By Charlie Miller
Being born in the 60’s into a Baptist family with a single mom and four other siblings, there was no way I could go to her and say “hey mom can you start calling me your son?” Besides, at that time there was no information available to me regarding my feeling that I was born in the wrong body.
“Hey little boy have you seen my friend?”
I replied with a “no.”
I was 8 years old, when another kid said that to me. That is the first validating memory of myself that I can remember. At that age, I remember looking and behaving as a little boy - making sure I kept my appearance from looking like a girl as much as possible, and as much as my mom would allow me to.
Growing up, all I can remember is that I knew that there was a man inside of me waiting to come out, as I told my friends. Years later, they all agreed. Being inside the wrong body is something that I can’t even imagine anyone else understanding.
My road has been met with both positive and negative feedback. I gained a few new friends along the way and didn’t lose any who started my journey with me. Those are the ones that will forever be in my life.
I will start with my friend that has been with me since the age of 12. That particular friend happens to be a lesbian and to my surprise, I didn’t think that our friendship would have made it. Her questions after questions really threw me for a loop. She was the main person who started questioning my relationship with God. She asked me if I thought God made a mistake with me. And why was I changing what God had created. Those questions about my relationship with God went on for at least the first year of my transitioning. I explained to her that my relationship with God is extremely close and that I am not worried about being judged by her or God. I have learned through life that if you’re happy with yourself, so is God. I don’t believe in going to hell or being punished by God because of the choice that I have made to be myself.
I took the time to answer all of the questions, but after the first year, I told her I had had enough. Either she knew and accepted me as her brother or our 30-year friendship was going to come to an end. Eventually she realized there was no stopping my transition. The thought of losing that friendship was heart aching. We grew up inseparable and went to the same high school and our parents knew each other. I only threatened her to have her understand the sincerity of my journey.
Other friends were much more supportive of my transition. Many said they weren’t surprised, because they had seen little changes over the years. So I didn’t lose anyone along the way and for that, I am grateful.
Now we get to family, which is a whole other very touchy subject. There were a lot tears and a lot of hurt. Coming out to my family was the most painful part that I had to endure. I cried many nights trusting that it would work itself.
Growing up, I did everything that I was expected to do. I got married and had two children who are now all grown up. They were 25 and 22 at the time I started my transitioning. This is why I took so long to live as my true self. I lived my life for others for so long. I wanted to make sure that I was pleasing so many others. I didn’t want to let my children down or my family. I often wondered, what they would think of me. And one day I realized that my children were well rounded and they were living their lives as they wanted to. I hoped my family would support me if they loved me unconditionally.
Let’s start with my son. That young man took me through it. He said some things to me that - even now, after years - still cause me such sadness. He called me a freak and said that I was an embarrassment. The biggest hurt for me was when he said to me that I would not see my grandchildren ever again. I cried so hard and didn’t even know how to feel. There was a sense of numbness that came over me. I isolated myself for a while. I cried with my wife, Vicki, on plenty of nights because I didn’t even know to begin the healing process with those words. Here is a young adult child of mine calling me names and yelling and being so disrespectful that I had to hang up on him because I couldn’t take the verbal abuse. I try not to think about it, but I wish he could take back his words. I am not even sure if he realized the pain he caused me when he said those words. And if he did realize it, would he have still said those things to me? It is that level of pain that I have always been afraid of feeling. I have told myself that I will not allow him to hurt me to that point again. I am not a crier.
His words made feel like the lowest of low on this earth. I don’t think there is anything left in this life that could hurt me so deeply. At least I hope not.
My son has two children and after my grandson was born, we had to decide what to call me. Since I was by then a grown man sporting a goatee, “grandma,” just didn’t fit. He wanted them to call me “yiayiá,” which sounds nice, but it is still “grandma,” just in Greek. I asked to be called “Pop.” I wanted to be called “Pop” because “Pop” is so cool and new age and I am so young looking that it fits my persona.
Well today both grandbabies call me “Pop,” and although my son tries to push “yiayiá,” they have made up their own minds on what to call me. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I didn’t see my grandchildren. As for my son, he has finally given up on trying to separate me from my grandbabies. I don’t know whether it’s because he needs me or because he knows how much I love them and they truly love me. My grandbabies are very important part of my life. I enjoy their energy and the fun they bring to me. I spoil them rotten. I shower them with love and affection, and they love me back with kisses and hugs. My older grandbaby, my grandson, knows I am his father’s mother and it doesn’t bother him at all to call me Pop.
When I speak about my daughter, I tend to get emotional because she and I have always had a very special type of relationship. We have shared secrets and stories, likes and dislikes about the way we have been treated by others. My daughter is my rock in my weakest moment. I told both of my young adults at the same time and was given two totally different responses.
Unlike my son, her response was surprisingly unique. I was told that she had to process the entire situation and that I shouldn’t call her, that I had to wait for her to call me. And of course I cried. Although I constantly tell myself that I am not a crier, I can remember vividly how badly I did cry during my first month of taking my testosterone treatment.
While I was waiting for her to call, I continued with my shots, which consists of 100ml of testosterone every two weeks injected intramuscularly, which is given to me by my wife.
When my daughter finally did call (which seemed like forever to me but in actuality, it was only two weeks later), her response was “as long as you’re happy that’s all that matters.” Now we still speak a few times a week. I come to visit her in San Francisco once a year and she comes home every Christmas and we spend the holiday together.
I am married to a wonderful woman and we have an 8-year-old daughter together who is my biological niece. She came into our lives when she was 6 weeks old and we were able to legally to adopt her when she was a year old. She calls me dad and does not know my story and I will tell her when she is 18 years old. The thought of telling her at this young age does not cross my mind and I am not ready emotionally to tell her because I have fears of her rejecting me and no longer wanting to call me dad.
We’ll see what the future brings.