Monday, August 22, 2022

Dear Sixteen

By Paula Gaikowski

Sixteen is an age when we think we know everything, yet we know almost nothing. In my 60’s perhaps, I’ve learned a few things – one of those things is how little I do know. With that in mind I’ve decided to write a letter to my 16-year-old self.

Dear Paul or might I say Paula?

I am writing to you from the future. You don’t know me, but I know you very well. There are 50 years that separate us and time, you will learn, changes all, which in a practical sense, really makes me a different person. 

I won’t tell you how our life story goes, but I will tell you that there is nothing to fear. I won’t ask you how you are because I know exactly how you are: confused, conflicted and depressed about a lot of things. The disfunction at home, Mom and Dad’s fighting, their alcoholism, trouble with schoolwork and you feel lonely, uncertain and sometimes hopeless. 

There is also another really big thing that bothers you, a big secret that you are embarrassed and ashamed about. Yes, I know that you feel like and want to be a girl. I know that you dress in your mom’s and sisters’ clothes after school. I know that you have just read Christine Jorgensen’s biography and was moved by it. Yes, I know your deep dark secret. It’s okay. You have a condition that is not understood in 1976, but in a few years, there will be a name for it, “transgender.” You are transgender.

Before we talk about that big secret, I want to give you some advice about some of the mistakes we made along the way. 

First, take care of your health and your body. In our 20’s and 30’s, we drank a lot and it really had a negative effect on our life. We also over-ate and gained weight. We did this as a way to blur the anxiety and depression we were experiencing as a transgender person. 

Next year, our sister is going to build a house. Stay off the roof; you fall off and hurt your back.

At one point, you decide not to continue your education. One regret we have now is not doing so, please consider this carefully.

As for your home life, Mom and Dad in the year 2022 are much loved and better understood. Granted the environment you are living in now is emotionally unhealthy and a toxic environment for a young person coming of age. You leave home after high school and that will be for the best. Right now, you know what is right and wrong and what is good and bad. Trust your instincts they will serve you well.

So, let’s talk about your big secret. I know right now in 1976 Bruce Jenner is in the news for winning the Olympic decathlon. Guess what? In 2015, Bruce announced to the world that she is transgender and transitions as a woman. I won’t tell you her new name. I’ll let that be a surprise. Her biggest regret is hiding this secret and losing the chance to live as her true self for so many years.

In the year 2022, transgender persons will be much more common. The medical field will have treatments for persons like ourselves. You will be able to change your body to match how you feel inside. Gender reassignment surgery, facial feminization surgery, breast augmentation and hormone replacement therapy will be offered in most major medical centers and be covered by insurance.

Major corporations will help employees transition on the job and transgender persons even serve in the military.

I understand how joyful you feel when you spend time dressed as a girl and imagine life as a young woman. I also understand the apprehension you have if your secret was to get out at this time in your life; you fear that nobody would understand or support.

People will come and go out of your life and you shouldn’t be afraid to be yourself. You will find that people who care about you will accept you and support you. The persons who don’t are the ones who don’t stay in your life that long.

In the next few years there will be times when you have a chance to share your feelings with some – trust them and do it. I decided not to and regret that. 

You’ll have a relationship with a gay woman. Both of you will be navigating your awaking sexuality. She will offer to teach you about fashion, style and dressing as a woman. She will also offer to take you out and introduce you to other transgender persons. Take a chance and don’t be afraid.

Stop beating yourself up for being transgender. You did nothing wrong. You were born differently and have a different path than others. You are a good, kind, thoughtful, hardworking, intelligent and caring person. You have so much to give to the world no matter how you decide to live your life. Just trust how you feel and don’t be afraid of what others might think.

I had a good life living as a man. I’ve been successful and had a family and a wife. However, along with this has been periods of deep despair and a constant low-grade depression – a feeling that things are not right. A square peg in a round hole. Just get through the next few years, I would always say.

I know myself very well at this point in my life and have given “our secret” a lot of thought and consideration. I can say that deep down I know that I would have been happy living as a woman. I’ve learned over the years that these feelings are much deeper than wearing nice clothes and glamour. In my heart and inborn in me is a need to be seen, socialized and loved as a female. I know that I would have contributed to society and lived a full and satisfying life as a woman, wife and mother.

With Heartfelt Love, 

Your 63-year-old Self

Source: Bebe
Wearing Bebe

Paris 1964
Femulating in Paris in 1964


  1. Paula, what a nice idea, and weii written... from your heart. I suspect you could add more details and turn this into a book
    It would be useful for all 16 year olds.maybe even a text for a ourse

  2. When I was 16 I knew everything
    Forty years later I still do not know as much as I thought I knew then

  3. Well Paula you did it again, a beautifully written and heart felt post. Hugs Allison.

    1. Thank you Allison getting feedback from my sisters here is what motivates me to write, as for being well written, Stana takes my word jumbles and edits them to perfection

  4. That is so relatable for me Paula. If we knew then what we know now…. Lauren

    1. Thanks for your comment, I'm glad to have made a connection

  5. What a beautiful article! I think it so accurately describes the journey so many of us have experienced. As a 74 year old, I wouldn't trade the great life I have had; a loving fifty year marriage, a great family, and a wonderful career. But as you say, there has always been that longing in the background to experience life as a woman! I guess I'm making up for lost time now! Thank you for sharing your revealing and heartfelt story.

    1. Your welcome and yes so much of what we experience is share by each other, that longing, that just wait until ....

  6. Really wonderful story, thanks for sharing!

  7. Brought tears to my eyes. Very moving

  8. excellent. people now ask me why didn't you transition? they have no idea what the atmosphere was in the time Paula refers to.dealing with the Catholic church plus the requirement to be macho created a great fear to do anything trans wise. my best friend was gay and even with him I was too ashamed to say anything.what really put the frosting on the cake for me was reading in the Buffalo newspaper that the police arrested a young man in the movie theater because he was dressed as a girl. message:suck it up and live with it.

  9. AMAZING PHOTOS .YOU Should NEVER feel Embarressed/Ashamed MARK.X

  10. It is rare that I have read something so moving. I welled up. Thank you Paule for writing this piece.

    1. You’re welcome your feedback is important to me