It Gets Better turns 10 while Personal Stories Project documents LGBTQ livesSeptember 24, 2020
Meet Charles Chan Massey | Entrepreneur, Small Business Owner, and Non-Profit ExecutiveAugust 28, 2021
Editor’s note: Bev sent this to us in 2017. Unfortunately she passed away on June 21st. Sending her family our love and light during this time of transition.
To my friends and family,
By the time that I finish writing this letter, I imagine I will have been working on it, off and on, for several weeks. I want to take great care with it, because what I want from the beginning is for this letter to explain the things you may wish to know, and to answer the questions you will want to ask. Regardless of what I want and my best intentions, there will remain things that you still don’t know, and there will remain questions that need asking. It’s just the nature of things, I guess. The reason I’m taking so much care, putting effort into making sure that what I say is what I really want to say and how I want it said, is because I am writing all of you to tell you I am a transgender human being. The common word, although it is falling out of use, is I am transsexual.
I realize to most of you this is a jarring revelation but please stick with me for at least a page or two so that I can try and explain some things.
All my life, I have felt wrong and I do mean all my life. Since before most of you knew me, since before my brothers were born, since age four before I could put a definition to what gender even was I have always felt off in my own body. It was as though the world I expected was out of sync with what was happening around me, happening to me.
I have the brain of a female. Scientific evidence says transgender is biological/genetic, caused during fetal formation by little more than a slightly “off” series of hormonal developments. Research into genetics is also finding areas where certain genes supposed to be affected by male hormones before birth are simply immune to or less affected by those male hormones causing the “off” series of hormonal developments. Whatever the cause, my brain is female, but it’s in the body of a male, and the two have been at war for the entirety of my existence.
Imagine for a second what that would be like. Imagine you, as a girl or boy, in the opposite body, and unable to do anything about it. You see the world as a guy or girl, but have to live as a girl or guy, pushed along by social current, tradition, and basic survival instinct into positions and identities that are increasingly uncomfortable, unpalatable to you. Everything about your existence is laced with lies, and it feels like there’s nothing that you can do about it. This has caused me an almost inexpressible amount of grief. Imagine the anguish as a young child of five or six saying your prayers at night asking God to fix you so you would wake up a girl and crying when you woke up unchanged. Imagine the lack of information before the internet and the loneliness as you grow up thinking you are the only person in the entire world like this. Imagine the thoughts of suicide. Imagine the planning of suicide and backing out at the last second because you were afraid your wife and child would end up homeless. This is how it is for me. This is how it has always been for me. If you’ve always seen me as masculine, then I guess it just means I’m a darn good actress. I’m sorry if this makes you feel betrayed, or wronged. That was never my intention.
For years I didn’t know there was anything I could really do about what I felt, and so for years I tried to bury it. Unsurprisingly, this did not work. Transgender is not a habit you can break, a mindset you can force your way out of, or something you can treat with psychotherapy or drugs. It is a genetic construction that will never, ever change. So now I’m doing something about it, and I’m transitioning from male to female. Other than death, it’s my only possible cure.
Here’s what this means. Sometime within the next year or so, I will no longer be living as or identifying as a male. It means that I will be undergoing hormone replacement therapy to cancel out my body’s male hormones with female ones. It means that I will be physically developing as a female. It means that I will stop following what little male fashion I did and will begin to dress as a female. It means that I’m going to spend lots of money to hire a professional to shoot my facial hair to death with an electric probe in a process called electrolysis. It means that I will be undergoing a long and tedious process to shift every bit of identification related to me to reflect a female identity, which will of course include a change of name. Soon enough, my name will be legally changed to Beverly Ann. Beverly, my maternal grandmother’s maiden name, is the name my parents would have given me had I been born female. Girls in my mother’s family were not given middle names so I chose Ann in honor of my best friend, my buddy, the love of my life and the person who has shared this secret with me for over forty-six years. Yes, Debra knew of this before we were married. And before anyone asks, other than my physical appearance nothing will change in our marriage. Deb is and always will be my true love and she is onboard with this although I know she has reservations and fears.
This is not a choice! Above all of the rest, this is the part I want everyone to understand the most. This is the part where I’m going to be emphatic, where I will get angry if it’s mentioned, and where I will probably cry a little afterwards if it happens. I am not choosing to become female. This is me allowing myself to be the real me, the person I’ve always been inside and it is the only route I can take, because I am done lying about who I am. In transitioning from male to female, I am going to become a second-class citizen in the eyes of many people. I am going to be opening myself up to discrimination and hate. I am opening myself up to possible abandonment and rejection by family and friends. I am diving headfirst into what is really a whole world of social trouble along with the possible threat of violence and this is not something that I would choose to do. I’m going to go into debt due to medical bills, and this is not something that I would choose to do. This is the next step of my life, of my existence and of my development as a person but it was never my choice.
Coming to grips with this has been an absurdly hard process. Making myself realize it and embrace it took most of my teenage years, and even after that through my entire life, the fear and uncertainty of what to do about it made me miserable. I lied about what made me sad, or why I was depressed. I sank all of this inside myself, jealous of people braver than me and all full of self-pity. It took what amounts to a complete collapse in October to change things.
I know some of you are asking why now? Why at your age? All I can tell you is during the last week of October I was fine one moment and the next moment, everything I had suppressed came crashing in on me and I was crying. I just could not deny it anymore. I have probably cried more in the weeks since then than I have in my entire life. And as for my age, well there is a certain person who has publicly started transition and we are the same age. She’s got about a year on me in starting transition and, of course, an Olympic Gold Medal along with about a hundred million more in resources.
Anyway, I’m writing this letter to everyone so that you all can know what I’m going through because I feel like it would be unfair for you to not know. It would be unfair to suddenly spring this on you in person. I know you didn’t ask for me to spill my heart out like this and I know it may be annoying to even hear it. I don’t expect you to write me with encouragement, give me three cheers or to be my support group. I just don’t want to give you the wrong impression of me any longer and this letter is my first step in showing you who I really am. If this means you don’t want me around anymore, that’s okay. I really do understand. If you don’t want to speak to me anymore at all, that’s okay too. I can’t ask for acceptance from everyone. I don’t even really expect it. I just want everyone to know.
For the near future, know that my transition will soon be underway. Things will be changing about my dress, my mannerisms, my looks but keep in mind beneath it all I’m still the same person. Same likes, same dislikes, same bad jokes, same boring old stories, same taste (or lack of). I know it’s going to be strange, I know it’s going to be different, and I know most of you have never had to go through this before. That’s okay, I haven’t either. I know there will be awkward situations. I know I’ll be accidentally called CW or Calvin or Worrill and referred to with male pronouns and I know it will feel weird having to correct yourself when it comes to these things. I expect it, and I’m fine with it. Fine with it as long as it’s accidental but using the wrong name or misgendering deliberately will be completely a different matter. I also expect questions, lots and lots of questions, and I want you to ask them without fear. There is no question you can ask that will embarrass me and no question you can ask that I will not answer. I’m an understanding person, and I understand how weird this might be for most of you. I want to minimize that as much as I can for everyone’s sake.
As I write this to you, I do feel like I should say sorry to you for keeping this a secret for so long, for building up a wall between us that I led you to believe didn’t exist. I’m not sorry for who I am, but I am sorry for who I made you believe I was. Again, all I can do is ask for your understanding, but if I don’t receive it, I’ll live. Since coming to terms with all of this and since my therapist has written my referral letter for hormone replacement therapy, I’m already a happier person. I am taking what remains of my life into my own hands and I’m going to live it the way that I deserve to live it. I cannot go on acting any longer.
With love to all of you,
This was written by a former Atlanta resident and friend. Maybe it will help you understand.
We Are the Transgender
We are your sons and daughters, your fathers and mothers, your cousins, your aunts and uncles, your grandparents, your grandchildren. We are your stepfathers and stepsons, your stepmothers, your stepdaughters. We are your adopted children and your adoptive parents, and we are the parents who have given you up for adoption.
We are your neighbors and friends. We were your dorm-mate in college, your fraternity brother, your sorority sister. We were in Cub Scouts with you, in Brownies, in the Air Force, the Marines.
We are your bosses, your employees. We work next to you in the assembly line. We drive your cabs, your buses, your taxis. We fly your planes, we sail your ships, we drive your locomotives. We deliver your paper, stock the shelves in your groceries, ring up your purchases. We style your hair. We press your suits. We design your suits. We cook your food in restaurants, and we bring it to your table. We build your cars in Detroit.
We have always been with you.
We were at Shiloh, and at Gettysburg. In the Great War, we fought in the trenches, and we flew against the Red Baron; now we live in our old age in Veterans Hospitals. We were at Iwo Jima, and were in Korea and Viet Nam and Kuwait. We remember riding with Genghis Khan. We saw Jesus Christ.
We fill your schools. We are your principals, your teachers, your students, your librarians, the ones who sweep the halls. We write your textbooks.
We are your politicians, your farmers, your physicians, your priests, your nuns, your generals. And we are the privates in your armies, your prostitutes. We languish in your prisons. And we are guards and wardens of your prisons, too.
We are the little boy with the red hair who mows your lawn every summer. We are the cop who gave you a ticket last year. We are the little old lady in the next pew at church.
We stand on your left side, and on your right, before you, behind you. We came before you, and we will come after you.
We are black, we are white, we are brown, we are yellow. We are young, we are old. We are fat, we are thin. We are poor, and we are rich. We are healthy; we are ill. We are male. We are female.
We are the transgender. We have always been with you.
We will always be with you.