Priceless: I am no longer conflicted

By Donna Price donnaI was born in 1954 and my father lost his job when I was a child of six.  It took him about a year to find a new job and, in the meantime, we went from being poor to dirt poor.  My parents did an incredible job of shielding us children about the full impact of the situation, but even as a child of six there are things you pick up on...the frequency of egg salad in your diet, the absence of things in your experiences that were observed to be had by others, the just knowing that things were very tight financially. As best as I can remember, it was at about that same time of life when I first began to realize that I was different from other children.  I consider myself to have been a relatively late bloomer in addition to being naive.  I had thoughts about why children looked and dressed differently, but – quite candidly – was late in understanding what the real differences were between boys and girls, which includes, but goes far beyond, just physical anatomy and outward appearance.  I also learned and understood enough to know that there were some things that were simply not discussed.  So as best I could I buried these things and thoughts in the depths of my mind, only periodically having them involuntarily emerge as I grew to maturity, and did the things expected of me. I went to college, fell in love, went to law school, got married, and then accepted a commission as an officer in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps.  I had these cross-dressing urges and gender-identity conflicts and they were becoming more frequent and harder to bury.  But the truth is that there was no place where I could go to find answers.  Early on in my career it became crystal clear that if I had sought help, then the Navy would learn of that and my career would be over.  The libraries did not carry information about gender-identity, and the internet did not exist at the time.  But I am a lawyer, and I did know enough to read the regulations, and there it was – as plain as could be:  SECNAVINST 1920.6 Series, Enclosure 3 – Policy Governing Involuntary Separation; Paragraph 1.b. Misconduct, or Moral, or Professional Dereliction; Subparagraph (3) Sexual Perversion, which is defined in Enclosure 1, Paragraph 33, to include d. transvestitism or other abnormal sexual behavior. Essentially, any cross-gender behavior or identity associated with gender dysphoria would be grounds enough for discharge. Later, with the internet coming into existence and the accessibility to volumes of previously unknown information becoming available, I learned a great deal about what it means to be transgender, and the employment/financial consequences of “coming out.”  I learned that the average annual income of a post-op Male-to-Female woman was under $15,000 – when work could be found. By the time I was able to actually put a name to my “condition” I had a family whose financial survival depended upon my income.  So I spent 25 years in service to my country always in fear of disclosure, in fear of discharge, and in fear of being fired or unable to care for and support my family...just because of who and what I am.  I also was suicidal, not because I was transgender, but because I believed that I would never be able to live my life as a woman.  Over time I came to accept and embrace the entirety of who and what I am and, as a result of that, my suicidal ideation, depression, and anxiety have gone away. I have recently changed my name, have undergone Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS), and am in the transitioning process of completely being and living fully as a woman.  There are consequences of this transition.  There are people who want me to remain the person that they desired for me to be.  But, if you are not completely honest with yourself first, and live the life that you need to live, then you cannot be honest with others nor actually provide them with the life that they may desire to have or share with you.  For the first time in my adult life, if not in memory, I am no longer conflicted or in pain over who and what I am.  And that, as they say, “IS PRICELESS.” This blog is part of Equality Virginia’s summer 2014 blog series about transgender Virginians.  Learn more about Equality Virginia's work by signing up to receive our emails!  Another great way to stay in touch is by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter.