The Gender Revolution: Comparing the Past and Present

lgbtq+ peopleDeja Nicole Greenlaw at a former Pride celebration circa 2012.
Photo: TRT Archives

The changes a new gender revolution affords this new generation

By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist—

After watching the Katie Couric special on “The Gender Revolution,” I teared up a bit. Although there was pain depicted in the special, there was also a lot of hope and love present. It felt so good to see supportive parents, children, life partners, friends, and public institutions. This sure is a far cry from what many of us experienced back in the old days. Oh, I remember those days!

As a child in the 1950s, I knew that I was different, as most transgender children know. I also knew that I needed to keep quiet about my gender or else it would be trouble for me. Because of that, I just kept it hidden, way down deep in my soul. Understanding of and support for transgender children were not even a thought back in those days. The rule on gender then was that gender was binary, either you were male or female, period. I accepted that old gender rule and I challenged it only within myself. I felt that I had to do so in order to survive.

I would wait until everyone was out of the house and then I would look for female clothing, dress in it, and live as female for those few precious minutes. Sometimes, I would get an hour or two, and that was heavenly! Then the sound of a car in the driveway or the sound of one of the doors opening made my heart stop! I knew that my female time was over and that I needed to quickly return any female clothing to their respective closets and wash off any makeup that I applied to my face before anyone in my family would discover anything.

I wasn’t much of a dater in high school and it wasn’t until I was in college that I dated someone. Eventually, we married. After it, she did catch me wearing her clothes, not in person, but in the fact that one of her dresses was stretched out. I confessed and promised never to wear her clothes again.

She got us an appointment with a therapist at her college in hopes of “straightening” me out. The therapist took us both in at once and told me that I was very wrong to wear my wife’s clothing and to never do it again. I felt so awful and ashamed. The therapist then said that we should go shopping so that I could buy some women’s clothing of my own to wear. Suddenly, I perked up! My wife, however, did not like that idea and that was the end of seeing that therapist.

I kept my promise not to ever wear her clothes again and stuffed myself deeper into my closet. It wasn’t until the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon in 2001 that I let it resurface. My wife was still against me wearing female clothing, this time it was clothing that I had bought for myself, so we tried another therapist. This therapist told me that I could be cured. This time it was me who ended the visits. Within two years, I moved out and we were divorced.

Soon after the divorce, my family members found out about me and I was excluded from just about all gatherings and events. The only invites I had were ones from my mother who would badger my children to show up. At first my mother did not accept me, but after a while she did her research, thought about it, and accepted me. None of my children accepted me until a few years later when one of the three did. I don’t remember anyone, family or friends, initially accepting and supporting me—such a far cry from the Katie Couric special.

To see the acceptance and the support given to the trans people in that Katie Couric special really touched my heart. I felt so happy that many trans people today have understanding, acceptance, and support. There was even support for the non-binary folks, which delighted my heart even more. Katie’s special brought to light a lot of good things that are happening. I’m hoping that more and more good things continue to happen and that someday trans people will be fully accepted as equals all over the world, hopefully within my lifetime. We’ll see.

*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is a trans woman who has three grown children and is retired from 3M. She can be contacted at


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