My name is Gennifer Herley. I’m from Seaford, New York.
I met my ex-wife when I was 19 and she was 17. We were dating for several years and she lived at home and I lived at home, so the only time or place, I guess, we could be intimate and have sex was in the car or a motel. So she liked to have lingerie and couldn’t take it home and I couldn’t take it home, so we kept it in my car. One day I was, you know, thinking about her and thinking about the lingerie and I decided to go to the hotel and put on the lingerie myself. Once I did, I was so thrilled and felt so good about myself. The feeling of femininity and the wanting to be feminine kind of forced me to do that, to want to dress all the time.
I told her as some aspect of it so there was a little bit of it that she was comfortable with, but she really wasn’t that comfortable with it and frankly I didn’t know myself where I was going at that time.
We were together for 25 years. We adopted a child. She’s wonderful. And it was just time for us to separate.
When I was on the internet, I started to see these transgender conferences and most of them were outside of New York. So I worked as a salesperson, so I was always traveling, so I felt pretty comfortable with the idea of going to a conference, seeing who is there, and listening to the workshops. Going to the conferences was sort of the start of myself understanding that it wasn’t, I’m just not a guy who’s putting on a dress, you know? I mean, I have these real feelings and this desire to be a woman.
I earned my PhD in 2014 and I started a counseling business, and most of my clients were people with gender identity issues. That sort of added to my desire because listening to people’s own stories just as I’m telling my story today gave me a better understanding of myself.
On May 1, 2017, I was in my home and my bedroom was really like an oasis. It is still the most feminine place of my whole entire house. And my daughter was living with me half the time. So I didn’t know I wanted to come out and I certainly didn’t want her to know my secret, so I stayed in my room and hid. And I woke up on May 1, 2017 and I said to myself, What am I doing? I looked around this beautiful room and I thought, What a beautiful room. What a beautiful life. Why am I hiding? You know, this is really who I am. I don’t want to be male anymore.
I started hormones in September of 2017 and then interestingly enough, I did not come out to the public until June of 2018. I remember talking to my analyst from May until then and how extremely frightened I was of, I guess, losing everybody.
I was just going to tell my daughter on a Friday and she came up to me and said – she still calls me “Daddy” – so she said, “Daddy, my SAT is on Saturday.” So I knew I couldn’t tell her on Friday because I wasn’t – I didn’t want to ruin her SAT.
And then she said to me, “Well, after the SAT, I’d like to go to Brooklyn because I want to show you this tattoo place.”
When I picked her up, we drove and as we’re driving to Brooklyn she said to me, “I can’t wait to go and get a tattoo.”
And I said, “Wait a minute. That’s not what we agreed to. We agreed that you were just gonna look at one.”
So she said, “No, no, I’m going to get one.” She paid $100. They give you a token, you put the token in, like, a bubblegum machine and whatever tattoo comes out, you get. When she went in, I sat in the car and I was waiting with anticipation.
Soon as she came out to the car, I said, “I have something to tell you.”
And she said, “No, not yet. I want to show you my tattoo.” She had a bandage over so she took out her phone showed me a picture and it was a butterfly! And I was just so taken aback that randomly a butterfly came to her. Here I am, I’m going to tell her about my transition.
I told her. I guess the first words out of her mouth, which is kind of funny, she says “Are you gonna start wearing dresses?”
We talked some more and she said, “You know, you’ve always been there for me. You’ve been my mother, you’ve been my father, you’ve been my rock.” She said, “It doesn’t matter to me what you look like on the outside. It’s not going to change you on the inside.” It was just beautiful.
After I told my daughter and we had our talk, we were coming home from Brooklyn, and I said, “What you want to do about your mom?”
And she said, “Well, we can tell Mom tomorrow.” And then five minutes later, she looked at me and said, “Oh, I’m going to give her a call, just to tell I’m on my way home.”
So she called her up and she said, “Hi, we’re on our way home.” And she said, “I just want to tell you that dad has something to tell you but he’s going to tell you tomorrow.” Click.
My ex-wife immediately called me on my cell phone and said, “What’s wrong? What do you have to tell me?”
I said, “It’s nothing.” I said, “I don’t – I’m not sick. Nothing like that. We can wait till tomorrow. And by the time I got home she texted me and said, “I’m on my way over.”
She took it well. She was worried more about my daughter and my daughter is extremely close to me and very outspoken, so she essentially assured my ex wife that she’s extremely comfortable in with the decision I made.
When I came out to my family, I came out to my sister first and she and her husband took it well. She said, “I love you. I always want the best for you. I’ll support you.” And she said, “What do you want to do about your brothers?” I said, “Well, I don’t want to be picked on the moment I tell this important thing to everybody. So I would prefer that you tell them. She agreed and told them. They were pretty matter of fact about it and were happy for me and so were their spouses. My one brother is like an Archie Bunker – I mean, he’s a throwback to, like, the 1950s. He took it very, very hard and didn’t even want to speak to me again.
Maybe it was a few months, Christmas was coming. And I called him and I said, “You really need to come visit me and if you don’t,” I said, “I’m never gonna speak to you again. I’m not showing up to any family events.” And he called me a week later and he came over with his girlfriend. And I remember he sat on my couch and I held up my arms like this and I said, “Is this this bad? Are you gonna catch ‘transgender’?” He laughed and that’s kinda how it went with my family. It was – it was good and it still continues to be good. Every day gets a little better with them.
My life today is incredible. I mean, it’s hard to fathom sometimes for me that a year and a half ago or 2 years ago, whatever it was, I was living as male and how frightened I was to do anything. It’s just really been an incredible ride that I never expected in my wildest imagination. It’s a great relief, you know? It’s a fantastic life when you could be the person you’ve always been inside and you can just be who you are. It’s beautiful. It’s breathtaking.