Tag Archives: Being a man



ohhhhhhhhh……aaahhhhhhh…..aaaahhhhhhhhhhh…cough, cough….sob…sob…

it went on and on. I tried to cover my head with my pillow, but I could still hear the moaning and sobbing. I understood what she wanted. Someone, anyone to come comfort her. Cough, cough, cough…. then a bit of silence. Maybe she fell asleep I hoped? Then a minute later, ohhhhhhh….sob…sob…aaahhhhhh. I was so tired. I’d been at school all day then a two hour swim workout after. I was exhausted.

I got out of bed wearing only my pajama bottoms as was our custom. At ten years old I would only wear a PJ bottom. Somehow to my three brothers and I this represented our growing maturity. My room was furthest away from hers and I wondered how come none of my brother’s seemed to have heard the moans. I walked around through her doorway and peaked in. She looked up from her bed. “Jer-bear?” “Is that you?”She asked in the dark. “It’s me.” I said walking over to her bedside. I looked down at her as she lay there holding her chest. She was so frail, thin and sickly. Almost bald, her skin paper-thin and gray with oxygen tubes coming out of her nose. “Sit here” she said patting the bed next to her. I turned slightly and sat with my legs dangling towards the floor. Her bed was the sort you would find in any hospital. It had the bars on the sides that could be raised or lowered and even had wheels in case she needed to be moved. She rested a hand on my arm. “Such a nice swimmer body” she said smiling. “Are you OK Mom?” I asked. “Oh yes sweetheart.” she said as if nothing was wrong. The stacks of pills on her bedside table, the filled ashtrays, empty glasses of bourbon and the twin five foot oxygen tanks told a different story. She was in constant pain and had been the last 6 years or so since she’d had a double-mastectomy followed by radiation and chemotherapy. She’d had her adrenal glands removed too and had a permanent open wound in her chest we changed the dressing on every night. The skin wouldn’t heal anymore and her bones were like swiss cheese from all the radiation, small fragments of which would occasionally appear in the wound and have to be removed. All of this she dulled with a crazy combination of narcotics and Jim Beam. Each of my brothers knew how to mix her drink. A tall water glass with two ice-cubes and a splash of water. “Why aren’t you sleeping?” she asked. I wanted to say, “you know very well why” but I couldn’t. I felt so bad for her lying there all day and all night alone like she did. We were the only break in that monotony when we arrived home from school in the afternoon and then again later when we would each come in to kiss her goodnight. For all of this it didn’t seem strange to me, she had been like this almost as long as I could recall.

There was a time in my dim memory of a different woman. She was tall, blonde and statuesque. She wore mink and smelled of expensive french perfume. I rarely saw this mother though. That one usually left us with our nanny, Gloria. We only saw her as she left for glamorous outings with my famous plastic surgeon father. Later we might hear them drunk and fighting. She screamed for us then as we cowered in our beds. “Help me boys!” she would call as my father beat her but none of us responded. At 3 or 4 years old there wasn’t a lot we could do. I know my older brothers had each finally confronted him but they suffered for years listening before that. The mother of this world was exotic far off and mysterious like a tragic Queen. Sometimes she was”ill” and we wouldn’t see her for weeks. Then just as suddenly she was back joining us on Sundays for church in her pencil skirts, red lipstick and heels. Outside of church she was never without a cigarette held elegantly in long manicured fingers. The only place we went as a family then was Mass. I had six siblings but the older three no longer joined us. They were separated from the younger four of us by a gap of eight years. We rarely saw them anymore. They were off in college or busy with friends. More often than not the other three younger brothers and I were shepherded around by our angry nanny. She resented us for being privileged and white. Two things the young overweight black woman from rural Georgia was not.

But that fabulous mother was from another mythic time in a fairytale past. The one I sat next to longed for those days but her fabulous King husband had abandoned for a younger princess to adorn. They apparently even had a new set of children to fill their new kingdom although I’d never met them. The mother I sat next to would often regale that man for leaving her exiled and broken. She would cry bitterly calling him a fucking asshole or some other words I had been schooled in church to never use. Sometimes this mother would get up from her bed and dance in a narcotic and alcohol fueled memory of wonderful outings shared in former grand ballrooms with my father. She told me what a great lover he was and how he had swept her off her feet. Like Mrs. Havisham in The Dickens novel, Great Expecations it was as if time had ended when her husband left. The music had stopped and the guests had all left. Now it was just the 5 of us in this echo hall of past grandeur. My mother and my 3 brothers.  I was number three. I had one younger brother who knew even less of the past than I did. The older two each knew more and I think were more injured for its memory.

“Want to watch a movie with me ber-ber?” she asked. Tired as I was, I agreed. “The life of Henry the Eighth is on at ten.” “Masterpiece Theater!” she said with some excitement. “Great Mom.” I answered crawling up next to her in the hospital bed. She lifted the remote and turned on the televison. “You’re going to learn a lot.” she said looking down. “I know Mom.” I answered back. I loved being with her and although I was tired, she was right. I learned a lot on these nights but most of it had nothing to do with the show on TV.




Lately I’ve become more aware of being judged and people who feel free to dispense their judgement on others. Some do so from some sort of ethical or religious authority that they use as justification. Others more ignorantly just pass judgement from an arbitrary sense of what “should” be. What I find most remarkable is that these same people do not hold themselves to their own standards or pick and choose which portions of their dogma to adhere with. It’s also amazing they don’t realize that even as they hand out their condemnations and guidelines for being proper they begin building a very confining prison for themselves. “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” is an old adage that often comes to mind. When one draws too many boundaries around right and wrong behavior it becomes very tricky not to step over those lines themselves. Their lives and those around them become filled with unnecessary rules and restrictions that only serve to distort and pervert our normal state of joy.

Fundamental thought comes in all shapes and sizes and from what I can tell the consequences of it range from damaging to lethal. Guilt and perversion are very typical side effects. How many more times to we have to watch some televangelist ask for forgiveness for a liaison with a prostitute or drug dealer? People only turn to these avenues when they have no access to joy through safer and healthier routes. It could be argued that much of the violence and drug abuse we witness in the world is a result of people’s joy being blocked or taken away. I have witnessed this very thing in my own life.

Formerly as a closeted Transgender person the only way I could express my gender identity was in a night club. Generally these were bars or Drag Revue locations in seedier parts of town. I was fortunate in that at least I had one relatively nearby. Many of my Trans sisters in particular had to travel hundreds of miles to find a safe place. By “safe” I actually mean safe inside. Outside many of these clubs, Gay bashers looking for kicks or sexual predators looking for an easy target would frequently be some of the very real dangers one might encounter. I can’t tell you how much my life has changed since I’ve been able to come out. Not only have I benefitted but everyone I am involved with has as well. I no longer have to hide such a huge part of myself and can be more included and happier participating in others lives in a positive way. My intimacy is no longer searched for on kinky websites but among others who are out in the world expressing themselves openly. This ability to seek and find community or a partner in a more healthy and open way results in less victimization. When we aren’t singled out, discriminated against and targeted we feel more joy and experience higher self-esteem.

So what do the “judgers” get out of looking down on others? I would have to imagine it gives them something or they would be less likely to do it. My impression is that this need comes from their own low self-esteem. It is very typical for children who feel badly about themselves to try and show others how much better they are by putting their peers down or bullying them. If one’s self esteem hasn’t improved by adulthood perhaps it makes them feel better to occupy some moral high ground so they can look down on their lesser neighbors in a more acceptable way. I imagine they were put down or shamed for something they did as a child or as in the case of the Televangelist be hiding something and are over-compensating for it.

Whatever the case, it would be hard to ignore that judgement of others  creates nothing beneficial for anyone. Wasting time wagging your finger or looking down your nose will only limit the boundaries of your own joy and that of others. Rather than wasting our time creating unhappiness why not open our hearts to others and remove the arbitrary boundaries to our joy? We should look for commonality with each other rather than what separates us. If our ideologies and societies are more inclusive than you will find less people pushed to the extreme boundaries searching for their fundamental needs and rights. People will need to escape less, participate and contribute more. I believe there was a great man who said, “Judge not lest Ye be judged.” Perhaps it’s time we listened to him.





Attraction. What is it? Where does it come from and why are we attracted to certain genders, ethnicities, occupations, values etc? Our preferences clearly aren’t permanent because they tend to change as we age. As children, generally we are attracted to other children. As we age more often than not our tastes age with us. What if you suddenly broke away from this normal shift and were suddenly someone quite different from who you had been before? What if at 50 you were suddenly 20 again? Would find yourself attracted to 20 year olds or would the wisdom you’d gained throughout your life still lead you to find 50 year olds more attractive? Our society worships youth of course so we all have some natural attraction to the beauty and promise of youth. But would you choose someone that age as a companion to spend the rest of your days with if you had 30 years more experience than they did?

I’ve been faced with a similar question after changing gender from male to female at the age of 52. My world has suddenly and dramatically shifted and it’s not just my perception but perhaps just as importantly the perception of those I meet. They no longer meet a lean athletic single male of 50, but a athletic woman instead. The world sees a woman now and the expectation is typically that I would now prefer men. To remain heterosexual I should swap my former preference from women to men. Interestingly by becoming female and still preferring women I have become Gay. Now when I am out with my fiancé we are more aware of any displays of affection which fall outside  the boundaries of normal female friendship. Holding hands and touching, sitting close and even platonic kisses are ok, but there is still a boundary that hetero couples do not have. We have both had to learn to mind that new line as it is easy to forget. Gay men’s boundaries are even more rigid. When we first began seeing each other I lived as a male. Since my transition our behavior has been modified accordingly. Not too long ago we were on a rooftop bar in Manhattan overlooking the city. We were both wearing cocktail dresses standing at the edge of the roof looking off into the evening lights. My partner casually ran her hand along my inner thigh and left it there. I am much taller than her and she was simply holding me lightly in a place that her hand naturally landed. I began to notice people sort of “looking” and then realized what was going on. I said, “did you realize that your hand is on my inner thigh?” “Oh My God!” she laughed. We both chuckled, but that is the sort of moment we often run into. I am very attracted to her, but my attraction to women and more particularly a woman like her wasn’t always so clear.

When I was younger and first “out” in the world dressing as a woman, men began to approach me. At first I was repulsed but then became accustomed to it and even began to enjoy it. Later I explored kissing and touching men. At the time I wondered about my sexual orientation. I was partially confused because I wanted to be a woman. I assumed that meant I should be attracted to men. This idea motivated me to explore being with them. I certainly enjoyed flirting and all the attention they gave me but when we began petting I felt very little interest. This was in contrast to my initial experiences with women. I found everything about women intoxicating. I would practically pass out when I was near a woman I found attractive. The way she smelled and looked, later as I became intimate I longed to feel her skin and body against me. My attraction was inarguably chemical and physical. With men I finally had to acknowledge it wasn’t like that. I found some more attractive than others but not for the same reasons as I was attracted to women. With men it was more about who they were not how they looked. Were they someone I found interesting, funny, accomplished, capable, powerful? I began to realize it was what men did and how capable and successful they were that is attractive. It also didn’t hurt if they were presentable or well dressed and smelled good. I began to wonder if other women felt this way?

Now living full time as a woman I believe I am seeing men more as other women do and it’s really fascinating how often men haven’t the slightest idea what causes women to find them attractive. Young and old men will try to out perform each other in athletics imagining these displays will gain the interest of a woman. Unfortunately this is generally not the least bit interesting to most women I know unless it has something to do with their career. For instance if they’re some sort of professional athlete. By in large the triathletes and weekend warriors are mostly ho-hum. A guy that walks up and begins a conversation with imagination and humor while his macho friends are competing in a basketball game is going to make a lot more headway.

It took me a long time to realize that my attraction fell somewhere in between male and female. I suppose that would make some sense. I like the way men pursued me but felt more interest in the female body. Eventually I realized I was a Lesbian. What a revelation that was when I had a very male body! I could just imagine approaching a Gay woman and saying, “I’m really a woman, I swear!” Lots of men say that to Gay women already. It’s similar for women who think they can “convert” a beautiful Gay man. They just haven’t been with the “right” woman. With them it would be better somehow. They miss the point. Gay women are attracted to a woman’s body and essence. Wow, what a dilemma. A man trapped in a Gay woman’s body? How on earth was this ever going to work out I wondered.

I happened to meet a woman with a very strong male side at a party some time later. She noticed and approached me. I was tall and slender with long brown hair and light goatee. She thought I was attractive. She pursued getting to know me and we began seeing each other. To me her essence was very male. She admitted later she knew mine was feminine. Dating her I realized there were women out there for me. It didn’t turn out to be her but another woman with a similar male essence while simultaneously having a female body. In many ways she is a trans-male. She in her turn had dated another trans woman before me and realized that was the sort of person she was attracted to. What are the odds? We both marvel at it. She had struggled as I had trying to find her mate, her true partner. At 52 years old I finally found the person I was attracted to both physically, emotionally and intellectually. An accomplished woman I can admire who is more gregarious and assertive than I. We are Yin and Yang but not in the most traditional sense.

Our attraction for each other seems to have three parts. Physical, mental and emotional. I’ve attempted relationships with one or even two of these, but they failed. Looking back it was obvious to me from the start that a key piece was missing but I had ignored it. In each case it was exactly that missing portion that had grown larger and eventually ended our relationship. The first step which took me nearly 50 years was to identify my own needs. That turned out to be remarkably difficult but I would call it critical. After all how can you know who to be with if you haven’t identified who you are attracted to?

Color Blind Artist

What color is this? How about that? What color are my eyes?

Always the same reaction. People want to test you. Suddenly you’re a lab rat for them to quiz about your color perception. “I can see color.” I always tell them. Color blindness does not mean I don’t see color, it just means I can’t see the normal spectrum. It’s a difficult concept for people to wrap their minds around.

“Deuteranopia” or “Red-Green” color blindness is actually split into 2 groups, dichromats and anomalous. The dichromats are lacking the green perceiving cone altogether. In the eye there are 3 cones, red, green and blue sensitive. Each receives or is sensitive to different parts of the color spectrum. The anomalous have a “shifted” perception or weakened perception in one of the cones. This is the category into which I fall. Something like 1% of the male population has this particular deficiency. The bottom line is that I see color, but less of it. In my world there are something like 50,000 different shades of color whereas in most people’s there are up to a million. This causes trouble in distinguishing certain colors that others can see quite easily.

No one ever noticed or told me I was color blind until after High School. I don’t know how it was overlooked, but perhaps growing up in a family of 7 kids made it easier to “miss” the details of what was going on with any particular one of us. I happened to be number 6 out of 7 and smack in the middle of a group of 4 boys born a year apart. We were “Irish Quadruplets” as they used to call them. Children born about as close together as humanly possible from the same mother. 2 of my brothers are 11 months apart. We were viewed as a single unit known as “the boys.” As it turned out, I was not only color-blind but very regular blind too. It was discovered that I needed corrective lenses in the 3rd grade. I realized later why I could never hit anything when I went hunting squab with my siblings. Not only could I not see the birds, even if I could have seen them they probably would have blended into the foliage.

So what better career for me than becoming a professional Artist? Nothing could have been a more challenging career choice than the single one in which I was handicapped. I’d decided this when I was about 5 years old. I found if I stayed inside and did artwork, that was a viable excuse for not running with the pack. It gave me an excuse to be “apart” and not do all the things my brothers seemed to love far more than I. Wrestling, fighting, hunting and generally being boys was easily avoided and sanctioned by my mother if I were being “creative.” I loved the time apart or talking to my Mother about Art, life, feelings. Drawing initially brought me joy and peace.  As I developed as an artist it brought me an identity and self esteem. It was a good excuse for being “different.” I knew I would be an Artist when I grew up.

It was about the same time or even a bit earlier that I had realized I didn’t feel like a boy. Something didn’t match in how I felt. Initially I began trying on my mother’s things but ran into quite a bit of ridicule and harassment from my brothers for it. After a few humiliating moments I learned to hide it. From the age of about 4 or 5 until I was 18 I didn’t tell a soul. I even had a name for my female self. At around age six I began to self identify as “Jennifer,” not Jerry.  I would imagine magically waking up one day as a girl rather than a boy. I prayed to my Catholic God for deliverance while at the same time fearing his judgement. As an altar boy in a large Irish Catholic family I knew our God was watching for any misbehavior. I felt with some certainty that cross-dressing as I occasionally did would land my soul in purgatory. I did my best to not feel as I felt. I became a very good mimic. I learned through trial and error what was “acceptable” boy behavior and what was not. My life became very complicated requiring constant vigilance. I snuck my Mom’s clothes into my room and back while my family watched the Wonderful World of Disney. They watched Pluto, Donald and Mickey cavort on the television while I sorted out how to put on on bras, girdles and nylons.

I ignored the clues that I was color blind whenever possible. There had been signs, but I guess I just didn’t realize or didn’t want to know what they meant. Denial was a close friend of the family so this was not much of a stretch. “Why are you wearing 2 different color socks?” My siblings or schoolmates would ask. ” I like them that way.” I’d answer. Later, when I began playing with make-up it was “why are your lips pink?” I had wiped the lipstick off or so I thought. The leftover color invisible to me but not to my color aware siblings. I learned to scrub my lips more thoroughly afterwards. In Driver’s Ed I thought the “green” light looked white and wondered why they didn’t make it a brighter more vibrant shade. Sunsets had no pink but tones of peach instead. I was never able to see the green flash at sunset that the others pointed to when the sun dipped below the horizon. Maybe I didn’t want to know because I WAS going to be an Artist no matter what AND a woman. This square peg WAS going to fit in that round hole.

In Art school fortunately my school was more focused on concept than fundamentals. In the 80’s the cutting edge of Art was “performance”. I was busy getting naked and writhing in tire treads rather than studying color theory. I  coincidentally had a friend in college who was involved in color vision research and he tested me as part of his Master’s research. He was particularly interested in me because I was “anomalous” rather than a “dichromat.” Dichromats essentially have the same color vision as a ground squirrel. That is to say they only see about 256 colors. 8% of the male population are color-blind but only 1% are anomalous. In addition I had 2 other siblings that were anomalous too. We were a very interesting study in the inherited trait of color-deficiency. I visited him off and on for months joining his collection of squirrels, mice and even monkeys they were using for color research. I was paid $5.00 an hour for my contributions. That was better then I made waiting tables at the time and easier than nude modeling.  After the tests were done there was no doubt I was color-deficient, but continued to believe I would somehow make a career of Art. I had already done 3 years of Art School by then and didn’t have the time or finances to shift gears and choose another major. Since my major had been declared I would have had to reapply for admission all over again. My drawing skills were among the top of my class and I hoped that would carry me into a paying job somehow. It had to.

I found animation and started in the Graduate Animation program at UCLA. Character Animators drew in pencil. Color was not critical because it was all about motion. If I could draw a character over and over again and make it move, that’s all I needed. Animation positions proved to be highly competitive and it took me years to get a job in the field. In the mean-time I had to survive with the positions I could find. I had taken side jobs and done internships as a graphic designer for an Ad Agency but that direction had been a wake-up call. Selecting colors out of a Pantone book and creating harmonious colored designs was incredibly challenging. I spent many a extra hours stressing over colors I couldn’t even see. Imagine doing a press check on a printed piece trying to advise a printer wether the print is too cyan or too magenta when you can’t see what’s actually going on? Ad Designers argued over exactly which shade of mauve or turquoise went together best. It was pure hell for me. I knew I couldn’t fool them very long. What was I going to do? Fortunately a fellow waiter had a screen print business and he really liked the freelance work I’d been doing for him. He offered me a full-time a job as a screen-print designer and I left 10 years in the service industry behind. I was sick of serving people food and was thrilled to be getting paid to create. Screen printing was technical and required an understanding of color, but it was nowhere near as obsessive about color as advertising had been. I still often had to approve colors that I couldn’t really distinguish but I learned to look for other clues that I could see. Color value, lightness, saturation levels etc. I worked with the color-vision I had and also took subtle cues from the printer or client. I began to realize I was heading down a problematic path. How secure could I feel when I knew that I had a serious handicap in my chosen field. I knew better than to mention it to anyone. I had learned early that when you told someone about a weakness they would use it against you. I felt that if I shared my secret with anyone I would be fired and never be able to work as an Artist again. No one could recommend a color-blind print designer. But no one found out. To be sure there were some very anxious moments trying to explain a weird color choice or why I missed a color match.  After all, I was the master of keeping secrets. My transgender issue had been buried early and I had learned to camouflage it well. Instead of being the feminine boy I had started as, I had transformed along the way into a tough athletic adult. I was tall, strong and quite hairy. I even grew a full beard for a while. I knew how to keep a vulnerability hidden. All seemed okay or at least I had done a good job of fooling myself it was. I was extremely lonely but I had a job and was going to school. My life was ostensibly “heading somewhere.”

Cracks began to show more and more. I had moved into my van to be alone. I feared others getting too close. I thought if anyone “knew” who I really was I would be ostracized, ridiculed and shamed. I began to feel terrible. The isolation of living in my van only accentuated my feelings of being “strange.” “Normal” people who lived in homes would often look at me with thinly veiled distaste. No one wants a man living in his van outside their house! Who could blame them? I had a Dark blue 1967 Chevy van with white spoke rims. I would have been hard-pressed to find a creepier looking car. I rolled up and people hurried their children in the house. My female peers scurried past when I parked near school. I would even hear them say things like “Ewwwww… can you imagine going out in THAT car?” I searched for a place where I could avoid this judgement. I began to park near a large military cemetery on Veteran Blvd. I figured the dead wouldn’t judge me. We became silent neighbors. I spent days off work drawing and painting inside my van or in a chair on the sidewalk adjacent to  forest of white grave stones while my 20 something peers partied and drove around in their  “beemers” or convertible white Volkswagen cabriolets bopping to the “Go-Gos.” I was circling the drain. I began to think it wouldn’t matter to anyone if I existed at all.  began to believe my place was among the dead.

Then she arrived. Someone who just “liked” me. A cheerful ray of sunshine peeking into my dark corner. Even her name sounded fun. I dodged her at first as I had so many women before. I let no one close but she wouldn’t see the flashing warning signs. The neon sign over me said “troubled” but she thought it said, “interesting.” She began to leave me little treats in the wheel-well of my car with a note on my window showing where to find it. Her persistence was irresistible. When my van broke down and I needed a place to stay over night, she offered her couch. When she came out of her room wearing a see-through nightgown to say goodnight my resistance buckled. I moved from the couch to her bed and never left. Her sunshine lifted me out of my darkness. It’s warmth melted my fear.  I thought maybe I can be what she needed. Maybe I could let go of my strange past and embrace the simple joy I had found. We frolicked, made love and played in the sun. We went to movies on bicycles, traveled to Alaska camping all the way. I learned to embrace the wonder and joy of life. We were like 2 large golden retrievers bounding from one adventure to the next. Her wild reckless abandon a refreshing break from my careful lonely introspection.

I gave her what I thought she wanted, but I was still struggling. I feared sharing my weaknesses. A childhood of having my hands held to the fire had taught me well. Trust no one… but I wanted and needed to reveal my true self. I proposed and we married. I felt happy and more secure than I had in years. Slowly I began occasionally “borrowing” her clothes. I felt guilty for it but couldn’t resist the way I felt when cross dressed. It somehow made me feel whole. Over the next few months I borrowed her things more and more often. Then I began to purchase a few things of my own hiding them carefully. As my female self blossomed I began to imagine she might actually embrace the “whole” me. Maybe she would understand how much i wanted to be a woman. I even hoped maybe I was just the kind of partner she actually wanted. Perhaps we could work something out? She was my best friend my play companion and lover. How could she not get it? Finally I left some of my women’s clothes and a wig in a dresser drawer for her to find. I was too afraid to come out more directly. I felt badly for being such a coward, but my shame was very powerful and I would literally shake with fear at the thought of telling anyone. My survival skills were well honed.

“Whose are these?” she asked holding up the collection of lingerie and feminine things. “Mine.” I said like the 4 year old who had been caught many years before. “Yours?” she said incredulously. “What do you mean?” “You WEAR these?” she asked her eyes widening and jaw dropping open. “Yeah.” I said timidly sensing it wasn’t going well. “You wear women’s clothes??” She said now beginning to cry. “Um… Yeah.” I said now even more quietly.”No!” she said her voice rising. “No!” You would have thought I had told her I was a zombie who ate children. “Sorry.” I apologized. “I’m a cross-dresser.” This during a time when cross-dressers were freaks you might see on a talk show or possibly along some seedy street in San Francisco or New York. Lou Reed sang about them. Andy Warhol put them in his weird movies and hung out with them at degenerate Artist parties. Decent “normal” men didn’t wear women’s clothes. “Why?” she asked now in full hysterics sitting down on our bed near the dresser where my offending clothes had been discovered. “I don’t really know.” I said now shaking my face burning with humiliation and embarrassment. “I’ve always wanted to be a girl, I guess.” Her eyes managed to get even wider as her mouth deformed into a silent scream. Her hand went over her mouth. She fell down on the bed crying. “No, no, no…!” I sat next to her on the bed not sure what to do. Touch her or should I not now that I had been revealed to be a monster? I felt horrible. I wanted to take it all back. “Rewind.” I thought. “Undo.” Thinking the computer command, but I couldn’t of course. My “big” secret was out. I put a hand on her back as she sobbed into the bed. I sat there apologizing. “I’m sorry.” “So sorry honey.” I knew I was a freak and here it had been confirmed once again. I had let her down. Her life was ruined because I wore bras and heels.

We went into counseling and agreed I would try and “control” my need to feel feminine. As long as my wife didn’t ever see my alter ego, it was “out of sight, out of mind.” A few months later as things settled into an uncomfortable peace she broached the subject of wanting children. ” I’m not sure I’d make a good father”  was my reply.  Frankly, I didn’t think someone who wanted to be a woman would make the best father material. She began to cry and after a few days of back and forth discussion I finally conceded. “At least one of us can live their dream.” I said reluctantly. She promised my needs would be addressed sometime after the children were born.

My son came first, my wife getting pregnant a few months after our discussion. At 10 lbs. 13 oz., he came into the world a large, healthy baby. My life and my priorities instantly changed forever. Witnessing his birth and that of my daughter later were the two most profound events of my life. When my son was born I immediately knew I was in love. We stayed in our small 1 bedroom apartment for the first 3 years of his life but I knew I needed to provide more. Santa Monica was no place in my mind to bring up a child. Fortunately and somewhat miraculously I landed a job in nearby Santa Barbara doing skateboard graphics. It was 90 miles North but a world away in lifestyle. It a was small, affluent coastal town with lots of open space, but we did one better. We found the Santa Ynez Valley and moved into a 3 bedroom house with a big yard and fruit trees in the tiny town of Buellton. Our culture shock could not have been more extreme.

Buellton had a population of less than 3,000 and the population was predominantly white and middle class. It’s nearby neighbor, Solvang a well-known kitschy Danish village down the road and slightly more affluent. We went from Santa Monica’s Latino dominated graffiti covered urban parks to Hans Christian Andersen Playground with ducks and turtles swimming in the pond. My Hollywood transgender friends and Artists help us make the big move from 28th street to “Thumbelina Lane.” We arrived in a Semi truck provided by the skateboard company driven by a tatted up Harley biker. The Semi-trailer sported the image of a giant skull ripping through it’s side. The tall vehicle tore at the liquid amber trees lining the street as we pulled up. My new neighbor and coincidentally town Mayor walked up to my Transgender friend and introduced himself. “You must be Mrs. Mahoney” he said greeting her. “No” she replied in a deep male voice pointing to my wife across the drive way.  “She’s over there.” We were the extremely odd new neighbors who had indeed arrived from another world.

My new job entailed creating graphics for skateboards, t-shirts, stickers, embroidery etc. Everything a Skateboard Company and it’s team of pro-skateboarders need to create their image and brand. I hit the ground running. My little family had now let go of all ties in Santa Monica to move to the idyllic little hamlet and I did not want to let them down. I saw my young son making new friends in the beautiful bucolic rural surroundings. My soul rejoiced and I was deeply thankful to the universe for providing this escape from the rough future Santa Monica had promised.  At the same time I feared losing my new position. Not only was the job demanding everything of me creatively it involved some very technical color adjustments for different printed materials. Screen printing on wood was different than screen printing on cotton or vinyl sticker material.  Embroidered items required colored thread to be specified while some decks were done by infusing the wood with dye in a 4 color-process sublimation method. Some things were done in house and some at outside printers. Each item had to be designed, color separated, print colors specified and print order given for each different process. Sometimes I would stare at color swatches willing my eyes to see the varying shades they could not. I attempted to keep all printing and design within my color spectrum or “gamut.” I struggled and stressed every day for 9 hours a day 5 days a week while at home my son and wife were strolling the green hills and tree lined streets of the pretty little town with new friends and my newly born daughter.

Miraculously the job went on for 5 years before something snapped. During that time I had not only proved myself capable of the job but ironically became the color “expert.” My handicap had caused me to become so paranoid and meticulous that when I encountered colors that I couldn’t see on the computer I learned to identify them by numeric values. My attention to these values allowed me to nail colors more accurately in 4 color-process printing. I had found a laborious work-around but continued feeling vulnerable and insecure.

In the mean time I had let go of all my Transgender friends and support back in LA. My wife didn’t like it and I had my hands full anyway raising small children. I was a doting and devoted nurturing parent and adored my children. I spent all my time when I wasn’t working with them until they went to bed each day. My female life only existed in the hours after my wife and kids had gone to sleep. I still had a collection of clothes and a spare room to keep them and dress. I had grown quite a bit of body hair during my 30’s while the hair on my head had begun to recede. Looking in the mirror the concept of becoming female seemed as distant as it could possibly be. I was a large hairy, balding color blind man who wanted to be a smooth elegant female color capable Artist. I couldn’t have selected a less likely dream had I tried. I was doing my best but my wife could tell I wasn’t happy. As it turned out she wasn’t either.

I found out about the affair the day after Father’s Day. I’d noticed my wife was looking quite a bit more polished recently. She’d gone a few shades lighter with her hair, lost some weight and was dressing nicer. Our kids were 2 and 5 so I assumed she was just feeling better because she had more time. She dropped the bomb by abruptly saying she was “leaving me.” I asked if there was someone else, but she assured me there wasn’t. I couldn’t understand it. I had been so preoccupied with the kids and work I hadn’t noticed how little time we’d been spending together or how distant we’d become. I had left my secure job just recently to start an animation business with another artist. We’d landed a music video right out of the gate and had been busy up to 18 hours a day in production. After she gave me the shocking news she quickly left for a seminar one of her wealthy clients was giving at a local University. As the kids had gotten older she’s begun to work again as a masseuse and fitness trainer. It was great to have some help supporting the family since my new business’s income was going to be hit or miss.

Something didn’t sit right with me the way she’d been so flippant about leaving. As I sat at home I began to reflect on things that I had been feeling but not acknowledging. There had been something eating at me for months but I had just buried it as I had learned so well to do. My life of not acknowledging my needs had enabled me to ignore or disregard my emotions to the point that I hardly knew what I felt or who I was. My body hadn’t forgotten though. I was showing signs of auto immune problems from the stress. My skin was breaking out in purple blotchy Psoriasis and my hair was coming out in clumps. My body ached and I was constantly exhausted. I was 35 years old but felt 70. As I pondered my wife’s actions I recalled how she’d been keeping a diary in the last year or so. I realized that only people with secrets or unexpressed feelings keep diaries. I decided to look for it and went into our room to search for a likely hiding place. My eyes went to her dresser. I don’t know why, but I just knew it was there. I opened the 3rd drawer down in the 5 drawer piece. The diary lay there as if she meant for me to find it. Perhaps this was some kind of cosmic payback for when I left the clothes in my dresser a few years earlier.

The diary was a history of her affair with one of her wealthy clients. He was a famous author who lived in a huge mansion on a large property in the nicest part of Santa Barbara. My wife had first been hired as a masseuse for the man’s wife and then for them both. The job had expanded into massage and fitness training for them both but the wife had slowly quit while the author had continued. About a month before my wife’s announcement she had become a full-time employee of the author’s book franchise, collecting a paycheck and benefits like any other employee. Her job was ostensibly to provide fitness instruction and massage to the other eight or nine employees as well as the author himself. What the diary revealed was that the job was a front for their affair. The author and my wife had been having appointments for sex rather than exercise or massage. Liasons had occurred all around me for the last year sometimes even while I was in the room next door with my children. There was nothing held back, not even her hatred and disgust for me and my “perversion” of cross-dressing. “I wish he were dead.” she wrote.

I saw red. Something snapped inside me and all I could see was violence towards the man who I felt had broken my little family. I dropped the diary on the bed and walked out of the house and got in my car. I hardly remember the drive to the campus and only fragments of the walk from the parking lot to the seminar. My wife ran up to me grabbing me by the arm. “What are you doing here?” she screamed. “Your storm has arrived.” I told her. I shook her off and kept walking now pushing through a crowd saying “Where is he?” “Where’s the SOB author?” People grabbed at me and attempted to stop me but I pushed them harshly away. I kept moving forward as the crowd gathered and more and more hands tried to stop me. Suddenly the author was in front of me. He was the picture of success. White hair with a few grays at the temples. He was  in his mid 50’s about 6 feet and probably 30 lbs. overweight. I knew him from dinner parties and little soirees he had invited us to. My children even played with his son occasionally but now I saw him as an adversary and a villain instead of a friendly benefactor. He was walking towards me with a concerned look.

A few minutes later I was handcuffed in the back of a campus police car. I had apparently chased the author around the area after taking a swing and only landing a glancing blow. I had finally been corralled and cuffed by a few Campus Cops who had been called to the scene after I had arrived looking deranged and calling for the author’s head. I sat feeling ashamed, broken and defeated. My life seemed in ruins. My wife had left me for a wealthy man and my family was permanently broken. I had no idea what the legal ramifications would be, but knew it couldn’t be good. Very likely I would be transferred to the regular police and booked. It all seemed to have been like a set of dominoes that had begun falling the day I met my wife. An irreversible series of events driven by my inability to just own my differences or follow my path without fear. I had known this day of reckoning would arrive and it had. Retribution and ruin, not for what I couldn’t see, but for what I hadn’t allowed others to.

The Locker Room

so, I decided to start swimming in the pool again. It has been almost 6 months since I last swam laps, something I had done quite regularly. Formerly I had been swimming as a male. I wore a male speedo and used the Men’s locker room. That had been fine until I started to develop breasts. About a month before my surgery my breasts had gotten too large for me to swim comfortably dressed as a male. I began swimming at my local beach in a bikini. Although my body was changing, my face and voice hadn’t kept pace. I still felt a bit awkward. Fast forward to a few days ago and I pass easily as a woman every day. In most of my daily life I feel comfortable now, but the pool, and the Women’s locker room presented a daunting new frontier. How would this work? What is it like and how do women behave differently there?

My big opportunity to find out was as I said, just a few days ago. I had purchased a new one piece blue and pink Speedo racing suit. Looking in the mirror at Sportmart I thought I looked pretty good all things considered. The young salesman had even flirted with me when I was looking for the ‘swim’ section. I imagined I looked like a powerful older female athlete dressed in my slacks and tailored blouse. Maybe he was ‘cougar hunting.’ He had seemed disappointed when I had thanked and dismissed him. In the mirror I felt confidently feminine. I decided to wear my suit under my yoga pants and tank top as I prepared for the big outing. That way I could undress on the pool deck if I wanted. I felt like a child on my way to Disneyland as I drove the 10 minutes down the coast to the pool. I loved swimming that much and had really missed the sensation of gliding weightlessly in the water. Butterflies hit me as the sunny pool deck came into view. I checked the mirror one last time as I parked. Light make-up, my hair in a bun wearing only two earring studs. I felt appropriately athletic as I walked through the front door of the small pool facility. Even that was something a man would hardly need consider I thought. Women have to consider everything more. Having mascara or shadow bleeding down your eyes is no one’s idea of beauty. I purchased my entry from the woman at the front desk. No problem there. She was nonchalant and friendly talking to a young male lifeguard as I walked onto the warm sunny pool deck itself. 25 yards and eight lanes wide this was a small local pool. Only 4 of the lanes had swimmers doing laps I noticed as I scanned the scene. A female guard sat slumping in the guard tower on the near side. She looked barely awake wearing dark Ray Bans. I selected an empty lane setting my pink bag on the plastic chair behind the starting block. I looked around again. No one paid me any attention as I pulled off my pants and black tank top. The male guard from the front desk walked by as I dropped my clothes into my bag and began putting on my yellow “King of the beach” cap. I got this cap for a one mile ocean swim and 6 mile paddle I’d won a couple of years back. Even then I wasn’t exactly anyone’s idea of the classic beach ‘King.” Tall and lean I had hair past my shoulders. I had never paddled a racing paddle board before that day and all the macho “contenders” were shocked when I snatched the trophy out from under them winning both parts of the event. I jumped in the water feet first with goggles in hand. The water felt warm and wonderful. My body exhilarating in the sensation of being completely immersed. I grabbed the wall as I surfaced and put my green reflective goggles on. The woman in the next lane stopped and looked over with a friendly smile. I smiled back and then pushed off the wall under water, my arms overhead and toes pointed gliding away in a streamlined position. I could feel all my muscles and joints rejoice as every connection extended into the wonderful weightless environment. I rolled to my right side my arm pulling back as I took my first breath. My lungs expanded deeply pulling the air in before I rolled back into my next stroke. I crossed 25 yards in a dozen pulls and then rotated over into a flip turn my muscles responding to the memory of thousands it had done before. My legs landed back near the wall my momentum carrying my feet expertly against it as I compressed and then pushed off once again streamlining now returning towards my starting point. I swam like this for about 500 yards before stopping for a rest. I hung on the wall and pulled up my goggles. Even though I was easily the fastest swimmer in the pool, no one paid me any attention. “This is wonderful” I thought to myself. I really had missed being in the water like this. My body felt alive again. I changed things up doing some laps kicking on my back and a few doing other strokes. After about 30 minutes of swimming I felt ready to call it a day.

I pulled off my goggles and looked around. There were a few more people in the pool. It looked like the lunch time triathletes were arriving. I was familiar with this phenomenon from the other pool I used to swim in prior to my transition. Triathletes are classically very serious about their training. Former competitive swimmers tend to be faster but don’t take themselves as seriously. A few triathletes in a pool can change the vibe from relaxed to tense quickly. It was definitely time to go. I realized yanking myself straight up doing a press with my arms on the pool deck to get out would be unusual for most women. I decided to follow  a method I’d seen women often use by grabbing the start block and pulling myself into a seated position on the edge of the pool deck. From there I stood up and walked to the plastic chair where my bag was and pulled out my towel. As I dried off I decided I would leave my cap on. I was still a bit self-conscious about my hairline scarring especially when my hair is wet. It’s very likely no one would notice but I decided to play it safe until I got in the locker room.  In addition I wasn’t sure if the small amount of mascara and eye shadow I had on when I got in the water was now running down my face. I realized these are probably exactly the same concerns every woman has getting out of the water especially if they don’t do it often. I had many female friends in the past make a big deal of going in the water and now I understood much more why they had felt that way. I dabbed my face and gathered my things walking past a tall lean male triathlete who had seen me getting out and was clearly going to take my lane.  I realized I was at least his height and perhaps an inch taller but his build was similar to mine about a year and a half ago. My body had changed significantly since I’d begun hormones but even still I’m sure I must have appeared a very powerful female athlete. I pondered what I used to think seeing a woman like myself. There was a time I would have been slightly intimidated by a valkyrie like me but that had been when I was much younger. As I matured I found powerful women more and more appealing. Perhaps I began to see people as more than just their gender classification. Athletic women were typically fun because they liked to DO things and were less fearful of life. These were qualities I enjoyed in all people, especially those I wanted to spend time with.

I walked around the deck to the woman’s locker room door. It’s difficult to describe what I felt as I opened the door with the woman logo and walked in. I suppose I had done so many moments like these over the years that I knew  to just follow through and not over think it. I can clearly remember the first time I went to a public place dressed as a woman. I had been terrified and actually shaking. Sine then there had been many challenging thresholds to cross including the woman’s restroom years ago. The oddest part of these experiences is that the brain behind my eyes is the same one I had all those years as a man. The only difference now is on the exterior. The movie being played in front of my eyes has changed but the viewer hasn’t. Sometimes I find my anxiety building when I forget how I appear now on the outside thinking I still look male. It’s only when I pass in front of a mirror that I realize I appear as a woman and the anxiety goes away. Entering the locker room I had one of those moments. I felt a bit anxious but followed my technique of suppressing my thoughts from racing. There were 3 other women in the first space which was a shower area. An older woman was rinsing with her one piece suit on as a mother and young daughter toweled off on a nearby bench that lined the wall. The girl was talking in a whisper to her mom trying had not to look at me. I looked over and smiled. My female partner had informed me that women tend to be very private in locker rooms often attempting to not make eye contact. She said it was out of respect for each other because women tended to be self-conscious of their bodies. I found this fascinating because it was quite a bit different in the men’s locker room.  Men will often stand naked and have long conversations with another man just as if they were wearing clothes. No one is ashamed or self-conscious at all. I thought of a joke my partner had shared, “Men always think they look better than they do and women always think they look worse.” I would have to say that is an accurate statement from what I had witnessed in life so far. I set my bag down on the bench and hung my towel on a hook above it. I turned and walked over to the shower avoiding eye contact with the older woman now finished washing. I rinsed off leaving my suit on. I had decided earlier I would just leave it on under my clothes and change at home. I noticed there were shower stalls where a woman could have privacy if needed.  This was something I had never seen in a men’s locker room. Apparently this difference in modesty had been translated into the construction of the 2 locker rooms. Maybe I would use those in the future, but would stick with my plan today.  After rinsing I walked back to my towel and began drying off. The mother and daughter were almost dressed. I began pulling on my pants and top. I noticed the little girl attempting not to look at me again and whispering to her Mom. Children are so guileless. She couldn’t hide her curiosity about me. My mind ran through the reasons she may find me interesting. Number one was probably my size and strength. At 6’1″ and 160 lbs. I am a powerful and tall woman. I have learned that ALWAYS gets attention no matter where I go. If I wear heels it gets even more. It can be fun to walk into a club or bar in 5″ heels and see the heads snap around. The second reason may be the 25 inch scar I have running down my right leg. I broke my femur in 5 places mountain-biking when I was 28 and had 3 surgeries to fix it. I had metal put in and then taken out. The scar ran from my hip to my knee and although no longer bright red as it had once been was still very obvious. The last reason and probably least likely was that I was just an odd woman.  This was the kind of thought I sometimes had to work hard to not entertain. Fear and paranoia are never good under any circumstances and certainly won’t improve any situation. I had leaned from many years of going out as a much more obvious man in a dress that it is always best to act with confidence and let anyone who has a problem just get over it. Operating from fear just identifies you as a victim and I wanted none of that.

The Mother and daughter finished dressing quietly and exited the locker room. I moved to the dry area beyond the showers where the actual lockers were. Women’s racing suits hung from many of the gray locker doors. I guessed there were age-group or high school girls who actually had assigned lockers here. The fact that they felt comfortable just hanging their suits like that said a lot about the security and safety of the pool facility and community. The older woman I had seen in the showers was getting dressed on a bench across the room.  There was a row of sinks and mirrors along one side of the space. I guessed this part of the locker room was identical to the Men’s. There was an outside chance there were less mirrors, but everyone needs sinks and mirrors. Women just tend to spend more time using them. I know my mirror time has gone way up. I finished drying my hair and had a look in the mirror. “Ooh” I thought, “drowned rat with red eyes, Lovely.” I hadn’t brought my hair brush in my bag but did have a beenie so pulled that out and arranged it over my flat tangled hair trying to improve or at least hide it. After arranging as best I could I admitted I wouldn’t be winning any beauty pageants like this. I knew I wasn’t far from home and made a mental note of other things I should bring next time to facilitate a better look exiting the locker room. Once again, very few men spend much more than a glance at themselves as they exit. The majority never look at all. Their apparent self-confidence or society’s lack of interest in their appearance evident in this small behavioral difference. For now I had finished up my first excursion into the women’s side and learned a few things. I would be more comfortable the next time and the next and soon think nothing of it all.