Saturday, September 7, 2019

Zero to 60... in the wrong body

By Paula Gaikowski, Femulate Contributing Editor

Turning 60 this year has led to a lot of self-reflection. Anyone who is transgender knows many a night is spent laying awake at 3 AM wondering, imagining and wool-gathering over our mysterious puzzle.

A few nights ago, I found myself tracing the progression and struggle of Paula from an early age to now.

Some transgender persons come to the realization later in life. For me, I always wanted to be a girl. As soon as I knew the difference, I wanted to be over there.

I remember the first day of kindergarten, the boys and girls were separated into two lines with the girls all in pretty dresses and shoes. I was so envious.

Those early memories continued and at 6 or 7, I remember going to a Halloween party where there was a girl in a beautiful party dress.

I asked, “What’s your costume?”

“I am a girl,” the little boy replied. Stunned at the realization that this was a boy, I could not take my eyes off him as he ran around the room that night in a pink dress with crinolines, tights and Mary Janes.

Perhaps if I couldn’t be a girl, I could at least dress like one.

Next came the start of crossdressing and a more intense desire to be a girl.

During my first Holy Communion, the church was filled with 1st grade boys and girls — the boys in white suit jackets and the girls in beautiful white satin and lace dresses with veils. I was captivated and a few weeks later, I found my sister’s communion dress and tried it on. It became a favorite until I outgrew it.

I remember sitting in Mrs. Carlson’s 2nd grade classroom and wondering what it felt like to wear the tights that most girls wore. I started raiding my sister’s and mother’s closets trying on tights and any other dress or skirt I could find that fit. When I think back, this wasn’t something I did on occasion — I did this two or three times a week. This continued and by the time I was 11 years old, I had graduated to lingerie, pantyhose, high heels and make-up.

Through middle school and high school, I continued to crossdress on a very regular basis. After school from 3:15 to 5:00, it was all-clear to play girl to my heart’s content. I would often try to mimic styles and fashions that I had seen during the week in school. I became an expert putting things back the way I found them. However, as a parent myself now, I think they must have known.

During high school, I would read anything I could find written about “sex changes.” In a garage sale, I found an autobiography of Christine Jorgensen that I read in secret. I would scan newspapers and magazines for mentions of crossdressers or transsexuals. At 15 or 16, when others were making career plans, I was taking a sex change into account. Everything I read told me that surgery would cost several thousand dollars.

The Air Force solved many problems for me. It got me out of the house and gave me a chance to save enough money for a sex change. Yes, no kidding, that was my thought process at that age. That’s why I’ve written that in today’s environment, transition would have been a certainty.

So off I flew into the wild blue yonder. Basic training was difficult not because I was transgender but because I was naïve and lazy. Then off to technical school in Biloxi, Mississippi. Then to Germany, with a follow-on tour to Andrews Air Force Base. The whole process was good for me as I matured, traveled and gained technical experience.

These are typically the years when a person’s sexuality matures. I knew I was transgender; however, I was also fearful of being gay because of the hatefulness and disapproval for gay people around me.
I was captivated by women. A pretty girl would always catch my eye. Thank God, I’m not gay. How could I be when I felt that way about women.

I made the mistake of confusing admiration and envy, with lust and sexual desire. Here are a few examples of how this manifested itself during the four years I was in the Air Force. There wasn’t any shortage of the guys going out to strip clubs and brothels that surrounded most military bases in Germany. I can remember feeling so uncomfortable for the women in these strip clubs, I wanted to rescue them not lust after them.

I would accompany my friends to the brothels in Frankfurt and finally, I acquiesced and decided to lose my virginity one night. I was trying to prove something. I remember the beautiful young woman very well and once inside I could not do it. I gave her extra money to wait out my time and then make a great show of it to my friends waiting outside.

I was very good at making friends with and talking with women, but I would never close the deal so to speak. This happened all the time, talking, flirting, nothing. I never would make a move, ask her out, hold her hand or kiss her. Looking back now, I believe it was due to my instinct as a female deep down inside. I just didn’t get the male-female mating ritual. I wasn’t programed like the other guys.
I could list several examples, but for sake of brevity let me tell one. I worked in a communications control center and on days off, I would head to Shenandoah National Park where I would camp and hike. I worked with Rita, a girl from upstate New York who also loved the outdoors. We hit it off well and talked about camping, hiking and kayaking in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I missed all the clues that she was sending because I was surprised to see her ride up to the campsite on her motorcycle. Long story short, dinner, a few beers by the campfire and lights out in the tent with her on one side and me, the gentlemen on the other. This is how oblivious I was! It never dawned on me she was there to hook up. A few months later, she asked why I hadn’t done anything that night. My answer “I dunno” and I really didn’t know.

Just before I got out of the Air Force, I had this bizarre affair with a lesbian who I worked with. She and I were heavy drinkers and partiers at the time and would often wind up in bed. Nothing ever happened, but I had a big-time crush on her. We would sleep together several nights a week and yes, just sleep. I realize now she was using me as cover — back then, if you were gay you were out of the military and they actively looked for and prosecuted gay persons.

Now it’s 1981 and I’m back home in New Jersey. I find a job at a computer company. My first paycheck comes. I cash it and go to the Willow Brook mall and buy a dress, shoes, hosiery and lingerie. All too small, so I purged.

My life began to revolve around work, drinking and hunting with my redneck buddies. I hardly even thought about being a girl. At work, I met my future wife. We talk, flirt and again nothing. We talk, we flirt and she calls me. Boom — we are off and running. She lets me wear her bra one night and she even buys me some lingerie — WOW!

This is perfect. I’m in love. We marry and off we go. However, what I thought was approval turned out to be tepid toleration. For a number of years, we would go forward and then backward. A few months of encouragement would then be met with resentment

Just to emphasize how strong my dysphoria was, I remember the morning of my wedding, being a bit melancholy, thinking well this means I’ll never be a woman.

A wonderful marriage, family, career, home, it was all there except for this one little problem of gender dysphoria. There were periods where depression would bury me. I kept myself busy with career, home maintenance, church, non-profits, elderly parents and child care.

Still, as I did when I was 8 years old, I would seek refuge, a few taboo moments of sanctuary dressed as a woman. When keeping busy didn’t work, overeating and drinking were brought in to cloud the ache.

Isolated, confused, and trans, I would sometimes stop and buy Drag magazine. I would read it hidden away in the back of a New York City deli or sometimes take my lunch on a bench near Trinity Church in the shadow of the twin towers. In relative anonymity, I would enter into a world where there were others like me.

In the mid 1990’s, along came the Internet and with it, a connection to a community and finally, information and answers. My world began to open up.

My crossdressing became an unspoken truth in our marriage, seldom directly addressed and sometimes talked about disparagingly. Don’t ask, don’t tell became the model for dealing with the issue. In my late 40’s, I entered a dark period sinking into deep depression along with anxiety attacks.

When I hit 50, I was overweight, drinking too much and in bad health. Finding an objective and informed person, you can discuss, share and solve your issues, which was a key ingredient in my journey. In my case, this was Dr D. I no longer saw being transgender as a problem to be solved. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I cast off society’s condemnation of being transgender and realized that I am a good person and that part of my personality and character involves being transgender. Attributes I see missing in many men, such as nurturing, kindness, compassion and cooperation are parts of my personality that I believe come from my feminine side.

Through the years, I had worked so hard and sacrificed so many things for so many people in my life. Now at 50, the one thing I wanted most, the one thing that had nagged at me since childhood was going to be left unanswered. I could not do it. I could not let it go. I needed to express that woman who I knew lived inside me. I may never transition, but I needed to experience the world as a woman in some way.

In 2009, I was emerging from the darkness of yet another crossdressing purge. But as any transgender person knows, purging doesn’t work. My need for feminine expression had returned with a vengeance. I had once again accumulated a wardrobe and around this time, I started traveling for business. I started going to M·A·C stores and found acceptance and support.

Next, I started shopping for clothes while I was in drab and I was surprised to find that the sales associates were enthusiastic and supportive when I told them I was transgender. City after city, I began to accumulate everything I needed.

Finally, in Memphis after visiting Graceland, I saw it in a strip mall a store named Graceland Wigs. The last piece I needed was a wig. With my new-found confidence, I entered the store and was overwhelmed by hundred of wigs lining the walls. After a few minutes of awkward browsing I came clean with the store owner and was soon sitting in a chair in front of a mirror trying on wigs and telling her my story. She was a bit of a character and after about two hours trying on dozens of wigs, I left the store with advice earned through a lifetime of hardship, an overabundance of amusing anecdotes, guidance on being a woman and a cute pageboy style brunette wig.

A few weeks later, I would step out of my hotel room in Denver and not look back. For the next eight years, I would travel all over the country and the world and during my free time, I would explore the world as a woman. I would shop, get M·A·C makeovers, meet friends for dinner, attend a transgender conference, visit the doctor, attend concerts and visit museums. I would go out as a woman in the UK, Canada and Australia. It was also during this time I started writing for Femulate. Those were glorious times and I began to feel somewhat fulfilled.

In 2016, I began having trouble with my back and it became chronic. I began to overeat and drink. The weight came on and the pain grew worse. I stopped dressing. I entered into a dark period with pain and along with it, a sense of despair and hopelessness.

In 2019, post-surgery, I am now coming back. I am eating healthy and I’m off sugar and junk foods. My back feels great and I started building back my wardrobe. I’m writing for Femulate again and feel a sense of renewal and hope. Where the next few years lead? Who knows? But Paula will be there.
That’s my story — the evolution of a human who is transgender. How I dealt with it and how I continue to deal with it.

Keep reading.

Source: Rachel Zoe
Wearing Rachel Zoe

Stan Laurel
Stan Laurel femulates in the 1927 film Sugar Daddies.


  1. A commendable story you have Paula.Many of us share similar tales of our life. Yours however, is well written and a enjoyable time was spent reading it.
    Gendre Amore

  2. Paula, thank you for sharing your story; including the ups & downs, and your rise to self acceptance. I hope the future is kind to you.

  3. Interesting how our lives can be so different and yet so eerly similar at the same time. I have always felt like a girl and my dysphoria is so strong I need to live the way I do know lest I fall into deep despondance. Same sorts of problems with women that you describe where the obtuseness on my part was largely due to my trans nature. We learn to figure ourselves out as we age and now realize what we might have done if we knew then what we know now.

    1. It is amazing how are lives are so similar in many ways, When I read Caitlyn Jenners book it read like so many of the transgender bio's I have read on the web over the years

  4. Paula, your story is much like my life story. Paula you know how to put in words our feelings better I ever could. It's never to late to be come the woman you always should have been. As a late in life transwoman your can be full of joy happiness and fulfillness.

    1. Barbra

      It is amazing how much we have in common especially us boomers, I'd love to hear you story? Why not try writing?

      BTW here is a link to a sub reditt for later trantioners

  5. A special shout out to Stana and her editing ability, this is why my articles appear better than they are.

    Thank you Stana!

  6. Ah, Graceland. Who among us could resist "Graceland Wigs"? You gotta do what you gotta do -- be your true self. I trust Paula is now strong enough that she can convince "that other persona" that neither drinking nor overeating are medications. My late father never figured that out. Be strong, Paula. We're looking forward to seeing lots more of you.

    1. Mikki

      I believe it was the Graceland part that caught my eye, the store catered to African-American women, however awkward I felt the owner made me feel so welcome and she was so understanding and helpful

      As for the wisdom gain in later years as we over come our demons too bad we could have used that wisdom in mour youth

  7. Thanks for sharing this intimate look into your life. I’m so pleased that you’ve moved out of the recent darkness into a healthier place. Can I ask where things are at in relation to your marriage?

    1. I guess marriage wise we are at don't ask don't tell, she is truly bothered by anything transgender and I am stuck between a rock and hard place.

  8. Jenny WilliamsSeptember 07, 2019

    Thank you Paula. It's such a common theme that links us together. I can so relate to every word you have written.
    The challenge that I, (or some of us now face), is as our dysphoria increases with age can it remain at an acceptable level without transistioning? What complicates the equation is that for some( like myself), we have wonderful partners, who tolerate the dressing, but live in fear of it escalating. That paired with the guilt of hurting someone special makes the cycle of dysphoria sometimes debilitating.


    1. "wonderful partners, who tolerate the dressing, but live in fear of it escalating. That paired with the guilt of hurting someone special makes the cycle of dysphoria sometimes debilitating"

      As you say there is do much we have in common including the above

  9. Thanks for your great story of perseverance and grit in finding your 'true self'.
    What amazes me is the broad commonalities of core behaviors virtually ALL of 'us fellow travelers share'.
    a) The repression of the true self by societies 'expected norms'.
    b) The 'overcompensation' toward an enforced projection of 'machismo'.
    c) The often repeated shameful feelings of self and subsequent 'binge and purge' of wardrobe.
    d) The final realization of self, and self acceptance over repression, denial and perhaps futile self medication of shameful feelings. Literally, eventually, 'the lid blows off the pot' Hopefully to a soft landing.
    Congrats on your 'soft landing'.
    It seems the 'new kids' have it a lot easier.
    Velma age 66

    1. A,B,C, and D I couldn't agree more it truly is amazing how we were all going thru these things separately

      And to your point the "new kids" do have each other now, there wasn't any internet, school counselors,supportive parents, docters, etc////

  10. Paula, thanks so much for sharing your story. As others have said, it rings so true. Our details may be different, but you've said so many things we cab identify with. I'm realizing now (gasp! After 70+ years!) that so many things would have been different had I known who I really was. But it's never too late!

    1. Right on Clair it is never too late each day a gift

  11. Such a wonderful piece Paula. As anyone transgendered lies awake at 3AM wondering... over our mysterious puzzle. If it only stopped there, sometimes it is while you are working or driving down the road, maybe a very nice looking women crossing in front of you. Yes, she is nice looking, but the clothes are to die for!

    I was taken by your comment on being melancholy on the day of your wedding even though happy to get married about never being able to become a woman. My sentiments were quite the opposite, I knew by getting married that would end my need to dress as a woman or even eventually become a woman. Oh, how well that worked out!!

    I feel sure my wife knew all along that I had an attraction for women's clothes since occasionally she would introduce a bra or lingerie to liven things up. Then about 20 years ago she was getting rid of a lot of clothes in preparation for a move. I said to her, "we need to talk", I then asked her not to get rid some of them and told her I wanted them. She of course knew what I was driving at. She then asked me, you don't want to go out like that... do you? I told her no, but it really was not the most honest answer. I had not thought everything thoroughly, the "no" answer was more of a reaction. I had just cleared a very high hurdle in admitting I wanted to wear women's clothes and I honestly had not thought the matter through to what might be a logical conclusion. The clothes made the move and we never really discussed it any more. First phase of don't ask, don't tell. About 8 years ago she was on one of her assignments that take her away from home for an extended period of time. Of course I had began using these periods for the Lee part of me to venture out. She found out about an outing after she returned home and the subsequent discussion did not end well. Trying to reason with her just did not work, lots of emotion so not much room for reason. We now have entered phase two of don't ask, don't tell only this time tolerance is not to be found.

    She still continues on out of town assignments and Lee is very happy during those times. Just before she left on the last one, she asked if I was going to behave. I said of course what else would I do...? She said, I am talking about your other persona. My vague non answer-answer seemed to satisfy the situation.

    I often think that she will come home and say that was my last assignment, then I really don't know what will happen. Lee has been a part of me so much of my life, just now there is so much more of Lee. I try not to think about that day.


  12. Paula,
    Thank you for the post. It mirrored the experiences and emotions that so many of us have struggled with for many years. It truly is a strange double world that we live in. We have the expectations that have been with us our entire lives and the commitments that we will always honor and we somehow have to reconcile those expectations and commitments with our trans proclivities.
    Good luck in all you do and thank you for sharing.

    1. " commitments that we will always honor and we somehow have to reconcile those expectations and commitments with our trans proclivities."

      This is our conumdrum

  13. " Trying to reason with her just did not work"


    Been got there got the t-shirt!

  14. A really nice account of your journey and one that holds sime similarities but not others. I fortunately had a very active sex life and went into a very female occupation. Married had 5 children before realising I couldnt pretend any more. Three years ago I finally came out, transistioned and now live fulltime as female. Ive had a number if surgeries and hope to have GRS later this year. I pass really well fir my age (65) and have been lucky enough ti have a loving wife by my side. All the best andcif you ever retyrn to Aystralia, look me up.

  15. I also never knew to make that 1st move toward a woman. When l 1st met my wife she made the 1st moves & l thought oh thank you and was so relieved. But I could not finish to completion the 1st few times. I thought see..I'm not not gay. I was 30yrs old before l had my 1st sex with women. And often had strange thoughts while having sex. Often feeling like "I don't want to be doing this."
    But l was like you l was envious of what l saw the women wearing.
    I'm 64 now. And home shopping made it so easy to procure what I wanted. Six month ago it hit me hard. I was scared at 1st if anyone found out & frustrated only being in my bedroom. Then the fear just kind evaporated a few months ago & I said l don't care what they think it's who I am & l can't stand hiding it.
    I haven't been Crossdressed in front of my wife but my closet & drawers are full of everything a woman wears. She must know but acts like everything is fine. We haven't had sex in 10yrs. We have separate bedrooms for longer than that.
    She's told me she had gay friends when she was a teen. So this probably helps both of us.
    My final thought is I wish I'd done this at least 20yrs ago. I don't feel old but I am. Thank you for writing this great article Paula. It's so well written & helps me understand myself better.

  16. Thank you paula! Your a good writer. I enjoyed your article. It explained why l never made the 1st move. Never knew what or do. I was relieved that women made that 1st move finally when l was 30yrs old & I told myself I knew l wasn't gay but l had strange thoughts while having sex, like l don't like or want to do this. & I couldn't complete often.
    I was 3 or 4yrs old I wanted to wear my mothers undergarments. IDK why. I would do it & love it. But something inside me would say your so bad & perverted for doing that. But I guess l would go as long as l could w/o but finally l would snap and couldn't or didn't want to stop myself. I loved it to much.
    I was never very masculine. I was scared of tough boys & never fought. I got beat up a couple of times because I wouldn't fight.
    When I meet my wife I was 32. I'm 64 now. We're still together but we've had separate bedrooms for 20yrs & haven't had sex in 10yrs and they have been miserable.
    Home shopping made it so easy to get what l wanted. 6 months ago CDing hit me hard. And l thoroughly love it. I feel so happy when l do l want to cry.

  17. I love your article Paula. I'm having trouble. I wrote 2 long responces only to have an error in the server but thank you thank you. It explained so much & so well writen!