clichéd as it sounds, I remember the day as if it were
yesterday. It was the day that the Cubs won the third game of the
2003 Divisional playoff series against the Atlanta Braves. It was
also the day I decided to tell my dad...about me.
Though I had been at Drake University for just over a month, parents'
weekend could not come soon enough. I had never been apart from my
family for any extended length of time, but already I had learned
things about myself that I never could have being around them. The
only problem was that I was homesick. I missed mommy and daddy and
my nice warm bed with the comforter, and all that other stuff that
makes you sound like a wuss, but really makes you the same as the
other freshmen (especially the ones who claim they are so glad to be
away from home).
came and classes ended, and all I could think about was running up to
take hold of my dad and hug him for perhaps the last time before he
started looking at me in a different light. He came a bit late (with
my step-mom Terri dutifully in tow), but the hug and the fleeting
sense of peace came just as I imagined they would. We then took off
to stay the night at the hotel room he had gotten for the weekend,
riding slowly and cautiously through the winding ghetto of Des Moines
in my father's 1996 Contour.
We arrived near the
outskirts of town just as the 6:45 October dusk was settling. This
gave us just enough time to grab some dinner at the adjacent
restaurant before the game began. I had chicken strips (like
always), and I think my dad and Terri both had fish ('cause it
was Friday and they're old-school Catholics), and the
conversation was pleasant and pointless (since we had been catching
up every other day by telephone). Then I paced quickly back to
the hotel ahead of them to get into a comfortable position for
watching my first Cubs playoff game in five years.
First pitch to last
pitch, Mark Prior and the relievers were utterly dominant, leading my
Cubbies to a 3-1 victory. Dad and I
cheered as if we were in the stadium, and at a volume that would have
only been appropriate there. At the end, we were both exhausted from
the excitement, and needed only short, hot showers to prod us into
had something else on my mind, and sleep did not acquiesce to the
pleas of my heavy eyelids. Tomorrow. Tomorrow morning, in fact.
That's the moment I planned on telling my dad about something
that had eaten at me my whole life. I was going to tell him
that...gasping...that I am a girl. "What the fuck
are you talking about?" he'd say. Shit, this is not
going to work! Need to sleep!
But I couldn't
fall asleep, because I had to ponder all the different ways to tell
him. Should I explain it in a scientific manner? Probably not.
Should I give him my view on it from within Christianity first?
Also, a bad idea, because any interpretation that skewed from a
strict Catholic view would not aid me at all. Should I be
ultra-vague and build up to the bombshell? Yes. That just raised
more questions; what metaphor should I use before it was clear?,
what this?, what that?, what any and everything!?. It was all too
much, and I was sweating bullets from every orifice of my body by the
time I stopped to breathe.
Then it hit me like
a sack of doorknobs -- I was going to tell him using lyrics. Not my
own lyrics, not random lyrics he would not know, but those from our
mutual favorite band -- the Doobie Brothers. So many lyrics, so many
things to say. In the meantime, much needed rest came at last.
Soon morning came,
which meant a feast of day old donuts and low quality hotel decaf for
the three of us. Sensing the lull, I decided to act. "Dad,
lets walk outside for awhile...I have something I need to tell
began our talk. I busted out "Turn It Loose" (from Takin'
It To The Streets, 1976) as my focal point.
Some friends, they hide it
Keep it deep inside
the boy it's a struggle
Don't you know it's a
You got to be the real thing
It flows with the tide
are the person
With the answer inside
I'm gonna make it;
I'm gonna try
Ain't no use to hang your head and cry
Turn it loose; don't hold back
Got to set your spirit
Turn it loose; listen to me, children
It's the best
kind of remedy
Turn it loose; you got the power
the way it's got to be
song was almost freakishly in tune with what I could not say. I hid
it deep inside, as a boy it was a struggle, but being a boy was a lie
-- I needed to be the real thing (through and through), and with the
answer inside me, I was going to try to make it (as a young woman)
since there wasn't any reason to hang my head and cry. I was
going to turn loose my spirit and my soul, because it was the only
proven cure (and I say that from a personal as well as a
scientifically valid standpoint). I was old enough to make the
decision -- I had the power and that's the way it was going to
explained how many of the uplifting and positive songs that the
Doobies wrote over the years had gotten me through some of the
deepest struggles involving this. I had tried to be a guy, I
implored, but God had basically said, "Tell me what you want
and I'll give you what you need" "Tell
Me What You Want," What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits,
1974). What I needed to do was be myself -- I needed to stop "leavin'
out (my) heart, and all it (was) sayin' deep inside",
because it had been "(keeping) me runnin."("It Keeps
You Runnin'," Takin' It To The Streets, 1976).
I spouted lyrics from "Cycles," Minute by Minute,
"Toulouse St.," and even "Brotherhood" as I charted the
course of my hidden gender and hidden life through '70s
At the end of my
diatribe I awaited the recoil. All I got was a little talk about
unconditional love and a lot of mysterious looks. It was as if my
father's eyes had been turned backwards facing their sockets
for awhile, and upon returning to standard adjustment had to learn
how to see all over again. Maybe because that is exactly what he was
doing (and will be doing for the continuing days, months, and years).
That night our
in-house cheering was less loud, and as if they could hear our lack
of enthusiasm, the Cubs fell 5-3. Though they ended up winning that
series, their doom in the next round would become legendary as a
result of one Steven Bartman. Was there some symbolic parallel
between the Cubs heartbreaking demise and my loss of innocence and
acceptance in the eyes of my father? I do not know yet.
I do know is that in all the time since that day things between my
father and I have gotten worse, not better. His initial wavering
support has turned to unbridled disappointment and disgust. His
initial understanding has turned into a brick wall of ignorance. It
seems that he has decided that his eyes feel more comfortable facing
their cavities instead of peering out at an imperfect and warped
world. I love him and sympathize with him, but cannot give in or
disagree. To do so would be to avoid "(Turning) it loose."
days, when I talk on the phone with good ol' dad, we
occasionally argue about the whole transsexual phenomenon and all
that jazz, but most often we focus on other things. Mainly, we focus
on the Cubs and their chances to win a World Series (just as we did
that fateful night and day), and on music -- especially the Doobie
Brothers. Sometimes we just "Listen to the Music" and
pretend that everything is OK.
©2005 by Kevin White