Systems Analyst, transitioned on the job
I was born in the small northern Indiana town of Kendallville in March of 1950. The doctor, having noted the male genitalia, announced to my parents, “It’s a boy!” My heritage is German, French and Fox Indian. My father, whom I dearly loved, was married four times during his life. We moved a lot in my younger years as he searched for steady employment as a cabinet maker. While growing up I lived in Indiana, Michigan, California and Idaho.
The first time I remember feeling different from other children was when I was four years old. I knew I was different from other children at that early age, but had no comprehension as to how or why. It was when I was four that I remember going to the breakfast table at my aunt’s house with my cousins (all girls), and I was dressed just like them. I proudly announced that, “all of the girls were there.” I also remember once when I was about six years old asking my first step-mother when it would be my turn to be a girl. She crushed me when she said, “I would always be a boy.”
Throughout my pre-teen and teenage years, I continued to dress as a girl in private. It was as if I were driven toward being the best girl I could be, if only to myself. While, I was never actually caught dressing as a girl my second step-mother constantly corrected me during my teen years. She used to say things like, “Don’t stand like that…girls stand that way,” and “don’t you know girls hold their books like that, not boys.”
I quit high school at sixteen. It had nothing to do with my academic ability, as I was in a college prep program, and seemed to be doing well. However, in my sophomore year my body began to go through the normal changes associated with a male at this life stage, while my mind was screaming, “No, I should be like all the other girls!” I just had to get away from all of my peers who seemed to have no incongruence with who they were. It was a very painful period in my life.
Just before my eighteenth birthday, I turned to the military in an effort to purge all female thoughts from myself and to finally be a “man.” At the insistence of the Navy recruiter, I earned a high school GED in March 1968 from Western Michigan University. I enlisted in US Navy in April 1968, and attended service schools to be trained as an Aviation Electrician’s Mate.
When I was twenty years old, I discovered a copy of The TRANSSEXUAL PHENOMENON by Harry Benjamin, M.D., http://www.symposion.com/ijt/benjamin/ in the Base Exchange. I was ashamed to let anyone know I was reading it, so I didn’t buy it. Instead I went there every day at lunch time and read parts of it, until I read it all. I knew then what I was “blessed” with, although at the time I felt it was a “curse.” Today, I know that I have been blessed in life.
In an effort to be what society demanded of me, I married for the first time in 1971. Our marriage somehow managed to produce four wonderful sons, including a set of twins, even though our physical relationship was very limited. My sons were born in 1972, 1974 and twins in 1976. Our first son was born with a defective heart. It only developed with three chambers instead of four. It was completely undetectable to the hospital and they released him and we went home. We lost him the next day. Our marriage began to fell apart for several reasons. We were married far too young, as she was only seventeen. Also, she needed someone more manly and sexual than I was able to be. My first spouse passed away in 2002 after losing a long fight with cancer. All of my sons are accepting and caring of me today.
As I entered my thirties, I was still determined to eliminate my feminine feelings and lead a “normal” life. I married for the second time in 1980. In April 2005 we will celebrate 25 years together. She feels that she fell in love with the person, rather than just the image of that person. I have one stepson, who has been very supportive of me. He was twelve when his mother and I married. I also began a demanding work and school schedule, as I was convinced that if I filled my time with other things, there would be no room for thoughts of “Paula.” This was based on my perception that I would be too exhausted to be bothered by these thoughts. I still had not come to realize that being transsexual wasn’t something I did, it was who I am!
In 1974, I went to a local high school, and took courses to graduate with my diploma. I attended college while maintaining a full time job with the Navy and between 1980 and 1987 earned three college degrees.
My professional career also took off with all of the work I poured into it. I was selected for commissioning from the enlisted ranks in 1981. I was promoted to Lieutenant (Junior Grade) in 1982 and to Lieutenant in 1984. I was a stereotypical “over-achiever” because I was always trying to prove myself, especially to me. During this period, I was designated a maintenance officer, and was attached to numerous commands including a job as a Navy fighter squadron Maintenance/Material Control Officer
My forties were much the same as my thirties, in that the over-achieving continued, and was nearly out of control. My career continued to flourish with all this effort. I was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in 1991 and to Commander in 1997. After 31 years and 6 months of active duty, I was voluntarily retired from the Naval Service on September 30, 1999. Between1968-1999:
- I spent 13 years in the Navy enlisted ranks as an Aviation Electrician’s Mate working on numerous fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft. I also spent a tour in South Viet Nam as member of Helicopter Light Attack Squadron Three and as a member of a Military Police unit.
- I also spent 18 ½ years as a Navy officer in the Aerospace Maintenance Duty Officer-Maintenance designator. My final three tours in the Navy were as the Aircraft Maintenance Department Head for Carrier Air Wing TWO (CVW-2) embarked in USS CONSTELLATION bound for the Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf, where they played a major role in fulfilling U.S. national policy objectives in support of OPERATION SOUTHERN WATCH.. I also had the privilege to serve as the West Coast F-14 Type Wing and finally the West Coast F/A-18 Type Wing Aircraft Maintenance Department Head.
- While in 6the navy, I spent time in California, Florida, Illinois, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Alaska, Japan, Okinawa, Korea, Singapore, Philippine Islands, Guam, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Midway Island, Johnston Atoll, Hong Kong and Viet Nam. Also, I served on six different aircraft carriers, and was part of five different staffs
Following my retirement from the Navy, I accepted a position in industry in San Diego, California in 1999. It was, however, becoming clear to me that I was never to escape being transsexual. I still didn’t believe I would be able to function in the world as a woman. That would only be possible in my mind…wouldn’t it?
I reached a personal decision to transition in late 1999, at the age of 49. I had raised my children and completed a successful career in the Navy. I had reached the breaking point, where if I couldn’t be “myself” and stop living a lie, I would certainly not survive. I wasn’t ready earlier, because before I could move forward with a transition, I had to accept myself. I fought every way I could think of to eliminate Paula from my being…alcohol, macho vocations and avocations, marriage…nothing worked.
Moving into my fifties has been so different from the previous four decades. I am finally able to be who I was always meant to be. I have a great spouse and family, as well as many new and old friends. Totally honest with the world is such a relief. I began to transition on May 9, 2000. On that day I told my Life Partner of my feminine desires and needs. After that she occasionally saw me wearing some feminine attire, but due to job requirements in Virginia, it would be several months before she would see me fully dressed as a woman. I accepted the new position with a company in Virginia in June 2000, first ventured into public dressed as a woman and attended my first transgender Support Groups in July 2000.
I began therapy in August 2000, nearly always dressed as a woman. I also began laser treatments for hair removal in September 2000.
My Life Partner saw me dressed as a woman for the first time in November 2000. An hour later we were shopping in a large mall for matching wedding bands to show our love for one another. I began Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) in January 2001. I accepted a new position in Texas and moved there from Virginia in April 2001. I began electrolysis for facial hair removal that same April. I began individual and group therapy sessions in Texas in June 2001. I went before the District Court and had both my name and gender legally changed on July 18, 2002.
I began my Real Life Test (The period of time living full-time required for surgery, designed to ensure one can function in society) in August 2002, and returned to work full time as a woman in September 2002. I transitioned on the job at a large aerospace company. I work as a Systems Engineer and the company has been very supportive of me. Their early decision to consider only my professional qualifications and not get tangled up in gender identity issues is commendable. In the months since going full-time at work, I have received performance awards, pay raises, and undergone an investigation by the Federal Government for a high level security clearance that was granted in April 2004.
I have one older sister who hasn’t spoken to me since June 2002 because she “can’t accept me as I am.” This is because of her and her pastor’s interpretation of my life circumstances. I steadfastly hold to the idea that she will “come around,” and we will be able to grow as sisters.
I had Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS) on March 9, 2004, flying home from Miami on my chronological birthday (March 21st).
Today, I am out to most that care or have a need to know and for the first time in my life…proud of myself. Some of my other interests include raising horses, continuing education, and reading.
Although, I have had an interesting journey to be where I am today, it is not unlike many other stories of transsexual women as they too searched for happiness and contentment in their lives.
Horses have been a passion for me for more than 14 years. My spouse had owned horses and competed in barrel racing when younger, but I was 40 years old the first time I became involved with them. Now, I will always have them as part of my life. We raise quarter horses, paint horses, and we also have one mustang that we adopted from the Bureau of Land Management. They are beautiful animals, non-judgmental in nature, and a pleasure to be around. This is the latest addition in our lives. Her name is “Shy” and she was born on January 28, 2005. She is a darling black and white paint with beautiful lines.
Copyright © 2005 by Paula R.