I want to take you on a journey back in time to late summer early autumn of 1963. A young mother of one is pregnant with her 2nd child. The baby wasn’t due for another few months but on a mild day in September she went into labor. She arrived with her husband at Elmhurst hospital in great anticipation of the child soon to be born. As this young mother was brought onto the labor and delivery floor, her excitement was hard to contain. She was even telling everyone she met to think pink. Back in those days, there weren’t ultrasounds to determine the gender of the child beforehand; so going on the old wife’s tale of trying to determine the gender of a child by the way she was carrying the baby in the womb, she was convinced she was having a girl. “Think pink!” She would tell the different nurses taking care of her. Even as the doctor came into the room for the delivery she exclaimed “THINK PINK!!!!”
Finally on a mild September 22nd morning in 1963 at 11:15 a.m. I arrived into this world but I wasn’t the little girl my mom was expecting. I was assigned male at birth. I came into the world early, a small baby with very translucent skin but healthy. The one thing that stood out for my mom was my strong set of lungs because I screamed and cried all the time.
This is where I wish I could say that I grew up just like all the other boys around me and outwardly it most definitely appeared that way at first. Gender roles in society are very clearly defined socially in a lot of ways. Boys are supposed to do boy things and girls do girl things and back in the sixties those roles were being forced upon you everywhere. So I played with the boys and did boy things but always felt that I didn’t belong. I always felt different (like so many other people that are transgender). Of course, at that time I had no idea what transgender even meant.
I was always looking at what the girls around the neighborhood and at school were wearing. I loved the way their dresses and skirts looked and wished with all my heart that I could wear them too. I truly longed to know what it would be like to be able to dress that way and look that way, and this left me all kinds of confused. It was then probably around ages 7-8 years old, that when I went to bed, I would pray in the in the middle of the night for God to change me into a girl. Every night as I lay there in bed I would pray so much I would pray myself to sleep. To everyone else though I felt I had to keep hiding what I was really feeling. At that age, I had never heard of the term transgender or even knew that it was a real possibility. I only knew I was supposed to be a girl and I wasn’t. I only knew how I felt.
One afternoon in the early summer, it must have been around 1973-74, I came across a box in the laundry room in our basement. Being curious I opened the box. It was full of clothes, women’s clothes, my mom’s to be exact. I went through the box pulling out the dresses, skirts slacks and tops that were in the box. Feeling the material, I sat there in amazement at how perfect they seemed. This got me wondering, for the longest time I wanted to know just what it was like to wear a skirt. To know what it was like to have the skirt moving back and forth as I walked. But I was too scared to do anything about it. So I carefully packed everything back up and put the box back where I found it.
That night I went to bed saying the same prayers. “God, please change me into a girl while I sleep, let me wake up a girl..!” Night after night it was the same thing, the same prayer and wish every time I went to bed. I got so desperate that when I heard in the news there were reports of UFO abductions happening when I would open my window when I went to bed in hopes that I would be abducted and changed into a girl by the aliens. This was my routine every night until I finally fell asleep.
One night, in the middle of the night I woke up. As I lay there trying to fall back asleep and saying my nightly prayer, I suddenly remembered that box of clothes. So I got up and went and dug the box out being ever so quite with my flashlight. I opened it up and pulled out a skirt that I had remembered thinking was pretty. I took the skirt over to the seating area in the basement where there was a couch. I laid down on my back and laid the skirt over me like I had it on. I was so nervous and scared, even though no one else was up my heart was racing. Every little sound made jump. I about hit the ceiling when the air conditioner went on and I pulled the skirt off the top of me and put it back in the box. So close to putting it on but to petrified to do so. I went back to bed and after a little while drifted off to sleep with the thoughts of what it was really like to be the girl I so desperately wanted the world to know I am.
The very next night, again waking up in the middle of the night I quietly went to that box again. Pulling out the same skirt and going over to the couch and laying it over top of me like I was wearing it. This repeated over and over again every night for the next few weeks. Each night I would lay there and bask in my secret little world praying that God saw what a perfect girl I really was and would change me. I started to pull out more cloths from the box and decided to pull out a suit case and pack the cloths I liked into it and stashed it away making it easier to get too.
I started to see my world open up in a way even though I was still hiding to the rest of the world especially my family how I felt. When I would go to the store shopping with my mom and she looked through the women’s or girls department I would walk through running my hands through all the cloths so I could experience all the different materials that boys didn’t get to wear.
After a few months of my nightly excursions to the suitcase, I finally got up the courage to actually try on the skirt for the first time. My heart was pounding and I was trembling with fear and anticipation at the same time. Here was this white short skirt with pleats all around it that had first caught my eye and now I’m about to try it on.
As I put it on, there was a strange feeling coming over me. It wasn’t excitement or anything sexual about it at all. It was something much different and something I never felt before. There was a sense that washed over me and just like that all my fears, nerves and anguish were gone. That was the first time in my young live that the world felt right. I never really realized just how much dysphoria I was in till that moment. The feeling that this is what I am. I really am a girl! These clothes are really what I should be wearing.
It was that moment that sent me on a journey into myself. But it was short lived. Not long after that night my parents found the suitcase and I was pulled into their room and asked to explain what I was doing with the clothes. I told my parents that I was just pretending to be going on a trip. The next thing I knew I was sitting in the office of a psychologist and was being asked if I thought I was a boy or a girl. I distinctly remember telling him I’m a girl. “NO YOU’RE A BOY” he said. We went back and forth on that issue for the next few weeks. I always told him I was a girl. (I often wonder how much different my life would have been if he listened to what I said). His diagnosis was that I was going through a phase and that’s exactly what he told my parents.
That was my first collection and purge of clothes and items to come. By the time I was in high school it was a little harder for me to find clothes until I started working for a store called Venture. I was a cashier for them and I was happy to be working in a department at the time that was all female other than myself. I worked my way up to working the service desk and my desperation and dysphoria finally got the better of me and I did something that was out of character for me. I started stealing women’s clothes by putting them in a bag and putting a seal on it so I could take them out of the store. It didn’t take long before I was caught because I wasn’t very good at it. So I had to go home and tell my parents why I was fired. My mom went through my dresser and found my stash of clothes and made me get rid of them.
In high school, we had a dance group and I joined the production side of the group. I helped with the lighting and sound for them. It was a way for me to be around the girls without them wondering why I was there. I use to admire the outfits they got to wear. Everything looked so soft airy and just beautiful. After every rehearsal, I would be there late putting away equipment and I would get the chance to wonder through the girls dressing area and run my hands through all the costumes dreaming that someday I would be able to wear something like them. I did permanently borrow a few items from the girls when they left them laying around and every chance I got I would put them on and try to dance around but I was never very graceful.
It didn’t take long before a pattern emerged, a pattern of collecting women’s clothes. Different types of skirts and dresses all sorts of colors and materials. I became obsessed with the clothes. But I would get caught and purge everything. This pattern continued into my adult life and because I was working full-time I was able to afford things that I was unable to afford when I was younger. Now I was able to not only buy clothes but shoes, makeup, and wigs.
To me, all the gathering and purging combined with getting dressed up was a learning experience. How so? I always knew I was different than other boys; I never fit in and always dreamed of being a girl. Things like being transgender, and transitioning, were never talked about when I was younger and that left me feeling like it just wasn’t possible. From a young age, I learned to suppress what I was feeling because of the responses towards myself from the adults in my life. The more clothes I collected and the more times I dressed, the more I started to realize who I was. The realization that the world felt right when I was wearing dresses or skirts, that I felt right was getting stronger. Most of the time being fully dressed as myself calmed my dysphoria, even though at the time I didn’t know just what dysphoria was yet; that there was a huge disconnect between my body and my brain.
As time goes on and I learn more and more about just what being transgender means, slowly I have come to terms with the fact that I’m not a crossdresser but I am indeed transgender. It has taken most of my life to understand just who I am. The clothes were the first big part of that puzzle, the first hint leading me to that understanding. It was the clothes after all that first relieved my dysphoria, that gave me hope, that let me see a glimpse of who I was supposed to be. It was the clothes that gave me peace, and self-worth and when I finally began to understand all of that, I finally understood that I needed to stop hiding who I am and start my transition. That is another story for a different day, though, and you can find it here: ( To read more aboutTweet #TransHopeUnited