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He kissed little girls. He begged for a football. And he dressed up as a soldier, Dracula and the Lone Ranger.

"Tom" wasn't a little boy. He had girl parts and had a girl's name. But as early as 6 years old, he remembers wanting to be a boy. By age 12, when he got his period, he thought God had made a mistake.

"I wanted to die," says Tom, who asked that his first and last names not be used. "I began to pray for God to just take me, take me out of this world."

Now, Tom, 35, lives the only way he has always felt inside - as a man.

Tom is engaged to Marie, whom he's been dating for almost five years. His Utah driver license says "male." He's worked as a construction worker, security guard and landscaper. He has a trim beard. Some people know about his past, and others only know him as Tom.

During the interview, Tom was uncomfortable talking about his life as a female. He identifies himself as a "straight male."

"I have never discussed myself as a female," he says taking a few deep breaths. "It's like looking at somebody else's life."

It is unknown how many transgender men and women call Utah home because no one tracks those numbers, some people don't identify with the term and others are in denial, advocates say.

"It's not asked about," says Jennifer Nuttall, the adult program director at the Utah Pride Center. "All we have is anecdotal evidence."

But as the community celebrates Transgender Awareness Month throughout November, advocates say they hope people try to understand transgender individuals like Tom.

When he was 2 years old, Tom says he was scolded by adults for trying to kiss a little girl because only boys kissed girls.

"I remember thinking, 'But I am a little boy,' " he says.

Tom, the youngest of five children, moved to the Salt Lake Valley when he was 8 years old. He never wanted dolls, pretended to be a princess or played tea party. He got in trouble for going into the girl's rest room because he looked like a boy.

He grew up Mormon, and his family was very involved in the church. Tom was the president of his church class, captain of the church sports teams and head of the young women's group. He usually wore jeans, his hair short and boy clothes, but his mother forced him "kicking and screaming" to wear dresses on Sundays for church. At age 12, Tom finally put his foot down and started wearing ties and slacks to church. He wrapped his chest with duct tape to flatten the breasts that he loathed.

"I said, 'If I'm going to be in the house of the Lord, I'm going to dress like he knows me,' " Tom says.

His parents were concerned that he was a lesbian, so appointments and diagnoses began. At least one doctor diagnosed Tom with "gender identity disorder." It is a condition in which a person is born a certain gender but identifies with the other.

Tom denied his male tendencies, hoping they would go away.

"I didn't want my parents to hate me," he says.

After high school, Tom moved out and lived his life as a man. He had relationships with women. His parents eventually accepted him as a son.

It was his mother who encouraged him to investigate undergoing sex reassignment surgery when he was 27. He began going to counseling and started hormone treatments that helped stop his period and grow more facial and chest hair.

In 2001, Tom paid some $6,500 for chest reconstruction. Since then, he's been saving for the lower body surgeries that could take up to a year to complete and cost roughly $35,000.

For Marie, Tom is already all the man she needs.

He's her best friend. He sends her flowers. He supports her.

"He's everything I've ever wanted in a man," she says. "He's always been male to me."

Still, Tom hopes to have his surgery in early 2007.

"I will feel physically complete," he says. "I will feel like I finally am what I always should have been."

Roster of events

There are several scheduled events in celebration of Transgender Awareness Month. For information, go to or call Jennifer Nuttall at 539-8800 ext. 13.

All the following events are free:


Building Trans Communities: A Day with Jamison Green

Where: City and County Building, 451 S. State St., Room 315

What to expect: Green is an internationally known author, educator and transgender activist. He will lead three sessions about empowering transgender communities. Refreshments will be provided.

10 a.m. to 1 p.m.: "Connecting across Divides"

2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.: "Effective Leadership"

7 p.m. to 9 p.m.: "Becoming Visible!": Green reads from his award-winning book "Becoming a Visible Man," followed by a question and answer session.


National Day of Remembrance & TEA Party

Where: Utah Pride Center, 361 N. 300 West

When: 7 p.m.

What to expect: A candlelight vigil to honor late transgender individuals and gathering to celebrate those still living


Movie and Popcorn

Where: Utah Pride Center, 361 N. 300 West

When: 7 p.m.

What to expect: Films about transgender issues


Where: Salt Lake Main Library Downtown, 210 E. 400 South

When: 7 p.m.

What to expect: Showings of "Home Is Where the Heart Is" and "Transamerica"