sex?
– What difference would have been my decisions during childhood?
– What if I did not Transition, whether as a child or as an adult?
– What if I declined my two ‘sex change’ surgeries and instead embraced what I called my ‘Half-and-Half’ and ‘50/50’ Inter-sex anatomy?
My anatomy has always been my ‘normal’ despite competing forces:
– My Transsex drive told me to make my anatomy biologically ‘normal’ to be acceptable to CisHet normative standards.
– My Inter-sex drive told me that I AM ‘normal’.
No regrets. Just questions.
I won’t belabour the point that two employers (Forest Service, State of Arizona) fired me because I am Transsexual two decades apart (1983, 2008). You can read those details already written and posted at several essays here in social media and at my web-site. Lemme make reference to this point that losing two careers was a life-altering situation leading to a drastic difference in my financial condition.
– The Forest Service put me on track for promotion at least to grade GS-11. My income at that grade would have led to an accumulated life-time income exceeding $2 million, maybe as much as $3 million. Maybe I could have made GS-12? GS-13? SES?
– Or take the difference in earnings between a woman and a man – that’s 60¢ for the woman to a Dollar for the man. My prime earnings time frame as an adult man was less than a decade. My earnings years as a woman spanned more than two decades, would have been more if not hindered, then derailed, by my last employer.
– What if I waited to Transition male-to-female after my lucrative career of 30 or 40 years? Many (most) people do that – they take full advantage of their pre-Transition Male Privilege throughout their lifetime; they avoid incurring this combination financial penalty being a woman, being Transsex / Inter-sex, being a Trans woman.
That income disparity means the diminution of life accommodations in home, transportation, comfort, travel, investments, retirement.
I lost one home, two cars, most of my personal possessions because of my Transition. I live in a humble home needing multiple repairs beyond my means, my car remains un-repaired, my diet is from the grocery discard rack.
Thus, Dear Reader, is one aspect of my fiscal cost of Transition. You need to know this if you are Transitioning young – that Transition from male to female incurs the difference between financial ease versus financial desperation.
I am fortunate. I know several Trans friends – both personally and throughout social media – who are far worse than my condition.
I invariably read social media from many of you. I enjoy learning from you.
Many of you and I are from a similar age group born during the 1950s. Many of you report having severe experiences of anatomical frustration throughout your childhood, knowing that you are a girl, afraid to reveal your thoughts to family, punished because of your behaviour. You describe minimal knowledge about Transsexualism til adulthood – 30s, 40s, 50s – you marry, have children, make a good career, establish a solid circle of friends, yet you are gripped by fear of disclosing your life-long secret to family and friends. You report your access to Trans resources is quite different from mine.
I was fortunate when it came to Trans; whereas, I lost the family, friends, career.
– Christine Jorgensen was a common reference in my household, maybe because her home and our home were within the same metropolitan area rather than cross-country. Where your parents might only have received publicity of national distribution, living locally probably provided frequent daily publicity leading to daily conversation at home.
– Uncle Frank was in Transition during the 1960s. Sorry, I don’t know what was or would have been his female appellation, so I stay with what I do have for consistency. Having one Trans family member was a clear bonus for my own Transition, even though I have only one specific memory of him – watching my father and him arguing at our front door til the city police came to arrest him. His influence throughout the 1960s passed to me when I eavesdropped hushed conversation among the grown-ups.
– My next mentor was Denise. Our first meeting was totally serendipitous, a misidentification on my part. Our second meeting was equally at random. I’m not one to intrude into the privacy of others, so I didn’t want to push myself into her life.
– Linda was a co-worker where I was employed as a civilian at a military base. She was an electronics engineer auditor who made her two-weeks TDY to our Directorate facility. I was one of three office clerks for the civilian head and his staff of both civilian and military. Linda and I had our own work responsibilities and schedules that did not match. We decided that socialising at lunch breaks together might not be a good idea. She invited me to spend an evening after work with her, she was a font of knowledge who shared as much as she could with me, she provided additional resources for me.
– Stanford University Medical Center’s ‘Gender Dysphoria Program’ was one of a handful of Transition programs during the 1970s. Denise made a referral to get me enrolled (1977).
– Janus Information Facility was a resource agency that Linda told me about. They provided literature that I could send to family and friends, they provided psychological assessments of my status, they provided lists of potential counselling and medical services to contact.
These were opportunities that blessed my path. How could I not succeed!
Each of us eventually finds our way, finds success in our own strength. We come to our own breaking point when we realise that we are a better person living who we are rather than living who others demand. Perhaps this is another reason for antagonism from the Cis Community. We might perceive that we failed, but it is in our strength that we succeeded.
Our failure was that we could no longer live a facade, our strength was that we can succeed when we live as our truth. Most of the world lives in their failure, jealous of the rest of us who succeed when we live true to our selves – ‘A free fish doesn’t know what it is to be a hooked fish’.
Nor is there failure trying to live suppressing our Trans. One famous Trans woman talked about how she tried sports, she tried the military, she tried being the ‘lady’s man’ – failure, yes, because she was none of that. As she put it humourously about her efforts to ‘be a man’, she had to settle finding her success being ‘super water boy on the football team’ because she failed doing what she was not. Success was when she found herself through her strength – her Transition.
Innumerable encounters that I had with Cis people growing up and as an adult eventually involved some degree of Cis aggression against me. I can see where it scares the Trans child, left alone, left without family and other support structures. Gawd, I grew up scared! Perhaps it was humanity’s internal compass telling me right from wrong because somehow, within me, I had a strength, a sense that taking my stand was me being stronger than any bully.
As I alluded in my essay, it was likely that many (most?) of today’s Out Trans Community may not have perceived or were not aware of Trans persons when they were children and during their younger adult life. There were few counted actual Trans people by the end of the 1970s reported among the medical community – I have found reliable sources reporting from 1000 to 3000; certainly that fails to include children and adult Trans people living on the streets beyond the realm of official numbers. Today is drastically different. We can read social media at least by one Trans woman or another on any given day who is reporting that she is beginning her Transition, beginning her hormones, having one surgery or another – quite different compared to the 1970s, 1960s, 1950s, etc.
Yes – there were the occasional references and inferences in American media. I saw an episode of the 1950s’ ‘Burns and Allen’ in syndication a few years ago cracking a joke about a sex change for one of the characters, the popularity of ‘Some Like It Hot’ and ‘Myra Breckinridge’ during the 1950s and 1960s, ‘M*A*S*H’ (and Klinger), ‘Soap’ (and Jody), and Tom Snyder during the 1970s. Their frequent context was Trans as an oddity rather than Trans as our humanity.
There was good news during the 1970s and the 1980s. Publicity began to present more Trans people in a positive context. Robert Reed portrayed a character in Transition in 1975’s two-part ‘The Fourth Sex’ episode of ‘Medical Center’. Then more public presentation among the daytime TV talk circuit – Dina Shore, Merv Griffin, Phil Donahue, Sally Jessy Raphael, Jane Whitney, Joan Rivers, Jenny Jones, Geraldo Rivera. These talk shows finally presented us as normal people, not a punchline in a stand-up routine or a gag in a TV comedy. Unfortunately, by the 1990s, Jerry Springer made Trans into freaks and objects.
We going public were still relatively few, aware of the hazard that publicity destroyed one’s life and career. Allow me to identify Maria; she was on a few of those named talk shows, we became pen-pals for a few years. She reported to me that she lost everything for being public. She cautioned me to remain stealth. Maria, I really want to hear from you, hoping that you have been able to do well.
We are still experiencing being Society’s pejorative. There is the ignorance of many who have little education about Trans. Then, there are the pernicious others who know exactly what they are doing to destroy us; I’m still amazed at their weakness and hypocrisy. Pat Robertson had positive support for Trans people as recently as 2013 when I heard him discuss the topic on his TV show; something between then and recent led him to turn on Our Community. He embodies that failure, that lack of strength in truth.
And so goes today’s Out Day reminiscences. Those experiences have been among my Trans experiences.
Family can read this essay. Perhaps you can put these events together in your Ah-Ha moment of recollection. Or spread gossip among yourselves. Or not. I have no expectation that any of you will ever correspond with me.
Cousin Nancy from West Virginia,
Cousin Nancy from Texas,
I certainly don’t expect you or any other family to bother about this. After all, Bev, you accuse me of hiding in your bushes, waiting to attack you, because I am a ‘Monster’ (as you call me).
Please. Gossip amongst yourselves. Or not.
Thank you to all who are responding positively to this essay.
Thank you to all the Resources whose work contributed to this article.
Itali Marlowe – 20th Trans person murdered this year – murdered because she is Trans:
Nope – I was not confused. I knew at least by the age of 3 – ‘I’m a girl! I proclaimed to family. I didn’t necessarily know that that made me Transsexual. Uncle Frank, who began Transition when I was age 4, made Transsexuality a normal concept at home.(https://www.refinery29.com/en-ca/gender-identity-isnt-too-confusing-for-your-toddler)
The Birth Certificate fight continues at Utah.(https://fox13now.com/2019/10/10/utah-supreme-court-orders-state-to-weigh-in-on-transgender-birth-certificate-issue/)
Trevor Project’s LGBT Handbook for Youth. (https://www.advocate.com/youth/2019/10/09/trevor-project-releases-coming-out-handbook-lgbtq-youth?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=youth)
AMA support for LGBT Rights.(https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/population-care/why-ama-s-standing-lgbtq-rights-supreme-court)
It’s no surprise that an anti-LGBT Republi-con is charged with child porn and sexual abuse.(https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2019/09/republican-state-senator-charged-possessing-child-porn-sexual-abuse-minor/)
The USA Supreme Court wants to tell Trans persons what public restroom to use.(https://news.yahoo.com/us-supreme-court-just-sent-134534353.html)
The 2020 Election is important for Our LGBT Community.(https://www-m.cnn.com/2019/10/10/opinions/2020-election-importance-lgbtq-david/index.html)
Poland right-wing attacks against LGBT.(https://slate.trib.al/VYhadkH)
TERF Lesbian opposes LGBT and Trans Civil Rights at Supreme Court demonstration.(https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2019/10/09/lesbian-activist-linda-bellos-supreme-court-against-trans-rights/)
Australian Trans Community seeks health care coverage by Medicare.(https://www.outinperth.com/renewed-calls-for-medicare-to-cover-gender-reassignment-surgery/)
Surgery leads to improved mental health.(https://abcn.ws/33g6fEV)
Adult support helps Trans youth overcome suicidal thoughts.(https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2019/07/just-one-supportive-adult-cuts-chance-lgbtq-youth-will-attempt-suicide-40/)
A preview of the USA Supreme Court presentation.(https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/supreme-court-gay-rights-workplace-equality-895565/)
Transcript of oral arguments in Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC.
Thank you to all the resoources who make this web-site and page possible.
Please return for another essay.