Hope is a dangerous idea. It sheds light in the darkest of corners. There existed a time that I had no hope at all. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Keira Kristine and for 43 years I bore the moniker Keith James DeSantis. A name I never felt comfortable with. It’s not that there is anything inherently wrong with the name itself. It just happens to be completely incorrect to who I am. Or as other Transgender ladies like to use the term congruent, it was incongruent. The proverbial square peg being forced into a round hole. A small part of a larger ongoing discomfort.
I like so many others had a less than appropraite childhood. I was adopted by my grandparents at the age of 7 months. Apparently my living conditions were not favorable. Story for another time. I’ll leave my mother out of this for she has suffered enough. Living with my Grandparents and being adopted presented it’s own challenges. Such as the amount of information divulged to me at an early age that I couldn’t process or put into context. I literally believed that my father was a criminal on the run from the law when in reality he was an irresponsible, unfaithful drunk. It’s still difficult to correlate reality to the things I learned as a child. After meeting him in 1992 I quickly learned that the legal separation of my life from his was necessary. Had he been in my life I have no doubt this blog would not be written. I would be no more.
On the surface I appeared to be your typical boy. Hand me a toy and I will play with it. Had I been handed barbies instead of trucks well you get the picture. I don’t believe in the idea that there is this absolute concrete difference between us. A lot of our gender make up is learned. We learn how to function in an insane judgemental society the best we can. As a young child I played with the neighborhood girls. I felt comfort there and belonging. There is a picture of me at a tea party that is near and dear to my heart. I knew at that time what I was. As early as I could know, I knew. I didn’t know what to do with it. There was no one I could express these feelings to. I was terrified of my grandparents and for good reason.
My Grandfather James “Constanzio” Nichols DeSantis was from another era entirely. Born in 1918 he lived through things I can’t imagine being one of the only boys in a family of 9 children he dropped out of school to get jobs to help pay to put food on the table for his family. He was full blooded italian in every cliche possible including his proclivity for explosive violence and verbal assaults. My grandmother Willabelle June Brooks is a case study in Munchausen syndrome. She came from Union city and grew up on a farm with 2 violent parents. A father who kicked her in the spine causing permanent damage and while unconfirmed I believe in her story that she had been raped by him. She learned that the only way she could get attention was to play sick. James had a child before his second marriage to Willie. Together they had 3 children. My uncle Dennis, My mother and my Aunt Terri. While Willie is possibly one of the least intelligent human beings I have ever had the displeasure of being forced to be around she was wickedly sharp with manipulation. She had a PHD in turning situations to her favor.
As I developed she had decided that I was hyperactive and began a battery of tests and medication that would last until I was 13 or so and finally said enough is enough and stood up to her. I went cold turkey off of prescription drugs and began a long battle to find myself. The details of my chldhood are also a story for another time. To gloss over it I was beaten and choked at the local church, put on several meds including high dosages of Ritilan, Mellaril and Lithium, I was also placed in the SED class for several years. I endured physical violence almost daily and minute by minute verbal abuse. To my recollection no sexual assault but who knows with as drugged out as I was. My mother relates to me that I was zombified when I would visit. And there are holes in my memory so I will leave it at that.
That is a little background on my formative years. At age 11 I began cracking. In mental health I discovered some maxi pads in my closet that a previous occupant had left behind. I whisked them away and coveted them like Gollum coveted the One Ring. Yes, my precious!! It was an opening, a connection. A light pouring through a crack in the wall. Upon release of course I took the pads with me and so began an intense period of cross dressing. The relief I felt in a dress was incomparable to anything I could put words to. I remember spinning around and around in this red dress I had procured from my grandmothers closet. I wore pantyhose under my clothes to school. It was one of the only enjoyable moments in my childhood. It did not last. Sadly, and I had been so careful. I was getting brazen. I used to hang everything up and put it exactly in place but I got tired of sneaking into their room and procuring these items. What could it hurt? She never wears this stuff? It may as well be mine. What a grievous error in thinking that was. Yes it was easier to come home from school and slip into those delightful garments however.
I was able to escape the DeSantis residence from time to time and in the Christmas break of my 12th year of life I went to my mothers house and had a nice, quiet and peaceful time. Being that they are hippies of a sort. My mother an artist and my step dad a electrician. They have a nice little almost cabin in the woods and I loved going there and the vibe is just “different”, lets say that. My break was abruptly interrupted as I was demanded to be returned home. Upon arrival after my mother left I had discovered that my grandmother had cleaned out my room and lo and behold what did she find? All of that clothing. I was absolutely crushed under the weight of this discovery. As I heard their car pull down the driveway both Willie and Jim were there at my doorway belt in hand. I often think of the whipping Christ took in The passion movie. Although I’m sure it wasn’t. I will say getting the buckle end was significantly more painful than the strap. Having it hit your head…well. Let’s just say I spent the rest of my christmas vacation recovering.
To add insult to injury while I lay crumpled on the floor my grandmother started calling family members and asking if they knew about this. In my desperacy I said it was a dare from my cousin who I only seen once a year if that. I can still remember that feeling in my gut when she called his mother. My whole world had just came down. I had to stand before the preacher of the church I was forced to attend and listen to his chastizing me and exlaining my lot in life. This is who you are, this is what you are. I always thought to myself who are you to tell me who and what I am? That event cracked my reality and began a rebellion against authority and everyone in my life. Of course my desires and needs never went away but I had to learn how to hide it. Simultaneously showing I was all boy and this was an egregious error.
By the time I hit my late teens I fell into a despair of sorts. There was this indoctrinated part of me telling me how to make sense of things and there was the real me fading away. Like someone who just drowned taking their last breath, slipping into the deeper waters hands reaching for the sky but being submerged. I created a new person from the ashes of the past. He was a real doozy. I spent the better part of my life living as that person. Hiding who I am and being repulsive and arrogant.
I eventually got married. At age 23 I decided this was how it’s done. My true self was just a fantasy. This is how life is lived. It always made me wonder if this is why so many men are so miserable? I was in a graveyard sometime in the night. Being a metal head and living that lifestyle it was all graveyards and darker interests. I came to this epiphany one night on LSD wandering the graveyard alone. This is how you make your life work. Find someone and fall in love etc, etc. I had been on a 4 year dating hiatus when I met my ex wife. The rest is history another tale for another time.
She made me forget about my transness for awhile. However it always comes back doesn't it? Doesn't matter how many clothes you throw away or burn. How many resolutions you make. None of it matters. That thought, that feeling is always there. Even when I was kind of happy for that moment in time. I would have rather been in my ex wife’s place. I wanted to be her. How do you live with this? How do you function and be happy? For me it was non existent. There was no way for me to be happy. At a certain point I just gave up. I quit. Even the dressing. The feeling was there worse than ever so I just drowned it out with high levels of alcohol, loud music and I played a lot of video games. Mostly in the female role go figure. I had become psychologically addicted to escape. I had to escape at all times. Or be that vile person. It was all that I found that worked to any great extent.
In May of last year I hit a wall. My life had just become too unbearable to continue and I decided I was going to definitively end my life. That was a hard choice to face but it was done. I scared the hell out of my ex who knew despite our troubled times she knew something was really off with me. I reached out to the local trans family facilitator and president Caitlyn Strohmeyer and begged for help. A last ditch effort to become whole. I half expected her to reject me as so many have but she didn't she listened and showed me a kindness I had not known in a long time. I explained my situation and history and the rest is actual history. Here I am almost 10 months later on HRT and the happiest I've ever been.
Of transition. While some of it seems difficult such as routines and old behaviors which are ingraned. Most of it feels completely natural and while a lot of girls equate this to a new life I feel a little different. I feel like it’s an old life being renewed. I’ve been here, done this. It’s so familiar to me. Everything feels right and in alignment to who I am and where I am going. It’s congruent. So many suffer through this period and I admit there have been times. Recently I’ve just realized, all my life is mine. Whatever choices I made and the person I was, it was a necessary evil for me at the time. Now I can be me. Honor the real me but I don’t have to forget the past. It is that past in fact that got me here. When I look in the mirror I don’t see a man or a woman even though the world sees something very specific. I just see me. And she is beautiful. Forged in fire and ready to help. I hope that even though my story is extremely glossed over it gives enough of a glimpse into what was and what can be. I think we are out own worst critics and it certainly doesn’t help to have negativity thrown on us. My grandmother is less than thrilled about my transition but I’m less than thrilled about who she is. It works both ways. Respect needs to be mutual. I’m not going to cry for her acceptance, I don’t need it and I don’t care. I have met and made some of the best friends and beautiful souls in the past few months. I am forever grateful. Being transgender is not a curse or a negative. To me being transgender is everything beautiful in the world. I wouldn’t change or trade it for anything. Just like this blog, this life at 44 is only just beginning.