Much has been written both about and by people who feel they were assigned the wrong body at conception, exploring the struggles and too often the tragedies that result from that mismatch of nature. Very little has been written, however, to chronicle the lifelong struggle of people to understand and come to terms with two distinct sets of emotions, one male and one female - a single soul, at times divided, at times united, by two clearly identifiable spirits.
Dear Mom and Dad: You Don't Know Me, But ... traces the life of George through the eyes of Georgia, the female half of their soul, from early childhood in the post war Texas oil fields through the innocence of his early school years in northeastern Oklahoma. With the onset of puberty, Georgia watches the omnipresent feeling of not being normal cast a destructive pall over nearly everything George attempts. After the collapse of his lifelong dream, George begins again with hopes, new dreams and the love they've both longed for. Georgia finally emerges, but understanding her part in their soul comes slowly and is complicated by a tragedy of profound proportion.
Dear Mom and Dad considers the ultimate understanding of God's will for both George and Georgia and its unusual conclusion, sharing a story of struggle and self-acceptance.
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Dear Mom and Dad, You Don't Know Me, But ...A Memoir of a Hidden Spirit
By Georgia Lee McGowen
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Georgia Lee McGowen
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIn the Beginning
We were born on the same day to the same mother and same father in a small, north-central Texas Panhandle company town. Twins? No, not exactly. He would be raised purposefully. I, on the other hand, would not be. I wasn't acknowledged at all; because of course they didn't know that I was part of the package. They couldn't, and therefore didn't, see me. I wasn't a figment. A figment is something feigned, imagined, not real. I was very real, but at the same time, I was very hidden. He was beautiful to look at, and they took lots of pictures. What they didn't know was that they were also taking pictures of me. In retrospect, I believe that anyone who could look at him and not see me simply had to be blind.
Mom and Dad were classic examples of young postwar products of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. Mom was born in the Oklahoma Panhandle but had spent most of her life in the Texas Panhandle. Her father was the son of a hardworking Scotch-Irish hardware and dry goods store owner. Our grandfather pretty much followed in his father's footsteps in one capacity or another until his untimely death from lead poisoning, caused by an accident involving a shotgun, when a man he stopped to help attempted to rob him. Mom was only fourteen at the time, but in spite of the Depression, our grandmother saw to it that Mom and her younger brother finished high school and went on to college. Mom attained what today would be an associate's degree in education. She found a job teaching in a small, two-room school in the northern Texas Panhandle. When a friend wrote to tell her of some openings in the new school in the town where Dad lived, Mom and her roommate both applied and were hired.
Dad was a fourth-generation product of Prussian, Belgian and French immigrants. His family had been farmers and ranchers as well as lawyers, business owners, and entrepreneurs. He was raised on a dryland farm and dairy in the Texas Panhandle, the youngest of three children and the only son. He hated the farm and specifically the dairy aspect of it because it meant there was never a day off. Dairy cows are milked 365 days a year without fail. On one occasion when Dad was in his early teens, he brought home a rather dismal report card. Grandpa's response was amazingly insightful and effective. He called Dad into his study and held up the report card and said,
"Do you see these grades?"
Then pointing out the window at the forty plus dairy cows which Dad hated with a passion, Grandpa said,
"Do you see those?"
"Well, young man, they go hand-in-hand."
That was all he said and that was all he needed to say. After that, Dad never brought home a grade lower than a B, and few of those for the rest of his high school and college careers. The dislike of the farm spurred him on to excel in school, and he ultimately graduated from West Texas State University with a degree in chemical engineering. The best job he could find at the time was as a laborer for the oil company he would eventually spend his entire career working for. By the time he met Mom, he had worked his way into a position in the testing lab at the refinery and had also acquired a café and nursery by winning at a few nights of poker. Before meeting Mom, his typical weekend was pretty much a mixture of poker and scotch, a fact that would be hidden from his own children for years.
Mom and Dad met when he heard that the new "single" school teachers needed some furniture – he showed up on their doorstep with a load of furniture. Dad took Mom to a dance on Valentine's Day 1941 and before he left her at her door that night he had proposed. Four months later, they were married, but not before Mom let him know in no uncertain terms that poker had to go. It wasn't long after we were born that the scotch also vanished from Dad's list of guilty pleasures. The first few years of their marriage were actually spent in New York City where Dad was loaned to the government to work on oil and fuel supply problems for the Defense Department. We were born soon after they returned to Texas.
They were something of a physical mismatch as a couple. Dad was a slender six-foot-two inches tall, with size thirteen, four-A six-A feet, that required shoes custom made in New York. On the other hand, Mom was just a touch over five feet tall and although she wasn't slender, she wasn't overweight either. The difference in their height went without notice by us until one night when we were in our early teens. I don't remember the occasion, but we were at a dance with them, and the sight of them dancing together somehow struck a humorous note. It seemed as if Dad was dancing with a little girl, and totally oblivious to her presence in front of him. Despite their physical mismatch, they were perfectly mated, intellectually and emotionally.
Georgie was their first child, and being a boy, he was named for our Dad and grandfather with the requisite Roman numeral tacked on. He wasn't actually a third, because the two middle names had the same first letter but the names were different for Dad and Grandpa, with Georgie's name being a combination of those two. Typical of families of that era, we weren't an only child for long. Brother Nick came along two years later.
A third adult has to be mentioned. That person is Granny, Mom's mother. She was one of those people without whom life would have been void of some of its most significant flavor. She was born in 1898 in the Oklahoma Panhandle when it was still a territory. Her father was a rancher who'd acquired his land in the Great Land Race of 1889. Her one sister was older by at least twelve years. Granny was her daddy's pet and her mother's greatest worry due to her unseemly tomboy behavior and habit of doing everything against the grain.
She met Grandpa when she was twelve years old and never, for the remainder of her life, ever loved another man. He had come to a party that her older sister was having. As he was leaving, he told great-grandmother that he would be back for Mamie on her eighteenth birthday.
When Granny was fifteen, she graduated from high school and wanted to get married, but great-grandma put the kibosh on that plan. No daughter of hers was going to be an uneducated ignoramus. Granny was shipped off to Arkansas to what is now Arkansas State University. She created an uproar when she joined the equestrian team; she refused to ride sidesaddle the way women of the day were expected to ride. She endured school until her eighteenth birthday when she finally married Grandpa. I remember her talking about how incensed she was when men started showing up on her doorstep wanting to "rescue" her after Grandpa's untimely death.
By the time we were born in 1944, Granny's appearance had changed from that of a slender, extremely attractive young woman to a somewhat overweight, matronly woman. She was forty-six, always wore calf-length dresses that buttoned up the front, and unless she was leaving the house, I don't recall ever seeing her without an apron on. Her gray hair was kept long, but it was only worn in one style. Each night after her bath, she combed it and then braided it. Finally, the braids were pulled up and wrapped over and across one another on the back of her head. I never once saw her with her hair any other way and I don't think many other people did either because even in pictures of her as a young woman, her hair was worn in the same fashion.
With these three unique people to guide Georgie's development, we began life in the agricultural and oil country of the Texas plains. That post-World War II environment wasn't conducive to self-acknowledgement in the mid-1940s. It wasn't an environment conducive for acknowledgement of anything which wasn't an absolutely normal Protestant behavior or characteristic. When the doctor slapped us on the behind at 11:05 AM, October 20, 1944, Georgie started crying and the doctor announced, "Congratulations! You have a boy!" That announcement meant that I wouldn't receive an ounce of recognition or attention for a long time. It's not that I was any more aware of my presence than he was at the time, because I obviously wasn't. What it did mean was that we would be raised as a male child. The very visible male plumbing was clearly the deciding measure of things.
An accurate perception of self is often the most difficult assessment one can make, even in the most nurturing of environments. When the environment in which one is shaped is one where the guiding belief is that a child is more a thing to be shaped and molded to the vision of what the parents wish for than one of guiding the child toward its natural inclinations, failure to some degree is generally the result. That isn't a nurturing environment – that is a controlled and frequently stifling environment.
For the most part, spontaneous actions resulted in sudden and often severe reprimands. The reprimands were then followed by what Mom and Dad considered discipline appropriate to the act. One such incident occurred after we had left the Texas Panhandle and moved to Houston. Georgie was less than four years old when Mom announced at dinner that she was taking him to the show that night to see a "real shoot-em up Western." If you're very much younger than, say fifty-five years old, you're not going to appreciate how momentous that announcement was. That was big news, I mean really big news, and it was going to be a shoot-'em-up Western. Wow!
After dinner, Georgie wandered outside for a little after-dinner adventure before it was time to get ready for the show. It was getting dark when Mom hollered out the front door that it was time to get ready. That's when he did it. He knew he should wait until he got inside. But no, he just had to do it, right there in the gutter, in plain view of the entire neighborhood and Mom.
Ziiiipppp! Down came the zipper, and out came "Fred". (I called "it" Fred. What else is a girl to call that thing?) The sound of splitter splatter in the water in the gutter was humiliating, and Dodo Georgie was just as relaxed as Fred was. Well, Dodo was relaxed until he heard; "Georgie! You get in this house this instant!" That zipper came up so fast I thought he was going to lose Fred in it. (Not that I would have minded that ... it's just that, well, you know.) Up to that moment, I don't honestly think it occurred to him that what he was doing was wrong. I'm not even sure it occurred to him that he was doing it. All I remember after that is the lecture he received, as he lay there in bed ... without going to the movie.
If what he'd done was something he'd been told not to do several times before that evening, then maybe being denied the joy of the movie would have been appropriate, but that wasn't the case. He'd never done anything like that before. That's just the way most children were raised in the 1950s. Undesirable behavior was to be nipped in the bud. Because of that environment, the instincts that came from my part of our soul, he soon believed to be something that must be rigidly squelched.
* * *
From Houston, the family moved to northeast Oklahoma and that was the last time we lived in Texas. We still consider ourselves Texans, though. Everyone who's ever been born in Texas, even if it was on a bus passing through Texas, considers themselves Texans. But then, there is the distinction of being a real Texan like we are, because Dad was born and raised in Texas, Mom was raised in Texas, and we were born in Texas.
Oklahoma! What in heaven's name can you say about the first place you really felt anchored to? The Oklahoma Panhandle was Mom's country like West Texas was Dad's country. The two areas are virtually indistinguishable as you pass from one to the other. A good Okie is just as proud of his heritage as a Texan is his, but you will find the occasional turncoat who tries to pass as a Texan.
The Oklahoma Panhandle is flat by comparison to the northeastern area where we now found ourselves. Today, a check of local license plate frames and bumper stickers will let you know that this is "Green Country," and by comparison to the rest of Oklahoma, it is green. I don't remember if they called it Green Country back then, but Mom was perfectly comfortable and at home there. After all, it was still Oklahoma. It seems a relatively small state to have such a variety when it comes to terrain, fauna, and flora. My memory banks seem to remember the panhandle as flat and brown, with rattlesnakes and coyotes, and northeast Oklahoma as hilly and green, with chiggers ("no-see-ems" to some) and skunks.
The rolling hills and low mountains of northeast Oklahoma were covered in deciduous trees and pine forests, interrupted frequently by farm fields and pastures. No interstate freeways had been built, and very few four-lane highways existed to speed the traveler from one place to another. The highways ran through the middle of the towns, which meant there was at least one stop sign to interrupt progress. Frequently, a farmer would be making sorghum molasses along the side of the road near his home. Whenever we passed one, Dad always made it a point to stop and taste the molasses. If it met with his approval he purchased a quart for one of his favorite treats – saltine crackers with butter and molasses.
Where do I start? The family arrived there with me in tow but still unobserved and unacknowledged. I have so many bits and pieces of memory about Okmulgee, a town of about 8,000 population, just thirty miles or so south of Tulsa. I guess the best place to start is with the place, our house. It seemed rather big back then but in reality it was a small square bungalow. I only remember two bedrooms, a bath, a living room, and the kitchen, but it probably had a small dining room and a third bedroom. It was one of four identical houses set side-by-side across the street from the refinery office where Dad worked as superintendent. They were company houses and intended for salaried management at the refinery.
No garages were attached to the houses. One four-car garage at the end of and perpendicular to the drive which ran in front of the houses sufficed for all four families. That garage was where I learned about the anatomical difference between girls and boys. I remember that she was blonde and cute and that her dad worked at the refinery but that's about it. Georgie didn't understand the emotions that experience evoked and I don't suppose I did either because it was a mix of his amazement and my jealousy.
Across the gravel drive and in the direction of the refinery was a large grassy area with picnic facilities – tables, grills, and so on, on a concrete pad. On the other side of that was the horror, known to us kids as Greasy Creek. Its real name was Okmulgee Creek, but everyone we knew called it Greasy Creek. It irritated Dad to no end because the fact that it was greasy was due in some way to the refinery he was in charge of. It was aptly re-named and the mere thought of falling in was sufficient to keep us from venturing anywhere close enough for that to happen.
The social atmosphere there at The Courts was the closest thing I can recall to one big happy family. I remember each family and how they fit into our life, especially the couple next door – they were the only ones with a television. Each day that the Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, the Cisco Kid, or Roy Rogers was on the TV, their living room floor was covered with kids. Gosh, what a time we had. We were too young to know then that the good guys always survived and the bad guys always lost out, so each episode carried with it the energy associated with impending doom for the hero.
Oklahoma was where consistent memories began to develop. Georgie started school there and the Methodist Church we attended had an amazing children's library. It was there that a love of biographies of famous people was born. The schools there stressed reading; as soon as school began each year, a ceremony was held. Students were recognized for the number of books they had read over the summer. In our baby book, I found the lists of books read over three summers; with few exceptions, the titles indicate that they were biographies of the famous and the not-so-famous. As a result, Georgie developed a sense early that just maybe he too was meant for great things. If he'd only known.
For the first time we became aware, of racial and social prejudice which was something we weren't raised with. Mom and Dad never bracketed their opinions of people on the basis of something they couldn't help or had no control over, such as the color of their skin.
Many of the emotions experienced over the next five years might have been noticed in the more aware society of today, but at the time they were not. It took years for me to come to the point where I could recognize some of the relationships for what they were – clues to my existence. One of those retrospective clues is in the nature of Georgie's relationship with a girl whose grandfather lived two doors away and who worked with Dad.
When Sherry and her sister came to visit their grandparents, she and Georgie spent a lot of time together. Sherry was the first of Georgie's "girl" friends and one I have very fond memories of. Although we discovered the anatomical differences between boys and girls in the garage with someone else, Sherry shared the differences with us. For whatever secrets there could have been for us at that age, she and Georgie shared it all.
The time together was spent one of two ways. They played "doctor" on occasion, but usually it was "Roy Rogers and Roy, Jr." No, not Roy and Dale. It was Roy and Roy, Jr. Georgie was Roy and Sherry was Roy, Jr. She was insistent on being Roy, Jr. and not Dale Evans. I have often wondered whatever became of her and if she became a mirror image of me. That could just be wishful conjecture, prompted by the desire to reconnect in this world I have found myself in. The only picture I have of her is a grainy photograph of the two of us playing in front of the house. We lost track of each other sometime in junior high.
Excerpted from Dear Mom and Dad, You Don't Know Me, But ... by Georgia Lee McGowen Copyright © 2012 by Georgia Lee McGowen. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter I – In the Beginning....................1
Chapter II – Zion? Is This the Place?....................11
Chapter III – This Is the Place ... Again!....................29
Chapter IV – An Incomplete Metamorphosis....................44
Chapter V – When Never Comes....................61
Chapter VI – A Pinball and A Maid of Zion....................70
Chapter VII – Waking Up Is Hard To Do....................86
Chapter VIII – Canaan and the Canaanites....................106
Chapter IX – An Angel and a Shadow....................127
Chapter X – Running From Canaan....................171
Chapter XI – The Bow After the Arrow Is Loosed....................190
Chapter XII – An End Hidden In Hope....................209
Chapter XIII – Reality and Dreams....................225
Chapter XIV – A Butterfly At Last....................243
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really enjoyed reading this book. The book paralleled a lot of my life. Reading this book caused me to really think about how I've reacted to many of thesame things in my life. I highly recommend reading this book.
Going in, I had heard only a little from from friends/family, about the book, but enough to arouse my curiosity. Early on, the story builds a solid foundation of not only George's (and Georgia's) unique personalities, but also their shared familial, cultural, and geographic backgrounds, which was essential in understanding the rest of the book. The skill with which it was done was genuinely remarkable. As time passes in the account and the principals become aware of both themselves and each other, they develop a fascinating relationship, which is revealed in bite-size pieces of narrative, often astonishing to me as I began to "get it". The careful, cautious, and nervousness with which they get to know one another, and the way in which they build living relationships, both with one another and then others, while simultaneously learning to understand, then respect, and finally accommodate one another is nothing less than a beautiful account. I thought it was an incredibly candid, thoughtful, and well written story of an experience I would never otherwise have been able to imagine. I feel that I have truly shared their awakening experiences and trauma, and that I would like to personally know them both. Very well done, Georgia!! Am looking forward to your next effort; please don't wait!
This was an amazing book. I never really understood transgenderism until I read this book. It was funny and moving, and kept my interest the entire time. It was hard to put down. I highly recommend it to anyone who has a friend or family member struggling with their gender identity, or for anyone who just wants to understand humanity better.
After reading the book I felt that the final chapters were the best. And they were the true meaning of Georgia's journey.ouurn