Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Transgender and in the Navy - One Woman's Story

Photo by Jeoff Davis

Monica Helms grew up a "typical boy," married "the one" and fathered two children. Then she finally acted on her lifelong desire to become a woman. This is her story.

Sometime around the age of 4 or 5, I knew something was different about me. I was raised Catholic and you’re supposed to pray to God for things. So I prayed to God to turn me into a girl. I finally got to do it 41 years later, so I guess for God that’s like overnight delivery.

Several things slowed down my process of becoming a woman. I was the typical boy. I can honestly say that I was a tomboy in a boy’s body. I had loving parents and we always did things together, so I didn’t have time for a lot of introspective thinking. And I was the oldest child, so I didn’t have an older sister to emulate or to be jealous of. I was always attracted to women, so that was another part that didn’t clue me in. So there were a lot of things that got in the way of me realizing what I was.

I started cross-dressing in 1974, right smack-dab in the middle of my Navy career when I was based in Charleston. It was the deepest, darkest secret in my entire life. I would tell someone that I’d murdered someone before I’d tell someone I cross-dressed. It was scary, because I knew that if I got caught I would get kicked out. So all I did then was dress up at home. Then I got transferred to the Bay Area in 1976, and I had a little more accessibility to a community that was just ready to explode. Talk about stepping out of your boundaries into a whole new world! When I started cross-dressing and going to the gay clubs, I felt like I could be out in public as myself.

I got out of the Navy in 1978 and went to junior college, where I met my wife. I just knew that she was “the one,” but I couldn’t ask her to marry me until I told her about my cross-dressing. So I told her, and I thought she understood. It wasn’t until later that I realized she didn’t. Later on, she denied that I told her. When she caught me cross-dressing, she just went ballistic. We had two sons together.

It took me until 1987 to realize that not only was I a cross-dresser, but I was transsexual. When I told my parents that I wanted to transition, my mother looked at me and said, “I only wish you were just gay.” My father had diabetes and Alzheimer’s and he wasn’t in that great of shape. My mother insisted that I not see him ever again. So I lived five miles from the house that I grew up in and I couldn’t even go in the house. I’d drive by and I’d see my father out in the yard and my mother outside.

To continue reading, please click here for the story in Atlanta's Creative Loafing.

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