activist, birth name, business, Caitlyn Jenner, career, children, Christian ministry, church, Classmates, college, Cornell, death, Facebook, Google search, graduating class, grandchildren, high school, hormones, HRT, Laverne Cox, letter winner, LinkedIn, Marriage, menopause, missionary, mobile society, new name, organized religion, parents, prep school, puberty, RCDS, Relationships, retirement, Rockland Country Day School, seasons of life, skills, Social Justice, sports, standardized exams, starting a life, stealth, target gender, Transgender, Transition, Transparent, Transsexual
When I initially started HRT, my doctor at the time had me on one medication that required a weekly injection and one that required a monthly injection. I did not do well self-injecting (and later on was advised that doing such a thing is dangerous for someone who lives alone like me). For about 18 months, I was able to find people willing to help me with the injections. But when I was down to one person, I realized that it was not feasible as a permanent solution.
So I researched online and found that there was a patch alternative to the weekly shot. And that was acceptable to me (although I have since switched to a daily gel as far easier and more convenient). But for the monthly injection, the only alternative was a pill. And for certain medications, pills are the least safe alternative. After we discussed it a bit, my doctor declared that I really didn’t need that medication anyway. After all, he said I was basically a “post-menopausal woman.” It’s a real hoot going through puberty and menopause at the same time. But I have to say that my body has responded well.
Recently, I considered rejoining Classmates. I left that website when I transitioned, at the time still expecting to go stealth. (Wow, was I wrong!) But finding the listing rather inflexible for anyone who changed first name since high school graduation (as almost any transgender would have done, but many cisgender people as well), I decided to pass for now. Under their setup, the emphasis would have been on my old name and my new first name would be an afterthought. Since I also changed my last name, it could be confusing.
What that exercise did was stir up a desire to look up some of my old classmates in high school, even some who switched to other schools before graduating. The recent death of one of those who graduated from another high school also added to that desire. My high school graduating class had thirty students. (It also happens to be the largest graduating class in the history of the school.) As far as I have been able to find, at least five of those thirty have died.
So I went to Google to search for my classmates. I found some on LinkedIn, some on Facebook (at least their public pages; I do not have a Facebook account). Others showed up in news stories or have their images on the web. I learned of one death through my searching.
My classmates from the little prep school, at least the ones I could find, became doctors, entrepreneurs, accountants, community activists and public officials. They have been through marriages and divorces, raised children and sent them to college and some are seeing grandchildren come into the world. They range from England to San Francisco and Florida to the Canadian border. I only know of one other classmate who stayed in the county where the school is located (another who stayed in the local area died two years ago). While some moved back to New York City from the nearby suburbs where we lived and went to school, part of the urbanization trend at the time perhaps, the rest have been quite scattered.
At this time, I am not in contact with anyone from my graduation class, although I am still in contact with one person with whom I went to school in grades 6-8. Without Classmates, I do not know how I will make contact with the rest. I also do not know how interested any of them will be in renewing an acquaintance.
What I am feeling the strongest is that a number of my classmates have made their mark in life and most are wrapping up stages of their life, even though they still may be active. For me, echoing my doctor’s remark about puberty and menopause, I am simultaneously wrapping up a life and starting one.
Twenty-eight of us graduated from Rockland Country Day School on a drizzly June day in 1970 in a nearby church because the weather prevented an outdoor ceremony on school grounds. (Two girls spent their senior year of high school as college freshmen and didn’t walk with our class.) Then most of us went off to college like any group of young people: excited, scared, hopeful, ready to take on the world, and searching. The boys still had to worry about being drafted and going to Vietnam. (One of our younger teachers fled to Canada to avoid the draft during our time at the school.) Some protested. Some struggled with drugs. One lied to his mother about applying to college and found his niche as a commercial fisherman, eventually becoming the captain of his own boat. One died in a heroic attempt to protect someone else. Many of us ended up with lives much different than we expected when we ventured out of that church some 45 years ago.
I cannot say that my life is more different than anyone else in my class. But it is surely different from my high school and college days. After getting very good grades (especially on the standardized exams) and lettering in four sports in high school, I went to Cornell as an engineering major wanting to become an urban planner: designing rail systems and roads. I ended up majoring in political science, a degree I promptly shelved in 1974 and never went back to. I tried for careers in publicity, public relations, sports writing (co-authored one book, but couldn’t build on that) and advertising. To pay the bills, for a couple of years I settled for government jobs in public housing. Chafing in that climate, I took the risk of working for commissions instead of a salary in the brokerage business. Over time, I added hats in real estate, insurance, financial planning and tax preparation.
In my personal life, I was married for less than a year. I never had a long-term relationship and never initiated any relationships. I was torn between a need for privacy and a need to be loved for who I am. There were times when the lack of companionship hurt. But now that I see what so many others in the TG community go through with their families, I am grateful that I am single and without children.
I drifted away from organized religion while in college. But in my late twenties I returned and within ten years became active in church leadership and in a worldwide Christian missionary organization.
By the time I reached my mid-fifties, it looked like my life was settled. I said a final good-bye to both of my parents. I was respected in my church and moving up the ranks in the missionary organization. I jettisoned everything from my financial services business except tax preparation, blessed by a group of wonderful, loyal clients. With the extra time and some inheritance money, I began to travel for the first time in twenty years. I have been blessed by extraordinarily good health. I was content. Until …
My supervisor at HUD would say that you have to watch out for the quiet ones. Still waters run deep and dark. And deep beneath my surface there was a different name, a name hidden in my heart during my time at RCDS and Cornell but shared with no one. That is my legal name now (with a middle name eventually added). And the gender marker on my driver’s license has changed from M to F.
Certain I would spend the second half of my life in a quiet, plain vanilla way, I have found myself doing quite the opposite. When I least expected it to rear its beautiful head, I reached the point where I could no longer live a lie. (I could write a book expanding on that one sentence. And I hope to do so.) Even after I went full-time nearly three years ago, I thought I would stay in the background: grateful for each client who stayed with me; attending support group meetings and an occasional social function; finding a new church that would accept me and hopefully a new place to do ministry.
But I could not stay silent. Even before Laverne Cox and Transparent and Caitlyn Jenner began to splash across the headlines, I knew I needed to find a way to do more. Crying out to me was the blood of transgender people who were murdered or who committed suicide because they were bullied, rejected by family, disparaged by their religious community or denied the opportunity to transition. The indignity of those who were buried by family members using their rejected name and laid out in the wrong gender cried out to me. Anti-transgender doctrine by many major religious groups cried out to me. Legal and societal pervasive anti-transgender discrimination in employment, housing and medical care (to name just a few) cried out to me. The plight of runaway and throwaway transgender teens cried out to me. If I remain silent, then shame on me for ignoring those plaintive cries.
Once again, I am venturing forth excited, scared, hopeful, ready to take on the world, and searching. But you can add urgent to that list. I am not heading off to college this time. I am in my early sixties, not in my late teens. Then I appeared to be a quite ordinary white suburban middle-class male, hoping to find upward mobility through education. Now I am a white female member of a marginalized group, hoping to help open doors of social justice while establishing reconciliation and common ground with the Christian community.
While I hoped against hope to transition to female, until I was 59 years old, I never thought there was a chance of me doing so. In fact, all the evidence was to the contrary. And it is at least as big a surprise that I am a budding activist. Yet here I am, despite or perhaps because of my shy, conservative, college sports team manager and calculator keys background. But I also have a background in writing, editing, publicity, public speaking and political science.
Ready or not, here I am. There are no retirement plans in the Bible. Who will find me? Who will I find? One person can make a difference. Together we can make a bigger difference.
I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. – 1st John 2:12-14