Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Where to Begin

Personal Essay

    Some of the things I will cover have already been shared with many, but I feel it necessary to repeat them in order for all the readers to have a better understanding of events as well as lending a smoother continuity of what I have experienced.  I come from a large family, having five brothers and a sister, who is the youngest.  In the birth order, I am the second oldest. However, I am currently the eldest living sibling, my older brother having died in 2004.  We had a typical household filled with lots of love and laughter along with the normal level of disagreements and bickering that can exist between boys.
      At the age of five, not fully understanding why, I went to my mother and told her I was a girl to which she naturally responded that I was not a girl.  After a period of two to three weeks with me insisting I was a girl, she told my father, who took me aside and said he didn’t want to hear that kind of nonsense again and gave me a slight whack on the back of my head to enforce what he’d said.  From that point on, in fear of what the consequences would be, I kept my feelings to myself.
      Due to the fact that the oldest children were boys and my mom needing help as we grew older, we were assigned different chores.  Oddly enough, it was I who was given the duties of helping my mom with housework; ironing clothes; changing the younger ones diapers; and many other jobs that would normally have been delegated to a girl.  My other brothers were given the tasks that were geared more to what was expected of boys.  In actuality, I was thrilled with what I was doing because it felt normal and I continued performing these duties into my teen years.  As much as my mom had never brought the subject up about my believing I was a girl, it is my belief that within her heart, she knew I wasn’t the typical boy.  Growing up, I spent many days playing with the neighborhood girls and although it was never mentioned, they treated me like one of them.  But that wasn’t without consequences because the boys in the neighborhood started to harass me and that led to many conflicts.  As a result, I learned how to fight and fight well.  In some instances, I overcompensated and became the aggressor.  The effect was the same in that I eventually earned the reputation of being tough and not one to mess with and they left me alone.  In spite of accomplishing what I had wanted, I never felt comfortable or happy being “the boy”.
      At the age of fourteen, my life and attitude changed drastically one night.  I had just left a girl I was dating and on my way home, I was yanked into an alley by three older teens and viciously raped.  They sliced my arms up with razors and threatened to cut my throat if I made a noise or told someone of the incident.  Needless to say, I was thrown into a complete state of confusion.  I began to question whether I was raped because of my feminine feelings; questioned if I was gay; just a whole flux of questions without answers.  For some time, I even began hating myself because of how I felt.  I never told a soul about what had happened and vowed that nothing like that would ever happen again.  Determined to keep my vow, I practiced and practiced to fight better than before. I studied some martial arts, not to earn the belts, but to learn how to defend myself in a more powerful way.  As time passed, I settled down in my thoughts and knew beyond doubt that I wasn’t gay and I hadn’t been raped because of how I felt because the teens who raped me didn't know me and couldn’t have read my mind anyway.
     Just before I turned sixteen, I was hanging on the corner with some friends when another friend, Michael, approached dressed as a girl.  All of us stared and someone asked what the hell was going on.  Michael informed us that he was going to live the rest of his life as Michelle.  The derogatory remarks that followed were cruel and I knew right then that I couldn’t let on about myself as I didn’t want to suffer the same persecution.  In fact, to keep suspicions from myself, I left with the group.  I never hurled any insults at Michelle, just remained silent while the others verbally abused her and a couple guys even spit at her.
     A few months passed and every time I saw Michelle, I ignored her.  One day while sitting at the counter in a diner, a woman came in and sat next to me.  I knew it was a woman because I saw her skirt out of the corner of my eye and smelled her perfume.  After a couple moments, I heard, “How long are you going to shun me?”  I knew it was Michelle and turned to look at her.  “Not here.  Finish eating and we’ll go somewhere to talk.” 
     Outside, I told her why I had avoided her and also said that I had felt betrayed because she hadn’t told me about herself and, as fast as the words had come out, I realized that I had done the same with her.  I apologized to her then proceeded to tell her about myself.  We hugged, cried and forgave each other.  From that point on, we made arrangements to go out together as females.  Michelle’s father was an alcoholic and one day decided to take flight with one of the bar floozies never to be heard from again.  Michelle’s mother was such a caring, loving person; she accepted Michelle right away and when she learned about myself, made it a point to always welcome me into their home.  In fact, she sometimes helped us with our outfits, bought us clothes and would drive us to different places and pick us up.
     To keep my first initial, “R”, I chose the name Rochelle.  Michelle and I were so close, we were more like sisters than friends.  However, Michelle was gay and contracted the AIDS virus and died.  It broke my heart to see her suffering the way she had and I wanted to remember her in a special way.  It took some time before I finally chose the way to do it.  I decided to change my name using the ending of both our names.  My name then became “Chelle”, (pronounced, “Shelly” but spelled with a “C” and ending in “E").
    At one point in my life, when I was still married, I told my family about my being transgender.  My parents didn’t understand it and didn’t want to.  My brothers took the news with a grain of salt and even visited me when I was dressed completely as a female.  One day while my dad was working on his car, I asked if he wanted help and he put the wrench down and turned to me and said, “I don’t know what you’re going through. I don’t understand it at all, but you’re my child, I love you and you are always welcome in my home.”  I cried like a baby.  My mom didn’t say a thing to me but I knew she was slowly coming to grips with it. 
     Not long afterwards, I landed a real good job and couldn’t follow being transgender without risking losing the job so I stopped pursuing my life.  Oddly enough, my brothers took this as a sign that I was “cured”, which told me they hadn’t come to terms with the fact that being transgender is not something one can be cured of.  Last October, I took my mom for a ride to the beach where she loved going to and after some idle chit chat, she got very quiet.  I didn’t think too much of it and didn’t say anything myself.  Finally, she turned to me and said, “I want you to be happy”, to which I replied, “I am.”  She said, “No, I want you to be happy.”  Again I said, “I am.” 
     Letting out a long sigh, she firmly stated, “Live your life and be happy and to heck with the others.” 
     I immediately understood that she was telling me to be myself, and not worry about my brothers or what they thought.  At that point, she wanted to return home.  A week later, she died.  Her words burned so deep within me that I decided right there and then to pursue my happiness and begin transitioning once again.  I know that my brothers are aware of my situation but as of this date, they have not broached the subject. I have dressed as a female in front of two of them and am still not sure what the end result will be but can only hope for the best.  Naturally, there is a lot more to my life and my experiences but I just wanted to give a brief overview of one of the most important aspects of my life.
Chelle Munroe©
October 16, 2013                                                                                                                                                 


  1. Chelle, you are one of the bravest women I know. Thank you for being in my life and allowing me to be a part of your journey.

  2. That was very touching Chelle. It is so tough to be us, trying to make sure others are happy to the point of losing our own happiness and thus negating the happiness in those around us. Such a catch 22 we live. Your mom was wise. I'm glad to have met you Chelle!

  3. Chelle--
    You've been through so much. It's amazing how you've come through it all and never lost your capacity to be a loving, caring woman. You are remarkable!

  4. Mandy,
    Thank you so much for the praise. Having caring, supportive and compassionate people such as yourself has help me along the way and continues to do so.

    I am so thankful and grateful for those friends and family who have stood by me and helped me. You can now count yourself among them.

  5. it takes a lot of courage to be who we are in life. I think you are a very courageous person and you will will end up as the happy person your mother wanted you to be. In fact I think you're already there....your friend....Joanna

  6. Joanna,
    Thank you so much for your beautiful words. I'm not sure I am completely there yet, but I do know that with beautiful friends such as yourself, the path becomes easier to travel and not so scary to venture further. Thank you for your friendship!
    Bunches of hugs,