The Trans-Atlantic TransSexual

From Bill to Billie Felice in Only a Day

Image of Billie Felice

I was sitting comfortably with my family on a double-decker 747 in Frankfurt, Germany, awaiting our return flight to San Francisco, California. I wondered who’d occupy the empty seat to my left for the 12-hour flight and was excited at the prospect of an engaging conversation to occupy my time. My mother used to say, “Deborah, you’ve never met a stranger.” Every seat on the massive airplane was filled with the exception of the one next to me.

At last, my seatmate arrived. She stood six-feet-two and had a kind, grandmotherly face. Her snow-white hair was beautifully coiffed, her red fingernails perfectly manicured and her face expertly made-up. She was wearing a gorgeous dress with high heels and pantyhose.

Deborah Gilson

I smiled, extended my right hand and introduced myself. “Hello. I’m Deborah Gilson.” She offered her massive hand, which enveloped mine like a ski glove and told me her name, Billie Felice. Striking up a conversation, I asked about her travels abroad. She said she was heading home from Stockholm, Sweden. Wincing in apparent physical discomfort, she gingerly leaned over and exclaimed, “Wow! Thank God, sex change operations happen only once in a lifetime.” I’d never heard of such a thing, however, nodded my head up and down. With 12 hours to pass, Billie began her story.

In 1926, William, a precious boy, was born at the Queen of Angels Hospital in Los Angeles, California. Known as “Billy” during his youth, by the age of six he knew he was different from the other boys his age. He preferred doing things with his younger sister, rather than boy activities. His father consistently told him he’d never amount to anything. As Billy grew older, feminine feelings crept into his thought process, causing him to wonder what was wrong. My mind raced. I had no idea how she felt and frankly, was relieved I adored every ounce of my ultra-feminine being. How in the world could someone live masking such a horrific predicament?

In 1943 at age 17, Bill joined the Navy during the height of World War II. Upon returning home from the service, he married a young woman he’d known several years. He felt this would remove his uncomfortable feelings of feminism and be met with approval in his father’s eyes. I stared at her massive hands and attempted visualizing them at the helm of a fighter plane.

During the next 20 years, Bill’s marriage went from bad to worse, although they were blessed with a beautiful daughter. The problem of his long-time secret feminine feelings became a bone of contention, however, they were never discovered by others. My furrowed eyebrows secretly wondered, “Wait a minute! It’s physically possible to fake having sex with the wrong sex?” Finally, Bill felt he had no other choice than to end the marriage.

Three years later, Bill met another lovely lady with whom he supposedly established a beautiful relationship and married. His love for his new bride was so deep and complete he was able to keep his feelings of femininity under wraps. The next 10 years provided an immense amount of happiness for him. I wanted to holler, “What in the world? How could a secret of such magnitude remain hidden by one’s spouse?!” As if reading my exasperated thoughts, Bill admitted he consistently drowned his sorrows in booze. Perhaps he should reach out to Alcoholics Anonymous?

In 1973, Bill’s business sold for a handsome sum, allowing him to retire at age 47. However, he felt strongly as a budding alcoholic with a large amount of money, this could prove dangerous. Over the next several years, he involved himself in various businesses in which he had no experience. These ended in bankruptcy while the drinking continued, even though he was a half-hearted member of Alcoholics Anonymous. He could no longer live with himself and decided the best scenario would be to end his life. I sat riveted while listening to Billie Felice’s unusual story. Even Jerry Springer couldn’t make this stuff up.

One Sunday in 1987, with his wife and family away, Bill took his 357 Magnum Colt Python to his office and began writing a good-bye letter to his family. He apologized for the havoc he created. However, while sitting at his desk, three members from his AA meetings appeared in the doorway. They just happened to stop by to see how he was doing. Seeing the pistol on his desk, they took him home. The next day they checked him into the Veterans’ Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation Program. Everyone faces monumental challenges in their life, however, nothing compared to what I was hearing straight from the horse’s mouth.

During the first three days of his detoxification program, Bill received divorce papers. He began to feel at peace with himself. At last, Bill knew what he needed to do: convert into the woman he always wanted to become. Paving the path for his transformation, he boarded the flight to Sweden. Flying home to San Francisco as Billie Felice, she went to the ladies room to powder her nose, freshen her lipstick and spray on “stink pretty”, her favorite fragrance.

Grammy Lou & Aunt Shirlee

I maintained contact with Billie Felice and dined with her in San Francisco, along with my Aunt Shirlee, who also appreciated courageous individuals. Billie Felice had been disowned by her family and longed to connect with loving individuals. With the 72-year-old ladies only a month apart in age, I listened intently as they excitedly talked like magpies about their younger years.

My life was enriched as a mother and continuously active. Unfortunately, I lost contact with Billie Felice, however, learned she died in 2001. Was she alone during her final moments on God’s green Earth? Had she any regrets in her 74 years?

By a remarkable chance, Billie’s flight home was with my family and me. Who could have imagined the privilege of sitting next to so much life? While on a Trans-Atlantic flight next to a transsexual, I learned Bill became Billie Felice in only a day.