I’m not sure what my parents really thought of me as a child. I was different. “Sensitive” was a word that was often used. I sometimes wonder if they thought I was gay – when I started dating, they seemed a bit relieved.
When I was eight my mom took me to see the movie “Born Free.” The story about Joy and George Adamson who raise Elsa the lioness as a cub and determine that she should live her life free in the wild. Joy had established a bond with this cub and it was heartbreaking to let her go but she knew was what must be done. Oh how I cried at this movie and I still can’t listen to the song without tears.
My mom often referred to me as her “Elsa” who she loved and raised but must one day let live free. She recognized the free spirit living in me but if she knew about the real me, she never let on.
To her, living free meant living on my own – on my own terms. While I lived on my own, I was deep in the closet – not free at all, in a prison of my own design.
Elsa was set free as a juvenile while I was into middle age before I finally said the words out loud that ultimately set me free. But much like Elsa who when set free, had little idea how to be a lion…I had little idea how to be a woman.
Flash forward nearly two years into transition and I am in San Antonio for a few days with my roommate, Katie. We drove down yesterday and stopped in Burnet (where she used to work) and Marble Falls (where we used to live) on the way.
Katie introduced me to many of the people she used to work with and we saw some mutual friends. All commented on “how good we look.” Strangers un-erringly referred to us as “ladies,” men opened doors or stepped aside as we entered an elevator and even flirted with us.
I commented to Katie that “I never get tired of that” and she agreed. After all, it’s all still fairly new and I am still more insecure than I evidently need to be.
The thought has finally gotten into my thick skull that for some time now, I have been just living my life; and that life is that of a middle-aged woman. I have a few miles on me but in looking around we look no different than any of the other hundreds of women walking the River Walk along with us. We fit in. Quit worrying about it!
I am well aware that I’m not going to win any awards for beauty and am unlikely to hear from some French design house asking me to come model for them – but as far as the rest of humanity is concerned, I’m just another woman on the street, or restaurant or wherever.
I am still humbled and grateful for the kind words of friends and will value them as long as I live – but I no longer crave them as validation of who I am. Look, it is tough trying to live the live of a guy for what amounts to 96% of my life and then over a fairly short period of time become outwardly the person I have always believed myself to be on the inside. It hasn’t been easy.
Far from it. It’s been painful physically and emotionally. It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted. I am an insecure person by nature – working in the radio business will pound that into your head if nothing else does – but it’s pretty scary to take the first tentative fearful steps outside in public wearing the other team’s uniform.
I’m sure I looked frightening at first. My hair was short so a wig was needed. I didn’t know how to dress so my skirts were probably too short. I wasn’t proficient with make-up so probably looked a little clownish. I likely sat, stood, walked and talked more like a dude in a dress. I cringe at the thought – but a girl has to start somewhere. I didn’t have the benefit of growing up as and being socialized as a young girl. I started rather abruptly at age 54.
I’m 6 feet tall, my hands are too big and my face while having changed a lot since I’ve been on hormones still needs more hair removal than I care to contemplate – but still I have made peace with it.
As I write this, I’m at a legal conference. No, I’m not an attorney, but my roommate is – and so I joined her for the conference to satisfy her “CLE” or “Continuing Legal Education – not only because I hadn’t seen San Antonio’s sights – but because I love learning new things. So it was with learning how to match my outside with my inside. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been a joy and I have attacked this new life like I have every other significant challenge; all in!
Do I still get “read”? Almost certainly, yes. But in my 2 years of transition, no one has been rude or even vocal about it. So, if they keep it to themselves, fine by me.
All of my identification has been legally changed to my new name and gender. Strangers greet me as “Miss”, “ladies” (when with a friend) “ma’am” or other feminine titles. Friends all accept me as Leslie. At work, I’m treated like just another woman in the office, which I love. Maybe it’s time for me to accept what others see and set aside my insecurity and doubts and just live the life I’ve dreamed of living since I was a very young child – finally, simply…a woman; Wild and free.