In the early months of 1979, when I found myself totally removed from everything and everybody I had known and it seemed that the only asset left to me was a determination to survive, I went to the local United Methodist Church in the Texas Gulf Coast city I was in. The church offered professional counseling at low cost. One of the things I had learned through the years was the value of absolute honesty especially with myself, and I was having trouble with the things that honesty was telling me.
After a couple of months, the retired navy officer/psychologist who was my counselor suggested that I should go to another city where the state university medical complex included a gender clinic. I moved to that city, and after several more months of counseling, evaluation, and physical tests, I entered the Gender Dysphoria Clinic for gender reassignment.
After two years of treatment, surgery, and a court evaluation, I was documented in December 1981 as legally “being of the male gender.” After another four years I returned to Birmingham.
I became very active in the city, coming out for various issues including gay and lesbian rights, jobs with justice, anti-racism, women’s rights, and other human rights related issues. I joined the volunteer staff of the Alabama Forum and over the years have done most of the jobs involved in producing a monthly newspaper with senior editor June Holloway. I still do book reviews and a monthly column for that publication.
Between 1986 and 1989, I tried to revert to my former identity for my parents and for my friends, but it no longer fit.
I debated whether any of this information should be included in this book because I did not want any hint of sensationalism to detract from the message of the work itself.
The decade of the Seventies was a time when I could testify without there being any spectacle made to deflect from the value of my testimony. Today that may not hold true.
In a society that lives in a tabloid world, the messenger is often defamed at the expense of the message, and that is always a risk when a person speaks out. All too often today truth-of-content is lost while style-of-context is debated; still, I hope that will not be the case with this work.
I realize that by coming forward as I have with this full revelation of my current identity, I will frustrate readers who now wish to know more.
Yet that is another story best saved for another telling. I will say that simply needing a good place to hide played into some of the decisions I have made. I feel that my years of hiding, silence, and identity changes since the 1977 trial might be seen as testimony to the lengths one individual may be driven by fear and the need to escape it. Who I am today, I believe, is a direct reflection of the urgent desire to be free.
I would also like to say here that I could never have sustained myself without the support, understanding, and compassion of my dear friend, companion, and spouse Joni. She has made the last five years pleasant and productive as I struggled, in the development of this book, with what could have been a nightmarish resurrection of the past. I have not undertaken this work to glorify myself or to attract attention to myself but to help clarify a time in human history that was painful and harmful and that wrongfully damaged so many persons.
When J. Edgar Hoover died, tens of thousands of documents were destroyed. Hundreds of thousands more remain sealed by the FBI, classified for “national security” or “witness protection” purposes.
There are still too many secrets. There are still too many lies. There are still too many people suffering while the powerful manipulate and the political posture. If I am to call for truth, I must offer truth. We all should settle for nothing less. For it is only in an atmosphere of truth that freedom can prosper. It is only in an atmosphere of truth that those men and women who dare to do violence to others can be halted and brought to justice.
And it is only in an atmosphere of truth that we can learn to relate to each other by our compassion and our honesty rather than to judge each other on the points of difference between us.
None of us will be free until we all are free.