Twenty years ago, I emerged from what the gender community refers to as a closet. In my case it was more of a cocoon. At the time, I was simply surprised at the varying degrees of “female expression” I encountered. Sadly, and to my discredit I think, I was embarrassed both for them and by many of them. I eventually arrived at a theory that what most of them were attempting to express was their own personal idea of femininity. Some may have derived that idea from their mothers’ expression. Others may have been expressing an appearance derived from their idea of “sexy”; perhaps what they wanted their wives or significant others to look like. And, I assume that I wasn’t the only one who was doing their best to look like someone who wouldn’t embarrass their wife in public.
Those were my initial impressions. And, they haven’t changed much in the lapse of time. What has changed is my understanding of consequences related to that expression.
The very first thing I address in my public speaking engagements is my threefold purpose for being there; to educate and broaden understanding of the phenomenon, to preserve families and to save lives.
On the issue of educating and broadening understanding, I never cease to be amazed at the response I get when I ask how many of the audience know anyone who is “transgendered”. It happens, but it’s rare, that more than 25% of those in the audience raise their hands. I generally follow that up with the results of a study of hospital emergency records in the mid-nineties which indicated that one in every twenty men admitted to an emergency room for a genuine emergency, (as in “didn’t have time to go home to change clothes first” emergency) was wearing some women’s clothing ranging from a pair of panties to fully dressed in women’s clothing. The public in general is still to this day essentially ignorant of the phenomenon.
On the issue of preserving families and lives I am passionate. After I got over the initial experience of the varying degrees of expression that I observed, I was surprised at the average age of the majority of “crossdressers.” The overwhelming number of them were in their very late forties to mid-sixties. Almost to a man, the common experience was one of having struggled with the emotions for most, if not all, of their lives. The solution was most often to get married thinking that would solve the problem. In Jenifer Boylan’s autobiography, “She’s Not There: A Life in Tw0 Genders ” she describes and incident when she was a teenager when she concluded that if she could just find love that would solve the problem. It did not. In her case, she fell in love with and married a woman who stuck with her through it all. That is indeed a rarity.
In most cases, like my own, my wife didn’t meet and fall in love with a “want to be” woman. My wife met and fell in love with a bearded cowboy. It took forever for me to realize that she was not in the least interested in competing with “that other woman.”
Like so many men, marriage didn’t solve the problem. In the group I aligned myself with I found varying degrees of acceptance by wives. There was a lesser degree of understanding, and more important, compassion that the “gender variant” individual had for what the spouse was going through.
It’s rare that a husband, me included at the time, has even a remote idea of how this issue affects a wife. The more intense the emotions experienced by the variant spouse the more likely a divorce is in the offing. What I observed that most disturbed me was the frequency with which a middle-aged man who was just coming to terms with his identity would abruptly end his marriage so he “could be who he was.” He would exhibit a degree of, in my opinion, selfishness that bordered on cruelty. Occasionally, I would encounter someone who did caringly consider the feelings of their spouse, but it was rare. The relationships that did thrive and grow were generally those where “her” or in some cases “his” existence was known early in the relationship.
The issue of saving lives is the most pressing in my opinion. Up to the time I became involved in gender identity issues I had personally known only one person who had taken the tragic step of self-murder. It was a friend from summer camp. He was only thirteen at the time and I just couldn’t wrap my mind around what might have driven him to such a final solution to whatever he was going through.
The only other suicide that even came close to having a personal affect on my life was when the husband of Dad’s secretary put the barrel of his hunting rifle in his mouth and pulled the trigger on Christmas Eve.
However, that sheltered experience ended abruptly within months of becoming involved in this new phase of my life. Within a year, three people I had come to know personally, had chosen that tragic solution to their problems. In one study I read, the rate of serious suicide attempts in the gender community was nearly eleven times that of the average population. Naturally, the question was, why?
Although I have no concrete proof as to why I believe it bears a strong resemblance to a phenomenon known to alcoholics as the “geographical.” It refers to a common occurrence among alcoholics when an alcoholic living in, say, New York thinks that if they just move far away like to Los Angeles, that they won’t need or want to drink anymore. That solution practically never work, simply because the problems which seemed to lead to drinking were never related to the location. They were mental and emotional. The reality was that they had figuratively packed up their problems along with their belongs and hauled them along on the trip.
I suspect that many people who are suffering from gender identity issues conclude that if they just make that leap, take that drastic step now, that the surgeon’s scalpel will cut out those problems or they will suddenly be manageable because now that they are their true selves things will be easier. Again, in a small percentage of cases that may happen, but most often those same problems are now magnified because society doesn’t accept them anymore now than before.
I will close with the admission that I am keenly aware of how fortunate I have been in the path I have chosen. I have the benefit of a body that even without the surgery allows me to “pass” as we say. So many individuals have a physic that is anything but feminine. I chose as my ideal women to emulate, two women I felt were ideal examples of a “lady.” My late wife Marilyn and Julie Andrews. Last, and most important, my Christian faith contributed enormously to the patience I had during my transition; taking one day at a time until the perfect opportunities presented themselves … the most important of which was the addition to my life of The Blue Magnet. If I could give any gift to others of the trans community it would be to find someone who is so totally accepting and loving of every single tidbit of their life and their personality as The Blue Magnet is of me.