I Am Dawn

  
I am a woman who was assigned male at birth, March 25, 1964. 

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.

I Am Dawn. And I’m happy.  

“Don’t Be A Stupid One”

Are you talkin’ to ME? Well, I’m the only one here, so… You might as well have been, Jenny Boylan.

4fcb6032749bf4821ea70181edf8317dafaba3b0When you said,“You are a normal woman — right now, today.”

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-am-caitCait somebody or other. Doesn’t matter, really.

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.

jennifer-boylan-1024When 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.”

IMG_0050Shut up, Jenny.

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.

200_sThe 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.

11954688_10207524441049301_494445892356120049_nBut 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.