Kristelle's Story: Approaching Adulthood

My sixth grade year can best be described with the phrase "it's all down hill from here". My parents were separated and on​the verge of divorce, I was struggling with a puberty that wasn't happening the way I thought it was supposed to, and my school work was suffering. To quote the Fresh Prince of Bel Aire..."This is the story all about how my life got flip turned upside down." And it was the year I realized that Santa isn't "real".

So one mid-November day of that year I was sitting in class listening in on one classmate tease another because they still believed in Santa. I remember thinking "Hey, I believe in Santa... what's so bad about that?" The kid went on about how it's just your parents putting gifts they bought for you under the tree. 

I wasn't set to believe the kid right away, but I figured the claim was worth investigating... And if I knew my mom the way I thought I did... She would've already gotten a head start on her presents... assuming of course that my classmate was being truthful.

At the time I was already taking regular excursions to my mom's room (when no one was home) to play dress up for awhile. So I thought "No harm in figuring out what I was going to get for Christmas too. When I got home I raced upstairs to get my search started. I looked everywhere I thought a present might be, intially coming up empty handed. So I began to go about my normal after-school routine. First dresser drawer I opened.... BINGO! Pokemon cards.

Pokemon was in it's first big height of popularity when I was in sixth grade. I had one of the games and I had a lot of cards already. Had no idea how to play, but the creatures were cool and the pictures were pretty. Plus I needed some way to occupy my time when I couldn't play dress up. 

Right next to the cards was a stack of papers, and the top one had my name on it. I remember thinking "It has my name on it, must be my business." Keep in mind I'm 12 years old here, so what I was about to discover was going to shock my system hard. 

So I already told you the story of my biological father. How he at first denied I was his and when it was proved I was how my mother got stubborn and righteously offended and took steps to eliminate him from my life. Yeah, well that's what this stack of papers explained...In a more barebones, legal sort of way. I didn't get the whole story, just the cliff notes.

Now, it's not like I hadn't had suspicions before this moment. Sure some of my more regular friends would question and hypothesize whether or not I was my dad's kid...but I always brushed it off as something you only see in movies or read about. "This never actually happens right?"

Naturally I was devastated. In that instant it seemed like my whole life was a lie. Why had my parents hidden this? And what was worse...Santa was real, and his punishment for questioning his existence was, "Merry Christmas, you're kind of adopted". Two lies in one drawer. 

In a fit of rage, and also fearing my new discovery would be realized, I took every single pack of Pokemon cards. Thinking it would serve as a distraction from the fact that I had discovered the true nature of my origins. Of course I was right.

A big fight ensued between my mother and myself. For her, the incident was about me taking Pokemon cards. And the issue was settled with my punishment for doing so. But the reality of the situation was that I was angry with her and my dad for lying to me, and nothing was settled. As far as I was concerned, this was war.

I was an absolute monster the next few years. I lied to my parents and teachers about all sorts of things. My mother and I fought like cats and dogs... regularly. Leaving my sister caught as an innocent bystander. Sorry sis.

It was during this time I had my first real opportunity to come out about how I felt about myself. I had been caught wearing clothes again and it caused a big fight between my mother and myself. She called my dad and had him deal with it this time. He came over and we sat in his car for awhile. It was the first time I was asked "Do you want to be a girl?" I sheepishly replied no. Of course it was a lie. But at the time I lied about a lot of things, and with the way my parents had reacted to this my whole life, there was no way I was going to be truthful about it now.

I can't be sure, but I think my dad knew I was lying because he asked "Then why does this continue to be an issue?" I didn't reply. He then asked if I wanted to see a doctor and in hindsight I should have said yes. But, at the time, the doctor was someone who you saw when you were sick. I wasn't sick, just being me.

My sister eventually approached our dad about moving to his house to get away from the chaos. And ​he filed for custody of both of us. This didn't go over well with my mother and it brought the drama to new heights. By the time I was in tenth grade, we moved to his house, and my anger subsided. But that was replaced by depression.

I realized very quickly that I was living in a house where the only person I was related to by blood was my sister, and that was only by half. There was a clear difference in how my dad and his new wife parented me versus how they parented my sister. Sure some of that was a result of my carelessness in school, but I mean can you blame me? My life over the last few years was like a roll of toilet paper after your cat gets ahold of it. And I still had these feelings about who I was that I had to deal with. 

I was now much more aware of what was going on with me and was doing all kinds of research on my own to see what could be done about it.

In 11th grade I got my first job, and that allowed me to build my own wardrobe. However, I was actually building two. My public one, and my private one. By this point I had become very skilled at hiding my secret, but eventually my wardrobe was found again. Sparking a series of events that would affect the next 8 years of my life.

Profiles of Transgender Courage: Christine Jorgensen

Christine Jorgensen was an American, actress, nightclub singer, and transwoman. She was born May 30, 1926, as George William Jorgensen Jr. She was drafted into the U.S. Army during WWII and after serving attended several schools where she learned about sex-reassignment surgery. In 1951, she traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark and received special permission to receive a series of surgical procedures that started in 1951.

Shortly after her return to the United States, her transition made the front page of The New York Daily News and became an instant celebrity. She used this notoriety as a way to reach out to both advocate for and educate the community, about transpeople and the struggles they faced. She was well known for her wit and direct manner of speaking. She even once demanded an apology from then Vice-President Spiro Agnew for referring to another politician as "the Christine Jorgensen of the Republican Party", a request he refused.

 Jorgensen presented herself to the public as a transgender spokesperson. She influenced other transgender people to change their names and their gender marker on their birth certificates. Christine Jorgensen's case is significant because it challenged the scientific community's definition of sex and how it correlates to gender. This led to changing the definition of sexuality. The topic was complicated overall, as doctors tried to define and reclassify sexuality, but that did not come easily. For example, doctors tried to distinguish transsexuality from transvestism and homosexuality, but at the same time also tried to decontextualize them to make it simpler for people to understand. Traditional gender norms were questioned, and Jorgensen reinforced what it meant to be a woman despite her original sexuality. She took on the notions of femininity. She saw herself as a founding member in what became known as the "sexual revolution".

After her transition was complete, Jorgensen planned to marry John Traub, but later called off the engagement. In 1959 she announced her engagement to typist Howard J. Knox. However, the couple was unable to obtain a marriage license because Jorgensen's birth certificate listed her as male. The New York Times noted in a report about the broken engagement that Knox had lost his job in Washington, D.C. when his engagement to Jorgensen became known
 by the public.
Jorgensen also worked as an actress and nightclub entertainer and recorded several songs. She played Madame Rosepettle in the play Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad. One of her acts included singing the song, "I Enjoy Being a Girl", and at the end made a quick change into a Wonder Woman costume.She performed at Freddy's Supper Club in Manhattan until at least 1982, she performed twice in the Hollywood area: once at the Backlot Theatre, near the discothèque Studio One, and later at The Frog Pond restaurant. This performance was recorded and has been made available as an album on iTunes. In 1984, Jorgensen returned to Copenhagen to perform her show and was featured in Teit Ritzau's Danish transsexual documentary film Paradiset er ikke til salg (Paradise Is Not for Sale). Jorgensen was the first and only known transwoman to perform at Oscar's Delmonico Restaurant in downtown New York.

Jorgensen died in 1989 of bladder and lung cancer, shortly before turning 63. Before her death she stated she had given the sexual revolution a "good swift kick in the pants" Her ashes were scattered off Dana Point, California. In 2012 Jorgensen was inducted into the Legacy Walk, an outdoor public display which celebrates LGBT history and people. You can read more about her in her book, Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Autobiography.

Kristelle's Story: Pubescence of a Closeted Teenage Transgirl

Puberty is a strange time for... pretty much everyone. Your body starts doing weird things, your emotions are all over the place, social anxieties arise among peers, and on top of all that... figuring out what dating is supposed to be about. Life as a teenager can be difficult, but even more so for a kid who is transgender.

Puberty for myself was particularly stressful. Again, I had all the typical stressors that coincide with puberty. Plus I had these... feelings I thought I couldn't tell anyone about. But also life at home was still tough.

My first class in family life (sex Ed.) happened in fifth grade. They gathered all the students from two classrooms, shoved them in one room and had a light discussion involving the differences between boys and girls.

Learning about some of the changes I'd go through was kinda exciting. I apparently had periods (whatever those were) to look forward to, boobs to grow...and uh what's this now about babies?

It was when those things started happening for the other girls and not me that the confusion really set in. Here I was, a fifth grade boy as far as anyone could tell, having a "Are you there God? It's me Margaret." kind of moment. I still didn't get it.  I mean I had a slight grasp of the differences, but I was lost as to why I was so different. "What was wrong with me?"

At home, things were tense. My parents had a kid in therapy that wouldn't stop trying to wear girls clothes, and they argued a lot about all kinds of things. And I won't point any fingers, but there was some infidelity going on. Eventually​, they realized it would be best to separate. It helped but they still argued a lot. About me, about money... All kinds of things.

The whole situation stressed my mom out. Here she was, basically a single mother with two kids, with bills she would sometimes struggled to pay. I'm positive there were times she had to make some tough choices. I was starting puberty with my sister not far behind me and I know we plucked her nerves here and there.

She came down on us pretty hard. Rules became more strict, freedoms would slowly get taken away, and more chores were added on. Meanwhile we were shoved between two households every other weekend. It was a tough time for everyone.

In the summer between fifth and sixth grade, my mother tried and tried to get us to clean our rooms. But we neglected the chore, so one day she took some plastic bags and cleaned our rooms for us. Yeah, that thing that parents sometimes say they'll do...she did it. All our toys, cool stuff, clothes...all of it tossed out.  Of course, I managed to hide away a few of my favorite toys but eventually they were all found and thrown out.

This left my sister and I a lot of time with very little to do. My sister took it as a chance to read more, but I just used it to play dress up when I could. So, thanks Mom for the spare time.

In sixth grade my parents officially filed for divorce. My mom and I were fighting like cats and dogs, I was doing poorly in school, plus I was still getting caught with clothes. It was a pretty stressful time. Little did I know that on top of all that, something big was about to blow my mind.

Kristelle's Story: Childhood Dreams... and Nightmares

Last I left off with was a thought about how my mother's protective nature got progressively worse over time. Let me just explain how protective she was. My mother is a planner. She formulates a series of things that need to be done to create a certain outcome. Sometimes when the plans she makes aren't followed through, or the outcome isn't what she expected...she becomes upset. Which is fair... most of us can get upset when we don't get our way, especially about the things we most deeply want.

So one of the things my Mom really wants is to be seen as a good mother. How does she achieve that? By having well-behaved children, that are well clothed, and fed. So we had to be well behaved and my mom made parenting choices she thought would influence that. Sometimes she made these decisions from her own opinion and other times it was made as a result of something that we did as kids. For example, my mom decided that we shouldn't have cable in the house. Partially because she thought we couldn't afford it, but also because she thought there was too much on TV that could poison a child's mind. To expound upon that opinion, she also didn't let us watch anything that was above rated G until we were 12 and PG until we moved to my sister's dad's house(whom I will hence more refer to as my Dad, and my biological father as my Father.) Unless it was otherwise approved by her. Or it was by Disney. Other cartoons were at her approval. Books were strongly encouraged but also at her approval. No toys that were loud...or messy. When we played inside we had to do so at a reasonable volume. When we played outside we couldn't leave the street, which at times would turn into the yard. We could only listen to approved music. Candy and soda were considered treats. We rarely had friends over, we rarely went other places to spend the night unless it was a relative's house. We weren't allowed to play with toy guns...which to this day blows my mind. Someone so conservative didn't like guns.

Ok, I realize a lot of that sounds like a complaint. And sure when I was a kid, all those things...definitely were complained about at some point or another. But as an adult, I realize that most of it was just her parenting style, and was decided with reasonably good intentions. The point is
that seemed to work for her for the most part. Of course in our teenage years, we would have moments of rebellion and do stuff anyway. But we tried not to inspire mom's anger with us. But in our early years as children and in our adolescence, she seemed to have a pretty good hold on how to be a parent. I mean don't get me wrong, she definitely had moments that challenged her expectations of parenthood. I mean she did have a little boy that would get caught wearing girls clothes, or that would take their sisters play with not to rip the heads off of. A kid whose little green army men made peace deals and whose action figures sat in semi-circles and voted on superlatives about one another. A boy who walked around on his tiptoes as if he was wearing high heels. But even that she felt she could control. Just take it away and punish me somehow when caught and it would just phase out...right?

When I was 7 years old something happened to me that no one expected and it went undiscovered for two years. I was molested by one of my neighbors older children. He would do things to me of a sexual nature and give me gifts in exchange for secrecy. It was a confusing time. Of course, I didn't know what we were doing. I knew it felt weird, I knew it seemed weird. I didn't understand the whole bit on secrecy but hey I liked the toys. It was realized by accident. One Sunday morning, my sister comes upstairs and tells me "Mommy and Daddy said it's time to get ready for church."

To which I replied, "Ok but we can't be there too long because I have to come back and have sex with the next door neighbor." (At the time I was specific as to whom that was). A nine-year-old said this to a seven-year-old. Let that sink in for a moment. My sister shrugged her shoulders and went downstairs and regurgitated what I said, word for word. In a way that makes my sister the hero in this part of my story, regardless of how innocently her part was performed. Way to go sis.

Needless to say, we didn't go to church that day. The pastor came over and I think a couple other people came over talked with my parents, talked to me...and thus began my life in therapy. Though it was never brought up in therapy at that time, the situation of my gender identity persisted. One day when I was in fourth grade, I "borrowed" some makeup from my Mom and sister and took it with me to school. I asked the counselor in the before and after school program if she would help me put it on almost as soon as my parents left. She looked surprised, but obliged and asked me lots of questions about why I wanted to do this and if my parents knew. She had the other counselors focus on the rest of the kids, while she focused on me and what I wanted to do.

Once school started, I washed it all off because a few other kids made fun of me. Later during class another kid who heard what I did, exposed me to everybody in class and made fun of me for it. I didn't understand why they all laughed. Especially the girls. Why did they laugh? I mean all them were starting to like and play with makeup, what was wrong with me doing it. I didn't get it. Later when my parents came to pick me up from school, my teacher and the counselor from the before and after school program approached my parents and explained what had happened throughout the day. It was decided I would see the school counselor once a week as part of a group, and once a month on my own. But other events that took place in school and at home, quickly filled up time in those sessions, leaving the School Counselor no time to focus on the issue of my gender identity.

Kristelle's Story: Table of Contents