My Own Private Hell
(I, in no way, view being trans as hell. It’s a journey, pure and simple, that definitely has its own challenges. It is not for the weak)
The road that this leads us on this journey presents itself in many ways. Maybe you knew right away. Perhaps you were born with a sense of no fear. You were able to blurt it out at a young age.
For me, I knew early on. My earliest memories were filled with this sense of doubt. Something felt wrong. I had no clue what it was, but it was there. I was also born with a sense of self esteem that was pretty low. But I was a happy kid none the less.
My parents were told, before I was born, that they would be expecting a girl. The baby quilt that was made for me prior to birth had a pink border and Little Bo Peep in the center. I loved this blanket and took it everywhere. I kept it until it fell apart. Much longer than I should have carried it. It was, indeed, my security blanket.
As I grew, I noticed the girls around me. I noticed how they were changing. I noticed their long hair. These were all things I could not understand. Why did I have to keep my hair short? I was always informed that no boy should have eyelashes as think and long as mine. I was a cute little kid. But I was a “boy”. This was my role. I better get used to it. So I did.
I dressed up as a boy every day. I cried almost every night. I prayed. I asked my teachers why, when I prayed for something so hard, did it not come to pass. “Well, sometimes the answer is no.” That was a bummer of an answer, but I kept praying. I prayed that I wold wake up and that this boy’s life had been a dream. I’d wake up and find my wardrobe and body were set right. That my parents would have the little girl my mom always wanted. But this god we prayed to said no. I still had no clue that there was a label for what I was experiencing. This hell I existed in on a daily basis. My own private hell.
I searched around to find a hint of this in friends, or even strangers. Would there be a tell tale sign that I was not alone in this? So my research began. Well, as much research as a small child could find in the confines of their home, in the confines of their small town. But I searched. I’d heard some slight references here and there, so I dove into the volumes of The Encyclopedia Britanica. Through this thorough research I found a two inch square. Transvestite. I paired this up with Websters Dictionary. This led to cross referencing Cross-Dresser…..neither of which really sounded like what this feeling was, but maybe that is exactly what I was experiencing. I’d never dressed up so I had no point of reference for that. I also found a one inch mention of Transsexual. Trust me when I say that the entry in the encyclopedia was not kind and the meaning in Webster’s was not much better. It was a mental disorder. This did not seem right. So I remained quiet and hid this so-called disorder. I aged further.
As I pretended to like things I was supposed to like, and do things I was supposed to do, I managed to find some things that would span both genders acceptably. At the base of all of this, I wanted to be the girl who was cheering or the girl who was kicking ass. Both were me.
Around junior high I discovered talk shows. This opened up an entirely new world to me. Donahue was the largest syndicated show, followed later by Sally Jesse Raphael, Oprah and others. Even Springer, who was so genuine ion the beginning and the acting side show that it became. Within the confines of these hour long programs I began to see others like me. I had names for what I felt and I was not alone. That fact was the most important. I was not alone. Gender Dysphoria. Transsexual. Female Impersonator (not so much). And I began to race home after school on days that I saw had these topics listed in the TV Guide. Caroline Cossey (Tula) became an inspiration. These shows were sometimes difficult to watch because of comments from the audience, though most were understanding and inquisitive, many were attacks, subtle and otherwise. The “devil’s advocate” questions from the hosts. These were good, but sometimes too vague. I did, however, revel in the possibilities of what I could achieve. My plan was brewing.
Through this time I had tried so many times to tell my parents. But I couldn’t. I lacked the courage to do so. Being fundamental, evangelical baptists, the church had very clear views on what was right in the eyes of god. Unfortunately being gay or trans was not in his views. At this point I stopped praying for the change. Not a single prayer was answered, for this or any other request. It seemed rather pointless. I had also lost all love for our religion and was beginning to walk away from it as well.
I remember the first time I wore a skirt and began to dress up when I could. It wasn’t sexual. It was right. This is how I was meant to be. I felt it to the very soul. At those moments I was no longer dressing up as a boy, but rather, dressing in the clothes that should have been mine all along. Since I was old enough, I had more time alone at the house. If it were at night, I would run back and forth to scour the street for traffic. Then I would walk down to the mailbox. Hoping no cars came through the edition. The first time I wore heels it was like any other pair of shoes. I was my happiest in those moments. Then came the time to change back. Dress up like a boy. Put everything back where it was. I was happy on the outside, but internally I was devastated. My only happiness found in the memories of the time I’d spent as a girl.
Next came high school. Did I mention I went to the christian school run by our church? Yeah, since grade three. Daily being taught that everything about me was a sin. Even my interests in art and film. Five days a week at school. Sunday School and church Sunday morning. Church Sunday and Wednesday nights. It was horrific. Anyway, back to the school story.
My freshman year (and last at the school) provided a unique opportunity. It was Spirit Week for the basketball season. This particular day was ICCA day and we were supposed to wear something we’d never want to wear again. Well, what better thing for a boy to not want to do at this school….than to come to school as a girl. I formulated a plan with another male student. We would do this.
When the day came, we showed up with far different visions of dressing up. His was comical, amateur drag while mine was a realistic as I could get. When I was asked if I needed help with my makeup, I said no, except for the eyeshadow. Then thought I should ask for help with it all. Better not give away the fact that I knew any of this first hand. So the day progressed. I was getting several compliments from the girls in the grades above me. The dress up went through most of the day. With about 2 hours to go, I was told to remove this ‘get up’ and change back into my normal school attire. Regrettably I did. At the end of the day I had two of the cheerleaders, who were seniors (and adorably cute) come up to me and say that they thought I made a much prettier girl than I did a guy. I told them I appreciated that and they gave me a huge hug. Acceptance at a Christian school was rather rewarding. A few weeks later one of the teachers told my mom, not in a ‘tattle tale’ kind of way but as a “We really thought he was one of the girls” kind of way. She was most displeased. It was at this point that I knew I would never tell my parents. I would suffer in silence, just as I’d done so far. At least I knew I wasn’t alone.
My sophomore year I transferred back to the public school I had begun in. After seven grueling years at the hands of the church, my dad was ecstatic that I had decided to leave. The tuition was a bit much, we were not rich and my mom worked in the church office in exchange for tuition. I didn’t know that until much later. After driver’s ed, I realized that the freedom of Yorktown High School was going to be a much better fit for me. Much more open minded than Heritage Hall (or Heritage Hell as those of us who made the mass exodus after Freshman year called it). I survived at Yorktown. Still keeping everything private, but the atmosphere was much more open. There were a couple gay students, and I admired them so much, but still kept quiet about my own journey. I wish I hadn’t, but I was too scared to come out. My own weakness. I recalled the passage rom Dune about fear but it didn’t matter. Through this time in high school, I did come out to one of my best friends from church. He had said he dressed up as well. On a certain sleepover, we discussed this much further and raided his sister’s closet. Seems he was much more interested in me being dressed up than dressing up himself. He threatened to tell if I made any sound or told others about this later. He pushed me onto the sofa and sat on me, pinning my arms down with this knees. I was not sure what he was about to do, but was unable to protect myself. I was not strong and he was taller, heavier and stronger than me. As it ended up he just clumsily felt me up and forced me to kiss him. Another thing he threatened outing me over was if I told anyone about his amazing telescope….that I happened to find pointed at the neighbor’s daughter’s bedroom. Seems he was a great guy. We were not friends after this. I have told this story just once before. I rarely bring it up. I was frightened.
After learning to drive I got a job. This allowed me to actually begin buying my own clothes and makeup. And then purging everything because of the guilt and shame associated with this. This is a nasty cycle where you buy and buy and stock up, then you purge, only to buy and buy to restock and then purge again. This gets expensive and wasteful, though I always donated my stuff. Then came college.
I knew much more about who I was and what this was called. I wondered where I would fit in the spectrum. Would getting ‘this’ far work. Would I need to go a step further. Was I truly a transsexual? This seemed like it was the answer. I had been doing a lot of research. My plan began to formulate. I would graduate college, move to California and transition. Only after transitioning would I return to Indiana and tell my family. This was the plan. Life interferes at times.
I met a girl in my freshman speech class. My first real girlfriend. The first year was great, the other two were a downward spiral, however, she did enjoy the Jen side of me very much. It was nice. I had another girl in college that knew and it allowed a little more freedom and exploration. Then it happened. Being pulled over in a redneck town to the west of us. The single most horrifying day in my life. Also the day that changed my resolve forever and truly planted the seeds for this journey that was to happen several years later.
I was out driving around like I had done so many times before. Not every one consisted of getting out of the car and going in anywhere, but sometimes I woulde go into a mall just to walk briskly through and then leave. That moment of pure euphoria (and fear). This particular day I decided to go to Anderson, Indiana, a city just to the west of us and one that I felt less likely to run into people I knew. So off I went. I was feeling pretty good, although to look back now, I know the wig was most likely a wreck and my makeup was probably far too heavy, but without digital cameras or cell phones, a selfie was not had.
I drove to their mall and parked on the far side, for lesser foot traffic. As I got me nerve up, I spotted this black car with dark tinted windows. I didn’t think much about it and got out of the car to go inside. But something felt off. I decided to go back to my car. I didn’t trust the black car. I should have gone straight home but didn’t want to waste a me day and I didn’t have to be at work until later that afternoon. So I then drove over to K-Mart.
As I parked at K-Mart, I noticed the black car again. But I was determined. I got out of the car and went in. Looking at the car to see if anyone got out or if I could see in. Neither. So I looked around for a few minutes before my nerves began nagging at me once again. I hadn’t seen anyone follow me so I headed back to the car. The black car was gone. Again, going home would have been the best thing but I chose one more stop. Life is all about choices. Right or wrong. They mold us. I got into my car and drove to Mounds Plaza. They had a Fashion Bug there and this was to be my last stop. I parked the car and sat, thinking about that car. Thinkig about the wasted trip and the overwhelming fear I was trying to overcome. Then I saw it. The Black Car. I swear it was my own personal version of DUEL, without the whole truck trying to kill me part of it.
I froze and just looked at it. It slowly drove past me and around behind me. Parking a few spots away. I was freaking out more than a little and was coming to the realization I needed to just go home. A gentleman in a cheesy 70s cop style of dress walked by. Rust turtleneck, sunglasses, tweed jacket…think a cross between Baretta and Jim Jones. Well, that did it. I was leaving. I started my car and left. As I pulled away, I saw him walk back to the black car.
As I pulled out of the lot and on to Scatterfield Road, a motorcycle cop passed me and immediately turned around with lights on, motioning me into a parking lot. Fight or Flight was in full swing. I did neither. I pulled into the parking lot of Perkins Pancake House where the motor officer asked for license and registration. My heart stopped. I reached for the registration and the world began to move in slow motion as I looked uo and saw the black car and the bad 70s dressed cop step out from it and walk my way. He took the registration and license. “Well now, it says here you’re a boy.” And so it began.
I realized right away that I needed to be as respectful as a 19 year old could be. Yes sir and No sir were to be my main answers.
“So, uh, what were ya doin?” he sharply asked.
“Debating on whether or not to go in,” I quietly replied.
“Well, I think your ‘bating alright, weren’t you?”
“NO!” I replied sharply
“Are you callin me a liar?”
“No. I’m not, but I was not doing anything in my car but deciding on going in.”
“I’m pretty sure you were hiking up your skirt and…”
“I most certainly was NOT!” I said loudly as I cut him off.
“Then you’re calling me a liar. You do realize that even to be dressed like you are is against the law. It’s called indecent exposure. We got people like you we lock up all the time. Usually prowling the hotels and truck stops.” and he walked angrily away.
At this point the motorcycle officer came to the window and said that he was sure I wasn’t doing anything but I’d better admit that I was or this would get pretty ugly really fast.
The unmarked officer came back. “So, you gonna tell me what I want to hear?”
I struggled with every ounce of my strength. I’m not a liar and I only accept responsibility for things I did not do in the most dire of circumstances, usually to protect another person who made a mistake. I did not want to fold to the pressure but I could visibly see his face twist in anger. Moving in super slow motion.
“yes,” I said softly.
“Yes WHAT?” he snapped.
“what you said,” I replied.
“Well I want to hear you say it out loud.”
So I confessed to something I didn’t do. Something I would never do.
At this point the car door was and I was escorted out of the car. The motorcycle officer stood to the side with me and said I made the right choice. The unmarked officer was tearing through everything in my car, making threats to call my dad, etc…I was terrified. Then a squad car arrived.
“Your chariot awaits, princess” came the sneer from the unmarked officer. Into the back seat I went. The ride to the police station went on for hours while the officer spewed even more hatred and accusations my way. I’m sure the ride was no more than 5 minutes, but it felt like an eternity.
When we got to the station, I was brought in the front door. Everyone must have been told, from the officers to those in the waiting area, as everyone began to howl with laughter and fake cat calls. They were asking if I was the officer’s date and if he’d be giving me a good one later. He took me upstairs to an interrogation room, sat me down, left and shut the door. Commence the 2 hour stretch of taunts, mockery and threats.
I sat in the room alone, knowing there were people on the other side of the mirror. Outside the door came comments such as “We should put it in with the guys in the holding cell. They’d make it a real woman.” “It wouldn’t be able to walk after being in with them.” “Maybe we should just have a party up here and all line up.” They would beat on the door at regular intervals. Continually the threats of sexual assault were the main focus. I felt like a caged animal you see pacing back and forth, but I rocked back an forth instead.
Finally the unmarked officer came in and sat down. Much nicer now than before. He sat calmly and discussed what could have happened and that I could be charged with indecent exposure at any time because of being dressed this way. It’s part of the Indiana parameters for this charge. He said he would let me go but said I had to go to therapy and he needed proof of it. A letter within two weeks and a letter after each session, with a final letter at the end, stating we were done. If not, he was issuing a warrant. He then made me go in for mugshots. With and without my wig. I was devastated.
I asked where my car was and he said they had it towed. I asked if he could take me to get it. He laughed and said call a cab. So I did. As I came back downstairs, I was still being mocked by those in the front room. The taunts became too much and I went to wait on the sidewalk. When the cab pulled up he asked where to. I gave him the address and then asked to run by an ATM so I could get money to pay him. He was such a nice guy. We talked a bit and when we got to the lot to get my car, he stopped me and said he wasn’t leaving until I got my car. He was scared for me and showed me he had a pistol in the glove box. So in I went.
The two stringy haired hicks at the counter asked if they could help me and when I said I needed my car, they began to laugh and make fun of me. They yelled for Mary to come help me. A very polite lady came out and without making a movement, made the rolling eye jester about the other two and mouthed the words I’m Sorry. While we were taking care of the fees, the two guys stayed behind the open window and continued to laugh and point. She finally turned around and yelled, “Knock it off you jackasses!” and the laughter lowered to a murmur. She smiled and sent me on my way. I went back to the cabbie and gave him a huge tip. He wished me the best but still waited until I was at the gate with my car.
I drove home quickly but cautiously. I threw away everything….at a dumpster……about 10 miles away. I felt as though I was done with this. I was petrified. For the next several days I rushed to the mail to see what was there. Nothing. I looked at the paper every day. No listing. On the next to last day of the two weeks I found a therapist at Ball State who changed my life.
Upon entering her office, we got through the initial BS and got straight to the heart. “Do you want to embrace this side of you or are you trying to get rid of it?” I’d never been asked that before so I thought about. I liked this side of me. It felt right, so I told her I wanted to embrace it. She said, “Good, because it isn’t a disease. It’s not curable.”
She agreed to the letters, even though she stressed she didn’t think he could really do that, and so began our 5 month meetings. It was so rewarding to speak openly about this. About how I felt. We discussed sexuality and gender. We talked about all of the feelings I experienced when dressed vs living as a boy. One of her last statements to me was this. “Whether you choose to fully embrace this or not, I feel you are a transsexual based on everything you’ve said. It isn’t cross dressing. It isn’t transvestism. Those carry with them fully different emotions. You’ve not mentioned those emotions once. You, my dear, were meant to be a girl.” We hugged our tearful goodbye and she sent the “completion of therapy” letter off to the Anderson Police Department. And off I went, to bury my secret once again, though I was thrilled at what she had said, and knew it to be true to my very core, I did not want to lose my family. So it stayed as a thing I did every so often. As often as possible.
I spoke of this to nobody for probably 15 years, maybe longer. The emotions are as strong now as they were then and the memory of every moment is engrained in my psyche. It took years to even drive back through Anderson. I freaked me out. I was terrified to go back in any manner of dress. This victory was tremendous when I overcame that fear and strode boldly into shopping. This was actually quite strengthening in many ways. I found an inner strength and fire that would not burn out.
Within a couple years I had broken up with my girlfriend and floated around with only friends. I was ok with that. I needed to detox from that relationship with whom I dearly refer to as “Creature”. It was a weakness that made me stay. Nobody else wanted to date me so why not stay with someone who liked and accepted me? And cheated on me. And manipulated me.
After wandering around with the company of friendships, my resolve grew strong. Get through college. Move to California. Transition. Tell the family after it was complete. Then life happened. I met the voice of my wife while working at the Muncie Public Library.
We had to call over to the main library whenever someone was getting a new card. What I got on the other end of the phone was an adorably smart assed girl. Through months of just talking in small intervals over the phone, I began to fall for this person I’d never seen or met. This was so foreign to me, but the connection was there and it was strong. Like The Force, I could feel it. So I made my move. A “hello” note and doodle in a video she had requested…..which she never opened because it was a movie for her parents.
Then her mom came in and I made a reach out. “Are you Joy’s mom?” “Yes! Are you Tim?” Crushed. I said no. I decided to be a little stalkerish and walked to the main library one day to catch a glimpse of this person who had won my heart. It didn’t matter, but she was CUTE!!! Cute and quirky AND a sarcastic smart ass. My perfect trifecta. So like any normal person, I went back to work and did not say a word to her. She came in a couple days later and we had our first face to face. She cracked up about her mom’s faux pas. She didn’t like Tim, he just happened to have gone to school with her and shared the same last name.
A couple weeks later, she blocked my car in and we sat and talked for a couple hours and then decided to go get pizza (bonus 100). While we were out, I asked if I should get her home and if her parents would be worried. “No. I told them we were going to go out tonight.” That blew me away. We talked a total of about 5 hours that night after work. We sat at The Flying Tomato and just soaked up one another’s company. Laughing through it all. That’s when I found out she was a senior in high school and I was in college. And we had a six year difference in age. It didn’t seem to matter to either of us. We were lost in one another. A few weeks later we began to officially go out. I’d met my soul mate. After a few months of going out I said the fateful words. “I love you.” She was quiet and then a few minutes later said it in return. She had never been told that and did not know how to react. I’d never said it, so I thought those few minutes had gone on for eternity.
This wasn’t part of my plan. How can I have a girlfriend when I plan on leaving and transitioning? This would only lead to hurt and sorrow. I gave her hints and clues without ever actually saying anything about this other side of me. As our relationship grew stronger it also became physical. This physicality led to pregnancy, marriage and the most amazing daughter a parent could ever ask for. My plans for transition and moving had now officially halted. With pure elation, I thought “I have a family!” We were beyond broke. I still had to finish college and upon completion moved to full time at the library. Something that paid a tremendous salary of $12,000 a year. Rather than follow my field, I took security and a paycheck. I took care of my little family. My entire life was devoted to them.
Like any marriage, there were ups and downs, mainly financial, but we never fought. This was eas for me, but she was fiery. It was harder for her. I set guidelines early, though. I will never argue with you about money and if the argument has no real bearing on anything else, I would go for a walk and come back. Arguments were senseless to me. Disagreements were ok. Not fighting. I was open with her about everything once we realized we were about to spend our lives together. She was ok and embraced it as a part of me. We had no clue if it would go beyond the occasional dress up or stay as it was. She said from the beginning that we would always remain together, no matter what.
There was a lot of stress over this when her parents caught glimpse of it. They were 100% against it and urged her to leave me. But she felt the same as I. We were soul mates. We were destined to be together. You could feel it. Then, on our 20th anniversary, we went out as Jen and Joy. We were enjoying a great dinner when she stopped, looked me in the eye and asked, “Are you happier like this?” I sat quietly for a while as she reached across the table and took my hands. I began to cry and told her yes. Her eyes teared up as well and said that it was ok. We’d get through it together.
Well, we tried, anyway. As I began to be Jen everywhere except for work and visiting family, she realized that, although we were soul mates and still madly in love, she was not attracted to women. She began to take therapy sessions to deal with the grief of loss as I was to become a woman.
My aunts and uncles had found out “something” about what was going on. So I set the record straight and spoke to my Aunt Cindy about it. My parents did not know. I had to tell them now. They had celebrated their 50th anniversary in September of 2012. They were to leave for Florida the end of October, so I told them I had something extremely important to tell them mid October. The time was at hand. I felt I’d lose my parents. But I told them. My mother went into immediately blame over something she had done or failed to do. I assured her it was neither. My dad had figured I was getting divorced and was going to come out as being gay. The Transgender aspect surprised him but he was immediately accepting. We hugged intensely and I saw him crying. I told him he wasn’t allowed to do that and he said there was no stopping it. My friends who had been on standby to console or celebrate were pleased to know it went well.
On February 18, 2013, I began taking hormones.
February 23, we celebrated 22 years of marriage.
February 25th we filed divorce papers
April 1, 2013, I was no longer married to my best friend.
There were moments I thought even our friendship would not last. We kept the house. I stayed in it every night. She would go to her parents Friday through Wednesday, then sleep over two nights. The physical attraction was gone. The internal attraction was strong. It was awkward but familiar. It was ok.
She had been in an accident late winter of 2012. She met a police officer who immediately fell for her wit, even after an accident. So they had started conversing. Since I knew we were divorcing soon, I never said how much it destroyed me inside. Then again, my transitioning was doing the same to her. I had nothing to stand on for objection.
I was told about a job opening in California. The company my best friend, Sarah, had been working at for a couple years was expanding form Fremont to the LA area. I applied and actually got hired. July of 2013 I packed up the Uhaul with my best guy friend, Jeff, and travelled across the west to Glendale, CA. He had helped us make the move in 2009 as well, that ended horribly and we went back to Indiana shortly after arriving.
My first year here was full of turmoil. Adjusting to being alone. Adjusting to California. Adjusting to a new job. Adjusting to all the changes that were going on within me. I wanted to die. I was alone and unhappy. I wasn’t going to do anything to myself, but if I’d been in an accident, I felt it would have just been easier on everyone.
Then I began to make friends out here after about 8 months or so. I had begun going to a support group and finding out far more about our community than I had ever known. Life began to gel. 2014 was just a year. I made a couple great friends and that carried through to 2015.
This year everything clicked. It was a great year. I took part in a video for Caitlyn Jenner. I was mentioned and quoted in Glamor. I got to meet Cait at a launch party for a show she was producing. I met more and more people in our community. I got to do background work on season two of Transparent. I became very close friends with a handful of people. These people are in my inner circle and mean the world to me.
The last few months of 2015 were filled with YES. I would do things I’d normally pass on, and each time it was rewarding. I was still finding myself. Still finding my inner and outer voice. The end of 2015 was spent in the company of such amazing people. I met new friends and got to talk to people whom I truly admired. New Year’s Eve was spent at Zackary Drucker’s house and was just filled with artists, writers, industry people….all truly amazing.
2016 is going to be the year of renewal and change. The year of saying YES all year. The year that Jen blossoms. Watch out world HERE I COME!