A month or two ago, I extended the invitation for anyone to write a guest blog post for a series I wanted to start called The Face of Gay. This was in anticipation of hostilities increasing after President Obama declared his support of legalizing gay marriage. If enough people were to come forward, offer their stories of what they or someone else have gone through as a member of the GLBT community or supporter of it, then perhaps it might help to educate others and even change a few minds. Each submission could even remain anonymous.
I received one reply.
That’s not a complaint and I think after you read it, you’ll understand why. Even the author of the piece admits it only scratches the surface, but what’s there is a beautiful representation of the kinds of stories we never hear about. I thank the author of this post for sharing it and hope others will come forward, too.
The Face of Gay: By Anonymous
My sister and I had just moved back to live with our mother after living with our dad for the summer, so we were scoping out our new neighborhood. There were two guys hanging out at the pool. Now, my sister is very gregarious, even being only twelve at the time. I was nineteen, and painfully shy. She started a conversation with one of the guys. Things led to us all hanging out, though neither Len nor I talked much, if really at all. I assumed he was as shy as I was. It wasn’t until later I found out why he didn’t socialize.
To make a long story short, it was my sister that pushed for Len and me to get together. She could see I had a huge crush on him. Turns out, the other guy Len was hanging with was his younger step-brother. So, step-family lived in the apartment complex that my sister and I had moved to. A step family that would “out” Len with considerable glee.
I met Len as a guy. When his step-brother’s and step-sister’s mother decided to spill the beans that Len was a girl, I didn’t believe a word of it. It took a long time, but I finally confronted Len about it. He told me the truth. Yes, he was born female, but did not live that way. This sparked years of struggle, heartache and hurt. Battles to be overcome. And we overcame them, one by one, together.
Despite such a revelation, I was still very attracted to Len, as he was with me. We were young. He once confided in me that he thought he was destined to be alone. That no one was going to love him the way he was. I was the exception. I was the one that fell head over heels. I was the one that said “I love you” months before Len ever uttered the words. He told me, “Once I say I love you, it means forever, so I don’t say those words lightly and unless I’m sure.” He was sure about eight months after we met.
Life was difficult at first. I was very naïve and not worldly when it came to much of anything (I grew up in a small town). I’m a bookworm. Always have been. Len, turns out, was not shy in the least. Just reserved because of the way he was. He had to hide…a lot. His family members were ruthless in trying to “make” him a girl, and didn’t hesitate to humiliate him at every turn. The name calling alone always brought me to tears. I don’t like Len’s family. They were cruel and selfish and never once understood Len in any way. He had to hide in public to keep from being ridiculed if others figured out he wasn’t what he said he was. Many people felt he was misleading them and making fools out of them, which was not his intention, obviously. He had to be careful of police officers.
Len had been abused in every sense of the word, emotionally, physically, verbally and yes, sexually. Nothing was ever reported, and Len hid the pain because of the way he was. He didn’t want any more from people who didn’t understand. This cultivated in him being a very mistrustful person. I was probably the only person that understood that, despite never having been abused in any way. Neglected, very much so, but never abused. Because I did understand, I ended up being Len’s “rock”. The only person he trusted explicitly. I never let him down.
I’ve always had trouble explaining how difficult things were for us. Len didn’t ‘look’ like a girl. Most people, despite his size, thought he was a guy. But just because he looked that way, didn’t mean he could just act as if he was. His license had his female name on it. His birth certificate too. Both with the “F” that he hated SO much. A true testament to that was when he was arrested. He had a warrant for a three year old boat ticket that was already paid, but there wasn’t a record of it. Len was terrified the moment they asked for his license. One officer sneered, calling “girly boy” and fag….and it! The officer had the audacity to ask if he was supposed to put “it” in with the women, or with the real men. Like Len wasn’t real. He slammed Len against the car, yanking off his jewelry (including a pierced earring and making a snide comment about getting AIDS). He shoved at him and knocked him down once. Thankfully, the other officer was kinder. He took Len in his car to the precinct. Len, luckily, never even made it to the holding cell. They asked him to pay his ticket. He was one dollar short. The kind officer gave him the dollar and apologized and said there was no way he wanted to see Len in jail for a misunderstanding that wasn’t his fault.
It wasn’t long, after Len had learned to trust me and know that I loved him and wasn’t going anywhere that he gathered the courage to start changing his life to reflect how he felt. The first thing? A legal name change. I have never seen anyone so happy (or nervous) when he got to change everything to his new name. He endured the disdainful and sometimes hostile looks from those who saw him changing from a female name to a male name. He didn’t care. He had me and he was going to do this.
Now, financially, we were not in the position to do anything towards a physical change. Not until much later anyway. But we did set up the required physiological evaluations. Obviously, Len passed that with flying colors. Yes, he was a transsexual. Yes, for his mental and emotional health, he needed to live as a man. And yes, he finally forced his mother to a meeting with the psychiatrist so she could understand him. She put up a good show, but neither of us ever believed she had truly accepted him the way he was. Not when she’d slip and say ‘she/her’ too many times. Turns out, the psychiatrist spent more time with me than Len. I was Len’s protector. I was the one that was going to have to be the buffer between him and the world. It was the most difficult thing I have ever done. But I loved him with all my heart, so I did it without complaint…until even after he died.
We withdrew, keeping to ourselves, living our life the way we wanted, as a couple. We eventually made friends that did not know about Len. The older we got, the easier it was. Then…we found a doctor to start the physical alterations. Many think that the first step is hormones. Guess what? Not even close. You have to get rid of the female parts that produce the wrong hormones in the first place. So…surgery. Hysterectomy and double mastectomy. Thankfully, Len wasn’t well endowed in the mammary department. It was an easy surgery and the plastic reconstruction was perfect. That alone brought Len completely out of his shell. Now, he could go shirtless just like every other guy. He figured, if he was running around shirtless, with a flat male chest, no one was going to question his gender. It was after that he earned a new nickname. “Sir Talks-a-Lot”.
The hysterectomy went without a hitch as well. Now came the hormones. Weekly shots of testosterone…for the rest of his life. In the beginning, he had to go into his doctor’s office for them. A few years later, he was allowed to have a prescription of testosterone and I gave him his shots at home. The physical change was…phenomenal. He had asked his psychiatrist what he could expect. He was told to look at the male members of his family to gage the amount of hair and muscle he would grow. Needless to say, Len thought he might have been adopted. He didn’t look anything like the hair-receding, sparsely chest-haired, stringy men of his family, much to my delight and his happiness.
A couple of years later, we were in a better position for further surgical changes. What I call “The Reconstruction”. Bluntly, the doctors had to make him a penis. I won’t go into detail because it’s private, but I will say that until a year ago, that appendage, which is a bit different than a nature-made one, was the only experience I ever had in the male anatomy. Yes, I was a nineteen year old virgin. Len believes that’s probably the best thing because I could never compare what he was given to a man born with one.
Sadly, we never reached the point where Len could have the final surgery that gave him the legal right to remove the ‘female’ off his birth certificate and replace it with ‘male’. He did, however, have a very nice lady at the DMV when he went to renew his license take one look at him, then the ‘F’ identifier and promptly tell him they must have made a typo and changed it to ‘M’. Legally, it would have taken his birth certificate being changed to change the gender on his license. Len didn’t even question the woman and walked out with a driver’s license that reflected exactly what he looked like.
Years went by, and still we couldn’t get to a position for him to have that last surgery. Then, he started losing his eyesight, plus we had our last child still at home. Seven years along, he was diagnosed with cancer and died a few months later.
I can’t say that this little piece is the extent of the life we shared. After all, it was a long time to be together. So much more happened, much of it not related to the fact that Len was a FTM transsexual, but a lot of it resulting directly from that fact. There was the time he was in a car accident (after the mastectomy but before The Reconstruction) and I got to the hospital to find him strapped down, stripped naked with no covers and terrified because they told him there was no one there for him. I had been there the whole time, but they would not let me in to see him, nor tell him I was there, treating him like crap. When they released him and he saw me, he started crying, telling me what they had done. I hadn’t abandoned him as he thought. There was the time his step-brother (the very same my sister and I met that first night) who said he hoped if he had a daughter, she never turned out like Len. I ripped him a new one for saying such a cruel, cruel thing, especially when he knew his own father was sexually abusing Len and didn’t do a damn thing about it. So many instances where I came to his rescue or stopped anything from happening to him. I never, in a million years, thought I had it in me.
There is so much media out there over the plight and rights of homosexual men and women. I support their efforts and them personally 110%. I just wish there was more information and compassion for those that were born into the wrong body to begin with. Not to belittle the struggle that gays and lesbians have in this world, but from experience, I can say that transsexuals have it just as bad, if not worse. Len was born to be a man. He got closer than a lot of transsexuals do. And that is despite the multiple times I kept him from taking his own life in the beginning. I am thankful that I was there to love him and give him the courage to get that far. Thankful I was there to support him so he could be happy in his own skin. There are so many people out there without that steady foundation and the love of a partner. My heart goes out to all those who are in hiding because, though their sexuality is not in question, their lifestyle is.
Kage Alan is the Big Bang Theory watching, Vangelis’s 3-disc Blade Runner listening author of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Sexual Orientation,” “Andy Stevenson Vs. the Lord of the Loins” and the first book in a separate series, “Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell.” He continues his efforts to stay in air conditioning during the ridiculous heat wave that’s going on outside. It was one thing to go through it as a child–because children don’t really notice how uncomfortable it is–but as an adult? This is why we try to put enough money away to afford a/c.