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Life as a transsexual

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Susan:
Life as a transsexual
By Eric Mayes
The Daily Item

LEWISBURG — Valeri Schnatter never expected the hatred that met her when she moved to the Susquehanna Valley.

In the nine years she’s lived in the Lewisburg area, the transsexual said she has been asked to leave several churches and harassed by neighbors and even the local police.

Though her driver’s license still bears the name Vincent G. Schnatter, most other documents list her as Valeri, and she prefers to be addressed as a female.

Sex reassignment surgery has proven too expensive for Ms. Schnatter, forcing her to live in a state of androgyny. People seem unable see past an exterior that may not meet their expectations, she said, to notice the person inside.

"It doesn’t matter what I believe or what I do in people’s lives because I’m a transsexual," said Ms. Schnatter.

Admitting that she was in fact a transsexual took a long time for Ms. Schnatter. And, it has not been easy.

The 54-year-old grew up in Edison, N.J., in a family where she was one of four children. At the age of 5, she started to dress in her mother’s and sister’s clothing.

"I felt more comfortable in the role of a girl," she said.

Not content with the trappings of femininity, she also longed to become a girl.

"I told my sister that on more than one occasion," she remembered.

Her sister told her parents, who had no desire to discuss such things.

"It was taboo," Ms. Schnatter said.

Isolated, she turned to alcohol, drinking regularly at the age of 11.

"With alcohol you felt the courage to be macho," she said.

By the time she turned 17 she was doing heroin. It was, she said, a way to keep her distracted from the truth.

"I was totally ignorant on the subject (of transsexuality)," Ms. Schnatter said. "It was scary. I was afraid to get found out."

So she repressed her true feelings, and, labeling herself a transvestite, got married — not once but three times. She also fathered three children, two sons and a daughter. Both sons died soon after being born but her daughter survives.

Eventually, she kicked both drugs and alcohol and has now been clean for 26 years.

After the final marriage broke up, Ms. Schnatter decided to leave the area of lower Berks County near Philadelphia, where she had been living. First she moved to Lewisburg and then East Buffalo Township where she now lives. It was in Lewisburg she admitted to herself that she was a transsexual.

Neither community was particularly welcoming, she said.

Out bowling once in Mifflinburg, she overheard comments like: "If they want a sex change we’ll take them out back and give them a sex change."

It was an eye-opening experience.

"When situations like that happen you know what you’re up against here," she said.

Nowhere was Ms. Schnatter exempt.

"I get stared at something terrible," she said.

Her neighbors harassed her and when she turned to the police, she said, the problems sometimes got worse because responding officers from the Lewisburg and East Buffalo departments came in like "stormtroopers."

Usually problems could be solved by talking to the chiefs at both departments, who she credited with lending a sympathetic ear.

But she’s still afraid to call the police.

"I can’t call the cops," she said. "Automatically they just get a negative view."

Even the place where solace might be expected — the church — rejected Ms. Schnatter. She was turned away by the Catholic church and a Lutheran church in Lewisburg and by a third denomination in Milton.

Though most Unitarians were welcoming not everyone in that congregation was friendly.

"It was like, if we don’t talk about it maybe it will go away," she said of her experience at the Northumberland church. "I didn’t know Christ said you can be selective with the Golden Rule."

In fact not only have local churches made it clear they don’t want her as part of their congregations, the Bible has been used time and again to attack Ms. Schnatter, she said. She added that perhaps those who use it as a weapon have missed the point.

"From my education of Jesus Christ, he sat around with prostitutes, robbers and people like that," she said. "He didn’t say ‘oh that person is a sinner.’"

Another place where Ms. Schnatter might have expected a cordial reception and hasn’t found one is the local gay community, she said.

"For the most part people stay away," she said. "You don’t get invited to parties or family gatherings. It gets very lonely."

Ideally, Ms. Schnatter said she could be a positive role model in the community. She is someone who has kicked drugs and alcohol and might be able to help others.

"I’ll do anything within my power or life to help anybody," she said. "I always reach my hand out to the new person."

Even if that never happens, she just wants to be treated like anybody else.

"Regardless of who or what I am, I have a certain amount of civil rights," Ms. Schnatter said.

E-mail comments to emayes@dailyitem.com


*The full article posted here with the permission of the author.

Susan:
I wish to thank the author for giving me permission to host the entire article on the site. Thank you Eric.

Phoenix:
thisd article makes me wonder what  iam doing, but also make me sad asnd angry. at people

justignore me im an idot

4years:
People will be people.
Ultimately I think the species will turn out alright, but very definitely not without some bumps along the way. Unfortunately some of those bumps happen in our times..


--- Quote from: Phoenix on May 25, 2005, 07:58:25 pm ---thisd article makes me wonder what  iam doing, but also make me sad asnd angry. at people

justignore me im an idot
--- End quote ---
:icon_shrug_no: No, not an idiot by any means.

Fwiw, I've wondered what in tarnation I am doing quite a few times. This path isn't something any sane person contemplates let alone travels along. Yet sane or not this is the path I travel, willingly and gladly, not that I have any choice in the matter, regardless what some people may think.

Thank you Eric, very kind.

Svetlana:
i think: you'd have to be insane to choose this path.  to contemplate it, or to travel it... not necessarily.  only insane to choose it.  and as we each know, we didn't choose it.

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