My name is Kimberli. I am many things, a mother, a wife of seven years and finally a transsexual woman. When I first thought about joining the ranks of the other women on this success page I couldn't imagine that I should be there. After all, I have spent the better part of fifteen years living in stealth mode and denying to myself that I was anything more than just a "normal" woman. After all, I am a mother and a wife and I didn't spend the huge amounts of money that I had spent to be on a page announcing that I am a proud transsexual!
It wasn't until I met and began to talk to the author of this wonderful page, Lynn Conway, that I realized that not only did I want to be on the page but that I needed to be on the page. Joining the ranks of many of these women is hardly something one can sneeze at. There are wonderfully successful women represented on this page. Women who I am proud to say I share a common thread with. We are all transsexual women.
When I think about what being a transsexual woman means to me, I can't help but remember the years when hiding it was foremost in my mind that being "found out" would certainly spell disaster to me. I have now chosen to speak out. My reasons are simple I want to help just one person who may identify with me. Also, being African American, my heritage is something I'm very proud of and if I can be an inspiration to one girl out there like myself it would mean the world to me.
Growing up I identified as gay, feeling and knowing that I was not a normal boy. I played with girls, wanted girl toys and just wanted to be a girl. All physical signs were that I was a boy but inside I knew I was not. This was my feeling from as early as first grade. Being gay in a black family usually isn't something that works and so it was in my family. I struggled for many years feeling like an outcast and feeling I would never be accepted.
Of course my parents were afraid and determined that I would not be gay so I suffered through the inevitable therapy and counseling sessions because, after, all these sessions would somehow fix my "problem". Perhaps they would be told it was a simple problem like my parents didn't love me enough or that I had three sisters and needed more male role models or maybe even my father didn't pay enough attention to me? Well, as we all know, these things for a transgendered person just don't work - they never "fixed" me. I grew up confused, lonely and most of all thinking that something was wrong with me.
My childhood years and later my teenage years were terrible. Throughout my school years I got into numerous fights was constantly taunted and suffered through incredible self esteem problems. I was combative and down right antagonistic to my parents most of the time. I was determined that I was going to be gay and that I was going to live my life how I wanted to and that they were going to accept it. And as determined as I was my parents were equally as determined that I was somehow going to turn out straight and no matter what it took they would see to it that I would. It was somewhere around my junior year in high school that I found out about transsexualism and cross-dressing and the like. It was quite by accident but once I found it, I knew that it was where I was supposed to be. I knew that this way of life was me. I got an aunt to take me downtown for my first hormone shot when I was 17 years old. It was the strangest thing, even though that first shot really did nothing for me, I felt like it had. I felt like I had been reborn that day. I was successful in getting a few more shots before my parents found out and forbid me from ever getting another one. After graduation I left the city I grew up in and moved north to attend college but mostly to get away from my parents and to finally be able to live my own life.
Once I got to school I immediately found out where and who could get me into the world I needed to be in to find hormones. I began taking them regularly, shots and pills, anything I could get my hands on. Development was rapid. It happened easily for me. Within about six months I was very developed breast wise and to boot I was only 19 years old. I still looked very feminine and passed rather well without really trying.
Partially because I was still in my rebellious years and partly because I wanted to find myself I dropped out of school and began working full time as an Administrative Assistant. Though I didn't work or live full time I desperately wanted it. I worked and lived as a male still by day. But by night I was in my female persona.
Because I dated men only, the men I dated only knew me as my female self, I never told them I didn't work as a female and often gave out my office number to them. It never occurred to me that they would call my job and perhaps I would not be at my desk. As this was nearly twenty years ago, voice mail didn't exist in offices as it does today so people answered every phone. Because the men I dated knew me only by my female self, when they called, my co-workers would be asked for a female that didn't work there.
The calls, combined with my breast development and very feminine appearance, were the clues that tipped my job off. One day my boss announces to me that Sr. Management was going to allow me to come to work as a female, even though I had not asked to. I was stunned, stupid me didn't even think that people noticed much less knew. But all the while they knew.
It was the break I needed but strangely enough when it came I wasn't prepared, I was scared out of my mind. How could I ride the subway to work, sit next to people who had seen me every day for a year or more? How would I ever pass? Suddenly I began to doubt everything about myself but I was stuck I had to do it. I did it and it was fine, it worked wonderfully. Don't get me wrong, I had problems at work, the feared bathroom issue came up almost immediately. My job had not thought about that and it was a huge problem. I finally was asked to refrain from using any bathroom but the mens' room and then only when no one was in there.
Well because I was proud I never, ever used the bathroom at work. To this day I can hold my urine all day and not use the bathroom, I guess some habits die harder than others. Other problems I faced were the inevitable person that felt obligated to tell all new employees about the woman who used to be a man and the other black employees who said they hated me because I was a disgrace to my race. Though a few blacks still were civil to me, most refused to be bothered with me. It was a hard, very hard and though this job had liberated me I knew I had to get out, I had to move on. If I were truly going to be successful I had to get out there and live, be the woman that I knew I could be.
That was the best week of my life. I interviewed and got a new job with a very large local company and in the days prior to identification being required to get a job, I had done it, I got a job as a female using my female name. My entire life as it exists today is due to the fact that I left that job. I wasn't afraid of what people would think of me, and most of all I had confidence in myself. I knew that I could do it and armed with that determination, I could beat any odds.
What I figured out was that passing was not something that had so much to do with my physical appearance but more to do with my attitude and spirit. That is an important message, no woman genetic or transsexual is perfect. I do understand the feeling that there is a hurdle to jump, that we are somehow behind genetic women. But that is not true. Yes we may need some corrective surgery, though I suspect more of us don't actually need it, but once that is done, believe in yourself its all there.
Think about it this way. If you are like me, I admired women in my life like my mother and grandmother. Take a few minutes to look at these women objectively and you will see their skin is not perfect, their hair is not always done to perfection and they just down right are not perfect. Do we see them as perfect yes but the fact is that they are not, no woman is.
So once you realize that you don't need to be perfect, believe me, life gets much easier and that is what happened for me. I relied on my professional skills, my personality and everything that I would have relied on as a male to get a new job. I didn't need to relearn how to live, I already knew how, I just had a new package to wear to the interview is how I looked at it. Once I got to that realization, it was a snap.
Armed with a new job, I got my name legally changed, went back to college and graduated with a degree in Business Administration.
Around this time, while attending a political gathering I met the man who would become my husband. He has been someone that I have looked forward to being in my life and who I have loved and shared my life with. Now my life seemed perfect except for the one thing ..SRS.
Once I graduated I began to think about SRS. I knew I wanted it but could not figure out how I would pay for it and how to find the information regarding doctors in the U.S. I knew I didn't want to go abroad for the surgery but finding information proved to be harder than I thought. The internet was not as widely used as it was today and so I had to do old-fashioned digging.
Living in stealth mode meant that I had lost contact with the girls like myself on the streets who could have possibly given me information very quickly. I did luck up and find Dr. Biber in Trinidad, CO and Dr. Menard in Montreal Canada. I chose Dr. Biber because he had a long track record for successful surgeries and his reputation seemed pristine. At that time in 1991 the surgery cost was $10,000. To finance the surgery I applied for a personal loan and it was denied. But I didn't let that stop me, I applied again to the credit union and it was approved. So now, in 1991, I would finally complete the last step in my journey or so I thought.
The surgery itself was successful but I had never been in so much pain. I'm a chicken, I hate pain and I was not happy that I felt as bad as I did. Looking back now and believe me, it is not something that I have often looked back at, I guess I stayed home about three weeks prior to returning to work. People were not told about what I had done because they thought I was a female. I told them I had some female surgery and that's where I left it. I healed with no complications and continued on with my life.
One strange fact that I can recall is that on more than one occasion in the months following the surgery I thought what the hell did I just do? Why had I done such a drastic thing? I knew in my heart that it was the right thing to do but I couldn't help but feel that I had lost a part of myself that somehow I had learned to live with. After all, life seemed to work out for me, my transition had occurred with relative ease, I was passable and I was living a life where no one even knew I was a transsexual, I had a man and a home. Why was it necessary for me to do this thing that cost more than I had ever spent on myself to date?
I did not find the answer to that question until years later, when my husband asked me to marry him. That's was when I knew the answer. I had made the change and gotten the surgery that I had gotten because I was born the wrong sex - period. I was meant to be a wife not a husband. I was meant to fulfill that role in this world. That is why since transitioning my life seemed to work to flow with ease. It was because I was doing what was meant for me all along.
In 1995 I married my husband in front of over 100 guests and family. I never felt so wonderful in my life. My mother looked proud and my father cried. They had over the years learned to accept me. They have told me that once they saw me as a female they knew it was the natural choice for me. They stopped doubting that I had made the right decision about my life at that very moment. My new in-laws welcomed me with open arms and on that day I knew that I had done the absolute right thing that becoming a woman was what I was meant to do.
In 1997 my husband and I decided to start a family. We gave it much thought and labored over how and when. We decided that we definitely wanted to start a family and that it would be large one when we were done. I came from a large family but my husband did not. He was one of two children but said he always wished there were more children in his family.
It took us six months to complete the home study and exactly two months later we were welcoming the first two of our children into our home. God what a life-altering thing. Children forever changed who I was they added a dimension that I never thought existed. They challenged me and fulfilled me. They were a joy to have around. Six months later we received our third child a two-year-old boy that everyone said looked as if he could have come from me. Exactly six months after this we got our fourth and last child an infant only 3 months old. Our family was complete.
Today, we are settled and have relocated again so that my husband could take a better position and so that we could be closer to extended family. I am employed full-time and raising our children and being a wife to my husband. I live in a suburban community where I still live in stealth. Living is stealth is something that I feel I have to do at this time mostly for my children.
Also, being African American I don't feel that I would be as accepted within my community if I were to come out to them. Fundamentally, I still do not believe that as a race we are as tolerant of lifestyle changes that are not considered "normal" as we should be. I believe we have a long way to go as a race. I do find it hard to understand how I can have contributed so richly to my community as a woman but if I were to tell of my past it would be forgotten, I would be a social outcast.
I hope that in my lifetime I will see a day when I will feel able to speak out about what I have been through with those in my community. I am proud of what I have accomplished and proud that I have obtained all that I have in my life. I feel blessed to have made it to this time in my life a point that as a teenager seemed foreign to me. In those days I honestly felt that my life might end in suicide or mental breakdown. I was a lost soul searching for my place in a world that didn't want me.
I would like to say thanks to a few people. First thanks to my husband who has loved me with all his heart, kept me in a life that I have cherished. Thanks to Dr. Biber for correcting a terrible wrong, you gave me my life. Thanks to my employer who made me transition ..you set in motion things that would allow me to become the successful woman I am today. Thanks to my mother .. the woman I look up to, strove to be like and who taught me how to be a true lady. And finally, thanks to all those who believed in me and allowed me the room to grow.
Let me begin by thanking the many people who have written to me expressing their well wishes and wonderful compliments.
Since joining the Lynn's website I have thought a lot about what it means to be who I am and part of who I am, is what I am. I have over the months kept up with the page and how Lynn has changed and added to it to bring even more information about the trans world to all of us. I have never really thought so much about what I am. Since seeing the women on the pages I have developed a sincere appreciation for us as people. I think we are a strong bunch, women who can rise above all the problems and stigma attached to who we are.
My last few years have been some that have caused me great pleasure and some pain. Most of my pain I would say arose out of feeling isolated and alone. Feeling that no one really knew me and who I was. Living this life I have chosen (marriage, children and yes Stealth) has not always been easy. Remembering that my every move must be chosen carefully that every time I meet a new teacher or a new colleague of my husbands I must always be on guard. Being a part of Lynn's website has helped me reach out and be reached out to. I still fear being outed in public or that my husband will suffer some career setback because someone will know of my past or that my children will be teased cause some child asks "is your mommy a man". The only difference now is that I don't feel quite so alone. I don't feel that if it happens it will be the end of the world for me. Reading the stories of women who have come before me and even of those who have yet to go where I have been have helped me tremendously.
Prior to finding this site I honestly felt that I was alone. It was hard to imagine that there were other women out there like me women that I could regard as people I wanted to get to know. That there were women like me with whom I could talk about things that were important to me. Hormones, skin care, cosmetic surgery and loads of other things. Until now I have truly lived my life in the dark. I never even knew there was a such thing as FFS or that it was being widely done by many girls. Until now I never even had spoke to another trans woman in almost 20 years. I have kept my distance and in my mind it was with good reason.
As I continue to read the many things posted I want to stress again that being who we are is not so dependent on how well you can pass. It's about what is within you. I truly believe that each of us will find acceptance in our own world and that our world has to start with you. You dictate how people treat you. I have to think back to that day when I had to take the trolly to work as my female self on the first day. I know people recognized me - shoot I had taken that trolly for three years before that! That very same trolly. But that day was the first day of my life. It was what would define me and who I would be. I had to be there, stay there and be happy that I was there. Hold my head up high and believe in myself. That ladies is the key .believe in yourself Believe that you are who you know you are. Know in your heart that you are wonderful, special and alive. Passing my dear friends is just that all in our minds.
I recently talked to my mother about me and how what I did had affected her and how she felt today about it all. She asked me why after all these years I wanted to talk about it. I told her that I felt that I had never given her the chance to tell me what she needed to tell me. Our conversation was direct and to the point. She offered that she was shocked and offended by me early on. She felt that she had done something wrong. That she had not gone far enough to help me when I needed help. She also said that she felt that I was sick, headed for a life of prostitution or worse yet, that I would have no life that I would be killed or die from disease. She felt that I had wasted my life. My mother said she felt betrayed and sad for me. She thought I would never know what it was like to have a normal life. She felt above all that I had been selfish that I had only considered myself.
I apologized to her for how I made her feel all those years ago and moved her to now. She offered that she was now very proud. That many years ago she had understood what I had done. That when she saw me smile, when she saw me laugh she finally understood. She said I had always seemed like a troubled child, never smiled much, no friends, always tormented. But when she looked at family photos of holidays and I was present that I was smiling, happy, glowing even radiant. She said that when I bought my future husband home one year for the 4th of July that she saw in me that I was normal, that my relationship was normal and that it was healthy. She said that when she was with us in church that week that she saw a woman worshiping, loving God and praising God. But most of all she said that the day we got custody of our first two children she saw a mother a nurturing, caring woman who wanted what all women wanted ..to raise her children to protect them and to love them.
She looked at me and said you have grown into a woman that I can be proud of! I can not imagine what would have happened if you had not found this road for yourself, I can only imagine that it would have been tragic.
What I would like to leave you with is this .be true to yourself. Know you, live for you because in the end you will have to live with you. If there is anyone out there that is lonely, lost of feels forgotten know that I am here. Write to me, I will answer.
Good luck to you all again and I know that Lynn's work is for good. It has helped me so much and I know it will help you. Take your time and read as much as you can. Contact people, talk and find your space in this world. Believe me, there is so much room here and I am willing to move over and let you have some of mine.