Updated: Jul 19, 2020
Mandi is a member of Drummer Girls United.
Welcome to my life story. I unfortunately never kept a journal, so exact ages, contacts, and other details may not have an exact reference. I’ll do the best I can with only my memories to depend on. I won’t be using actual names for most people since for some, their privacy is paramount.
If you’re transgender, I’m sure you’ll be able to relate to many of my experiences. If you’re not, maybe you’ll learn something new and who knows, maybe appreciate some of the things transgender people go through.
I feel that I had a very good childhood. Being born from a 17 year old single girl who lived with her mother and a few younger siblings, living in poverty, in a small fishing village, It’s hard to believe that I even had a chance to be. I can’t even imagine, despite all the stories I can remember, how difficult it must have been to care for me as young and poor as she was. Thankfully, she did and here I am writing this story.
My biological father, who will be mentioned just here, was in the Coast Guard at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. From what I understand, in the mid 60’s, there wasn’t much to do out on the island but hang out at the beach by day, and party at night. I think it was typical for the young women who lived on the island to latch on to the service members stationed there. I think it’s pretty easy to see how I was conceived. Unfortunately for my mother, but fortunate for me, my biological father managed to impregnate two women, and made a choice to stay with the other woman. So this little bastard was born Matthew Waidler Willis.
My mother wrote a little note to me about the day she went into labor with me and the long trip to the hospital. Here are her words… (For clarification, Cenith is my mom’s older sister and George Cenith’s fiance’ at the time).
“It was a bright moonlit night, and I watched the brown bats swoop and dive as they consumed the swarm of mosquitos around the street light. Suddenly, one flew over to my window and began scratching furiously. It squeaked and scratched and squeaked and scratched and then it started to talk. Oh my god! Do you know what it said? When is the little bat coming out? Bat Matt.
That’s what my friends called my belly-Bat Matt. Batman was really popular at the time (and you loved the music from the show. When you were a toddler, you danced in front of the tv).
I felt awful on the day of your birth. I had been to a gathering for Cenith and George, where the announcement was made that they were getting married. I had a couple of drinks, went home and went to bed. I didn’t sleep very well and felt uck all day. I didn’t know I was going into labor. Cenie made me some pancakes and I noticed later that my tongue had turned black! I don’t know what the hell that was but I’ll never forget it.
So anyhow, contractions started much later in the day and we started on our trip to Elizabeth City.
George was driving with my sister (Cenith) riding shotgun and myself sitting in the back seat moaning and groaning. Each time I had a hard pain, Cenith would reach around and pat me in a soothing voice and tell me everything would be okay. Each time she did that, George would slow down! She finally cursed at George and told him to step on it. There were many miles to go.
I don’t remember getting to the hospital or much about the delivery but I just know I was glad it was over and you were perfect. George bought a huge stuffed tiger and a toy machine gun for your first presents, I have a picture of you with the tiger. You looked just like your biological father and I was sad he wasn’t there and that I couldn’t put his name on the birth certificate, I was afraid his family might come and try to take you away from me. I told the staff that I didn’t know who the father was, on advice from Cenith, even though everyone knew who the father was. It was embarrassing but I had you for comfort. You were mine and that’s what mattered! My first true love.
Waidler is George’s middle name which he thought to be German. He helped me so much and was so involved in the pregnancy that I wanted to honor him, hence Matthew Waidler. I told him I wouldn’t name a pig George! LOL! I guess I ran across a bad George at some time.
It was George’s first experience with a pregnant woman (as far as I know), and everytime I had indigestion, he had to eat Chooz too.
My family loved you so much and what’s not to love? You were perfect in every way. I love you!!”
Thanks mom for sharing this story with me!
I’m guessing about 2 years went by before my mother met the man who would be my father. All references to my father going forward will be this man.
I don’t have the details of how my mother met my father but I do know that my father was serving in the Navy at a base in Buxton North Carolina, about 20 miles from Hatteras where we were living. In short, they married and my father adopted me as his own, changing my name to Matthew Waidler MacDonald. I felt telling my beginnings was relevant as it plays a part in my name change later in my life.
I truly can’t recall anything but a great childhood. From around 2 ½ years old till I was 12 1/2 years old, our family moved quite often. As a matter of fact, from kindergarten to 7th grade, I went to a different school every year, sometimes moving in the middle of the school year. Besides my early years in North Carolina, I lived in Philadelphia, many different cities in Massachusetts, and Tecumseh Michigan. Just before I turned 13, our family moved to Johnson City Tennessee. I ended up finishing school there, graduating from Science Hill High School in 1984.
My little brother was born when I was just over 5 ½ years old. He was my father’s only biological child. I remember feeling like I was being replaced after he was born. I know now that was the furthest thing from the truth but the age gap proved difficult for me and as a result, I was a terrible big brother. I try not to live with regrets and always try to look into the future rather than the past, but I really regret what a jerk I was to him. I’m truly amazed he has anything to do with me anymore. Yes, I was that bad.
I felt it was important to bring up my little brother because there is an interesting memory with him. I’m guessing I was about 7 or 8 years old when my 2 year old brother got a Drowsy doll. Around this time, I recall having thoughts of being a girl but in the mid 70’s and being as young as I was, I didn’t have a clue what I was going through. I honestly never wanted a doll when I was that age, completely happy with Tonka trucks, army men, and other toys designed for boys. Strangely enough, I don’t recall ever having much of an interest in girl toys so why was my brother playing with a doll? A girls toy! I remember pulling the draw string and Drowsy crying out, “I want a drink of water” and me abruptly punching it in the face. It disturbed him terribly and naturally I got great joy from his reaction. I know there are many siblings who don’t get along, but damn...I was mean. The irony today is that I’m living as a woman and my brother is a Harley riding, beard wearing, hockey playing, heterosexual man.
As a child, I can remember random memories of putting on my moms knee high boots and other apparel but nothing like the teenage years. This was such a roller coaster ride for me. I was, and always have been, attracted to girls but I was now questioning why I wanted to date them and at the same time, wear everything in their closets.
I was mostly athletic. I played baseball till I was 15, and felt I was pretty good at it. I played football some in high school and ran track. I skateboarded and rode my bike everywhere. I played golf and took tennis lessons. 95% of my thoughts were boy thoughts. It was the 5% girl thoughts that I didn’t understand. Without the internet, information on why I was feeling this way was difficult to come by. Even a trip to the library didn’t net much information or provide any answers for what I was going through. The only logical thing to do was to push it off to the side and it would go away. How could I ever talk to anyone about what I was thinking about. It would be certain death or worse, humiliation. I knew I wasn’t gay so I truly didn’t understand what was going on with me. I love girls so why would I want to be one? As time went on and I got older, those thoughts slowly took over and what was 5% of my thoughts were now about 50/50.
Slowly but surely, I started stealing clothing from my step mother (I skipped over the divorce of my parents) or worse, my girlfriends or mothers of my friends. Remember, the internet wasn’t invented yet and I obviously couldn’t order womens items to be delivered to my house. My parents would surely get to it first and wonder why I was ordering such things. When I turned 16 and could finally drive, I would find myself in a mall walking through the womens department or a Salvation Army or Goodwill wishing I had the courage to buy the things I desired so much. I was just too chicken and always walked away empty handed and depressed.
Then, one fateful day, my stash of clothing and undergarments were discovered by my step mom, most of which were hers. I still remember the terror I felt when I went to my carefully selected garments, only to find out they were gone. Later that evening, my father and step-mother confronted me and asked why I had all this stuff in my room. Oh god, I thought I would just die on the spot. How do I answer this? To this day, I can’t remember my answer but it had a huge impact on me. This was the first time I went through a purge. This action is common for male to female transgender people usually when they are caught or feel they are on the verge of being caught dressing up.
So, I swore it off and told myself I was moving on and this ridiculous dream of being a girl was gone forever. The rest of the time I lived with my parents, I never acquired another woman's item. No way I could be caught a second time!
My first purge was successful for many years. I married and joined the Air Force. The thoughts of being a woman never really left but I was fairly successful at keeping it in check, until I had alone time. My first wife started working during the day while I was mostly working at night. She would leave for work shortly after I got home from my night shift. At first, when her car would pull out of sight, I would wear a few of her items for a couple hours before going to bed. Unfortunately, her feet were much smaller than mine. ( I believe she wore a size 7 where I wore a size 10). The outfit just wasn’t complete without some footwear right? So, back I went to the local Goodwill or Salvation Army to shop. Older and more brave, I didn’t leave empty handed this time, and slowly started to acquire shoes, skirts, tops, makeup, and even a fairly decent wig. Once I had my own wardrobe, this was a daily activity if I had time in the morning. It was a sure thing and I was way too slick to get caught. I kept all my items in my spare duffel bag, tucked away in the back of the closet. I knew the exact time she would come home for lunch and I was always sure to have my face washed and clothes back in their place long before she arrived, until one fateful day that I heard the crackle of gravel on our driveway.
As I peek out the window to see who is in our driveway, I see her getting out of her car. Shit! 2 hours early! Here I am fully dressed, makeup on, jewelry. I started to undress but quickly realized that she would be in the house in seconds and I had no chance of accomplishing this task. So I locked the bathroom door and hoped she wouldn’t notice I wasn’t in bed. Ha Ha! Seconds later, there was a jiggle of the doorknob and then a sharp rap on the door asking who was in there. I replied back, “Just me” and she quickly replied, “Then open the door!”
I can still see the look of horror on her face as I opened the door and she saw a woman looking back at her. Her first thought was, “who was this woman my husband is cheating on?”, until she made the connection moments later. Matt?
I felt it was important to go into a little more detail of this encounter since it was the single most terrifying event of my life, even more than the first time I was caught as a teenager.
Now, here I was, divorce was a certainty, she would tell all our friends, and word would now make it to my commanding officer and I’d definitely receive a dishonorable discharge from the service. Life as I knew it was over. I was screwed.
I did purge for the second time, however, it was fairly short lived. In her moment of anger from catching me, I showed her all the things I had accumulated, and then threw them in the trash. Over the next few months, the subject kept coming up of my need to be a woman and we miraculously worked out a time that I could fulfill my desires. If my recollection is correct, I got to stay up from midnight till 6am once every two weeks. This was about 1990 and still pre-internet so even though I was in my 20’s now, I really didn’t have any more knowledge of this thing I was going through. My marriage was intact, my secret was kept, and I was able to finish my Air Force enlistment with an honorable discharge in 1991. Later that year, I started working at Delta Airlines continuing my secret.
We were 5 years into our marriage at this time and agreed to have children. We had two beautiful children and made it another 5 years together with this system before she realized I wasn’t the person she married and just wasn’t happy with me anymore. We divorced in 1994, she met someone new who lived out of state, and moved away to Texas with our children. I was now alone for the first time in my life. It was all my fault so I purged a 3rd time, vowing to never ruin another marriage ever again.
After the divorce from my first wife, surprisingly, I stayed purged even though I was living by myself. I lived with overwhelming guilt and swore that this time I’d set things straight. I knew eventually, I’d find love again and with a second chance, make things right. I grew a beard and did everything I thought a man should do. The thoughts of being a woman were still there but I managed to continue with this charade for quite some time foolishly tricking myself that it was gone for good.
I met my “future” second wife a few years before I would become divorced from my first. We knew each other casually and would later date when our individual marriages self destructed. We eventually married in 1996. This second marriage was a great time of discovery and eventually paved the way to my transition. We were one year into our marriage when we finally got a computer and got connected to the internet. This was groundbreaking and was key to the eventual demise of my second marriage and the beginning of my transition.
I could honestly write a second book on my second marriage but I’m going to avoid any irrelevant details that don’t pertain to how life as I know it now came to be.
Welcome to the information age
I doubt many of you can remember the first time you did a search on the internet and what you may have searched for. I certainly remember the first thing I searched for. Crossdressing/Transsexuals. As soon as I hit enter, I was flooded with information on these subjects. Even with a relatively new internet, the information was astounding. I spent weeks doing research on these subjects and finally started to come up with an answer of what was going on with me. In a matter of months, I was ready to share this with my second wife. I had to share this secret of mine before too much time in our marriage had passed. Although I was scared of the possible outcome, it was time to share my secret.
Now, our marriage wasn’t a conventional marriage. We were both on the rebound and we had married previously fairly early in life. We partied quite a bit and had many discussions about adding an extra partner during intimate times. Some of these discussions opened the door for the possibility that she’d be okay with this information. This marriage was much different from my first and I had high hopes that I could maintain a good relationship with her after revealing my secret.
I carefully selected a day where we were in a good mood. After a few drinks and enjoyable conversation, I went upstairs and put on a bridesmaid dress she had in her wardrobe. I was fortunate that we wore the same size clothing. (Yes, I had worn this on occasion in my private time). So, my heart was racing as I headed downstairs. I’m sure it was a bit scary looking since my hair was cut short, I didn’t have any makeup on, and I was barefoot since her shoe size was smaller than mine. Since her back was turned to me, I asked her to turn around and when she did, she let out a pretty healthy laugh. I laughed with her and pranced around a bit being sure to entertain her to the best of my ability. Once the silliness subsided, we proceeded to have a lengthy conversation about the truth. Many of the details I mentioned above were discussed and some of the websites I had previously viewed were opened back up and viewed together. Shockingly, her first response after spending time reading was “Well, I guess we have to get you some clothes. You’re not going to wreck my stuff!” I was blown away how well she had taken all this information. I prepared for the worst and got the best possible outcome I could have hoped for. She even said I need a name so she came up with Amanda. I asked why and she responded because you’re a Man...duh. I thought it was clever and I liked the name so it stuck. Later on, I shortened it to Mandi but I’ll explain more when I get to the name change in 2008.
So much happened during this initial time of discovery. Really, too much to mention. We went shopping many times and built up a reasonable wardrobe, makeup, shoes, and wigs since I was required to have short hair for my job. I had done my own makeup many times so she was surprised how well I did it. Her only advice was to tone it down since I tended to look like a hooker. Her words.
For the people reading this who may be unfamiliar with crossdressers or transgender women, the age of transition can be a huge factor in success. Transitioning in the 80’s was mostly unknown and nearly impossible with the exception of a few brave souls. Passability and secrecy of their private life was an absolute must to avoid being “outed” and having to face persecution, injury, or death. It was now 1997 and the acceptance by the public was growing, but still not as accepted as today.
Getting on hormone replacement therapy is a must for someone wishing to transition, but that wasn’t on my radar at this point of my life. The idea of being a “full time” woman required a psychological exam, a visit to an endocrinologist (gland doctor for hormone monitoring), laser and electrolysis for hair removal, an accepting workplace so you could continue to earn a living, and the bravery to go through with all of it. At this time, I was completely content with being able to be myself whenever the opportunity presented itself. For now I had to live a double life, one as a woman which made me happy, and one as a man which made her happy.
After many times playing dress up in the safety of our home, It was time to get out and mingle in public. She would accompany me during these early years but later got bored with it and allowed me to attend myself.
Two of the events we had researched together were the organizations of Tri-ess and Southern Comfort Conference.
Tri ess (society for the second self) is an international, educational, social, and support group for heterosexual crossdressers, their partners and their families. There are many chapters all over the world and there was a chapter in Atlanta so this was our first planned outing.
Southern Comfort Conference is a major transgender conference focusing on seminars, speeches, vendors, events, and many more. This was my ultimate goal at the time since this conference went about 5 days and was held at a major Atlanta hotel giving the opportunity to get a room and stay for the whole event.
Besides just about every Halloween, (of course I was almost always in a female costume of some sort) or going for a late night drive in my car, I had never really spent much time out of my home so the time had come for my first Tri ess meeting. These meetings were held on a Saturday once a month also at a major Atlanta hotel. The opportunity to get a room was available and you could have a place to stay for the night or just go home after the gathering. We usually opted for the room so we could enjoy the evening, have a few drinks, and not worry about having to drive.
The meeting usually started with a morning group where the individual or the spouse/family member could address concerns. The attendees usually had lunch and dinner together and then hung out at the bar late into the night to cap the day off. It was very structured and had strict guidelines. There was no dating allowed and no individual could be in the process of transitioning. It was designed for crossdressers and their loved ones and it’s main mission was to protect marriages or relationships and provide a safe place to meet others. We attended many of these but SCC was coming up!
SCC was held once per year the week after Labor Day weekend. It was started in 1991 in Atlanta and continued there through 2014. SCC was the main event of the year and people traveled from all over the world to attend. My first conference was in 1997 and after that week, I was hooked and continued attending every year that I was able to till 2007. This conference was very different from Tri ess in that it really concentrated on the process of transitioning. GRS (gender reassignment surgery) and FFS (facial feminization surgery) doctors were on site for consultation and pricing. Seminars were held daily covering many subjects from passability, applying makeup, coming out at work, etc. Just about every subject was covered over the years and I attended most of them. There was a huge vending area where everything pertaining to a transgender person was sold. Lunch was planned with friends and dinner was usually a catered event with the grand finale on Saturday night where everyone would wear their best evening gowns or duds. That night was a live band or DJ where we could dance and party into the night before sadly heading to bed where Sunday morning would usually mean going back to the other self. The week was such a high especially for the individuals who were not yet fully transitioned. Getting to be a woman for 5 days straight was very exhausting since usually every waking minute involved wearing heels and sometimes re-applying makeup in the afternoon, especially if electrolysis or laser hadn’t been done yet. 5’oclock shadow wasn’t really a good look and 2 close shaves and 2 makeup applications and face washings daily made the following days more and more painful as the week wore on. Since I hadn’t had any electrolysis I shaved my whole body. Chest, arms, legs, everything. When the conference was over, it sure did leave ugly stubble all over and definitely raised eyebrows at work.
Now by the second or third conference, my wife became bored with it and I started attending myself. This would be sometime around the year 2000. The next 7 years or so were great years of discovery and since my wife and I were in an open relationship, I was allowed to experiment just as long as we shared our experiences with each other. She attended on occasion and would usually show up on a Friday or Saturday night to party with everyone. She made many friends at the conference too and I think she truly liked hanging out with everyone. I felt like the luckiest person in the world having a good marriage and also given many opportunities to be my true self. I did my best to try and keep the balance between both lives, but the more I got to be me, the more I wanted. I was often called selfish for wanting to be a woman more but I always thought it was equally selfish of her to deny me of my happiness. I was never quite as happy as the male self as I was as the female self. Sure, I loved being a father to my 2 children and being a husband, but deep down inside, I was mostly depressed and just counted the days or hours till I could change back to Amanda. Every single day, I wished to be Amanda and the more I was, the more upset my wife would get.
So, ever since attending my first SCC conference in 1997, I always blocked off that week on the calendar. I believe I attended every year from 1997-2007. The first few years I got a room and stayed for the whole week but as time went on and I became more comfortable going out in public, I would usually drive up to the conference daily and drive home.
Like I had mentioned earlier, the conference was a plethora of information and support and the main mission of SCC was to give you the tools to transition to full time. As the years passed, my confidence grew and I knew that one day I would go full time, I just wasn’t sure when.
Now I have to be honest. As rewarding as the conference was during the daytime with the seminars and workshops, the true fun was in the night. Private parties were held in rooms with just about every theme you could imagine. I won’t go into details about what happened at night but some of the themes would be pajama parties, lingerie parties, fetish parties, and many more. A bunch of transgender people, on a vacation from their other self most of the time, experiencing their own discovery about themselves afforded an anything goes situation and truly, anything went. These were great times for me and many friendships were made. SCC was one of the most important experiences I had and it had a huge impact on the direction I would take over the next few years.
In addition to the conferences, there were trips out of town where Amanda was packed in a suitcase and let out for an evening or two. One of my favorite trips was to Las Vegas with my wife and two of her friends. I really can’t remember events of that weekend as Matt, but the evening as Amanda was an absolute blast! We started off the evening with some gambling at the craps table and had a relatively successful go at the table. With our winnings, we rented a limousine for several hours and went to several clubs, downtown, and a roller coaster ride at New York, New York. Tons of alcohol was consumed, hours of dancing, and just checking out the sites. A note to anyone wearing a wig: Use caution when riding a corkscrew roller coaster! It literally took all my strength to keep that thing on my head. The fear of going the rest of the night without my wig was enough motivation.
In addition to the conferences and the trips, I was also recruited into my first all transgender band. I believe it was 2004 or 2005 when I was asked to drum in a band called Jezebel with a few of my friends. I was really excited about this venture since it gave me another excuse to be Amanda. Even for practices, I’d get all dressed up, makeup and all, and haul my drums over to the bass player’s house. My wife wasn’t too excited to have a bunch of transgender people hauling music equipment into our house in the middle of the day so I had to load in and out weekly. Up until this point, my drumming was mostly non existent. My kit spent years broken down in a corner of the bonus room or in the basement under a sheet. If it was set up, it was mostly for the kids to play with. I would play on occasion but there really wasn’t any type of practice regimen. Besides high school, this is really the true beginning of my drumming since at this point, I started spending much more time practicing and learning songs for the band. Jezebel played out at a few gay clubs and a Friday night at SCC once, but nothing really came of the band besides having a great time and getting back into drumming. From this point forward, my playing skills improved and I learned tons of songs and honed my style. It was an important turning point which would pay off in my future bands.
The mid 2000’s became a volatile time in my second marriage. I was spending more time as Amanda than my wife was really happy with and it proved to be the final straw for her. She loved me but the person she fell in love with had mostly disappeared. I was still Matt from time to time, but I really wasn’t there for her. It was during this time where she would meet her future 3rd husband and eventually leave me for him. We would eventually divorce in 2006 and strangely enough, we still lived together but in separate rooms. In 2007, she moved out and into an apartment and I was alone for the second time in my life. This time, I knew I wasn’t going to attempt another marriage so I remained single and spent more and more time being Amanda. Our divorce was very amicable and we remained friends and visited each other often.
The time was now here to make a decision about my future. I started hormones (HRT) and shortly after that, discussed my plans to transition full time with a few select co-workers. This was some juicy information for them and it proved impossible to keep this secret and the word got out to supervision of my plans. I knew Delta Airlines was a proud supporter of many LGBT organizations, so I felt pretty safe my job would be secure. I was correct in my assumption and a start date for Mandi was set! The first day of the year after New Years 2008. Now the date was set but my legal name was still Matt so that had to be changed. I set up a court date for February 2008. Unfortunately, I’d have to go to work looking like Mandi but still named Matt for about a month and a half. I figured I’d just have to turn my ID backwards until my name and picture could be changed.
The day had come and I went to work the first time as Mandi. It was a terrifying time for me since I worked primarily with conservative men. It was tough for my coworkers as well. Everyone struggled with identifying me as Mandi and pronouns were commonly misused. Matt, he, him spilled out during every conversation and it angered and embarrassed me terribly. I never really made a scene about it, instead, sent an email to everyone with the request to use Mandi, she, and her. Nothing really changed in the short term, but eventually over time, my transition seemed to be more accepted, or at least tolerated and the pronouns started to match. It wasn’t all the time, but progress was being made. A few of my closest friends couldn’t handle the change and our friendships were lost. It was expected and an unfortunate side effect to transitioning, one I had learned many years ago at SCC. Finally, my court date arrived and my name was changed to Mandi Willis MacDonald. I promised I would explain my name earlier in this blog so here we are. Aircraft work deals with tons of paperwork and initials are used dozens of times a day. I really wasn’t interested in changing my initials so my M.W.M (Matthew Waidler MacDonald) stayed M.W.M with Mandi Willis MacDonald. Mandi was short for Amanda and Willis was actually the last name I was born with so I found it fitting to use as a sort of maiden name hence Mandi Willis MacDonald. Tada!
My now ex wife had her kids at the apartment and I was in the house all by myself. She also wanted her ailing father to live with her so we agreed that she would get the house, so in June 2008 I moved into the very first place that was all my own, an apartment in the Virginia Highlands. I wasn’t quite ready to purchase another house even though the last house was quit claimed to my ex. I was single and wanted to be close to all the action that Atlanta had to offer and I really couldn’t afford most homes in midtown. This 700+ square foot, one bedroom, one bath apartment was perfect for just me and my 2 cats. It would later prove to be a bad choice over the next few years.
In the beginning, I really enjoyed living there. I was a block from Piedmont park, walking distance to several good restaurants, and a Trader Joes. Clubbing was close by and meetups with my friends were usually only a 5 or 10 minute drive away. I lived in the middle apartment of a 3 story complex so I had a neighbor above and below me. This proved to be a huge problem for my drumming, one I hadn’t taken into account. I eventually picked up a cheap electronic kit which was just good enough to stay in practice and didn’t seem to bother the neighbors much except for a little floor thumping from my kick pedal into the lower level.
Backing up a bit, in the mid 2000’s, my oldest son had decided to come live with me when I lived at the last house in Coweta county. When he was about 17, he decided to move away to North Carolina with his girlfriend. After verifying that he was going to stay in North Carolina, it was the final bit of information I needed in the selection of the apartment I chose. There wasn’t much point spending a ton of extra money on a 2 bedroom apartment if I didn’t need it so the lease was signed on the one bedroom and it was just right for me. Shortly after signing the 1 year lease, things didn’t work out for my son and his girlfriend in North Carolina so they came back to Georgia and decided to move in with me. This was the moment I regretted signing the lease on my little apartment. Now my one bedroom, one bath apartment was housing 3 people and 3 cats since he got his own cat while he was away.
It was during this time in the apartment that I was recruited into my second band. It was a band fronted by KMC, now known as Synn, out of Athens. It wasn’t a trans band this time since KMC and I were the only transgender members and the guitar and bass were played by a couple of guys. We went by the name Straightlace.
Since everyone in the band except for myself lived in Athens, I once again had to haul my gear every Sunday to the guitarist’s house. This was a whole day process to carry all my drums down a flight of stairs, load into my car, drive an hour to the practice, spend a few hours jamming, and then back into my second floor apartment. The band lasted for a few years, we played several clubs in Athens, and made an appearance at Augusta pride one time. Eventually our bass player had too much on his plate and had to drop Straightlace in addition to a couple other projects he was working on. Later, the guitarist moved out of state so the thoughts of continuing the band with other members never came to be. Bandless again!
Now the apartment was quickly becoming a terrible idea. Even though I had some fantastic times there, it was becoming crowded and I couldn’t practice on my acoustic kit. It was now late 2010 and I had started looking around at affordable houses in the Atlanta area. I really liked living in the city and the apartment was adequate until September 2010 when I met my future wife, Nicole.
Before I get into how Nicole and I met, I need to mention that my son worked at a doggy day care place while he was living with me. He kept telling me about an orphaned dog that I needed to see and asked to bring him home. I kept telling him no since we didn’t really have any room left for a dog. One day, as I returned home from work, I opened the door to my son and his girlfriend on the couch with a dog and all 3 cats. I couldn’t believe the cats and this dog were getting along so great. I instantly fell in love with this silly looking dog. He was a mutt and was a strange mix between a Corgi and something else. He was white with black patches, and a stubby tail and his name was Freckles. I ended up being his caretaker, feeding him and taking him for walks, and in a very short time, I would become his human. Now the tally in the apartment was 3 humans, 3 cats, and a dog. 700+ square feet isn’t much space for 3 people, 3 cats, and a dog who loved eating the crunchy treats out of the litter box. We had to be very creative with this configuration but managed to make it work although the need to move was becoming greater as time moved on.
It was now September 2010 and I was attending SCC as usual. It was typical on Friday nights of the conference to have an excursion to a local club with buses transporting everyone back and forth that had a paid registration. This was very convenient for everyone since most would consume alcohol and nobody had to worry about driving while intoxicated or worrying about parking issues.
The venue was the Jungle. I jumped on the bus and headed over to the party. It was a fetish club so I was decked out in my favorite PVC outfit. (I’ve always been a sucker for PVC and still love it today.) The club usually had good music blaring but would be interrupted from time to time for a small show usually involving whipping, melting candle wax on someone, or some other fetish display. As the night wore on, I noticed a friend of mine, a dominatrix, had a lovely girl bent over the rail and was administering a pretty good whipping to her. I’ve never really enjoyed that kind of thing but this girl seemed to be enjoying it pretty well so I ventured over to watch and enjoy the show as I had many others earlier in the night. After watching for some time, the girl and I made eye contact and I approached her for a kiss. Anyone that knows the BDSM culture would know that while someone is in possession of a dom or dominatrix, they have to ask for permission to do anything. As I leaned in and kissed her, my friend cursed at me and proceeded to punish his slave for defying her. Shortly after that, I left the club never getting her name.
Backing up a bit, from the start of my transition in late 2007 till 2010, I had dozens of appointments for laser and electrolysis to remove all the unwanted hair on my face and body. Anyone who has ever gone through this knows the pain involved along with the healing afterwards. I had dark hair and lots of it. I had a very thick beard, a hairy chest, and hairy arms. The lucky ones who are able to get on HRT before puberty can skip this long and painful step. I started with laser, obviously doing my face and working on arms, armpits, and chest too. The laser was very effective on my body but not quite so on my face. Shaving your arms and chest always left unsightly stubble and with a thick beard, by midday, 5 o’clock shadow was hard to cover even with the best makeup. I was very happy that after 3 or 4 sessions, my arms, chest, and armpits were complete but the laser was mostly ineffective on a vast majority of my face. The hair was so thick that even the most powerful setting on the machine required multiple visits and only netted small progress. I had to start electrolysis on my face now and I can tell you that I absolutely hated this process. Laser nailed large patches with each pulse where electrolysis worked on a single hair at a time. It is a long, painful, and expensive process and after a year or so, basically gave up on the notion of having every single hair removed. To this day, 10 years later, I still haven’t returned to finish the process and chose to just shave the stragglers daily. As much as I hate shaving, I hated electrolysis worse and decided this would be it moving forward.
So back to Nicole. A week or so had passed since SCC and the conference memories were fading as I was back to normal life. I was enjoying being single and the pain of two divorces helped my decision to remain single. I wasn’t really in a hurry to jump into another relationship since I had failed in 2 separate marriages. I wasn’t dating and going out clubbing was reserved to a special event or the 10 high Metalsome live band karaoke down the street. I mostly watched at Metalsome but a few times actually sang a few songs. Yeah, I’m a terrible singer but after enough drinks, I was brave enough to not care.
A good bit of debt was incurred during the last divorce and I was concentrating on getting it all paid down. Single was my choice and nothing was going to change my mind.
Then, out of the blue, my phone rang and it was Nicole. She had to explain that she was the girl I had kissed at the club a week ago. I wish I could remember what we had talked about during that call but what I do know is that we made arrangements to meet again.
She lived in Augusta and myself in Atlanta so I figured this would work for me. After all, I had decided to stay single so a long distance relationship really fit into my plans. So in late September, I traveled to her house and we met for the second time. We spent the weekend together at her house hanging out on the back porch talking, riding bikes, or watching VHS movies on her VCR. We made breakfast, lunch, and dinner together and enjoyed a picnic of junk food on the floor of her living room while watching movies. It was a really nice weekend and before I prepared to head home, we discussed seeing each other again and the idea of remaining exclusive to one another. I guess being single wasn’t in the cards. I was now in a relationship again!
Nicole had to stay in Augusta since she worked at Augusta State. I had to stay in Atlanta for my job at Delta so we made the 2 hour trip nearly every weekend alternating who traveled to each other's place. Nicole lived in a large two story house in Augusta and had recently divorced as well. To make ends meet, she had taken in a couple roommates to help defer her living expenses. She had two dogs which she was able to leave behind with the roommates when she traveled to Atlanta. There was NO way we could fit two more dogs in my apartment. No way! Ha Ha.
During the first 6 months of dating Nicole, she had decided to transition at work like I had done. Augusta State seemed okay with it at first but they eventually let her go. They never stated why just opting to not renew her contract. We both knew better though. We knew it was because of her transition. This was a bit of a rough time for her since she had planned a trip to Bangkok to have FFS and breast augmentation coming up in May. Now that she was unemployed, these plans were up in the air and with a mortgage and all associated bills with the house, she was left with little choice but to find another job. Finding a job in 2011 while in the middle of a transition was nearly impossible especially in Augusta. She was 55 at the time and had been receiving her Army retirement but at the moment was her sole income. It was then decided to rent her house out and move in with me. We were now looking at 3 adults, 3 cats, and 3 dogs in my tiny apartment so that was the final straw. We immediately started looking at houses since my lease renewal was coming due the end of June.
It was now coming up on 3 years in the apartment and I had effectively paid down most my bills and improved my credit rating. We went to the bank and got a pre-approval on a mortgage and started our home search. We wanted to live in Atlanta, concentrating on East Atlanta. We had a list of requirements for a house such as large walk in closet, double vanity, large master bedroom, 2 extra bedrooms, 2 bath minimum, basement, and garage. Many of the houses we looked at fell short of our requirements or were well out of our price range. Weeks went by and Nicole’s trip to Thailand was coming up fast. She had invited me to go travel with her for her procedures so getting a contract on a house had to be done before we left if we were to time closing with the end of my apartment lease.
Our real estate agent had done as requested and gathered properties to view in the East Atlanta area. Nothing seemed to be just right and I was afraid we would have to settle with good enough or end up extending my lease until my agent asked if we’d be willing to look at a property in Pine Lake. I was a bit reluctant to view it since it was outside the perimeter and nowhere I had expected to purchase. Our agent was sure we’d love it and insisted we travel to Pine Lake to view it so we agreed.
As we pulled up to the house, we immediately fell in love! It was on a small piece of land and had a beautiful rustic look to it with a stone front. There wasn’t a garage, but everything else on our required list was perfect. Within an hour or two of viewing, we were signing the contract for purchase. We had done it! The contract was signed and a closing date set for June 30th, the day my lease ended. The timing couldn’t have worked out better and now we were about a week from the trip to Thailand.
The week went by fast and we were both at the airport ready for our long trip. The trip consisted of 2 flights. One, a 14 hour trip to Narita Japan and the second being about a 6 hour flight from Narita to Bangkok. I had never been out of the country except for Canada and had never been on a flight longer than 5 ½ hours. This was going to be 20 hours of flying with a 2 ½ hour layover in Japan. I can honestly say I wasn’t excited about being on a plane that long but I was thrilled to be going on this adventure with Nicole.
Nicole had originally planned on going on this trip with her best friend Tracy long before we had met. The plan was that Tracy would care for Nicole after her surgery and then Nicole would travel to Chomburi Thailand and care for Tracy after her GRS surgery so Nicole had planned on a month in Thailand. I wasn’t able to take that much time off work so the plan was that I’d care for Nicole and stay with her for about a week and then fly home by myself while she kept her commitment to Tracy and then would fly home by herself 3 weeks later.
Besides the surgery and the subsequent recovery, Nicole and I had a great time seeing the sights in Bangkok and the surrounding countryside. At the time of this trip, we had been together just under 8 months and it was during this time that I knew I had found my forever partner. The week went by fast for me and the next thing I knew, I was at the airport for the long trip back to Atlanta.
More to come about Nicole and I soon!