Monica at 10

A decade ago, Eduardo Greene abandoned his wife, his home and a successful restaurant, expecting a nightmare in pursuit of a dream

They lost their land in the war's aftermath, but John Greene, her great-great-grandfather, made his way to New Orleans with about seven other Confederate generals and vowed to continue the fight. Instead of fighting, Greene ended up in Veracruz, Mexico, where he married the daughter of one of the wealthiest families in the region. He became a landowner and a shipper, moving sugar between ports in Mexico and New Orleans. "They were gringos, but they were a good family," Greene says.

Her grandfather slipped back into the United States and went on to study medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, eventually serving as an ambassador to the United States in one of Mexico's provisional governments. But after the revolution that toppled the 30-year Mexican dictatorship in 1920, her family lost half its land.

Her father, the last of eight children, never finished college. Instead, he took on a lucrative position at a casket manufacturer that sold the boxes in Central and South America.

As Eduardo, Greene's presence in a restaurant was pure gold. As Monica, Greene is the city's grandest hostess.
Mark Graham
As Eduardo, Greene's presence in a restaurant was pure gold. As Monica, Greene is the city's grandest hostess.
Frankie Jimenez, a partner in Monica Greene's restaurants, says he heard rumors of Eduardo strolling through Dallas in drag. He didn't believe it.
Mark Graham
Frankie Jimenez, a partner in Monica Greene's restaurants, says he heard rumors of Eduardo strolling through Dallas in drag. He didn't believe it.

As the seventh of eight children evenly divided among girls and boys, Greene says she has little memory of her mother. "I never really felt the absence of my mother because I never really met her," she says. Greene was just 3 when her mother succumbed to cancer at the age of 33. Greene's only memory of her is her arms and legs. Young Eduardo used to pretend he was her kitten, and he would crawl around her sick bed mewing. She would reach down to pet his head.

"Even at an early age, I knew what I was," she insists. Greene stresses that she had a normal childhood, yet it was fraught with longings. She recounts how she used to dream she was another person, used to pray to God and make deals with him. "I used to say, 'Please make me this. Please allow me to wake up tomorrow like this and I will do this for you,'" she says.

"People who are transgendered know typically by the age of 3 that they have a gender identity shift," says Feleshia Porter, a Dallas psychologist who specializes in sex-reassignment counseling.

Just as homosexuality was until 1973, transsexualism is classified as a mental disorder in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM). The manual refers to the condition as gender identity disorder, or GID. It is also known as gender dysphoria, or an aversion to one's genital anatomy coupled with a strong urge to live as a member of the opposite sex. Transsexualism is thought to be very rare. While no recent epidemiological studies have determined the prevalence of GID, some experts estimate the total number of transsexuals in the United States at roughly 25,000 with 6,000 to 11,000 of them having undergone sex-reassignment surgery, though some estimates go much higher. The DSM estimates roughly one in 30,000 men and one in 100,000 women undergo sexual-reassignment surgery. Porter adds that while surgical male to female transitions are more successful, transitioning from male to female creates more problems socially than the reverse. "It's easier for them [female to males] to pass," she says. "Plus masculinity in a female is not as looked down upon as femininity is in a male."

As a boy, Greene didn't have a name for what she was feeling or any awareness of a process to address it. As a child, she says, she seldom slept. Instead she sequestered herself in the closet reading with a flashlight and playing "what if?"

She grew up among a crop of strong brothers with whom she regularly fought, and she says she was a typical boy. "I had a normal childhood," she says. "I was a great soccer player. I even became a bully."

But in certain ways, Greene says, her peers thought she was strange. She insists she didn't overtly act out or dress up as a girl, but her approach to femininity was distinctly different from that of her friends. She remembers one instance when one of her friends slipped out of the house with his father's Playboy magazines. "I was not disturbed," she says, "but I thought they should not be looking at those girls this way, with those emotions. So I painted dresses on them." This artistry enraged her friend's father when he discovered his centerfolds had been tampered with.

Greene remembers another telling instance just after the young Eduardo turned 13. It is a cultural tradition among the upper strata in Mexico, she says, for a boy to be introduced to a prostitute once he reaches adolescence so that he might "experience a woman." When she was 13, Greene says, the father of one of his friends gave Eduardo and his cohorts the money to indulge in this rite of passage. Greene abstained. Eduardo told his friends to go and have a good time and that he would use his money to buy hotdogs for them when they returned. "I wasn't a prude," she insists. "I just didn't understand those things." Greene fed them hotdogs while they reveled in the detailed retelling of the experience.

Greene says her childhood as Eduardo was happy, glued with family bonds and kind nannies, maids and laundresses. But other than geography and history, Eduardo had no interest in school. "I was the clown of the class," she boasts.

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