My heart is full of love, admiration and respect for this incredibly authentic and courageous woman. She is not just a friend, but a sister; a chosen sister, who gives so much of herself to play a part in healing this world.
I was born in 1964 to a German/Irish/Scottish Christian family. Though they were not strictly religious, there were only two accepted roles as far as they were concerned…male and female. That is not to say that the men were firemen and loggers and the women were housewives, nurses and supermarket checkers. Perish the thought! My grandmother, for one glaring example, worked at the same job for more than 25 years as a factory worker. My grandmother was actually my role model. She worked very hard, took care of the house, and was a fabulous cook. I learned a lot about cooking, crocheting, and sewing from her…basically, how to take care of a household.
My grandmother… When she took care of me, between the ages of 4 and 7, she was the most supportive, though I didn’t realize it at the time, person in my life. When we were alone in the house, she let me wear my aunt Jody and aunt Susie’s old clothes, play with their Barbie and Troll dolls, and various other societally-deemed “girl’s toys”. When she knew someone was coming over, she’d kindly talk to me about putting all those things away and pulling out the Lego’s while wearing the clothes I was sent to her house in or with.
She is the reason my middle name is “Rose”. I chose it in honor of her.
When I was little, I did not know there was any real difference between boys and girls, other than names. No one spoke about the difference in sexes to us kids, and no one discouraged me from enjoying my Lego’s, hot wheels, Barbie dolls, and dollhouses. No one cut my hair, so I had gorgeous toe head blonde hair, long and shaggy. Everyone was fine with that, and I never identified as being either way, really. It was never a consideration, as I was never pushed to be either way, though as far as I can remember, I was more like a tomboyish girl than anything. One day, according to my mother, as she and I were eating at some public…eatery…she said someone stopped as they were walking by the table and said, “oh what a pretty little girl!” She said that as soon as the trip was over, it was straight to the barbershop to cut my hair short and “boy me up”. From then on, there was also a noticeable lack of what some in the family called “girlie toys”.
I found ways to get playtime in with the dolls and other things I enjoyed when I had to make daily pilgrimages to my cousins’ house during the summers. I always identified squarely with Tracie and Lori. We played together for hours and days. There was no competition for anything (I hated the competitiveness of the boys in my neighborhood and in my family to the point it would make me physically ill) and we rarely argued…we were like sisters. It was also about this time that I learned the differences between boys and girls from a genital aspect. I was around 9 years old, if I remember right. Of course, I was a bit upset that I was no longer just like Tracie and Lori, but I didn’t feel that was something I could share with anyone. I was not actually sure exactly why, though… I felt that I was a girl, so actually seeing the difference confused and hurt me, and I couldn’t tell anyone.
It was at about that same time that I discovered the existence of the Skipper doll, and found it extremely curious. My grandmother called me Skipper. She had insisted she would never call me by my given name and so had always called me Skipper, or Skip. Other relatives followed suit, so it had become my nickname. I was never comfortable with most people calling me that…except when Gramm did so. She said it out of love…it just felt different coming from her. Did she know? Unfortunately, it is now far too late to find that out.
In Elementary School, my parents signed me up for Little League 3 years in a row. I detested it. I finally got out from under that vicious boys club by telling them that I preferred soccer, which I actually did enjoy. Eventually I was able to prove to them that I was just fine so they would back off the pressure to play sports. I had also proven, by the time I reached the 6th grade, that I was adept at reading and writing…enough to outpace all my classmates.
Of course, THAT did not help the situation one bit… In fact, it seemed to amplify the issues.
Once I got into Junior High, things went from not that great to a daily nightmare. Changing and showers for PE was a special kind of Hell on Earth. I was very small at the time and hairless aside from my scalp hair. Well, except the very fine “peach fuzz” as my parents called it on my arms. I actually tried, multiple times, to shave it off. I was constantly made fun of for the small size of my genitals, my somewhat feminine curves that had started to develop, young breasts that were taking form (though they stopped about 3-4 years later, giving me a permanent “almost A-Cup” as I called them, though later learned they were AA’s, but with men’s nipples). It got to the point that I started cutting gym altogether if I could not come up with an excuse for my parents to get me out of the class for a few days. It was during this time, as my body seemed completely confused as to what IT thought I should be, that I became withdrawn and almost chronically depressed. I started writing very bleak and black stories of “fiction” and “fantasy” as my writing skills developed into an outlet for the horror show I felt I was stuck living from behind my eyes.
I was beaten, often, by several boys at once sometimes, for what I looked like. In the locker room, in the back field of the Junior High School…even just up the street from my house. Oh, but I just fell off my bike. That story worked, for the most part.
My parents thought I just needed healthy encouragement to make friends and “go be like the rest of the boys”. I know they just thought they were being caring parents, but it was obvious to me that they had no clue who…what…I was becoming, even though it was happening right in front of them. They pushed me to get back into sports. I tried to make them happy… I just could not bring myself to enjoy it, though. It just was not me. I had made a few friends (not really, but as long as they thought it was true, I was safe from the pressure) so I no longer had to play sports constantly to prove I was well adjusted.
By the age of 13 or 14, I knew what I was inside; at least partially. I was still confused about loving girls and being attracted to them, I also developed the feeling that whatever supreme entity or spirit that was manipulating things had better be laughing it up good for the nasty practical joke it was playing on me for the body I’d been given.
It was also at this age that a neighbor, someone renting a room from a nearby homeowner, decided he liked what I looked like… Enough that…it started as simple touching…then molestation. By the third time he raped me, I’d stopped fighting it. I felt like I deserved it, for what I was. There was no point in fighting him off. He was much bigger and far stronger than I was. I simply cried through it…until I reached a point I couldn’t even do that. Thankfully, he was forced out of where he was living shortly after he’d raped me upwards of 20 times… Tell someone? WHO?! Back then, who would have believed me?? Terrified. Alone. No one knowing who I was or what I was. This was in the late 70’s. Who was going to believe me?
It was over, though…as quickly as it had started. I did my best to move on and forget about it. But it’s not something you can forget about.
Even though I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, all during my formative years I was (as all us kids were) kept as sheltered as possible from those with “alternative lifestyles”. It was not talked about anywhere in the family, and the subject seemed to usually be avoided when it came to the television. Though at that time I had not realized it, I do know now that I helped matters not one bit. I already realized I was night and day different from everyone in the family, and they all seemed to not speak of things that were not “comfortable”.
All of that was during a period of time most attribute to the growing pains of self-discovery and growing up. I can now look at most of that matter-of-factly instead of with the pain of what was to come afterward.
Through my teen years, most of my friends were either girls or very caring and sensitive boys. Interestingly though, at the time, my “best friend” ended up being a womanizing boy. It was only through later soul-searching that I realized I got so close to him as a friend because his overtly male persona allowed me to be more like my true self without attracting any real notice from others. It was as if he was “guy enough for the both of us.” My cousin Jimmy was much the same way as Steve (my friend), so it made even more sense to me as I later thought about it.
I had many girlfriends during that time, but when they wanted to become intimate, I usually pulled away, embarrassed about what I was physically. Often this caused me to lose them as anything more than a friend.
By 16 years of age, I had taken to wearing over-sized “stoner” clothing that consisted of large black jeans, over-sized t-shirts, unbuttoned flannel shirts, and mechanic boots. I adorned my clothes with a myriad of angry and rebellious rock group imagery consisting of various buttons, stickers, and patches. I was listening to angry chick rock music like The Runaways, as well as hard rock and heavy metal of a vast and disparate variety. My hair was long and gangly, my demeanor was nothing short of introverted to the point of serious depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and contemplation of suicide (tried 4 times, as well).
When I went to family gatherings (as if I had a choice), I stayed in the corner, away from everyone, and just did no talking. I physically could not talk. Every time I tried, I just felt like crying and running off. More than once I feigned being sick, and actually did make myself physically ill to the point I had to be taken to the hospital, just to get them to drive me home early.
I think my parents truly believed that it was all just growing pains and seemed to change the subject whenever I tried to broach the topic of sexuality and identity…of what I was really feeling. I was once handed a book that was literally about “The Birds and the Bees” that I swear was printed in the 1950’s. I threw it aside, though not in front of them. My issues were not with not understanding sex and reproduction. My issues were with what I was and what I felt. I loved them, but I had lost all trust in being able to speak to them about anything personal at all. Anything…
I started hanging out with more boisterous people at school, actually instigating us to do things that would get us into trouble, including cutting school, drinking and drug use on campus, and various other activities that had garnered the attention of parents and the police a time or three. I know now that it was mostly a combination of lashing out and actively trying to hurt myself.
I had a psych teacher in my junior year of high school who could tell that something was deeply bothering me. He could see the pain in my eyes that no one else seemed to notice. One day, he gave me a form for my parents to sign for an off-campus extra credit “field trip”. He used it to get me out of the school, take me to his home office, and talk to me…get at what was hurting me. After some questions that I thought were rather mundane, he moved right into what I later found out were psychology tests (some of the earlier ones…this WAS 1980!) to determine if I was just a bit confused on things, or if there was something deeper going on. He told me what I already knew; that as far as he could tell, I was “obviously a girl inside”, but that he wasn’t fully equipped to help me much more than provide support. He told me that no one would ever learn of it from him, but if I wanted any help with my anger or depression issues, his door was always open to me, even if that meant a referral to someone in a more specific field.
For a time, I felt a bit more at ease…one person knew, and they not only did not shun me or make fun of me, they were supportive. I wish, to this day, that more than one person could have shown the simple kindness and understanding he did.
Finally, just before I turned 17, I met Cassie. She never pushed, though she often tried to entice me to go further than kissing and petting. All she understood was that I was uncomfortable, sexually, with myself, so she never pressured me further. She was actually my first True Love. I still think about her and all the “what if’s” that we always go through as we get older. I actually found out, years later, that she discovered she was Lesbian. Curious. I still wonder if she knew it back then. The what if thing hit me extremely hard when I found that out!
A year or so later, I confided in a few people about my feelings, my confusion, and my identity. It was almost like testing the waters. Though they never seemed angry, upset, or even curious, they never told anyone else (to my knowledge) about what I had said to them. They did slowly drift away, though, almost as if on purpose.
As I hit graduation age, and a little after, I had encircled myself with a few people I trusted, though never completely after what happened with the others. I remained rather introverted otherwise. Cassie and I were still together, so I had an outlet for my burning desire to feel connected to someone in some way more than just a casual conversation, though my hate for my outer self had only grown. My mistrust of myself, and everyone around me, with the truth about me eventually drove a silent wedge between us.
I joined the Navy, and Cassie and I broke things off. She said that she was afraid I would meet someone else while away that could make me happier than she did. I knew that was hardly the case, but I had lost the will to fight for myself anymore. I did truly love her; I still do, I think.
While away, I became loud and boisterous, as well as a huge partier. I wanted to fit in, outwardly, so as not to draw unwanted attention on myself. At times, when I was alone, I felt sick to my stomach for what I had become. I was still a virgin. I was that hateful of what I was…am…that intercourse was itself detestable. Over time, I worked to keep it to myself…to become the “man” that people expected me to be. I just went into self-preservation mode. I think, in many ways, I actually had it much easier than most transsexuals did, though. I was a man (on the outside) who loved and was attracted to women, after all. I just had the wrong body to go with my feelings about who I am.
A year after joining the Navy I received a medical discharge for an unrelated issue, but had already become adept at hiding my true self out of sight. I could be “male” to people if need be, though confrontation and violence, again, made me physically ill. Most everything else I had little issue dealing with. I could work on a car, do heavy lifting and yard work, and all the rest. I finally lost my virginity during/after a very drunken evening of uncharacteristic revelry (I got so drunk I barely remember the evening at all) at the ripe old age of 22. I will spare everyone the gory details…
I actually got married to the second woman I ever slept with. Sex was not that frequent, though I did and do enjoy foreplay of both the mundane and exotic varieties. Tantra, bloodletting, needle play, nails, light bondage, and dom/sub all became part of my repertoire and I became quite adept at them. In times of reflection, I wonder if most of that is just to inflict physical pain on myself that could outdo the emotional pain that still permeates my every waking moment. That, I think, is what kept it going when many marriages would have fallen apart. We had a child together, even! My daughter is such a tough Goth chick while being a real sweetie at the same time. I had sufficiently suppressed what I was in order to move through life fairly well unnoticed, except in a couple particularly painful cases. I got divorced, had a string of bad relationships, one of which actually broke up because I was “too girlie” for her. She wanted a MAN! I know that was my fault as well and never once blamed her. If I had been honest up front, I would have saved her the bother and myself the added pain.
Soon after those short-term relationships, I met Sue. She actually seemed, to me, to be a bit bi-curious. This attracted me even more. She had friends who were into Dom/Sub, Bondage, Cross-living, swapping, and other things. As we began dating, I immediately started feeling more comfortable, but still VERY guarded. I did not tell her what I was at first. I was afraid to scare her away before we had a chance to know each other at all. Eventually, though I had still not said anything, we got married. I was okay with never saying anything (or so I thought) for the rest of my life, if need be. She was happy, and I was somewhat less than completely hateful of myself. As I was reaching that point where I finally felt secure enough to share everything, she started to pull away from all of her friends. She stopped calling them, stopped having them over, stopped visiting, and actually stopped mentioning them at all. When I realized she had pulled away from the last of her friends with interesting lives (as I always referred to them), I died just a bit more inside. I shut down.
I spent the next few years in relative calm although I think what was happening is things were just becoming toxic within me. I had grown to hate myself for existing at all, and not just for my gender or physical appearance. Sure, I had contemplated suicide a few times when I was a teenager, but this was different. I did not want to end myself. I just tried to wish myself out of existence. I had gotten to the point that I was quietly crying myself to sleep at night every night. Thinking I had no reason to feel so desolate and sad only made things worse. I have a wonderful wife who treats me well, at this point two darling grown daughters, a decent job that I like, enough money in the bank that we are not living on Ramen noodles (though I couldn’t buy a new TV if the old one went bad), and a roof over our heads.
Still, the burying and trying to forget moved inexorably towards a pinnacle of self-loathing, depression, and anger that I could not escape.
I started trying to channel, as I once did when I was younger, all those feelings into writing. I began writing Adult Fantasy and FanFic for many games and fantasy realms. Though it did help to lessen the feeling in some ways, in others it made it all move closer and closer to the surface. I got into “Mature Role-Play” at that point, during the height of one of my most prolific phases of writing. People online only knew me as Syrra Coventry. My wife and I, by this time, had grown very far apart, almost as if we were just roommates and nothing more. She started, though, after while, getting very curious about what I was spending so much time doing online…
After a couple of days of “prying” (yes, I know she had a right to know) it all just boiled over like Mt. St. Helen’s. I exploded into a tirade of not so much anger at her as all the hate for myself just finally tearing down the last walls and spilling forth. She learned everything about me on that day, all at once. After about a week of contemplation and asking me questions, and hearing the whole story of my life, she said, after judging my mood as accepting of whatever she had to say, “I had no idea I was a Lesbian, honey…but looks like I am,” then kissed me. Our marriage became far better than it had ever been, though we have a TON of new hurdles to deal with.
Of course, Sue is not a lesbian…she’s straight. But she loves me, not what the shell is like.
She still finds it a bit difficult to talk about, as do I with people who do not understand.
I finally started coming out to certain people I felt I could trust, none of whom have been anything but supportive. Kerstin, a woman I work with, has become my best friend…someone I can talk to when I have a hard time talking to anyone. She has never once judged me, and has been wonderful with advice. She has been a rock for me, and supportive of everything I have been going through. We are not romantically involved, but are very close, which is what I needed. Until that point, I had no friends…not even of the acquaintance variety. I started getting tattoos that express my feelings, my emotions, evoke perceptions of myself, etc. My artist calls me Syrra and refers to me as “she” in person… The people there at the shop are so wonderful; it makes me well up just thinking of them. They took me in as if I was a family member.
Still, there is my family. My mom now knows about me, as do my older brother and my bio daughter. My mom, while being supportive in one way, has been trying to warn me off having my dad find out in any way. They are a very integrated family, but they always see me as “the first-born grandson” rather than just me.
I have no idea where I am going to end up, but as I try to let go of some of the old pain and disgust with myself, perhaps I can move in a direction that will ultimately make me feel more like the real me…Perhaps Syrra will be able to one day breathe free all the time…
I joined Laura’s Playground, have been active in their chats, and now frequent the DeFrank GLBTA center in San Jose and am actually considering becoming a volunteer there.
I now live 24/7 as Syrra…well, as much as is legally possible until I reach a point where I can change my legal documentation.
I have begun Gender Therapy, which I hope works out well. I also desire to start Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). I am almost too anxious to get that under way. With every step I make in reconciling my appearance with what I am inside, the more comfortable and happier I am.
A day and a half trip to my parents turned into a 3 day trip. At first, it started like all our other visits since I had come out as myself; words from my father regarding my look, dress, and speech that cut very deep. Right away, Sue pulled him aside and let him know how much he was hurting me with his words. After that, my father and I spent quite a bit of time alone, talking… He is learning quickly of the pain I have lived with for most of my life…pain, fear, and self-hate. He has come full circle to be one of my staunchest supporters. He uses the right pronouns, gone out of his way to make sure he pronounces my name properly, and even calls me his daughter, reintroducing me to his friends as just that… “My daughter…Syrra.” He also, once again, hugs me close.
I still tear up, thinking about the huge shift.
I am now 8 months on HRT, my Estradiol and Spironolactone have been upped to max dosage that is right for my body to get the rest of the way through my proper puberty, and I had my last needed visit with my Gender Therapist. I have been given my letter for surgery approval. Actually it’s not approval…it states in no uncertain terms that it is required. Needless to say, that was the single best word I read on the two page letter… Required.
I’m all packed up right now. It is 10:00 am, June 8, 2012. I am waiting for this evening to roll around, when I pack my computer into the car and get on the 1,000 mile journey into my REAL life…into my future. Into where I still wish to this day I had the courage to journey almost thirty years ago.
And Sue, is making that same move… With me. Who knows where we will end up, but I no longer live in fear or complete loathing of who I am.
Not much of an update. Surgery is growing ever closer… Feb 2015 is when it’s slated for. I still struggle with many things, but who I am hasn’t been a struggle at all. It’s been a liberating experience. Sue no longer considers herself straight. She now says she is Pan sexual. I think this is the truest of it all, for her. I’ve made some extremely important, to me, friends through all of this. Ones that, I’m not sure I could have gotten through this part of life without.
The one thing I’ve been able to take away from this life is…you have to be who you are…and…
I am Syrra Rose Coventry.
To access all our videos and stories so far, please check out the official website.http://www.nbiassociates.co.uk/Give–em-Hope-Campaign.html
WHAT IS THE GIVE ‘EM HOPE CAMPAIGN?
Stage One – The Give ’em Hope Campaign is an inclusive and inspirational celebration of diversity; an online video initiative to encourage and uplift those who feel marginalised, isolated or limited by labels. We exist to bring hope to those who need it most and do so by sharing our stories.
The campaign was founded by David E Watters in early 2011 and has grown, with the support of numerous international cheerleaders and proactive participants.
All of our videos can be found on our youtube channel.
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Stage Two – has included written stories of HOPE from those who have freed themselves from limiting labels and who can now celebrate their individuality.
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