Some friends of mine have questioned my support for California Bill AB1266 and there are several reasons but the most important one is personal, very personal. I guess the only way to put it is I lived it back in the 50's when one did not do what kids like me did and the thought of using a girl's room was the farthest thing from my mind.
I have two very close friends that I met and knew in NYC in the late 60's and early 70's that went through something like I did. If I had know earlier that I was transsexual and that help was available it would have saved me from my 4 futile suicide attempts and the two suicide attempts where I nearly succeeded. I used barbiturates stolen from my Grandmother in 5 attempts with the last attempt I attempted to jump into the outbound riptide from a tidal inlet that would have meant certain death due to water temperature and the powerful outbound flow.
Those attempts were not an attempt to get attention but my fear that I would grow up and look like my two brothers. I need not have worried but I did not know. Someone said that I had courage to do what I did. In all honesty it was not courageous but anger and a large dose of Welsh stubbornness. You will notice that most of the children that transition early are decidedly feminine and it goes beyond "pretty boy". Look at Jazz and some of the other children like Kim Petras.
As children kids like me will do some very dangerous things in order to prove to others we are "really" girls and it can have horrible results. Gwen Arroyo just wanted to be treated and accepted as a girl and was murdered for it. Did Gwen do something stupid? Yes she did, but so didn't most kids like us. I was coerced into playing Jane to a boys Tarzan to spoil a contest held at a local theater. I claim I did it because a certain boy stood up for me but I would have done it anyways. Why? I thought maybe if they saw me as a girl they would realize I really was a girl. I could have been killed by some if they found out. It was stupid but it changed my life.
It changed my life because I broke down and told the boy playing Tarzan all about me including the fact I "really" was a girl and I would die before I grew up to be a boy. I learned more from him than he learned from me. I had started dressing androgynously when I started the tenth grade because I got abused anyway. I was 12 1/2 and had just lived my summer from hell including several days in Boston Children's Hospital. I had tried to do what they wanted and it did not matter. I was extremely angry and started the androgyny phase and added mascara which for my time was dangerous. I passed for girl better than boy anyway so why not was how I looked at it.
It seemed the boys were confused by me because they saw me as a girl, at first, and since most were 15 or older their collective hormones were raging and I got hit on by boys who did not know me. the weird part was my High School had a very strict dress code where girls had to wear dresses and I cannot tell you how many boys asked why I was not wearing a dress the first few days in High School. Then it got ugly.
It seems boys do not like being attracted to a girl that is not "quite" a girl and confused them so they took their testosterone out on me physically which proves beyond a doubt that males cannot think straight when their hormones and mating urges are running wild. I did not help my cause by adamantly refusing to dance with girls in the joint gym sessions where they taught dancing. Not my smartest move but it seemed right at the time. The gym teacher threatened to flunk me, you weirdly needed to pass gym to graduate, and I had to remind him I tutored his star football player who was the Quarterback for the team. That was a rare moment of bravado.
If I had to use the bathroom I waited until class and had the teacher excuse me so I could avoid boys. My High School decided they would not have doors on the toilets to prevent smoking so I was open to the world when I sat down to pee. I never peed standing up in my life and I have no idea why to be honest. It just seemed to be the way I should urinate.
The irony of my Jane/Tarzan stupidity is our picture ended up in the paper, they did not expose the fraud, and my mother saw the picture if me and when she came into my room a few days later I figured I was grounded for life or certainly the foreseeable future. She took a picture out of her Wallet and it was of her as a 15 year old girl and I was her and she was me. I think that was the moment my mother stopped trying to find a "cure" for me and it changed our relationship.
It was also the first time I was kissed by a boy and it was in front of 500 screaming teenagers plus no girl forgets the first kiss. Kids like me build walls up around ourselves to ward off the outside world because we want to limit the pain of our existence. Some of us are so good at building up that wall it can last into adulthood with the disastrous side effects of testosterone. My kiss led to a boyfriend and the saving of my life, eventually.
Shortly after this we went on a month long family vacation to England, Scotland, France, Spain and Italy. I had a horrific time when entering England and it had nothing to do with them. Mom said she was with her 3 sons and I muttered I am a girl and my brother Ray agreed and the poor man checking passports looked at them and at me and then my Mom got upset and Ray got upset and I got upset and lots of people witnessed it. I was in tears because I did not want to go for other reasons and I went through this confusion of other every single day and it wears on you.
They were actually quite wonderful and we were ushered through after a short time but I was hurt. We had to catch a plane to Scotland and when I received my boarding pass my name was listed as Elizabeth because that was the name in the paper and Mom said it would be easier on me. When we got to our Bed and Breakfast in Ayr I was happy. Mom had a scheduled meeting with certain interests of our family that wanted some rare artifacts from my Grandmother and we had to go and I ended up being called a "poof" by the woman mom was to meet with. Mom got so mad she told them to F-off and we went into town to eat dinner and when I had to go to the bathroom Mom got up with me and took my hand and led me to the girls room. First thing you notice is girls rooms are much cleaner than boys rooms. If I had used a girls room in High School there is no telling what would have happened.
It turned out as confused as I was the people interacting with me daily were probably as confused in different ways. If they did not know me I was a girl which is what happened for basically an entire month in Europe. Mom decided it was safer if we let people think what they wanted and they thought girl. As a child I was obsessed with being how I should have been but I thought there was no hope. Others around me saw me as the person I knew I was but were frightened and probably weirded out by the simple fact physically I was not a girl.
When we returned to Boston in mid July I had changed. My mother had cut my hair so it was more feminine and other more personal things happened between us. We shared a room while my brothers shared their own room and my mother saw the weirdness of my body pre hormones. Everyone now knew I wanted to be a girl which would seem to the unknowing eye to mean more trouble for me but it did not. I was never touched physically again by another boy and my life actually changed for the better. My mother did not tell me she was writing to Harry Benjamin and it was difficult for her to arrange a meeting for us with him. I never knew this then.
I now had a boyfriend but more important I was subjected to nothing more than an occasional name that usually resulted in someone telling them to shut up because "she" was okay. He was used as often as she but believe me it meant a lot. My problem was I still had these protective walls built up around myself for protection. They had to come down or basically I was headed for trouble. In some ways it was more difficult because my boyfriend and I found it hard to get any time alone even though I tutored him. It is hard for a kid like me daily watching other girls flirt with Kevin while I had to keep my eyes down and just carry on.
I never realized some girls tried to befriend me because the previous bullying kind of made me paranoid. Kevin started breaking down the barrier but it was difficult. even though I loved him in that silly little girl crush way he was more than that and constantly reminded me not to give up because I still had no idea what I was and that help was available. every time he kissed me it was like an affirmation I was a girl to him and that is important. I never knew then the mental anguish he went through over his attraction to me. I was into myself too much to see his pain which is very sad.
Sometimes the worst people to us can be relatives and I had cousins that hated me passionately. I was seeing another shrink in the fall who was supposed to help me at least try and deal with my feelings but in the middle of November just before our Thanksgiving he called me some really horrible things, got a lot of that from shrinks back then, and on Thanksgiving I had a horrible run in with several cousins and I snapped and then tried to off myself by jumping into the outbound riptide created by a tidal Marsh. I was pulled off the rocks by my boyfriend but as my Grandmother put it they had a fulltime find the "freak" search on. Ironically I nearly did kill myself since I ended up with double pneumonia and a two week stay in the hospital with a full week in Intensive Care.
I felt so out of place and incorrect in High School and in all honesty had always felt that way everywhere. everything was just wrong and sometimes for a kid it is hard to put it to words and I was no different. My family knew how I felt but before the vacation we rarely spoke about it. I think they managed to get through that first year of my pushing gender lines, appearance is gender, by looking the other way or maybe even thinking it was a phase.
The anguish in my life was palpable to me and I was in a constant state of depression along with feeling totally hopeless. Girls had everything I should have had and it hurt in an amazingly visceral way. I was shy but I was not easy to be around and I could be acerbic and nasty if given a chance when faced by someone who was hurting me. I remember this one famous shrink I was sent to when I was young. He was an asshole and mentioned constantly his seminal book he had written so I went to the Library and read his book and the next time we met I ripped his book apart along with him. I remember telling him I don't have mommy issues, like his book espoused about, because I just wanted "to be" a mommy and that was mild compared to what I said. Needless to say that ended my sessions. He was later arrested as a pedophile, who would have thunk that!!
When I recovered from pneumonia I was in a declining state and that forced my mother to make a plea to Dr. Benjamin that they had to somehow make arrangements for us to meet. I knew nothing of this. All I knew was the day before Christmas Kevin gave me my first "girl" Christmas present, a bracelet that was meant for my wrist but I could wear on my ankle. That was pretty moving and on Christmas afternoon my mother put me in the car and drove me to Kevin's house and walked in with me and I got scared. I thought they knew Kevin was my boyfriend and that terrified me for some reason.
When they started talking I knew they knew and I panicked and ran out the front door and they had to find me. I am sure they must have thought I was contemplating another suicide attempt but they found me and it was the beginning of the end of my journey. Before this time I rarely was free enough to dress as a girl although my moms cloths sort of fit but were a shade too big. I liked how I looked but I became more depressed because I knew I would not be allowed to dress as I needed to. It was a product of the times but also I knew dressing did not mean I was a girl. I always knew that. I needed to get rid of a certain appendage.
What happened was several adults decided it might help if I could be me for a while and I went with them to the Laurentian Mountains in Quebec supposedly to allow me to "chill out" in more modern terms. I did not know I was to meet someone who would literally save my life. I spent over two weeks there and met Harry and actually met John Money, an asshole even then, but the biggest change was hormones which I pounded down in larger dosages until Harry got my attention.
Soon everyone at school knew I was this strange thing called a transsexual, since transgender was not a term in existence for us back then. I was raped by my neighbor in February and managed to survive that despite skull fractures and an emergency trip from my local hospital to Massachusetts general for surgery and recovery. I remember none of it except him ripping my cloths off and the first blow to the head. He spent not a single day in jail. It seems my 120 pound body was so threatening to this 6'-2" 240 pound man that he had to defend himself by ripping my clothes off and raping me. It was not much better for girls or women and I "got what I deserved" according to one officer. He got what he deserved because Kevin beat him senseless and he is the only one who ended up in jail. The byproduct was people now had their suspicions confirmed that we were an item and it was hard on Kevin but he handled it like the brave young man he was.
The hormones changed me quickly because they had little testosterone to battle and boys gym was still required and those boys got quite an eyeful because white gym shorts and a white tee-shirt hid nothing. That ended any issues I had in High School but it did not end my High School memories.
My mother convinced me to go to my 10th High School reunion and it was one of the better experiences in my life. I was finally me and that picture on my blog is what I looked like then and earlier and actually you might recognize me if you met me now from it. I went to that reunion with some evil intent because there was one boy who hurt me a lot. I had this thought where I would seduce him and tell him so I could hurt him but he had no clue it was me and nobody else did either.
People see what they want to see and even though the trouble stopped in my Junior and Senior years they never saw the real me. What they saw was something they could rationalize. Several teachers knew I was there and finally this one fellow "geek", now a hunk, recognized me and the look on his face was kind of priceless in so many ways. I danced with him and he would not have told anyone but I decided to leave after I visited the ladies Room and told him it was okay to tell several of his friends who I was. Initially I was this tall redhead with striking blue eyes dressed to the nines and looking quite good I must admit.
Well he told one person and in seconds everyone knew and when I came out to leave I faced the entire reunion and something really weird happened. That one boy who had hurt me brutally walked up with tears streaming down his face telling me how sorry he was. It was the day I realized other kids get us if they know the truth and it was the day I learned to forgive. I was not good at forgiveness before that day.
I ended up sitting and talking with many of them for several hours. I learned that many of the girls actually tried to befriend me but I was too walled up to realize it. The irony of this was a few weeks earlier I had done a television show in Philadelphia and a mother came up asking how to help her child who was just like me. I had directed them to Harry who was there and I decided on that evening I had to help that family because I had the money and actually the need to give back.
She was the first of the ten kids I have been involved in helping through this nightmare and it may surprise some but it is better for the child to be out and open about themselves, within reason, because all of these kids were and usually are exceedingly feminine and nobody should face what I and others went through. Trying to hide yourself is just too dangerous because of the confusion it causes others and sometimes the reaction to confusion is ugly.
I remember vividly how wonderful I felt as my body changed the way a girl body should. I got to go through a girl puberty without menstruation and its issues although I must admit menstruation was an issue I wish I had been required to deal with. I asked my close friend Lena to help and we began our methodology of helping kids like us. We found that kids seemed to get it and the real problem was parents but we also learned to quietly work within the system to get Schools and parents on the child's side.
We found that parents that met the child almost immediately after sitting down with her and her parents either totally changed their minds or just sort of backed off and made no trouble. It is hard for any parent to hurt another child that is in no way a threat to them or their children. Toilets were a big issue and usually the school set aside a private toilet but almost universally something strange happened.
Because the child was now socializing as a girl they had girlfriends and in every case eventually her girlfriends coaxed them into the girls room because after all it was where they should go. You cannot jam things down peoples throats but they are willing to understand and to learn and it is universal. How universal is interesting.
Lena found this amazing kid in an area of Alabama that I wanted an armed guard for protection because redneck was above them in my mind. It was a small farming community and it was the local protestant ministers kid. I have no idea how she found this child but to this day she is hands down the most stunningly beautiful girl we have ever helped. She had two chances to pass as a boy and they were slim and none and slim had long since left town. Her father tried to hide her but they wanted to help her also because she had said she was a girl from the day she began speaking according to them.
I was in Alabama for some Civil Rights demonstrations in the 60's and had spent 5 miserable days in Huntsville at our Rocket facility doing testing and I was so afraid of Huntsville it took several flyboys and some techs to convince me to eat in a Restaurant with them. Those rednecks scared the crap out of me.
She flourished in that little community. They opened their arms to her because it was so obvious she was a girl only a blind man could not see it but if he talked with her he would have. Like most of our kids she had SRS at 18 and went to Alabama as a girl. Once it was over, except for her husband, it was never something she thought she had to talk about. If it works there it will work anywhere.
I see AB1266 as the first step and the most important step to helping kids like me and some of you to a safer and more sociable childhood. SRS should be covered by insurance and no kid that needs it should be denied it. Allowing transsexual children to socialize as girls is beyond important. My socialization as a girl began in college where my mentor Karen pulled me into her circle of friends and it was invaluable. I was able to talk openly about all the things girls talk about starting with boys and sex and all of the relationships girls build over time. It helped me become a better girl and socializing as a girl helps transsexual children.
I must admit I am opposed to parading them around the television and Transgender chicken circuit like some trophy but parents need to do what they need to do to survive this. All of the scare tactics aimed at the bill are silly and inaccurate in my opinion. Other boys are not going to transition so they can ogle girls in the girls locker room. It just will not happen and they "will have to transition" to gain access and anyone that thinks otherwise has their head firmly planted about a foot up their asshole.
It is tough enough dealing with this as a child when your whole world seems askew and nothing makes sense and nobody will listen to you. I see more and more kids starting hormones early. They fight for them and if they do not fight for them then maybe they are not transsexual but it does not mean they are predators. Maybe they are gay or a transvestite or whatever but they are children and they do not need to be shit on. I know what that feels like and it leads to ugly life situations.
If my time allowed me to transition I would have done it instantly. I got to sort of do that in Quebec but coming back to Boston and going back to androgyny usually resulted in a two day cry. Look at jazz or the other young girls like her. They are so clearly girls and they have not even started hormones but I will take all wagers they will. Despite what others might think it is we as children that drives this. I pushed every limit I could and was threatened multiple times in school because of how I dresses and the minimal makeup but I had my Grandmother in my back pocket because she could screw with me but nobody else had better. It is part of that Gaelic family thing.
Could the bill be worded better? Yes it could but it is worth it just as it is. Transsexual and even transgender children need the protection to find themselves and you cannot find yourself in the shadows hidden from sight. All that does is drive you into a deep depression and I know what can happen when that happens.
There will always be assholes that call you names because kids do that but once you know they know who you really are it really does roll off you like water off a ducks back. The words do not hurt as badly because you are yourself.
I do not know if it is possible to transition too early but I do know that transitioning too late is just bad because the damage is both physical and psychological. Harry once told me better too many get SRS than too few and I think it is also better that kids transition too early than too late. The younger you are the less transitioning seems an issue. Kids just seem to "be" rather than "think" about it. There is nothing that can come from that but good because "being" a girl is really what it is all about. To kids pretending has nothing to do with it. Sadly that is not true with some adults.
I doubt you will see any issues with lockers or girls teams since most kids are on blockers now and transsexual children want those blockers and the estrogen or testosterone they need to be free. Denying these children anything that allows them to be more completely girls is basically a form of child abuse but then transsexual children have become a political football that many in the Transgender community want to use to leverage the system to get rights they as men do not deserve but then that is what men do, push women around all too often.
I understand the fear some have but this is for K-12 and it is the right thing to do and it is something these children need. A society is always or should be judged by how it treats the children in its society. These children need this protection.