The Love Investigator – Transgender Interview
This is an excerpt taken from my real life adventures as the Love Investigator. I set about to personally interview 1,000 men in one year. Six years and five-hundred men later, I could go no further. This was one of the most touching tales I encountered during my odyssey.
“Passive women tend to have quiet violence going on.” ~ Jackie, 42, divorced
Case 469 / Jackie
Sheila’s my long time friend and a fierce civil rights litigator in South Carolina. She calls with an interesting proposal. “How’d you like to interview a transsexual? Would that fit into your man-investigations?”
“Is this person a man or a woman?” I’m immediately caught up in the possibilities.
“Does it matter? I’ve just taken on a case against the county sheriff. My client is a guy who’s now a woman. Jackie was pulled over on a routine traffic stop. She was mid-way into her transformation dressed like a woman but carrying a man’s driver’s license. The deputies beat the punk out of her. The case has been tossed around in the courts like a greased Frisbee. Now it’s mine.”
Ice tinkles in a glass. I recall how much Sheila loves her gin. The dusty memory of caring for her during her face lift flashes like a red warning sign on a highway at midnight. Some years ago, she coerced me into being her nursemaid while she recovered from having her face peeled away and repositioned. Sheila went into shock on the operating table and only after she’d come around did she confess to me and her surgeon that she drank more than her share of Beefeater – before breakfast, with lunch and after dinner.
Still very dazed and with her head wrapped round and round in white gauze with two blood collector blubs sitting low on either side of her head like droopy rabbit ears, she leaned on me as I walked her out of the doctor’s private clinic. “Take her home and make sure she doesn’t drink any alcohol. I’m holding you personally responsible. I would never have operated on her if I knew she was a drinker!” Shit. I didn’t know she was that bad.
Sheila’s small but feisty as hell. Even in a drugged stupor she resisted my efforts to get her into the car. I clipped the seat belt over her lap avoiding her neck. Then I placed pillows around her huge white cotton head trying not to look at the blood bulbs. Not my thing. Driving ten miles an hour with the horn honking and the hazard lights on, we finally pulled into her garage. I eased her petite frame out of the car. She looked like a five foot Q-Tip.
Fifteen minutes later, I tucked Sheila into her big satin-sheeted bed and positioned the bulbs as instructed. “I think I’ll get some smeep…” she mumbled and conked out.
Moving like a spy in a bad movie I raced to the bar in her posh living room. I gathered up all the bottles and poured them down the sink. Quietly I moved through her kitchen cabinets emptying a case of gin. A large green soda bottle sat on the counter. I unscrewed the lid and sniffed. Gin! I was just about to pour that down the drain when I heard a growl. “I want a drink…” I jumped two feet in the air and came down to face what looked like a demented rabbit with two bloody ear-bulbs.
“The doctor said you’ll die if you drink. No alcohol.” I put my hands on my hips and tried to look tough.
She came at me. “I’m gonna kill you if you don’t let me get a drink!”
I stood my ground. No booze.The following afternoon she went through the DTs. Coming off alcohol she was suffering from Delirium Tremens which manifested itself in visions of giant spiders on the ceiling and walls of her bedroom. Years later Sheila confessed she would have shot me if she could have reached her gun. My tough little friend owes me big time. I take down the contact info and call Jackie.
Thrilled at the opportunity to interview someone who has walked in wingtips and high heels, I arrive early for our meeting, set to take place at Jackie’s condo.
She’s running late. I sit on the steps of her building, waiting and wondering, mostly about what she’ll look like.
Jackie arrives twenty minutes later. She’s big boned with an angular jaw and blond hair done up in a pony tail. She wears a pink work-out suit with a low cut stretchy top. She appears bubbly and sad at the same time. “I’m so excited about this interview! It’s all I could think of all day.”
As we enter her neat but sparsely furnished apartment we’re greeted by a black and white pug. Jackie drops her bag and scoops up the dog. She takes two bottles of Evian from the refrigerator and hands me one. She settles into a Lazy Boy and I take a sofa seat. “This is Sailor,” she says by way of dog-introduction as she fans herself with a copy of People. “The hormones still give me a rush every now and then. Sorry.”
Not sure where to begin, I fuss with the recorder and note pad. I have trouble phrasing my questions. I feel off balance.
“That’s okay. I have that effect on people.” She smiles. “I’ll tell you my story and when you think of questions, just pop in. Okay? I have some good thoughts about true love. I’d like to share them. And please ask me anything you want.”
She settles back and hugs Sailor. “I think I always knew I was born into the wrong body. I was the middle son of a career Marine. My dad was a hard person, but that had nothing to do with my gender problem. I knew from the first time I could talk that I was not me. It was like I was playing a role in play and I couldn’t get into character.”
Teetering on a thought blade of cold steel, I watch this six foot woman with big breasts and graceful movements.
“Debbie is my wife. I mean… was my wife. I don’t think I could ever love anyone the way I love Debbie. I don’t think I want to.” Jackie dabs at her tears. “I remember the first day I saw her. We were twelve years old. She was wearing a denim jumper and pink blouse, her red hair was long and curly, and she smelled of lavender.”
I try to visualize Jackie as a twelve year old boy – falling in love for the first time.
As she dabs at her tears she says, “I married Debbie because I loved her. I thought marriage might cure my gender issues.”
A wave of dizziness sweeps over me. Bingo. I understand my own confusion. Women listen differently to other women. My radar isn’t making the adjustment for Jackie.
“Debbie and I know we have to break the tie completely. It’s been seven years and I still fight my need for her. We talk every day.” Jackie’s voice cracks, it’s a sorry sound. “I can’t remain in her life. I have to disappear from her world.”
“Are you sure you have to do something that drastic?”
“I do. I’ve dated some people and they start to get close to me and I can’t let them, because Debbie’s still here.” She points to her chest.
“In order to move on with my life, I have to let my wife go.” Jackie sighs. Sailor leaps to lick her tears. “Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to do what I did. My pain was so powerful. In order to do the things that we did, you have to truly love each other. Debbie knew my life was pure hell as a male. She cried with me and for me.”
I experience another emotion-wobble. Do I feel that strongly about my own sexuality? Or had I taken my girl-ness for granted? Do I need to be a woman to be me?
Jackie continues, “It’s been a horrible loss. Before my surgeries, I was in an institution twice because I tried to commit suicide. I just didn’t want to live as a man. Debbie loves me so much, she let the me go but I can’t seem to leave.”
“Tell me,” I whisper.
“I tried to be what my family expected. What my employer expected. What it said on my birth certificate. We got married very young. I know I was running away from the confusion and into the arms of someone who truly cared about me. Debbie and I were married for fourteen years. We raised two beautiful children. I wish it hadn’t ended this way. Now I realize I would rather have Debbie than my sanity.”
I could swear her dog is crying. This is harder than I imagined it would be.
“I want to get on with my life. In order to be able to get into any kind of relationship – I have to give Debbie up.” Jackie weeps. “Besides, I’m keeping her from her life.
“If I ever love again, I want to be able to crawl inside that person. I want them to be able to crawl inside me. So, even if I tell them my deepest, darkest secret, I know my secret will be safe.”
I notice that Jackie doesn’t mention a gender-direction for her love.
She continues, “Men are much more superficial in their feelings. I don’t necessarily think it’s their fault. I think we’re raised that way.”
Jackie just flipped sexes. I try to keep up.
“I dated this one gentleman. He was fun to be with. I found myself saying – wait a minute. Are you supposed to feel this way? I can’t get it right. Sorry about the tears, my body doesn’t produce hormones, so I take pills all the time.”
I’m feeling her pain. What must it be like to jump tracks, while your life is chugging along? To voluntarily amputate a part of your body?
“Debbie was my first love. She will always be a part of me. I just don’t know if I’ve found the right spot for her yet. Your first love is the cornerstone of your life.”
I think of my own first love. Mark is lodged just behind my smile.
Jackie continues “Men need to feel needed. They may complain about it, but deep down they need to be needed. I’m not needed any more.” She grabs another Kleenex in her over-sized hand.
“We all have our own closets to clean out. One of the things that helped Debbie and me get through this was we trusted each other to clear out our closets and not worry that somebody’s going to get a hold of the bad stuff and do something with it.”
Her bright blue eyes spill tears on her tanned cheeks. “I think men commit adultery because their communication skills are so poor. If they had better skills in that department, they wouldn’t have to go outside the marriage.”
A question tickles around my mind and tumbles out my mouth. “What is the most pleasurable thing about a woman?”
“What about a man?”
“When they hold you, you can feel their strength.”
Jackie was my most difficult and painful interview.