This excerpt is not formatted or proofread for publishing yet, but I am excited to share it. Real progress on this telling of my life though is exciting (to me).
Part One: Early Life to Young Adulthood
How It All Began
Growing up, I was a typical suburban girl living a suburban boy’s life. The first indication of this came at age six, when a pharmacist misspelled my then-name, “Evan,” as “Eva” on a prescription. It should have been humiliating, but it wasn’t. Sure, my parents got a good laugh out of it, and my brother did too, but something about the whole affair just felt instinctively right to me. I didn’t know I was transgender then, and in fact I wouldn’t know for a long time what that word even meant. Still, this cemented in me from a young age that there was something different about me.
This sense of difference didn’t go away as I got older. All it did was gnaw at me more and more. At school, hanging out with the other little boys, I always felt so different from them. It’s not that I didn’t fit in with them, it’s that I had to make a conscious effort to do so. I was an actor playing the role of a young boy. I played it well enough, but one slip-up and I could destroy the audience’s suspension of disbelief. I didn’t know it then but I was already beginning to embody the concept of being one thing while trying to act as it’s opposite - very similar to the term oxymoron.
Something was wrong, because while masculine behavior felt like such an act, feminine behavior is what came naturally to me. I longed to be more like the little girls I knew at school, to inhabit their bodies and walk around in them, but I knew (or at least thought, back then) that I could never do that.
To add onto all my other troubles, I followed in the footsteps of a brilliant brother. I struggled more in school than Clay ever did, to the great disappointment of teachers who expected much better from a Scarborough boy. I know now this wasn’t my fault, but back then I felt woefully inadequate.
Just as I didn’t have the vocabulary to know r explain I was transgender from a young age, doctors didn’t have the vocabulary in the 1960s and ‘70s to know I had ADHD. So I skirted through school with C’s, and was miserable in most of my classes. I felt like something deep inside me was broken, keeping me from functioning properly. My gender troubles and my inability to focus were all wrapped together in an ugly knot, and I thought I was crazy. I mentioned earlier that I fit in well enough with the boys I hung out with (band geeks, most of us). That being said, I was bullied throughout my early years. I understand why. I was horrible at sports, a skill that seemed to be a prerequisite for being a popular boy in those days.
I just wasn’t equipped to be an athlete. Well, that might be an understatement. My eyesight was horrible, for one thing and depth perception was lacking. When I was newborn, one of my lenses had hardened around a speck of dirt that got in my eye, permanently marring my vision, add to that a condition known as Lazy-eye. I was the kid who, when up to bat, all the outfielders moved in close. When, in a rare moment, I managed to hit the ball squarely I could send it over the fence and get to laugh at them and that felt good! There was even a period of time during my childhood when I had to wear a patch over my good eye, much to the amusement of the other children. This was supposed to make my bad eye stronger, but that just made the distortion that much more of a distraction! I will never understand that logic. Along with all my trouble seeing, I had terrible asthma, and got winded easily enough to make me really stand out. Turns out the asthma-like condition was the result of breathing radioactive fallout from the Santa Susana Field lab accident in 1959 when the experimental Sodium reactor was on the verge of a catastrophic meltdown. The reaction chamber had to be manually opened to avoid an explosion of overheated gasses. (Speculation was it would have been worse than Chernobyl had radical intervention not been made). I only discovered recently that it was this accident and not actually being sick that affected my family and myself so. I still have scar tissue in my lungs and get winded easily.
In spite of my physical condition being what got me bullied in the first place, I do think it saved me from getting bullied worse. Because I was genuinely less able to defend myself and not just a loser, most other boys would have felt guilty for bullying me too badly. What I faced truly was minor compared to what a lot of other kids got. And it wouldn’t last forever.
There were some kids who would steal my lunch money and, on the day I finally worked up the bravery to refuse to give it to them, pushed me around a little. They quickly found out I wasn’t fun to bully when, after purposely falling to the ground, I refused to get up, just looking up at them to see what they would do next. Bored, they ran off.
A word of advice: if being so sickly that people feel bad for bullying you too much is a lifesaver, making yourself a boring target is even better.
I was a preteen when I first became interested in women’s clothes, particularly my mother’s, as these were the items most readily available to me. I would sneak into her closet when no one was home and try on her clothes. Some items I would keep in a little box at the back of my closet, to take out whenever I felt I needed to.
Puberty came fairly early. The very first time I tried on mom’s exercise leotard I had my first orgasm. I didn’t know what it was then, but it felt amazing. Though rushing to clean the garment left me terrified that my mom might notice something amiss. Perhaps this was the cementing (semen-ting - yes, a terrible pun) of the cycle of pleasure and then shame that kept me closet-bound for many years. As much as I heard the term “if it feels good do it” fairly often the lessons I learned from people’s actions was that generally if it feels good, it must be really BAD! How many of us in our days of self-discovery and pleasure have been tripped up by just this one contradiction? And once again I marvel at how many contradictory ideas and beliefs we grow up with and think nothing of. We are taught to be OxyMORONS!
This fixation was bound to come about at some point, and really could have been triggered by anything (and would have been triggered by something eventually). But I think I can pinpoint when I became fully aware of what I wanted to do, beyond just liking my misspelled birth name on a prescription. Somewhere between the ages of ten and twelve, costume play was prevalent in my neighborhood and that was when I discovered I really liked dressing up as a girl. It wasn’t just costume play anymore. My secret girl kept enticing, seducing me back.
It wasn’t long before I was found out. I wasn’t caught in the act, like I feared I would be every single time I got dressed up. No, the story is stranger than that. One day my father came home from work, walked directly into my closet, to the box, pulled it out and confronted me about it. Foremost in my mind rang the question, how the Hell did he know?!
“If this behavior continues,” he told me, “we’ll have to find a therapist, and I could lose my job.”
My father’s job was an important one, so I knew these stakes were high.
My father often worked with the space program, examining space particles collected during our early missions into space, while working and living in the San Fernando Valley, in proximity to the Santa Susana Field Lab. He was a scientist, and for that I was always proud and in awe of him. Eventually he became a Deputy Director of the New Brunswick Lab at Argonne Illinois and
Of course, this wasn’t an easy time to be a scientist keeping up with confidential information. This was the Cold War era, after all, the height of United States paranoia.
Being a child of the Cold War with a father who worked for the government had its influence on my behavior. If I’m being honest, it still does, and it was a big part of my transness from an early age. I learned when I was very young to hide, because someone could always be watching.
There was some merit to my paranoia. See, my box of goodies was one of many things my father discovered over the years that he couldn’t possibly have found on his own. I always made sure to take things from my mother’s closet when the house was completely empty. Nobody should have been home or following me to report anything to my dad on any of my excursions and dealings with friends. At home I was very careful to put things back exactly as I had found them other than those things that seemed long unused that I had pinched.
“But Eva,” you might say, “couldn’t your mother have noticed things were missing from her closet, suspected you were the culprit, and talked to your dad about it?”
A good theory, but no.
My mother told me years later that she’d had no idea what was going on, so my father couldn’t have learned anything from her.
As for me, I have my suspicions about who really might have told him.
When I was a child, there would often be men in black suits outside my house, driving slowly up and down our street, watching. I would often watch my mom peek out the kitchen curtains when cooking or washing dishes and exclaim, “I wonder who they are!” about an unfamiliar car slowly cruising past on our dead-end street. It was odd, in retrospect, but as mundane as anything you’ve grown up with tends to feel. I couldn’t make sense of it at the time, but now I think they must have been NSA agents. Perhaps because my father was working on such groundbreaking scientific discoveries at a time when the US and Russia were in close competition, we were targets for spies or kidnapping. Of course my parents soft-pedaled this at the time, but the reality of it being somewhat common is what I remember, and the things they could not say. For example there was never any talk of the Field lab “accident” or the reasons for all the medication and intensive exams of my lungs. It was always referred to as “that pneumonitis thing” even when I would ask direct questions about it like why my father was so concerned if I was breathing okay and not feeling dizzy or having trouble breathing.
It may sound like a stretch to the modern reader, but these were crazy times. The only plausible explanation I’ve come up with for how my father could have possibly known what I was getting up to is that one of the men who watched our house saw me taking and putting on my mother’s clothes one day, and told on me.
“But why would these people care about the weird things someone’s kid was doing in their private time?” you might ask.
Well, remember the time this was, and recall the importance of my father’s job. I could be seen as a potential danger by my father’s employers if I was found out, because whatever was going on with me, at the time, would be diagnosed as pathological. Given that my father was handling a lot of sensitive material, his employers wouldn’t want any evidence of “craziness” running in his family. Anything smacking of queer or other abberant behavior of family members was of grave concern.
As my dad said, “If this continues, we’ll have to get a therapist, and I could lose my job.”
It was a lot of pressure on a kid, and it only grew. I came by my Paranoia naturally!
Just a brief rabbit trail that is a hoot (to me anyway): I have seldom before told of this trans girl’s secret joy of marching band uniforms, half-time shows, and parades. Do you know how much can be hidden under a band uniform? I could dress up and hide so much under my baggy pants, spats, coat, overlay and the big feathered “Shako.” Half-time shows in high school and college were a perfect place for my “secret girl” to strut her stuff.
Meanwhile, all anyone thought about was how dearly I loved music and marching bands, how dedicated I was. I was told on more than one occasion that others were inspired by my exuberant example--that I should keep it up. And so I did.
Memoirs of a Childhood Prankster
As all my crossdressing woes were going on, I found myself getting into a lot of trouble. I think I just needed an outlet for all the stress in my home life.
Because I was bullied in school, I think I subconsciously saw troublemaking as a way to keep a solid group of friends around me, to get some notoriety and not be seen as just a weak “sissy” by the other boys. I was clearly overcompensating.
If those were my intentions, they worked out well enough in my favor. I made several friends and accomplices through the childish pranks I pulled.
In junior high, I had a friend named Roy. We loved getting into trouble together. We would make homemade firecrackers and blow stuff up (nothing bigger or more important than a garbage can, of course). We weren’t total delinquents, but we wanted to have fun and did not always “count the cost”.
I shoplifted with him and his brothers. They would take little trinkets, but I was more selective. Always a fan of working on electronic gadgets, I got ahold of little electronic parts that would help us out on our projects. I was never caught shoplifting, though I did get thrown out of a store once for looking at things the shop owner suspected I might want to steal. I suppose he could read the look on my face and said “I looked guilty”.
When I got older, my high school band director, Mr. Fisher, bore the brunt of a lot of my mischief. I and our merry band of pranksters absolutely loved torturing him. I wasn’t usually the instigator but loved the camaraderie, and I had some useful skills. I’m sure we traumatized the poor man.
Along with directing the band, Mr. Fisher would often play with us, in the saxophone section of the Basketball Pep Band. This made a lot of our pranks on him easy.
Once, a friend of mine named Mark, a Baritone player, had procured a tiny microphone with an extremely long cord. I, meanwhile, had a portable tape recorder. We had not planned this, but the immediate was too good to pass up, the two of us connected our gadgets, and Mark slipped the microphone into Mr. Fisher’s back pocket while Mr. Fisher was playing the saxophone just in front of him and hamming it up.
Now, it was a habit of ours during pep band to untune our instruments, and let all our notes come out sour. So that’s what the trumpet section did that day, and we waited for Mr. Fisher to snap.
After a few minutes of the trumpets playing horribly, Mr. Fisher stopped the music, turned around and shouted, “What’s the matter with the damn trumpets?!”
We had what we wanted. I took the recording and made a loop of tape with just that exclamation so it would repeat over and over.
See, Mr. Fisher had a tape player in his office for music appreciation classes and etc, and if I did some finagling with it when he wasn’t looking I could sneak the loop tape inside somewhere he wouldn’t be able to see it. It fit under the tape-head cover perfectly, completely hidden from view.
Everytime he put another tape in the player for us to listen to for band practice, my tape would play instead, over and over again, “What’s the matter with the damn trumpets?! What’s the matter with the damn trumpets?!...”
It was easy enough for him to pick me out as the culprit. I was the most techy member of the band, after all, the most able to do whatever it was I’d done. I only wish I could have been in the room with my camera when he first encountered it!
Finally, he confronted me. “I don’t know how you did it, but show me how you did it as you undo it.”
So I did, grinning to myself and trying not to laugh out loud all the while. It was the perfect prank! I do not, nor ever have felt guilty about this particular gag!
There were more than a few times when our pranks would involve Mr. Fisher’s car. On his car, he had taillights that were shaped in such a way that, if you unscrewed an Oreo cookie and stuck the side with the cream on there, it would stay good and stuck for a while blocking the light.
So, from time to time we would stick on Oreo cookies and see how long they’d stay there, and our little bans weren’t the only ones to do so. Once, Mr. Fisher drove around so long with them there that he got stopped by a cop one night for having his taillights out. He was baffled when the cop told him his reason for stopping him, and was even more baffled when he got out to look at his lights and saw the Oreos stuck on there. The poor man wound up getting a ticket for it.
Another time, we put an apple core in Mr. Fisher’s exhaust pipe, just to see what would happen. The merry band of troublemakers crowded by the parking lot after the final bell, peeking around the side of the school giggling to ourselves, waiting eagerly for whatever would occur.
You can imagine our disappointment when what occurred was nothing remarkable. Mr. Fisher just started his car and drove away.
It wasn’t until a week or so later that we received more news on the matter. Mr. Fisher’s son, who was also in the band, told us how his father had had trouble getting the car to start when the two of them were about to head home from the mall that afternoon.
After trying and trying to start the car, they heard a thunk behind them, after which the car finally started up. As they drove away, they saw an apple core lying behind their car. Later, they would notice their exhaust pipe was bent. Mr. Fisher’s son wondered how the apple core had gotten in the exhaust pipe, as that must have been what had happened. He wasn’t above a good prank either.
For that prank, we never got caught, but we had a good laugh about it later when we were told about it.
Even years later, when I and my friends who’d pulled so many pranks on Mr. Fisher would show up to watch football games at the high school, he’d throw down his conductor’s stick and storm off as soon as he saw us. I feel bad for traumatizing him, but he was so easy to get.
Not all my antics were as (arguably) harmless as the ones I pulled on Mr. Fisher. I was working on an electronics shop project that I wanted an extra part for. A kid in my class, Barry, had just the part I neede, and was planning to use it for his own project. Without really thinking about the consequences of what I was doing, I swiped the part from Barry’s desk when he wasn’t looking.
Just like that, I was able to complete my modified version of the project with ease, while Barry suffered from losing a part.
I wondered if he, or anyone, had seen or even just sensed what I had done, though unseen my folly was rapidly discovered and I gave it back after getting in a bunch of trouble. I subsequently forgot all about it.
Barry wound up going to the same college as me. One day, when I was walking around the campus at Cal State Northridge, I heard a voice shouting, “Thief! Thief! I looked around and saw a figure heading toward me with a steady, determined stride. When the figure got a little bit closer, I recognized Barry instantly.
Oh, God, I thought to myself, remembering what I’d done to him when we were younger. I was then hit with the enormity of the pain I had caused, and I knew I couldn’t escape. I did that.
I stammered something in response, and then Barry really let me have it. He told me he knew what I’d done back when we were kids, and that it messed him up for a long time, made him unable to trust people.
This was a formative moment for me. After a childhood of mischief, this was the first time I truly made the connection that my selfish actions, or even the ones I saw as harmless or all in good fun, could hurt people in ways I could not imagine.
I wouldn’t see Barry again after he stalked off, but the look of hurt and anger on his face as he told me off would linger in his absence. This forced me to re-evaluate and set some personal limits. I learned the immense value of considering moral implications in depth BEFORE acting in pure self interest. I still feel so terrible for hurting Barry - I damaged him for life! This is a lesson that still remains at the forefront in my mind now and I tearfully remember often.
Getting up on my soap-box for a moment here:
Looking at society today I see that I was not the only one, by far, that did not learn the value of being honest with others in my dealings or mature in self-control at a young age as I ought. I guess that I was lucky to finally grasp this important fact of life at all. I am dismayed at how so many today seem to have never learned this, never formed or found a moral backbone or compass, though they claim to know what that is, but fail in action - entire Christian-like religious sects have been infected with such blatant disregard for morality and honesty. How many never learned that some rules must be followed so sanity can prevail is so evident in 21st Century America! January 6th, 2021 is a day that will live in infamy in our Capitol and clearly evident in the Administration that was coming to an end, which never once dealt honestly with the American people or the World, nor has the political party backing it and seemingly in thrall to the immorality of the hour. How we have become so steeped in moral turpitude, and merely accept it as standard operating procedure going back at least as far as Reagan’s days is something we all must work to change or our current reprieve from blatant fascism and corruption will be very short lived. Building anything on a corrupt foundation, as I discovered with my own transgressions, is not acceptable if one claims to be civilized or mature and there will be painful consequences! I believe that Jimmy Carter may be the only President that understands this principle and lives by it. We have to do better, strive to be better, like he has spent his lifetime doing!!! We must be willing to reexamine our entire lives and set them on a foundation of unwavering honesty and selflessness. This is the primary lesson I take away from my life up to this point.
I’d be lying if I said I was never interested in girls. Growing up, I was very interested in them, just not in a romantic sense. In the time I spent with girls, I found myself longing to join their ranks, and felt I should be one of them. There was attraction too, but I was always mixed and confused by this want and need to be one, while everything else about my body, the things all the adults in my life said too. “Oh you are such a handsome boy…”. Who the Hell was I, what was real and right?
Because I was so uncomfortable with myself, I couldn’t fathom being in a romantic relationship, but by the time I was in high school, I felt it was time. Not because I wanted it, but because it’s what everybody else was doing. In Jr. high other kids kept trying to set me up with a girlfriend and I just fell flat. Rumors that maybe I was queer were floated, by one of the ass-hat dummy English teachers, a rather obese and slobbish sort of man - certainly not one I would take advice from.
When I was in high school, I participated in the High School Music Institute, a program that took place at Cal State Northridge, where I would later drop out of college. When my brother, Clay, participated in the Music Institute, he was in the orchestra. I was only good enough to make Wind Ensemble
When we would go to the Music Institute, we’d stay in the Cal State dorms. Boys and girls weren’t supposed to visit each other’s dorm rooms, but of course that rule was broken all the time.
During one of my stays at the Music Institute, I became involved with Karen, a reed player. Our relationship, like many teen romances, was passionate and brief, beginning simply because we were a “boy” and a girl who were, for a while, in the same geographic location with making music in common.
Karen used to sneak into my dorm when Music Institute was over for the day. It was on one of those visits that I lost my virginity to her. It was… underwhelming. And strange.
To reach orgasm, I had to imagine myself as a woman. This was yet another eye-opening experience for me. Throughout most of my youth, the heights of pleasure I experienced came when I was dressed as a girl, imagining myself as one, or both. This night was a visceral confirmation for me that something in my mind-body connection was utterly, horribly wrong.
When it was over, Karen and I lay in bed together, and I asked her how it was.
I was hoping she would say she loved it, that she’d experienced just as much pleasure as me, but instead she simply said, “It hurt.”
I was horrified, and undone! I hated that, in my assigned gender role in the bedroom, I could cause someone pain. It was supposed to be sublime, but I was crushed and she was in pain!
I didn’t speak to Karen much after that, I was so embarrassed. The Music Institute ended and we went our separate ways. It was just too humiliating for me to talk to her after what had happened, after I hurt her. I am still ashamed.
Like my encounter with Barry, this was a formative moment for me, one that showed me the damage I was capable of causing and strengthened my fear of myself. What kind of monster was I? How had I become such an one? And Why. I had no answers. This beginning of self-loathing stuck with me and grew into a deep inner darkness that held my crossdressing, my sexual passions, and my fear of even touching/being touched. Even as I edit this section I am crying, perhaps cathartic tears and some fear, too, because I am now laying bare this darkness that nobody knew I carried. How will I be received by those who now know, these 50 years later...?
I have always run from appearing vulnerable, overcompensated a lot too (!), but when I came out in 2006 I vowed to myself that I would be all the way out, no matter what. So far it has proved to be the right thing and has forced me to grow and mature and face the many demons of my past. You, dear reader, are sharing a little of my fight to be free right here and now. Thank you for seeing me...
Sucking Up All The Wrong Things
College is where my drug addiction began - such ready access to pot was not something I expected. Looking back now, this turn of events is no surprise. Like a lot of suburban kids, I grew up deeply loved but over-sheltered. Well into my teens, I wasn’t allowed to travel more than a couple blocks from my house without supervision, even if it was a friend from a family known to my folks. I got into my fair share of trouble, as you are learning, but I never really got to feel free, not free to be the person bottled up inside who might find love without giving pain, might just find simple innocence without always having to maintain a façade of invulnerability. When I moved into my college dorm, it felt great, a big adventure, but it was too much freedom for me to handle all at once. I went a little crazy with it.
My first roommate was a 2nd year black student. He had a reputation, according to the white kids, of being kind of a ghetto thug and I should be fearful of being cut in my sleep. But we became casual friends. He was nothing like what the rumor mongers had it, he was insightful and intelligent and good company, and he was damn good looking too, though I would never have admitted that back then. Our academic paths were completely different, me music and arts and he black history and social studies. We would walk across campus from the dorm to the cafeteria together fairly often and I remember seeing the polarization of people who witnessed this, almost a parting of the waters as the jaws of both white and students of color were hanging open when we passed by, testifying to some strange sight. I was still fairly oblivious of racial prejudices and wondered why we were both treated as pariahs but that was generally okay with me as I didn’t want to be bothered. Being alone suited me most of the time. It still does. Being a pariah also worked for me with my deep forming sense of fundamental inner wrongness and fear of being exposed. I turned down requests to join fraternities for much the same reason. I had to figure myself out before ever opening up to some clique or other.
To this day I wonder why it is so hard for so many white folks to just take the time to get to know someone different and see the falsehoods and rumors spread run off like raindrops and vanish. Maybe I am too simple, but his friendship made me a better person.
This was in 1972-3ish, when the hippie movement was well underway and drugs were everywhere. Soon after I started at Cal State, a fellow student there invited me to a holiday party, which I ended up going to. The party turned out to be with a bunch of his friends who were members of the same Buddhist sect he was a part of, Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism.
This party was maybe the third time I ever smoked weed, and I would continue to do so in my parties with the Buddhists and onward. The first few times I smoked weed, I didn’t really feel much of anything. Then, there was this one time where I was smoking weed with the Buddhists, and it hit me so hard I passed out. But I was pretty well hooked on the sense of escape from all my personal baggage.
As for this Buddhism itself, I quickly became sucked into that too because I was hungry for socialization. These Buddhists’ form of worship involved looking at a hand painted replica of a scroll, which had been originally written by the sect’s leader, back in Japan. When we worshipped at the Buddhist center in LA, which I would drive to on the weekends, we would all kneel in front of the scroll and chant a Japanese text from a little booklet. I had no idea what the chant meant, and I think a lot of the other people doing it didn’t either. (More on that later.)
What I do know is that being in the room when those chants were happening was so utterly relaxing, and filled me with a sense of peace that was hard to come by back then. To this day, I would love to have an ambient tape of that chanting, that thrumming, harmonic sound of the packed Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Truly a wonder to behold.
Of course, this style of worship wasn’t perfectly suited to me. I’m no longer a Buddhist, after all. The idea behind the scroll, as explained to me then, is that, when you were worshipping, you would also ask it to grant you things, even putting some token of one’s desire on the altar. Now, I was looking for things like inner peace with myself, especially with my gender troubles and a simple answer to the question of what kind of person I was to be, but a lot of the kids I worshipped with were looking for more material things. They’d pray for a new car, stuff like that. Something I noticed about middle class kids, as most of us in that sect were, was that we tended to be a bit materialistic in our wants. It seemed a little phony and pretentious to me. We were all filled with our “first world” problems and desires, spirituality seemed lost on many of them. There were times when I was the same way, it was just that at this point in my life I was so wrapped up in the abstract things it was hard to be materialistic - I needed answers and guidance. I was seeking something!
In spite of some differences, I stuck with the Buddhists in LA because they were the best I had. We even had a symphony orchestra that I was part of for a while, playing my French Horn proudly, and I loved the diverse crowd of musicians from all across the LA music scene. Still, it wouldn’t last, not for me at least.
Eventually the leaders of this particular Buddhist sect in Japan came to visit and observe in preparation for a world convention, and we here in America were informed that we were actually doing the chant wrong! Go figure! (The influence of… OxyMORONS)! It seemed to me to be a serious flaw with that religion. So it was all superficiality and I drifted away, though I would love to get some of the particular incense they burned in front of the little scroll on the altar. It was a wonderful relaxing scent.
In the midst of all this, my desire to step away from my boyhood and into womanhood was getting bigger and bigger. I was deeply unhappy with the body I was using to badly navigate the world, a miserable situation that made me turn to drugs even harder.
I managed to hide my struggle from my parents, although when I did finally tell them some of what went on in my college years, they were unsurprised. Though they never knew the whole situation, unless the watchers were still lurking somewhere in the shadows giving them the play-by-play.
“We always knew you were searching for something,” my mother admitted to me after I came out to her. My father and brother never met the new and improved me.
They just had no way of knowing what that something was - I was not able to express it verbally then, so they had no way of knowing what I wanted to find was the woman inside of me who’d been trying to pound herself out with manicured hands, for many years kicking at the darkness with pink toenails until it bled daylight. (A tip of the hat to the BareNaked Ladies and The Chicks, for that last turn of phrase.
After a few years of smoking pot and barely floating by in my classes, I dropped out of college in 1975 because I was “too much of a free spirit” for the whole institution. That is how I then described the way my mind worked - I had never heard of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in those days and thought my coping problems were just the effects of that inner blackness that was ever present. In reality, I just knew I was going to flunk out if I didn’t drop out, because I could not keep up. Dropping a twelve-unit class after the safe dropout date the previous semester meant I failed all twelve units of the class, even the ones I’d completed. Just like that, my long-suffering GPA got completely fucked up. It felt like there was no point in trying anymore. A disappointment to myself and my family.
After I dropped out of college, my life started to spiral even more out of control. For a few months, I was too embarrassed to tell my parents I’d even dropped out (as I continued to accept the checks they sent me to help out with tuition). They were understandably furious when I at last revealed I lied to them about being in school. I think it was a long while before they forgave me.
It was during this time that I got involved with the Renaissance Faire. This was in the days when the Renaissance Faire was in its original form, meeting on Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills. I mostly just helped with security, but when I would dress up in character as a peasant. I found walking around outside in tights, in full view of other people, so wonderfully freeing, though still not what I was searching for.
There was a lot of drug abuse at the Renaissance Faire, unfortunately. It seemed like you could get just about anything there, and when I was hanging out in the actors’ camp, I did. The pot lady who had rolled joints identified by their effects - “do you want to be mellow, happy, horny or just sky-high?” I tried Quaaludes and a few other things. There were some real oddballs--odd in the fact I had never been exposed to or contemplated such things before--at the camp, including a couple who lived in a tree and would have sex with their St. Bernard, very nice people but certainly stretched my sense of diversity. I had a lot of fun there and so I knew that my strangeness maybe wasn’t so strange after all. Walking around in tights was a way for me to explore my feminine side without appearing too out of sorts to the people around me, and I found a sense of community there that I was really starved for at the time. Then as life went on I wound up trying to “make something of myself”, so the frivolity of the Faire, the “beer and blood” as we often referred to actors camp after hours, were things that drifted out of my life as my career in Circuit board manufacturing and then design began to take precedence.
Later on in life, I would run into old acquaintances of mine from the Renaissance Faire. In Riverside, California, where I would live for a significant portion of my adult life and a place that will pop up a lot in this book, there was a store called Dragon Marsh that sold various spiritual materials, supplying local Witches with Craft materials. Crystals, incense, candles, jewelry, potions, essential oils… Things they still sell at Ren Faire. I still have several packs of Red Sandalwood incense from there.
I first discovered Dragon Marsh when I was walking around in downtown Riverside one day and saw a sign they had out front saying “Summer Sale.” This could not be ignored.
In typical Eva fashion, I went in and asked, loudly but completely deadpan, “How much are your summers?”
The workers in there all stopped what they were doing, and looked at me with such exquisite blank stares! Surprised by the terrible pun, or that anyone would dare it, but I was quite proud of myself. It was the kind of thing that played well in Faire spaces.
Anyway, I recognized one of the workers at Dragon Marsh from my Renaissance Faire days. So when I was back home, I dug through some of my old photos from those days, and found some with that person in them. The next time I went into Dragon Marsh, I brought in the pictures I found and that former friend of mine and I had a fun time taking a trip down memory lane.
Steps to Peace With God
An Updated Excerpt of My Blog Post, “On Coming Out”
We found a copy of the tract in the glove box and, being college-age smart-alecks, made a mockery of it by crossing out all references to “God” and replacing them with “Toyota.” References to Jesus we changed to “your Toyota dealer.” Years later, we’re still laughing about it.
From the outside, it may look like an act of pure disrespect, and in the moment it was, but this moment informs a large part of my relationship with God to this day. It’s just that now I’m laughing with Him instead of at Him. We are now friends.
Being able to laugh with God is something I once wouldn’t have believed possible, but everything changed one Saturday afternoon in April 1980. I’d spent the whole day sitting alone in my apartment, recovering from having dropped some LSD the day before, the fringes of my vision still dancing with color a bit.
Since I’d dropped out of college, my struggles with addiction and gender had only amplified. In my struggles to cope I turned to harder and harder drugs to feel like I could be someone else, someone with inner peace. A man with inner peace. Or simply just not myself for a little while. When I found I couldn’t do that, I just kept trying, and that messed up my life at just the wrong moments.
What a wretch I am, I thought to myself.
That Saturday I knew without a doubt that I was lost and hopeless, and that--
Knock, knock, knock.
There were two people at my door with a “Campus Crusade for Christ” survey, missionaries from a nearby home church. It was blazing hot outside that San Fernando Valley Spring day and they looked miserable, so I invited them in for some sodas. We sat and made small talk, laughing together as I took the survey. Strange as it was, that afternoon I truly felt at ease with them, like we were friends. Just as they were getting ready to leave, the woman, named Sandra, asked if she could share a little book about the Gospel with me. I agreed, and out came that little Billy Graham booklet, the one that followed me through so much of my life.
Oh no, I thought, it can’t be…
But it was.
You know that sinking feeling you get when you know you’ve been caught doing something wrong, hand in the cookie jar? Well, it was in that moment that God “caught” me and I knew it. It was too much of a coincidence for that little booklet to keep showing up, again and again through my whole life, for it to not have any meaning.
In that moment, I knew without a doubt that God and Jesus were real and in my life, and that they’d always been there, just waiting for me to look them in the eye and believe. Like hosts of a prank show, I could practically feel them peeking around the corner, laughing at my expense.
I was laughing too. It was undeniable that an unbreakable spiritual connection was made that day. I promised the missionaries I would come to church the following weekend. The following weekend came around, and I kept my promise. I met lots of nice folks there and made some friends right away. I felt like a reject in a lot of aspects of my life, but there I seemed to fit in. There were others just as broken and hungry for hope and to make some sense of life as I. So the religious fervor that had followed me for so long was, finally, ignited within me, and that would change my life, for better and for worse.
Not long afterward, I became a member of the church. On that day, I was so eager to be “saved” that I started rushing up toward the altar before the Pastor actually called for the new members to be received.“And look, they’re coming up already,” you can hear the pastor exclaiming on the recording of that service, referring to me. I still listen to that recording once in a while.
Though the theology I adhere to has changed quite a bit as I have grown and followed the Spirit as she has led me safely along through many painful changes to be the woman I am today. That Biblical promise of never being alone, even in times of cathartic change and disaster has been true for me, and a few miracles too (from my perspective anyway), so I dare to call God my Friend. The truest I have ever found. We laugh and we cry, sometimes we sing or just walk along together taking in a sunny day.