The Letter

At that moment, my whole life changed | Thomas Marengo

 

 

I wrote this letter not only for me, but for you.

 

The Trump Organization

725 5th Avenue

New York, NY

10022

 

President Trump,

           I would like to express my concerns about Medicaid and the rights of the LGBTQ community.

           I have a vested interest in both issues mentioned above, and I’d like you to hear why. For me these issues are almost impossible to tease apart, so I will try to be as clear as I can. I know you are busy, but please indulge me and read my story.

            My parents divorced when I was seven, and because my father did not pay enough child support, my family was forced to rely on public assistance. There were six of us, and I don’t know what we would have done without it, especially because a few of us were chronically ill. And I was one of them.

          This is where I must back up and explain some of the basis for this communication with you.

          Before the age of three, I was a very feminine, opinionated, sweet child who loved life. But between the ages of three and eight, I was sexually abused. Because my mother was ill, and had to rely on other family members to care for us, she was unaware of what happened. The abuse was part of a cult-like group of up to ten men in my rural town. It involved devil worship, “gang-bang” rapes on pre-latency-age girls, and the use of every possible means of sexual assault and ritualistic activity to keep us quiet. These included partial burials, and sometimes the deaths of girls, in dirt pits, while the rest of us were tied and forced to watch. Also during that time, a neighbor managed to get me into his cellar to torture me with a knife, and then raped me. I never told a soul.

           At the age of four, I began to get sick with immune-related ailments, like Mononucleosis and allergies. By the age of five, the psychological symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder began to overwhelm me – with night terrors, acting-out behaviors, an unusual terror of strangers and groups, clinginess, extreme depression, extreme shyness, and isolating behavior. By the first grade, on three different occasions, I suddenly started screeching at my desk for no apparent reason. My teacher would bring me home. By then, I developed a second round of mono, gangrenous tonsils due to a misdiagnosis, the mumps, the measles, pyelitis of the kidneys, and an unidentified rash. I was taken to the nearest hospital by ambulance, and almost dead, was admitted for one month. I had endured so much trauma that it became unbearable, and the “little girl” inside me fell apart.

           As I recovered from my hospital stay, I told my mother to cut off my long hair and that I would never wear a dress again. I don’t know how, but in my mind I became a boy, in every way except physically, of course. At that moment, my whole life changed. I gained my health back instantly, and played outside all day. I built tree forts, played with trucks, played more with boys than girls which, interestingly enough, (was my preference from toddlerhood). My grades went up. My fear of people disappeared, and I was actually confident enough to teach myself how to ride my bike.

           But, I have to add here that before the age of three, even in my dresses, as I accompanied my Dad to get his hair-cut and his shoes shined every week, I ached to be in that barber’s chair, to be shaved, to have my hair cut like his, to have shoes like his, and to have them shined. These were my favorite fantasies. My mother was a wonderful, intelligent, and patient woman, so why would I choose to emulate my father rather my mother?

           By age 13, I thought I was gay when I discovered I was attracted to girls, very feminine girls. I had remained a tomboy, and felt most comfortable that way, even as my peers began to mock me, because if I wore a dress I felt I’d vomit. When I noticed my body changing, I became horrified of having to be a girl. Soon after, I went into a depression I have only recently come out of, and became sick with yet another bout of autoimmune diseases – acute and chronic pancreatitis, a permanent low blood sugar problem, and thyroiditis. By 7th grade, because no previous doctor seemed to figure that out, I nearly died from Cystic Fibrosis.

            As you can see, a pattern was developing. If I was expected to behave or dress feminine in my relationships; if I was forced into confrontations or critical situations where-by my physical safety was at risk, my immunity would drop, and after these incidents were over, the old PTSD symptoms would return. As I recovered, I would automatically bolster my boyishness, and my health returned to normal.

             By 1995, I had my Masters in Social Work, and came, much to my shock, to be called “one of the best therapists in the county”. But after working in a crisis-oriented agency (I still hadn’t made the connection between certain stressors and my health), and after two years, I came down with Mono AND Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I managed to change jobs, but it was too late. By 2002, after working for a year with the added diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, I had no choice but to go on disability. Having worked so hard to attain my degree and a reputable following, I fell into a depression, knowing these ailments were forever. And as then my supposedly feminine girlfriend of 13 years became more masculine, my illness was exacerbated. I attempted a failed suicide (thank God). After a slight recovery in 2013, we broke up and my health improved by 50%. Two years later, however, after a traumatic break-up with my highschool sweetheart, which triggered a number of new memories from my abuse, my thyroid function plummeted. For the last year and a half it has taken three increases in my thyroid medication to even begin to think straight, and be able to get up to do dishes. I lost nearly all my muscle tone.

           For much of my life I wondered if the abuse had made me gay. In fact, I have  been in psychotherapy since the age of 20, and I have been on psychiatric meds since 1997, trying to heal that tortured “little girl” inside. Though I’ve had many male friends, I never had an interest in or an attraction to them as partners. Yet I decided to experiment with a man to be sure I was really gay and not just afraid of men sexually. Well, I wasn’t afraid and it was pleasant enough, but it only confirmed that I could never be in-love with men. I just wanted my body to look like theirs.

           Despite 30 years of various therapies, I was still unable to escape the flashbacks and the overall grief and shame that had followed me into adulthood. And why hadn’t I been able to orgasm for 30 years? Why did my genitals go numb as soon as a partner touched it? And if I was a true lesbian, why did behaving male in the bedroom come so naturally? I felt as if I had actually grown some kind of auric penis! I could feel it. I just couldn’t see it. My last two “loves” left because I was becoming too “male” for them. But I realized something. Being in a female body in relationships, and during sex, especially oral sex, which is the basis of most lesbian sex, disturbed my abused “little girl” inside, prompting flashbacks and unidentified sobbing and neediness. Thirty years of therapeutic work had not fixed her. She was as traumatized as she was at seven. She had never grown up! And anytime my partners tried to please, we were actually retraumatizing her! Again and again.

             In the past ten years, I’d become more aware of transgender folks, but I ignorantly assumed that sex-change had become a fad until someone confronted me about it. So, I began researching transgenderism in October of last year. That was when I figured everything out! ‘Aha’ moments galore! It explained so many things I had thought and done throughout my life. It explained why I never felt I quite fit in the lesbian community, and why I was attracted to so many feminine, straight women.

I noted my health pattern. I researched the effects of testosterone. It eases fibromyalgia! It eases Chronic Fatigue Syndrome! It improves hypothyroidism! Wow! I already knew that a larger percentage of women develop Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and that among them, almost all are sexually-abused in childhood. Hmmm. Could that kind of stress be responsible for these auto-immune syndromes in most women?

         From there, I talked to my doctor. He had seen me suffer for almost 35 years, psychologically, emotionally, and physically, but neither of us had understood why we couldn’t fix me. I began seeing a transgendered therapist, and within three sessions she determined that not only had I become aware of my true male gender at age three, but that I had consciously escaped into it at seven. She diagnosed me with Gender Dysphoria. I realized then why I didn’t like looking in the mirror, or why I always felt “beside myself”, why my female development created such stress, and why I had always felt so restrained, inhibited, and unwhole. I began to realize there were whole parts of me I had stuffed deep down in order to “be a girl”! I was becoming aware of how squished I was feeling in this frail, weak body. I had to admit that I was transgender.

          I have lived a lesbian lifestyle most of my life, experiencing all the prejudice and the lack of rights that comes with that. I have lost love after love. I have been ill nearly my entire life, and still suffer the crippling PTSD effects of brutal sexual abuse.

          I am now 53. No one in my family has lived beyond sixty nine. I am running out of time.

         My doctor cried for me. Without hesitation, he Immediately wrote me a prescription for testosterone, mainly for my hypothyroid, but also to begin my transition.

         I have been on testosterone since my birthday actually – October 19th. My health is improving! I am able to be up most of the day, with rests in between. I am getting some of my memory back, and my mind is much clearer. I still have muscle fatigue from being in bed so long, but my shoulders are beginning to develop new and strong muscle! I am now able to get back to my small 20-minute workouts every other day (recommended for my fibromyalgia by a physical therapist). I am in less pain, and I can actually keep my eyes fully open when I am awake. I feel more confident. Most importantly, I am feeling my true self coming out. My depression and my PTSD, and flashbacks have taken a back seat. It is as if my abuse happened a lifetime ago.

            However, because I now know what has confused me for so long, and because I still see a woman in the mirror, and ache to be a man and in a man’s body, the gender dysphoria’ is becoming so intense it is painful. My mind and body know what they need, inside and out, but the process takes time. Because my female genitalia react to oral sex with PTSD symptoms, I have no choice but to require all the treatments available, including bottom surgery. The problem is that I am on disability and can not work yet. If I regain all my health back, it won’t be until after everything is done. I can not pay for these surgeries myself. But I did find a surgeon who will take my Medicaid. But now, every day is filled with anxiety, terrified I will lose the one thing that can get my life back, my freedom, my health, a career, my independence, a new ‘love’ – Medicaid.

         Thus, I beg you, to please advocate for the improvement of our Medicaid. If the cuts are severe, my surgeries will be the first to go. No, I am not starving like a child, but I have been slowly dying because I’ve been living in a body that isn’t mine, a body riddled with illness and trauma. Instead, if block grants must be the new way, can you please advocate for limited cuts in those too, so that states are not forced to eradicate transgender folks’ surgeries and other care they need. Please help me and others trapped in the wrong bodies become who we are.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.

Sincerely,
Thomas L. Marengo