I have transcribed parts of my mother’s memoir, written while she was suffering with terminal ovarian cancer. It reveals the deep sadness of a mother who has lost her first child to sex change surgery. The family was first aware of Myron’s gender dysphoria in 1968, and he had the operation in 1975. My mother died a few months after she wrote this.
The names “Myron” and “Myra” were chosen to obscure the identity of my sibling; they are names used by Gore Vidal in the book Myra Breckinbridge. I have also chosen to name my father, “Dad,” instead of using his real name. Here is an excerpt:
“Twenty-one years ago today, Myron became Myra. She phoned me up today to remind me, but what she does not realize is that it was the death of our family and certainly the death of my first son whom I had loved so much.
She said that she remembers how excited she felt that day, when she woke up to find that she was now a woman and had lost the male shackles which she detested all her life, the physical pain was more bearable because she could now be called “Myra.”
For me, when she phoned that day, twenty-one years ago,it was agony and disgust at what Myron had done.
Myron was a wonderful scholar, and anything to do with words would always score high marks. He wrote excellent poetry, and was in the debating club at school, editor of the magazine at the college, and vice-president of the Young Conservatives in Quebec in the early days of the party. There were not that many members at that time, and Dad was appalled that Myron should be supporting the conservatives, and not the NDP or a socialistic party. Myron was always doing the opposite thing to what Dad wanted him to do.
Sometimes I wonder if this perverse attitude was the reason he wanted to change his gender, because it would really shock his father, and the hurt would be stronger than anything that could be handed out to him.
We had started to go to a counsellor together, because of Myron’s behaviour of lying, stealing and not working at college. This turned out to be a disaster, as the counsellor wanted to know about our personal sex life, and she brought in Myron’s two younger sisters, whom we considered innocents in this whole business. The drift of her counselling disconcerted us, and it was causing more confusion and animosity between Dad and me. We were all scared and angry.
What we did not know is that Myron had told her about his hopes for a sex change.
We knew nothing and were working in a different direction.
We were scared and angry at each other, and we all became confused and more and more angry with Myron.
He wrote me a letter, while he was in college to tell me that he was determined to have a sex change.
When I received it, I became hysterical and called Dad at work. We decided to confront Myron at his flat that evening. When we arrived, he had slipped out of the flat, leaving the roommate to explain. We waited for a while, and Dad started to look through Myron’s belongings and school papers. I did not approve of this, but I was astonished when he brought me some magazines for me to see. One was the National Enquirer, and the main article was about Christine Jorgensen, a man who had had a sex change in Denmark.
For Dad, it was the culmination of despair. Life would never be the same for any of us.
Dad (he died only four years later at 58 of a massive heart attack) would go to his grave wondering what he had done to this child, whom he loved so much, for him to want to change his sex. At first, he blamed me for being too soft with Myron, as he grew up. He said that I had made him a sissy, always protecting him from his father’s anger, whenever he got in trouble. Dad had very high standards for Myron in his schoolwork. Although he had known that Myron had been very physically sick, over the years and would never be any good at sports, he insisted he should be involved in soccer and baseball. Myron was inept at all sports and, consequently, was criticized by his father.
When Myron first went away to Winnipeg, we hoped that a change of scene would be just what he needed, so we helped him all we could, providing a trunk and new clothes, bedding and money to tide him over for a few months. Little did we know that Winnipeg was a hot bed for the transsexual clinics that he was looking for.
Of course, Myron had researched all of this in the past few years and was in touch with others who were interested in transsexualism. The clinics were interested in their own research, and Myron was just another guinea pig to them.
The doctors allowed him as much of the female hormones that his body would take. Soon he developed breasts, and his whole body softened.
He worked as a skip tracer for a few years and attended night school to become a typist. By this time he was cross-dressing and growing his hair. He worked hard at his jobs to get his bonuses for the hormones.
He lived in downtown Winnipeg in a slum building. The first winter there, we sent him warm blankets and a food parcel for Christmas, but my heart bled for him. I missed him even though he had put us through such a terrible time in the past few years, he was still my first baby, and he had shown such promise as a young boy. I constantly worried about him, whether he was having enough to eat. I knew he could not cook and I guessed he was eating a lot of pizza and junk food, when he could afford it.
I felt like we had deserted him, even though he had left us.”