We discovered Paula’s incredible essay deep in our archives and we were greatly moved by her emotional story. Paula’s letter is six years old and we’ve since lost contact with her, so Paula, if you are still out there please drop us a line and let us know how you are doing. You’ve inspired us to begin an essay contest* for all of our readers.
Have I got a story to tell…
We all have been through hard times of some sort or another. I am no better than anyone else but I would like to tell my story; it is a little different—not much in most cases—the old story of knowing what we are when we were little children is true. I am no different there.
I was born in 1965 in Scranton, Pennsylvania into quite a large family. I was the youngest of nine children; I had four brothers and four sisters. They would get into fights about me being a boy or girl so that neither “side” would have more than the other. It was an odd sort of power struggle.
My father split when I was very young and left our mother with nine children and no support. The state of Pennsylvania decided that she could not raise nine children by herself, so they took seven of us away and put us in separate foster homes. The foster home that I was put in was like a stockyard for children. We were raised like cattle. Profit was their goal and that they achieved. We were allowed to eat meat one day a week and were force-fed beans and peas. There was no love there at all.
One day when I was about four years old, I put on my foster sisters clothes and when my foster mother saw that, she went to town beating me. She picked me off the floor by one arm and was hitting me with a piece of wood called a skinny paddle. From the armpit to my ankles was black and blue. It was a wonder that there were no broken bones. But even after all of that, I did not stop; I got smart and did not get caught anymore.
I wanted to be a girl, not a boy. We all felt this feeling in one way or another. That is why I am not so different than any of you, but here’s the rest of my story, shortened of course.
This feeling went into my teenage years, in which I became tough. I never fit into any crowd; I was different. After a while though I started to want to fit in so I joined the cross country running team. Apparently I was good and I became one of the fastest runners in the state. I was setting records everywhere. For example: 4:12 mile. That began my popularity in school but still, when all the other boys were interested in girls, I wanted to be one. Somehow it was discovered that I had talent in music so I was talked into trying out for high school band while I was still in the seventh grade. I really enjoyed this talent and I made it up to third chair tuba. I finally didn’t have to be tired every day from running. By the ninth grade I made it up to first chair. I remember watching the flag girls obsessively, wanting to be one every day.
I was a very late bloomer because although I had all these talents, I was so confused about what was happening to me. I started puberty and God I didn’t want that to happen! I hated myself and the body I was growing into. I started hanging around the “wrong” crowd and started to get into trouble a lot. I finally just quit everything and excommunicated myself from reality. I found myself in jail for something that I am not proud of and that was breaking and entering. An Army recruiter came along and talked the judge into dropping all the charges if I agreed to enlist, which he did and I basically got drafted.
The Army would be my new mother, father, and any other family that I ever had. I conformed to the Army standards and became a super soldier. If there was anything that could make me a man, it would be the Army. So I thought. Through it all I still wanted to be a girl.
I was almost at the end of my enlistment when I met a woman. I asked her to marry me and she said yes. If there was anything that would make me a man, it would be being a husband. So I thought. But she lurked in the back of my mind. She was still there. Then my wife wanted a baby. Wow, being a father, now that was a way to make me a man. So I thought. I still couldn’t get the girl out of my head.
Four years later, along comes my second child. Now I’m deep in manhood; there was no way out of these awesome great responsibilities of being a father. The more that time went by the less I thought of the girl inside me but she was still there.
Seven years later, the local National Guard unit was called up to go to Iraq. I had lost my job around that time and the Guard was a sure paycheck. But, at this time, the girl inside me was really strong and wanted to come out. I thought to myself—and this is the first time telling anyone this—what better way to die than to die as a soldier fighting for freedom. There is no better honor than that, right?
So I volunteered to go. I volunteered for every dangerous mission I could so I could die. Instead, my best friend did. It simply wasn’t fair. I was devastated and was hurt so much by that. I told myself that if I were to make it out of there alive I would change my whole lifestyle. I just wanted to be happy and realized that the last 40 years I was not who and what I was. I had everything a man could possibly want but I was not happy. When I got back to my hometown, it was a bittersweet reunion. They plastered my picture all over the front page with my son on my shoulders.
There were a few different stories about my battlefield surgery. I was turned into the local hero—which I was not. I still was not happy, even with this popularity. I loved my family so much and did not want to hurt them.
The next fall Hurricane Katrina hit and destroyed everything that I had built in my life. Material things that was. I rebuilt my home with no help; new furniture, floors, and clothes etc. When I was near completion of the rebuilding process, I realized that my life had to change.
Still, I loved my family so much that I did not want to hurt them, so I went out back with my shotgun and sat down. Everyone had gone to school or work and I was there by myself. I thought about my whole life and realized it was a lie and I was completely dissatisfied.
I put the barrel under my chin angled towards the back of the top of my head. I took the gun off safe and pushed the trigger with my thumb. For the first time since I had that gun, it misfired; I got mad and threw it on the ground and it went off instantly. It was at that very moment that I became Paula Stephanie.
It was absolutely difficult at first but it became easier. In November of 2006 I got divorced; that hurt immensely but we both knew it was for the better. I still get to see my children but I have to wear gender-neutral clothes. I am just happy to be part of their lives.
So, here you have it, a short story of how Paula Stephanie came to be. I am living full time and am pre-op though I am trying to find a decent doctor overseas that is not too expensive like they are here in the states. I completely love the new me and I am making friends all over the US, being a truck driver. The people are feeding off of my happiness and high self-esteem and positive power. That helps!
Thank you all for printing your magazines in support of the transgender community. Just remember, this isn’t all about sex, it is about who people are.
Paula Stephanie Osborn
How did your true gender identity come to be?
Perhaps it was a narrow escape from death like Paula’s or the support and understanding from your family or friends. Whether the experience was difficult, easy, or bittersweet, share your story and you could win. Enter Transformation’s first annual essay contest and you could have your story published in Transformation, win $200 to shop with Centurianonline.com, and a free year subscription to Transformation magazine.
To enter, send your 1000-1,500 word submission (preferably in a Microsoft Office Word attachment) to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to:
PO Box 11677
Reno, NV 89510-1677
Contest begins 12:01am on October 29, 2013 and runs through 11:50 pm on December 31, 2013. Open to legal residents of the United States age 18 or older at time of entry. (All entries become the property of Transformation Publishing Inc and will not be returned.)
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