I could not kill myself. I was afraid my wife or children would come home and find me, or what was left of the back of my head splattered on the wall. Yet I could not live with the duality any longer. I was depressed, alcoholic, filled with suicide ideation, hopeless and demoralized. Oh, and there was one other little thing – I was a transsexual in a box about to explode.
Peggy was not the mother of my children, Meghan and Shane, now grown and gone. But, she was their rock when, a few years after Joanne and I divorced, we moved them into our home a thousand miles away from the Oregon Coast where they had lived the previous five years with their mother. She had not done well after the divorce.
So Meghan, then just starting high school, and Shane, then starting seventh grade, came to live with their father and stepmother. It gave me such a big heart feeling to have them with me, and trail them around the Montana countryside for their high school sports and other events. Yet, I had this feeling, as I had my entire life, that something was deeply wrong with me. I was broken inside – vainly trying to be someone I was not, could not ever be.
They say you are as sick as your secrets. I had held onto a secret self for 48 years. I could not tell anyone – ever – that, though I presented and lived as a man, inside, I was really more of a woman. The man was like a garment I wore, one that I could put on as circumstances warranted and the roles of father, brother, son and friend dictated. Ironically, the garment was not unlike the womenâ€™s clothing I donned in secret, a gloriously ridiculous ritual in which I lived vicariously, albeit alone, as the woman I believed that I was.
My greatest fear, the one that kept me up at night, crying as I lamented the hopelessness of my circumstances in transgender chat rooms on the internet – a married father of two with a woman inside who emerged more and more every day as the man diminished in turn – was losing my family. I could see that the manâ€™s useful life was nearly over, but how could I could tell my wife and children about her. She really did seem like the other woman, for it would be betrayal.
All that my family had come to know and trust about their husband and father would seem a terrible lie. And, I had been such a manâ€™s man, the hunter, sports fan and woodworker, evidently very successful in my attempts to show the world that I was a man, not the woman I lived in fear of inadvertent exposure. What if they could see her? What if they knew? Hunt and cuss and drink all the harder. Spout off in feigned braggadocio.
I was headed for a crash and I knew it. I both feared it and welcomed it for all that was at stake. I prayed for it. And then it came. Peggy came home unannounced from work early one day and found me dressed and drunk. Thus began the relentless transformation into womanhood known as â€œgender transition.â€ Peggy is a remarkable woman, my champion throughout. As her world collapsed, she selflessly stood by me at home and in the world. She coached me, taught me, encouraged me, held me when I cried and loved me throughout. While we did not remain married, we do remain best of friends.
I would like to finish with a fairy tale ending, but cannot. I thought my children would be initially shocked, but would come around. I was wrong – dead wrong as it turns out, for that is how they think of their father. Dead.
In the time since, six years now, though there is a certain pain for which there is no answer, I wonder too how they must feel. I have lost much to become my true self, but my children have lost much as well. Meghan lost her â€œDaddy,â€ the man who held her in the palm of one hand on the day that she was born; who washed her hair in the tub because he was more gentle than Mom, then combed out the tangles in the same gentle fashion; who read to her all night following her knee surgery in high school; who took all her tearful calls those first few years in college when things were not working out, and listened and offered encouragement. She loved that man in her way, and could not accept a â€œsecond Momâ€ as a substitute. She had no voice in this decision – no control, and it was not what she wanted or deserved.
Shane lost his role model who drove alone to the hospital 120 miles away after he and his Mom were life flighted there on the night of his traumatic birth; who taught him to play and love baseball and basketball; how to wield an ax and work hard without complaint; who waxed philosophically about life and the world, with whom he exchanged correspondence in the same vain his first year of college. Though he may have adjusted on his own, Shane followed his sisterâ€™s lead. And why not? She had always been there for him where I had not, through the divorce and shifting homes and even on to college. Shane would take the road of least resistance.
Did I lose my children, or cast them away with so many of the pieces of my former life? I cannot say for sure, but I do miss them deeply – I will always love them just as I always have. Though I do not hold out hope and must live my life, my door, my heart and hands will always be open to them should they ever call.
“I’m lonesome for my precious children, They live so far away.
Oh may they hear my calling…calling… and come back home some day.”
~ Emmy Lou Harris