People find their truths at all different ages. The ability to look within and discover deep truths then act upon them is a good thing. The ability to try something new and when acting with courage is required, finding that courage is something to be respected.
By Jamie Feldman
Wendy Cole has no trouble engaging with customers at the supermarket in New Hope, Pennsylvania, where she works. She even has regulars ― people who specifically pick her line when she’s on the job.
Working directly with customers may not seem like that big a deal, but it’s something she couldn’t imagine doing until recently. Cole spent most of her working years hiding out in a basement office as a programmer and database developer, seldom interacting with people.
That changed in August 2017, when, at 70 years old, Cole had gender affirmation surgery.
“I made up my mind: There was no way I was going to die a male,” Cole told HuffPost. “I wanted to live the rest of my life as a woman and experience everything that [comes with it].”
It’s a decision she’d been considering for 65 years. Cole said she knew from the time she was 5 years old there was something different about her. She recalled overhearing her grandmother comment on how pretty she was.
“She said, ‘He should have been a girl,’” Cole said. “And I thought to myself, ‘Oh, God, how does she know?’ Because that’s how I felt.”
Cole credits changing attitudes and understanding about the transgender community with helping her make the decision to transition at this stage in her life. But she spent decades struggling to repress and “fix” what she thought was “wrong” with her. There were therapists, countless medications and a constant internal struggle.
“I was in a very dark place emotionally, and continuing to live like this was not an option,” she said. “I didn’t really want to kill myself, but that was sitting there on the other hand. That, or do something that would make this bearable and move forward with it and see where it goes.”
Going forward meant beginning hormone therapy and permanently leaving behind the life she’d spent decades creating ― which included a 40-year marriage with her wife. Throughout those years, she struggled immensely, but refrained from sharing those feelings with her wife, save for one night in 1978, when her wife heard her talking about being a woman in her sleep.
“I figured, ‘OK, I’ll tell her everything and we’ll probably be divorced by morning,’” she said. “She said to me, as long as I keep repressing it and dealing with it, we’ll stay together.” Wendy felt she didn’t “have any other options” at the time, and so they stayed together, continuing on as a family.
Over the years, Cole had moments of release. She would dress up in her basement ― only to feel extremely depressed when she had to change back. Once, when her wife was out of town, she bought a pair of pumps ― her first ― that she still owns today.