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John (Dad)

Once you met John Miller, you instantly liked him. He was a straight shooter. You knew where you stood with him. If you couldn’t handle the truth, you probably didn’t see him a second time. He was born during the Depression and knew he was going to have to work hard to get ahead in life. He started hauling coal for Quaker Oats as soon as he could drive. He served in the Korean War. He never talked to me about his time there, but I often wonder if he didn’t find a deeper walk with God that he couldn’t communicate with his family. Dad and I didn’t have a great relationship when I was young. It was hard for me to accept that he loved me when I was a young adult. Walking away from having a relationship with him was not a difficult decision. I felt that I was a disappointment to him anyway. And that it was certainly a relief that he didn’t have to deal with me.

My final visit with Dad was two months before he passed away. I gripped his hand tightly and kissed his cheek. I had high hopes I would see him one more time. I was not given that opportunity. It is hard to fathom how a man that I could not stand to be in the same room with as a child is the same person that I longed to see one last time. Interesting how time changes us. If we allow it to.

Mary (Mom)

There was a twinkle in Mom’s eye that made you wonder what secret she knew that you didn’t. Of course, I think that twinkle did not appear until after I left home! She was well-versed in all genres of music except country. That was all Dad’s. She could read a book, watch a movie, and listen to a basketball game on the radio and tell you everything happening in all three. Her love for the game of bridge was well-known by all her friends. Unfortunately, none of her kids picked up the ability to play.

Mom and I did not see eye to eye on anything when I was young. I found out in later years that she took on several of my teachers. How I wish I had known that we could have communicated directly. Had I known that she believed in me would have meant so much to me. Instead, we fought over everything, especially how I dressed. This led to incessant bullying during my school days. The inability to communicate led to a rebellion that also led to a mindset that made it easy to walk away when I felt that ultimate support was not there in my young adult years.

I was given the ultimate gift with mom. I spent her final 10 days by her bedside. Our relationship was loving and as restored as one could hope for. Her mindset was that what is in the past is done. We never talked about my transgender years and the pain I am certain I caused her. We never discussed my childhood and the pain her decisions caused me. What was done was done. The choices we both made sculpted us and brought us to where we were. I loved her and she loved me. That was all that mattered.

Dee (Me)

The burning question is when did you know you begin to think you were a boy? I was raised in a simpler time. In the prehistoric no-internet era. I had two older brothers, and my best friend was a tomboy. To state that I wanted to be a boy as a small child would be wrong. This was not anything I thought about.

By high school, it was a thought but never anything I believed could become a reality. In my day it wasn’t covered by insurance. Everything you wanted to do had to be paid for out of your own hard-earned money. The dream and the desire to become male continued to grow. However, the knowledge and the means to get there were far away. In my mid-twenties, I moved to St. Louis where I believed I was going to be able to begin pursuing my dream of becoming a man. By now I had met a woman who had agreed to marry me and begin to have a family. The life I had dreamed of was going to start happening. All the years of misery were finally coming to an end. But they didn’t. Life had played another cruel joke on me. The information given to me was outdated. All the doctors that were supposed to be on board with giving me hormones were no longer interested in participating. What happened between the time I was mailed the information packet and when I arrived in St. Louis?

I was frustrated but not ready to stop pursuing my dream. I knew I had to live full-time as a man before I could have any surgery. I still lived every day as a male, dressed as a male, and had my name changed. I still asked my doctors for testosterone. And was saving money for a mastectomy. The final hurdle would come with passing the mental evaluation. All of these are not pre-requirements for gender affirmation surgery today. One would have to ask the question, would there be as many surgeries if these requirements were in place? Were they good requirements? I believe they were. Having to live 2 full years as the gender I wanted to become was not a hard requirement. It felt natural at the time. It was what I wanted. I was in counseling. No shame in counseling. It was easy to hand-pick the counselor. The mental evaluation was the hard part. I did not get to hand-pick that person.

Here I am over 30 years later. Grateful. I never had surgery. Am I happy as a woman? I would answer that I am comfortable in my own skin. Happy as a woman, yes. But I think to say I am happy in my own skin is more important. I’m not a girly girl. I found comfort in who I am. What I have learned over the last 30 years can’t be typed into a paragraph on a webpage. What I can say is that my heart weeps for you and your struggle. I remember what it was like. Chasing my dream, only to find out it was a nightmare. Then trying to recover from the mistakes I made.

I do know that life is a journey. And there are roads we take wherever we go. We can walk them alone or we can choose to invite some to join us on the adventure. It may seem like we made a mistake when we made a misstep onto the wrong path. I’d like to join you on your journey and help you see that there is light ahead in the dark tunnel you may feel that you are in. No misstep is the end. I overcame it. I know others that have overcome it. I know you can overcome it too.