By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist—
I recently took a trip to Florida, where I met many people and visited several friends, including one friend I’ve known since the mid-60s when we were both teenagers. He was very open to me still being his friend even though I have transitioned to female, and said it would be pretty shallow of him to not accept me. I agreed and thanked him for his enlightened point of view.
He did, however, ask me questions about being trans, and I answered his questions to the best of my ability. The hardest question for me to answer was really a statement by him. He said that he never had an inkling that I was trans. He remembers a group of us just experiencing life together and how I never let out any signs that I was trans.
I told him that at the time I didn’t know who or what I was. I knew that I wasn’t gay and I knew that I wasn’t really like anyone else. The word “trans” was not around at that time, so I told him that I had nothing to define myself. I knew that I wasn’t like everyone else and I knew that it would be trouble if I brought this issue up with my parents, my school, my church, and even my friends, so I kept my mouth shut and tried to leave no trace of this issue. I went so deep in my closet that I was subterranean. I hid it well!
My friend asked if my family knew or did they catch me wearing my mom and sisters’ clothes. I told him that I was so careful selecting the time when no one was around, and when I did dress in their clothes I would meticulously put everything back on hangers the exact way that I found them. I hung them back the same way with the hanger heads facing the same way and the exact number of buttons hooked up, no more, no less. I was very thorough. I did not want anyone to even suspect something was up. [pullquote]I told him that I was so careful selecting the time when no one was around, and when I did dress in their clothes I would meticulously put everything back on hangers the exact way that I found them. I hung them back the same way with the hanger heads facing the same way and the exact number of buttons hooked up, no more, no less.[/pullquote]
Back in the 60s when I was with my friends we would talk about things and do things as friends do. I told him there were two possible hints that I was different: that I was always the last of the group to try something new and that I wasn’t very active dating. When it came to new things, I would let everyone experience this new thing, such as jumping off a ledge into water. I would watch them all jump before I did. When it came to my turn, everyone had safely jumped and the peer pressure was on me to jump. As far as dating, I had no interest in girls. My friend and another friend had already had sex with girls and I said that might have been a clue. My friend chuckled and said that I wasn’t the only one of us who never even got close to having sex with girls. We both laughed. So, I guess that I never did give off any clues to my friends that I was different from them. I was just part of the gang as far as they knew.
Towards the end of my Florida trip I met a Facebook friend in person for the first time. We are about the same age. She transitioned in the early 70s after going through anxiety and depression. Her experience was much different than mine. In the early 70s I was still in my subterranean closet; I didn’t transition until 2007.
We talked a bit about our differences and how we handled things differently. She was much bolder than I was when it came to transitioning. She knew who she was, and she wanted to be who she was. I was scared out of my mind and I had no idea who I was. If anything, I thought that I was a “bad” person or a “sick” person. I was ashamed and terribly frightened of exploring who I was, so I did not pursue even thinking about transitioning at that time
We listened to each other’s story. We agreed that we were on different paths, neither of which were easy, especially in the days when the word “trans” wasn’t known to us. At that time, with the lack of information available, it was truly very difficult to be who you really were.
*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is a trans woman who has three grown children and is retired from 3M. She can be contacted at email@example.com.