Empowering. Healing. Connecting.
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Have I Been Seen?

Robyn Walters

Much of my life, I was seen as male, even though it didn’t always feel right. Relatively successful in a male role, too: Naval Academy, marriage, children, 20-year career—but not flag rank—and a well-paying civilian career as a naval contractor. But I never managed that macho feeling or presentation. And unseen was the lingerie stash, as I thought, my secret fetish.

It all changed when I was 58. Robyn bubbled to the surface, and I told my wife. It did not go well, I was figuratively seen as an unfit husband, and we slept apart. The few times I was caught in feminine sleepwear, I was mocked or worse. One night, I was attacked, escaped, and spent the night in a local motel. We more or less lasted together until I semi-retired at age 60 and moved west to the Seattle area.

A Seattle gender counselor psychologist helped me see myself. “Robyn, you aren’t a crossdresser,” she said. “You’re a transsexual. What are you going to do about it?”

That wasn’t how I expected to see myself, but I realized that she spoke truth— my truth.

The next time I returned to work on the East Coast, my team mates and my Navy clients saw Robyn for the first time. They had been prepared by my coming out notes and by our company’s HR Department. Unbeknownst to me, we had a Navy meeting that first day.

Before walking to the conference room, the fellow who had relieved me a Project Manager had two questions. Pointing at my chest, he asked, “Is that you [Yes] and can you still parallel park [Yes].

The Navy meeting was a great success, and my Navy client later said he saw that I still had it, professionally. We worked together closely for another 15 years. He even called me back full time twice to be the project manager again for up to 10 months at a time. Well seen by old friends and new.

My favorite work story involved a Navy civilian I had worked with but not seen in a couple of years. He read my nametag at a Navy symposium and said he had worked with a fellow named Walters. Was he my brother? “No, Jim,” I said. “That was me. I’ve had a few changes.” His jaw dropped, and my client, off to the side, doubled over in laughter.

I remarried at age 62. My husband and I met on the ElderTG news list and married a year later on Valentine’s Day 2000. Three months later, I had Gender Confirmation surgery on my 63rd birthday.

Emery and I honeymooned in Hawai`i, came back the next year and again and again. I was just seen as an older woman tourist. Then we bought our little condo and developed local friendships and volunteer work associations. Our friends and workmates know our story. I’m just seen as a hardworking woman and a woman friend to room with on dive trips. Visitors to the Whale Sanctuary just see me as an older woman who knows a lot about whales and sea turtles.

That leaves my kids, the oldest of whom turns 60 next month. One texts almost daily. Another, monthly. My youngest replies to texts, and my oldest is estranged for other reasons. Having all spent time with me as Robyn, they still call me Dad, which is fine. I’ll always be their dad.