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In Honor of Pride - Jenny's Story

I first met Jenny at Gender Odyssey last August. I was running a raffle for a free luxury portrait session. She made an impression almost immediately as she giggled over the unicorn keychains I had on the table (which she came back for twice). With her auburn bob and shy, but friendly smile, she informed me that she liked unicorns before they were cool. There were so many wonderful people at the event, but I cannot deny the excitement I felt when I pulled her name out of the box as a raffle winner. 

After her luxury portrait session, it was impossible not to want to work with Jenny again. I met her for coffee and had the pleasure of also shooting an intimate portrait session for her. She shared her story with me, which is a level of trust I feel so grateful to have experienced. 


In honor of Pride, I asked Jenny's permission to share her story here: 


A number of friends have asked me to post the "story" that I wrote over the past four weeks in the GenPride workshop that I attended. As you read it, keep in mind that the project was to write about something personal in a story format, so that other person might be able to relate to it.


"All-l-l-l-l aboard! Now boarding, Business Class for the Coast Starlight to Portland, Oregon. Gate three!”

     

Inhaling deeply, I got up from the worn oaken bench in the King Street station. Turning to get the pull strap for the oversized suitcase packed for my six week post-op stay in Portland, my friend Val, gave me a big hug saying, “Good luck! You're going to be fine!”

     

Grabbing the strap, I stepped out into the bright, very hot July morning sun, and the beginning of my new life…..and the end of the old. 

   

As I walked along the platform toward my car, I watched the reflection of a confident and proud woman in the windows and on the sides of the shiny rail cars. A woman on her way to her destiny, a destiny incubating in her soul for sixty-nine years. My consciousness was flooded with one thought, “I'm doing it,  I’m really doing it!”

     

As I found my seat and settled in, the train lurched forward with its ever present clackity-clack. I was thinking about the question that so many had been asking me recently, “Are you excited?”. Well, of course I was, but not in the overwhelming sense that I had anticipated. I was just bathed in peace, a peace that I had sought desperately for so many years. I allowed my thoughts to wander back to that night so very long ago.

     

It was New Years Eve. I was barely three years old. My older brother and I had just awakened from naps and were playing in Mom and Dad's bedroom. I remember being terribly excited that I was going to be able to stay up and share in this grown-up celebration!

       

Mom must have just done a laundry before the family arrived, and the pile was on their bed waiting to be folded. I noticed a pretty pair of panties and went over to touch them. I remembered how nice they always felt to touch. Then without much thought about it, I picked them up, stepped in the leg openings, and pulled them up, just as I think most little girls might do, right over my pajamas. Mom happened to walk in right then and thought that it was very cute. She scooped me up and carried me downstairs to show everyone. There was some laughter, which was certainly not at all malicious, and some Ooooo’s and giggles from the women. It wasn't embarrassing, but I also somehow realized that it was “cute” because the little boy I was supposed to be, shouldn't have put them on.  


Clackity-clack, Clackity-clack, Clackity-clack

The bright sun made me think of sitting on those hard carpeted stairs in our hallway, when I was eight years old. I sat there with the morning edition of the Baltimore Sun, reading and rereading the front page story. My mind was racing, “It's possible!”. It was really possible! It was right there! This beautiful woman on the front page of the paper, whose name was Christine Jorgensen had just come back from Denmark, where she had had what was then known as a “sex-change” surgery. My eight year old mind yelled back, “Sure it's possible, but it probably costs more than a million dollars.” but, ever being a bit stubborn, again I whispered to myself, “But, oh my…..it's really possible!”     

     

That tattered piece of newsprint never did fall completely apart, well, not without a great deal of scotch tape. I wondered where it ever ended up. It was safely hidden away in my secret space between the floor joists in the attic, along with my tiny stash of “me things”


Clackity-clack,  Clackity-clack, Clackity-clack 

     

Sigh!  My tiny stash of “me things”. So very much hiding!  So very much frustration! So much hatred for that male appendage and its accompanying testosterone poisoning, ruining my body. I didn't want a beard! I didn't want a deep voice. I wanted soft breasts growing on my chest. 

     

How does one describe something which is so completely intangible, yet at the same time so tangible that it holds your soul hostage in its tight grip. A grip so tight that one cannot move away from or loosen it.  The internal angst cinches a little more tightly each time we accede to and conform more to what the world calls for our image to do. 

     

Dysphoria will always be here, until such time as young trans children will have the opportunity to transition early and grow into the wonderful women and men they are meant to be, and not be forced to grow into an adulthood of incongruence. 

     

I thought about the time that I tried to somehow explain the feelings to my wife. When I said that it was as if something were just out of kilter 24/7. No matter how small or how insignificant it was, nothing felt quite right. She scoffed at that, as most cis people do. It is simply too incomprehensible to try and imagine what living in the wrong body is like. 

     

As they usually did, my thoughts along this line wandered back to what I feel was the turning point of my marriage. Serving as a Eucharistic minister at our church was very special, and I loved doing it. One night my wife came downstairs, where I was doing some studying, and asked, “When you serve, do you wear women's underthings?” 

     “Uh, yes, of course.”, I said looking up from my book.

     “Well, don't you think that is offensive to God?”

     As I sat there looking up at her, my mind wondering where this had come from and what had precipitated it, not to mention about where it was going, I replied, “No, I feel that I am being respectful. I am serving as myself.”

     With a noncommittal, “Oh!”, she turned and went back upstairs, leaving me with some lingering thoughts and doubts. 


Clackity-clack, Clackity-clack,  Clackity-clack 

    

 Hiding!  Oh, I so hated hiding! Hiding things! Hiding self! Hiding life! In the past nearly four years since the marriage fell apart, I had been able to let go of a great deal of it. This trip down to Portland was going to eliminate a lot more. 

    

I had become so adept at playing my different roles, as a way of maneuvering through life, I rarely got “caught”. Then again, it only took one time, to realize that I had jeopardized my whole future, for a few minutes of feeling free. 

     

It must have been around 2:00 in the morning. I had just returned to the campus and parked my car after a short walk downtown dressed. I was walking back to the dorm, when I became aware that a campus patrol car had noticed and begun following me. Finally cornering me, the security officer got out and walked toward me, blinding me with his large flashlight. 

     “Get in!”

     Panic seized me as he pointed towards the car and again ordered me, “Get in!”

     My mind was racing like a cornered animal, eyes darting everywhere, seeking some non-existent place to run and hide. I saw my whole future evaporating as he pointed to the patrol car.

“What is your name? Are you a student here at Ithaca?”

     I numbly nodded my head and muttered my name and dorm number, hoping that would make this nightmare end.

     “What is your major?”

     “Theatre, sir.”

     “What are you doing out in the parking lot at this time of the night?

     

Grasping for anything at all that could be even remotely considered a reasonable explanation for why I was in a dress and wearing makeup. 

     “Oh! I just got finished with a rehearsal down at the theatre, and they wanted to lock up.” I lied.

     “Is there anyone who can vouch for you?”

     Sure, I could think of a dozen right off the top of my head. But! But, whoever I chose was also going to be aware of my once, deeply hidden secret.

     “Well, can you think of anybody?”

     “Oh, sorry officer, I was trying to think of someone that might still be up at this time of the night and not be disturbed. Say, you know who Marty Nadler is, don't you? You can call Marty.”  

     Everybody on campus knew who Marty was. He was the campus comedian and always looked like he was on his way to do a show in Catskills. Always a very quick wit and one of the funniest people I've ever known. Well, it seemed that I had chosen well.

     Pointing to the squad car,  “Get in the back there, and we'll go to the office and call him.”

     

Waiting and praying, I sat there in the harsh fluorescent light. “Oh please be there, Marty!” Other than a pretty trench coat because of the weather, I have no idea of what I was wearing. My only memory was sheer mortification, coupled with fear…...and just waiting. 

     

“Okay, you're good to go. Marty spoke very highly of you. Oh, and uh, try to find someway to change before leaving the theatre, next time.

     

I had made the right choice! Of course Marty's and my paths continued to cross on campus, but nothing was ever said. Pretty remarkable for 1967 or ‘68.


Clackity-clack, Clackity-clack, Clackity-clack

     

“Portland, Oregon!, next stop!”

     

As we crossed over the Columbia River, I kept saying to myself, “My goodness, girl, you're really going to pull this off. You know, you have a right to feel proud.” 

    

 I thought back a couple of years to the first TransPride that I worked on. It was an incredible and very fun experience. My event adrenaline kicked in, and I had a blast. It was also the first time that I had become aware of the scale and the scope of our community. Up until about two weeks earlier, when I first saw the poster for TransPride, I didn't even know that there was one. I had transitioned alone without any idea of what was even available on computer. 

     

The memory that struck me most powerfully, though, happened the next day as I was walking to the store. I had put on my new TransPride volunteer tee-shirt. I didn't need a cane yet, so I was walking at a nice brisk upright pace, when it hit me. I just stopped in the middle of the block. 

    

I had been blessed somehow by never having been plagued by the onerous weight of guilt about being trans, that so many have. I just stood there thinking. I'd done it!  Sixty-seven years! Sixty-seven years of uphill struggle. Sixty-seven years of hidden pain and frustration.  Sixty-seven years, and here I was living as myself, just another older woman. I had lost just about everything, but I had found myself. 

    

I truly had every reason to be proud, to feel pride in who I was….pride in all that I had done. Pride that in less than twenty-four hours I would be rolled into surgery at OHSU for my Gender Confirmation Surgery……..and wholeness. For completion!


Clackity-clack….Clackity…...Clackity…..Clack

     

“Portland, Oregon! Thank you for traveling Amtrac!  Have a nice day!”

     

Stepping back out into the the bright sun, I was thinking, “Why yes! I think I will!”



Thank you again Jenny for sharing your story. We honor you!


Book your Luxury Portrait or Intimate Portrait session in June and receive a pride promotion... which includes a Jenny-approved unicorn keychain and more! 


Email sorellaphotos@gmail.com to book your session today!

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