Karen E. Williams

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Karen E. Williams
Dear Mom and Dad,      November, 1995

By now I have told you about my crossdressing. I am sure that it comes as a shock to you. I in no
way want to hurt you but I felt that it was important for you to know about me.

I want you to know that I have always loved you both and will continue to love you no matter
what happens. I am well aware that you may reject everything that I have told you and may
reject me as well. I would hope that you could see through this issue and love me as you always

Although, I may have told you this information verbally, I thought that it would be worthwhile to
give it to you in writing so you could re-digest it when you are alone.

I became aware of my transgendered nature at an early age. At age three, when I would go
shopping with mom, I remember wanting to wear or being very interested in female clothing. As
time progressed I wondered what it would be like to be a girl but was most interested in the
clothes of the opposite sex. I played as a boy but always felt like I was missing something that
would make me a real boy.  At times I would find articles of female clothing and try them on.
When I was a teenager, it was sexually stimulating.

I felt a strong sense of shame over this issue as I was growing up. This is a very common feeling
at lease among the male-to-female transgendered people that I have known.  When I was in my
twenties, I would have a small stash of woman's clothes to try on. As I became more and more
ashamed, I would throw the clothes away. This is called "purging" and is also very common with
transgendered people. Slowly over time I began to accept myself, lost the sense of shame and
started dealing with another issue: homosexuality.

I wondered if I was gay (homosexual) or at lease bisexual. My sexual orientation (attraction to
the same or another sex) was definitely heterosexual. I found woman very attractive and I dated
as much as possible. So, when I thought about my transgendered nature, I was confused. Was I
gay or bisexual? I never did get to the point of being in bed with another man but I did think
about it long enough to realize that my issue is not sexual orientation (in other words I am not
gay) but some other issue. Today, we call that issue "gender identity."

When I was about 39 (1987), I came home from work one day and Pam (my wife) had been watching
one of those talk shows on television. There was a group of transgendered people on stage.
People from the audience were upset with them and trying to degrade them. Pam didn't know
about my feelings at that time but she said that she couldn't understand why the audience was
treating these people on stage so poorly. At that point I felt like I had to tell her about myself. I
told her the next day. She asked me if I had any female clothes. I had some hidden in the attic. I
tried on my clothes and she made me up. It was my first time to be fully DRessed As a Girl
(DRAG).  Normally, we don't refer to ourselves as being in drag. That is saved for the gay TVs
(transvestites). The heterosexual crossdressers sometimes refer to themselves as being TVs but
mostly we just say that we are crossdressers or that we are crossdressed.

After that first time of being crossdressed,  Pam and I  went looking for more information on
the subject. We found a magazine called Tapestry. Tapestry is a national magazine for
transgendered people. In fact they are changing their name to Transgendered. It is a non-sexual
magazine dealing with the political and social issues of transgendered behavior. This includes
issues of how to dress properly, to how to get along with your spouse, to local and national
politics affecting transgendered legislation.

I found the name of an organization in Seattle called "The Emerald City" (EC). EC is a social,
educational and political organization for transgendered people. There are organizations like this
in every major city in the world. Each organization generally has a newsletter that is shared with
other organizations. I sent a letter to EC and soon joined. I also attended group counseling at
another organization in Seattle called Ingersol. Ingersol is a sister organization to EC but deals
more in the counseling realm for transsexuals and somewhat with TVs. I soon dropped the group
counseling because I was having fun with the EC group and didn't feel like I had a problem to
solve. In fact I really enjoyed crossdressing and being around other people who crossdressed. I
actually felt whole for the first time in my life. The meetings were once a month in a private
location. Nothing weird happened at these meetings. We just talked. Also, we would have a
social outing once a month in public. I became braver and braver and began to attend the social
outings. The EC has an officer group to keep the activities and social functions organized. I soon
became interested in this group and started to participate in the administrative aspects of the
organization. Within a year I became the newsletter editor. It was a position that I would hold for
about four years. The next position I held was Vice President. I was Vice President for a year and
during this time I became very interested in educating the public about transgendered people. As
you can tell, I was becoming more and more public.

I will get back to the educational aspects a little later but I digress. My image as a woman had a
long way to go when I first crossdressed back in 1987. I knew that and put my engineering skills
to work pursuing a better image. I went through many wigs, make-overs and clothes. My image
changed to a more feminine appearance gradually over time. You may have noticed changes in
my male appearance as time went on. I started electrolysis to remove my beard ( most TVs don't
go this far, it is usually transsexuals that remove their beards).  My eyebrows are plucked and I
shaved hair from my arms and legs. I also took on a new mental identity. Not anything like
multiple personalities but a feminine side to my existing personality. However, my feminine side
was always there. This just allowed it to emerge. We speak of this as our "fem" side. Most
transgendered people take on names in their chosen gender. My name is Karen E. Williams.
Williams is from my first name as a male and Karen just sounded nice. I took on the middle
name later because I thought that just Karen Williams was too common and that I could be
confused with someone else. By the way, the E. stands for Elizabeth. I just liked the sound of
that too. My identity extends to credit cards and an ID card with picture.

Since 1987 my crossdressing has increased in frequency.  At first I was satisfied with dressing
once or twice a month. Now, I am doing it once or twice a week. Each crossdresser has a
different level of need. My theropist says that there is a continuum between crossdresser and
transsexual. I identify as being closer to transsexual than crossdresser. As a result I have a need
to express myself as Karen at every opportunity.

Now, back to my public and EC activities. I decided that I wanted to teach other people about my
transgendered activities. A friend of mine (Debra) and I talked to a professor at the University of
Washington and were able to be guest lecturers in front of 700 people in a Sociology Class in
Kane Hall. We have guest lectured in this class one day each quarter for about three or four
years now. We have also expanded to Western Washington University in Bellingham and Pacific
Lutheran University in Tacoma. I will soon be going to Washington State University in Pullman.
We go to the class in our fem roles and start the lecture with a definition of terms:

Transvestite (TV) - A person who enjoys wearing clothes of the opposite gender and tries
to appear as that chosen gender. TVs dress on varying frequencies depending on their
need. Some dress as little as once every year or two while others dress as often as
possible. TVs try to "pass." This means that they are not recognized as a male but pass by
on the street and are thought to be a female. If someone recognizes them as a male in
female clothing, they are "read." You would say " I was read by that person." Most TVs
don't like the term "transvestite" and prefer the term "crossdresser." There a very few
females who crossdress as males because society has become more open in the last fifty
years to woman wearing men's clothes as a normal part of society.

Transsexual (TS) - A person who feels that they are in the wrong body and who wants to
change their body to that of their chosen gender. They may or may not live full time as
their chosen gender. They may or may not have surgery to change their genitals. This
surgery is called Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS). Most transsexuals take hormones
to change their body chemistry. The result is softer skin, fat redistribution, reduction in
male hormones, loss of some body hair and breast development. Transsexuals also go
from female to male. There is now about a 50-50 split between male-to-female
transsexuals and female-to-male transsexuals.

Drag Queen - This terminology is generally used to describe a male to female gay
transvestite. They usually dress very flamboyantly and exaggerate the female
characteristics. They stay in the gay community and usually venture out only at night.

Female Impersonator - Although, these people can be gay or straight (heterosexual) , they
are generally gay. They are men who impersonate females on stage. They generally do
this to make a living. Many are normal males and consider this their job and don't appear
in public as a female. They generally don't take on female names but keep their male
names. This is the type of person that you may see on stage in Las Vegas.

After we introduce this terminology, we generally say something about the transgendered
community, movies featuring transgendered awareness and problems of being transgendered
with family and friends. We then open it up for questions. This type of teaching has proved to be
very rewarding with many people realizing that we are people too. This, for most, is their first
exposure to a transgendered individual.

My teaching and newsletter  involvement began to lead me to political involvement. I think that I
was driven by the thought that I may loss my job over this issue. I have managed to keep it
secret from everyone at work. In Seattle there is an ordinance that protects gays, lesbians,
bisexuals and transgendered people (an overall term for all these types of people is "sexual
minorities") from job discrimination. In most of  Washington State or the Federal
Government there are no such laws. For the last two or three years, initiatives have been
introduced to reduce the freedoms of the sexual minorities. These initiatives were originated by
the "far right" (politically) which some call the "religious right. " The farthest right and most fascist
of these people would get rid of all sexual minorities and have us all follow the civil rules of the
old testament which are very harsh.

I felt that it was time to protect myself and my other sisters in the transgendered community. I
ran for president of EC and won. I will be finishing my second year in April of 1996. This year a
national political movement of transgendered people was formed. This movement was partially
able to surface because of communication on the internet. It was declared by several people in
New York and Houston Texas that October 2 and 3 would be National Gender Lobby day in
Washington DC. The idea was to get  100 transgendered people from all around the US to go to
every senator and representative and put a face on transgendered people. I talked to Pam
about going. She agreed and I planned my trip. I decided to attend a transgendered convention
in Atlanta. The Atlanta convention was called Southern Comfort and was planned September
28,29 and 30 just before the National Gender Lobby Day in WA DC. I planned my trip to fly from
Seattle to Atlanta to WA DC to Seattle. The idea of flying alone on an airplane was scary. I
ended up doing it and not having a problem. In fact I ended up using the subway systems in both
Atlanta and WA DC with no problem. In Atlanta we had a wonderful time. We went to class in the
daytime and partied at night. Classes were on politics, surgery, voice and psychological aspects
of being transgendered. At night we had dinners and entertainment and just visiting.

When I flew to Washington DC, I met three other people from Seattle. Judy  (restaurant
owner in Seattle, Jaye Albright who is the director of Ingersol and a TS friend named Dr. Anne
Lawrence, an anesthesiologist). We were faced with seeing six congress-people a piece. As it
turned out Congress was not in session. We were not able to see the actual congress-people but
we did talk to their staffs.

Besides working politically in congress I also participate in a national convention in Port Angeles.
In 1990 The Emerald City wanted to find a way to bring the Portland group (NWGA - NorthWest
Gender Alliance) and the Vancouver BC Group (Cornbury - named after Lord Cornbury who was
a crossdresser) together in one event. It evolved into an annual event in Port Angeles called
"Esprit." Esprit is now a convention drawing about 100 people from around the Northwest and
other parts of the United States. We originally had heated discussions about the choice of Port
Angeles because there were some that felt that there were too many loggers and there might be
problems. We overcame those objections and have been having Esprit once a year since 1990. I
have been personally involved in the organizing committee. Last year I was in charge of ID cards
and a fashion show that we put on at one of the luncheons.

This brings me to the point of saying why I am telling you all of this . There are several reasons:

1. As a result of my political involvement, I am becoming more and more public. I felt that
instead of you finding out about me through some other channel, I would like to tell you
myself. I guess that I was right because I just found out that Aunt Dena told you last

2. I had a talk with a friend who told her parents. She felt that by not telling you, I was
controlling you. I believe this to be true. I don't want to control you. I am therefore with
much fear giving this knowledge over to you. You now have control and I have to live
with the consequences.

3. When I am on trips, both Joan (my sister)  and Pam must skirt the subject of my wear-abouts.
I don't want them to have to cover for me. It puts stress on their lives that belongs to me
not them.

4. Finally, this issue has become a large part of my life and I am very excited about it. I feel
positive about it and want to share it with you.

One comment about Joan. Joan, John and tracy know about me. Joan has known for
about three years. I don't feel that she really understands what I am doing. She is troubled by the
issue at times. I have tried not to burden her too much with my issue but it can't be helped at
times. As a result of her not knowing a lot of what is happening with me, she is not a good source
of information for you about me. Please don't bother her by asking her a lot of questions. She
doesn't know the answers. She feels just as uneasy with this as you do. If you have questions
come to me or Pam. Pam is an expert.

Pam does have a hard time with my crossdressing. We have worked long and hard to make
our marriage work with this and other issues (such as the difference in our religious beliefs).  I
have seen a couple psychologists  and they say that Pam and I have an elastic relationship.
We both stretch for the other person because we love each other. One stretch that you have
noticed is the "shed" that I built out back of our house. It was a way for me to get "Karen" out of
the house. As you remember the Karen house is equipped with a sink, a closet, telephone and
intercom to the house. This is all set up so I can change into Karen without infringing on
Pam's space in the house. Besides, I needed the closet space. I've got a lot of clothes.

I hope that I've been able to convey to you that this is not just a passing fancy. As you can see
by my pictures, I have been able to perfect my image as Karen. If it wasn't for Pam I would
have transitioned into Karen as a full time existence long ago. My plans are to stay with Pam
and balance this issue as best that I can. I love Pam and want to stay with her. In  order to do
that I must walk a fine edge of fulfilling my transgendered needs against my love for Pam. It
is not easy since these are forces that pull me in different directions.

I am hopeful that legislation will eventually be passed that protects me in my job. However, there
are many people who oppose any protection for the sexual minorities. I would hope that you
would support me in this issue where you can. I would love to have your support and love. You will always have mine.

Love, Your Son (and daughter sometimes)

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