It Was 50 Years Ago Tonight, at a House in Berkeley

1968 was a hard year for me.  A year made survivable by the people of a loose knit hippie cadre, which I was part of.
Some were deserters from the military, others were hippie men and women.  Generally politically left or at least anti–war.

One was a handsome hippie boy from Montreal named Maurie Bowman.  I had met him in the Haight during December of 1967.

I adored him.  Others could see how much I was in love with him, including another friend who might have been more appreciative of my adoration.

As I said this group of friends helped me make it through 1968, but by the closing days of the year I was in deep depression.

I had left home in order to come out, but I was afraid that if I came out to these people they would disown me in disgust, the way my parents had disowned me.

I had taken a number of LSD trips during the year leading up to this night, including some really intense ones that had allowed me to go very deep into myself.

We all hit that wall one way or another.  The point where if you don’t come out and live your life honestly  you will explode.

For me it was a matter of overcoming my fear of telling them what I needed to do or going and jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

That evening I wound up taking some bad acid and freaking out.  I broke down in front of Maurie and the rest of my friends.

They talked me down and asked what was wrong.

I told them that I had to do something, that I couldn’t go on living with out doing it, but that I was afraid I would lose their friendship if I did.

Maurie told me that if they no longer wanted to be my friends then they were never really my friends to begin with.

Later, I learned they assumed I was going to come out as Gay.

Over the next few weeks I let them see me dressed as a woman.

I got on welfare.  Through the Berkeley Welfare Department I was able to connect with other Social Services.  By the end of February I had come out as transsexual.

Before the end of March I was on hormones and having a harder and harder time passing as a boy.

In May, Berkeley erupted in the People’s Park Riots. I took part in those events in spite of the risks.

By mid-June I could no longer pass as a boy and had gone full time.

Several members of the commune including Maurie left in mid-summer to go to Woodstock.  The others were deserters looking to use the massive crowds of people crossing the border for Woodstock to slip into Canada through the loosely controlled northern New York border.

The Grateful Dead sing, “What a long Strange Trip it’s been…”

A Long Strange Trip, Indeed.

I would be lying if I said I had any idea what so ever where my coming out would take me or how I would manage to live my truth.

In the 1950s and even into the 1960s I was the only person like me that I knew.

Fifty years ago there were a handful of us.  Very few sisters I knew then are still alive.

But whether or not we were activists we changed the world for other trans-folks just by living our truth.

Jacob Hale once said to me, “Trans lives were lived, therefore trans-lives were livable.

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