Thursday, July 23, 2009

How Not To Deal With Your Kid's GID

I was still seventeen when I graduated from high school. I was an Army brat, and we had just returned from a two year tour in Germany. For whatever reason, my parents left me with my grandmother in Pennsylvania, instead of taking me with them to the D.C. suburb of Beltsville MD. While in Pa. I got a job working for a bedroom slipper manufacturer, packing their shoes in boxes, and loading those boxes onto trucks, destined for the stores that sold their cheap ass shoes. You've all seen them; cheap crummy fabric slippers, with rubber soles, sold in discount stores. I think I was one of the few high school graduates, working in the warehouse. This was very possibly, the most boring job I ever had. So boring in fact, that I spent most days fantasizing, and of course being transgendered, I spent those days fantasizing about being a girl.

I had my own room in my grandmother's house, and being a totally naive teenager, I thought a closed door meant true privacy. I began to experiment with cross dressing. I had a regular ride to work in the morning, but after work I had to walk back to my grandmother's house, a couple of miles up the hill, on the east side of town. The town square was only a few blocks off my route home, and I would sometimes stop at some of the stores on the square, to shop for girly things.

Back at my grandmothers, I would draw a bath in her deep old fashioned free standing tub; the kind with the feet on it. It was in that tub, that I shaved my legs for the very first time. I absolutely adored the way they looked, and how silky they felt without hair. Back in my room, I painted my toenails. Not for the first time though. Several times while I was growing up, I would sneak into my sister' room when no one was home, and paint my toenails with her polish, but this was the first time that I painted them with my very own nail polish. I had bought girl's shoes, hosiery and lingerie as well, and while in my room, I would put them all on. I even bought a set of artificial nails, and painted them with the same pretty peach nail polish that I put on my toes.

Of course I couldn't stay in my room forever, so I had to hide my things. I put my shoes and clothing in the bottom of a gym bag in my closet, and for some lame reason or other, I chose to peel off my artificial nails and hide them between the mattress and box spring. I didn't even think that my grandmother would eventually come into my room to change my sheets, when I was at work.

One day I returned from work, and went up to my room. To my horror I discovered that my bed had clean sheets on it. I lifted the mattress, and lying there in a neat pile, were my ten artificial nails. I checked the gym bag and things I had haphazardly thrown in there, were neatly folded. My grandmother had discovered my secret. She never said a word, and acted like she knew nothing. Several days later, I came home from work and my mother and father were there. They never let on that they knew anything either, but said they wanted me to quit my job and come home with them. I knew my grandmother must have called them, but I didn't say a thing. I quit my job, and a few days later I traveled back down to Beltsville with them. They didn't say anything on the way down to Maryland, or that night when we got home, or the whole next day, but the next night after dinner they confronted me. My mother lied, and said she came up to Pennsylvania to clean my room, and discovered my stuff. I knew she was lying to protect my grandmother, so I didn't say anything. Besides, what could I have said? She was sitting in the cat bird's seat. In a very angry, self righteous, and accusatory tone, my mother demanded to know what I was doing with this stuff. I felt like a cornered animal. I was scared to death and totally speechless.

My father looked at me with a look of bewilderment, and said, "Ricky, what's wrong with you? You're a man, not a woman!" He then gave my mother an order to book me an appointment with a psychiatrist at Walter Reed Army Hospital in D.C.

A few days later, my mother took me to Walter Reed. Now bear in mind, this is 1966 and the Walter Reed psychiatric clinic was not exactly transgender central. The Army shrink I wound up seeing, was totally clueless about gender identity issues, and he treated me partly as someone with a perversion that needed to be cured, and partly as a curiosity that needed to be studied. I spent our first half hour session, not voluntarily pouring out my soul, but being interrogated by him. What kind of clothes did you buy? Where did you by them? What were you thinking when you bought them. What were you thinking when you put them on? Did you masturbate when you put them on? Did you ejaculate? When our session was up, he told me to come back the following week. I wasn't looking forward to it.

A week went by, and my mother took be back to Walter Reed. We took a seat in the waiting room, and shortly my name was called. I walked into his office, and to my horror, I discovered that completely without my permission, he had invited six other Army shrinks to sit in on our session. I sat there with those six men in white coats sternly staring at me, as he resumed his interrogation. I was terrified and humiliated. I couldn't wait to get the hell out of there. On the way home I asked my mother, "How could you do this to me?" Her response was to once again become angry and accusatory. I became enraged. At the next stop light I told her to go to hell, and I got out of the car, slammed the door shut, and started walking down the road. She hollered at me to get back in the car, and I said no, so she drove on home without me. I walked and hitchhiked the rest of the way home, and the next morning I called a cab, and had it take me to the bus station in downtown D.C.. From there I went to Columbus, Ohio to stay with a friend I went to high school in with in Europe. It would be 16 years before I would ever trust a psychiatrist again, and then only because my GID had me so depressed, that I couldn't stop crying, and I was contemplating suicide.

This time the doctor I saw, was a real mensch. He listened patiently, while I sobbed and poured my heart out, interrupting only occasionally with a reassuring word. At the end of our session, I felt much better, and the tears stopped flowing. He asked me to come back for another session and I did. I really enjoyed opening up to him, and just before I left, he told me that he had been practicing psychiatry for 14 years, and I was the first person to come to him that he truly believed was transsexual. Those words were like magic to me. For the first time in my life, someone understood. I was elated. Unfortunately, he did not specialize in Gender Identity Disorder and didn't know anyone in the the area who did. Very kindly though, he gave me an address at Duke University Hospital, where he thought they were still doing GRS, and told me to write to them, which I did. They sent me back some information about what qualifications I needed to meet. They wanted me to be under the care of a licenced psychologist specializing in gender identity disorder, and be on hormone therapy and living as a woman for at least 18 months, before they would even consider GRS, which they called SRS back then. I wasn't ready for GRS, and I couldn't find any transgender care in this area then. My job was not trans friendly and my insurance would not cover transgender care. I resigned my self to living with my GID as best I could, but at least now I had a confirmation of who I was, and that helped rid me of the shame and guilt heaped on me, by my parents and that ignorant Army shrink.


Lori D said...

Wow, I thought the dreaded childhood silence I faced was bad enough. You had this experience that nearly drove you to your death, and unfortunately there are still "therapists" who would try to treat a child with an incongruent gender identity with the same methods. We really need progress.

Excellent retelling of this story. I'm sorry you had to endure this.

Stephanie said...

I think most of us 'mature' girls who either came out or were caught early in our life have horror stories to tell. My first experience with a psychiatrist(he touched me inappropiately) still has me not trusting any that I've ever seen. And of the ten or so I've seen, I still haven't been officially diagnosed as transgender. Just hearing that would afford me a great sigh of relief.
Oh, and I sat explaining myself to a group of Army psychiatrists in 1972 when I let them know I was a transsexual. (my words, not theirs) I was discharged in a few weeks.

chrissie said...

Too many tears...


chrissie said...


I think the problem for some of us back then was that our folks were in enclosed "communities", in your case tne Army, in my case the Roman Catholic Church.

I don't know what was worse; my mother's threat of having me put in a home, or of her telling the school priests and having them beat it out of me.

They were products of their time and their background. Doesn't excuse it, though.


Leslie Ann said...

I suddenly feel so blessed to have suffered quietly in my own head all those years. I don't think I could've endured those humiliations. You were made of stronger stuff than me! Glad you made it out the other end finally.

caroline said...

Melissa, I hope getting the words down has helped, I know it did for me. They really were the dark ages we lived through with every organisation you can mention.

The information was out there for them they just did not want to believe it. Just how many of us had our lives put in limbo for decades I can hardly imagine.

It is hard to put the past behind and live for now and the future but we have nothing to loose and everything to gain.

I remember the tears shed writing out my history so know how bad this last week must have been. Was thinking of you having gone quiet.

Caroline xxx

ms.shandy said...

Thats such a sad story Melissa. It i sad that parents can be so cruel to their own flesh and blood. Being transgender is hard to understand, and I think sometimes people try to protect us by forcing us back into what they believe to be our true gender role.

But good intentions are really no excuse for traumatizing a young person like that.

I'm glad you eventually found someone to open up too. It feels affirming when someone actually understands and accepts who you are for the first time. It's good that you found the strength to go even after the demeaning psychologist interviews your parents sent you to.

alan said...

When such horrific things are done in our lifetimes, it makes me truly hurt for those who went through this even earlier...

Somewhere through the years I've read a "zen" thing about "the things we despise most in others being what we fear most in ourselves". I wonder how much of that behavior was truly "ignorance" and how much was lashing out at their own insecurities?

I had to scroll back down after reading this to see that lovely smile from now!


Jill Davidson said...

Wow - I kept wishing my father would follow through on his threat to send me to a psychiatrist, about my crying fits (that was also in 1966, when I was 11). People now tell me I would not have wanted to have come out to mental health providers about being TS back then, and I'm glad now I didn't. Instead I worked myself into panic disorder and depression that lasted another 35 years.
The opportunities, I think, are much better for TG teens today - but I know there is so far to go.

Brittany Roche said...


You and I have a LOT in common! I was an Air Force brat, and the first time I got caught I was 4 years old and my father tried to beat it out of me.

Later, in 1971 I was "caught" several more times. Since I was only 11 or 12 there was little I could say or do to protect myself from their wrath. They threatened to send me to the family 'MD' which would have been a complete disaster. They always hated psychiatrists and thank God, because back then it would have been horrible -- just like what happened to you!

It took many years to erase the shame and pain all that caused. Thank God for the Internet, so now people have access to instant information on the subject -- and hopefully as a result, very few kids have to go what we went through...

Take care,