Copyright 1990 - Jane McDowell

           The first time I saw my forty-one-year-old daughter, 
Geraldine, she was being wheeled into a hospital room after major 
surgery.  She was hooked up to intravenous tubes and was barely con-
scious.  When her doctor assured me that she was going to be fine, I 
was very relieved.  But in spite of this good news, it was a day of 
mixed emotions for me.  You see, when my daughter, Geraldine, went 
into the operating room a few hours earlier, she had been Gerald, my 

           Geraldine is a transsexual, a person who believes he or 
she is the victim of a biological mistake and is trapped in a body 
that is incompatible with his or her real sexual identity.  Because 
they are so unhappy, some transsexuals choose to undergo a 
sex-reassignment operation, as my daughter did.  I know this is hard 
to understand.  However, I now accept what Geraldine did and why she 
did it.  When I look at her today I see a content, self-assured 
woman.  And when I compare her with the very troubled man she used 
to be, I believe she made the right decision.

           As a male, Gerry had always been very unhappy.  He was a 
difficult and even disruptive child, whose behavior often went to 
extremes.  He was either so active that he couldn't sit still or so 
involved in what he was doing that he was oblivious to everything 
else.  He also seemed confused about his life.

           "Who am I?" he would ask me, clearly troubled.
           "You're my son, Gerry," I'd reply.
           "But what else am I?" he'd continue to probe.  "Who am I 
           "Gerald, you are a very smart boy, and I'm proud of you," 
            I'd tell him.
           "Will I always be your son?"
           "Of course you will," I'd say firmly.

           No matter how much I tried to reassure Gerry how special 
he was and how much I loved him, I somehow knew that I wasn't 
getting through to him.  But I was at a loss for what to say or do.  
And I was more or less on my own,since Gerry's father and I had 
separated when Gerry was four years old.

           As Gerry grew older he began to experience frequent 
periods of severe depression.  By this time I had remarried, and my 
husband spent a lot of time trying to help him sort out his 
feelings.  But Gerry still couldn't put into words exactly what was 
bothering him.

           Things started to look up for Gerry when, at age twenty, 
he was introduced by a mutual friend to Linda, who was nineteen.  
They hit it off right away, and a year later they got married.

           However, they gradually grew apart, and after ten years, 
Gerry and Linda were divorced.  They had no children, which made the 
divorce less complicated.  On his own again, Gerry finally began to 
face his feelings.  He had grown increasingly unhappy and had 
experimented with drugs.  He told me that he'd even contemplated 
suicide, and I was very worried about him.

           Then, in May 1983, when I was visiting Gerry in New York, 
where he worked as a free-lance photographer, he said that he had 
something very important to talk to me about.  Nothing could have 
prepared me for his next words.

           "Mom, I'm going to have a sex-change operation," Gerry 

           I was stunned.  I wondered if my son had finally gone 
insane.  All these years I knew he had been desperately unhappy, and 
I had feared more than once that he might have a breakdown.  This is 
it, I thought.

           I didn't know what to say.  Fortunately Gerry continued 
talking.  He told me that even as a child he had secretly wished to 
be female, but he had been ashamed of those "bad" thoughts.  When he 
had asked me all those years ago who he was, he had actually been 
questioning his gender.  Now Gerry finally knew that there were 
other people who felt the same as he did and that it was indeed 
possible for him to change his sex.

           Then Gerry reassured me that sex reassignment was not 
something he was entering into impulsively.  He said he was in 
therapy and promised to continue to see his therapist.  As we talked 
for hours, both of us were in tears.  It was the closest I'd felt to 
my son in a long time.  He was my child, and I loved him no matter 

           After I went back home, I couldn't stop thinking about 
Gerry.  Every time I came up with a new argument against the 
operation, I would phone him.  But he always explained patiently 
that he knew he was doing the right thing.  He felt that his being 
born male was a birth defect, and that he had truly lived a 
nightmare for forty years.

           This was the hardest thing I'd ever faced.  Of course, I 
had heard of other transsexuals "Ren‚e Richards, for instance" but I 
simply couldn't accept my son's becoming my daughter.  I began 
having nightmares every night, after which I couldn't go back to 
sleep.  Instead, I spent those long nights worrying about Gerry and 
wondering where I had gone wrong as a mother.  I thought that what 
Gerry was going through now surely had to be my fault in some way, 
and I felt terribly guilty.

           And of course, I was scared for my son.  He was planning 
to undergo an irreversible operation.  What if he wasn't happy with 
the results? 

           But since Gerry was determined to change his sex, I 
decided that it was important for me to learn everything I could 
about transsexuals.  I read Second Serve, by Ren‚e Richards, and all 
of the articles Gerry sent me.  I found out that his condition was 
medically recognized and known as gender-identity disorder.  I 
discussed my worries about the operation with my husband and my 
other son, Tim, Gerry's younger half-brother.  Finally, I realized 
that Gerry desperately wanted my support and understanding, and 
little by little I began to reconcile myself to the operation.  
Certainly,  Gerry wasn't happy the way he was.  And having seen 
Gerry's distress for all these years, I didn't want his suffering to 

           I was relieved to learn that to be eligible for the 
operation Gerry had to undergo extensive counseling and physical and 
psychiatric evaluation.  All the professionals Gerry saw concurred 
that he was indeed a good candidate for surgery.

           Gerry was also required to receive estrogen therapy and 
live for at least one year as a woman.  He was undergoing 
electrolysis treatments and taking voice lessons to bring his voice 
up to a higher pitch.  I accepted this as he explained it to me over 
the phone, but I knew it would be a totally different thing to see 
my son in the role of a woman.

           A few months later, Gerry invited my husband and me to 
attend an open meeting of transsexuals at his psychiatrist's house.  
This was the moment of truth.  When we arrived, Gerry was wearing a 
black dress with a white linen jacket and black pumps.  His hair was 
shoulder-length, and he wore gold earrings.  An objective observer 
would have seen him as an attractive woman.  But this was my son.  
Intellectually, I had begun to accept that my son was becoming my 
daughter.  But in my heart, I still had grave reservations.  

           Having got past that initial visual shock, I began 
talking with other transsexuals at the meeting (all of them women 
who had once been men).  Doing so made me feel a lot more confident 
about what Gerry was proposing to do.  Their stories were similar to 
Gerry's: They had been unhappy growing up and had felt early in life 
that something was wrong with them.  But all of these women were 
happy with their new lives.  Watching my son, I realized that he, 
too, seemed happy as a woman.

           After that, I truly began to accept Gerry's sex 
reassignment, and so did my husband and Tim.  We even started to 
call Gerry Geraldine, the new name she had chosen.  I also decided 
to go with Geraldine to Colorado, where the surgery would be 
performed, since I couldn't bear for her to be all alone.

           When the operation began I prayed that it would be a 
success.  Afterward, Geraldine was pale and exhausted, but she 
started to regain her strength quickly.  That night she was able to 
sit up in bed and eat dinner.  Although Geraldine felt some pain, it 
was kept under control with medication.  Eight days after the 
operation, she had recovered so well that her surgeon released her.  
I took her to my house to recuperate.

           I could see an immediate change in Gerry.  She was happy, 
almost bouncy.  She said that she finally felt "right."  I was very 
glad that the operation had been a success.  My son was gone, but 
now I had a happy and apparently well-adjusted daughter with a whole 
new life ahead of her.

           Geraldine healed quickly from the operation.  I was 
amazed at how perfect her body was and how natural she looked.  In 
fact, when I took her with me to run errands, no one ever gave her a 
second glance.  The doctor had even told Gerry that she could have a 
normal relationship with a man if she so desired.

           After nine days at home Geraldine went back to New York 
to resume her photography career.  I began nervously to tell family 
members and friends about the operation.  I had worried about how 
they would react, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Almost everyone I 
told felt that if Gerry had had to change her sex in order to find 
happiness, then she had done the right thing.

           A few months later Geraldine came back home for 
Thanksgiving.  From the moment she walked into the house it was as 
if she had always been a woman.  She looked wonderful, she walked 
gracefully, and she seemed totally at ease in her new body.

           Since the operation, my relationship with Geraldine is 
much stronger.  We're very close, and we talk and write often.  
She's become a gentle, sensitive, thoughtful woman, and she's truly 
pleased with her life.  I no longer worry about Gerry as I used to.  
Instead, as I think any mother can understand, I'm thankful that 
she's finally happy. 

[Reprinted with permission of author - Ladies' Home Journal  
February  1987]

SOURCE: J2CP Information Services

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