JENNIFER ELAINE...OR JERRY EDWARD?
by Jerry Leach
I could see my reflection in the window pane of the doctor's office.
Somehow I had managed to nervously bite off my lipstick. A moment later,
with a fresh application of lipstick and perfume, I was more than ready
for my long-awaited appointment.
I gazed out the window, and could see the trees turning from green to flaming shades of red. I muttered to myself, "This is also my change of seasons. At last!"
The receptionist interrupted my thoughts saying, "Jennifer, the doctor is ready to see you now." She led me down the hall to an office with a large stuffed chair.
Minutes later, I began recounting my story to the sympathetic psychiatrist. She listened, probed, questioned. I was pleased that she was so attentive to what I had to say. "I love your dress," she said, telling me that I made a very attractive woman. "I wish I could look half as nice as you," she sighed, then paused. "Jennifer, when did you first begin cross-dressing?"
My mind immediately raced back to the age of four, when I had contracted polio. Dressing like Mommy was already an important part of my life by then. Even at that age I was coming to the conclusion that I was a mistake, that I wasn't a girl like I was supposed to be.
As we talked about my childhood, I dug into my purse for some more Kleenex. I didn't want my mascara to run, and I hadn't planned on crying so much. "I'm making a fool of myself, aren't I."
The doctor took my hand in hers. "You poor, poor dear. I don't understand why you have gone through all of this torment. But I will see to it that you'll be feeling lots better very soon." Then she began writing a prescription. "This medication must be taken just as directed," she said firmly. "You will begin to notice some physical changes in a few months time. Be patient!"
Later when the pharmacist handed me the bag containing my pills, the very medication that would transform my whole life, my hands shook with indescribable excitement. At last, my body would take on the female characteristics I'd longed to have from the age of a preschooler. I would become a woman like my Mommy.
Taking hormones of the opposite sex. Consulting with a sex-change therapist. Dressing as a female in private and public. Often inflicting harm to myself in futile attempts to rid myself of the despised male genitalia. All of it seemed to bizarre. Why? I was a married man, the father of two wonderful children, and an active church member as well as in Christian leadership roles. My wife was an absolute delightful woman to live with. I wondered how this wife of my youth would react to my physical changes. Would it mean divorce? Or would we continue to live together as my ideal fantasy would have it, as two women? Not, that would never work, I thought in disgust.
Since my earliest memories, my closest friends had been female, and they had eagerly accepted me as one of their own. I loved being included in the world of the feminine, dressing every chance I got in Mom's things, or those of neighborhood girlfriends. I had always lived with the haunting realization that having a boy wasn't my parent's first choice, either.
"I wish you were a girl so that you could one day take over my beauty shop," my mother would often say. She regularly dressed me in girl's things when I was a preschooler, thinking it a harmless activity.
My worst day on planet earth was my first day of school. It was that morning that Mom sat on the edge of my bed and told me that I would not be allowed to wear girl's dresses to school.
When I dressed as a girl with the other neighborhood girls, my father would encourage me to do so by his careless comments and affirmations, saying such things as, "You're a lot better looking as a girl." I never felt loved or affirmed by my father when I was a boy.
My relationship with him deteriorated even further when I was a young teenager. One night I'll never forget was when I had been sick with the flu, and late that night, Dad came into my bedroom to check on me. That was something he never did. He discovered me in my bed wearing my traditional bedtime garb of cosmetics and nightgown. I feigned sleep as he sat there upon the edge of my bed weeping. When I thought he was about to get up to leave the room, he yanked me out of the bed , beat me, yelling over and over, "You're just a damned homosexual!" I was so hurt that he would call me that, for I knew that I wasn't what he defined me to be. I was so angry but failed to find any strength to resist his furious blows. In a way I hoped he would kill me. My hatred for him intensified from that day on. He had no idea what to do with me and I only wanted to hurt him in return.
Contrary to what my father thought, I was never attracted sexually to men. In fact, I hated men and anything to do with being counted among them, or manhood. But I loved being around women.
In an effort to both get away from home and somehow change my self view, I joined the U.S. Navy. Of course that didn't work. After spending 1.5 years as a hospital corpsman, I visited the base psychiatrist in order to share my anguish with him. I hoped that he might have some answers for me and help. His remedy was to give me a discharge and send me home to get the care I required. My folks knew the reason for my dismissal, but not once did they discuss it with me, or seek help for me. My next step was to attend college and pursue a career.
While attending college, I met an attractive and vibrant young lady named Charlene and we fell in love. Early on in our relationship I decided to tell her about my struggles with cross-dressing. I didn't want to go further in the relationship without her being informed.
"You don't look like a woman," she said. "I'm surprised that you'd have a problem like that." I was 5'11", over 200 pounds, with typical masculine broad shoulders and manly appearance. The mistake that both of us made was the notion that marriage would solve the problem. After all, we were both Christians and determined to do ministry. God would somehow take care of what was now becoming "our problem."
But even after our wedding, my secret obsession continued. It wasn't that Charlene lacked anything in the feminine, or that she wasn't able to satisfy me. This problem had predated her and would not go away so easily. The problem wasn't a sexual problem. It was one of my basic gender identity. No marriage contract can eliminate one's self-view.
I progressed into full-blown transsexualism, growing more and more convinced that I was born the wrong sex. I reasoned that I was really a woman, but trapped by some kind of cosmic mix-up in a man's body. I began seriously considering the possibility of eventual sex-reassignment surgery (SRS).
My means of escaping the stress of living as a male and my self-loathing attitudes was to retreat into the fantasy of my acquired feminine persona, Jennifer Elaine. It was a well-practiced habit and chronic form of behavior from my earliest childhood recollections. It was my neighborhood girlfriends who dubbed me Jennifer. They thought it was great fun to have me play with them as one of them.
Escaping manhood through cross-dressing became a daily ritual.
It felt so right and good to once again be who I had come to accept as the real me. Perhaps a conflict would develop at work, and I would again feel as though I had failed. I would think, "Boy you're sure stupid and will never amount to anything. Life would have been better as a female." One the drive home from work, I'd notice all of the women walking along in their pretty dresses, and I'd begin to wonder how those dresses would look on me. Soon I'd be headed for the nearest shopping mall, where I'd buy some women's clothing. Of course, I'd then invest in other things such as mascara, lipstick, perfume, and wig.
Then I'd rush home, or stop by a motel, and go through the process of being transformed into the woman I wanted to be. Many times as I dressed I would then feel compelled to go outside for a walk or drive across town, perhaps even going to another mall and shopping this time as "Jennifer Elaine," my female name. I would feel such a rush of excitement when the clerks would call me "ma'am" and other female customers would accept me as just another woman.
Once back in the motel or in the privacy of my home, my fantasies would peak as I then stimulated myself to sexual and emotional orgasm. Eventually the whole experience would have to end, and I would once again be forced to resume my hated existence as a man. Feelings of shame and guilt, frustration and anger would overwhelm me. Often the newly acquired clothes would be hastily discarded in a Salvation Army deposit box as I made repeated and sincere promises to myself never to cross-dress again.
A few days later, I'd do it all over again.
Finally, attempting to resolve my inner turmoil, I began seeing a clinical psychiatrist in order to obtain female hormones. I dreamed of having transsexual surgery and becoming a woman once and for all. I even forged a phony divorce certificate to hide the fact that I was still married.
But during my third visit, I tearfully told the doctor how very scared I was about actually going through with the sex-reassignment. "I've noticed a few physical changes," I told her. "But I'm so afraid of the rejection I'll have to face. I will lose my family and everything I dearly love. I don't know how I can stand that!"
She stood up and crossed the room. "Jennifer, I cannot supply you with more hormones if you have no intention of following through with the procedure. The endocrinologist and surgeon are both supportive of your decision. But if you have these kinds of reservations I can't sanction any more treatment from my office."
The drive home was unforgettable. I was enraged and cursing my very existence. Angrily I tore at my dress, agonizing over my fate. For the rest of my life, I would be forced to go through the motions of being a man, always fantasizing what it would be like ... if only ...
A Turning Point:
Back home, I entered the shower weeping, crying out to God for some relief. I had been a Christian for almost thirty years. I knew that my secret life was painful - not only to me, but to my committed wife and my Lord Jesus. As I stood there, letting the water wash away my tears, a tiny ray of hope took hold in my heart. Thoughts of suicide subsided as I began to believe that God might provide a way out of my secret agony.
Later that week, I made an appointment to see a Christian psychiatrist. While talking to him, I could sense Christ's love and acceptance embracing me. I was determined to find a solution. "If I don't get help," I had vowed inside my heart, "I will have no other choice left than to commit suicide."
But that visit marked a turning point in my life. "We are only as sick as our secrets," the psychiatrist told me, and I knew that his words were true. The four decades of living a secret life were over. As I progressed along in counseling and emotional restoration, I came to see that I had believed so many lies about myself. God hadn't made a "mistake" in creating me with a male body. It was He that had formed my body from the beginning. He had a destiny for me. "My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place; when I was woven together ... your eyes saw my unformed body." (Psalm 139:15-16) God had planned for me to become a man before I had even been created!
So the lie was exposed that there really was a woman residing within my body, longing to find full expression. Myriads of lies like that filled my soul before I attended my first grade of school. I had rejected my manhood, one of God's good gifts to me, before I was a teenager. To fill the void and somehow soothe my wounded soul, I had become addicted to the forbidden in order to nurture a fantasy.
Now I had to learn new ways to think about myself, based upon the scriptures and sound reasoning. With God's help I learned how to control my thoughts, "Taking every thought captive in order to make them obedient to Christ's way." (2 Cor.10:5) Satan had accomplished his mission well by establishing a stronghold of deception in my mind from the age of three years on up. With members of the Body of Christ about me ("Jesus with skin on") and learning how to "stand fast in the liberty with which I had been set free" (Gal 5:1), placing my identity in Christ, I devotedly took measures against my fleshly desires in order to tear down the many lies, replacing them with the Truth of God's Word.
I had to train my mind to repudiate the suggestions that I was only fooling myself and maintaining myself in absolute denial of how things really were. I had to repeatedly remind myself that God's ways are better for me than my own. It took my a long time to fully embrace the idea that God had made me an intelligent man. I was not stupid, like my Dad always said. I could achieve God's calling on my life. God wasn't going to remove my tendency to sin in this manner by some magical stroke of His hand. His plan was to prove Himself sufficient in every temptation to once again entertain transsexual notions. I learned that "through Him, my weaknesses could be turned into strengths." (2 Cor. 12:9)
None of these changes came easily or quickly. Day by day and week by week, I had to constantly submit my thoughts and feelings to God, pleading for His transforming power to change my inner sense of being. Mine has been a long, arduous trek towards any kind of healing. And I have found that no matter how long I've been free of the behaviors, I can only claim lasting victory over transsexual lusts as I daily commit my soul to the care of God, and maintain myself through daily spiritual disciplines and oversight by a few who know me well.
Healing & Restoration:
I had to first begin to painfully expose my secrets to trustworthy brothers and sisters in the Church. While I fully expected their rejection, I experienced instead their love and care, acceptance and compassion. This simple act of exposing my true thoughts and struggles took the fuse out of the interior bomb of my wounded soul.
I began implementing the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, slightly adapting the principles to fit my own situation. I took my journals, opening up my "dark side" to myself, a counselor and other trusted friends. My compatriots were never seemingly shocked by my confessions; rather they were exposed to the light of how irrational and self destructive they were.
God has always used the Body of Christ to help encourage me in my journey out of my confusion. For example, my wife and I were a part of a prayer group. One night, another woman I didn't know began to pray over me with specific insights that could have only been known by God. She said, "The enemy has assigned a task force to hammer away at you continually, bringing self-condemnation to you in order to spiritually castrate you and prevent you from being fruitful in God's Kingdom. But God is giving you strength and courage to stand up in your own manhood in Him and defeat the enemy..."
I'd be lying to you if I said that discarding my feminine persona has been painless. At first I didn't know if I could really emotionally survive without a day of cross-dressing. Eventually, I could see that getting rid of that behavior was the very best thing for my well-being. I had to learn how to renew myself daily in prayer and make right choices to pursue Christ's way for me rather than what I deemed best.
I had to learn to not walk by how I felt. I had to learn how to walk by faith that God's plan for me was and is the best.
Today, though I am not finding confidence in my self-willed determination to stay clear of transsexualism, I am gazing out of my office window to see the season once more changing its color. The trees are again a brilliant red. My own reflection in the window pane is different, however. It's no longer a stylishly-dressed woman, waiting for the receptionist's announcement.
Now I see the man God created me to be and has given grace for me to rejoice in being . I no longer find it necessary or even appealing to be seen as Jennifer. My real identity is contained within the name to which I proudly answer: Jerry.
You can contact Jerry Leach at:
PO Box 12508
Lexington, KY 40583
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