He walked into my office in a dress and high heels. He was six-foot-five and towered over me. He wore yellow plastic earrings and a bad wig. On the phone, he’d asked if he could change in the bathroom before we met, explaining that he wanted to talk about his interest in dressing like a woman and needed a safe place to test the waters.
I’m a sex therapist. I see people every day who have what others would consider “edgy” issues: crossdressers, people with fetishes, couples in open relationships, people who engage in polyamory, S&M, kink. I see them all, and I’m okay with all of it. I don’t judge. After all, I grew up with people who most of the world would deem freaks. The “freaks” were my friends. They were my family.
I grew up in the circus. Not a metaphorical circus, a real one. My father worked for Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers. He was the barker and a pitchman and an emcee and a ringmaster. We lived like gypsies for most of my childhood, traveling with the circus to follow him around. I’d lived in 12 different houses by the time I was 10. The bearded lady lived in our driveway in a trailer. The clowns babysat me. As a child, it all seemed fun and exciting. And I adored my father. The problem was he never paid any attention to me—at all.
What he did do was make promises: the biggest, the most important of which was that one day, out of all the little girls in the audience, he’d choose me—me!—to be the special one who got to step into the center ring and…