Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Finding Myself in Beantown: A Woman's Story

By Paula Gaikowski

Dust settles over a cluster of lakeside cottages, their peeling paint a testament to a long winter’s slumber. Memorial Day beckons and with it, a surge of life. Families, laden with memories and anticipation unlock these weathered doors. The annual ritual unfolds – barbecues sizzle, laughter echoes across the water and stories of the past year weave through the crisp air. Yet, a shadow of unease lingers for me. A chance encounter last winter, with a neighbor from this very community still sends shivers. This reunion promises joy, shared meals and the warmth of reconnection, but beneath the surface, a thread of apprehension awaits its unraveling.

Every month or so, it’s the same. Skirt on, pantyhose, heels clicking, wig, makeup painting a picture of the woman I’ve always known myself to be. Then it’s off to Boston for my therapy session with Dr. D, who's been a rock for over ten years.

Dr. D’s office is in the heart of Boston’s busy medical center (photo above was taken by Dr. D in his office). The walk through the campus is a small victory. Here, in the city, I can just be myself and it feels good. With each confident stride through Boston’s bustling streets, a wave of joy washes over me – the city feels electric. I finally get to fully experience the world as the woman I am. But today, that feeling gets shaken up.

In the waiting room, I bump into Kathy, a familiar face from our summer stomping grounds in Maine. Generations of our families have vacationed there, practically living on top of each other. Panic hits. No one here knows about this side of me. These are all tough guys – military, police – and I can practically feel their expectations hanging in the air.

Kathy asks about parking and before I knew it, the truth spilled out. I tell her about the years of therapy, the secret I’ve been carrying. The shock on her face is a mirror to my own fear. But then, something amazing happens. The shock melts away and she seems to get it. She promises to keep my secret, even compliments my outfit and acknowledges the truth I've held close for so long.

Now, as I think about the upcoming summer, a knot forms in my stomach. Will rumors fly at barbecues and on lazy afternoons spent reminiscing? The unknown is scary, but something even stronger pushes back.

This is who I am. The years of hiding, the constant excuses – they don't matter anymore. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be the woman I feel inside. It’s beautiful and it deserves to be seen, not hidden.

This isn’t a coming-out story in the grand sense, but a story about finding myself. It’s about having the guts to be who you are, even when the future is blurry. And maybe, just maybe, my story will touch someone else on a similar path, letting them know they’re not alone.

Source: Madeleine
Wearing Madeleine

Filippo Timi
Filippo Timi femulating in the 2020 Italian film Fairytale (Favola).


  1. Paula, did she recognize you, or did you tell her? I could see you bluff it out... "oh, yes, I have family out towards Lowell..." or wherever

    1. AnonymousMay 28, 2024

      She sat right next to me and asked about the parking in the area, she then recognized me. As a side note this weekend was a non event, I saw Kathy and chatted about the neighborhood. --Paula G

  2. Thank you for sharing this story, Sweetie. Both well written and a VERY real fear many of us have. Stepping out always brings with it that risk - the risk of discovery. I pray your summer will be as it usually is, without the constant anxiety of the unknown coming to light.

  3. Such a well written touching experience! Thanks for sharing Paula.

  4. AnonymousMay 28, 2024

    Congratulations on finding yourself and the self realization that this experience provided for you. I wish you nothing but peace and joy as your process continues.


  5. Good for you Paula. I've never "come out" to anyone, though I've come close a couple times. That doesn't mean I haven't been found out.

    A number of years ago I decided that sneaking out of my house was ridiculous. I'd almost always ne late to whatever event I was to attend, and all the logistics of sneaking just got really old. I decided I was going to have Mikki head out and If people saw me, they saw me. If questions were raised I stopped and answered them. I loved that solution!

    One particular night, MIkki met several fellow ushers from a local theater. Baltimore's beloved Hippo Club was closing and I went to their last drag show. I dressed, of course, and got there early. The main room wasn't open yet, so I plopped down outside with several people. Oops, several of the folks were fellow volunteers at Center Stage! Ah, well. I just joined in the conversation. It took quite a while before "Mikki" came up. I don't pass at all, so everyone immediately knew me. I answered any questions, and it was no big deal. The show, by the way was great, but all of our heartstrings were pulled by the knowledge we'd never get to do this again.

  6. AnonymousMay 28, 2024

    it is almost like the law of gravity for us Paula--somehow=some way all of us manage to have an encounter such as yours. I hope she is true to her word

  7. AnonymousMay 28, 2024

    Love the Filippo Timi "Transformed" picture. Reminds me of when I looked in the mirror in wonderment and realized I could pass as a woman.

  8. AnonymousMay 29, 2024

    Another thing......that Madeline Dress is absolutely beautiful! There are so many more like it on their website too! Thanks for making me aware of them. This could cost be a few...


  9. AnonymousMay 29, 2024

    I remember running into one of the concrete workers at support group meeting she recognized me right off but I didn't recognize them. The next day at the job site I did. All was fine and we became friends on that job site and our secrets remained Sallee