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Patricia Harrington: 'This is my authentic person'

Patricia Harrington of Jersey City photographed in Bryant Park in early July.Bryan R. Smith

Patricia Harrington of Jersey City photographed in Bryant Park in early July.

I had a really horrifying experience at summer camp.

I was 6. At some point, they separated the boys and girls, and I went off with the girls — and they dragged me back to the boys, who then started bullying me. Someone rubbed the skin on my wrist so roughly that it got infected.

Clearly, identifying as female wasn’t a safe thing to do in 1959. So I repressed myself out of pure fear — fear instilled in childhood that this was dangerous.

It took another 35 years or so to open up. It’s now the summer of 1993 and I’m 42 years old — the first time I cross-dressed. It just came to the point where I realized I can’t keep repressing. This is me. This is my authentic person, and I have to express it.

I told nobody. Nobody. I met Veronica Vera [founder of Miss Veronica Vera’s Finishing School for Boys Who Want to Be Girls] and that was really the first time that I let myself open up, because it was too scary before that.

INSPIRED BY CAITLYN JENNER, NEW YORK AREA TRANSGENDER WOMEN TELL THEIR STORIES

It’s different now. In those days, people didn’t have the information that they have now. I didn’t have the information. Veronica introduced me to the first transgender person I ever met, a makeup artist working who was a trans woman. That was really important, to know that this is possible for people. They were living and making their way through the day with a full face of makeup — and I could do that, too.

Veronica made me up. I must admit, they were not the most glamorous clothes, but it was just so wonderful my first time. I was wearing a really dark black wig, and that was when the magic happened. We took some Polaroids, and I was just floored. I went home with them, and just stared at them for hours. I thought they were the most beautiful thing in the world.

I would originally leave my house in Jackson Heights and go to Veronica’s place [in Chelsea], and then we would have the makeover, and I would go out in Manhattan as a woman. It was a really big step to finally say, “I’m going to get ready at home, and then I’ll come into Manhattan and we’ll go somewhere.” That was huge — stepping out of my own door as a woman the first time.

It sounds stupid now to hear myself say “fear,” but I was really afraid someone would do or say something! But no one bothered me. I’m fortunate to be in New York City. I never really had any negative experiences here.

My first trip “out” in public was a shopping trip with Veronica to get clothes of my own. We ended up in a little shop on Houston St., long since gone, run by a designer named Frances. She offered to make any of her designs to order. I selected a swatch and ordered a custom version of an A-line dress that I subsequently wore threadbare. I also found a green stretch velour dress on the rack that fit nicely. I bought it and wore it out of the store. I was really happy to have my own clothes to wear. Over time, I ordered several dresses from her, a few of which I still have.

And finally in 2000, I transitioned. It took me six years of cross-dressing to come to the point where I was ready. But I started with baby steps. After the cross-dressing, it took me another few years before I actually started to go to the gender-identity clinic at The Center here in New York, and see a therapist, and get a recommendation to an endocrinologist for hormone therapy and getting electrolysis for hair removal. I had a lot of reservations about having to take hormones for the rest of my life. That in itself is a big decision. And everything started to change.

At the time, I was overly focused on my breast development, so I was surprised when I finally noticed that my face and shoulders were softening. Every effect of the hormones just seemed so right.

The main thing I have experienced from hormones is that I’m calmer. I almost don’t express anger anymore. I tend to internalize it. Sometimes I start to get a little depressed. I’m more prone to depression than I was before.

At the time, everything was such a big milestone. One of the biggest things for me was when I got my name changed, and I got a new license with a new picture at the DMV in 2001. I was so happy with the picture. I made sure that I made up a nice face, and I actually went and got my hair done ahead of time. And I had a big smile on my face. The second big thing was the driver’s license with the “F” instead of the “M” — that was tremendous. I was walking down the street, and whenever I met someone, I was like, ‘Look what I’ve got!’ It was a really big deal.”

I am attracted to men, so I was never married. My dates have been really bad. I’ve given it up. Most people who are interested in me … I’m just a fetish object for them. People who tend to be attracted to me are not attracted to me as a person. They are more attracted to me as a fantasy object, which, I’m sorry, but that’s not what I am. Maybe I’ll bump into someone, but I’m not dwelling on it. I’m kind of past the dating age at this point, anyway.

I just really hope that people see transgender people as people, not as “others” and just drawing on that physical transformation. There are people in this world who are intolerant, who are nasty. I feel sorry for them. And I laugh. I don’t let it get to me, because it doesn’t change my life. It’s a problem they have; it’s not really about me. I’ve come so far in my life, at this point, that I can’t dwell on it.

Lifestyle – NY Daily News

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