Kim Winchester – Identity and Awareness

“I did not want a gun.”

I knew that I was different. The closest thing I came to it is when I was watching TV and I saw Christine Jorgensen.[1] I immediately identified with her.

I remember, when I was going into first grade, the nurse saw me and she identified it right away. She got my mom and dad together. She told them, “This kid is going to grow up to either be a sex change or gay.” Ironically, when I went into therapy at Ryther Child Center, the counselor said the same thing. She says, “I believe that you’re a woman.” It was getting my peers to accept it at that point.

It was very confusing, you know, because I had such a limited life experience—except for living in fear all the time. [I’d wonder,] “When are they [i.e., some family members] going to hit me? When are they going to beat me? Why won’t they love me? Why won’t they let me go with them? And go to Grandma’s and . . . ?” [My parents would say,] “Why can’t you behave yourself? You’re not a girl. You’re a boy.”

***

I remember my father, for Christmas, gave me a rifle and I told him, “You better take that away from me or I’ll shoot you.” I did not want a gun. I was mad, because I wanted my sister’s doll. [My father] wanted to make a man out of me, and it just wasn’t in me.

***

[In the early 1970s,] I had a doctor in Tacoma that got me started on estrogen. He believed in me, to help me with the transition, because I was able to pass the psychological testing and I paid to have my legal name change done—which was only 20 dollars at the time. Now it’s almost two- or three-hundred.

I had a transgender roommate. That’s an important piece. I was attracted to her and wanted to learn from her. She was so convincing as a female. I wanted to learn how she did it. I wanted to ape her mannerisms and stuff, but the price tag was high. I was getting really fond of this one guy. Oh God. All I could see was this big, bright smile and his eyes just sparkly, you know? I came home, and she was in bed with him. I died all over, and all over again. I said, “That’s it.” I just packed up and I moved into my own house.

***

My grandma died in 1986. I was very, very messed up. I was a zombie, on drugs. I wasn’t much of a person. I wasn’t even a transgender at that point in time. I was just an addict.

***

[I check out] housing and stuff, [to help enforce Spokane’s LGBT non-discrimination ordinance]. One prejudice begets another. When I did an interview, they were saying, “Well, we don’t let people under 21 come here.” I say, “Well, do you let transgenders move in?” And they look at me and go, “What’s that?”

***

You know, for the longest time, I thought that to be a woman you had to be pretty, all the time. Now my friends look at me, “Kim, you used to always be so conscious about makeup.” And I says, “Why is that so important anymore? I know that when I put it on, and there’s no occasion, you put it on for me.” I’ve been busy helping girls learn how to do their own hair, wear their own makeup, but it doesn’t hold the importance to me anymore. It’s like, how you see me is really none of my business. How I see myself is my business. It took a long time, but I’m finally able to learn—still learning—how to live comfortable in my own skin. I think that’s really to me what’s it’s all about.

***

I think one of the best things that helped me was education. Education fed me the tools and said, “Okay. Take your time and read it.” With a little bit more information, I became curious. I did some research on transgenders. They were once very rampant, here in North America. They were seen by the Natives as spiritual beings. Along came the Spanish from Spain and killed them all, because they saw them as freaks. I did that research, I think it was in about 2000, when I had access to a computer. I was curious.

Transgenders go way back. In Roman times there were six different genders. Transgenders, among them. And they were respected. Back in the ‘30s they weren’t harassed as much. Now, all of a sudden, I’m trying to figure out what happened. What made people change?

[1]In 1952, Christine Jorgensen’s sex change surgery was highly publicized.

Sources: Interviews with Laura S. Hodgman on 22 February 2013 and August 28, 2013.