I am an only child. In 1950, I was born to wonderful parents who in the postwar era, were like many who looked to find peace and prosperity in the aftermath of such traumatic years. We lived in a small apartment with many other young couples just starting out. My mother was also an only child and not very experienced in children. She expected and probably wanted to have a girl, since she had been raised around girls, but has told me that she became very thrilled to have had a son. I do not know to what extent this was making the best of a situation. My father was a civil servant with the government and worked at many jobs over the span of his career, mainly in the defense department. They were doting, but not the spoiling kind of parents, who took me to church from the earliest age. I was raised in a ‘progressive’ Baptist church in downtown Washington, DC, going even after we moved to the outer suburbs of Virginia when I was turning five years old. My spiritual awareness was always that God existed, heard prayer and was a very loving Father. However, the concept of being lost or that I needed a Savior was never clearly presented so I understood it applied to me. My parents always praised and encouraged me. Therefore, I thought I was a really OK person, and hopefully good enough for God.
Awareness of my gender difference came at a very early time in my life and it is in some of my oldest memories. One in particular was me playing in the living room of our apartment. I remember being fascinated with the shoes of the women friends who were socializing with my mother at a party. I was always attracted to female clothing and that attraction had some significant reinforcement. However, to this day it is a great puzzle to me that my mother provided me with female dress-up clothes in my personal toy box. Only female things to wear. In recent years when I came out to her in a very difficult and wrenching time, she vehemently denied having done so. She accused ME of having those memories planted in my head by a therapist. This greatly grieved me as this is one of the strongest memories of my childhood. It was something I had puzzled over for decades before I ever spoke to anyone about it.
I would dress in these clothes regularly. There were a yellow silk dress and two pairs of high heel sling back pumps that I would dress up with whenever I was alone in the basement of our new house in the suburbs. That is, until it became apparent that my male friends did not share my enthusiasm for such activity. It was at that point, around age seven or so, I began my en femme dressing life in secret which continued into my fiftieth year. However, it did not cause me any particular anguish for a long time as it was not something I shared about or spoke of to anyone. Since no one else in my acquaintance did either, I was blissfully unconcerned of its implications. But as I began to grow older, I realized my desire to dress and be a girl was not consistent with my other friends spoken preferences. I assumed something was at least different with me, if not wrong. Sneaking every possible occasion to dress in women’s clothing, I was steeped in secret stealthy activity that was constantly afraid of discovery. In third grade, I recall my teacher on the playground making a comment in my hearing that a certain activity was going to be for the girls only. The clear thought came to me that, “Then I want to be a girl!” But the words were not spoken aloud.
Once at age ten, while dressing in my mother’s room while she was occupied elsewhere, I broke the strap on one of my mother’s dressiest high heels. I tried to hide it in the back of the closet, putting the strap back as nearly together as I could. A few weeks passed and I forgot about my major transgression. Then one evening, as I was taking a bath, my mother burst in on me. She held the damaged shoe out toward me, shaking it angrily and demanding to know what I had done. Being found out and severely reprimanded in this most vulnerable of a position, I was terrified! Stuttering, I tearfully promised never, ever to do it again. But the words were hollow and I knew it, but what else could I do? One more sincere but misguided attempt at repentance that added to a lifetime of denials and lies. Thus began a more guilty and secretive life of dressing, using extreme care to study the position and location of every single article of clothing, to return it unobserved to its original position.
At puberty, I developed as a fairly typical male, but was always on the softer side. As changes began to appear, I was dismayed at the new crop of body hair. Also, my altered body developed somewhat noticeable breasts, which I secretly enjoyed when I was alone, but since I was trying to hide I was “embarrassed” as a male adolescent, especially swimming or in the shower at gym class.
As I continued to dress en femme in secret, I began to associate some sexual arousal and pleasure from looking female. Yet at the same time, my interest in girls as objects of affection and pursuit was very strong. It never mixed or quelled my femininity desires. I was a late bloomer, quite shy and reserved. A perfectionist at heart, it was torture to think of how to approach a girl without the fear of rejection overwhelming me. I finally asked a girl to go out with me at age 16. After that, I dated a lot, experienced all the angst of unrequited love, crushes and some blissful times.
My friendships were balanced between males and females, but I always enjoyed the company of women more than men. I was not an athlete, jock or macho type at all, and found the camaraderie of guys to be awkward. My few male friends were the ‘different’ guys, the studious or creative types. My awareness of anything relating to sexual orientation differences was extremely limited. The uses of the derogatory words of the times...queer, fairy or fag...was understood more in the weakness and effeminate sense, not the homosexual one. One prominent memory was sneaking into the costume shop behind the stage as I had a key given to me as a group leader, and trying on the women’s clothes and shoes. The adrenalin high from the chances I took to do this was amazing, but I was very frightened lest I would be truly found out.
School was always a good experience for me as I was a very good student, and quite active in extracurricular groups. In high school, I enjoyed all aspects of the theater group, lighting, set design and acting, too. At age thirteen I began to learn the guitar and performed some on stage. I was known as the school ‘good guy’. I never drank or smoked, never swore or did anything promiscuous. I graduated with great memories of my times with my friends, and was easily accepted into college at Virginia Tech.
College and Christian Commitment
It was upon leaving home for college that the yearning to break out of the mold and take some risks came over me. I announced on my first weekend home to my proper Baptist mother that I had decided I should now be able to use profanity, to fit in with my friends. Not an elegant way to proclaim ‘maturity’, but I was trying on wings I had never had a chance to try. It wasn’t long, however, until God made him/herself known to me. My future wife, whom I met at a friend’s birthday party, took an interest in me and invited me to a Campus Crusade for Christ meeting. In the following weeks, I heard the gospel and the person of Christ clearly presented for my ‘ears to hear’ for the first time in my life. I accepted Jesus as my Savior on February 19, 1969, 6 weeks prior to my 19th birthday.
After that decision, my life was never the same. God began a good work in me. Whereas I had been a smug and conceited self-righteous person, the Lord began to teach me humility. I was a sarcastic and critical person. I slowly learned to be more gracious accepting and forgiving.
However, in one area, I had the beginning of a life long crisis which only recently has been resolved. In Bible study, I became aware of a verse in scripture which seemed to pointedly forbid my cross-dressing activities. It is Deuteronomy 22:5: “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man must not wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.” Oops! Well, that is not good, is it? So, why not just confess this abomination and quit? I did. It did nothing to stop the desire. I prayed, bargained, promised, swore to stop. I had to stop, according to God’s infallible Word, or I was detestable to God. The truth was I could never stop, it was who I was. No amount of desire to change ever affected the need to be feminine. While I held myself in check for brief periods, I would consider that I might finally have victory over this habitual sin problem. My shame and dismay would return when I dressed over and over again. I despaired of ever being acceptable to God. I questioned if I was ever really born again. Didn’t He promise victory over sin if you wanted to do His will? Why didn’t this happen?
I now believe two basic things. One, I was born in a blended way that makes my mind and soul partly masculine, but mostly feminine within a male physical body. How or why this happened is not known to me at this time and I may never know. But the reality is too stark and consistent to be otherwise. Second, the verse in the Bible has been misinterpreted and does not apply to my situation, nor would be it, since it is a part of the Law of Moses that has been fulfilled by the work of the cross of Christ. A full study of this matter has been done by far better scholars than I and I leave it to my hearers to do the same research if they are so inclined. But I digress.
I met my future spouse the second half of my freshman year at school. She was cute, pleasantly flirty and very warm toward me. I met her at an open house in a dorm at a party. She invited me to my first Crusade meeting. The only time in my life I feel that God spoke directly to me in a tangible way was about her. God told me I was to marry her in an unmistakable way. She had been hurt horribly by a former boyfriend who dumped her the previous fall. I was forced to woo her very carefully and delicately over a two-year period. She finally agreed to marry me in our junior year and we were wed on graduation, to begin a new life as a couple, as professionals and as excited evangelistic Christians. However, the desire and drive to dress en femme never left me. I now began a new phase of stealth activity...hiding my dressing from my wife.
As she returned to school to pursue another degree in a career change, I started my life as an architect, moving up the ladder and changing firms all within the Washington area more than 30 years. I gained a solid reputation as a good designer and had many interesting challenges. But since the focus of this discussion is on my transgender experience, I will note several interesting events.
Once on a business trip to New York City, I took clothing borrowed from my wife, some makeup and a pair of shoes I had bought. I had no wig, so I used a hat to cover my head, dressed in my hotel and sneaked out late at night to walk in public. I looked pathetic, and was read as something strange immediately. I panicked and ran back to my room as quickly as I could. I rarely did such overt actions, and this was not a satisfactory experience.
In another firm, Lisa, a young woman receptionist became a friend of mine. She was very stylish but also a large gal. Sensing an opportunity, I devised an elaborate story around the Halloween season in the early 1980's. I told her I was going to a costume party and that the “theme” for this year’s party was “La Cage Aux Folles.” I asked her if she would help me come up with a really authentic female persona. She agreed. So it was that one evening in her apartment, I had my first ever chance to be transformed to female in a significant way. I was overwhelmed with the results of the makeup, her clothes which were a perfect fit, and shoes to match. In excitement I had not known before, I asked her to help me the night of the ‘party’, which was actually just for me to be out at Halloween. However when I arrived at her apartment that glorious night, Lisa told me she had forgotten to let me know she had a date and could not do it. I was devastated! I vowed I would find another opportunity someday. It took almost 15 years . . .
My next phase of life was filled with children, church and career. Within this time-frame, I became more and more filled with loathing over my inability to deal with my desire to be a woman. My Christian walk was constantly challenged by my repenting and falling back to the ‘sin’ of cross-dressing. I became lethargic, gained a lot of weight and used television and food as a substitute to feel some measure of pleasure while numbing myself. This continued steadily until I reached the end of my fourth decade.
The Big 50
All of my yearning, wondering, depression and fear came to a crisis point in the fall of 2000. I had spent years of denial and secret dressing. My flawed strategy to stop by making myself too unattractive to get satisfaction in dressing backfired. I gained to 250 pounds, was feeling terrible and having problems physically. I could not climb stairs without feeling faint, could not bend over to tie my shoes and had chest pains occasionally.
My relationship with my spouse grew cold as I struggled with this terrible secret that I could not share. She knew something was wrong, but unfortunately thought it was something wrong with her. She did not share this and yet I knew we were growing apart. I was ashamed that she could not be told the real reason, but my fear that she would leave me in disgust was always in the back of my mind. So I kept on in secret. Now when I dressed, I felt I was a huge ugly woman, but the lack of ‘pleasure’ did nothing to stop my need to be female.
Then a daring and desperate plan came into focus around an opportunity that presented itself at work. In the architecture and interiors firm I was a senior design associate for, our branch office was going to have a big Halloween costume event all day at work. There would be a big party, skits and prizes. I seized on this like a drowning person. This was going to be my one chance to go all out and spend an entire day as woman, in public and with complete sanction to do so. Armed with this vision, I was going to make it the most complete opportunity I could.
Conspiring with two other senior design people, we decided to do a skit based on the salespeople that frequently present interior design fabric products to us at lunch times each week. Together, but with my lead, we worked up a skit including me as the main female salesperson.
In the weeks prior to the big day, and with the help of my wife, I got my ‘costume’ together. That was in itself an amazing experience, as I purchased my first real wig, shaved my legs and shopped for clothing other than shoes for me for the very first time. One woman, Amy, who was part of the skit, was a huge help to me. She became my coach and helper, giving me makeup lessons, allowing me to come to her house to dress and practice walking and moving as I learned my lines.
Our little troupe of players had two ‘dress’ rehearsals. At the end of one session, I went to the local mall to walk around for the first time. I was grossly overweight but was credible enough that I only got a few stares. I was in heaven!
And then, on the big day, I woke up, drove to Amy’s house and changed into my femme self. As I got in the car with her to drive to work, my heart raced. Arriving at the office, I was able to go to work and be en femme and in character as a woman all day long.
The short term result was that I won first prize, and received a lot of admiration and amazement at my ‘pulling it off’. But the real result was, I broke down emotionally. Finally realizing I could no long hide this from my spouse, it struck home. All the years of hiding and lies welled up inside me.
The Big Coming Out
One night a few weeks later, in a most awkward situation, I blurted out the truth. She was stunned. Apparently, I had hidden myself very, very well. A lot of small unexplained events over the years suddenly came clear to her . . . the occasional torn seams in her clothing, for example.
She had no knowledge of transgender issues at all, so this was an extremely confusing time for her. Her only awareness was of Max Klinger on M.A.S.H. and little else. She was hard pressed to know what to say or how to respond. Thank God for the internet! We began to gather information on various sites to answer her (and my) questions as to what this all meant.
The late hours, the tears, the praying, the hurt silences . . . it was so hard. Finally, we began to uncover good resources and books to give some balance and reasons for what was going on with me. As I shared my deepest heart desires and history, she began to understand and see me in a new light. Then, praise God, several months later, one evening she was given assurance from the Lord that this was not a sin and was all right for me to be this way. She said I should have the freedom to be feminine, and dress “when I could.” It was as though I was born again, again!
Freedom and Reality
Since that day, my life took on a mostly upward direction. One of the first things I did was to go on a serious weight loss program. I lost over 80 lbs. and regained my vitality. In the course of the years since, my spouse and I have rediscovered one another in different ways. There have been times of misunderstanding and renegotiation, but in most cases we have found some measure of peace. Now, my soul is free to be who I am inside. I’ve gained a new fresh outlook of optimism in life.
One major downside is this: My mother now knows about me, but has completely rejected my femaleness. I must still be male mode when in her presence. Therefore, I do not see her, but only communicate by phone.
On the bright side, my two sons now accept me in their life, albeit someone reluctantly, and my daughter has been from the beginning and still is very supportive of me. I now have four grandchildren that are a stimulating and fun addition to my life. I have been greatly blessed to be “out” with them, alone and in public.
As I write this in 2008, I sit at my office workstation. In the architecture firm that I made my transition to be Roxanne. As of the first of April in 2004, I began living full-time as a woman, including at work. The incredible story as to how that happened is in the article called “Out of the Box: My Amazing Coming Out.” These articles cover many other aspects of my past seven years as a transwoman. Link to those from my home page.
I live comfortably as a woman and have slowly developed more of a 'girlfriend' relationship with my spouse. I found an excellent support group, The Transgender Education Association of Greater Washington. DC (www.tgea.net) and served as its president for 2004-05, gaining many new dear transgender sisters. Through this group and church, I have an outlet for helping others. I also have made several close G.G. (genetic girl) friends that I enjoy spending time in normal everyday activities.
Among the many things I have been able to do since 2001 as Roxanne:
- Vote in a Presidential election
- Fly within the US
- Do an interview on web-radio
- Be interviewed twice on TV
- Travel to conferences, both professionally as an architect and to transgender events
- Lobby my state representatives, and my senator and congressman in Washington
- Work full time as a professional
- Go everywhere I wish...restaurants, concerts, museums, church, public transportation
- Shop for my entire wardrobe of clothing, shoes, makeup, jewelry
- Get manicures, pedicures and my hair styled regularly
- Speak at Church and participate in worship service
- Be elected President of my support group
- Go to conferences representing my support group for GLBT groups
- Speak to a number of university and college seminar classes on transgender issues
- Write numerous articles for several newsletters about my life
- Meet with pastors to discuss TG ministry issues and opportunities in their churches
- Attend baby showers, memorial services, funerals, wedding showers, house concerts, formal dinner dances, reunion events, and be the Matron of Honor in my best friend ’s wedding plus plan and conduct a wedding shower for her
So, my life now is very full and more balanced emotionally and spiritually. Of course, the struggles continue as I integrate my gender change into all aspects of living. All is not "sweetness and light." No transsexual I know could say that, but can any human being really say that?
I hope my story will give you hope. There are no easy answers or primrose paths I can promise you as you may consider your own personal journey. I do pray that God will be with you along the way. Please contact me, if you desire more information on where to find help.