When I’m not at work, I enjoy the hell out of science fiction and fantasy movies, hero comics, and a new-found love of sewing and cosplay. The highlight of every year is now our annual trip to Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia where I get to dress up as my favourite super heroine, Power Girl, and Jaime gets to be whichever hero I feel like creating for her.
Monika: Could you describe your childhood? When did you feel for the first time that you should not be a boy or man?
Carla: I think my childhood wasn’t that different from many. My parents divorced when I was quite young. My mother remarried when I was about four years old. I played baseball for many years as well as American football while in junior high school. In junior high and high school I played the French horn in the school band. I liked to play in the woods, ride my motorcycle, and eventually write computer programs.
Even so, from an early age I “knew” there was something different about me – a feeling of “wrongness”. However, I would never describe it as feeling as if I was in the “wrong body”. I believe I actively started cross-dressing at the age of eight.
|Carla at graduation.|
I was often in trouble with the faculty and was disciplined often. Luckily, I had a reputation of being very smart and I didn’t have to study very hard. I got along most everyone.
Instead, I attended a local university and quickly lost interest. I joined the Air Force as an alternative to college, hoping I would find the motivation to do something with my life. It just so happens that my entrance and performance scores were such that I was put in Space Command. While I could have probably enjoyed a successful career in the military, things didn’t turn out as I had hoped.
Eighteen months into my enlistment, I was married with two children. At my newest duty assignment, I was required to undergo a rigorous security investigation because of the sensitive nature of my assignment. During the investigation, I was discovered that I had gender issues and I was discharged from the service.
|Carla in her 30s.|
Truly, back then, I wasn’t really aware that it was an option. Even though my wife had been made aware of my gender issues when we were in high school, this was not the issue that ultimately destroyed my marriage, but rather her infidelity.
At the time I was working as a software engineer at Philips. Also working there was my father-in-law and mother-in-law. When my wife finally decided to leave me for another man, she and her family made sure that everyone at the company knew I was transgender. Having lost my children, wife and sure that I would have lost my job, I overdosed on sleeping pills. Not having showed up for work for a couple of days, my boss found me unconscious in my home. I remained hospitalized for quite some time.
During my hospital stay, I had lost my home, my vehicle, had no clothing, and no personal possessions left. My boss and his wife took pity on me and invited me to live with them until I could walk again and find a place of my own. Within a few months I had started to rebuild my life and transitioning was a part of that new life. I had lost everything but my life and had decided that life would not be wasted on living a lie.
|At National Equality March.|
I was aware of no role models at the time, but have since compiled a short list of those that I admire: Lynn Conway, Martine Rothblatt, Danielle Berry, Wendy Carlos, Amanda Simpson, and Lana Wachowski.
A year later, my son came to live with us. Shortly after, my children’s parents divorced and the adoptive father died in a motorcycle accident. I petitioned for guardianship and it was granted. When I saw my children for the first time after many years of absence, it was as if I had just seen them the day before and they me. Once again, I felt whole.
|Another lovely haircut by Jamie.|
While each of us applauds the achievements of our transgender brothers and sisters, the truth is that a hundred fall for every one that is lifted up. I want to see full equality, not just in the eyes of the law, but in the eyes of my fellow Americans.
|Dragon Con 2012 with Jamie.|
Each November, when I read over the list of dead trans people and the method of their executions, I’m reminded that we are still viewed as less than animals by some. The human race has a long way to go.
|Carla and Jamie.|
Having recently had wild success with online petitions on change.org with the arson case of Carol Ann and Laura Stutte, I quickly composed a letter and petition on change.org and had success within a matter of hours. I was really blown away by General Mills’ response.
Monika: Have you read any book or article which shed a new light on the transgender phenomenon?
|Carla as Power Girl.|
My questions to faith leaders went unanswered until I finally realized that my religion was just another myth. I’m not so bold or arrogant that I can profess there is no God, but I cannot profess that there is one either. That is why I consider myself agnostic.
I believe each person has far more potential than the limits that cultural gender allows. I am adamant that I’ll not give my grandchildren any clothing item or toy that reinforces traditional gender stereotypes.