It Brings On Many Changes


Synopsis:

Suicide is a very dark topic and too real to too many in our community. This story deals with a suicide; but it is far from as dark as you might imagine. It tells the story of a transvestite from the point of view of his wife, his daughter, his mother-in-law, his best friend, a psychiatrist -- and herself. If somehow this story brings you down, I apologize, as it's not written to make that happen.

Story:

It Brings On Many Changes
By Angela Rasch

Chapter One — Psychiatrist
Tuesday, June 6, 2000
Michael K. Brousseau, MD
Patient #1280
Session One Recap

SUBJECT IS A MALE CAUCASIAN, 54 YEARS OLD. HE COMPLAINED OF LACK OF SLEEP, INABILITY TO CONCENTRATE, AND FITS OF ANGER.

As with so many other first-session male patients, he has failed to make eye contact for any sustained period of time. He seems more interested in the diplomas on my wall than he is in discussing his issues. Hopefully, my M.D. designation will allow him to open up.

Look at that old fart eyeing my diploma. You can almost hear him calculating my age. I’m thirty-three, for God’s sake! Why is it no one but the ancient fossils and those sent here by the courts for evaluation, can afford me.

SUBJECT HAS IDENTIFIED HIS DISORDER AS CROSS-DRESSING.

Oh great, another red-letter day in the life of Michael Brousseau. When I attended college, I dreamt of helping people through research. I never wanted to have a practice dealing with this crap. My plan was to help those with deep-seated neuroses, those that had been traumatized, but not perverts.

I graduated toward the top of my class and would’ve qualified for a research grant had the economy not suffered a downturn. Oh sure, some of the “connected” people still got grants, but not Michael Brousseau. I’m stuck with the overripe fruits.

After failing to land a spot in a research clinic, I fell into counseling. Shortly after I opened my door, my empty appointment book prompted me to sign a long-term contract with LocateaShrink.com. Had I known then how easy it was to take on court ordered evaluation work at one-fifty an hour, I wouldn’t have been so impetuous.

I’m the only psychiatrist in the state whose website comes up when you browse on “sexual problems.” I can’t believe the losers I attract. Every damned one of them has some petty problem they could easily handle on their own, if they had a shred of self-control.

This one thinks he has a problem with clothing, when his real problem is his fixation on his penis.

Too bad he isn’t suffering from narcissistic personality disorder, as I had suspected when he called on the phone. I have to publish to move out of the rut I’m in. Nobody reads papers about transvestites. There’s grant money available for work on cures for sissy-boys. Too bad this guy doesn’t fit with that crowd.

My skin crawls every time paraphiliacs crawl out from under their rocks. Why can’t they stay in their freaking closets?

At least he has money. My fee for an off-the-street case is two hundred an hour. He didn’t blink at the $1,500 retainer. I’ll schedule him for six ninety-minute sessions. I can stand listening to him every ten days, or so.

That will pay for the new fur coat Alyssa wants. She’s high maintenance and well worth it. She’s the best wife money can buy, and looks damned good on my arm at the club. Those other bastards would love to get into her panties. She’s mine. Come to think of it, I’ll bet little Miss High Heels here would probably like to get into her panties.

SUBJECT BEGAN CROSS-DRESSING AT THE AGE OF FOUR DURING PLAY WITH OLDER SISTER. HE “SAID” HE WAS NEVER FORCED TO CROSS-DRESS. HE “SAID” HIS MOTHER WASN’T THE AUTHORITY FIGURE IN HIS HOME. HE “SAID” HIS FATHER WASN’T ABSENT. HE “SAID” HE ENGAGED IN NORMAL MALE CHILD ACTIVITIES. HE “SAID” HIS FAVORITE SPORT WAS FOOTBALL.

HE ALSO “SAID” HE ISN’T A HOMOSEXUAL. BUT HE DOES ADMIT TO PERIODIC HOMOSEXUAL FANTASIES, WHILE “DRESSED” AND MASTURBATING.

Yeah. Like he’s not a fairy? He’s either lying or “blocking” - - - which is sub-conscious lying. He probably can’t wait to get off by himself in some frilly little number so he can whack his willy, while thinking of me. Alyssa says I look like David Schwimmer, only smarter. I suppose I do. But, Schwimmer’s sort of a wimp. I’ve got a much better physique. I wouldn’t blame this sissy if he fell for his doctor. Not much danger of me violating my Hippocratic Oath with this one.

SUBJECT DOESN’T USE CAFFEINE, DOESN’T SMOKE, HE IS ON NO MEDICATION, NO RECREATIONAL DRUGS, AND DRINKS ALCOHOL ONLY MODERATELY. RECOMMENDED A CUP OF CHAMOMILE TEA BEFORE BED.

I can just imagine the little sweetie, all bundled up in his nightgown and slippers having a nice cuppa tea. If he would loosen up and do a line every now and again, he wouldn’t have to wank-off in his panties.

Thursday, June 15, 2000
Ten Days Later
Session Two Recap

SPENT ENTIRE SESSION OUTLINING TREATMENT OPTIONS. AT BEGINNING OF SESSION SUBJECT WAS ARGUMENTATIVE. HE CLAIMED HIS CROSS-DRESSING COULDN’T BE CALLED A “DISORDER.” ASSURED HIM HIS PROBLEM IS CLASSIFIED AS A DISORDER. TOLD HIM HIS DISORDER COULD BE VERY DISRUPTIVE BECAUSE OF THE IMPACT IT HAS ON OTHER PEOPLE. TOLD HIM THIS WAS PARTICULARLY TRUE WHEN A DISORDER INVOLVED ACTS LIKE RAPE, SADISM, OR SEXUAL ABUSE OF CHILDREN. SUBJECT “SAID” HE WOULD NEVER TAKE PART IN, OR CONDONE SUCH ACTIVITIES. CAUTIONED SUBJECT THAT SEXUAL DISORDERS ARE QUITE PREVALENT IN OUR SOCIETY. BECAUSE SOME OF THEM CAN POSE A DANGER, IT’S IMPORTANT WE GIVE ALL OF THEM CAREFUL CONSIDERATION AND TREATMENT.

That put the little pantywaist in his place. I have to assert the rightful dominant position of the physician. He is guilty by association with the other scum in his disorder’s class; and he knows it.

THE SUBJECT “SAID” HE DRESSED MOST OFTEN IN TIMES OF STRESS. HE CLAIMED IT SOOTHES HIM. SUBJECT HAS DISPLAYED SEVERE PERSONALITY DISORDER BY REPEATEDLY ACTING UPON PARAPHILIC URGE. SUBJECT “SAID” HE HAS NORMAL COITUS WITH HIS WIFE. HE “SAID” HE HASN’T ENGAGED IN FANTASY ABOUT HARMING HER. SUBJECT HASN’T TRIED TO “PASS” IN PUBLIC AS A WOMAN.

At least he’s not quite that fouled-up. I’m happy I don’t practice in England. The other day I was reading an English magazine at the club. They’ve got all that trendy shit lying around. According to an article in the magazine, five thousand Englishmen were surveyed. A full twenty-five percent of them said they had cross-dressed at least once in their life. More incredible -- eight percent that said they did it with regularity. One of the eleven on every soccer side is wearing a pink, lace nut-cup when they’re on the pitch.

SUBJECT SAID HE SOMETIMES HAS ENGAGED IN FANTASY ABOUT OTHER MEN BEING ATTRACTED TO HIM WHEN HE’S CROSS-DRESSED. HE “SAID” HE DOESN’T THINK THIS MEANS HE’S HOMOSEXUAL. HE “SAID” HE THOUGHT IT JUST WAS HIS DESIRE TO FEEL TOTALLY FEMININE WHEN DRESSED AS SUCH.

Right. I suppose when I fantasize about my wife, it’s just my desire to be totally laid. I wonder just how long I can hold a professional/concerned look on my face around this Nancy? I’d pay dearly for the occasional smirk and chuckle.

This is just great. I’m being dragged through the sewers of his bisexual identity, Oedipal situations, and mother’s feminized phallus. Next this jackass is going to try to convince me cross-dressing is within the range of normal male sexuality.

HE SAID WEARING FEMALE CLOTHING FELT RIGHT AND SEEMED APPROPRIATE. HE “SAID” HE DIDN’T HATE HIMSELF. HE “SAID” HIS DEPRESSION WAS SOMETHING NEW.

I wonder how many times I can say ‘uh huh’ to this lying sack of crap, when all I want to do is scream. “Bullshit!”

“HE SAID” HE HAS BEEN MARRIED FOR OVER THIRTY YEARS TO THE SAME WOMAN AND HAS A SATISFACTORY MARRIAGE.

She must look like Hitler -- mustache and all. This “Shirley Temple” is the Prince of Duality.

I EXPLAINED TO THE SUBJECT THE LACK OF A CLEAR PHYSIOLOGICAL EXPLANATION FOR PARAPHILES. I EXPLAINED THAT SOME DOCTORS LINK IT TO A HIGH SEX DRIVE.

Yeah, they can’t keep their little peckers in their panties.

SUBJECT DID NOT OBJECT TO BEING “CURED”, BUT GAVE NO IMMEDIATE AFFIRMATION. SUBJECT STATED HE WOULD HAVE TO WEIGH THE TREATMENT OPTIONS AGAINST EXPECTED OUTCOMES. I TOLD HIM CASTRATION SEEMED TO RESULT IN THE MOST PREDICTABLE OUTCOME.

Smartass, cocksucker heard me say “castration.” All these cross-dressers have castration anxiety. That’s what stirs their sick little pots.

AS AN ALTERNATIVE, I SUGGESTED PSYCHOTHERAPY. THAT WOULD INVOLVE AT LEAST FIFTEEN AND MORE THAN LIKELY AS MANY AS TWENTY-FIVE SESSIONS, TO ACHIEVE A FAVORABLE OUTCOME.

Salesmanship. Either get out your wallet, or I deactivate your love knob. $7,500 in fees would certainly start the new fiscal year right.

I hope he doesn’t know and doesn’t find out that most psychiatrists consider psychotherapy outdated and useless for treating transvestites. Hell, I’m even on fairly decent ethical ground recommending it, as nothing will work if he isn’t a willing participant. Transvestites are never willing participants.

POSSIBILITY OF GROUP THERAPY WAS DISCUSSED AND REJECTED OUT OF HAND BY THE CLIENT. SPOKE AT LENGTH OF BEHAVIORAL THERAPY. WOULD CONDITION HIS RESPONSES TO SEXUAL STIMULI, EXTINGUISHING HIS PERVERSION AND REWARDING NORMAL SEXUAL URGES. SPOKE OF BOTH AVERSION THERAPY AND SHAME-AVERSION THERAPY. IN CONJUNCTION, COULD USE A COGNITIVE APPROACH ALLOWING THE SUBJECT TO IDENTIFY DEVIATION-SUPPORTING BELIEFS, CHALLENGE THEM AND REPLACE THEM WITH MORE ADAPTIVE BELIEFS.

A lot of wusses, like this one, have thoughts revolving around gaining approval. They think the world should be fair and fulfilling. Wouldn’t that be lovely? I can only do so much to help them change their loony attitude. That attitude is exactly what sent Jimmy Carter back to Peanutsville.

SPOKE TO THE SUBJECT ABOUT ONE LAST ALTERNATIVE - - HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY. SUBJECT WOULD TAKE PROVERA IN A DOSAGE ABOUT EQUAL TO WHAT A WOMAN WOULD TAKE DURING HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY, ABOUT TEN MG PER DAY. CAUTIONED THE SUBJECT PROVERA COULD HAVE SIDE EFFECT OF ENLARGING HIS BREASTS AND MIGHT ADD WEIGHT TO HIS HIPS.

I’m surprised he’s not interested. I thought he would jump at having big breasts. It looks like “Mary” wants to stay in the closet.

SUBJECT AGREED TO A BEHAVIORAL APPROACH. NEXT SESSION WILL BE DEVOTED TO A DISCUSSION OF BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION AND ROLE-PLAYING.

SUBJECT STATED THE CHAMOMILE WASN’T HAVING A POSITIVE EFFECT. PRESCRIBED ONE MG OF CLONAZEPAM BY MOUTH 1 — 2 HOURS BEFORE BED. IT WILL COUNTER ANXIETY AND SOCIAL PHOBIA.

And, the Clonazepan should make him more compliant next time we meet.

Thursday, June 29, 2000
Two Weeks Later
Session Three Recap

SUBJECT ASKED FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT BEHAVIORAL CONDITIONING. INFORMED THE SUBJECT OF THE WORK OF PAVLOV, FRANCIS BACON, AND B. F. SKINNER. TOLD SUBJECT OF THE “SKINNER BOX” OR “OPERANT CHAMBER” AND THE BASICS OF SHAPING THROUGH THE USE OF NEGATIVE AND POSITIVE STIMULI.

FOR THE REST OF THE SESSION, CONCENTRATED ON COGNITIVE THERAPY. EMPHASIZED DETERMINING HOW THE SUBJECT DEVELOPED HIS OWN THEORIES (CONSTRUCTS). THROUGH ROLE-PLAYING. I WANTED HIM TO “BUILD” AN IMAGE OF A PERSON HE COULD ADMIRE - - COMPLETE WITH CONSTRUCTS. GOAL WAS TO ALLOW THE SUBJECT TO SEE HOW HIS PERSONAL CONSTRUCTS WERE FLAWED AND TO IMPROVE HIS LIFE.

SUBJECT HAD GREAT DIFFICULTY IN SEEING ANY FLAW IN HIS PERSONAL CONSTRUCTS.

Perhaps we need to attend to the narcissistic tendencies before we can gain ground.

EXPLAINED HE SUFFERED FROM PENIS FIXATION. HE WAS SEEMINGLY UNRECEPTIVE TO THAT CONCLUSION.

AT THE CLOSE OF THE SESSION, ASKED THE SUBJECT TO COME TO THE NEXT SESSION COMPLETELY CLOTHED AS A FEMALE. HE OBJECTED. HE SAID HE HAS NEVER BEEN IN PUBLIC DRESSED AS A FEMALE. CONVINCED HIM HE WOULD BE NO SEVERE JEOPARDY, AS THERE WAS NO MINNESOTA LAW AGAINST CROSS-DRESSING. TOLD HIM HIS FULL COOPERATION WAS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY TO MOVE FORWARD. HE MADE NO PROMISES.

My office is accessible directly from the parking lot. I don’t have a receptionist. I just don’t understand the secrecy of these paraphilic worms.

Friday, July 7, 2000
Eight Days Later
Session Four Recap

There are those psychiatrists that block their time to allow a fifteen-minute period between sessions. They allocate time for note-taking, session overrun, or other unforeseeable events. They don’t want their patients to suffer the embarrassment of running into one another coming and going. I have a name for that type of psychiatrist. That name is “Fool.” Imagine the billable hours they waste.

As I ushered out the subject who I had scheduled just before my tranny, a woman stood in my outer office. At first, I thought my wife, Alyssa, had dropped in unannounced, and wanted to talk about the kids or needed some cash. The woman’s clothing looked a lot like an outfit I had recently seen on Alyssa. That should have told me how wrong I had been in my assumptions. Alyssa wouldn’t wear the same outfit twice within thirty days. Everything about the woman standing before me reminded me of my wife, right down to her appealing smile.

“Can I be of assistance?” For some reason, this woman made me want to impress her. She didn’t seem all that attractive, quite ordinary actually, but interesting.

“Are you ready for our session?” she asked.

The voice sounded familiar -- and disturbing. “Oh. . . .” My transvestite patient had completely fooled me. My legs felt a little wobbly after I realized I had been flirting with a man. I had thought I put all that latency behind me years ago.

“I’m sorry doctor. Would you be more comfortable if I spoke in this register?” Once he raised the pitch of his voice he sounded like my sister-in-law.

“Whatever makes you more comfortable.” I quickly regained my professional demeanor. It would take more than a sultry alto to put me off stride.

“Okay, I’ll use my inside voice. My inside-the-closet voice.” He grinned as he continued to talk in a voice much like my brother’s wife. “You wanted me ‘dressed’ for this session.”

I nodded as I looked him over again, trying to see how I could have been so deceived. “And, I can see that you are ‘dressed.’ ”

He smiled at me, again, a warm smile; warmer than any smile of his during any other session. In fact, I couldn’t remember him smiling in any other session.

He wore a long black dress with a row of suggestive white buttons down the front. My wife called that kind of dress a “jumper.” He couldn’t easily jump in those boots, with their heels.

He sat and crossed his legs at the knee. His soft leather boots extended past his calves. Around his neck he wore a garnet and amber necklace set in silver on a silver chain. He had matched it with a similar bracelet.

His auburn wig seemed to be made of extremely curly, real hair, which cascaded below his shoulders. Under the jumper, he had chosen a white turtleneck. The dress must have been cashmere, because everything about him looked soft and comforting.

“Did you have any embarrassing moments on the way here?” I asked.

He uncrossed his legs, and then crossed them again at the ankle — and then tilted them to the side. “Not really. I had never used a transformation service before. They were very helpful, and did almost everything for me. Wednesday, they did a dry-run on the make-up, took my measurements, and did all the necessary shopping. Getting prepared for this meeting was the most fun I’ve had in months.”

I took a few unnecessary notes. He seemed to appreciate it when I did. “And, did they teach you how to walk, sit, and hold your body?”

He shook his head. “No. Most of that came to me quite naturally the first time I was fully decked out as a female. . .years ago. I assume my normal body movements are sort of feminine and are accentuated by clothes designed for that purpose. I’ve spent hundreds, thousands of hours in front of mirrors practicing what isn’t my natural self.”

I frowned. “Doesn’t the need to practice how you look make you realize you’re a fraud?” I hoped my blunt criticism would move him from that comfort zone that blocked our progress.

He considered my question for a moment, and then answered in a soft voice. “Do you think I’m more of a fraud than a woman who attended a charm school to learn similar things?”

I ignored his pathetic, self-serving question. “And your voice? I suppose that’s ‘natural’ as well.”

“That took years.” He shook his head as he spoke. “I tried and tried. . . . One day I found a register that worked with minimal effort. The problem I had at first was getting in and out of it. Now - I — can — do — it — at — a - moment’s - notice.” His voice fluctuated from male to female on every other word.

I closed my eyes to clear my befuddlement. “Do you like the way you look?”

“I wish I could have done something a little different for a wig.” He sighed. “Wigs are so hard to find for a head my size. . .especially one that’s in style. If I’d had more time today, I would have had it cut a little here, and here.” He daintily patted his hair in several areas, and then looked down as he turned his ankles to the side to better display his shoes. “I’m never completely satisfied with my shoes. Finding the perfect shoes is so challenging. I suppose you’re going to tell me there’s something Freudian in my ‘fixation’ on shoes?”

I let his insolent prodding pass without comment. “I thought they selected all your clothes?”

“By ‘they’ do you mean the transformation service?” he asked.

“Yes. You said they did all the shopping.”

“That’s right. They did all the shopping for me, but I selected my own things from catalogs, or on-line. They called the stores to verify the colors and styles I wanted were in stock, and then picked them up for me. I didn’t actually go into the stores. I’m so lucky to live in Minneapolis with the Mall of America right here. Nordstrom’s has a wide selection of shoes and dresses in my size.”

He seemed too poised and too comfortable. No pain, no gain. “I have a camera in my desk. I’ll take a few pictures to send to your employer,” I said. “We really need to get your fellow employees involved in your treatment.”

He sprang to his feet, glaring down at me. I reached for the pepper spray I kept in my desk for emergencies. Thankfully, he turned his back, and then walked to the corner of my office.

He stood by the floor globe my parents had given to me when I opened my office. My globe was twenty-four inches wide and stood just over four feet tall in its oak frame. I found great tactile pleasure in running my hands over its raised topography. He slowly spun the globe, causing me to wish he would keep his perverted hands to himself. That globe had been a peace offering from Mother and Father, when they finally forgave me for changing the spelling of my last name from Bruso to Brousseau.

He pirouetted to face me, flashing a radiant smile. “You will do no such thing.” His voice had remained quiet and calming, like a mother addressing her child. “You and I are under a patient/doctor confidentiality. You don’t want to violate that privilege, do you? You don’t want sanctions, or a possible revocation of license, do you?”

He straightened his dress under him as he again sat in the chair across from my desk. The chair had been carefully chosen so he sat six inches below me.

“While it’s true, to some extent, our discussions are privileged. . .I ah. . . .” I had been fully prepared for a violent outburst, not the almost affectionate rebuff he had afforded me. “Why wouldn’t you want your fellow employees to see the photos?” I asked innocently. “Don’t you think you look nice?”

“Nice? As opposed to naughty?” He laughed lightly. “I’ve disclosed to you neither my employer’s name, nor my profession. My job seems irrelevant to our work here. I’ve chosen to separate my dressing a secret from my professional contacts. I see no advantage in opening Pandora’s Box.”

“Pandora’s Box. Exactly!” My arms shot in the air to emphasize the gravity of what he had said. It was my intent to agitate him, to drag him away from his perversion using the threat of disgrace as a negative stimulus. “Isn’t that exactly what you’ve done? Haven’t you opened Pandora’s Box by parading in here dressed as a woman?”

He bit his lip before he spoke. “As I’ve told you, I’ve kept my cross-dressing quite private. I’m dressed as a woman today because you requested it.”

My mouth dropped open. “Don’t blame it on me. I didn’t tell you to look so good.”

His eyebrows arched, as I slumped back into my chair in recognition of what I had said.

I stopped to regroup. “What I mean is -- I didn’t expect your — ah - ‘costume’ to be so authentic, so convincing.”

“Convincing?” he said playfully.

I blushed. “Yes. Isn’t that what you’re trying to do? Aren’t you trying to fool me and other males into thinking you’re a female?” The session hadn’t been going at all as I had planned. I had intended to stand him in front of a mirror and point to his many flaws. So far, I hadn’t seen any. He wouldn’t be mistaken for Jennifer Aniston, but neither would my wife. In fact, his confidence and pleasant manner made him - - - attractive.

“I’ve no desire to trick anyone,” he explained, “unless if by fooling them I can dress like this without everyone making a big to-do.”

“I suppose you want me to believe you’re not trying to attract men as sexual partners?”

He gasped. “Heavens no.”

“Then why are you wearing that provocative perfume?” His perfume’s sweet aroma seemed quite French and probably expensive. Nice. Alyssa wore something that smelled like kerosene. She laughed at what she called my “lack of taste” whenever I asked her to consider changing.

He finally showed some sign of proper embarrassment as he blushed. “Provocative? Aren’t you sweet? It’s ‘Lalique.’ I appreciate the scent, as you do. It makes me feel more feminine.”

“But, you’re not feminine. . .you’re masculine.” We had finally gotten somewhere.

“I am? In what way am I masculine?” He looked down and gestured the length of her -- HIS body.

“Your breasts!” My eyes rested where they always seemed to when I surveyed a woman’s body.

“My breasts?” he asked in mocked horror. He blushed again.

“Your breasts aren’t real. You can’t truly be feminine with those fakes hanging on you.”

“Doctor. . . .” Once again he spoke with an annoying mother-to-small-child tone. “My wife has suffered a double mastectomy. The breastforms she uses are quite similar to mine. She’s very feminine.”

“But, your wife doesn’t have a penis!” I had served my ace - - low and hard to his hopefully weak backhand.

He showed no signs of frailty as he answered. “No, she doesn’t have a penis. Doctor, which way do you want it? Last session, you wanted me to become less fixated on my penis. Now you want to use my penis as the single determinant of my gender.”

“Are you denying that you’re a man?” I demanded, drawing myself up to tower over him.

He nodded slightly. “I’m a man who’s quite content, quite pleased really, to look this attractive in a dress.”

“Ah ha! Attractive. . .there’s that word again. You readily admit you want to be attractive?”

“Of course.” He had answered without deliberation.

I sagged a bit. His smile was beginning to get the best of me. “Do you now admit you lied before when you told me you’re heterosexual?”

He bit his lip again and swung his head from side to side slowly. “No, not at all. I want you to see me as attractive, as I want the rest of the world to find me attractive. If in another person’s opinion I’m pretty, that person probably will accept me. Acceptance as I am would mean a great deal to me.”

His composure and the persona he projected were increasingly unnerving.

“You do realize your disorder is classified with rapist and child molesters?”

He shut his eyes momentarily before answering. “You’ve told me that more times than I really care to hear.”

Detecting a small tear in his eye, I pushed on. “Does it bother you to know what society thinks of your ilk?”

The leather covering of his chair creaked.

He held himself in a tight embrace.

A long moment passed as I waited for an answer.

“The world isn’t perfect.” He spoke slowly, quieter than before. “To my knowledge being a transvestite is a transgression of society’s mores only by definition. People seem to want to live in a world that’s black and white, in which we are either male or female. It saddens me greatly that we can be so lacking in justice and compassion. I refuse to add the fuel of my anger to that utter nonsense.”

“Whatever.” He sounded too sensible and struck me as too likable. He didn’t seem at all like he had during the other sessions. Something about him appeared different. What could it be? I needed to put the shame-aversion therapy session I had planned back on track. If only she hadn’t wore that perfume. If it doesn’t cost too much, I’ll buy some for my wife. I snapped my fingers. That’s it!

“What does your perfume cost per ounce?” I asked hurriedly, eager to make my point.

“It came in a cut-glass bottle for two hundred. I believe it contains about two ounces.”

I nodded and made a note. “And, what did you pay for your boots?”

She looked at me quizzically. “They were $330 - - maybe $350. Something in that area.”

“And your dress?” I asked. As he answered, I wrote down all the amounts.

“$425.”

“And what did all that amber and garnet cost?” I noticed her matching earrings. Her ears hadn’t been pierced. Fashionable clip earrings must have cost him a bundle.

“$600 for the necklace, $375 for the earrings, and $400 for the ring.”

“Your lingerie and stockings?”

She furrowed her brow. “Where are you going with this, doctor?”

“I need to have your best estimate of what it cost for you to dress like you are today, including the fee for whatever help you received from the transformation service.”

He thought for a moment and sighed, “It probably totaled around $3,500.”

“$3,500?” I asked with astonishment

She tilted her head to the side. “Give or take a few hundred. Is this important? I might have the receipts if you need the actual numbers.”

I stood, unable to contain my excitement at our coming breakthrough. “You spent about $3,500 on dressing like a woman; and you claim you don’t have a problem?”

She looked at me as if she hadn’t understood. “Yes, I spent $3,500 on preparing for today. And, no, I most definitely don’t have a problem -- other than some unexplainable depression - - depression that you seem to have forgotten.”

I can’t let her throw the guilt back on me. “Oh, I’m not forgetting it. You’re depressed because you’re mentally ill. Does wasting $3,500 on your outfit just to satisfy a fetishist’s whimsy, give you any idea just how sick you are?”

“Sick?” She appeared completely puzzled. “In what way?”

It was my turn to chastise her as if she were a child. “$3,500 is a great deal of money. Think what a charity could have done with that $3,500 you just wasted.”

“Charities are important,” she agreed. “My wife and I donate about fifteen percent of our income to various charities, but I don’t see the relevance.”

She might be getting close to understanding the relevance and not admitting it. “Add that $3,500 to what you donate and that fifteen percent would go up considerably.”

She shook her head again in that obstinate way she often adopted. “Not really.”

“Maybe you don’t understand” I said, starting to gauge the depth of her neurosis. “Add the $3,500 to the total of what you donate to charities now, and divide that new total by your total income; and then your new contribution percentage would be far above fifteen percent.”

She brightened for no apparent reason confirming my theory of a detached psyche. “I understand you well enough. . .but you’re wrong. In fact, you’re wrong on two counts.”

“Two counts?” I didn’t relish the idea of being caught short in another debate. Why I had chosen to engage in a debate with a psycho could be debated.

“You’re wrong as to the percentages,” she said, quite kindly, “and you’re wrong about the expense for today being a waste.”

“How’s that?” I asked, a little afraid to hear the extent of the gibberish nonsense she would spew.

She once again smiled at me. Her tone matched Mrs. Stendel’s, my sixth grade teacher, when she wanted to get through to a dull student. “My wife and I earned about four hundred thousand dollars last year. Our passive investments brought in another $850,000. That’s about an average year for us. Our charitable contributions exceeded two hundred thousand dollars last year. A few thousand dollars one way or the other would not make a significant difference in our percentages.”

I shuddered and shut my eyes as I thought about how unfair life could be. A fruitcake like her had made over one million dollars in one year.

She continued her gentle, but all out assault. “Doctor Brousseau, I assume you have a wife.”

“Yes, a very beautiful wife.” I managed to open my eyes to a still very unsatisfactory world.

She nodded and grinned. “I’m sure she is. Do you have a picture of her?”

“Not in my office; privacy issues, you know.”

“Of course Doctor, I understand. I only asked about your wife because I think she can help you understand why my expenditures for today aren’t a waste. When you get home tonight, please ask her how she feels when she is dressed head to toe in new clothing. Ask her how she takes pleasure in the small indulgences of new lingerie. Ask her what a kick it is for her when someone tells her she’s attractive. When you’ve done all that; when she’s told you what a new outfit does for her; imagine she spent less than a day’s earnings for the entire outfit, beauty shop, and jewelry. Then ask yourself. Did she receive good value for her money?”

My attempt at shame-aversion therapy had been an utter failure. I had to rebound quickly or lose this quite wealthy patient; a patient I admired for her intelligence and personal accomplishments. I needed her respect. “I’m sure you get my point.” I had sounded embarrassed and lame.

Thankfully she didn’t laugh. “Yes Doctor, I see exactly what you’re saying.”

“Good. We can move on.” I reached into my desk and produced two stacks of pictures I had assembled. The first group of transvestites had been photographed engaging in fellatio and/or anal sex. “Please look at these.” I reached across my desk and handed the photos to her, noting her perfect manicure and the tasteful coloring of her nails. Her eyes widened, as she quickly flipped through the twenty, or so, pictures.

“Now these.” The second stack I gave to her contained pictures of heterosexual couples dressed as they should be and engaged in various normal sexual acts. “We’re going to use basic behavioral modification. These two sets of pictures will serve as stimuli, both for desired behavior and for behavior we want you to extinguish. As you look at the pictures of normal sexual behavior, you will pull up your dress and masturbate. I will then attach this electrode to your scrotum. You will then look at the pictures of transvestite perversion while I administer shocks. We will repeat this cycle again and again, until we have extinguished your aberrant behavior. This will take several sessions.”

She rose from her chair with marvelous poise and picked up her purse.

Funny, I hadn’t noticed her purse. If I’m not mistaken, my wife and I had looked at that same purse not too long ago while dream shopping at Neiman Marcus. Carlos Falchi designed it and placed a price on it of about seven hundred dollars.

She stared at me for a moment; and then she slid her purse up her arm and calmly tore both sets of pictures into confetti. “Mr. Brousseau. . .you may want to consider extinguishing your ‘aberrant behaviors.’ Good day.”

Chapter Two — David Gibson
Two Months Later
Saturday, October 21, 2000

My day started at ten minutes to five, as it had for several years. Most days I would awake at eleven minutes to five and stare at the clock as the radio started its babble. Within seconds, I would be assaulted by news of world champion pumpkins and terrorist strikes. The radio “personalities” delivered the news of both events with the same unbridled enthusiasm. The listener had to assign a level of importance to what they heard.

I didn’t regret leaving my bed behind. I had dreamt of death -- whose I didn’t know.

The fifties had brought Elvis, VP “Dick”, the Russian Menace, and Disneyland. My personal fifties seemed to be less colorful; introducing reduced metabolism and high cholesterol. Exercise had been given as my mandatory life sentence. The electronic scoreboard on my Nordic Track measured heartbeat, calories consumed, and elapsed exercise time. My total workout time never allowed a rich diet. Restricted to less than ten grams of daily saturated fat, I still had to log forty-five minutes a day of great-room skiing just to maintain fitness.

Mindless exercise allowed plenty of time for thinking. By 5:15 I knew it would be a full, active day. The brainwaves began behind and slightly above my eyes. I had something to do -- something important.

I went through the usual list of suspects: ideas for work, gifts for birthdays, and worries about upcoming events. I smiled, thinking of that night’s Wolves game with my best friend Barry Doherty. I would be obligated to “ooohh” and “aaahh” over his new car. He bought a new Audi every two to three years; and they all looked the same to me. According to him every one was soooo much better than the last. He loved his toys. He had digital everything.

A principal in grade school had threatened us with a “sound thrashing” if we broke the rules. I didn’t know what he had meant by a “sound thrashing,” until I watched a movie in Barry’s home theatre amongst his “high quality audio components.”

We had known each other since high school, when we played basketball together. Barry and I had been the starting guards for a mediocre team. Barry hadn’t been blessed with a ton of muscle, but he had a reputation of swift and true action -- if he felt you had violated his principles.

One basketball practice, the coach asked a rhetorical question right after Barry made a mistake. “Can anyone here play better than that?”

To everyone’s surprise one of the worst players on the team said, “I can do it coach, put me in Barry’s place.”

The coach must have wanted to make a point. The rest of that practice he had that scrub play in Barry’s spot, while Barry played on the reserve team.

After practice, we heard someone swearing a blue streak from the back of the locker room. Guys always played grab-ass, snapping towels at bare bottoms, or putting analgesic balm in another player’s jockstrap. It wasn’t unusual to hear screams of pain.

This squeal sounded different -- longer and louder than normal, so the entire team moved toward the noise.

We found Barry and the dweeb that had taken his spot in one of the bathroom stalls. Barry had him pinned against the wall with one hand, while he calmly took off the prick’s basketball shoes with the other. As the wiener squirmed, Barry tossed his shoes into the nearest toilet. He then flushed several times, giving the jerk’s Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars a thorough soaking.

The scrub weighed as much as Barry and looked to be stronger, but when Barry got angry he set his own agenda, and became unbeatable. His Jewish parents had escaped from Nazi Germany and passed on to Barry a good deal of frustration and anger.

Lisa, Barry, and I had been inseparable. We loved each other, but didn’t pair off until our senior year. Lisa had always been “the one” for me. She drove me crazy with envy when she commented about “the girls” loving Barry’s dark curly hair and a big-eyed innocence.

Our American history teacher once made a comment about how Indians hunted for food. She said the Indians would hide in the tall grass and “play” buffalo. She meant they imitated buffalo, but Barry thought the teacher’s clumsy expression had been amusing. To Barry, carrying a joke too far was impossible. He talked Lisa and me into helping him invent a complex board game called “Buffalo,” which we subsequently “played” many times. During our time together in high school, we would laugh uncontrollably at the stupidest things.

It would be good to go to the game with Barry, the walking basketball encyclopedia. I needed an emotional lift. Work had become uninspiring and life at home sometimes seemed like even more of a downer. I needed to drown myself in something as inconsequential as the NBA.

The itch in my amygdala had matured into a sharp desire; an expectation of enjoyment and satisfaction which could only stem from one source. After nearly four decades of cross-dressing, that itch had become quite familiar.

For years, I had followed the advice of Joseph Campbell and followed my bliss. Some might label me compulsive. Others would call me egocentric. I suppose fulfilling my needs could jeopardize the welfare of my family, if I didn’t act prudently.

An all-consuming idea had entered my head that morning, revolving on a wheel I couldn’t control. My thoughts had focused on quenching Pamela’s thirst.

Pamela stood at the female end of my gender spectrum. David, her contrasting identical twin, remained at the male end. The clothing I wore ninety-nine percent of the time were appropriate for David, but I spent the majority of my life thinking about, or preparing for, that other one percent.

I had only a few David things to do. The bulk of my Saturday morning would be spent on Pamela. While showering, I assembled a shopping list of wants. A new lipstick topped my list. The calendar said October. My skin had been darkened from long hours in our pool; and I craved a Solar Coral lipstick to offset my tan, while it lasted. I considered my fading summer glory and added a lighter shade of foundation and powder to my wishes.

I loathed buying foundation and powder. The drugstore didn’t display them in any logical order. The ivory powder could easily be right next to the dark beige. The heavy packaging made it hard to know the actual shade you bought. I would have to suffer the embarrassment of discrete, but, intensive searching through racks of bottles and compacts. My bifocals added to the problem. David didn’t look like a woman without a great deal of work. I had only been in public once as a woman, and that time only one person really saw me. Any inconvenience that added even seconds to my time in the cosmetic aisle could be an invitation for disaster.

I never had a problem selecting lipstick, color being such an impulse buy. Unfortunately, it never quite looked the same on your lips as it did on the plastic tips they put over the tubes. Also, unless you had used that particular brand, you didn’t know the texture or scent. Some tasted terrible. Others felt like wax. Some smelled like New Jersey. Thankfully -- for this Goldilocks -- many were “just right.” Walgreen’s!

Pamela could also use a nightie. . .something rose. What was the use of having a heavenly tan if you didn’t complement it with the right wardrobe? I had thought about a baby doll. All my good nighties ended well below my knees. I really wanted to get a baby doll before the weather sentenced me to another winter of ankle-length flannel. In truth, I would accept almost any excuse to buy something soft, pink, and flimsy. After Walgreen’s I would move on to Victoria’s Secret!

I also craved a new cologne. I liked to change my scent every few days. A few years ago, we had a problem with mold in our home that left me with a slightly impaired olfactory sense. By frequently varying fragrances, my body remained more cognizant of my aroma. I added Macy’s to my upcoming list of venues.

When dressed, I made an attempt to feel as normal as possible. Nevertheless, I wanted to be reminded constantly of my womanhood by dangly earrings, sweet aromas, or silky textiles. I assumed these feminine things did the same for other females.

Not that there weren’t differences between genuine girls and Pamela, but nothing compared to the vast chasm between David and Pamela. David needed things, treating possessions as something he had a right to own. Pamela seemed more likely to “want” -- questioning her due.

By 6:30, I had readied myself to face the world. Pleasurable planning had played against a backdrop of the four horsemen of guilt: shame, secrecy, compulsivity, and fear of discovery. Men revolve around the sun of faith. Like other planets, they all have their dark side. I knew I sacrificed David’s self-esteem to please Pamela. I was lonely with -- and from -- my internal conflict. We are a society that honors our rugged individualists and punishes all who dare to be openly defiant of the norm.

I could hear Lisa a floor below. A bouquet of pancakes and bacon wafted up the stairs. We had been married almost thirty years, and at least half that time, Pamela had come between us.

From the very first moment I saw Lisa, backlit by a picture window in her parents’ home, I loved her. Already beautiful as a teenager, she had Peggy Lipton, long, straight, blonde hair. As her wonderful character surfaced, she became increasingly better-looking.

She filled her head with retirement accounts, passbooks, annuities, savings plans, and other things that caused my eyes to gloss over. At certain moments I thought my biggest value to her was my ability to acquire money. Money offered Lisa a source of fulfillment. We didn’t argue much about it, because we made enough so I could spend freely; and she could save. What would my life have been like with her, if we actually had suffered economic adversity?

Our two boys had graduated from college and lived on their own. “On their own” -- what a funny phrase. It probably should be “on their owed” given all the expense we had incurred helping them through college and the loan payments they would suffer under for years to come.

Still piling up expense for us, our daughter attended St. Ben’s women’s college. Since we only had to drive an hour from our home to her campus, Jessica came home more often than the others had. Having a cygnet for a daughter proved to be a great adventure, with all the young hunters circling our house. Even though she had gotten engaged, I still preferred to know where she went and with whom.

My mind made it back to the task at hand. I had to take care to present a masculine image for my shopping trip, so as not to humiliate myself. Ostensibly the purchases wouldn’t be for me, although at times, Pamela was much more me than David. She had become stronger in character, and knew what she wanted and how to sail through life. David endured compromise, staying within the stark guidelines of economic sanctions.

My life had once been encumbered by whys, but now I simply defined myself as a transvestite. I took life as it came so I could better master it. If I didn’t know the answer, I lacked the desire to care. Pamela’s needs were a mystery I would never unravel. Ours is not to reason why. My need to express Pamela couldn’t be denied. I had tried.

I had created a predictable life-cycle.

First I would build a wardrobe and cache of cosmetics, and then I would hit a “bottom” anchored by remorse, and then finally I would “purge.” For a while I would feel elated, celebrating my resolve to “better” myself, but inevitably I would find myself mourning for my amputated spirit and become despondency because of the huge hole in my heart. Rage and sullenness would overtake me until I build a wardrobe and cache of cosmetics, thereby starting the cycle all over again.

I had finally reached a point in life where I just built and built. Some of my dresses, clothes I had purchased new, had gone out of style fifteen years ago. They had been replaced in my wardrobe by current fashions, but never discarded.

I’m an introvert. My work demanded that I set aside my shyness and advance the bluster of a restaurant owner. When I suffered the pains of withdrawal from femininity, I would lose the energy needed to erect my extrovert facade.

What came my way didn’t dictate my destiny as much as the attitude I adopted while forging inner peace.

Jessica hadn’t awoken yet. She was spending the weekend at home recuperating from mid-terms. Lisa prepared breakfast for the two of them in anticipation Jessica would join her. For some reason, Lisa had allowed the teakettle to sing long enough and loud enough to become terribly annoying. As I had become Jack Sprat, and Lisa owned the metabolism of a bird, we no longer shared many meals.

“I’m going into the restaurant for a while, and then I’ve got some things to do,” I said.

“When will you be back?” She knew I would be shopping for Pamela, or she would have asked where I intended to go.

I usually went to Byerly’s grocery store, Home Depot, or Otten Brother’s Nursery on Saturday. When I went to any of those three, Lisa had a list for me. “I should be home in 2 — 3 hours.”

“Can you be sure to be back by two for sure? We’re going to Northfield this afternoon.” Lisa’s parents live in Northfield. Lisa and Mary, her mother, had perfected their mother/daughter bond. Lisa’s mom had taught third grade. She had been retired for almost twenty years.

“I’ll be ready to go to Northfield by two,” I said. “We have to be back by six. I’m going to the Wolves’ game with Barry.”

She smiled with the satisfaction of someone who had interjected her will into another person’s parade.

I had a bowl of oatmeal and a banana for breakfast. I vowed to set Quaker Oats straight. If they wanted to continue marketing their cereal as a health food, the fat guy with the ruddy cheeks had to go.

Even though I had dressed in masculine mode, I wore white cotton panties. Psychologists might say they manifest my fetish, but I had grown to like them for the comfort they provided. They didn’t chaff like tightie-whities. Still, they provided a nice amount of support, lacking in the boxers favored by my sons. Years ago, wearing panties would have been a big turn-on. They had become merely soothing, like slipping on an old pair of shoes. My mother taught us that our underwear defines us. She cautioned us to make sure we wore clean underwear, in case we had a car accident and had to go to the hospital.

I don’t like the connotations of the word “fetish.” Traditionally a fetish has been defined as an amulet that provides magical protective powers. That definition has narrowed to an object that arouses emotional or psychic energy. Too much emphasis has been placed on the sexual libido and not enough on the pure psychic charge of a fetish. A smart dress holds tremendous magical powers. You can ask “anyone” who wears one.

There had been a time, however, when I wore a panty girdle to hide my erection while on buying sprees, but my shopping trips have become much more comforting than stimulating.

Like David, Pamela had matured. I no longer felt thrilled when I put on makeup. I merely pleased myself knowing my beauty hadn’t faded entirely. As I pulled on a jacket, my hand brushed across an erect nipple that knew where it was going. Old? Yes, but not dead.

“I’ll see ya later.” That was my way of telling Lisa that I loved her.

“I love you, too.” Lisa’s more direct response had been filled with larger meaning. Down deep, I think she loves the entire me.

Feeling inventive, I stopped by our restaurant and did some strategic planning for the next few weeks. My creativity always peaked when Pamela had control of my mind.

After an hour of work, I drove to the drugstore, preparing a written list of items on the way. A man buying cosmetics should do so from a written list. The unspoken testimony of the list -- “I’m getting these for my incapacitated wife.” To complete my camouflage, I made the list very specific.

Not just “lipstick” but: Lipstick — Revlon - Really Red.

I also added enough “man” items to my list so as not to be too obvious. The list stated:

Lipstick — Solar Coral — Max Factor
Foundation — Cover Girl — Warm Beige
Powder — Cover Girl — Warm Beige
Shaving cream
Razor blades
Toothpaste
Deodorant — Ban — Powder Fresh
Shampoo
Nail Files
Conditioner

I used one of the store’s little red shopping baskets. Even though I passed by the cosmetics aisle on my way to the shaving cream and razors, I first selected my guy things. As a precaution, I had driven to a drugstore several miles from our home. I didn’t want someone I knew to see me, stop for a chat, and see a tube of lipstick sitting by itself in my basket. Not only did I want to avoid embarrassment or humiliation, I didn’t want to cause others to feel uncomfortable. I wanted to give everyone the opportunity to think good things, or nothing at all.

Once the Noxzema Shaving Cream for Sensitive Skin rested in my basket, I moved to the cosmetics area. The swatches of pastels and sensual aromas fascinated me. At one time, simply walking into this area of the store had been sexually stimulating.

As a child I had watched The Disney Hour on TV every Sunday night. The show opened with Tinkerbelle choosing the kind of program they would present. The choices were Adventureland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, and my personal favorite, Fantasyland. The cosmetics area had become my Fantasyland. My pupils would dilate as I searched the Max Factor display for the Solar Coral of my dreams.

Solar Coral could be called an orangey-pink. If Max Factor targeted the male purchaser they would have called them as we see them. Names like mauve, ambrosia, fizz, wisteria and fuchsia would become pink #1, pink #2, pink #3, pink # 4, and pink #5. They would be aligned in gradation from shade to shade in numerical order.

I usually stayed with soft reds. Acting on advice from a Vogue article; I would try Solar Coral over a soft red for a blend.

I found all the cosmetics on my list, an unusual occurrence. Cosmetics are usually poorly stocked. Women must have no sense of urgency. They don’t seem to force merchants to keep everything on the shelves. . .ready each time they are in the store.

I also bought a Revlon four-color eye-shadow, named Moody Blues, that I hadn’t thought to add to my list. It contained three comely blues and a sparkling ivory. Okay. Pin me down and call me “slut.” I loved passé / clichéd, blue eye-shadow even if it did age my eyes. I wouldn’t wear it on a job interview. If you have a mental picture of Mimi Bobeck, forget that. I wanted to look like an average woman, not a caricature.

Once my time in the cosmetic area had extended past five minutes I relaxed. I became simply a guy buying women’s things. I wasn’t stealing or breaking any laws. If someone saw me and developed an opinion, they had that right. I have a complete personality that does many good things. I am what I am, and I’m satisfied with myself. Opinions, like love letters in the sand, don’t matter.

No one’s perfect. Sigmund Freud even had a complex. He feared scientific terms, which is known as Hellenologophobia. He said we should learn to live with our complexes, as they are our basic selves. Everyone has an absolute right to their own course of action, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone else.

Once I felt at ease I actually started shopping. I selected a nail color to match the blend I hoped to have on my lips. I picked up and put down several tubes of lip-gloss. I had been using less luster lately, although I love a slippery lip. I know, I know — slutty.

Approaching the checkout counter with everything on my list -- plus a few added items -- my steps faltered. Women don’t buy a dozen items at a time in a drugstore. Men guzzle — women sip. No matter how clever I had been with my purchasing I was still a Mr. buying things meant for a Ms. The items in my little red basket painted a big red target on my glowing red face.

I had never had a real bad experience with a clerk buying things for Pamela, no worse than when I purchased male items. When clerks acted rude while I bought things for Pamela, I took everything so personal. While waiting in line for the cashier, I thought of a silly poem by Dorothy Parker.

Travel, trouble, music, art,
A kiss, a frock, a rhyme,
I never said they fed my heart,
But still, they pass the time.

The total came to under seventy-five dollars. I paid cash, avoiding disclosing my name through use of a credit card. I placed what had legally become my cosmetics in the car and focused my thinking on my next destination - - - Ridgedale Mall.

The first stop in the mall would be Macy’s. I didn’t like to go into Victoria’s Secret without a package. I wanted to give the impression I was in the mall buying something and decided to pop into Victoria’s Secret on a whim. Further, I needed something to hold in my hands so I didn’t finger the bras like some sexual deviant. By definition I qualified as a sexual deviant, so any amount of touching would be fingering.

A deviant is someone whose behavior is outside the accepted norms. Cross-dressing still is a social taboo. The worthy keepers of the “important” standards have some bizarre reason to stick to the theory of two distinct genders - - despite the preponderance of evidence to the contrary.

An estimated one to ten percent of all males have gender dysphoria, which includes some cross-dressing. As cross-dressers are notoriously paranoid, it would be useless to ask for a show of well-manicured hands to verify that estimate, useless, but maybe not at all fruitless. The immense popularity of Lane Bryant’s mail order and online shopping would suggest many, many of us exist. Especially when you consider the reluctance of woman to buy anything they haven’t tried on at least three times. One could conclude a significant number of males own something tres chic.

While I’ve accepted that I’m a deviant -- from a horribly perverse norm -- I draw the line at pervert. A pervert is someone who habitually prefers some aberrant sexual practice to coitus. While I dilly-dally with the occasional dildo, I have always preferred coitus.

Transvestism is an innate, profound part of my personality. Transvestites represent a small portion of the population. So do left-handers. Left-handed people were once thought of as inherently evil. The Latin word for left-handed is sinister. Are transvestites evil? They’re about as evil as left-handers.

A woman was enjoying a very public makeover just inside the front door of Macy’s. There’s no masculine equivalent. If a man ever occupies that chair, I would be next in line. How totally feminine!

I only bought cosmetics in a department store if they had a special -- like -- Buy a lifetime supply of Estee Lauder perfume and receive a grab bag of cosmetics absolutely free.

I had fallen for that gambit three times and had been thrice stupid. Any amount of Estee Lauder perfume would be a lifetime supply for me, because it makes you smell like an old lady. My mother-in-law is an old lady, and she smells great using it.

I might have shopped for both perfume and a nightie at Victoria’s Secret. After all, isn’t Victoria’s Secret’s Heavenly about as sexy a scent as has ever conceived? Yes it is! I already had it stockpiled in my boudoir. Not a lifetime supply, as that would require a small warehouse.

Shopping for perfume at Macy’s came close to being a no-brainer; which seemed perfect. I had my most satisfying feminine experiences when I placed my brain on automatic pilot and took it all in. The colors, the bouquet, the textures . . . the stores make every effort to create sensual carnivals. Hop on the Mary-go-round and let it happen.

“I would like to buy something for my wife,” I said to the woman behind one of several fragrance counters at Macy’s. My statement was sort of true, as my wife eventually would get a whiff of what I bought.

“What scent does she use?” she asked.

In pure David mode I might have flippantly answered, “Anything but Estee Lauder” but Pamela had more control than David. Pamela communicated. David entertained and competed. “She likes romantic scents like Chanel #5, Heavenly, and White Shoulders.”

“We have a gift set of Curve for $57.50.” She floated a scented cardboard under my nose. Curve seemed floral and not at all obnoxious. “The set contains a cologne spray mist, a body lotion, a hair gel, and body powder. Isn’t it just perfect? If you would like, we also have the perfume in a two-ounce bottle for fifty dollars.”

Even though I made a good living and didn’t pay much attention to price tags, $107.50 seemed too much to try a new scent. I did the economical thingy. “I’ll take the gift set. We’ll see about the perfume another time.” Marketing had struck again. If I had been a K-Mart shopper, my heels would have been worn to a nubbin chasing down blue-light specials.

“Would you like it gift-wrapped?’ She had presented me with an ethical conundrum. Should I -- a.) Continue with the ruse and waste her paper and bows, time, and effort? Or, b.) Refuse the offer and place my “secret” in jeopardy?

I went with a modified option b.). “That’s okay. I prefer to wrap gifts myself.” I did like wrapping presents, but not for myself.

With my somewhat deviant hands filled, I moved on to Victoria’s Secret. I could smell Curve. I must have touched some residue on the counter, making it a great day to be alive.

“Can I help you?” The sales clerk smelled and looked Heavenly. Victoria’s “Secret” was . . . they hired eye-candy. Victoria should have instructed her eye-candy to keep their mouths closed. The moment they talked the attractiveness factor dropped precipitously.

“I’m looking for a gift.” How about that for skating the line? I didn’t say whom the gift was for. I would avoid lying -- if I could.

“Is this for your wife?”

“Yes.” If I could.

“What do you have in mind?”

The boy word for nightie completely eluded me. What the heck is it? Pajamas? That sounds way too flannelly. I have to say something. It’s my turn to speak. The Heavenly-scented babe will think I’m rude if. . . . “Pajamas,” I said, having run out of time.

“You mean like a nightie?”

“Yes.” I tried my best not to blush. Was blushing a good or bad thing? Do husbands blush in Victoria’s Secret? Could my blush be a dead giveaway I leaned toward uber-femme?

“We have some nice things on sale. What size is she?”

In my trial-and-airhead days, I would have pointed toward the largest woman in the store and said. “About her size.” That would be a dicey strategy in Victoria’s Secret, as their stock topped out at XL. Plus-sized ladies don’t shop there. Truth-in-advertising would suggest they should call it Little Victoria’s Secret.

My state-of-the-art technique for sizes was to use a thoughtful husband-like card I carried in my wallet titled “Lisa’s Sizes.” Of course, the sizes all fit Pamela. I consulted the card. “She wears an XL.”

“We have these at thirty-five percent off.” She offered me several nighties that were more air than fabric.

I couldn’t imagine what woman would buy the things she showed me, or even what man would buy them for his wife? They have a lot of nerve calling me a fetisher with what women buy daily in Vickie’s. “Do you have anything a bit more traditional?” Something I haven’t seen the Bada Bing dancers wear on The Sopranos?

“We do have these poet sleep-shirts. They’re cute.”

Very cute. Perhaps I should’ve worn that panty girdle. When husbands are shopping for their wives, do they get woodies, if they’re confronted by bimbettes wearing Heavenly and holding nighties up to their wondrous curves? Sure they do. That’s Victoria’s real Secret.

The soft-blue, lightweight cotton nightie had a sexy off-the-shoulder neckline, flounced edging, and long, bell sleeves. It sang its siren song to me as it embraced Heavenly’s chest. I wanted to touch it, but didn’t want to risk being chastised for “fingering.”

“Yes. She would like that.” Like it? “She” loves it. In fact, “she” was percolating right there in the store. “Does it come in any other color? Blue isn’t her favorite.”

“We have it in a floral print.” Obviously it was the Martha Stewart designer edition.

“It also comes in whisper pink.” She opened a drawer and found the comfy looking nightie in pink #6.

“I’ll take it. Do you have a gift box? I like to wrap my own presents,” I had said “my own.” Does that work? Or, have I just given myself away? Luckily, she had all but quit listening to me, as soon as the sale had been made.

Speaking of dithering idiots — I had forgotten to check the price. I once had an awful shock buying lingerie, when I almost bought a $250 sleep set. I had the good sense to back out of that at the counter.

“It will be a total of $36.04.”

“Okey-dokey.” David could be so devastatingly charm. Again, I paid with cash.

How lucky woman shoppers are to have such light packages. How many poet sleep-shirts would it take to equal the weight of one gallon of paint? An entire gift set of Curve was only half the weight of a box of washers.

We are all hunter-gatherers. When men go after Bambi and come home without a carcass, they are inconsolable. Woman can hunt alone or in packs for hours. If they leave the stores empty-handed, they are proud of themselves for having showed restraint. I had learned to take pleasure in “Pamela” shopping trips without actually buying anything. If the salespeople didn’t act too intrusively, shopping usually relaxed my nerves.

Feelings I couldn’t identify muted the elation from my morning’s adventure. I kept checking my rearview mirror for lurking danger, anxious to get home, to the safety and security that Lisa and I had built.

The morning sky had divided into a civil war of menacing blues and somber grays. Graceful shafts of sunlight pierced the shallow fall overcast. Nature’s power prevailed, but her overhead presentation went unnoticed. Dread had sharpened my sight to see things underground, while I often missed the happiness in the skies.

I had placed three shopping bags in my almost-new Toyota Camry’s trunk. Each small sack pledged intense pleasure. They easily could have fit on the right front seat. By choice, I kept them out of sight, but I had no similar option to exclude them from my thoughts.

Had I been aware, I would’ve seen a single goose traveling south. Canada geese flock for protection until they select a life-long mate. Biologists have recorded pairs together for decades. When one dies, the surviving goose will typically live by itself during a period of mourning. Many times it will never mate nor socialize with a flock again.

Chapter Three — Jessica Gibson — David’s Daughter
That Same Morning
Saturday, October 21, 2000

At close to noon I finally ended my sleep binge, lying in bed lazily watching a sparrow sitting on my window. The roar of my mother’s bright red ‘95 Jetta signaled my time to join the world. The Jetta had been my brother’s car before my mother made it her own. He had installed a performance muffler. Mom said driving her car gave her an emotional boost. Imagine that - - an inanimate object giving someone a thrill.

I threw on a robe and surveyed the front yard. Mom and Dad really broke their backs on our lawn and flowers.

Mom had just left -- probably going to Byerly’s for the week’s groceries. No matter how many times I suggested it, she wouldn’t take advantage of simondelivers.com.

As I came down the stairs, I saw a refection of Dad in the hall mirror. He sat on the floral covered couch in the living room paging through a photo album; his feet tucked under him. I went to him and air-kissed his cheek, so as not to muss his make-up. “Is that Curve?”

“Yes. Do you like it?” He smiled coyly, seeking my acceptance of his new scent.

“I do. One of my pod-mates in the dorm wears it all the time. Callie is major kewl.”

“Oh.” He bit his lip and cocked his head to one side. “Is it too young for me?”

The very self-involved Pamela looked about fifteen years younger than David. Her auburn wig covered the gray in her own hair; and she looked much more relaxed. Her impeccably applied make-up also added to her youthful appearance.

I grinned. “You’re only as old as you think you are. You look especially nice this morning.” She had chosen a tucked bodice dress, and had arranged its full skirt and the dress liner slip under it around her legs. She casually and elegantly plucked at the hem of her skirt to cover her slip.

She had used a new lip color -- something festive and bright that looked very sweet. The first time I saw him as Pamela I had to rush her through an emergency makeover. Her skills had improved so that they rivaled mine. I wish I had her acute dress sense. “I was just thinking how neat it is we both have sexy, television-babe names.”

“You were named after your aunt,” Pamela said. “Not Jessica Simpson. And, I was Pamela long before Baywatch started on TV.”

She had spread several photo albums on the couch. The green-covered album in her lap had been filled with pictures of the family from the years before I came along. The pink album on the coffee table contained her special pictures; she kept it in a locked drawer when not in use; she must have just added some pictures. She held our cats in most of them. The others, the ones I had taken, caught Mom in natural poses around our house with Pamela. I wish Mom would take a few of Pamela and me.

“Your mother made breakfast for you, about four hours ago. . .pancakes and bacon. She must have saved the batter in the fridge. I was just about to make some herbal tea. Care to join me?” She slid her legs out from under herself and deftly placed her sheer nylon clad feet into leather pumps dyed grape to match her dress.

As she put down the album, it caught the necklace she wore. . .a small cross on a delicate gold chain. The chain snapped before she realized what had happened.

“Oh darn. I guess it was its time.” She picked up the pieces and tucked them in her dress pocket. “I only mind as it’s so hard to find nice gold chains in twenty-inch lengths.”

Arm and arm we walked the several steps into the kitchen. I pressed close to feel her strength and warmth.

I slid my eyes over the pantry shelves, as she put the teakettle on the stove. I had a dozen boxes of Celestial Seasonings herb tea to choose from. “How does wild cherry blackberry sound?”

“Delicious. That should hit the ‘pot.’ ”

Dad loved to remind us of our childhood malapropisms. He had several for each of the three of us. According to him, when I had been two I had rubbed my little tummy after eating and declared, “That hit the pot.”

“Daddy, you’re such a retard.”

As I walked out on the deck off the kitchen to enjoy the warmth of the sun, it occurred to me that the deck would soon be covered with snow and much less inviting.

Despite everything, there still were times I felt a little put off by Pamela. She had definitely become one of my best friends and I would love to be able to do more things with her -- but I thought of her as that aunt who sometimes overstays her welcome. As I hadn’t seen her for about a month she seemed perfectly acceptable and welcome. I sometimes even forgot Pamela and Dad are the same person.

My dad had always been there for me. He always knows everything that’s happening in my life. Sometimes he notices things even Mom misses. I’m lucky in some ways to have a dad who is so fashion conscious. He reads most of the same magazines I do.

He had been very protective of his baby and only daughter, and his rules have been strict. He had also been playful and fun to be around - - for the most part. He had a sign in his office that said, “Be nice to your kids. . .they’ll pick your nursing home.”

My self-esteem came from Dad and Mom being so quick to praise me for whatever I did. Their love and respect for each other had helped me establish a set of values that would guide me in life.

I first became aware of Pamela about a year ago, when I took a psychology course that discussed abnormal behavior. All of us laughingly saw ourselves as having one disorder or another. When we went over the section on gender confusion that included transvestites and transsexuals, I immediately recognized Dad.

I had been studying alone in my dorm room at about ten one evening. I looked up from my book at the stuffed rabbit my daddy had given me for Easter when I was six and said, “Oh my God! Dad wants to be a woman.”

I had put together a number of fragmented clues. The oversized clothes in Mom’s closet I had thought were Grandma’s. The cosmetics I knew Mom couldn’t possibly use -- she’s very light and Daddy’s dark. Dad’s floral cologne also gave him away.

I had always felt something wasn’t right.

That night, I felt pretty angry with Dad. To me, he had been living a lie. Obviously his disorder had caused every emotional problem I had, or ever would have. I worried about what my friends would think if word got out. What if whatever caused him to do that was in my genes? Would I become a lesbian or want to have a penis? Would my kids? Was he crazy? Could he continue to support us, if he got worse?

We had to write a term paper for my psych class. Due to my discovery, I chose to write about transgendered males. My goal was to get an ‘A’ but more importantly, I wanted to know as much as I could when I confronted him. His actions had been lying to me; and I didn’t want to hear any more of his bull. A very slight chance existed that I had wrongly diagnosed him.

Motivated by the fear of the unknown and seething with anger fired by betrayal, I started with Google. Searching on the word “transvestite” I found an amazing 3,090,000 sites. Using a term I had learned in psychology I searched on “transgendered”. . .2,370,000 sites. It appeared I would have enough information for a dozen term papers. Has Dad had seen many of these?

I ran across a myriad of information and disinformation. I reviewed dozens of individual’s websites; some soothingly sweet, others disturbingly gross. I soon realized the meager information in our college psych book didn’t do anything close to justice to the topic. I began to appreciate my awesome ignorance.

Dad had often stressed the importance of time management to me. I had originally blocked out fifty hours to write the term paper. It would count as half the final grade for the course; so I could easily afford the time. After two hours on-line I increased my time allotment by an additional seventy-five hours. There would be no social life for me for the next three weeks while I poured through the material; and then arranged my thoughts. I spent four to five hours at a time on-line.

Site after site referred to Tri-Ess, so I reviewed their entire website. From what I could tell, they posted valid information. I tried to form my own opinions by reviewing psychological reports; and I became fluent in the Harry Benjamin Scale and the Standards of Care for Gender Dysphoria.

It relieved me to see that many psychologists and psychiatrists no longer considered cross-dressing to be an illness and shocked me to read the historical attitudes of the psychiatric community. I proudly noted the leadership role of the State of Minnesota in legal tolerance and support for the transgendered community.

Various studies indicated somewhere between one and twelve percent of the population is transgendered. The Tri-Ess website said five percent of the adult males in the United States are cross-dressers. My dad didn’t seem so odd given those numbers. If five percent of the adult males in the United States cross-dressed, they must do it in such a way as to be quite benign. The average cross-dresser couldn’t have the kind of sick neurosis portrayed in “Silence of the Lambs” by Hannibal Lecter.

Dad suffered shame and humiliation because of out and out bigotry! The bigots’ ignorant fear seemed to stem from myths and misconceptions. As a victim of discrimination, he had to feel isolated. My anger returned, directed toward the psychiatric community for coming late to their conclusions and also at the general population for being so hideously hateful.

My mission became clear. I knew I had to know more about my dad’s psyche. I wanted to place him on the Harry Benjamin Scale, although I had learned too much to rely solely on their criteria. Several sites suggested a lack of support for the transvestite’s male side could result in the female side assuming more and more control. If I didn’t help Dad, things could spiral -- possibly out of control.

I created my own test to answer four basic questions I felt I needed to know.

1. ) Could I define Dad as a TS, TV or CD?
2. ) If a TS, did he want to have SRS?
3.) If a CD, what amount of feminization did he desire?
4.) Could I define Dad’s sexuality as hetero, homo, or bi?

Dad agreed to come to St. Ben’s College. I told him I had something very important to discuss. I told him it was between him and me, so he shouldn’t tell Mom where he was going. We couldn’t have the kind of talk we needed to have in a restaurant. I asked a grad assistant for the use of his office, hoping Dad wouldn’t walk away when things got embarrassing.

We met at the front gate and brought each other up to date on our lives as we made our way across campus. The door to the small office slammed behind us like the bars to a cell. He didn’t seem to notice. The stench from my friend’s cheap pipe tobacco permeated the room, even though smoking was prohibited in that building.

“What’s the big secret, Sweetie?” he asked, in a tone that suggested I was going to ask him for money.

I shuddered as the reality of what we were going to do hit me. “So - - - you’re probably thinking this is going to be something really, really bad. But, it’s not - - really - - so bad.” I sat at the desk leaving him to sit in the side chair. “So, here goes. The big secret is -- I know your secret.”

“What secret is that?” he asked.

I had totally prepared myself for him to be evasive, knowing of his life of deception. I plunged right in. “Okay. . . . Okay. . . . I know about you and your female clothing. I know that you like to dress as a woman.” Time stood still as everything in the room went out of focus. I could only see his terror-filled eyes.

“Did your mother tell you?” he asked quietly.

Mom does know! I need to have a talk with her. Logically it would’ve been impossible for her not to know. “No. I’ve seen your things around the house and finally put two and two together.”

His eyes glistened. I had brought a supply of Kleenex, but didn’t have a clue what I would do if he broke down. Dad is my rock. Our relationship might never be the same. I can only hope for the best.

“You - must think I’m — weird,” he said.

“Helloooo. You’re my dad. You can’t be weird. You’re not from planet loser. I’m not sure exactly what to think, Dad.” My dad had always trusted me. He had given me great latitude in my life and I suspected he would trust me as we went through our necessary discomfort. “I need to know more about your secret life. I need to know some intimate details that might be painful for both of us to discuss.”

“I’ll try to be as honest as I can. I don’t know what to tell you. This isn’t something I can easily put into words.” He didn’t whine or ask me to go easy.

I could easily commiserate with his confusion having muddled through all the conflicting internet info. “I’ve done quite a bit of research and have prepared a list of questions. Does this make any sense to you? If you’re ready, we can start?”

He nodded.

I took out my list, placed it on the desk and proceeded to read. “Are you a homosexual?”

“No,” he said without equivocation.

“Are you sexually attracted to females at all times? Even when you’re in a dress?” He looked like a dad being asked hard questions by his daughter. I had seen that look many times over the years when I had asked him a thousand important things. His posture and voice spoke of honesty and candor.

“Why — ah - - - why do you want to know?”

“I’m going to try to determine what sort of transgendered person you are. If you can tell me, I would like to know.”

“I still don’t know exactly what you’re after. But, I’ll answer your questions as fully as I can. I’m not homosexual or bi-sexual, no matter how I’m dressed. However, I will from time to time fantasize about homosexual sex when dressed as a woman. I’m sure it would never go beyond fantasy.”

Omigosh! Too much information. I need to push on. “How often do you wear women’s clothing?”

“As often as I can.” He closed his eyes.

I made a note, mostly to give him time to recover. “How often is that?”

“Most every day.”

That was a humongous surprise. I didn’t gasped or anything, but internally I had been shocked. I had imagined a monthly, or annual, Halloween kind of thing. Why didn’t I have more of an appreciation for his lifestyle when my research had repeatedly indicated “strong compulsion” and “the takeover of the female psyche”?

“How often are you fully dressed as a woman?” I asked.

“Now that you’re away at college — er, here - I suppose it’s about an average of two, or three, times a week.” His answer had been firm and non-evasive. However, his eyes had fixed on the bookcase in the corner.

He must have several outfits. I wonder where he shops? “When you dream, do you dream of yourself as a woman? Or, as a man dressed as a woman?”

“I’m always a man dressed as a woman -- if I dream of being dressed in female clothing.”

“Sexual arousal is a big part of cross-dressing. Is it for you?” Did I just ask my dad that question? I totally choked. My father will go ballistic on me. Can we ever again sit down at the same table for Thanksgiving dinner? I made a big deal out of staring at my list so he would know it was a question from the paper. It’s the paper’s fault, not mine.

“Yes. Sexual arousal is a part of it - - - more so years ago than it is now.”

“Are you sexually aroused every time you wear women’s clothing?” We didn’t make eye contact. The unspoken rules of engagement didn’t allow it.

“No.”

“About what percentage of the time when you’re dressed in women’s clothing are you sexually aroused?” Those questions had sounded a lot less personal when I ran across them on the internet in various surveys. I knew they were important to determine what place he took on the Harry Benjamin scale, but they had nothing to do with his place in my heart.

“About the same percentage of time I’m aroused when dressed in male clothing. The feminine clothing enhances my -- um --- sex drive. It’s rarely a trigger for arousal.”

“Can you tell me under what circumstances you become aroused when dressed?”

“I could, but I won’t. I’ll be honest and open with you. I’m very proud of you for the way you’re tackling this head on, but I will not discuss things with you that are too personal -- specifically those that involve your mother.”

“Oops! I totally paused. . .er. . .I wasn’t thinking. You’re right, Dad. I don’t want to know. I don’t need to know what goes on between you and Mom.” We made eye contact for the first time in several minutes. “Are you under psychiatric care?”

“No.”

“Should you be?”

“Should you? Should we all?” He laughed and I giggled, maybe we would always be Dad and daughter.

“Not for any reason I know of.” I have to get things back on track, as much as I don’t want to. “I’ve read quite a bit about the guilt involved in cross-dressing and the damage it can do. Have you ever felt you needed help to handle the stress and possible damage to your ego?”

“Your mother has given me enough support to make it bearable. I haven’t thought of myself as a bad person in years. . .at least, not for my cross-dressing. As far as I can tell, I’m mentally sound. You mom has been good about helping me.”

Oh. Old people can be so sweet. “Are you involved in any other sexual habits that might be considered deviant?”

“No. Cross-dressing is my one and only big secret.”

“Is it your goal to eventually become a woman?”

“When I was young, even as late as your age, I thought that might be something for me to do, but no, I’m sure I never want to become a woman.”

My questions went on and on for another hour. I asked about his current degree of feminization and how much further he wanted to go, about gender identity, and degree of arousal. Much of it was repetitive to affirm previous responses. We shared mutual embarrassment, but we both approached it as clinically as possible.

In every instance, his answers indicated a heterosexual cross-dresser with a moderate level of fetishism. His gender identity was extremely mixed. It appeared his psyche was androgynous, which accounted for his very strong female gender identity on some issues and his compulsion to act out a female role. It also explained his equally strong male identity in other matters and why his cross-dressing had been so easily hidden.

“That’s all the questions I have,” I announced as I closed my notebook.

“What’s the verdict?” he asked.

“Verdict?”

“Am I still your dad?”

That had to have been his fear all those years -- his bottom line.

“Duh. Sure you are. There was never any doubt of that. I just wanted to know what to expect in the future.” I moved around the desk and gave him the best hug of his life. “I want you to have happiness. If you find true happiness cross-dressing, I support it and accept it. And, you gave some really good answers.”

Over the next few months, I got to know Pamela as my dad. In a few hours we would go to Northfield to see Grandma and Grandpa; and David would emerge. There would be traces of Pamela in David, and there were always traces of David in Pamela.

I hadn’t noticed a change in the relationship between Dad and me since my discovery, other than a broadening. We have many, many similar interests.

Dad’s cross-dressing did involve problems. I respected his wishes to keep his activities personal. He didn’t want my brothers to know, so I became party to a cover-up. I took care with my friends so there wasn’t a bunch of explaining to do. At times it felt awkward. Friends never came before family.

At some point I will have to explain it to Mychal, my fiancé. Mychal would be going to Northfield with us. I would get him aside. I had to get it out of the way before the wedding. I was sure he would be okay. I wouldn’t marry anyone who lacked tolerance.

I would soon be out of my parent’s house, full-time. My parents and I had been planning what Dad called the “white funeral of my single life.” One of my major concerns, when I found out about Pamela, had been that I would have no one to escort me down the aisle. Dad would be at my side in the tuxedo I had selected for him.

Mom and I didn’t see eye to eye about Pamela. “Heinous bitch” would accurately describe how Mom acts at times. They say there’s no happiness more perfect in life than being a martyr. Once Mom knew that I knew about Dad, she thought I should be her personal dumping ground. I have no time for it, because she refuses to learn about cross-dressing. She talks about her unconditional love, but won’t even read my A+ term paper. Mom appears to want me to think she suffers from a great loss, like Dad died - or something. I need to be compassionate, with both of them.

Plenty of bigots live in this world. I get upset when I’m around the rejects who disrespect anyone who’s different. Like that despicable St. John’s football player I berated for mouthing off about the “bitch” in “Boys Don’t Cry” in our film history class.

I don’t prefer Pamela to Dad. Pamela can be more fun when we cook together or talk about girly things. She wants to do things — spontaneous things. In some ways she acts immaturely, almost childlike, but lovable. But, she isn’t David. David attended all my grade school plays, he had been there to see me graduate from high school, he drove me to my first boy-girl party — and was there when I cried all the way home. He coached my soccer and basketball teams. . . . Pamela came into my life at a much later time.

I much preferred Dad, with Pamela “on the side.”

“Tea’s ready, Jess,” Pamela called to me. She would have loved to bring a tray out onto the deck to join me. However, our deck had a full view of the neighbor’s and theirs of ours. Pamela was under self-imposed house arrest.

We sat right next to each other on stools at the kitchen counter. We were very close.

Chapter Four — Lisa Gibson — David’s Wife
That Same Morning
Saturday, October 21, 2000

My father is a bastard
My ma’s an S.O.B.
My grandpa’s always plastered
My grandma pushes tea
My sister wears a mustache
My brother wears a dress
Goodness gracious, that’s why I’m a mess
Yes!
Officer Krupke, you’re really a slob
This boy don’t need a doctor, just a good honest job
Society’s played him a terrible trick
And sociologic’ly he’s sick
- West Side Story

I sat on our deck overlooking forty-acres of wetlands, reflecting on the morning. The mint I had planted below the deck as ground cover had let loose its full aroma. Inside the kitchen, on the other side of the screen door, I could hear Jess putting away the groceries I had bought. I hadn’t fully adjusted my grocery shopping. After years of feeding the boys, I always brought home too much.

It wouldn’t be long and Jess would be married. Then she would find out. For the first thirty years of marriage, David and I had been busy. Three children, their births spread over fourteen years, found ways to keep you jumping.

We had built a good restaurant business. Money had been tight, but adequate. I enjoyed working with him. He was at his best with new promotional ideas.

People saw us as an ideal, happy couple. People didn’t know that David and I were involved in a love triangle.

I hated it when he got like he had been this morning. Something bothered him and he became morose. He wouldn’t tell me what was wrong, so I didn’t ask. If I had asked, he would have made it seem like my problem. I could tell all he wanted to do was to go off and spend money on “things.”

He would buy more cosmetics even though he had so much already; and he would buy clothes. He couldn’t jam any more clothes in his closet. I couldn’t get him to buy himself any decent clothes to wear to work, yet he couldn’t wait to go shopping for dresses, skirts, and bras -- bras for gosh sakes.

“How are things on the deck?” The screen slid open and Jess came out. “I put the food away. Gosh, it’s nice out here.”

“It’s beautiful,” I said. “This deck is my favorite room.”

“Didn’t Pamela look nice this morning?”

“He’s getting better at his masquerade,” I agreed. David and Jess got along so well. He was emotionally about her age when he got all dressed up. He just didn’t use good sense. I clung to reality for the two of us. One of our neighbors knew. She had seen Pamela on a morning walk. If one knew, they all knew. Secrets like that are like money, they’re meant for circulation.

“I think it’s great that Dad can be so honest with himself,” Jess said. “It’s great to see him so at peace.”

“It would be nice if we all could be as peaceful,” I said. Jess had been completely fooled by her psychology course mumbo-jumbo. David was anything but honest. We had dated for years; and he never once mentioned his “hobby.” A full year into our marriage he finally came out of the closet -- or went into mine. That didn’t work for him. Thank heavens he’s too big to wear my things. When he first told me about his dresses, I thought he was kidding. Who would have thought someone as virile as him would be involved in something like that?

He tried to quit, but it had never worked.

The man I married had tremendous will power. He overcame a great deal in his life by simply ignoring any potential for failure. Twenty-five years ago he had suffered from terrible anxiety attacks. He bought himself self-help books and within a year he was back to making public speeches, promoting our business. A few months back our family doctor told him his cholesterol was out of line and suggested a strict no-fat diet. Overnight, David had gone from being a man who loved steak to a vegetarian. Yet, he said that he couldn’t quit being Pamela.

He just doesn’t want to quit.

“Dad said we could leave for Northfield in about thirty minutes,” Jess said. “He has to take a shower and change clothes.”

“He only had his make-up and dress on for about an hour. All dressed up and no place to go. That’s your dad. What a waste of time and effort.”

“You and I have no idea what compels him to do what he does. We just know it is harmless and necessary.”

“I suppose so.” Jess really does think it’s harmless. She knows so little about life. So what if his urges are strong? A man is meant to bear hardship for the good of his family. How much am I supposed to take? I’ve lost sleep so many night’s worrying.

“Do you like Pamela’s new perfume?” Jess asked.

“I didn’t notice.” When I walked in with the groceries I got a whiff of the perfume and thought maybe one of my friends had dropped by. Sometimes he does wear a nice scent; and it isn’t too bad sleeping next to him. Other times, his perfume aggravates me. Same thing with his skin; it’s so soft and smooth. At times it’s a real turn on to run my hands over his body, but for gosh sakes. I dig in the flower gardens without gloves. My hands are rough and calloused. I like to get calluses so my hands can withstand the hard work. He’s careful to wear gloves to keep his hands soft. Someday he’ll do such a good job fooling himself he’ll forget who he is.

“Did you see Pamela’s new lipstick?” Jess asked. “It’s such a good color for her.”

“Yes, I did.” I can’t stand kissing him when he’s wearing lipstick. It’s just so horrible.

“Did you tell her you liked it?”

“I’m not sure that I do like it.” Actually, the shade did look pretty on his skin. I know “she” wants me to tell “her” how good “she” looks -- and sometimes “she” actually does look cute. But, I can’t bring myself to be part of that foolish game. I think it’s best for everyone, if I stay above the nonsense and remain a voice of reality. People can be so foolish when they try to be what they’re not.

“Honestly, mother. You can be so obtuse. When Dad and I talked this morning he told me he thought you had lost respect for him.”

“Why on earth would he say such a thing?” I had lost respect for him years ago. How can you possibly respect a man whose life is filled with deceit? A man who constantly is sneaking about, doing strange things, trying to be something he isn’t. His head is in the clouds; probably from reading all that Kurt Vonnegut nonsense. Barry doesn’t read that stuff. I can always talk to Barry about the latest Crichton novel. “Can’t we talk about something else? It seems like every time you’re home, you and I get in an argument about your dad and his hobby.”

“Mother, it’s more than a hobby. Dad needs to do this to maintain his mental health. It’s your job to support him, as his wife.”

“Are you calling on all your many years of experience to tell me what to do?” I had been so eager to get married. Plenty of people told me to stay away from him. Back then he had been quite a drinker. He doesn’t do that anymore. Most of my friends warned me he wouldn’t amount to much. They married men who had all their success early in life, before they got married. Life hadn’t been so good for them. They’re envious of me. Our big, beautiful house told them we had done well. Imagine that. They’re envious of my life.

We’ve stayed married. Sometimes I wonder if that’s a good idea. I couldn’t even considered leaving him with the kids at home. What would have I told people? It would have been too embarrassing to tell them the truth. I had been caught in my own personal monkey trap and deathly scared of the prospect of growing old without a husband. My fear of loneliness had been much stronger than my fear of marrying the wrong person. I should’ve had my eyes open wider way back when.

“I wish you would try a little harder to get along with Dad.”

I frowned. “I try.”

“Not that I see.” She stared at me accusingly.

I shook my head wishing she would finally grow up. “You don’t understand. Things are different when you get married. You’ll see. It’s not that easy.”

“I’m sure Mychal and I will always be able to talk things through.” She dragged her hand along the deck rail seeking out its imperfections.

“Don’t be so sure,” I said. “Sometimes there are things it’s better not to talk about.”

“You mean like you not talking to Dad about his need to be Pamela.”

“Jess!” I spat out angrily.

“Tomorrow, I’m going to tell Mychal about Dad.”

“Is that wise?”

“It’s the way I want to approach our marriage. I’m going into the house to check on Dad. He should be about ready to leave.”

I looked out at our pool. David’s a good provider, when he wants to be. I manage to save money despite all he spends on dresses and make-up. I constantly have to remind myself of all his good points, in order to make life with him bearable. I have a right to the man that I married. According to David, I had married all of him. By that, he includes Pamela. I don’t remember her at our wedding -- not even as one of my attendants.

At one time, my biggest fear was he would want to become a woman. I almost wish he does want to become a woman. At least men who want to become women realize there are two sexes. He doesn’t get it. You are either fish or fowl. He wants to be some sort of middle sex.

It’s so hard to figure out where I fit in. I’m not a lesbian, yet I find myself making love to a woman. I’m not a man. He wants me to be something in between, like him.

Underneath it all, he probably is a homo. I’ve suspected that for years. He’s probably practicing being a female so when he finally finds a man he’ll know what to do. He probably wants to go to those “support” meetings so he can meet a man. I’ve absolutely forbidden it.

We have to stay together through Jess’s wedding. I’ve put up with it for so long; I can put up with it for a few more months. After the wedding, we’ll take it a day at a time. For some reason, planning for the future is very hard.

I could’ve married Barry. Carol’s so lucky having someone so normal. Barry, David, and I had been so close on high school. We could’ve paired off the other way. Barry’s so handsome; so self-assured. The way he handles himself is. . .oh my. . .admirable. Had I known then what I know now, things might be different.

I shook myself out of my thoughts. I’m just feeling sorry for myself. I have things to do.

Chapter Five — Mary Rogers — David’s Mother-in-law
That Afternoon

Saturday, October 21, 2000

I sat at my computer wondering if I could write the letter that was needed. The computer had been a gift from David. He filled my house with gifts. He has great taste and sometimes went overboard with his generosity. I wasn’t really comfortable using a computer. I would rather used paper and pen, but I don’t want to seem old.

It had been a horrible day. David’s picture had fallen off the wall in my bedroom when no one was in the room. Glass shattered all over the place. The weather’s enough to make you want to spit. If it’s going to rain, it should just rain and get it over with. Oh pugh. It isn’t the weather or that picture crashing; it’s writing that dumb letter that’s getting me down.

In many ways, David has been like a son to me. We have never had an argument in the nearly thirty-five years we’ve known each other. How can I possibly say what has to be said? The letter won’t write itself. I just have to start.

Dear David,

You know I think you are about the nicest person in the world. I admire how Lisa and you have raised your children and you can both be very proud. I think you have been a very good husband for Lisa and you have been a very good friend / son to me.

At times, I think you are a little crazy with all you do and the gifts you give, but I like the attention and enjoy all your presents. Right now I’m looking at the porcelain flower arrangement you gave me thirty years ago. It has been in a prominent spot in my house for all that time. I’ve never grown tired of looking at it. I don’t even mind dusting it.

I’m writing because I’m a big chicken. I know I have to discuss this with you sooner or later and I can’t bring myself to do it face to face. I suppose I should do it in person so I could give you a big hug and let you know how much I love you. However, you’re not much of a hugger and I would probably not say things right.

The other day I was watching public television and they had a show about men who wear dresses. I haven’t had a lot of exposure to transvestites. That movie “Psycho” was my first introduction, and then some Phil Donahue shows. This particular program talked about transvestites being the last of the sexual fringe still being kept in the closet. They talked about the lack of clear thinking involved in this harassment.

I thought about you.

I’ve known about you wearing dresses for many years. Lisa has never mentioned it to me, but there are so many things that have told me. I have never cared one way or another, as you have been such a good father / husband / son-in-law / friend. I assume if Lisa had a big problem she would complain to me and she has not. My dad would have said, “marriage is more than just four legs in a bed, and you two have done pretty well.”

That television program went into great detail about the pain transvestite men suffer in their lives. The psychiatrist they interviewed went on and on about the high rate of suicide, which scared me when I thought of you. There is no reason for you to feel guilty about what you do. Those people that would make a problem for you are just pills. They don’t know what they are doing and probably never will. You are a good person and that is good enough for me.

I’m just an old, gray-haired lady, but the men I like are masculine, with something a little feminine about them. I wouldn’t give you two cents for those all male ones that strut around and cause problems. The same thing with women, I like the ones that are a little masculine. I don’t like those girly-women that have never lifted a finger to do anything. The best people are those that have two sexes in what they do. They are the ones I care about.

I just don’t know. Sometimes when I make up my mind about something I think it’s because I get tired of thinking about it.

Maybe some day you and I can have a real good talk. I have an attic full of clothes that are too small for me that would look good on you, now that you are so skinny. I envy you for being so good at sticking to your diet. I envy your creativity. I envy so much what you have done with your life. Lisa is lucky to have found you, and kept you.

I love you very much and think of Lisa, the kids and you all the time.

Mary

My fingers were poised to strike CRTL+P. I couldn’t. I couldn’t even strike CRTL+S. Instead, I erased what I had written, just as if it had never existed.

Someday I would talk to David, but not today. I would wait for another time. Or, maybe I would drive into Minneapolis and meet him for lunch. A letter was no way to handle our kind of issue.

Chapter Six — Barry Doherty — David’s Friend
That Evening
Saturday, October 21, 2000

David and I were carried with the crowd out of the Target Center. Along with us came the smell of hotdogs, popcorn, nachos, and beer. . .the four basic food groups for sports fans. We had just attended a T-Wolves’ pre-season exhibition game. A dozen years ago, we both would have been thrilled by any NBA game, but no longer.

Kevin Garnett and Wally Szczerbiak had each scored twenty-eight points in a game that had created more Z’s than Wally has in his name. Wally’s baskets came early, while most of Kevin’s had been scored in the final quarter. Some people can take pressure, while others fold.

We both had Timberwolves’ tickets since the ‘89 -’90 inaugural season, when they played in the Metrodome. Our two seats were in the sixth row, straight up from the Timberwolves’ bench. We were close enough to the action to hear the blue language of the players and far enough up to see over their coach, Flip Saunders, as he paced the sidelines tugging on his shirt collar.

My interest in NBA basketball had waned in direct proportion to the increase in the price of the tickets. We attended 5 — 10 games a year, leaving us 30 - 35 tickets a year to give away or sell. At $170 per ticket / per game it was very painful not to use them. Even when the Wolves did well, it was hard to find someone willing to spend a night watching them go through the motions with a league doormat like the Denver Nuggets. David could usually find a patron of his restaurant that had an interest, but as staff counsel for a company that makes diagnostic products for cardiologist it’s a little tougher for me to find a way to write them off.

The NBA no longer delivers good entertainment value. The players are belligerent, lazy, and menacing. The quality of play has become very spotty. Players are too focused on starring in highlights on ESPN’s SportsCenter, and not concerned enough about winning. They only play hard if their contract is at stake.

Especially irritating to me are the officials. I had officiated high school basketball. I know a little about the amount of effort needed to be in the proper position on the court to make certain calls. Most of the sloth posing as NBA refs didn’t even break a sweat; and they had been given a job with great authority and recognition; they had responded with a half-hearted presence that cheapened the event.

David and I weren’t renewing our tickets. We were both dissatisfied and willing to end it. Non-renewing the tickets seemed like a step toward getting our lives in order.

The parking ramp wasn’t the deep-freeze it would be later in the season when the wind chill hit forty below. Yet, I was relieved when we walked up to my new Audi. I had taken delivery on the S8 Wednesday from Carousel Motors; ming blue; stickered at $72,500 plus extras. It had all the extras. I had even bought the heated rear seats, despite being reasonably sure no one would ever ride back there.

German engineering assured that the car would drive like new when it had 200,000 miles on it. Or, so I was told. I would never drive a car that was over three years old. Audi mechanics billed at $240 an hour. A three-year lease covered all maintenance and service costs. When the lease ran out, I leased another new Audi and never worried about the costs of repairs.

I loved my sixth Audi. The joke at work was that I would find a way to take an Audi with me when I died. I liked what my Audi said about me. I switched on the front seat heaters and breathed in the new car scent. I knew the aroma was synthetic, but I still loved it.

David and I hadn’t chatted much during the game. That was normal for us. We had the kind of friendship that didn’t require us to talk every minute. During the game we discussed only basketball. I had been quieter than usual. My thoughts were deeper than the triangle offense or whether Garnett would average twenty points, ten rebounds, and five assists again for the season. As we pulled onto I-394 heading west, I asked, “Did Lisa and you go to that movie ‘The Crying Game’?”

“Yeah - - - about a decade ago. You’re right on top of things. That makes sense for a guy who’s twenty years behind in his wardrobe.”

“Ouch!” I’m a notoriously bad dresser. If it wasn’t for the clothes my wife bought me, I would look pitiful. My one off-the-rack two hundred dollar suit starkly contrasted with the classy threads on the stereotypical Brooks Brothers attorneys. It isn’t that I don’t like buying things. I’ve always have the latest gadgets and tools for my shop and yard. When it comes to clothes to wear to work, I have very little interest. Lately, I’ve also let my personal grooming slip. At one time, I had gone to the barber every other week. It’s getting to be more like a month to six weeks between haircuts.

“If you want to see a good movie you should see ‘Superman’. . .they just re-released it in theatres.” David wryly commented.

It was the first time in several weeks that David and I had been together. It’s tough to pry David away from work. I had been so depressed lately with the way things were going in my life, I felt useless at times. I didn’t want to burden him with my petty problems. David elected to have very few friends, luckily I’m one of them. “Do you remember the character in ‘The Crying Game’ who was called ‘Dil’?” I turned down the radio. We listened to KOOL 108; super 60’s and 70’s. It really was KOOL 107.9, but marketing being what it is, they lived with the imprecision. I only had buttons set for two stations on my radio. The other was KFAN 1130, a sports-talk format. “He was the guy you thought was a girl all the way through the movie until the end.”

“Talk about a surprise ending. Did you have any idea what was going to happen?” David asked.

“I was as shocked as that guy that had fallen in love with him -- her.”

“So, why are you bringing it up now?”

“I’ve got this situation at work.” David acts as my sounding board. He has good common sense. He helps me visualize the probable reaction of a jury. “About a month ago, one of our salespeople came to work in a dress.”

“Obviously a guy.” David squirmed.

I assumed he had gotten too warm, so I reached over and turned off the in-seat heaters. “Yeah, he’s a guy. He’s no Twiggy, but he doesn’t look like Dame Edna either.” David and I had taken our wives to the State Theatre to see the Australian entertainer Barry Humphries do his Dame Edna shtick. Barry had gotten uncharacteristically upset that night, after I had kidded him about their shared first names.

“What did Peter the Great have to say about that guy?” David asked.

Peter Knight is our CEO. Not so coincidentally, Peter’s family owned thirty-two percent of the outstanding stock in the corporation. We called him Peter the Great because he’s rude, crude, and acted like a tsar. He had a scar on the back of his right hand that looked like a capital “R.” Office gossip had it the “R” stood for “Romanov.” As David knew from what I had told him over the years, Peter is an all-world bastard. “Peter was upset. He carried on like this guy was the worst thing since un-sliced bread. Every other word out of Peter’s mouth was ‘faggot.’ ”

“I suppose one other word he used also started with an ‘f’?” David joked.

“You got it.” For a few moments, we both endured the mental image of Peter the Great being a complete ass.

David spoke first. “Did Peter have someone fire him?”

David knew Peter had never actually fired anyone himself. Peter had people like me to do his dirty work. “No. I was able to remind Peter and others that we reside in the Great State of Minnesota.”

“Meaning what?”

“People like this guy are called transgendered. The State of Minnesota is one of less than a handful of states that includes the transgendered in our discrimination laws. Firing a man for wearing a dress might not be a legal option.”

“Might not be?”

“It’s a relatively new law. It’s hard to gauge legislative intent. There has only been one case to help judge the validity and scope of the law. In that case, the court held that while the company couldn’t actually discriminate against a transvestite; they didn’t have to allow him access to the women’s bathroom. You know - - the law says this, which means that. You have to be careful.”

“Ahh - - what did you do?” His voice sounded weak for some reason.

“I tried my darnedest to shove this mess into Human Resource’s pocket.”

“Good move, Barry.”

“Great move -- had it worked. Peter didn’t buy it. Sometimes I think he has it in for me. I don’t seem to have a great deal of worth to him, anymore. This thing was going to be a political problem. He seemed to enjoy making me carry the ball. Once Peter realized he couldn’t throw the ‘faggot’ out the door, he decided to appoint a committee to deal with the problem, with me at the helm.”

“That’s why Mommy and Daddy pay him the big bucks.”

I could always count on David’s support; even when I whined. “Yeah. . . .” I was mentally sidetracked as I envied all of the expensive art in Peter’s house. “So -- now I’m the chairman of what we’ve called the Special Employee Problems Committee.”

“Are the employees ‘special’ or does the title refer to the problems they cause as being ‘special.’ ”

“Well, isn’t that special?” I mimicked Dana Carvey as the Church Lady.

“How many special employee problems do you have?”

“One - - a man in a dress. If it were a bigger problem it never would have been assigned to me.” I took some time to decide where the conversation should go from there. It would take fifteen more minutes to get to David’s house; which was maybe not enough time. If we stop at Caribou Coffee by Ridgedale Mall we can take all the time we need. No. Neither of us drinks coffee. I don’t want anyone to overhear our conversation. We could stop at a bar. No. Lately, it’s hard to quit after a beer or two. I really don’t want to go to a restaurant. I’m already uncomfortable from what I ate at the game. “The committee decided I should meet one-on-one with the guy. They thought I would be less intimidating than dragging him in front of a panel.”

“How old is this guy?” David asked.

“He’s in his early forties.”

“I take it he doesn’t look like Uma Thurman?”

“Actually he is about the same height, 5’11”.”

“She’s that tall?” David asked.

“Yep.”

“I never would’ve guessed. Does this guy make a decent looking woman?”

“On a scale of 1 to 100; the average woman in our office being a fifty. . .looks-wise. . .this guy is a forty-five.”

“Not Uma, but not butt-ugly either?”

“That’s about the size of it.” I was sweating, so I moved the temperature setting down to 67 °. The air-conditioning kicked in for a moment. “My plan was to find out why he was wearing a dress. Then I would steer him toward some form of treatment. Our HMO doesn’t cover psychiatric care, so the committee decided to offer to cover his therapy -- up to ten thousand dollars.”

“Do you think he needs psychiatric help?” David asked.

“We don’t have anything in our employee handbook to handle this. We’re flying by the seat of our pants.” My exasperation showed. Perhaps the topic was too much for David to handle.

“Will talking it out with me help you?”

“I hope so. You’ve done the job for me in the past. Your suggestions have at least given me alternatives.”

“What was he wearing? Was he fully dressed in women’s clothing?” From the tone of David’s voice, I could tell that our discussion had made him a little uncomfortable.

“As far as I could see he was. I mean; he was wearing nylons and women’s shoes. From the way he filled out the dress, he must have had something on underneath to give him shape.”

“How about make-up?” David asked, sounding cautious.

“Yep. . .lipstick, eye make-up. . .the whole thing.”

“Jewelry?”

“As I recall, yes. Yes, I did notice his earrings. . .gold loops, like something I’ve bought for Carol.”

“All-in-all though, you say he was about average looking for a woman?”

“He wasn’t overly pretty, but not bad,” I said. “He was a little big. . .for a woman. Like I said he’s about 5’11” and about 155 pounds. I would say he’s about four inches too tall and about fifteen pounds too heavy, if you stopped to think about it.”

“So what did he have to say about himself?”

I slowed the Audi. I had been distracted and hadn’t paid attention to the speed. We had been flying along at eighty in a fifty zone. Damned Audi! Eighty felt like fifty. You just couldn’t allow your mind to drift. I didn’t need a speeding ticket. I hated courtrooms. I was the quintessential corporate attorney; the closest I got to a courtroom was a Grisham novel. “What did he have to say about what?”

“Why did he come to the office in a dress? Didn’t he realize he would create problems?”

“He said he’s a transvestite, which seemed evident. I’ll give him this; he had his reasons in order.”

“What were they?”

“He said he dressed as a woman to relieve his tension.” I couldn’t believe I was actually discussing this with David. “He said he had a blood pressure problem and it was his personal belief he could bring down his blood pressure by wearing a dress - - cross-dressing he called it.”

“Was he claiming a medical excuse?”

“Not really. He said he doubted he could get a doctor to prescribe cross-dressing. Yet, he was firm in his convictions.”

“And, that was his whole reason?”

“No. There was much more. He said he needed to express his hidden personality traits. He said his female clothing helped him to be gentle, passive, and much more sensitive. Sometimes his clothing even allowed him to be flirtatious and in his mind - - - beautiful.”

“Flirtatious? Did he come on to you?” David asked, seemingly bewildered.

“No! Heck no! He made it very clear he’s heterosexual.”

“Does he want to become a woman?”

“No. He said he had no interest in a sex change operation.”

“Is he married?” David asked.

“He was. He and his wife are divorced.”

“Was it because he wears dresses?”

“He said his wife didn’t know he needed to wear a dress. They were divorced five years ago after twelve years of marriage. They just drifted apart.”

“What are you going to do about him?”

“What would you do?” I asked.

“What actions does the law allow?”

“Like I said, the law simply says we can’t discriminate - - - whatever that means. About all we know for sure is that we don’t have to allow him the use of the ladies’ bathroom.”

“Does he want to?”

“No. He doesn’t want to create any bigger problem than what he has already. He wants to keep on doing his job, but he feels he has to dress as a woman. He moved to Minnesota a few years ago because Minnesota law includes transgendered people in our ‘hate crimes’ statutes. We’re one of four states that do.”

“I should hope so. I hate those phobic assholes that hate minorities.”

I grinned at David’s irony. David is such a liberal. I was backing Bush for President. David and I rarely discussed politics. “What’s your bottom line?”

David wasn’t one to be rushed into an answer. He kept me waiting for several minutes while he tapped his fingers together. . .his indication to me he was thinking.

I noticed a new billboard along Highway 12. It advertised a restaurant that would open in ninety days in downtown Maple Plain. My days of planning ninety days into the future were long behind me.

“Seek a compromise,” David said.

“Compromise?”

“Reason with him to find some common ground that makes sense. He’s a salesperson, so he must enjoy selling. He can probably understand the need to adjust to his clients’ taste and desires. Any good salesperson does that. Is he good?”

“He’s one of our top producers.”

“He’s probably looking for acceptance. Any acceptance will go a long, long way.” We pulled in front of David’s house. His hand flew to the door handle.

“Hey, thanks David. You’ve been a great help.”

David looked at me with great concern. “Why me? Why did you ask me about this particular problem?”

“What are friends for, if you can’t use them?” I smiled and slapped David on the back; then I quickly asked, “In that movie -- did you like Dil? Did you like that character?”

David stared at me; pausing to collect his answer. “She was amusing - - vulnerable - - rather ironic and really quite likable. She was one of the best things about the movie.”

“Don’t you mean he?”

David leaped out of the car and called over his shoulder, “Barry, if the person wants to be considered a she -- she’s a she. Thanks for the ride.”

Sometimes David could be an enigma. No matter what the topic is, his demeanor makes it seem like he knows much more than he let on. Through his words and actions he had told me everything I needed to know.

Chapter Seven — Psychiatrist
Two Days Later
Monday, October 23, 2000
Michael K. Brousseau, MD
Patient #1280
Close File

Article from 10/23/00 “Minneapolis Star-Tribune” business section:
Local Businessman Killed In Tragic Auto Accident.
Car Falls Three Hundred Feet From Mendota Bridge

Accident my ass. He took a header. Too bad. Eventually he would’ve come back and been a paying patient for years. Transvestites are incurable.

That freak owes me for all those pictures he destroyed. Maybe I should bill his estate. That would shake up a few people. On the other hand, maybe I should just keep quiet and not attract a malpractice suit. Who knows what he told people about our last session.

I don’t really know if he committed suicide. Suicide is such an irrational act. No one will ever really know if he did -- or why.

Chapter Eight — David Gibson
Four Days Later
Friday, October 27, 2000

The funeral had been held two days ago. I wasn’t able to do much of anything after we heard about the accident. Barry’s car somehow slipped off the Mendota Bridge. He was killed instantly on impact. It happened less than forty-eight hours after I last was with him at the T-Wolves’ game.

I had finally come back to work at the restaurant. An attorney came in and asked to talk to me in private. His firm handled Barry’s personal affairs. Barry had sent a letter to their firm and it was postmarked October 23rd. He must’ve put it in a mailbox the same day as the accident. The letter contained a sealed envelope addressed to me. He had instructed the firm to deliver the letter to me on October 27th. In all the years we had known each other, Barry had never written to me; not a card; not a note; nothing.

I had been slicing onions for salad and had a hint of them on my hands. Slicing onions is good work when you feel like I do.

I could hardly bring myself to open the envelope. I feared there would be something in it that would make the nightmare of Barry’s death even worse. The letter inside had been typed on plain paper and obviously by Barry himself. I slumped in the overstuffed chair in my office. The chair couldn’t find a way to comfort me as I read.

David:

By the time you read this, you will have attended my funeral. When you hear about my single-car accident, you might wonder if it was really an “accident.” It wasn’t.

I must end it. There’s no hope left. I’ll be at peace. No one had anything to do with this. It was my decision entirely.

A few years ago you laughed with me over an issue of “The Onion.” The lead story was a farcical piece about the Secretary of Education’s dismay concerning the declining quality of teenage suicide notes. It never occurred to me that I would be writing one of these things. But I am; and this is it.

David, you’ve always been there for me. Best man. Godfather for Sarah. Friend. I need you one last time. You must never tell Carol that I committed suicide and why, unless you are compelled to by her actions. If she accepts my accident as an “accident” please don’t ever mention this letter, or its contents, to her. Please share this letter with Lisa. Secrets breed loneliness. You don’t need to have loneliness in your life. Please don’t show this to anyone else.

There is very little good to be said about having to write this letter. I do appreciate that these are my final words and the fact that they are irrevocable. Suicide is the action of a coward. I won’t pretend that I’m doing anything noble. I will try to explain my actions, but I understand that what I’m doing is quite selfish.

As this note is for your eyes. . .I’m sure you will catch the irony that I’m reading you as I write it. “Reading you” as I guess how you will react when you read it.

First the cliché: I can’t change the world. The world doesn’t have the tolerance I demand of it. You will understand this more as you read this letter.

Now the pithy irony: I would prefer to live to be one hundred and see my grandchildren grow to have children of their own.

I checked the law and read through my auto and life policies. The fact that I’m committing suicide doesn’t impact what will be due Carol or my estate. You don’t have to worry about being an accessory to fraud, by not exposing what I did to the insurance companies. My family should be well set financially.

I’ve included Lisa and you in my will. You are to receive five hundred thousand dollars and a world cruise that will last about four months. I can imagine your distaste for taking that much time away from your restaurant. There is a codicil in my will that stipulates that you must take the cruise within eighteen months of my death to receive the money. My estate will pay all the taxes. Even after I’m gone, I’ll still be trying to tell you what to do. You’ve got to stop and smell the roses, buddy.

I’ve left you some of my things. I would have left you more, but you don’t like “things” as much as I do. I can’t stand the thought of them in the hands of someone that won’t cherish them.

I suppose I want your forgiveness. After all, I hope you will miss me. In my mind, this is not a suicide note. I’m doing nothing that will actually hurt anyone. All I’m doing is re-timing the inevitable to avoid a whole pile of problems.

I have an inoperable intracranial aneurysm.

Whew. I’m glad that’s off my chest. I was about to explode. Now you can really forgive me --- for my last attempt at humor.

I got the news about ninety days ago. I got two more opinions. The last one came a few days ago at Rochester when I had some test done at Mayo. Each doctor concluded there’s no treatment available that would alter my fate. All of them stated the aneurysm would eventually burst causing massive brain damage. I would either be severely retarded, or I would die. The most probable conclusion is death within ninety days; however, I could go at any time. I can’t take the chance of being a huge burden on my family. I can’t go on as a dead man walking.

No one else has been told. Not even Carol. I have reviewed every alternative; clipping, bypass, stent, and coiling. None are remotely feasible. Most would certainly cause a massive stroke on the operating table - - followed by the same prognosis. By having an “accident” I’m able to end things my way. I’m taking control and have put my things in proper order. I’m not at all happy about this. Que sera sera.

There’s another reason I want to end things this way. My pride and my fear have gotten the best of me.

I think I’ve done a pretty good job of being a husband and father. I don’t want to screw things up on the way out the door. I’ve been loved and respected for being honest and forthright. It may have been better if I had been hated for what I really am. I wish my problem is that I’ve been an embezzler. That would be easier to confess. You could probably understand embezzlement -- even as odious as it would have been to steal from my employer. Instead, my transgression is considered by society to be ridiculous and shameful. It’s much harder for me to disclose.

There was no man at my company wearing a dress. I concocted that whole incident to test you. I needed to know what you thought, before telling you my secret. I had to know if you had paraphobia. If you feared or hated transvestites, I wasn’t going to tell you that I am one. I carry a feminine spirit. When you told me what you thought of Dil — you were really telling me you would be tolerant of my secret activities. Your body language as we had the entire conversation also told me what I needed to know.

I need to tell someone I love before I die. You are that person. I don’t want you to experience the loneliness I have had concealing my gender confusion. No one else I care about knows. Please make sure Lisa also knows I want no one else to know. I don’t want Carol to have to deal with that without me there to help her. Cross-dressing is impossible to understand unless you willingly study all the information available. I didn’t make that study until these past few days. If only I had, years ago. If you need to disclose this letter to Carol, don’t tell her about the transvestite part; only tell the part about the aneurysm.

I went to a psychiatrist to treat the severe depression caused by the undiagnosed aneurysm. I didn’t find out about the aneurysm until right after I quit going to the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist’s response to my being a transvestite was to suggest ways to “cure” me, as if I had a disease.

I suppose his perspective is skewed. Those most likely to visit a shrink are people with problems. The cross-dressers he sees are probably those who are depressed or anxiety ridden because of their guilt. From what I know, the majority of cross-dressers lead quite happy lives and are mentally stable.

I’m sure there are good and bad psychiatrists. I’m absolutely certain there are bad ones. I couldn’t have picked a worse member of the profession. In a very weird way, he helped me. He did his best to make me feel like dirt. His unprofessional actions caused me to marshal my thoughts. I left his office the last time almost guilt free. I still had depression, so I went to a physician who ran a battery of tests.

If I hadn’t been diagnosed with the aneurysm I would have searched for a better psychiatrist and worked on becoming more comfortable with myself. It was my fault for doing such a poor job selecting that clown.

This must be a shock to you. I’m going to explain a little to help you through that shock. I don’t want you to think the worst of me. Part of the reason I’ve decided to kill myself is to avoid my family finding about my dressing. I’ve removed every shred of female clothing, cosmetics, and the rest, from my home and office. I kept some things in my office in a locked case. Even so, I knew the urge to dress is so strong that eventually I might have bought more clothes and indulged myself. I’m a biological time bomb. I can burst at the wrong moment and my secret would be out. Carol would know. I don’t have the time to explain my compulsive behavior to her in person, now that I’m okay with it. I can only imagine her pain trying to comprehend it without my input.

I want my family to remember me as the Barry they knew, not the Amy they didn’t know. Amy is my true name. It’s what I long to be called by someone who accepts me for what I am. Now I’m quite sure that will never happen. It’s too bad I don’t have the courage to meet you as Amy. It’s not like she’s a different person. She’s me; she’s the better side of me in many ways.

I can imagine your advice -- had I told you. It would have been like that old joke.

Patient: Doctor you’ve got to help me. Every time I lift my arm the pain is unbearable.

Doctor: That’s easy. Don’t lift your arm.

You would have told me, “If cross-dressing is a problem, don’t cross-dress.” Not that you’re insensitive. You are one of the most sensitive men I know. It’s just you are so unemotional when you analyze a problem.

I wish it were that simple. You can’t imagine the pressure the my urges place upon me. Over time it becomes simply unbearable and I have to do something. The desire to dress would build until I would buy some female clothing and rent a motel room where I could put them on without the risk of someone seeing me. Over the years, I bought many, many sets of clothing I wore once, and then discarded after owning them for only a few hours.

I’m sure you probably have an image of my self-love. I admit there was a little of that at the start. Over time it became much, much more than a cheap physical thrill. I found peace when I dressed I didn’t have at any other time. During those brief periods, I learned who I am; and I was content.

The price for those minutes of happiness was huge. I spent precious hours away from my family. The concealment was demeaning. Sneaking around is so debasing. Is there anything more repulsive than a frightened man?

At times I hated myself. You are never really happy if you don’t approve of yourself. The fear of disgrace, infamy, disbarment, and ruin was palpable. Can you imagine the reaction of Peter the Great? It would have been the end of my career.

I have so many fears. As a baby, we only fear falling and loud noises. When do we find the time to learn all these other fears?

I thought I was the only one who had this kind of desire. In college, I scoured the library for information and found almost nothing. I even went so far as to go to adult bookstores to find something -- anything that would help me understand myself. At least I discovered enough to know there are many others like me. God, I hated going into those places!

In my heart, I knew that what I was doing was victimless. I was hurting no one. I couldn’t find or imagine a reason for society’s scorn. Do you have any idea how terrible you feel when you are upset and you can’t decide why or at whom? We live in a very odd society. We look the other way as countless fathers walk away from their children. Yet, we make a special effort to despise anyone whose only sin is his or her difference.

I’m finally okay with myself. Enclosed is a picture of Amy. It was taken by a transformation service I went to in preparation for a session with the psychiatrist. I’m sending this so you won’t think I looked like a sideshow act. Like you said, “Not Uma, but not butt-ugly.”

One last thing; I’m not a homosexual. I don’t have any desire to seduce you or any other man. I love you as the best friend that you are.

I’ve lifted my burden off my shoulders and onto yours. You are the better man. You will handle this secret much better than I did.

Goodbye; my friend.

Barry

I had cried uncontrollably at the news of his death, at the wake, and at his funeral. As I sat in my chair, I cried again, sharing the pain he endured throughout his life. I was glad he had found a way to feel less pained, even if his peace had only lasted for a few short days.

If only. . . .

What fools we are.

Epilogue

Eventually I understood the message Barry had sent to me. I had to make sure I didn’t repeat his mistakes. I placed his picture in one of my albums so I could look at him when needed. His voice still rang in my ears with good advice.

What I had once feared most had happened. The number of people who knew about me has increased. Jess — Mychal - maybe eventually the boys.

I joined a support group consisting of other transvestites. After Lisa read Barry’s letter, she readily agreed to take part. We were pleasantly surprised to find the others in the group to be people just like us. They weren’t silly, old, drag queens. They were average Joes -- or Joans.

Lisa became relentless in wanting me to express my true self. She made plans for her “sister” Pamela to take a world cruise with her. Our family attorney is checking the legalities, but it looks like I might spend six months totally feminized. I’m not sure I want to do that. I will, if it will make Lisa happy.

Last week, we welcomed Petra into Tri-Ess. She was very nervous and awfully sweet. It wasn’t until she took off her coat and gloves that I realized how much we have in common. As she was drinking tea, I saw the scar on the back of her right hand. It resembled a capital “R.”

Life could have been a tapestry of riches for Barry, had he been more open.

When a man is managed by his fears, he will do everything possible to steer clear of the modifications in his life that would do away with them.

As I drove home from the restaurant the other day I noted a flock of Canada geese heading south. By flying in formation each goose creates uplift for the one behind it. That efficiency extends their flying range by about seventy percent. The honking they do while flying has been identified as encouragement for the geese that are in front of them in the formation.

The things we can learn, if we would turn our eyes toward the happiness in the skies.

The End

Thank you Jaycee, Kim, Geoff, Jezzi, Jenny, Amelia R, and Geoff.

Notes:

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