Today we said farewell to the woman I married 19 years and three months ago, the mother of my children and my first love, Wendy Robin Lachs Ennis. Many times here on facebook I have referred to Wendy as my ex, but in truth, we only separated, and because of a variety of reasons our divorce was postponed again and again and ultimately never legally finalized. And it’s fair to say that for most of that time, Wendy didn’t waffle nearly as much as I had in wanting to move on.
The sound was unmistakable. Despite it being a relatively quiet noise, this New Year’s Day event some 14 hours after we watched the ball drop on TV jarred me awake from my afternoon nap faster than any alarm could.
I grabbed my earbuds that now draped over the edge of the bed and pulled, quickly, hoping I was not too late.
And then there it was, the earbuds plug still attached to my dripping wet iPhone.
Turns out I had taken the device out of its OtterBox just before I fell asleep, and of course I left a nice, cool cup of water in perfect position for my personal disaster. If I had for some reason decided to toss the phone and aim for the cup, I probably would never have hit the mark in 1,000 tries.
The next steps are no doubt familiar to those who’ve learned the hard way that modern mobile devices enjoy a bath about as much as the Wicked Witches of the West: the bowl of rice, the waiting, the joy of seeing it light up once again only to learn the damage to the screen prevented me from unlocking the phone and saving what had not yet been backed-up.
This experience made me wonder if maybe New Year’s is something like an automatic data backup: we collect all our memories of the year just ended, and we save them in the hard drives of our minds… then move on.
And my friends, it is time for me to move on, too.
I am on the cusp of a huge upheaval in my personal life.
NO, I AM NOT DETRANSITIONING.
For the first time since moving to Los Angeles in 2015, I’m stepping forward into the spotlight in a new way:
This week, I’m covering the premiere of a major project in the realm of LGBT entertainment, and next week (fingers crossed) I’ll be putting questions to the most famous transgender woman in the world.
And in less than three weeks, I’ll be in Chicago for a huge conference that will mark my debut as a panelist and a speaker on the subject of LGBT journalism.
On top of all that, for the first time since 1981, I’ve been presented with an opportunity to revisit my past experience as an actor, something I swore I’d never do again. Lastly, somehow, I’ve attracted the attention of two filmmakers who think people might want to spend their valuable time watching me on their screens. And I’ve said yes to both, with the stipulation that their projects will benefit all transgender folks, and maybe me, too.
For the first time since 1998, I have a new cell phone number, with a 310 area code. My longtime 914 number, like the phone, is dead and gone.
For the first time since 1996, I am single.
For the first time in my life, there is a man with whom I am spending time, and yeah, before you ask: yes, he knows. The rest is private, and let’s just say we’re only starting to get to know each other.
While that brings me joy, what is topmost of mind is my family back home. My children still hold the center of my heart. Their mother is struggling, and she’s made it clear it’s no longer my place to ease her burden, as much as I have tried. You know me, though: I’m not done trying, not by a long shot.
But in my mind I’ve shifted my efforts from being Wendy’s main support, to supporting our children, as it should be. They come first.
The film, the guy, the woman on the Malibu mountaintop, even my work… they all come after my obligation to my three lovelies, just as my own needs must take a backseat to the kids who make my life worth living.
Luckily, thus far, they’ve survived multiple dunkings of water and emerged no worse for wear.
Buckle-up, friends. No doubt the road ahead will be bumpy.
And, uh, you’ve seen how I drive.
I’ve been a California girl for 168 days — that’s almost six months — longer than I’ve ever lived here before (the summers of 1991 and ’92, respectively).
My children need me. Their mom needs me. And I need to be with them.
And it looks like I need to rake a lot of leaves.
Once more, I’ll be flying back to the east coast this weekend. Starting Monday, I’ll once again work remotely for The Advocate for a few weeks, so I can support the kids and their mom as she resumes chemotherapy. I’m so grateful to my bosses and colleagues who have made it possible for me to be with my family so often during this crucial time, and keep my job.
I love being the News Editor. I consider myself lucky to not only be working again as a journalist — a storyteller — but to be working at all, let alone in my chosen field. And I’m committed to doing the best job I can, despite the circumstances. It’s a temporary solution, and not ideal by any means.
And I must admit I’ve grown weary of the extra back and forth travel from coast to coast. It was always my plan to fly back to see the kids, or fly them here, at least once a month, but it’s been necessary for me to travel more often, spend more time away from the office, to be where I’m needed most: with my family. I could never be one of those divorcées who tells the ex: “So sorry, that sucks for you, but you didn’t want to stay married to me, so this is what you get.” How could I do that to the mother of my children?
That’s not who I am. I’m a woman, yes, but more importantly I am a caring human being, one who does not turn her back on someone in need. I choose to honor my vow to support my wife in sickness and in health, even though I’m technically no longer her husband. She calls me her spouse, her soon to be ex-spouse.
And she rightly calls me the kids’ dad, although she has a tendency to prefer the word “parent,” for those who can’t get their head around me being a dad and a woman. No, I’m not their “other” mom. I get it, this is not for everybody; it works for us.
I realized tonight that what’s even worse than the confusion about what people call me, worse even than the frequent cross country flights, is how I’ve been stuck in a cycle for the last two and a half years (no, not THAT cycle. Okay, yes, I do, in fact, hormonally cycle, but not in the traditional way other women do… and that’s another story for another time).
The cycle I’m talking about started in May 2013, when I was given no choice but to leave my home, my children, to live authentically, Since then, I have moved every six months.
I moved from our hometown in Connecticut to another city an hour away, and then to another, then to the Bronx, to Marietta, Georgia, then back home with my family and now I am in Los Angeles.
Each move lasted only six months, like clockwork. Given how I’ve been able to provide my family with one stable home for almost 12 years, which is a rarity in the television news business, I regret that I have yet to settle down, and make a home for myself.
L.A. is by no means ideal. Gas is crazy expensive as is the cost of living. It’s 3,000 miles from my loved ones. But it’s where my all-important paycheck comes from… even if it’s only 25% of what I earned.
Before my downfall.
Slowly, I am rebuilding my life, making small inroads toward success and feeling better about myself than I ever have before.
This is a life I enjoy, as I treat each day as a gift, and I look forward to one day after another, adding fewer and fewer milestones as we complete another trip around the sun. The “transition” part of my life has mostly ended and now I’m simply, “living my life.”
And almost every day here is beautiful and sunny. I do enjoy living in L.A…. dude.
I love my friends, most of all, my California bestie, Gillian. We’re quite a pair! She’s like a sister to me, only better.
Well, no matter what happens next, no matter what pitfalls await me in the journey of my life, I can at least say: I am happy. And I’m thrilled to know that in a few days I will be back in the loving arms of my children, and have them to hug and kiss and together we will prepare for a truly special Thanksgiving feast.
This year, we have much to be grateful for, not the least of which is the health of their mother as she fights cancer, and the help provided by all our friends, neighbors and relatives, our online acquaintances and the members of our congregation. These kind generous folks have done so much to help us through these trying times.
I’ve already survived car crashes, health issues, gender transition, termination and L.A. traffic. But I’m not done, city of angels! I’ll be back!
Whatever comes next, I’m ready.
The early days with an infant can be bewildering for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity
Source: Gay Dads Need Doulas, Too
I was told there had been a problem: undescended testes. Not totally uncommon, but my parents also mentioned that I needed to have two circumcisions, which of course is impossible.
What was the real story? I’m not sure I’ll ever know.
I got my first job at age 4.
My mom and dad had learned from a neighborhood friend that extra money could be made by having your kids pose for modeling and TV commercials. My sister and I were naturals, the all-American kids next door.
I secretly started working as a girl when I was 12, voicing the part of a pre-teenage girl in a radio commercial.
From 1976 until 1981, I modeled girl’s clothing. I remember the first time I saw the girl I was staring back at me from the makeup mirror: instead of feeling as if I had been dressed-up and made-up and coiffed from a boy into a girl, it was as if the girl within had been chiseled out like a sculpture. I had been revealed.
I took vitamins which undeniably helped me be a more convincing girl. My skin, my voice, my lack of usual male secondary sex characteristics — and my budding breasts — they all worked in tandem with my Dorothy Hamill hairstyle and long nails.
When my dad caught me being fitted for a bra to model at age 16, the jig was up. No more modeling as a girl, no more vitamins.
I got a haircut, new headshots and changed my stage name to “Don.”
It would be more than 30 years before I learned those vitamins that came in a clamshell case were birth control pills.
I went back to living a boy’s life. Puberty hit around 19.
I looked back at my years playing a girl opposite Sarah Jessica Parker and modeling on fashion runways with Brooks Shields as nothing more than acting.
And less than 15 years later I chose to be a woman for Halloween.
My then-girlfriend was taken aback. More than a few people asked me what my costume was. I saw me for the first time in more than a decade; the first time as an adult.
In 2006, I had redeveloped breasts. My body hair flaked off in clumps. My hips splayed, I lactated (three times) and I shrunk three inches in four years.
I started gender therapy in 2008.
I started using male hormones first then finally conceded that wasn’t what I needed.
First time I saw “me” staring back in the mirror I cried, seeing both my resemblance to my sister and recovering my own lost self/esteem. I switched HRT from testosterone to estradiol on March 3, 2011.
I realized I was on the right path on April 1, 2011. I’ve not seen or had a penis all this time.
But I wasn’t ready to live full-time in my appropriate gender — female — until April 3, 2013.
I legally changed my name April 29, and came out at work and to my Facebook friends May 2.
Not three months later, I involuntarily detransitioned after a seizure. The doctors told me I was suffering from a form of amnesia.
I returned to living pretending I was male, only to recover the memories of my transition and my happiness within a few weeks.
I came out a second time May 2, 2014. Despite losing my career and marriage, there is no looking back.
I choose to celebrate being me, by living my truth.
Are you talkin’ to ME? Well, I’m the only one here, so… You might as well have been, Jenny Boylan.
When you said, “You don’t need a man to make you a woman. A woman can make you a woman. I think it’s a thing that women do: we look to men to give us self-worth.”
When you said, “Now that you’re in the sisterhood, you have gone to such trouble to be a woman: Don’t be a stupid one — be a smart one.”
In point of fact, the esteemed Colby and Barnard professor, author, mentor and GLAAD co-chair — and my good friend — was speaking to another woman, the one on the TV.
I heard Jenny Boylan talking to me, too. When she challenged her friend, frankly, directly, honestly — the way only a true friend can — she didn’t cushion her words to spare Caitlyn Jenner’s feelings. And despite being more prepared than most viewers about what was going down in this clash of the titan trans women, I was on edge. Tears were close, but at bay.
When Cait claimed to be too focused on education to worry about love and sex and dating, Jenny accused Cait of “throwing herself into her work” as a way of avoiding her own truth, and the issues that stand in the way. Like she did when she pursued the Olympics, when she focused on her families. “You’re running away,” said Jenny.
“Am I?” I asked. I imagined my face looked about as shocked as Cait’s at this very brazen but insightful statement of fact.
And Jenny reminded us, “Who you love is different from who you are.”
Truth. And right now, I don’t feel particularly loved by anybody. Sure: my kids, my friends, even some members of my extended family, they love me. My dog back in Connecticut loves me. But not by those who’ve known me longest, and who have no desire to know me now. The women who once were my entire life.
“We all deserve love. I worry that you’re not letting yourself be loved.”
Of course, she’s right. I’ve sealed myself off from love because the only woman I’ve ever loved can’t love me back now that my truth is revealed. Her love faded as I stepped from the shadows as the woman I am. Her love died as surely as the name that once identified me to the world and to my Church. And I don’t have a prayer of winning back her love, because she’s got more important things to do than deal with my drama, my life, my unrequited love.
This woman who made me a father — who is now living authentically as a woman –has a far greater battle to wage than to deal with me, or to expend precious energy trying to love me, or not. She is fighting for her life in a struggle to survive cancer, and I have to put my own selfish needs aside, slip them into my back pocket, bury them in my suitcase, toss it down the basement stairs, bolt the door and switch off the light.
What I need to do is not cause her further anguish, pain, or distraction. I’m not her sole source of support anymore, and I have to accept that supporting her now means just staying the hell out of her way and taking on whatever is too much for her to burden.
I’ve hired housecleaners so that order can be restored before her mother drops in and shakes her head at the mess caused by three children, a dog and a kitten. It’s a mess that a woman fighting cancer tries valiantly to contain, but truth be told, what little energy she has must be saved for work, for ferrying kids around, for cooking, making lunches, and for chemo.
The poison that heals… the hurt that helps.The Pac-Man gobbling up those little, white, round cancer cells inside her body.
She’s so incredibly strong, this woman I loved and lost, having witnessed her give birth to our three children, a miracle if ever there was one given who I am, what’s inside me and the secrets of my real gender identity.
She’s fighting to win, to live, to show our children what real bravery, courage and strength is. What I did in coming out as trans is the equivalent of walking on a hot sandy beach barefoot, compared to the giant leaps she is taking to beat those dirty Russian cancer cells to the moon, and make it back alive.
I’ve done all I can to support her and our kids from afar. In 72 hours, we’ll be together again, and celebrating a once in a lifetime milestone for our one and only daughter.
I’m so proud of my girl, and her resilience in the face of parental strife, transition, separation, and now sickness. My daughter is the woman I look up to these days, and I have no doubt where she gets such incredible drive and stamina, as I watch her mother refuse to succumb, and resist rest. It’s my hope that just as the fabulous Jenny Boylan has helped me cross frightening intersections in my transition, that perhaps I can channel some of her wisdom and lend this woman a hand across her own crossroads. I will share every ounce of my strength, and a shoulder to lean on when hers grows weak.
But first, I must find within myself the ability to forgive her and all those who find my identity to be a selfish act, an abandonment of my wedding vows and my commitment to my bride. Let them chatter, whisper, be phony, or look upon me with judgment in their eyes. It’s all the same to me. I am who I am.
No, this is not the life I wanted, or want. But it is the life I must lead, and I’ve learned the hard way that living true is far better than dying while pretending to be someone I am not.