Before I share about what I went through as a transwoman during that time in the hospital, I first wanted to share about what life was like for me prior to that. Leading to the events of two years ago, I was really doing all that I could in order to transition smoothly. Like many transgender individuals, my first year of transition had been a time of much change. I was just six months removed from having my name officially changed when all of this happened. I had experienced so many things in such a short amount of time and life was truly flipped on its head for me. My move from Nashville to Minneapolis was a huge event for me and I was still trying to adjust to life up North when my life again took another drastic turn.
I had met a guy online back while I was up in Rochester, Minnesota working on a job that May. We kept on communicating throughout that month. I was very open to everyone online that I was transgender and I let him know from the start that I was transitioning to being a woman. James didn’t care at all, he told me from the moment that we started communicating that he understood what it was like to be marginalized because he had always felt discriminated against because of his height, he was around 5’2″. He told me that all he had ever seen in me was a woman. For a transwoman only six months into her transition, those were very comforting and encouraging words to hear.
So we continued to talk and become better friends and by the time June rolled around, I was making plans to move to Minnesota. That was where my clients had work for me and that was also where James lived. He was excited about the prospect of finally meeting me in person and I was excited to meet him too. After I arrived in Minnesota, the first person who came to greet me was James. He was a stocky guy who had a body like a boulder. He had a huge heart and he was just so excited to see me. I had lots of stuff in the moving truck that I driven up there and I had to unload it into a storage unit so that I could turn it in to the rental company. James helped me find a place to store my stuff and then unloaded it all for me and asked me not to do a thing. I was taken aback by his generosity, why would he be so kind to me? Over the next month, he became my best friend and by July we were in a relationship.
Throughout that summer, we were inseparable, we grew quite close and were really enjoying spending time to together. I had taken up rollerblading and had stopped my three-year obsession with running. James would ride his bike as I bladed all over that summer. The summer of 2014 was spent outside for me. The Twin Cities has an incredible bike trail system which incorporates literally over hundreds of miles of scenic trails and it was like a dream come true for any athlete or casual cyclist to enjoy.
I was starting to reconnect with my old Minnesota friends as I was back to freelancing as a camera operator. I had no sooner gotten to town when my friend Brett called me up to let me know that he had a job opportunity for me to work on. It was a conference at the downtown Minneapolis Hilton. I was starting to really believe that my decision to move away from Tennessee was truly the best decision that I could have made. Only a few months before, shortly after publically announcing my transition on Facebook, I had an opportunity to go up to Minnesota to work on a sports event with my camera crane. They knew that I had transitioned but they still wanted me there. I had not really run into a whole lot of discrimination with regards to my transition in Nashville other than losing my main client, LifeWay Christian Resources and some of the Joel Osteen projects that I had picked up from another client.
It was quite the challenge to show up for work the day after I had come out on Facebook. Prior to that, I had a conversation with a producer friend, that I had known for two decades. He had seen me grow up in the Nashville video production community and he and I had worked on projects with LifeWay that took us all around the country and all over the world. He knew me, at least Rick thought that he did. When I told him on a conversation over the phone that January, that I was transitioning to being a woman, I am sure that it really sent him into shock. He had noticed how I was losing weight throughout the last couple of years. I had been on the quest to feminize myself as much as I possibly could naturally prior to ever going on HRT. After I had come to understand in late 2011 that I was walking down a path that would have me transition eventually, I was looking for ways in order to be able to lose weight.
I have always seen my weight go up and down throughout my life. In the years following college, I found myself slowly but steadily putting on extra pounds every year. When I noticed that it was getting to be more than I could handle, I would look for ways to cut down my weight. I would fast, take up running or get on my bike but by the time 2004 rolled around, I had a real slap of reality. I was with my family and we were enjoying a weekend at an indoor water park up in Minnesota where we had moved to from Tennessee a few years before. As I was sitting on the edge of the pool watching my kiddos playing in the splash park, I looked up and caught a reflection of an overweight guy. At first, I looked around to see who this was but then I quickly realized that it was actually me who I was seeing. I was 34 at the time and I could not forget the dreadful feeling that had come over me. This was who I had allowed myself to become? Some fat, obese and bald guy? That was how my life was going to be like? I purposed that day to NOT allow that to happen, so I devised a plan. The very next day, I was completely onboard with this new Atkins Diet that had been sweeping the nation. Cut the carbs, cut the sweets, stop eating junk. At the time of my awakening, I was weighing close to 230 lbs, that was April of 2004. By July of that same year, I had dropped down to 180 lbs. I was focused and determined to change my life.
During that time, my gender issues had not been addressed and I did whatever I could to keep them at bay. After I had married for the first time, I had promised myself that no one would ever know about my cross-gender feelings. Why would anyone need to know, this was my burden to bear. My mistake, I was to pay dearly for not being open about gender issues. I would end up hurting nearly everyone who ever knew me. How was I to know back then the implications of such behavior? My life was really starting to settle into what my role dictated for me. My wife and I had our first baby in 1998 (he’s almost 19 now), our only daughter in 2000, followed by three boys in 2002, 2005 and 2009. Throughout that time, I was trying to answer these gender questions on my own. I was interested in reading anything that had to do with gender change or gender transition. Whenever I was on the road working, I felt that I had more freedom to explore that online.
I remember back in 2002, I was working with ABC Sports on the State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Dallas, Texas. I had picked up ABC Sports back in 1998 as a client and they were turning out to bringing me lots of business. I had the privilege of working with an iconic ABC Sports television director who had an awesome reputation and was known for broadcasting many of the iconic sporting events of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. He was a really big deal in my business and I had his ear. He was really enjoying the work that I was doing and I was in a great position to have some incredible opportunities to come my way.
This was to be Doug’s last year with ABC and he was set to retire soon and ABC had scheduled a special event in his honor. So many people were going to be in Dallas for this event and I was one of those crew members who had been invited. I remember contemplating on going or not and in the end, I chose to forego the event, my gender struggles back then were to be responsible for losing out on some really great career-changing opportunities. That night I made the decision that my desire to see myself differently were to be more important to me than my current reality. That night, while everyone else celebrated the life of a sports television icon, I decided to stay in my hotel room and read stories about becoming a woman.
It was no shock when I was not being called to work on other projects with ABC Sports. 2002 actually ended up being a very tough year professionally for me. I was really being distracted by my gender issues and I felt like God was punishing me for feeling the way that I did. I went to sleep being afraid of my wife finding out the truth. Would I say something in my sleep? I did not know what could happen. About the time that the local Minnesota hockey club had a real shot at making the playoffs, I was yanked out of working as a robotic camera operator. There was bad blood between the producer and the guy that I had been apprenticing under. Things came to a head and I ended up getting pulled out from finishing the regular hockey season. I took that as a sign that God was punishing me for having the thoughts to transition that I did. I cried like a baby and was pretty much inconsolable for weeks on end. I did not know what this meant for my overall future career as a camera operator up in Minnesota. The upcoming baseball season was in a month or so and if I did not get the season, my family and I would be in real trouble.
Thankfully, I had an upcoming out-of-state job with LifeWay in Maryland. My family and I would take this time to take an extra week after the job was over and pray about things as we relaxed up in the Pocono Mountains. I needed to really get serious with God and confess to him all of these gender issues that were going on with me or so I thought at the time. After working in Baltimore and visiting my wife’s brother and family, we made our way to Pennsylvania and to whatever future was ahead. Towards the end of the vacation, I received a phone call from FOX Sports North. They told me that the baseball season was mine if I wanted it. I hugged my wife and kids and thanked God for giving me grace. We made our way back out to Minnesota and for several years, it just got better and better career-wise. We remained up in Minnesota, as we had purchased our new home in 2002 and my business continued to grow year after year. I thought that regardless of my gender issues, that God was not going to punish me for it.
During that time I continued to imagine myself in a different reality. My work was mostly in the afternoon into the late night and when I got home from my 50-mile-plus commute from Minneapolis, I just wanted to unwind. When I got home, I would end up getting on my laptop and reading stories of gender transition and imagined myself far away from who I was and had to be. It was like a prison to have to wake up and have the life that I had. I had everything, the love of a good woman, the adulation of my kids, the respect from my workmates and a stellar reputation but I still felt empty. I was ringing in the new year every year with the same unfulfilled dream, to be the woman that I knew I was inside of me. There was much to learn and much to sacrifice in the next 10 years. Little did I know what this dream would end up costing me…