You Can’t Go Home Again

You Can’t Go Home Again   With regards to Thomas Wolfe and his excellent novel, I respectfully, disagree.  As Trans* people, I think it is imperative we do go home again.  Our visibility creates awareness, makes people uncomfortable and increases opportunity of having a meaningful and productive dialog between Trans* and cisgender folks.  In rural America where I am from, we may be the first and only Trans* person they ever meet.  It may be painful, scary, exciting, fun, humiliating or a failure, but I think it needs to be done.

I ran away from ‘home’ and never went back   I grew up in Shelby, Ohio, a small, farming/factory town in mid-Ohio.  There were 9,600 residents when I left in 1969.  All of them white, primarily blue collar, hard-working citizens living the good life.  There was no diversity; everyone looked like everyone else.  There were no problems with race relations, for obvious reasons.  The goal of life was to graduate from high school, get a factory job, get married to your high school sweetheart and make babies.  The holy grail for working hard for 40+ years, for almost everyone, was to retire with a nice pension and move to Florida (The Promised Land).  As far as I knew, there was only one person living there, at that time, who was Trans*.  That was me. So  when I was a senior in high school in 1968, I enlisted in the United States Coast Guard and on Saturday, January 4, 1969, I ran away from home.

Come back with me to 1958   When I was about eight years old, the earliest I remember, I became intrigued with women’s clothing.  My mother was a raven-haired beauty who wore Donna Reed dresses, high heels, red lipstick, bullet bras, gloves and a hat.  She was a beauty then and more so into her final days at age eight-four.  Back then I didn’t have a definition or a name to what I was feeling, I just know I loved the way girls looked and I wanted to be one too.  I didn’t know what was going on with me, but I knew it was something I should keep to myself.  I was so good at keeping secrets, it wasn’t until 2006 I came out.

Queer!   Back then, there weren’t distinctions between sexual preference, gender expression and gender non-conforming people.  In my home town, everyone different, no matter who you were, was a ‘queer’.  The more expressive folks would use ‘faggot’, ‘sissy’ or ‘homo’ or a combination laced with expletives.  I was an easy target.  I was short, not thin, played music, acted in theater, hated sports, hung out with the girls and was goofy.  All, apparently, traits of your garden-variety homosexual during the 1960’s.  I know what bullying is from being up close and personal and on the receiving end.

Like a thief in the night   Over the course of almost fifty years, I went back to Shelby infrequently to see family, be with my parent’s when they were sick and watched them slip away when they passed.  I was there when they were laid to rest in the town cemetery.  I came and went without visiting old haunts or went looking for former friends or classmates.  If it wasn’t for funerals, I’d never have seen any of those people, but I was the dutiful ‘son’, dressed in my manly attire.  They didn’t like me then, why should I like them now!

I am woman, hear me roar!   This year I turn 67 years old and I think I’m a pretty cool and courageous woman, not unpleasant to look at, so I’m told.  I love who I am and the woman I’ve become.  Now, however, is the time to turn up the ferocity.  I need to go ‘home’, walk the streets of Shelby, Ohio, engage people and look up old acquaintances and classmates.  My 50th Class Reunion coming is up and that will be the perfect time.  Let those in my Alma Mater see just how fabulous I’ve become.  Let them know that Trans* people exist, even in Shelby, and have forever.  If any of the old bullies are still there and start with their old taunts, bring it on!  They will see just how fierce an old Transwoman truly is.

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