Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Early Years -- or -- So How Far Back Does This Go? (Part 1)

I have spent most of my life trying to blend as seamlessly as possible into mainstream society.  I think I have done that well enough that most friends and colleagues saw me as a happy, successful engineer, Russian linguist, Soviet/Russian affairs analyst, and researcher.  That is also what I have tried to convince myself of most of my life, even sometimes succeeding for months or a few years.  I may have done it so well that many are still incredulous that I could make an open declaration of being transgender, in fact transsexual, at age 56.  "How did you come to this overnight?" is what I imagine many are asking.

Before leaving the U.S., I rescued some old handwritten diaries from a box that otherwise would have gone to the trash.  I am re-reading those old diaries for the first time.  The following is an entry from my first year in college, nearly 40 years ago --

Yours truly in September 1972
Saturday, November 25, 1972 -- I  now have the nerve to write something which I have known to be true but have tried to deny for over seven years.  I am, mentally, a girl.  It seems strange to see that written before my eyes, as though it has now become irrefutable.  My strongest realization of this fact came tonight when I saw "How to Succeed in Business" with Robert Morse and Michelle Lee.  During the movie it occurred to me that I was identifying much more strongly with the latter than with the former.  I could actually feel the part.

Moving into the UVa Dorm in 1972
What will happen now I do not know with any great certainty.  I would not be surprised and in fact almost expect to find myself tearing out these two pages at some time in the future.  I do know, however, that my condition exists, and I must therefore do my best to remedy it.  I must at least consider the possibility of physically becoming a girl.  My thoughts are varying from repulsion . . . to relief.

With "Fluffy" in 1965
Seven years before that entry was 1965.  I well remember that summer between 5th and 6th grades when I had the freedom of the house and was frequently at home alone.  I spent much of that time playing dress-up with my sisters' clothing, already knowing that this was not something any of my classmates would be doing.  It wasn't the first time, and it wasn't the first year.  It was, however, the first time that I was aware that it was not something anyone else would consider normal.  For whatever reason, puberty began for me with the development of breasts, and I hoped against hope that they would continue to grow.  I have been a 36A/B ever since, but male puberty caught up a few years later.

Floating and Dreaming in 1959
My true earliest memories go back to when I was 5.  For some reason I came to idealize our neighbor, Mrs. K, and hoped that I would grow up to be like her.  I know my age because I remember where we were living.  Around that time I also had a very powerful dream of being lost in the woods and coming to a brightly lit, warm house.  Only girls were allowed inside, however, and so I continued to wander.  Again and again I came upon the same house.  Finally, exhausted and crying, I knocked at the door.  The girl who opened the door looked at me, and I begged to be let in.  "Of course!" she said.  "You're one of us."  I immediately woke up, elated and happy but upset to find it was only a dream.

Did I do boy things in those early years?  Of course I did.  I even destroyed the family car by playing "gas station attendant," spooning gravel into the gas tank for fuel.  I fell in love with the space program and the romance of the stars.  Up to age 5, however, most of my few friends were girls, and when I started school, I would spend recess with the girls until finally, by 3rd grade, the teachers would pull me away and push me out into the sports field.  I knew I was not wanted there, and I didn't want to be there either.  Instead, I would go to the far end of the field to be by myself.

At homes my sisters would dress me in their clothes from time to time and would redecorate my room as a girl's room.  I would make a big show of hating it, but I loved every second.  By 1965, when no one was going to dress me anymore, I started dressing in secret.

I will continue this story later, but for the moment let me return to the diary I kept in college.  I  never did "find myself tearing out these two pages at some time in the future," but the entire volume I kept in 1975 is missing.  That was the year in which I made my first abortive attempt to come out, dressing in public and corresponding with the gender clinic at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.  I know I wrote my heart out that year.  As I approached graduation in 1976, I found I was too afraid of the consequences and decided to force myself to be normal.  I threw away the clothes and all the evidence, purging myself for the first but not the last time.  I believe I destroyed that volume of my diary with my own hands. . . .


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