In the three plus years, nearly four years now, since Dear Mom and Dad, You Don’t Know Me, But …was published, no one has asked me what inspired me to write it … that is until now. So, I’ll tell you.
If you’re expecting a story of startling revelation or jolting inspiration you will most likely be disappointed. However, if you’re hoping for understanding and a view into the mindset that led to the writing of my memoir, then I think you will come away pleased with what you are going to discover … about me, my path and the many starts and stops along the way.You will understand how the inspiration for what I wrote eventually evolved into purpose and that it was the combination of the two that resulted in Dear Mom and Dad.
The first thing I ever wrote was a three-page theme for my 7th grade English class, titled “Wild Horse Hunt in Skull Valley”. It was about a wild horse hunt in Skull Valley, Utah that Dad had arranged for him, “our” brother and me/George to take part in. That was the only A+ “George” ever received in any academic endeavor.
One would think with that kind of encouragement,that writing would have become a passion, but it didn’t. From time to time, thought was given to various ideas for novels and a list of possible scenarios was even created, and a file started for those ideas. I still have that file … somewhere. But that was as far as writing ever got for me. I had difficulty even writing letters, beyond the ones, we were required to write every Sunday afternoon at summer camp which inspired the title for DM&D.
So years passed without ever writing anything. I relate in the book my first experience with the only job I ever had that involved writing. It was at a radio station and was due to the support of the man who is quoted on the front cover, my friend, mentor and chief encourager, the late Doug Benton. It was enjoyable and the results were surprisingly good. But after 3 years of that we moved to Arizona and the creativity streak ended.
After the death of “our” wife I became involved in Alpha Zeta, the Phoenix chapter of Tri-Ess International, a now mostly defunct organization for “Crossdressers” and it was there that I was first asked to write something about myself for the monthly newsletter. That effort was rewarded by a request to begin writing a monthly column. The result of that request was “Georgia: On My Mind”. Many of those articles were then picked up by Tri-Ess for publication in their quarterly publication, The Mirror.
My experience with Alpha Zeta and a “sister” organization TransGender Harmony brought me face to face with the primary dilemma in the trans community … “to be or not to be, to do or die” There was that segment of the community that only “dressed” on weekends, or once a month on meeting night. And on the other end of the spectrum were those that had “crossed the Rubicon,” so to speak and were living “full time” as they said. Those that had “crossed the Rubicon,” stood on the far side chiding those who chose not to.Considering them wimps and scaredy cats.
But the ones who suffered most were the families. Here was Dad, Mom’s handsome prince morphing into something that, in all too many cases, was a sad, silly looking imitation of a woman. That’s not what Mom met and fell in love with; that’s not what the kids wanted for a father. For many of us it was a hard lesson to learn, that Mom especially was not the least bit excited with this new “best girlfriend”.
For me, I simply couldn’t bring myself to say to my children, “I, Georgia, am doing away with your dad; putting an end to his existence. I had seen that happen a number of times and it was heartbreaking. The fact is that I did have two complete sets of emotions and just didn’t identify them as such. So, what happened?
I also learned that the suicide rate in the “gender-variant” community was horrendous; one study pegged the rate and nearly eleven times that of the normal world. I discovered too that there were many who were perfectly happy going back and forth from one to the other gender expression. How did these two spirits that were engaged in a tug-of-war in my soul manage to reconcile their differences.
I had two conversations with friends; both of them women that I/George had known for some time. I relate the incidents in my memoir. The first conversation involved the definition of a Sioux word, “Wenkte”. Loosely defined as a “two spirit person” and was a man who lived as a woman in the Sioux tribes.
The second conversation was with a woman I had known even longer than the first, but had never known of George’s “other side”. George shared the knowledge with her over lunch one day and when he was through, she quoted verbatim Genesis 1:26-27 which ends with, “So God created people in his own image; He patterned them after himself; male and female he made them.”It was the final key for me. George didn’t have to die for me to live. Whatever I chose to appear as on the outside was not as important as what was on the inside. And what was on the inside was two distinct sets of emotions.
In 2006 George was a victim of corporate downsizing due to the collapse of the construction industry in Arizona. I needed money and naively thought I could easily publish “something” that would yield some income. Silly me. What was I going to publish and how? Two things occurred almost simultaneously.
The first was an invitation to spend a weekend with friends at their home in the Sonoran Desert northeast of Phoenix. While I was there I was handed a copy of “How I Got This Way” by Patrick F McMannus. This book turned out to be a major inspiration because it was actually a collection of articles he had previously published in magazines like Field and Stream which were sandwiched in between a chapter on his early life and a chapter on how it all turned out for him. That was the answer for me about how to get publishedwhat I had already written. I would put together a collection of my best articles for Tri-Ess. But how would I get them published? I had the form but now I needed the how.
When I was in high school I had occasion to utilize Writer’s Market and thought I would find the solution to my publication dilemma there. So off to Barnes and Noble I went in search of a current copy of Writer’s Market. I found it easily enough but on the same shelf was a copy of “Get Published”, written by Susan Driscoll, then president and CEO of iUniverse, and Diane Gedymin, then editorial director of iUniverse. It was, for me, the perfect book at the perfect time, because it had detailed, easy to follow instructions on how to prepare a manuscript for publication. Within a month I had selected, edited and prepared a manuscript according to their instructions. In addition, I had e-mailed a copy to the president of Tri-Ess and asked her to write the Foreword. And then I waited.
While I waited for the promised Foreword to materialize I had time to think; to think about, among other things, my audience. My audience would be, at most, the membership of Tri-Ess which at the time might have reached two thousand. Call me grandiose, call me egotistical, call me greedy, but I wanted a bigger audience. I wanted the whole world in my theater. But, how was I going to achieve that?
It would be impossible because without a back story the world would not come to my theater. The title of McMannus’s book literally leaped off the cover; “How I Got This Way” ,,, how did I get this way? Indeed! How did I get this way?
I took a lead from my experience in AA where we are told to follow a simplethree item course in talking about our experience; what it was like, what happened and what it’s like now.
Maybe that could be called inspiration, maybe not, but I finally began to write, really write, for the first time in my life. However, as each page materialized I became aware that I had no idea where the next page would take me. I soon realized what all writers must realize at some point; that being the necessity of an outline. My outline revolved around the homes I had lived in over the years. After that list was compiled, and it was a long one, forty to be exact;the next step was short notes about anything or anyone that came to mind in relation to that home and place in time.Writing about a person’s own life can be a bit troubling at times, especially if one is brutally honest with themselves.
I confess that the first draft, while it may have been cathartic, was more ventilating as well as an expression of memories based in a desire to absolve me from responsibility and give the appearance of the various outcomes being the fault of others. Had that version gone to print it would have been over seven hundred pages long. In addition, it would have most likely resulted in numerous lawsuits. Thankfully, the man I had begun working with at iUniverse convinced me that seven hundred pages was totally unrealistic unless my name was James Michener.
Something about actually dealing with someone there at iUniverse brought the reality of my effort actually being published into focus. What I saw through that lense was the real truth of what had transpired in the past and that the people involved would know if I was not being honest and would certainly protest angrily if I wasn’t. That of course required that I be brutally honest with myself about the actual events and relationships. I recommend that activity to anyone regardless of whether or not they intend to actually publish or not, because that process alone did more to bring peace to my soul than anything.
The fact that I had responded to the inspiration to write in the third person, me always being there and observing George work his way through life without understanding why he felt so different from other people, aided greatly in dealing with the events of our life honestly. And that brought me to the brink of purpose; that being to share my experience and solution with others who might be coping with the confusion of two distinct sets of emotions, one male and one female.
Ultimately, I believe that God was the inspiration behind each and every move and that He intended me to be exactly what I have become. And that is the true inspiration behind Dear Mom and Dad, You Don’t Know Me, But …