Hi Mom, it’s me, Cate, your son. We never got to talk about this ‘gender thing’ before you passed, but I’m sure you’ve always known I was different. You named me Doug after the doctor gave you and Dad the good news I was a bouncing baby boy. I know I was small and had to stay in the hospital for a month. I got better and bigger and have grown older. I’m ready to start my third act soon, retiring within a year. Lots has happened over the years, mostly good, a few bad and a couple that were tragic. I want to tell you about one of the ever-present situations in my life which I never got to explain to you. Mom, I was born in a male body, but I am female. They call us ‘transgender’, which means we were born in one body, but are aligned mentally and emotionally as the opposite gender. There’s a lot of labels, but the one I chose and use is Cate O’Malley. I am a woman, Mom. I’ve known it from before I was a teenager. I didn’t have the name for it back then, but that’s what I knew deep in my soul.
It was around the age of nine or ten I began trying on things. I started with your high heels. You always did love a pair of heels and if they were red, you loved them even more. Just for the record, so do I. I tried on other things and each gave me the most wonderful feeling I’ve ever had. I hope I was careful putting everything back as I found it. I don’t know if you ever suspected. If you did, you didn’t tell me. When I was that age and into high school, I wanted to be one of the girls. I used to be bullied in school. I was accused of being gay. That was all we knew back then. It’s the reason I liked hanging out with girls and not the guys. I never felt like I fit in. Playing music, working, not being home and hanging out with Sue and her girlfriends was one way I didn’t have to feel out of place or different.
For a lot of my life, Mom, I was sad and angry. Most of the time I didn’t know why. It made me a less-than-perfect husband, employee, student, person. I couldn’t put a finger on it, but I knew I had feelings and desires that just didn’t fit the ‘normal’, whatever that is. It took until I was fifty-seven years old to process my thoughts and feelings and truly understand what and who I was. I spent a small fortune on therapy which helped me find my way. I was eventually able to come out. Coming out is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. You strip yourself bare, take off all your armor and expose yourself for who you are. It’s terrifying. We got through it and now, over nine years later, I am happier than I have ever been.
I’m living my life honestly and as who I truly am. I’m Cate, a woman. I wish you were here so you could see who I’ve become and how happy I am and how I’m striving with purpose to help others like me. I think you would be proud. I miss you, Mom.