The Route Less Taken

©2013 by Linda & Cynthia Phillips


The Route Less Taken

By Linda and Cynthia Phillips


Yesterday I saw an adorable little girl posing on TV with her parents, who were discussing the fact that this lovely little girl wasn’t being allowed to use the restroom of her choice at her local school. It seems she was transgendered, and her parents were allowing her to dress and live as a girl in spite of the fact she had been born male. I don’t know about you, but if I had asked my parents to allow me to dress as a girl and use the ladies room, they would have probably had me confined in the Rubber Ramada!

I remember when I first went to school, how confused I was about why the girls were separated from the boys when they used the restrooms. At home the whole family used the same bathroom. In fact, when I was little we felt lucky to have an indoor bathroom! I had relatives who weren’t so lucky. I remember visiting the folks at the farm and discovering what an outhouse was. I was born in the depths of the Great Depression in 1935. As those of you who were born as I was, appearing as one gender (sex?) and thinking as another, I toughed it out by doing the best I could with what I had. Venturing into the girl’s restroom was the least of my woes as well as the very least of my thoughts.

I see ads against bullying which tell children what they should do when they are treated badly by their peers, and I think back to some of the fights I got into when someone would cast doubts on my masculinity. I would come home from school with a bloody nose, torn clothes, (which would really get me in dutch with my mother), and other evidence of a less-than-peaceful day at the altar of learning. In spite of my size and small stature, I never lost a fight. It wasn’t that I was that brave or skilled at fighting, but because of a reason you will recognize– fear.  I was scared someone would notice the differences that to me were obvious, that I wasn’t like the other boys.

This problem vanished when I became interested in two things: cars and girls. I was one of the guys who had a fast car (or fast where I came from!) Also I found a great attachment to the members of the gender to which I secretly felt I belonged.

Linda with Her Panel Truck, 1993

Linda with Her Panel Truck, 1993

I was a lucky kid growing up. I had several mentors, most of which were older than I. This was the time of the car generation. My friends and myself ate, slept and spoke cars. We had no cell phones, no computers, and of course no money!  When I indicated to the man who wore my father’s clothes that I really wanted a car in the worst way (which would certainly mean I wanted him to pay for it!) he told me in his own inimitable way that he would help me, by telling me he wanted me to have a car, too– but he wasn’t going to pay for it! That meant that for the next few hundred dollars, and more than a few months, I worked my ass off to be able to buy one.

One thing about buying your own car with your own money, you can buy any car you can afford.

One of my best friends was a guy who knew more about cars than just about anyone else. He showed me how to turn a shaky piece of junk into a fairly respectable runner. Playing with cars kept me, as they like to say, off the streets, since I spent most of my money in junkyards buying stuff that would keep my little jewel running.

In those days I was a heavy dater; dating girls, who preferably had their own car, or better still, whose parents had a car which we could borrow. I had a strong affinity for good-looking women, and they for me.

My gender problem faded into the woodwork and there was more than one time when I thought I would grow up to be normal (whatever that meant!)– but when I got next to some honey, I realized that as well as make love to her, I wanted to be her!

In those long ago years I learned how to be a man and all the things society expected of a man. I learned, besides how to fix cars, to do all the things men of that era were expected to do. I broke cars and fixed them, worked at all kinds of physical jobs, went into business, got married to a wonderful, beautiful woman, and so on. The only thing I did that was smart was tell my beloved before we got married about my alter ego, the other woman in my life, who was quite real and who needed attention just like any other good-looking woman! She was a woman who appeared in my mirror at the most inopportune times.

This other persona of mine had to be explained to anyone in whom I was seriously interested. I had tried it the other way with another woman, telling myself that after marriage would be just fine. However, fate, which has a funny way of happening to you when you are making other plans, intervened, and I was saved from that fiasco by the skin of my teeth.

Now I am married to an unusual and intelligent woman who is a looker even into her seventies. We have been married going on 56 years, with me being Linda almost half of those years.

Because of several things, not the least of which was money, then my health, which became edgy because of my insistence on pushing my body beyond its capabilities,  I never took the plunge many of my friends did. I’m talking about sex reassignment surgery. As my wife told me, you can’t be a female, Sweetheart, but you are a woman when you want to be one, so be happy with that.  As I discovered years later, she was (as usual) right.

As I grew older I discovered all those happy little things old age brings to us, transgendered or not.  First I got shingles, which, if you had Chicken Pox (no, that’s not a special at KFC!), hang on, you’ll probably get it. Then it was all the other cute things shingles brings….don’t ask!  I figured all I had to do was rearrange my plumbing to really screw things up.  Besides, if you live long enough you’ll  discover sex is just a distraction of the young, sort of like FaceBook.

One of the few good things about old age is Medicare.  Someday remind me to tell you about how an old lady skips through the medical establishment while having male genitals. You have to be quick!

Today when I look back at 77 years of life, I realize just how lucky I’ve been.  I did what I wanted to in most instances in my life. However, many of the people I’ve known in Genderland haven’t  been so lucky. I have had friends who suffered terribly with that most horrible of things the majority of gender folk are afflicted with– guilt.  Some people declare the world runs on love, but I believe in Genderland we are run by guilt. I’ve  had friends who killed themselves because they were unable to deal with their guilt, unable to explain to their family and friends what and why they were who they were.  Some lived a life of misery because of it, paying blackmail to those who knew by living their lives as others wished, and not as they wished.

We’ll never know why we are the way we are. There are scientists who think they know. They say “We have a pretty good idea of why you are this way.” and then fail to prove their theory.

There are doctors who make a fortune from creating those of us who insist we’ll be satisfied only with the surgeon’s knife.  But what or who are we, really? Is it a decision made for us by that turn from straight ahead, to the left turn lane, changing those seemingly all important X’s and S’s, which make a life so completely different? Or is it wish-fulfillment by ourselves shaped by therapists?

At this point in time when I’m  getting ready to go to the big carburetor in the sky, I think about how different my life would have been had I married the girl who wanted me “to give up all this crap and be a real man.” What if I had taken that keen job I was offered in California back in the fifties? And, indeed, what if, like most of my old friends, my partner and I had opted to have children?  Children are great, but try explaining to a six-year-old why daddy is wearing mommy’s underwear!

When I made a choice, it was decided by my partner and myself, unencumbered by other considerations such as family. The only family besides the two of us, has always had four legs, and until the dog, cats, deer and squirrels at Toad Hall learn to speak, we’ll continue this way.

The things I learned when posing as a man have been invaluable to me in life. My partner and I finished a 3,500 sq. ft. house after it was put in the dry. I did the electric, plumbing, and carpentry. My partner did the brick work and tile, and I mixed the mud for her. And in the middle of this, which was over 25 years ago, I transitioned from “him” to “intermediate.”

Yes, not a woman, because after living with as fine an example of nature’s better decisions, all these years, I realized I wasn’t man enough to be a woman– but I have satisfied that part of me that wants to live as a woman, the part of me that wants to do the things that were denied me as a man.

Examples: my wife grew tired of cooking. In all our years together, she did that job, along with all the other odious chores women tend to get stuck with.  I, on the other hand, always loved to cook, which is why I do it now.  However, when I lived with my parents, my mother wouldn’t let me in the kitchen.  She knew what I was. (Mothers always know.)  Oh sure, good old Mom isn’t going to tell Dad she thinks Junior might be getting into her nylons. She keeps quite about it, but mothers aren’t dummies.

My Mother caught me a couple of times in various things of hers, but kept it between us and never mentioned it, and in the good old American way, if you don’t talk about something, it goes away, right?  She figured if I learned to cook I would turn out to be a screaming fag– and what would the neighbors say? So no kitchen for her All-American boy.  My wife, on the other hand, harbors no such misconceptions about my sexuality, and is quite happy with my working in the kitchen.

In our little town we are known as the “two little old ladies who register the voters at City Hall.” I’m fortunate enough to appear as a little old lady, which keeps me happy, and whatever keeps me happy keeps my wife happy.

Unfortunately, we never seem to understand until it is too late (and too late comes too fast!) that those decisions we make early in life, (or the ones we allow others to make for us) shape our lives to a huge extent, and we pay for those things with funds we don’t always have.

If asked by anyone, “Would you change anything about your life if you could?” (O.K. I admit it, no one has ever asked)  my answer would have to be a firm no. Yes, there have been times when I wish I hadn’t had the choices I had, when to just live one life would have had to be enough, but then I think, “How boring!”

(This article has approx. 2,060 words)