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Identity, Normalcy or Alcohol?

I was about half way through my junior year of college at Eastern Washington University when I first found myself facing the challenges of being transgender. I would be getting married to Ann in a few months, June of 1974. As my career path to date had been focused on teaching history at the secondary level, I was looking at student teaching in my senior year. I did not yet regard myself as being transgender. For the most part it was not a term in general usage at the time. However, since reading the story of Christine Jorgensen as a senior in high school, I was aware that it was possible for a male to undergo a sex change.  [I am using here the term that most commonly used to describe the necessary surgery at the time.]  As such, it was an option that I saw I might exercise at some point in the future.  If I were to do so, what were the chances of me keeping a job as a school teacher or getting a job as a school teacher.  in the mid-1970s this seemed like a remote possibility.

It is may seem odd that at the time I saw the possibility of a sex change, even the remote possibility of a sex change, as something to consider as I planned my future regarding teaching, but did not see it as relevant regarding my impeding marriage.  One reason for this is that I was clinging to the hope that marriage would be a ‘cure’ for behavior and desires.  I was hopeful that as a married man, as a husband, as a future father, that my desire to crossdress would disipate and I would finally have a normal life.  At the same time, on several occasions in my past, I had fought to suppress my desires and I had always lost these battles.  While I was hopeful of a ‘cure,’ I was not optimistic.  As such my decision regarding my teaching goals was my first confrontation with the question of identity v. normalcy.  Would I have a normal life or would I surrender to the latent expectectation of my gender identity?  Going forward from this moment in time, whenever  I found myself struggling with this internal conflict, the winner usually proved to be alcohol.

Ultimately I elected to forgo student teaching in the fall of my senior year.  I had not complete the required prerequistes to do so and this was my cover story.  (As a life long crossdresser, I always had a cover story.)  For reasons I had no information to support, I began to consider pursuing a masters in history with an eye on earning my doctorate.  I felt it was more likely that I could be hired as a college professor after a sex change if not a secondary level teacher.  As I said, I had nothing to support  this belief and it may have been more about rationalizing my drift away from high school teaching to Ann and my parents.  In the pursuit of a graduate degree, I took the GRE test and learned that I had a very high aptitude in math.  My advisors at school began to suggest I might want to pursue a career in math.  While I never truly pursued an advanced degree in math, it became one of my talking points as I struggled through college as a senior unsure of what I wanted to do.  Ultimately I did not graduate that year but had to complete credits in a fifth year of college to earn my BA in history  — sans teaching certificate.

My decision to give up on my lifelong dream of teaching history was my first concession to life I would never have planned for myself.  Marriage as expected had not become a cure to my desire.  It merely provided me with a whole new wardrobe of clothes to wear different than I had been wearing at home.  Ann use to love that her husband would often buy her new outfits as an unexpected gift.  Yes, the clothes were usually a size too large, but she would never return these over-sized garments opting to ‘make them work.’  One day she accused me of cheating on her.  She had found makeup residue in our bathroom she knew was not hers.  To this day, I am uncertain how I convinced her that I had not cheated on her though I could not explain the makeup.  Our marriage became a series of my lies to cover up my crossdressing.  We drifted apart.  Our decision to seperate and later to get a divorce was my response to the internal battle I fought between the life I wanted for myself and the demands of a normal life.  For Ann it was largely a question of my drinking.  She did not know about the struggles I waged but she saw how they manifested in my behavior –through drinking.

In March of 1981, I travel to visited Ann and her newborn daughter Sara in Phoenix.  I went their hopeful that maybe, just maybe Sara was my child, and Ann and I would re-marry and begin building a family.  I still wanted a normal life even as my life over the last three or four years had been a life of alcoholic chaos.  I not only learned that Sara was not my child but was sent packing sooner than planned because Ann did not want me around.  I do not feel it is inaccuarate to suggest that on the bus ride back to Spokane I gave up all hope of a normal life for myself.

Over the next twenty years of my life, I had well over two dozen different home addresses with about a dozen relocations to different cities. I had well over a dozen different employers.  To those on the outside observing my life, there was a common thread through all of this — alcohol.  I could not settle down and I could not hold a job. For the first decade of this chaos, I was living a life of denial, trying to pretend I could still have a normal life and seeing that normal life as one that naturally included clubbing and alcohol.  For the second decade, I fully surrended to my desires and began living a double life  — a life of normalcy when it came to work and family and my femme life on weekends.  My femme life was life largely spent in gay clubs and of course drinking.  In my battle between normalcy and identity, alcholol was always the winner.

Shortly before my 49th birthday, I recieved a DUI that placed me in treatment.  That was about fifteen years ago and the start of my sober life.  One day several weeks into my treatment program I made a decision.  I wanted a sober life but I could not be sober unless I came to terms with my gender identity.  I jumped in my car and drove fifty miles to speak to my treatment counselor.  Sitting in her  office, I shared with her that I am transgender.  It was the first time I told anyone about my transgeder identity and the moment I truly feel I began my sober life.

While I was now sober and was looking to begin to life my transgender life as opposed to the double life I had known for the last ten years, two decades of self-destructive decisions and behaviors had my family doubtful and tentative.  I ended up back in Dallas only this time living in a homeless shelter.  Here there was not conflict between identity and normalcy.  There was simply survival.  After two years I fought my way out of the homeless life and began re-building my life with a new job and a new home.  This included building a new life for Veronica and I truly felt I was working myself toward  a normal life that included embracing a more feminine life for myself.  But then I lost my job and my home and I found myself once again back in Washington State living with my brother Bruce and his wife Debbie.

Washington is a blue state and embraced Obamacare as a means of providing for the health and well-being of its citizens.  So one day shortly after I had acquire health coverage I was online and discovered a lenghty PDF file on the health benefits and rights of transgender individuals in Washington state.  Long story short, it became very apparent to me that as a Washington citizen my transgender life is a normal life.  My battle between identity and normalcy, a battle that had been key to thirty years of drinking, was over.

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