Hung In The Middle: Chapter 1.

We All Make Transitions…Mine’s Just Much More Literal. — Love, Alana


A note from Alana Nicole Sholar:

This is just the 1st chapter (of the first part of…!) of my life’s story. Meanwhile, off the page, my life & love story’s still unfolds in many beautiful ways! I welcome you to contact me, say Hey to my wonderful spouse Bobbie, or visit me on Twitter / Facebook so we can stay connected. Love, — Alana Nicole
(
Read Bobbie’s work @Medium.)

Alana Nicole Sholar is a Trans 100 2014 Awardee

Hung In the Middle: A Journey of Gender Discovery — by Alana Nicole Sholar

Chapter 1, “Seeking Help”

I looked first to my left, then to the right, as I drove slowly down the street searching for her office. I had been told I’d find it in an office complex housing several different types of businesses. What I really wanted to do was turn my car around and drive in the opposite direction as quickly as possible, but I didn’t. I was apprehensive about meeting her, wondering if she would be able to help me, yet knew I was in desperate need of help.

There, on the right, the complex came into sight. I flipped on my right turn signal and just beyond the building pulled into the parking lot. It was a two-story square building with the front facing the street and its remaining three sides surrounded by parking lot. I knew I was getting close and could feel my heart pounding inside my chest. Determined to go through with it this time, I drove even slower now as I read the names on the office doors.

I reached the end of the first leg of the parking lot and hadn’t found what I was looking for. I made the right turn to drive down the second leg of the parking lot and started read¬ing the names on the office doors running along the back of the building. “No, that’s not it.” I’d say to myself as I read the name on each door. Without finding what I was searching for, I began making the right turn that would take me down the final leg of the parking lot surrounding the building. Suddenly, something in a window caught my eye. It was a small sign propped up from the inside of an office window that read: Hill Family Therapy.

I stopped my little yellow sports car as I reached down between its bucket seats and grabbed the gear shift to pull it into reverse. I backed up slowly and was glad to find an empty parking space right in front of her office. I love wearing these six-inch heels, but I also love when I don’t have to walk very far while wearing them. I pulled into the parking space, turned off the ignition, and dropped the keys into my purse.

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With the help of my rear view mirror, I touched up my lipstick and checked to make sure my hair was OK. I checked my eye shadow and decided I had made the right choice to wear the light brown shadow that gave more of a natural look to my brown eyes. I cussed myself for buying a car so low to the ground, as I maneuvered my long legs out the door and placed my feet on the pavement. It was always difficult for me to pull my tall, slim frame from this low sports car. Wearing six-inch heels made it even more difficult. With both feet on the ground I reached up with my right hand, using the car door to pull myself out of the vehicle. The bright red polish on my nails caught my eye.

A warm breeze floated around the corner of the building. My long blond hair was quickly blown away from my face. “So much for the hair check,” I thought as I turned back toward the car, bent over, and reached inside to retrieve my purse. I threw the strap of the purse over my shoulder as I stood up and used my right hip to push the car door closed. Bending over to get my purse had caused my shiny black patent-leather mini skirt to ride even further up my legs. I reached around with each hand and grabbed the end of the skirt just below my rump to pull it back into place.

As I stepped up onto the sidewalk, I prayed, “Lord, please don’t let me fall off these heels.” I began making my way to her office door when I detected movement from the corner of my eye. It took me a second to realize it was my reflection in the office window. I hesitated just a moment and turned toward the window, taking in the sight of me. I smiled. I liked what I saw.

The entryway of her office was tiny, with a reception area directly in front of the door. The woman behind the window looked up, smiled, and quickly said, “May I help you?”

“Hello,” I said, “My name is Alana Nicole Sholar, and I have a 1:00 o’clock appointment with Marcie.”

She looked down on the desk in front of her and picked up a clipboard holding several sheets of paper. She then stood and walked around the desk and through a door to the left of the reception area window to come into the hall where I was standing. She was nearly as tall as me. Her perfectly styled short, dark hair made her blue eyes shine. Her make-up was flawless. She was stylishly dressed in a dark blue pant suit with a three-button jacket. She had a warm smile that immediately put me at ease. As she reached out her hand to shake mine I noticed she, too, was wearing bright red nail polish. She said, Hi Alana, I’m Marcie; I’ll be your therapist. It’s nice to meet you.”

I hadn’t expected to be greeted at the front door by the therapist; didn’t therapists usually have staff that takes care of greeting patients? I also hadn’t expected her to be so warm and friendly. I’d envisioned her sitting staunchly in a high-backed chair taking notes as I poured my heart out to her about all my problems, like I’d seen it done in the movies.

“It’s nice to meet you, too,” I said.

She pointed to the first door to the right in a short hallway and said, “Before we go into the office where I hold the therapy sessions, I have some paperwork I’d like you to complete. If you don’t mind, you can complete the paperwork sitting here in the waiting room while I finish up a couple things in the front office. You can bring the clipboard back to the front window once you’ve finished. Just let me know if you have any questions about the paperwork.”

I took the clipboard from her hand and said “thank you,” then entered the waiting room as she returned to the front office. It was a small room with only four chairs, two against the door wall and two placed diagonally in each corner of the opposite wall. A four-shelf bookcase stacked with Cosmo, Mademoiselle, Time, and various other magazines stood against the wall to my left. There were two small tables in the room. On one table was a lamp, a rack of pamphlets sharing information on alcoholism, child abuse, suicide of a loved one, and various other mental health conditions, and a box of tissues. On the other table sat a large boom-box tuned to public radio with the volume set low. No one else was in the waiting room, so I chose the seat in the corner opposite the door.

In a matter of only a few minutes I returned to the reception area window as Marcie looked up, smiled at me, and asked, “Do you have a question Alana?”

“No, I’m finished.” I answered.

“Already? That was quick.”

“I kinda cheat. I’ve had to go to several different doctors lately and the paperwork is always the same, so I printed out a list of all my doctors’ names, their addresses and phone numbers, all the medications I currently take, a brief medical history of myself, and medical information about my family members. See, it’s all here on this paper, and it makes it a lot easier for me to complete the paperwork.”

She reached through the open reception area window and took both the clipboard and the printed sheet from my hands. She quickly looked over the sheet and said, “Hmm, that’s a pretty smart idea. I can see how it makes it a lot easier for you to transfer the information onto the forms. I will have to do this myself. May I keep this with your file?”

“Sure.”

She then stood up, came around the desk and back into the hallway, then pulled the door closed to the front office. “We’ll hold our sessions in an office just down the hallway here. Let’s head on back there.”

As we walked past the window with the sign that read “Hill Family Therapy,” she looked out and said, “Is that your little yellow car? I love flashy things. It looks like you do, too. I bet that bright yellow color draws a lot of attention.” She entered the last door on the left, and I followed her into her office. “Please feel free to sit wherever you’re comfortable,” she said, as she closed the office door behind us.

At the far end of the office was a desk with a computer, a lamp, several books, and a framed certificate displaying Marcie’s credentials as a therapist. In each corner behind the desk were tall bookcases full of books. A small sofa large enough to seat only two people was positioned in front of a double window that looked out on the third leg of the parking lot. An overstuffed chair sat to the left of the sofa in the corner. Along the door wall were two high-backed upholstered chairs separated by a small table holding a lamp and a box of tissues. Marcie headed for the second high-backed chair just beyond the small table as I took a seat on the sofa opposite her in front of the window.

She started our conversation by first sharing some information about herself: how she obtained her credentials as a therapist and explaining various areas of specialty in her practice. She told me she liked the outfit I’d put together and said only someone with legs as long as mine could look good wearing the patent-leather mini skirt. I asked her where she had purchased the stylish, yet comfortable looking shoes she was wearing. Just like two ladies who might be meeting in a social setting, I felt we were becoming friends. It didn’t take me long to know I was in a safe place. I was glad I hadn’t turned my car around to run away.

For a brief moment there was a lull in our conversation and I asked, “So, where do I start?”

“A good place to start is to tell me about you. Are you married?”

“Yes, and we have a son. His name is Adam. I can’t believe he’s practically grown. He’s as tall as me and started outweighing me when he was only 12.”

“Are your parents still alive?”

“Yes, and they live just a couple houses up the street from us. My mom’s name is Lois, and my dad is Raymond.”

“Tell me a little about them.”

“Well, mom’s about an inch above being short. She has brown eyes, red hair, and a temper that is stereotypical of redheads. Dad’s about average height, taller than mom but still an inch or so shorter than me. Dad’s got hazel eyes and dark hair, at least what hair he has left. He’s starting to go bald on top.”

She grinned slightly and said, “That’s a good description but not exactly what I meant when I said to tell me a little about them. I guess I should have said tell me about the type of relationship you have with your parents. But I believe you had an idea of what I meant. Do you find it difficult to talk about your relationship with your parents?”

I suddenly felt myself blush and quickly lowered my eyes for a moment before looking back up at her. “I’m sorry, and yes, I suppose I did know what you were asking. After all, aren’t therapists known for starting with the parents?”

“We do have a reputation for that, don’t we? But, the relationship one has with their parents is always important. How do you see your relationship with yours?”

Looking back toward the floor again I thought for a second on how I should answer, before saying, “I can talk to mom much easier than I can dad. Dad’s one of those ‘the man is always the ruler over his wife and kids’ type guys. It’s not always easy for me to get along with dad.”

I fidgeted in my seat, pulling at my skirt and continuing to look down at the floor. I think Marcie could tell I was having difficulty trying to decide what to say. She sat quietly for a moment then said, “Is there anything else you want to share about your parents?”

“No, I don’t think so,” I replied.

“Your relationship with your parents is something we can address in a future visit, if you decide we need too. Do you have any brothers and sisters?”

“Yes, I was born in the middle of two brothers until I turned twenty. Ricky is two years older than me, and Jerry’s four years younger. A couple months before my twentieth birthday my sister Amanda was born. I always thought it was interesting that mom is twenty years older than me, and I’m twenty years older than my sister.”

“Wow, that is interesting. Thanks, Alana, for sharing with me about your family. Now, what can you tell me about yourself, about your background, your childhood?”

“I was born in Western Kentucky, in Hopkinsville, Christian County. We moved around a lot until I was about eight years old. That’s when we moved to Versailles, Kentucky, the heart of the Bluegrass State—the Horse Capital of the World.”

“I have friends who live in Versailles,” Marcie commented. “I’ve been there often. It’s a nice, quiet little town.”

Alana Nicole Sholar speaking and teaching at a University of Kentucky workshop.

“That’s one of the things I like most about it; it’s a small town. That’s one of the reasons I still live there, because it’s small and everyone knows everyone else. Small towns aren’t an easy place to keep a secret though. I like the way Versailles is centrally located, too—approximately twelve miles from Lexington in one direction and about the same distance from our state capital, Frankfort, in the other. I guess the closest big city is Louisville. Lexington is much bigger than Versailles, but nowhere as big as Louisville. Louisville is about sixty miles down I-64 going west on the other side of Frankfort. Living in Versailles I’m close enough to the bigger places for shopping, movies, restaurants, night life, or whatever I might need; but I still have the peace and quiet of living in a small town.”

“So, you said you were about eight years old when you moved to Versailles?” Marcie said, turning my focus back to sharing about my childhood.

“Yes, around eight years old. I was really excited when I learned we were moving onto a horse farm—Bosque Bonita Farm. I’ve always loved horses, and the thought of living right there on the farm with horses all around me was great. The Alexanders were the farm owners, and they lived in a big southern style white house with large columns that lined the front porch. They had two daughters close to our ages. The Alexanders were always really nice to us. They were dad’s employer, but they treated us more like we were family.”

I hesitated for a minute, not knowing exactly what to say next, when Marcie said, “Let’s start looking at why you’re here. If I’m going to be able to help, I need to know everything. It will be best to start with your earliest memory of when you thought you might have a problem, then work your way up to what’s going on with you today.”

“Damn,” I said, quickly covering my mouth with the fingertips of my right hand as I looked up at her. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to use foul language.”

She leaned slightly forward as she said, “Don’t worry about the language. I’m not here to judge your language, but to help you. Feel free to use whatever language is best for self-expression—and sometimes we just feel foul. It’s best to just say things in your own words.”

“Well, starting with my earliest memory and working my way up to today could take a while.”

“I hope to get enough information today to help determine what our next steps should be, but we don’t have to cover it all in one session. So, what is your earliest memory of thinking you have a problem?”

“That’s easy,” I said. “I can see it all right now, as if it happened only yesterday, or as if I’m watching a movie inside my head. Only it didn’t happen yesterday. It happened during the summer when I was eight years old. And, it’s not a movie. It’s my life.”

“Tell me about it,” she said, as she once again leaned against the back of her chair, getting comfortable.

I took a long deep breath as I began relaying my first memory of recognizing I had a problem, beginning with standing alone in mom’s room looking at first one dress then another, trying to make a decision as to which one to wear when I heard my brother Ricky call out, “Will you hurry up in there.”

* * * * * * * * *

“I’m hurrying,” I yelled back to him.

I tried on several before finding the dress that suited me. The one I chose was a flower print with a white background that hung just below my knees. I picked up a white purse that had little, dark blue flowers on it and slipped my feet into a pair of black pumps. Grabbing one of mom’s short blond wigs, I placed it on my head then went to the full length mirror to check out my completed ensemble. While standing in front of the mirror I’d strike different poses, like I’d seen models do in the magazines. While I was checking myself out in the mirror, Ricky’s voice rang out again from outside, “Would you PLEASE hurry up in there. I’m getting bored waiting on you out here. What are you doing anyway?”

“I’m almost ready. You’ll see when I come out,” I yelled back.

Mom had bought Ricky and me the camera the previous Christmas, and we were having lots of fun with it taking pictures of everything. We’d taken countless photos of one another, but I was never happy with the way I looked in any of my pictures. This time, I was determined I was going to like the picture of me. That’s why I came into mom’s room in the first place—to get dressed for my picture.

“Come on,” Ricky yelled one last time.

“OK, OK, I’m coming,” I said as I skipped toward the door.

As I walked out Ricky looked up, his eyes widening as he saw me. He burst into laughter and said, “You gotta be kidding me. Are you sure you want me to take a picture of you wearing mom’s clothes?”

“Yes, I’m sure. Now just shut up and take the picture, please.”

“OK,” he said, “but I think you’re nuts.” Then I posed again as he snapped not one, but two pictures. “There, it’s done. Now you better go change before someone sees you in those clothes.”

“I am,” I said, as I tucked my head and turned around to walk back into mom’s room.

“This roll of film is almost full,” he said, “I’m going to walk down the road and take a few more pictures to finish out the roll so dad can take it into town later. Wanna come with me? I’ll wait on you only if you promise to hurry up and change your clothes.”

“Naw, you go on ahead. I’ll catch up with you later. I need to put mom’s stuff away.” I was glad he went on ahead of me, because right at that moment I felt like I needed some alone time. I walked into mom’s room and just stood looking at myself in the mirror. I liked what I saw. It was like I was seeing me for the very first time. Why did I feel so good dressed in mom’s clothes? After all, I am a boy, and boys don’t wear dresses or wigs, and they sure as heck don’t carry little purses or wear black pumps.

As I stood there looking at myself in mom’s bedroom mirror, I recalled a conversation mom and dad recently had one evening while we all sat at the supper table. Mom and dad sat at either end of the table. Jerry sat on one side, and Ricky and I sat on the other.

The conversation was about a white girl in town who had been dating a black guy, which didn’t sit well with some folks in the area. Dad looked directly at Ricky and me and said, “I hope none of you boys ever come home telling me you want to date a black girl.” He took another bite of food and chewed, all the while talking with his mouth full, “but I’d rather you do that than to come home and tell me you’re gay,” then he swallowed and went for his next bite.

“What’s ‘gay’?” I asked.

“Gay is one of them sissy guys who want to date another guy,” he said, then continued to eat his meal without any further explanation.

As I looked into the mirror at myself wearing mom’s wig, dress, purse, and pumps I wondered, “Am I what dad called ‘gay’? If I am then I must be really, really bad, because dad said being gay is worse than dating a black person.” All of a sudden I needed to get out of these clothes. I needed to get my clothes back on and never, never do this again. Mom and dad would be really pissed if they knew. I must never let anyone know how good I felt putting on mom’s clothes. I must never let anyone know I’m a ‘sissy guy’…‘gay.’

The following week our family was in town, and mom said to dad as he drove down Main Street, “Don’t forget I want to stop at the drug store. I have a few things I need to pick up, and I think the boys’ pictures should be back by now.”

All of a sudden I was gripped with fear. “Oh, crap,” I thought, as I remembered that my girl picture would be included on that roll of film. “What if someone opened the envelope of pictures and looked at them? No, why would they do that? No one had ever looked at our pictures before, so why would they this time?”

Dad pulled the car into the parking lot of the drug store. Mom, Ricky, and I headed into the store while dad and Jerry waited for us in the car. Mom walked through the store and picked up a few items, then headed to the checkout counter in the back. As we approached I saw it was Betty working at the counter. Betty often waited on us when we shopped at the drug store. Mom placed the items she’d chosen on the counter top, and then asked, “Have the boys’ pictures come in yet?”

“Yes, I think I have them here,” Betty replied as she turned to a box on the shelf behind her, “Sholar, Sholar, Sholar,” she mumbled, shuffling through the envelopes of pictures. “Ah, here they are,” she said, as she pulled the yellow envelope from the box and laid it on the counter among the things mom was buying. “What in the world do your boys take so many pictures of?”

“Oh, you know kids. First one thing and then another. I got them the camera for Christmas and they’ve been taking all sorts of pictures ever since. I know I’m in here picking up pictures at least two or three times a month. Sometimes it’s pictures of the horses on the farm, sometimes it’s each other—well, here, let me show you,” Mom said as she picked the envelope of pictures up off the counter and began looking through them, handing each one to Betty after she’d looked at it first.

My eyes widened. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t know if Ricky remembered my girl picture would be on this roll, but it’s all I could think about. I was trapped. What was I going to do?

Mom continued looking at each picture and handing it to Betty, when all of a sudden she paused, staring at the next picture for a brief moment. She never looked up but said, “This one’s really blurry,” as she put the picture back into the envelope instead of handing it to Betty. She hesitated again when she saw the following picture and said, “Can’t make this one out either,” and it, too, went back into the envelope.

Mom continued looking at each picture and handing them one at a time to Betty until they had looked at all the pictures in the envelope, except, of course, for the two ‘blurry’ pictures. Betty handed all the pictures back to mom, and she put them back into the envelope. Mom paid for her purchases and we headed toward the car.

“We want to see the pictures,” Ricky said, as we climbed into the back seat.

“I put the envelope at the bottom of the bag. You’ll just have to wait until we get home,” mom said.

The ten to fifteen minute drive from town back out to the farm seemed like forever to me. A couple times dad made some derogatory comment about the lousy drivers on the road, but mom never said a word. Jerry was humming some stupid kiddy tune, and I couldn’t believe Ricky was just staring out the car window not remembering my girl picture at all. Apparently, I was the only person acutely aware that today just might be the day my life could end.

We walked into the house and mom said, “Gather around the table if you’re ready to see the pictures we picked up today.’’ We each took our chairs at the kitchen table as mom brought out the envelope of pictures and placed them in front of me and Ricky. I immediately grabbed the envelope and removed all the pictures before Ricky could get them. Like mom had done with Betty, I’d look at the picture first, and then hand it to Ricky, who in turn handed it to Jerry. From Jerry it went to dad, then mom, who would place the pictures back into the envelope.

As I flipped through the pictures sure enough, there they were. My ‘girl’ pictures. I tried to use the ploy mom had used back at the drug store and said, “These two look blurry.” But they weren’t blurry. They were clear, in sharp focus, and I liked looking at them. But I didn’t like the idea of the rest of my family seeing them.

“Come on,” Ricky said, “pass them around.”

“Naw, you don’t need to see these, they’re blurry.”

All of a sudden mom had a big smile on her face and said, “Don’t forget, Alan, I’ve already seen them. You might as well go on and pass them around.”

Reluctantly, I handed both pictures to Ricky. “Oh yeah,” he said, as he burst out laughing, “I forgot about these. Dad, wait until you get a load of this chick,” he said, as he skipped handing the pictures to Jerry and handed them directly to dad.

Dad looked down at the pictures, then he looked up at me, expressionless, then back down at the pictures again. I didn’t know what to do. I had never been so frightened in all my life. Then dad, too, burst into laughter right along with Ricky. Mom joined in the chorus of laughter, so I thought it best that I do the same—laugh right along with everyone else.

I laughed on the outside, but on the inside I felt…confused. When I saw the pictures I knew I was looking at the real ‘me’ for the first time ever. My family sat there laughing as if I’d made a joke, but I hadn’t dressed that way to be funny. It was then I decided there must be something wrong with me. Dressing like a girl felt right. But their laughter told me it must be wrong. At that moment, I knew I could never let them, or anyone else, know how much I liked wearing mom’s dress, her wig, her shoes, and carrying her purse.

* * * * * * * * *

Marcie, who had been listening intently while carefully taking notes, looked up and asked, “Did you continue to dress in girl’s clothes when you were a child?”

“Only one other time,” I answered.

“Just one other time? I thought you said you liked the way you looked and felt when you saw yourself in the mirror dressed as a girl.”

“That’s the problem, I did like the way I looked. I did like the way I felt. What I didn’t like was feeling so ashamed for liking it so much. I was born with a boy’s body, and boys aren’t supposed to like being a girl. I felt good when I had girl’s clothes on; yet, at the same time, I felt bad about liking it so much. I figured there had to be something bad wrong with me, I just didn’t know what. I wasn’t about to let anyone know how much I liked dressing as a girl. I do remember one other time I was able to dress like a girl and get away with it.” I said, smiling broadly, “and I even convinced Ricky to dress like a girl with me.”

“How did you manage to do that?” she asked.

We attended a small Baptist church in the country. The congregation consisted of local farmers, horsemen, a bank president, a few law enforcement officers, and many people from town. On a good Sunday morning there could be a hundred or more in attendance.

* * * * * * * * *

It was Halloween, and the church was having a party—you know, their way of keeping kids safe and off the streets—away from trick-or-treating. It was a costume party and everyone had the opportunity to dress any way they wanted. Since I liked my first experience of being dressed as a girl, I wanted to do it again but needed to figure out a way to do so with¬out bringing attention to myself. I loved the idea of wearing a girl’s costume to the party, but I didn’t like the idea of doing it all alone. Somehow, I had to convince Ricky to dress as a girl, as well. Over a period of several days I nervously pondered how to ask him in a way such that he wouldn’t know the truth behind my request.

“You know,” I said to Ricky, “the church’s costume party will be coming up soon. Have you thought about what cos¬tume to dress up in?”

He said, “Not really. How about you? Got any ideas?”

“I do have an idea that would fool everyone, and we’d probably win the prize for the costume contest. All the guys will dress up as a super hero, a cowboy, or maybe some kind of monster, right?” I began my pitch.

“Yep,” he agreed, which meant he was paying attention to what I was saying.

“Well, do you think any boy coming to the party will be wearing a girl’s mask and a dress? Maybe we could dress like girls and go as sisters. No one would ever guess it’s us,” I said, trying to hide my fear that he wouldn’t like the idea.

He laughed, which made me even more fearful he wasn’t going to be very receptive to my suggestion, then said, “I may have to think about that one. Sounds like it may be a good way to win the contest, but to dress like a girl…I don’t know.”

“Well, if you can come up with a better way of winning, just let me know,” I taunted, trying to make it sound like the idea was solely for the purpose of winning the costume contest. He thought about it for a couple minutes, but apparently couldn’t come up with a better idea. We finally agreed my idea was probably the best way for us to win the contest.

Mom worked at the Ben Franklin’s Five and Dime store, so a few days later we went with her to pick out our costumes. We chose full costumes that included a plastic mask of a girl’s face with painted blue eye shadow, bright red lips, blond hair, and a dress that glittered. We even bought each of us a pair of those high-heel shoes little girls use when they play dress-up.

The night of the party arrived. Ricky and I dressed in our ‘sister’ costumes. Ricky was smiling because he believed we would win the costume contest. I was smiling because I liked the way I looked and felt dressed like a girl.

Mom, dad, and Jerry changed into their costumes, and then we all jumped into the car and headed to church. The closer we got the more nervous I got. I began to wonder if I’d properly thought out the consequences of two mischievous farm boys showing up dressed like girls. What sane nine-year old boy would choose to show up anywhere dressed like a girl? By the time we arrived, Ricky and I were both nervous and agreed to never leave one another’s side the entire night for any reason whatsoever.

The party was held in the community room, which had been built onto the back of the church. The congregation often had pot luck suppers in the community room. Ricky and I found two chairs sitting side-by-side against the wall and sat down. Time passed as we just sat there watching everyone else enjoy the party. Kids were running around acting out the characters of their costumes. There were games kids could play to win prizes at various stations throughout the room, like “the fishing pond” and “toss-across.” The adults participated in the ‘cake walk’ and would squeal with joy just like the kids whenever they won a cake. But Ricky and I just sat in our chairs and watched, too afraid to move. Afraid we’d bring attention to ourselves.

It felt like we’d been sitting, watching for hours when one of the men of the church, a deacon and family friend, came and sat down right next to me. He sat there for just a minute watching everyone else, like Ricky and I had been doing. I knew he was there, but I didn’t want to look up at him, to ac¬knowledge he was there, so I just sat still continuing to watch the activity of the others in the room. Just his being there made me even more nervous than I already was.

After several minutes he looked down at me and Ricky and chuckled as he said, “Now I wonder who these two pretty little girls might be?”

The way he said it told me he already knew who we were, and that he had sat down just to pick on us. Ricky and I both looked up at him, fearing what he might say or do next. He just shook his head from side to side as he burst out into a hardy laugh which got the attention of others in the room, who soon joined him—teasing the ‘cute little girls’. The teasing made me nervous; yet, at the same time I felt good being called a ’cute little girl’ —somewhere inside of me, I enjoyed the recognition of being a girl. After a few minutes I just smiled and decided to join the other children in the games. After all, it was just a Halloween costume (to them at least); they were totally unaware of how I felt inside, and I wasn’t about to tell anyone.

* * * * * * * * *

“If being dressed like a girl felt so right to you, why didn’t you say something to someone about how you felt?” Marcie asked.

“Both times I had the experience of dressing as a girl it was played off as a joke,” I replied. “The worst part wasn’t that everyone else saw it as a joke; the worst part was I did not understand what I was feeling, and I knew I couldn’t say anything to anyone about how I felt. I decided the best thing I could do was to just keep quiet.”

“Why did you think you had to keep quiet?”

“Of course, partly because of what I’d heard dad say about ‘sissy guys’ and partly because of the ‘mixed messages’ I was getting at church. I heard the sermons telling us ‘God is love’ and to ‘do unto others as you would have others do unto you’.

But what was being said by the preacher and what I was seeing from the church goers were two different things. I believed the sermons that said we should love one another, and that’s why I couldn’t understand why our church didn’t love everyone. I remember once when a white girl came to church, only her baby wasn’t white. I overheard one of our deacons saying to another deacon, “We don’t want that kind in OUR church.” I may have been young, but I knew what he was say¬ing wasn’t loving one another. They didn’t want her coming to church because she was ‘different’—like being different is a bad thing—a sin. I also learned from the sermons that when you sin, you go to hell. I didn’t want that either. I just figured if I did my best to be ‘normal’ then I could go to heaven. I believed I was on my way to hell because I’m different.”

“Alana, I find many people in your situation have difficulty with what they’ve been taught about God and religion versus what they experience in life. Heck, I find many people, period, have difficulties with what they’re taught about God and religion, whether they’re in your situation or not,” she smiled and shrugged her shoulders slightly as she continued, “And guess what, everybody’s different.”

With that she said our time was up and that she’d like to see me again in two weeks.

_

About the Author

Alana Nicole Sholar (HungintheMiddle.com) was born in 1961 as part of a close-knit, churchgoing family who lived and worked on several now-famous thoroughbred horse farms in the central region of Kentucky, the Bluegrass state. One of her earliest childhood memories is putting on her mother’s clothes (as shown on the cover of Hung in the Middle) and discovering not only that it felt good, but it just seemed right.

To this day, Alana and her partner Bobbie Thompson continue to make their own elegant transitions, both literal and actual, still living in rural Kentucky where they were both born and raised. Too, Bobbie has detailed her experience of growth in the tongue-in-cheek entitled memoir, “My Husband Looks Better In Lingerie than I Do…Damn It!” (MyHusbandLooksBetter.com)

Ms. Sholar is a Trans 100 2014 Awardee. The Trans 100's mission is to celebrate the living and promote positive depictions of trans* people doing trans advocacy and outreach work.


The Author-Educators: Alana Nicole and partner Bobbie Thompson

You are invited to connect with Alana Nicole on her Facebook Fan Page and connect with Bobbie and Alana Nicole’s trans* business networking community, Trans* Friendly Businesses and Their Customers.