From the time I was a little kid I had always felt hatred toward who I was. I felt like a stranger in my own body. My physical body was that of a girl, but I knew inside my heart and soul that I was a boy. My female anatomy was an obstacle I would have to reconstruct before I could feel complete and “at home” within my body. I have begun my journey to reconstruct my life and physical body to match my inner gender.

Ever since I was able to talk and socialize, I have always been more accepted by the boys in my neighborhood. I would always participate in the neighborhood baseball, basketball, and football games, which I was very good at. I would do anything and everything the boys did without any consideration for fear or danger. These were the happiest times of my life. I would wake up with a smile on my face every morning and be prepared for the day’s activities. During this time I was also dressing like one of the boys. No one suspected anything besides the fact that I was a tomboy. However, I knew there was something more. I was always convinced I was a boy and that I just so happened to be born without the male organs. I tried everything to fit in with the boys; I even tried going to the bathroom like a boy until I eventually gave up trying at age twelve!

Unfortunately, I had to grow up and continue my education in middle school. During this time, classmates began to call me a lesbian. I became convinced that I was a lesbian and that was the end of it. I was made fun of constantly by classmates and people who were supposed to be my friends. The hatred that I felt about being in my body was growing more and more unbearable by the day. I would not want to wake up in the morning. It had gotten so bad that I did not want to wake up at all. I wanted to kill myself so badly. I wished and prayed that someone would just take my life and release my heart from under what felt like a two ton brick. I cried myself to sleep on many occasions. Night was the only time I could let out what I was feeling. I wanted to cry all day long, but I wouldn’t show my emotions to anyone, not even my parents.

The longer I held in my feelings, the more my head would throb. I could feel the blood rushing to my head quickly. My head pounded from all the thoughts going through it. I can honestly say that if I wasn’t too scared to die, I would have killed myself and I would be freed from all the hatred and disgust that I felt toward who I was. It was at this time that my parents began sending me to therapy.

As soon as the therapist and I began talking, I was introduced to a new word: “transgendered.” For me it meant a female who has a brain of a male and believes should have been male. I knew as soon as I heard this, that I was not a lesbian, but rather, transgendered. From that time forward, I spent my life explaining that I was not a lesbian and that it was perfectly normal to like girls because I think, act, and have the brain of a male.

As I expected, people were too rigid and could not open their mind to accept me for who I really was. My parents, however, were very accepting. They agreed with the therapist right away that this was the perfect explanation for who I was. My father was able to let go of his youngest daughter very quickly. On the other hand, my mother took just a little longer to get used to having a son instead of another daughter. My mother did always wish for a boy and now tells me that I am the boy she always wanted. My parents began going to meetings for parents and friends of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people. They are now a very active part of the GLBT community and I could not be more proud of them.

I struggled through high school trying to find a place where I fit in and a place of acceptance. Some people tried to understand who I was, but to others I was still a lesbian. I was constantly explaining to my classmates that it’s not like that and that I would become a boy soon. In fact during the summer of my junior year, I received the okay from the endocrinologist to start taking testosterone and to research surgeons for breast removal. I met with Dr. Johnson, and I was so excited to have this surgery but was disappointed to hear that she would be on maternity leave until September. It was then I believed God had not wanted me to be a happy male. I began to hang my head down low again. A couple days later the surgeon’s office called.

They don’t usually do this, but when they saw my disappointment, they had moved me to the top of the waiting list and scheduled me to see Dr. Stueber who was the “in charge” doctor and did not usually see people like this. My happiness immediately reappeared. Over the summer I underwent breast removal surgery. I went back to senior year as Christopher John Garber who was on testosterone and was now without breasts!

Immediately after graduating from high school, I decided it was about time to get my female organs removed. I made an appointment as soon as summer began. Next thing I knew I was preparing for a complete hysterectomy. I feared that the procedure would hurt, but in reality there was very little pain and the recovery period was only three weeks. I was excited to start a new life in college as a legal male, but there was still one step left to complete. My mother and I went to the birth certificate office in Boston City Hall only to find out that the endocrinologist’s letter stating that I have been living completely as a male and that I underwent breast removal surgery and had received a complete hysterectomy and currently was taking testosterone, and that I fit all the requirements to legally be male, was not on his standard letterhead. My mother and I were so irritated that we went to the doctor’s office right away to get another letter. We then decided to try the birth certificate office at the Bay Side Expo Center only to find out that they would not accept the letter because it did not include the phrase, “Sex reassignment surgery has been completed.” Now we were really mad because the doctor literally wrote everything the phrase said just in a different way. My mother and I were almost in tears; I could feel my heart throbbing again. I ran outside; I felt the need to be alone. My mother refused to leave without talking to the attorney’s boss. He took us into a private room where he apologized profusely and agreed that the letter the surgeon had written for us was fine. The anxiety I was feeling had to be let out and I burst into tears. My sadness rubbed off on my mother because she began to let out a couple of tears also.

The man promised that he was planning on taking it to his lawyer the very next day to get her approval. He replied to us the next day as promised to tell us the letter had been accepted. Two letters from the endocrinologist and four employees later I had finally received the big “male” on my birth certificate. This was the first time I had actually felt closure and happiness for who I have become.

It was finally time to get into college mode. I was excited for once in my life. I was faced with another chance to live my life, but this time would be in the body of the boy I had always felt I was. It was a new beginning as a legal male. No one would know my past and I might actually be able to make some friends. In addition, I would hopefully never have to hear the same, “I am sorry, you are a girl, and I am straight” excuse that I had been getting from girls ever again. I would finally enter the dating world as a straight male and hopefully be given the reciprocated love that I had always wanted for once in my life.

The next hardship I would have to endure was whether I should tell my classmates or not. This is a huge internal struggle for me. On one hand, I feared that if I told people they would not want to have anything to do with me. On the other hand, I might make a lot of friends who I could educate about who I really am. When it comes down to it my heart, soul, and brain are torn between whether I should disclose my secret or bury it inside myself. I really do want to be liked and have a lot of friends. My heart thrives on finally being accepted and liked. At the same time I want people to know what I have gone through in my life to become a male. I am really scared to make this decision and if it doesn’t turn out the way I want it to and people do not accept me, I am fearful for my life. I cannot take anymore disappointment in my life and I am terrified for what may happen if I have to experience this amount of pain again.

Becoming male has given me a whole new perspective on life. I no longer have suicidal thoughts, and I could not be happier. I enjoy waking up each morning knowing that I will not be tortured by my classmates because of my sexuality or my gender. I am now being accepted for the man I have always felt I was! This has been a difficult journey for me, but with the support of my parents and wonderful sister I am getting through it successfully.

C.J. Garber

Epilogue by parents Ken & Marcia Garber, members of Dignity/Boston and Listening Parents for Fortunate Families

The preceding piece was written by our son as a college application essay. His words speak to our hearts and hopefully touch others — “friends who I could educate about who I really am.” But they don’t even begin to tell the totality of who he really was and the story of his life.

C.J. died January 26, 2009, due to a deadly combination of isolation and drugs. If we can touch even one life with this story, his death is not in vain. A celebration of his short life was planned and conducted by our family, along with members of Dignity/Boston. It is where our family has found an even larger family of welcome and support. C.J. is also survived by his sister, Sarah. May C.J. find the peace in Heaven that he couldn’t find here on Earth.