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StoryCorps in Oklahoma: A Journey to Find the Real Thade (ENCORE) (Jan 06, 2012)

Thade Shell: “I am Thade Shell and I am a female-to-male transgendered person.”

Pam Sanford:
“Who else are you though?”

TS:
“I don’t know, I think I’m a worrier. I guess I’m an artist and a musician and a hard worker. Who do you think I am?”

PS:
“I think you’re all of those things. I think you’re my baby and I’m very proud of you. How would you describe your childhood?”

TS:
“I had a pretty good childhood, but I think I was misunderstood a lot of the time because my dad wanted me to dress in girls’clothes and I wouldn’t want that.”

PS:
“Yeah, the bathing suit issue. Oh Lord, I dreaded summer. You never wanted to buy a bathing suit and we’d have to buy shorts and t-shirts. It was a nightmare.

When do you remember hearing the first time, hearing the word transgender?”

TS:
“Probably sophomore year of high school. After thinking there was something wrong and knowing there was something wrong with me, but I couldn’t really put my finger on it. I was just really unhappy, because I didn’t really know who I was and usually knowing who you are is a good thing. But I didn’t because I didn’t even like hearing people calling me by my old name or anything like that. It just made me extremely uncomfortable.”

PS: “So I went to the Internet, and discovered “gender dysphoria” and was like ‘Hmmm, I wonder what that is?’ So I went further with that and then I discovered transgender, and it described exactly who I was and what I was feeling and what I needed to do in order to feel good again. Or even for the first time. I guess it was more exciting than shocking or depressing seeing that I’m not who I was supposed to be.”

PS:
“I remember the night you came and you were just sobbing and you were telling me ‘I’ve figured it out.’ We were sitting on your bedroom floor and I couldn’t get you to talk, and you pointed at the computer. So then it was like, ‘Oh, okay. As long as my baby could be happy and alive and all of those things we could deal with whatever.’ So that was just like an instantaneous like a light bulb went off.”

TS:
“When I saw that word and that description, I started looking at videos and was just like… ‘I didn’t know that you could be yourself I guess and like; go through all of that to get to how you want to be and who you’re meant to be in the end.’”

PS:
“Yeah, you didn’t have to live in that same skin that wasn’t working for you.”

TS:
“Right.”

PS:
“So when did you start living as a guy?”

TS:
“Probably the middle of my sophomore year towards the end. But I didn’t really tell anyone at school.”

PS:
“But you just started dressing as a guy.”

TS:
“Right.”

PS:
“And how did that change things for you?”

TS:
“I was a lot happier with my appearance and I was just happier in general. But there was still a lot of things that needed to happen and that I needed to work on. It was just… I don’t know. It was just a lot different but a good different.”

PS:
“So how were the kids at school? Were they… well I know it was not easy at all.”

TS:
“There were some kids that weren’t okay with it. I could hear that they weren’t okay with it, but those aren’t the people that I surrounded myself with. It matters but it doesn’t matter that much because I just kept telling myself that I’m going to be happy and they can say whatever they want about me but I’m going to be who I am in the end.”

PS:
“How do you feel now when you see old pictures of yourself?”

TS:
“I absolutely hate it. I hate seeing pictures of myself before I started testosterone because, to be honest, every time I go into your house, I see the old pictures and just kind of want to turn them around. In a way it kind of hurts. I remember how depressed I was.”

PS:
“Would you like me to take them down?”

PS: “Yes.”

PS:
“Okay.”

PS:
“All the misery that you went through before you figured out what was going on with you and you were anxious and you were depressed and even suicidal at times. I just bet that there’s other people out there that have felt the same way, or are feeling the same way. So my question to you is: What would you say to them?”

TS:
“I would say a lot of things. But, I guess the first thing I would say to them is you need to tell someone. Whether it be your mom or dad or if you don’t have a mom or dad just reach out to someone you look up to and just tell them how you’re feeling. And if they love you, they’re concerned about your well being and your happiness. My guess is that it would help you. But, if you don’t have any of those things then just keep on going even if it’s kind of risky because you can’t just go through like not being yourself. You just need to be you.”

PS:
“Anything you want to ask me?”

TS:
“Has it been hard?”

PS:
“The hardest time was when you were so miserable. That was difficult. This is a piece of cake. Because you are happy and you’re ornery and you talk a lot. This is wonderful. Thank you for doing this.”

TS:
“Thanks for being an accepting mother.”

PS:
“I love you.”

TS:
“I love you too.”

Produced for KGOU by Jim Johnson, with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to recording and collecting stories of everyday people. The Senior Producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.



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