In the latter 1970s, Cold War, I was in U.S. Naval Intelligence, NSA, NSOC, NSGA, Ft. Meade, MD, got out, switched, had SRS in 1981. I’ve been employed as a forensic psychiatric social worker (MSW, LCSW) working with convicted sex offenders and the criminally insane, spoken in universities, counseled trans populations on social and familial integration, stealth living, employment discrimination, surprise violence, assault, rape and suicidality.
After I was settled in my new life, I got my pilot’s license. I say I’m a “double ATP” so I don’t have to say “I’m an ATP S&M”—single- and multi-engine—kidding myself that, with my history, people will think leather and chains. And I’m a CFI, though I do not choose to instruct any more.
In my 20s, after having trouble in life for years with rejections, discriminations, I went “stealth,” as it were, living privately, refusing to let transsexualism be a social issue for me. It was nobody’s business, I felt. It made sense, in my mind, as it does for most trans people with similar concerns—people hurt me when they know, so shut it down. Yet after 31 years in stealth mode, through much worse hell than before, I learned stealth is exactly the wrong thing to do. Now I try to share my mistakes, and the mistakes of others, to help people see the pitfalls of not owning our sexuality.
In 1989, I met a man who changed my life. It was an unlikely love: He was a conservative Christian Republican, Caltech Master, aerospace engineering icon, 40 years older; and I was a liberal Democrat Jewish transsexual who had gone to Caltech years before only to buy a T-shirt. But respect with difference was natural to us both, and we were both pilots, so…we were glued together from the first, fell in love, lived together, then married.
It’s been suggested to me several times that all that is false, but it’s true. Some people seem predisposed to prejudice, intolerance of or anger at difference, with a preference for interpersonal power and an authoritarian assertion that society must be as they assert it should be—while other people seem to be absent those primitive qualities, don’t see difference as a violation of humanity but instead see the value of the person inside, regardless of difference, who don’t really “get” why anyone would hate someone else because of their race, religion, sex/gender, or who they love. Joe and I are and were the latter.
I share myself in Shadow Life as an example of
- how a conservative like Joe can love a liberal like me,
- how we hurt ourselves by hiding our sexuality, and
- how we can eventually learn to embrace ourselves.