One is Silver, the Other is Gold (re-visited)

I have been posting about friends recently. No particular reason that I can point to really. It’s just that friends have been on my mind a lot recently. Is it a natural progression because I am now ankle deep in my seventies? I assume that has something to do with it, but there’s more.

People who live relatively normal lives because they are born with bodies that match their gender identity are fortunate. They generally don’t know the feeling of rejection by the people in their lives due to something beyond their control. Before you go off on a rant about having control over the issue, bear this in mind; we all have control over our actions but control over emotions is a different matter. Emotions have a life of their own, and those are what cause the most grief in the life of anyone who is born with a body that doesn’t match their emotional set.

When I finally came face to face with that unorthodox set of emotions, I also came face to face with friends, and family too, who couldn’t see beyond the appearance to the spirit behind the screen. I soon found myself faced with a sorting process. Sorting out the relationships, both new and old became a painful exercise.

I have old friends that I’ve known, literally all my life. Jeanie and I were born in the same hospital room in the Texas Panhandle in 1944. Roger I’ve known since I was 4 years old. Vince and Connie since I was 9. Denny and Candy since high school. These friends are people who have stuck with me through all the chaos of redefining my person.

Family on the other hand is an entirely different story. A sad story but true. The closer the relationship, it seems, the more difficult the process of coming to grips with who I have revealed myself to be. The 2 oldest children haven’t spoken to me since the publication of Dear Mom and Dad; each for their own reasons; misguided as I deem those reasons to be. One first cousin is understanding and accepting the other 2 have pretty much disapproved. My only brother and only sister have more or less, followed the lead of the 2 disapproving cousins. Again, each for their own reasons. So, what am I left with?

Friends! At the close of my last blog I quoted a little ditty that we used to sing at camp. “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver the other gold.” If I could convert all the silver and gold I have in friendships to hard currency I could retire and live comfortably for the rest of my life. The older I get the more precious that currency becomes, and it is never more evident than when I lose one of those gold coins like I did earlier this week.

I spoke of Daryll in a Facebook entry earlier this week. Tuesday morning, last week I awoke and reached for my phone, still pretty much in a stupor, to check the time. I inadvertently dialed his number. When I realized what I’d done I immediately canceled the call. Within a minute he called me back.

We hadn’t spoken in months. I hadn’t bugged him because I assumed he was getting on with life and building his fabricating business. Over the course of our 10-year friendship, Daryll had bailed me out of trouble, mostly vehicle trouble any number of times, always coming to my rescue with a tow or a battery or tires. He even set up an online parts business for me to run at one point.

We talked for the better part of a half hour and through the conversation I learned that his health wasn’t the best; that the Arizona heat was beginning to wear him down. He talked about closing up shop here and moving to Boise Idaho next year. But, I didn’t realize how bad his condition was until first thing in the morning, the day before yesterday, when once again my phone rang and it was his name on the caller id. But it wasn’t him. It was his wife.

“Georgia, it’s Vonda. Daryll passed away on Sunday. I need your help.”

It was like a bugler blowing reveille 6 inches from my ear. Death or the reality of impending death never comes gently to any door. That is a hard reality for anyone, especially for me to face. Up to the time Marilyn died, I had never, not one single time, lost anyone close to me. Daryll was not what I would classify as close, though we shared things that few understand. But he was a solid 24 carat gold friend and his death has shaken me to the core.

His death has brought home to me the very fragile nature of life and how easily it can be shattered. It’s only been a few weeks since a member of our church family suddenly and unexplainably lost her 12-year-old son. He just became ill and died one day.

These circumstances always remind us of that fact, but how often do we awake each morning and treat everyone in our sphere with the tenderness that we would if we knew that would be the last time we would ever be together? From my own experience, I would surmise that the answer to that question would be … never. But it should be “every time” shouldn’t it?

Who is sitting next to you right this minute, on the phone with you, right this minute, that you have given the slightest thought to the possibility that it might be the very last time? Would you be saying, thinking, feeling what you are at this moment if you knew it was the last moment?

At this point in history, the radio and television ads for precious metals and the importance possessing them are as numerous as the ads for beer, maybe more numerous. So how about the next time you see or hear one of those ads, why don’t you give some thought to the silver and gold people in your life and what you need to do to make sure they know that they are safe in your heart? And, never take their presence for granted.

The Waste of Anger

I never cease to be amazed at the attitude of so many people in the trans-gendered community when it comes the issue of acceptance. Sure, there are people out there who are narrow minded bigots, but in my experience most people are at least mildly curious enough to want to find out more about why we are the way we are and how we view our place in the world.

For more than fifteen years now I have been speaking to college classes from undergraduate level to master’s level and in all that time I have never been greeted by anything resembling hostility. On a few occasions, I have been warned in advance that certain individuals may prove to be hostile, but even those occurrences have been more of a challenge to meet than anything to dread.

I will never forget the lesson I learned inadvertently the first time I dared step out in the normal world … alone. It was six months after the passing of my wife Marilyn and I was already itching to get out and away from the trans venues that I’d become used to attending. They were okay, but they were not the normal life I so desperately wanted to be a part of.  I wrote in DM&D about the conclusion I reached concerning my first solo adventure into the real world and the sense of joy I felt when I realized that I was greeted with smiles or just plain apathy.

And that is the key to a happy life … a normal life as a transgendered individual; especially a transgendered woman. Smile!

In the intervening years, I have never had anything approaching hostility from even the most narrow-minded persons … as long as I have a smile on my face.

So why can’t that simple fact be appreciated and adopted as a normal way of life for so many of our community?

I have my own thoughts and opinions on the subject. The first thought that comes to mind involves “anger.”  If there is a predominately common expression among the trans community it is “anger.” On the rare occasions that I attend gatherings of mostly transgendered individuals the atmosphere is overwhelmingly affected by an undercurrent of anger. So, what are they angry about?

The answer to that question lies in the word acceptance; self-acceptance and other-acceptance. Why is self-acceptance one of those answers? It’s probably the primary answer because without self-acceptance other-acceptance is virtually impossible. As long as the opinions of other people color our opinions of ourselves we can never be happy regardless of our gender identity. We just have a higher hurdle to clear than other people.

Among the transgendered community, Christian faith is not what one would call a normal state of belief. In my opinion, much of our community is mad at God for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is that they were born with a set of emotions that don’t match their bodies. Why would He do that? I can’t begin to tally the number of times that I asked that same question over the years. The answer was slow in coming. When it did, it was so simple I couldn’t help but wonder why it took me so long to arrive at it. It was a matter of choice.

We all feel as though we must make a choice; neither of those choices appears to be acceptable to us … at least it did not appear acceptable to me.

On the one hand, it seemed as though I had to live unhappily in the physical gender of my birth or unhappily in the gender of my emotional mind set. Living in the gender identity of my physical birth meant a visible denial of what was a very real set of emotions lying just under the surface of what the world saw.

Making a decision to live my life in concurrence with my emotions meant saying to my children that I, Georgia, was to all intents and purposes, killing their father and that he would cease to exist. That, I simply could not bring myself to accept as a viable solution. The answer came in response to one of those heart felt, emotional prayers uttered in desperation. Again, it was a simple solution. The only choice I had to make was one of who I appeared to the world as, and not one of who I was emotionally.

In other words, if Georgia had existed behind the physical façade of George why couldn’t he exist behind the physical façade of Georgia. The emotions were consistent and would not change regardless of what I appeared to the world as. If I chose to appear to the world as a female named Georgia the only emotional change would be a lack of internal turmoil. But that would only work if I whole heartedly accepted the fact that if God had made me a happier person when my visible expression was female then that was the way I should live.

I am happy today because I accepted and embraced the way God made me. Sure, it would be nice if society accepted the decision I made but I don’t wake up in the morning and see society in the mirror … I see Georgia. I am not a figment. I am real. I accept self.

To summarize … being angry at society because life for me is not in line with society norms is a total and complete waste of energy and time. God did not intend for me to be miserable. He intended for me to be happy but to be happy means to totally surrender to His will for me. When I did that, His will filled my soul to a point where there was no room for anger.

Living in anger because I’ve accepted some things that I’ve felt I had to accept is an unhappy existence and I refuse to spend a single moment in that condition. I want the unhappiness I’ve experienced to be in the past. Living in anger because I feel cheated by God or nature or society is a sure source of misery. If you are reading this and think that I am just plain oblivious to the realities around me then I will offer the real source of my happiness.

2 Corinthians 5:17 New Living Translation (NLT)

17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

This has been my truth. If a person is unhappy with their life, for whatever reason, think about it. What do you have to lose? I am the way I am because that’s the way God made me so happiness has come to me because I embraced His wisdom and grace not the opinions of others.

The Price We Pay …

There’s a subject which is discussed at meetings of trans support groups frequently, but isn’t often broadcast to those outside the community. That subject is the reaction of families and friends to our decision to live our lives according to our inner gender identity.

The reaction of family and close friends is more often than not, totally unpredictable but it’s my belief that much of the reaction is the result of the way we go about breaking the news.

People who just blurt out that they are no longer Marty but now Mary; no longer Mary but now Marty, and do so without regard to the emotional turmoil that the announcement is going to cause, drastically reduce the chance of any level of acceptance.

In my own case, which I describe in detail in DM&D, the way that my existence came to light in my marriage created a somewhat unusual circumstance compared to many of the situations I’ve come across. Be that as it may, the unusual situation didn’t make it any easier for our bride deal with the fact that I was part and parcel of the package she fell in love with and married. For my part, I thought she should have been delighted with this new best girlfriend who wanted to share her clothes and makeup. Short sighted? Oh, hell yes. And obliviously ignorant? Oh, hell yes again.

I’m not saying that I didn’t care about her feelings. I’m saying that I didn’t understand her feelings. It took me years to finally come to that level of comprehension about what she must have been feeling. Sadly, it wasn’t until after she passed away that I was finally able to reach that point in my level of understanding; was finally able to put the pump on the other foot, as it were.

Soon after Marilyn’s death I was at a meeting of one of the groups that I had become a apart of, when I came face to face with the other side of the coin. The group up to that point had been exclusively male-to-female. On this particular evening a relatively young and not unattractive woman was in attendance and made it known that she was transitioning from “Mary to Marty”. On an academic level I could totally accept and understand her decision. But, on a strictly emotional level my gut reaction was, “Why in the hell would you want to be what I was trying to not be?” What must her husband be going through?

And that was the moment … the moment when I finally realized what I had unknowingly put the one person who had loved me more than any other person had in my life, through. It there was ever a moment when I would have given my life to be able to turn back the clock and redo everything from a new perspective that was the moment.

The  2002 HBO movie “Normal” with Jessica Lange and Tom Wilkinson is an amazingly true to life depiction of the manner in which many spouses and family’s learn of the existence of “her/him”. It is also an accurate depiction of the way a normal spouse reacts  upon learning the truth. In the case of the couple depicted in “Normal” the wife eventually, lovingly, though reluctantly, accepts the person her husband has always been emotionally. It happens that way in real life, but not usually. I highly recommend the movie to anyone who is trying to understand the issues inherent in late in life disclosures of this nature.

I have no idea how life would have been different had I seen it through that lens; had she survived the cancer which took her way too early in life. I only know that it would have most likely turned out much different and it makes me so sad.

Since then I have met a lot of people who are dealing with how to cope with the late in life awareness of gender identity conflict in the context of marriage and family. More often than not the same selfishness that I was guilty of rears its ugly head. What makes it even more ugly is the fact that unlike the presence of love that kept my marriage intact, self-centeredness of the person takes precedence over family and marriage. The result is a broken family; children irreparably hurt by the thoughtless actions of a parent who puts their own “happiness” ahead of those who loved them the most.

In my own situation, my two oldest children have refused to speak to me since the publication of DM&D, each for their own and totally different reasons. It saddens me no end for them to feel that way. I do appreciate the fact that they would both prefer to have “Dad” back on a permanent basis, but to totally cut me off and refuse any attempt to understand me or my decisions is nonetheless painful.

My message to any who would listen, and the message I begin every presentation I make to the groups I am asked to speak to, is this: If you or anyone you know, has even an inkling that gender identity is doubtful, figure it out before you have a family to be destroyed by the issue. Life will be so much happier and productive if the question is resolved early in life rather than later. If necessary, I beg of you to seek counseling to help avoid decisions and actions that are irretrievable and all too often end in the taking of one’s own life.

Many of the decisions in this area of our lives are irreversible so proceed with caution. Stop, take a deep breath before taking each step. Taking a little bit longer to act will not hurt anyone and will ultimately lead to a decision that one can live happily with for the rest of ones life.

Make the decision an investment in happiness … not a price to pay.

A Year On the South Bank of the Rubicon

Has it really been one year? Apparently so, and I have to admit that there was an unexpected rush of negative emotion the moment I set foot on the south bank of the Rubicon. I was aware of the possibility of that happening but I really didn’t think it would. Even though I was aware that regret could occur I didn’t expect it to rear its ugly head the instant I stepped out of the water. However, metaphorically speaking I polished my armor, picked up my sword and shield and set off for the imperial city.

It has been an absolutely amazing journey and much of what’s happened has been due to “Bruce” Jenner’s very public and visible transition to Caitlyn Jenner. For the first time since Dear Mom and Dad was published in 2012 the investments that my publisher was suggesting made sense, especially the opportunity to “pitch” my book to a group of movie producers in New York City on October 17th. The response to that presentation was overwhelming. Nothing has come of it yet but … hope springs eternal.

Of course there have been a few glitches and detours on the road to the imperial city, but nothing that can’t be overcome. Of course there is an occasional curiosity about what might have been had I not made the choice to cross that temperamental river, but only a curiosity, not a regret. I awake every morning with a sense of purpose that I seldom experienced there on the north shore. New challenges are daunting at times but serve to remind me that I am alive and well.

The one thing that remains unchanged is my Christian conviction and the confidence that is in inherent in that faith. Everything that has happened on my journey has been purposed by a bigger vision than I can even begin to comprehend. So my message today is short and sweet.

Regrets? Not a one! Happy? Absolutely! As they used to say on the cattle drives of years past … “Head ’em up and heel ‘em out!

What if … “I was 3 again knowing what I know now?”

It’s confession time … AGAIN!!! I confess that I am not the most astute participant when it comes to keeping up with reading about current issues concerning the trans community as a whole. And, lately I’ve been extra remiss because of my consuming interest in politics. However, I’m going to attempt here to correct that oversight.

Last Saturday night I was able to attend a meeting I don’t often get to because of my work schedule. As I was leaving I noticed a stack of the latest issue of ECHO magazine which, by the way, I wrote a series of articles for several years ago. The primary focus of this issue is “(Net)working”, but that’s not what grabbed my attention as I perused the contents page. The article which captured my interest was titled, “TransParent” by Megan Wadding a freelance writer.

The focus of the article was on an organization for the parents of trans children of all ages. TransParent was started several years ago by Tammy Janssen for the purpose of supporting her son Max and although she has since relocated out of state the group is now in the hands of a parent’s advisory board. I don’t intend to go into the details of the article because that’s not my intent in bring it up.

The reason I’m writing about it is because of the questions that the existence of this group brings up in my own mind … the “what ifs” regarding my own journey through life.

In Dear Mom and Dad, I describe the life I was born into and the society in which we lived and how that life and society affected my development as a human being, as a young man and as a husband and father … and ultimately to the recognition of my own existence within the backdrop of “George’s” life.

If I was to tell you that my life would have been different had I been aware of the variety of gender identities at that time I would, most likely be only partially right. Of course I have wondered what life might have been like if my existence had been discovered much earlier as a result of current knowledge, exposure and relative acceptance. But, in reality I don’t really know how much different it would have been. In fact, the thought is actually somewhat frightening for me. It’s frightening because I have few, if any, regrets for how my life has been.

I/we have had a very rich and fortunate life … not perfect, but certainly rich and fortunate. When I think about how it might have been different if my existence within George’s existence had been discovered or, perhaps more accurately, identified when I was an adolescent, the one abiding question is; “Wouldn’t I have missed all the events, people and circumstances and situations that have contributed so richly to who I am today?

It must go without saying that the children George fathered would most likely not exist. We would never have met, fallen in love with and married that beautiful brown-eyed brunette who so completely filled our life with love.

The events that made up what became Dear Mom and Dad would never have occurred and I might not be able to look back on the life that George led with a sense that it was all in God’s plan from the beginning. To not be able to look back on the scenes that have made up our life would, to me, be sad indeed. What has made my life so incredibly rich and fulfilling has been the fact that it has turned out exactly the way it has.

Honestly, I do wonder at times what it would have been like to have been a cowgirl and not a cowboy on a ranch in Colorado; to have been a liquor saleswoman and not a salesman traveling the mountains of southwest Colorado; to have been and done a lot of things as a woman instead of a man. I would be lying if I said any different, but wondering what it might have “been like” is not the same thing as wishing it had “been.”

When I read about the changes and levels of awareness regarding gender identity today and how society is not only more accepting but, in many cases encouraging gender identity variations I’m glad that I’m 71 years old and not 7 or 17.  Sure, life was more cut and dried then and there was little room in society for the Johnny who was out of step, but it’s part of what has made me … me.

I gradually and cautiously moved from the role of mature adult George to mature and adult Georgia and that made it possible for me to accept and embrace the role God intended me to play in this life. I can only hope that the parents coping with the seeming reality of a trans gendered child are wise enough to guide their children to a resolution that will prove to be the right one and the one God had in mind for them later in life.

That One Moment In Time?

I’ve been asked if there is one moment, one passage in Dear Mom and Dad that, in my mind stands out. The answer to that is. ”Yes!” Absolutely. Here it is:

“George and Marilyn were having a romantic bath together in their big bathtub. They had poured a couple of drinks and probably had a couple of lines. Marilyn was shaving her legs … and that’s when it happened. She took a couple of playful swipes with the razor on George’s left thigh.

“Wanna shave, cowboy?”

In that one instant, with that one simple act, she unwittingly opened the door to that closet where I’d been hiding all the time. It was the beginning of his comprehending the emotions he’d been experiencing all his life, but not understanding. He thought he wanted to be like Marilyn; he didn’t know it was me, but then he still didn’t know I existed. The emotions he was experiencing for the first time were in reality the result of the emergence of my spirit. What he felt in that instant was a desire to shave his legs and put on Marilyn’s clothes. He thought he wanted to know what it was like to be her and before the night was over, like a newborn emerging for the first time, there I was. Understanding why I was there and in what capacity was just beginning.“

That was indeed the moment of moments. In the following years I have attempted to single out other moments, other points in time that have had such a remarkable and long lasting effect on me and the way I live my life but I have not been successful in that attempt.

There have of course been other moments and events that contributed, some more than others, to the direction and outcome of my life, but they somehow pale in comparison. What I write about at this point in my life is not so much about “How I Got This Way” as where life is going this way.

One evening last week I spent a couple of hours with my “brother” Pastor Jabowa Whitehead, whom I have in the recent past had some serious differences with. We have mended out relationship and at this point are moving on with our shared mission. We were discussing that mission last night and are in complete agreement that, regardless of our basic differences politically, we will work together to share with anyone who will listen our vision of what Christianity was meant to be, not what it has become … thank you Constantine.

Christ wasn’t about clothes. He wasn’t about bodies. He was about loving and using the gifts we were given to help others.

Without that one moment, shared above, I have my doubts that my life would have developed a purpose as important as the one I now work toward achieving. But who knows. Life may have just taken an even more circuitous route but ended up in the same place. I just know that in the process of writing Dear Mom and Dad, not only was I forced to a high level of honesty about myself and my actions in life, I also came to accept that another moment in my life may well have been the precursor to the bathtub incident. That moment occurred in the cafeteria of Colorado State University in the spring of 1964. That was the moment I accepted the invitation to turn my life over to Christ. Soon after that I began to pursue a course that was, in essence saying to Christ, “Okay, it’s your life now. If you want me to do anything with it, make me.”

When I finally achieved sobriety and was able for the first time to view the totality of my life through sober eyes I came face to face with the reality of my life. That reality was a belief that when I turned my life over to Christ, He wasn’t going to let me take it back. He did however let me go my own way, the way of failure through alcohol and to a lesser degree drugs, until those things left me with nowhere to turn but back to Him. And that I did. Not all at once mind you, but eventually, totally and completely.

The third step of Alcoholics Anonymous is: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” No one had ever said anything to me about my will having anything to do with the course of my life. Of course I soon realized that, that was the root of my problem.

It is said that God never wastes anything … or anybody. We do that to ourselves, but He will use everything about us to accomplish what He wants to accomplish through us. I have used an analogy about my life and God that goes like this:

I was like a child who was given a present, a gift, a precious toy. Upon receiving the gift, I immediately tore open the package, removed the toy, and in my desire to proceed to play with the toy, I first ignored and  then finally lost track of the instruction manual that came with the toy. Eventually, as one might expect, the toy quit working the way it was intended to work, so I took it to Dad and asked him to fix it for me. He began making the necessary repairs but before he could complete the repair, I reached for the toy and said, “That’s good enough, I want it back now.” Dad of course obliged even though he knew what would happen.

Well, of course it was soon dysfunctional once again and the same scenario played out all over … and over … and over … and over, until at last I handed the dysfunctional, unusable and damaged toy to Dad and asked once more time if He would fix it for me. This time I didn’t interfere with the repairs. I waited until Dad came to me with the toy totally restored to full working order and gave it back to me. This time He also gave me the discarded instruction manual and said, “Here, child. Now read the instructions and follow them if you truly want the toy, the gift, to really work the way I intended when I gave it to you.”

I’ve learned much from my hours in meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous.But there is a plaque hanging in one of the meeting places that reads as follows:

            ‘What we are is God’s gift to us. What we do with it is our gift to God.”

Inspiration!

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 …

Dear Mom and Dad : You Don’t Know Me, But …

Marilyn was shaving her legs, and that’s when it happened. She took a couple of playful swipes with the razor on George’s left thigh.

“Wanta shave cowboy?”

In that one instant … with that one simple act … she unwittingly opened the door to that closet where I’d been hiding all the time. It was the beginning of comprehension of the emotions he’d experienced all his life, but not understood. He thought he wanted to be like her. He didn’t know it was me, but then he didn’t know I existed yet. The emotions he was experiencing for the first time, in reality were the result of the emergence of my spirit; a spirit he didn’t know existed. But then, I didn’t really know I existed. What he felt in that instant, was a desire to shave his legs, put on her clothes; he thought he wanted to know what it was like to be her, and before the night was over, like a newborn emerging for the first time, there I was. Understanding why I was there, and in what capacity, was just beginning.