I am 38 years old, wife, mother, veteran, transwoman, advocate, care giver with an outlook all my own. I always seemed to have trouble fitting in while I was growing up, even now as an adult I often feel out of place, but we’ll get back to that later. I did well in school until I became the victim of bullying. It began in 2nd grade and never really stopped, it just evolved into different kinds of bullying over the years.
When I was 12 years old I came home from school and found my bedroom had been emptied of everything except my bed and dresser. All of my poster and decor were gone. On my bed I noticed there was a stack of Playboy Magazines. My mom entered my room and asked me if I was gay and before giving me a chance to answer she said that if I was any way other than God intended I would no longer have a family and would be sent to live elsewhere. Not wanting to lose my family I told her that I was “normal”. The 30 seconds it took her to say what she said affected every aspect of my life from that moment on. I was worried every minute of every day if I was dressing, walking, speaking, and behaving the way I was supposed to. Less than a year later I was in the hospital for a bleeding ulcer. When I was 18 I became more concerned about my family finding anything out because I still didn’t feel like I was meant to be a boy and decided I needed to step up my game and fully engulf myself in everything manly I possibly could in hopes that would get used to it. I asked a girl from school out, to my surprise she said yes. A few months later we went to the courthouse and got married and I enlisted in the army. She had a daughter from before our relationship began and I absolutely adored her. After I finished Basic Training I was stationed in Giessen, Germany. I tried very hard to be a good husband and forced myself as often as I could to have sex with my wife even though I was not attracted to her. Yes, this is as difficult as it sounds. I am not attracted to women and in order to be able to perform I had to get really good at pretending I was with a man. Luckily for me the Unit I was in was deployed a lot and when we weren’t we were in the field training for 45 days at a time 5 times a year, so this was a probable explanation as to why we did not have sex very often at all. I’d say less than 20 times in the 5 years we were together. But I did get 2 daughters from it and for that I am grateful.
I excelled in the army. I believe this was because I was trying to prove something so I tried harder than the others I was stationed with. I was promoted quickly and by the end of my 2nd year I was an Ammunition Team Chief with my own crew. then September 11th happened and everything was turned up to 11. We began training and preparing for deployment to Iraq because we were sure it was inevitable. that combined with the new requirement of guard duty on the housing areas made for some very long days. up at 5am and back home usually around 11pm. My contract was set to expire in the middle of 2003 and at the end of 2002 my unit received orders for deployment to Kuwait in preparation for invading Iraq. I was told that since my contract was up I would be staying behind and was assigned to other jobs on base. In January 2003 I was informed that President Bush implemented a stop loss and I would not be going home when my contract expired and instead would be going to Iraq with my unit. I was an E-4 Specialist. I was told that because none of the E-5’s above me were able to qualify and I had that I was acting Chief and in charge of them, but would not be paid extra or promoted because I would not agree to renew my contract. While In Iraq we stayed at the remains of Udai Hussein’s palace and since we were the 2/3 FA Gunners we named it Gunner Palace. We paid out of pocket and hired 7 Iraqi men to clean up the grounds, repair the pool, water lines, and install satellite tv. During a patrol in Baghdad we had been assigned a brand new LT as our Platoon leader. He wanted to show he was tough and had us break protocol and stay in the same location for 2 hours when we should have moved every 30 minutes. We began to take fire. Two soldiers in the middle of the street were shot. One in the ankle and the other in the arm. They were trapped in the middle of the street. I couldn’t leave them out there so I ran into the line of fire and got them both behind a Humvee and performed first aid on them. I could see through the window of the Humvee and noticed the shooter was on the roof of the building to our west. I began to fire at the roof and he took cover. This allowed the rest of the patrol to make it to my location and assist with loading the injured soldiers up and hauling ass back to base. Once back at base I was called into the Commander’s quarters and I showed them on a map were I seen the shooter and advised that no one had come or gone during the 2 hours we were there so he had to be a resident of the building. They sent a team out and caught him alive right where I said he was. I laid on my cot that night and all I could think about was that I did not want to die with no one knowing who I really was and having that name on my tombstone, so I decided right then that the moment I got home I was going to file for divorce and begin to live life for myself and not for everyone else. I was told the following day that the stop loss was lifted and I would be flying back to Germany to begin out processing to go home and that since the medals for Iraq had not been made yet that they would be mailed to me once they were made and that I would be put in for a silver star. I returned to Germany and went to my apartment and found it was empty. My wife had packed up the kids and moved them back to the U.S. while I was gone. I found a lock box I had been saving up money in had been broken and the $20,000 inside was gone. I flew back to the U.S. a few weeks later. upon landing at the airport I waited for over an hour before I was finally able to reach my wife and ask where she was. She informed me that she had forgotten I was coming home and never left to come and get me. I called my Dad and he came and picked me up. I walked in the door of my mother in law’s house and seen my wife had a hickey on her neck. I said “Well you certainly made this a lot easier”. I told her I would be filing for divorce, turned around and walked out the door, got in my dad’s car and he took me to his house and let me stay there until I was able to get a job and find my own place.
I bought a house, it needed a lot of work, but it was big, 5 bedrooms, plenty of room for my kids to grow up in. I began seeing a therapist, as is required to get on hormones, and I came out to my family and friends. After a few months I received a phone call from my ex wife, the kids were crying and she said her boyfriend was beating her up and the kids were scared. I went and picked her and the kids up and said she could stay at my house until she found a job and saved up first month’s rent and deposit for an apartment. That turned into 6 months. She never got a job, never chipped in on food or bills. I came home from work one day and noticed my brick front porch had been smashed to bits, the front door was ripped of the hinges, every window in the house was broken. I walked into the house and every wall had been hit with hammers and the sheet rock was destroyed, the fireplace was smashed, all the furniture in the house was gone, the kitchen cabinets had been ripped of the walls and smashed on the floor, the toilet was broken and smashed with a sledgehammer, the pipes in the basement had been ripped down and the basement was flooded, upstairs was the same as the rest of the house, in my room only my mattress was left. It had been sliced up with a knife and there was a note stuck to it with the knife in it. It read,”Moved out while you were at work. Back with Daniel. Here’s your key back”. I called the police and they came and did a report. I told them where to find her. They returned after speaking to her and informed me that since it was her legal residence there was no crime because you are allowed to vandalize your own property. I informed them that it was not her property and she did not live there. they said she had her legal address changed to mine so there was nothing that could be done. Estimates for the damage totaled around $230,000. I was forced to file bankruptcy as a result. I had saved up $20,000 again by this time and had planned to use it for surgeries. during the bankruptcy the seized my account and all the money in it to be put towards the debt. That combined with the $20,000 she took in Germany was a total $270,000 she had cost me.
I had notified the army of my legal name change and they responded by stating that it would be an injustice to the soldier that served if they changed the name on my records. It didn’t matter that I was that soldier. I had also inquired about my Iraq medals and was informed that I was not listed as a family member on file so that information could not be released to me. I had sent them copies of my court documents, ID, Birth certificate, everything they asked for to prove my identity and they refused to assist me. This meant I could not even obtain a Veteran’s ID card, visit a VA clinic or hospital, or use my Montgomery GI Bill for college.
In 2006 I met a wonderful man and we hit it off right away and were married a year later. Other than my dad and grandma, the entire rest of my family refused to come to the wedding. I was heartbroken, but focused on my new husband and how happy he made me. In 2007 I received a subpoena to appear in court because I was being sued. I went to court and they advised me that there were medical bills I was being sued for in regards to my ex wife overdosing on cocaine and slitting her wrists, again I’ll come back to that part later. I advised the judge that I was not responsible for any bills she incurred after we were divorced. He called me by my old name and stated that she had listed my name as her spouse on the forms and that was all he needed and that he was ruling that I was solely responsible for all of the medical bills presented that day. Another $31,000 she cost me and I was not able to pay. I told the judge I couldn’t pay it. He ordered our bank account to be frozen, all monetary assets to go towards the medical bills, and suspended my license until the balance was paid. This was the 3rd time my ex had caused me to lose the money for my surgeries. Shortly after that I received a call from my ex mother in law asking me to come to her house and get the kids. I did and once there I asked why she had them. She informed me that she hadn’t heard from my ex for a while and stopped by to check on things. The kids were 6, 8, and 10 at the time. They answered the door and told her that their mom had not been home for 3 days and they didn’t know where she was. I took the kids to my house ad petitioned for full custody. 3 months later I had not even gotten a phone call asking about the kids when I went for my court date. She advised that she had been busted at a meth house and was in jail. The judge said that he was ordering me to return the kids to her and not changing the custody arrangement. I said “she left them alone for 3 days to get high! How can you let her take them back?” he responded by saying that was in the past and he was sure that she wouldn’t do it again. He was wrong, it happened 4 more times before I was finally granted full custody of my kids.
Today I have been out of the army for 15 years and I am still fighting with the army trying to get them to update the name on my records, still can’t use any of my benefits, never received any Iraq medals, never received a silver star, and still have not gotten Gender Confirmation surgery because my ex does not pay child support and the judge does nothing about it. Her exact words were “I can’t force her to get a job and make payments. You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.” As a result my husband and I both work full time and overtime to provide for them and now my youngest is 17 and the others are in college so every penny we make has and still does go towards the kids. I only hope that one day I will be able to finally get the surgery I’ve been trying for 15 years to get and that the army will finally allow me access to what I have earned.
“Life is a sea of peril and uncertainty.” – unknown