My story – Diana T
I was born and raised on a small 600-acre farm in the Blue Ridge mountains, in 1971. My parents are very mountain Southern Baptist. Church was a large part of our life, going on average three times a week, where most often you would be told you are going to hell and there is nothing you can do about it. Weekly sermons on the evil of sex, gays, and lifestyles that didn’t fit the community values were standard fare. I am ashamed to admit that my community was very racist, anyone who wasn’t white wasn’t accepted. The KKK marched in our town parades and continued to do so when I left home.
My family had the biggest house and property of all the extended family. It wasn’t uncommon to have a weekly gathering of the clan of 25-30 relatives, to eat together, work the four-acre family garden, and can fruit and vegetables. Our attic was the clothing and toy exchange and hand me downs were readily available and always changing.
As the youngest in the family, I was often assigned the roles that would normally be assigned to a sister. Dishes, laundry, cooking, and cleaning were considered girls work, but my family only had boys so more often than not they fell to me. We had our own washers, dryers and a clothes line, which from what I now understand was not a common thing to have in our community. This is important because laundry is the start of my gender story.
One day when I was about 6, I was doing laundry while the family was out working the property. It just happens that day I was doing a load or two for the hand me down boxes, and I came across female clothing that had belonged to a second cousin of ours. I have a strong tactile memory of how the clothes felt, soft and smooth compared to my clothes. The next thing I knew I was trying them on, amazed at the feeling and how right I felt in them and looked in the mirror. Even at six, I felt that letting my family discover my new found interest in girls clothing would not end well. A forgotten space in one of the barns became my closet to store my girl clothing, and to dress up when I could.
My parents were very much gender role enforcers, boys were not allowed to look pretty, play with dolls, cry or any activity that might be construed as a girl like. Boys had to be tough, strong, fight other boys, and care about cars and sports. By most people’s standard, my dad’s physical punishments would be classified as abuse, spankings with rake handles, 2x4s, or whatever was handy was not uncommon. I got caught once crossdressing, my dad came back to the house two hours early, and that was worth a beating, and a visit to the local church so the pastor and congregation could “pray it” out of me. I cross-dressed in secret for the next 19 years of my life.
I spent most of my childhood flying under the radar as much as I could, though I did keep my sense of self and never joined the group mind of the community. I had a fairly normal existence from the outside, joining the boy scouts, and playing the saxophone in the high school band. I dated, went to parties, did stupid kid stuff, keeping my secret to myself and not sharing it.
When I turned 18 I enrolled in the United States Air Force as a way to escape the life I felt trapped in. I got to see the world I didn’t even imagine existed. While this may seem strange to younger people, the Internet had not become what it is today. Local libraries controlled access to what you had to available to read. My home community had a population of about 1,100 It was a 45-minute drive to the closest city with a large population, weighing in at around 15,000 people!
I continued to cross-dress in secret in the military until I met the love of my life, my wife. I confessed to her early on in the relationship before we got married that I enjoyed wearing women’s clothes, but had only worn them in secret. My wife’s first response was to tell me to get dressed in them and let her see. It took a lot for me to walk out of the bedroom and reveal this side of me. Her response was very immediate “You are not going out wearing that!”. She had me change back, and took me shopping for more female clothes as my sense of style was somewhat apparently appalling.
We had a daughter, who eventually found out that daddy likes wearing girl clothes, and her only request was to not do it in front of her friends. Though ironically she outed me to her closest friends at a sleepover, and thankfully they didn’t a have any issues with it, as I was still in the military and as a senior non-commissioned officer it would have been very bad for my career.
My military career was typical of the time, Desert Storm I and II, operations in Somalia, Kosovo, and many unpleasant encounters. I met a couple of people in the military and let them into my life and my secret they were and are still close friends. My wife says she got told five times that something had happened and I may not make it out of the hospital. I lost brothers and sisters in arms, friends, and yeah.
I retired from the military was learning to enter civilian life after 20+ years of active duty. Our life’s passed fairly blissfully as a family until shortly after our daughters 13th birthday when tragedy struck. We went to bed one night happy, and four days later I found myself being woken up from a medically induced coma. We had a house fire that ended our daughter’s life and severally injured my wife and me.
After recovering physically, we moved across the country back to Tucson where we had many friends and support waiting for us. I started openly cross-dressing full time and stoutly would declare that I was just a crossdresser to anyone who asked. As we struggled to deal with the emotional impact of what had happened and adjust to a completely new life, I ignored myself care. You should be aware that several times during my military career my wife suggested therapy, but I refused, feeling I was too tough to not need that silly thing.
A couple of years later, all of the trauma’s of my life, that had been successfully buried in the back of my mind resurfaced. With thoughts of suicide and that life couldn’t go on, I finally sought therapy. In my first appointment with my therapist, she asked me if I was taking cross gender hormones. My response was swift and sure, no! Why would you ask that? Having forgotten that I came to the appointment presenting female in a dress. The therapist and I ignored that tidbit for many sessions, focusing on what I had come for, PTSD and grief issues.
Eventually, I got to a place where the therapist and I talked about my cross-dressing and gender identity. I came to the conclusion that I was a girl and had the misfortune of being born in a body that passed as male. At some point in the process, I shared my discovery with my wife, who asked me if transitioning would make me happy, and if so to do it. When my wife was asked how she felt about my transition she responded, “I didn’t marry her for her dangly bits.”
Shortly after making the decision and while waiting for the appointment with my doctor to start hormones, I was playing on FaceBook, seeing how hard it was to change your name and gender. I was drinking at the time, and typed in my new name and hit cancel or so I thought. I woke up the next morning with messages asking about my name change!! I had apparently hit save instead of cancel! I quickly drafted a message to my friends explaining that yes, I was transitioning, and apologizing for the way they found out, as I had wanted to tell them in person.
I was not in contact with my parents, our relationship had slowly dissolved after I left home. One day out of the blue my mom calls me and tells me she wants to reconnect and fly out to see us. The last time I had to see them was when they flew out to the hospital after the fire when it wasn’t certain if I would survive or not. Needing to tell my parents that their son, was now their daughter, and dreading their reaction, I sent a letter explaining it to them with a picture of how I looked now.
My mom called about three weeks after I mailed the letter, to tell me that she would not be coming out to visit and that they had burned the letter and picture to make sure it was never seen. Stating they couldn’t deal with this and needed time, and would contact me again at some point in the future. About three months later, my mom called and asked if she could still come out and see us, and she did! It was a very surreal visit in which she used my new name and the proper pronouns exclusively. We were flabbergasted, to say the least! My mom accepted me and treated me with kindness, though they made it a point not to tell the rest of the family. I was advised not to come home to visit for any reason, as it would most likely be hazardous for my health.
As I type this my life is amazing, I look and feel like the girl I always was. I still have the most wonderful wife in the world. I have amazing friends, the best BFF ever, and an amazing chosen family. The company I work for is trans friendly and I actually got a promotion to a management position while in transition. Tucson is a great place to live as yourself, lots of trans-friendly businesses and activities, thanks to the tireless work of groups like SAGA, SAAF, and hyper-motivated people. I actively volunteer in my local community, focusing on helping gender creative, and transgender youth. I mentor and life coach four of the most amazing teens you will ever meet.
This was much harder to write than I expected, and it may go through some self-editing revisions as things occur to me to add or that I feel I missed. I tried to intentionally not convey my emotional state throughout and so you the reader can decide how you feel.