Caitlyn Jenner Had a Glamorous Coming Out, but What About Other Transgender People?

The transition for Sam and Tamara Staas was difficult.
The transition for Sam and Tamara Staas was difficult.
Evie Carpenter

Sex and suicide have no natural link. They don't go together any more than date and rape, unless . . .

Unless you are transgender.

If you know an individual who is transgender,  that person is likely to attempt suicide at a rate that, in sheer scope, invites comparison to Kamikaze pilots, Sunni truck bombers, and Amy Winehouse.

More than 40 percent of all transgender men and women attempt suicide.

The general population, even with much untreated depression, attempts self-destruction in the low single digits (precise figures are the subject of debate).

And a lot of transgender suicide attempts have to do with meanness . . .

Maybe not yours personally. But that of people like you. Good people. People who should know better.

Parents.

If you identify as a girl but you have a boy's sexual equipment, you are transgender. (Yes, Caitlyn Jenner.) If you think of yourself as a boy but have girl parts, you too are transgender. (Yes, Aydian Dowling, a current finalist for the cover of Men's Health.)

And despite the miracles of medical intervention, this is a lot more complicated than interchangeable Lego parts. There are states and nuances and variations. (Transvestites, for example, are, for the most part, guys who like to dress up as women. This is not necessarily the same thing.)

This story is about folks who might confuse you.

Alice Tatum is an iconic fixture in the greater Phoenix music scene. She's been singing on stage for more than three decades. She is good enough to have performed with Bonnie Raitt, Michael McDonald, and Nancy Wilson.

And she's as heterosexual as a James Bond vamp.

Despite her chops and the temptation of celebrity — not to mention professional recognition — there always was a problem with the notion of her having a national career: Tatum is all about her family.

She may not be quite the devout Mormon she was raised to become, but Alice's children came before career.

So it was somewhat unsettling to learn that Mom Tatum lost her singing gig at Remington's earlier this year because of something . . . unseemly.

How unseemly could Alice Tatum be?

The word on the street was that trannies were sitting in the chairs in front of her microphone. You know, like an audience. (Apparently, a musician who backed up Tatum was trans and members of the community who were supportive turned out. It wasn't like hordes of Syrian migrants overwhelming Hungarian train stations. People paid for their drinks.)

But Remington's reached its limit with Tatum, and they parted company.

The gossip was judgmental: Don't be bringing that Caitlyn Jenner, Vanity Fair, Laverne Cox celebrity weirdness into our lounge. The message was clear.

Or was it clear . . . at all?

This happened in April.

Tatum refused to be interviewed for this article. (You can't really blame singers for refusing to document the insensitivity of club managers.)

But this shaming didn't occur in a vacuum.

"My husband and I and friends from England decided to go out," says Terri Allen, a local friend of Tatum's. We went to Remington's. The service was lovely. The food was really, really good.

"My husband asked about Alice Tatum," Allen recalls.

The Remington's representative informed the Allens and their guests that they would not be seeing Tatum anytime soon.

Allen says they were told: "We have had Alice here, and we let her go. She . . . brought men dressed as women. That's an element we don't like here.'

"I've seen Alice Tatum perform 40 or 50 times over the years," Allen says, "and don't remember ever being aware of the trans community coming out."

After a certain amount of complaining to Remington's by the Allens, who regard Tatum as a friend, they got a call from Travis Childs, Scottsdale Plaza Resorts' director of rooms (Remington's Lounge is in the resort). He said he would look into the matter.

They never heard from Childs or Remington's again.

Reached by phone, Childs adamantly denied that there was hostility directed at the transgender community. In fact, he noted that a Remington's neighbor, Dr. Toby Meltzer, sends his transgender patients to recover from surgery while staying at Scottsdale Plaza Resort's rooms.

Childs confided that the person who made the rude remarks to the Allens was uninformed and subsequently was reprimanded and sent to sensitivity training.

The episode raised the obvious question: What is it about trans customers that would brew such a tempest in a teapot?

Caitlyn Jenner's Espy Awards speech was hopeful, but if waitresses are getting sent to re-education camp, issues linger.

Counselor Elijah Palles began to come out as transgender in graduate school.
Counselor Elijah Palles began to come out as transgender in graduate school.
Evie Carpenter

Meet Sam.

"I first realized something wasn't right when I was 6 or 7. I wasn't comfortable in skirts and dresses, or anything else from the girl's department," says Sam, today a confident, attractive teenager.

Sam was born a girl, but she identified as a boy.

And not just a tomboy, thank you very much.

Tamara Staas is Sam's mom. A grade-school teacher, Tamara also had a gardening business and served on the board of Slow Food Phoenix.

While always supportive, she initially was overwhelmed

But she threw herself into self-education.

"I knew my kid is trans. Where do I go to find resources?"

Out of this confusion Tamara found Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), and from there word of mouth was everything.

Still, Tamara could not find an endocrinologist, a doctor who could administer hormones or hormone blockers.

But a parent must exercise more than concern; caution also is called for in Arizona.

"If you just start making phone calls, there is a possibility of Child Protective Services showing up," Tamara warns. "They can claim child abuse if you are having hormones administered."

This suggests that the state of Arizona could not possibly understand what Sam was going through.

"I was at a wedding, and I was one of the flower girls, and I had to wear a dress. I was kicking and screaming," remembered Sam. "I took it off and never wore it again.

"I was at another wedding, and I insisted on wearing a cowboy hat and chaps."

Tamara's Sam was a girl who identified as a boy. When Sam's female hormones kicked in during puberty, it was too late for hormone blockers.

"When I hit puberty, I was told to wear a shirt to cover myself. They would say I looked weird when I wore a sports bra.

"My grandma would buy me girls' clothes, and it just wasn't right. And yet every year she'd send a package."

His trouble with family was compounded by trouble at school.

"None of the girls would let me hang out with them. They were really rude to me," Sam says of first grade. "Boys wouldn't let me play with them because I wasn't a boy."

Sam did not fit in — anywhere.

"I wanted to play with girls. I wanted to play with boys. I was rejected by both."

His mother was unsettled by what befell her child:

"[It was] very hard to watch."

It was even harder to live.

"I was very lonely," Sam remembers.

Teachers intervened.

What they saw was a little girl who did not have any friends.

The teachers set up play dates to little avail.

By junior high, Sam was interested in another girl.

When the young lady who was the object of Sam's affection pointed out the problem that they were both girls, Sam replied: "I'll get a sex change. Then we can go out."

But Sam had fallen for a bully.

"I was in the locker room — the girls' locker room — and she would laugh at me, make fun of me. I wasn't shaving my armpits, and she would say: 'That kid has bad hygiene.'

"That teasing made me start shaving so that I would present as the person that everyone else wanted me to be."

Looking back, Sam's mother now realizes that there were problems beyond isolation.

"There is so much I didn't know," Tamara admits. "We wouldn't be facing surgery today if I'd known about hormone blocking back at the start."

Tamara went to the library and checked out Chaz Bono's book, Transition: Becoming Who I Was Meant to Be.

(Chaz is the child of Cher and Sonny Bono. Originally named Chastity, Chaz came out as a lesbian in 1995 but wanted to be a man and realized in 2000 that he was transgender. He completed his transition in 2010 and is a well-known civil rights activist on behalf of the LGBT community.)

And with that, the skies opened up for Sam's mom.

"Oh, my God, this is my kid," Tamara says. "I had lost my happy kid. Sam was crying all the time. And I was worried. At the time, I was reading research, and the attempted suicide rate amongst trans kids was something like 80 percent."

(Staas cited a statistic from a study done by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center titled "Suicide Risk and Prevention for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth." The report was done for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The pertinent section states: "One study that was not restricted to young people found that 83 percent had thought about suicide and 54 percent had attempted it.")

Sam currently is considering surgery to have his breasts eliminated.

Rather than contemplating a daunting medical procedure, Sam and Tamara feel they have found a path with the pending surgery.

Their fundamentalist Christian family is not always helpful.

Members wonder why Tamara and her husband continue to support Sam.

"I could force Sam into the gender he was born into," his mother says. "And he might end up in a coffin."

Tamara Staas' concern is not a mother's drama.

The rate of suicide attempts within the transgender community is staggering, no matter which study you consult.

Trans men have been reported to attempt suicide in alarming numbers: 46 percent.

Trans women are not far behind, with 42 percent reporting suicide attempts.

These numbers rose out of "Suicide Attempts Among Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Adults," a 2011 study by the Williams Institute in collaboration with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Analysis shows that trans people rejected by family and peers are the ones most often entertaining suicidal thoughts.

And while different studies produce varying results, all the data for suicidal thoughts by the trans community are off the charts.

Elijah Palles counsels members of the trans community struggling with identity. Although he has a master's degree in social work from Arizona State University, he is something of a pioneer.

"There is not a specific certification," acknowledges Palles. "It's a hands-on specialization for the LGBT community: gender queer, gender non-conforming, trans."

He says he began to come out as transgender in graduate school and has gravitated to what he knows best.

"I work at Mercy Maricopa Integrated Health Care. These are AHCCCS [state medical-assistance] clients . . . It's community activism with folks who are disenfranchised."

He says the folks he works with often are uncomfortable with what they discover. And families often make it worse by rejecting children, or worse, subjecting them to conversion therapy.

"I have clients in the East Valley, where faith-based parents have the idea you can change gender identity. They are telling kids: 'This is against the Bible. This is against nature.'"

What Palles often finds are people turned off by their very identity.

"They feel lesser than; they feel no one will love them. They feel dirty."

Palles understands what his clients are going through because he made the same depressing journey.

Palles began life as a girl, physically, and went through early life as a girl, but today presents as a man, though he openly acknowledges that his transition is partial.

"Do I pass? Do people see me as male? Sometimes it's hard to see where I fit in. It's difficult to adjust. It always feels awkward. What are people thinking? Often, I'm very lonely."

Palles says he is fortunate to be married and that his wife is a source of solace.

"I guess I've always known I was different. A real starting point happened four years ago when I began performing in drag.

"In the beginning, I just thought it was something creative. During the day, I was female; at night, I performed as a man. I went with a drag troupe to Long Beach. There was a fellow in the troupe, and he talked to me for a couple of hours. I ended up in tears. It had bugged me, not knowing what I was . . . at the same time, realizing what I was."

As a youngster, he presented as a little girl but acted as a tomboy, fishing with his dad, yearning to play drums.

"And I'll tell you something: It didn't help being Jewish. I got called dyke and kike. It was just ugly. No one wants to be your friend. And middle school? It was the worst. A kid called a friend of mine a fag. It was just so mean; I didn't know what to do. I threw a basketball at him. He then attacked me and choked me, calling me a fag lover."

By the time he went to high school, Elijah Palles was ready to try on his biological identity; he went girly.

"I grew my hair out long. I was in dance and theater. I dated boys. I started learning how girls dress — I didn't know. I had to be taught."

Palles went to several proms as a girl.

"My boyfriend at the time was older than me."

By his senior year in high school, he went to dances with a girlfriend.

And when Elijah attended ASU, "I came out as a lesbian."

The merry-go-round of sexual identity took its toll.

He suffered from depression and self-medicated with abandon.

"There were so many times when it was all too much. I was always high. I used acid, 'shrooms, cocaine . . . I just didn't like reality."

Palles entered into a gay relationship with a woman.

"We kept alternating roles. She would be more masculine, then I would be more masculine . . . We finally realized neither one of us wanted to be with someone masculine."

Eventually, Palles met the woman who would become his wife.

"We met at a lesbian bar on McDowell, The Cash Inn. She was cute, bubbly. She had this edge. She was feminine, dominating, strong. More extroverted than me. She kept me in check. It's like . . . I'm going to teach you how to act."

Palles changed his physical appearance and renounced makeup.

He started taking hormones that lowered his voice and prompted facial hair.

"I'm less likely to cry. I think more logically, and am less driven by emotion."

Palles embraces the idea that these macho descriptions sound like the Hemingway caricature of masculinity that alarms feminists.

But he is not concerned.

"Hormones are not for every trans person."

Nor does he stop there.

"I always think of surgery as an option. I've always wanted a reduction. I'm a double D currently."

He is not prepared for phalloplasty surgery to construct a penis.

"I don't think I'll ever have bottom. There's the cost. And I'm not sure its 100 percent perfect yet."

You walk away from conversations with Elijah Palles feeling that he has much more on his mind than you'd imagined.

But his choices, his experience, allow Palles to see clearly what trans students experience.

"As a counselor, I see the bullying, from kids, of course, but also from teachers. There are teachers who simply refuse to say the student's right name."

In other words, the teacher rejects the student's selected identity.

"The most common form of despair is not being who you are," Palles says.

On Elijah's wrist is an ink inscription: "No regrets."

"I did that to stop cutting. There was a lot of numbness at the time. I was trying to feel something."

Elijah's bouts with depression offer disturbing insight into the emotional turmoil suffered by transgender people. And, it must be acknowledged, the medical establishment has not always successfully navigated the Hippocratic oath within this community.

Consider the devastating impact of Doctor John Money and the "John/Joan case," the name he assigned to his most famous patient.

In the 1960s, Dr. Money was on the cutting edge of sex research into the nature of gender. He co-established the Johns Hopkins Gender Identity Clinic in 1965, and the hospital pioneered sex-reassignment surgery.

Dr. Money became an expert known for studies arguing that gender was "learned rather than innate."

(When such a distinguished academic buttressed what is now considered an obnoxious, wrongheaded contention, you begin to get context for parents convinced that gay or trans children just need proper "counseling." The history of Dr. Money and Johns Hopkins make clear that it is simply too facile to blame "conversion therapy" only upon religious fundamentalists.)

During this period, a Canadian mother's fate crossed paths with Dr. Money.

Janet Reimer gave birth to twins on August 22, 1965, in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

She returned to the hospital a couple of months later to have the boys circumcised. But the electric tool used by the doctor burnt off virtually all of infant Bruce's penis.

"Oh, my God, what are we going to do now," Janet was reported as having responded. "Boys put such great store in their penises."

Which is, and is not, the point. But if Janet was more prosaic than erudite about the tragedy, she was steadfast and kept alert to the possibilities for coping.

The Reimers decided to raise Bruce as a girl.

Then one night, Janet Reimer saw Dr. Money on television accompanied by a patient.

"The transsexual [transgender] certainly made an impact," recalled Reimer of the patient who was born male. "She was a very feminine-seeming woman. And I thought: 'Here's our answer. Here's our salvation. Here's our hope.'"

Janet Reimer, and her husband, Ronald, contacted Dr. Money.

If the parents thought they and their child stood to benefit, the same was true for Dr. Money.

Having advanced the theory of gender neutrality, arguing in effect that nurture, more than nature, was key, the Reimer twins presented a unique opportunity for him to demonstrate his hypothesis: You are not born that way; you become that way.

You have a choice!

One child would become the patient. The second child would serve as the contrast control.

At age 22 months, the baby went under the knife, and the testes were removed by Dr. Money.

With neither penis, vagina, nor testes, the baby was renamed Brenda.

The parents were instructed to raise the child as a girl with the anticipation that subsequent surgery would supply a vagina.

This then was the beginning of what would go on to become the subject of books, magazine articles, documentaries, television exposés, classroom lectures, and studious papers.

The treatment also would kill the patient.

Mom was quoted as saying: "I made her the fanciest dresses of any of the girls in the school."

This did not solve the problem.

"I was told I was a girl," Bruce said. "I didn't like dressing up like a girl. I didn't like behaving like a girl. I didn't like acting like a girl."

Nonetheless, Dr. Money published reports about his dramatic breakthrough.

"The child's behavior is so clearly that of an active little girl and so different from the boyish ways of her twin brother."

This was, at best, wishful thinking.

The child suffered severe depression and threatened suicide if his parents forced him to return to Dr. Money.

The doctor had forced the twins to engage in sexual role-playing, including assuming sexual positions with each other.

At age 14, his parents revealed to him the full truth of his history.

Remarkably, Brenda elected to resume a male identity and began reversing, yet again, his gender identity, taking testosterone injections. He had a double mastectomy and further surgery.

Brenda, now David, married.

Predictably, perhaps, events spiraled out of control.

David's brother died from an overdose in 2002. By 2004, David's wife wanted a separation.

Life was too much for the young man.

Shortly after the separation from his wife, David blew his head off with a shotgun.

The tragedy was not merely personal. The family suffered enormous pain, but Dr. Money buffered the results and claimed groundbreaking success for his theory.

For 30 years following Dr. Money's initial surgery upon the child, the prevailing understanding in the medical establishment was that the operation had been a success and that, therefore, science could simply correct gender identity.

Dr. Money became a celebrated authority.

Yet the pain generated by ignoring inherent gender identity would be both devastating and lasting. Science could certainly enhance that which already existed; but surgeons could not simply ignore that which already existed.

And neither could parents.

While Dr. Money is discussed today in classrooms exploring aberrant canons in psychology, members of the larger trans community today are more familiar with the horror of Leelah Alcorn.

Three months ago, Ohio state authorities completed their investigation of the suicide of Alcorn, who destroyed herself by stepping in front of a hurtling tractor-trailer on Interstate 71.

Alcorn is legend in the trans world.

"I've had enough," read her suicide note.

The 17-year-old was rejected socially. And Alcorn's parents insisted upon subjecting their child to conversion therapy to address gender non-conformity.

Alcorn, in turn, spent tearful hours on the phone with a trans suicide hotline, but it was not enough.

Following her death, the girl's desperate plea was posted on her Tumblr blog: "My death needs to mean something . . . Fix society. Please."

She noted that her parents wanted her to be "their perfect little Christian boy."

The ensuing uproar provoked supportive comments from both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

The child's parents insisted upon burying the corpse — their baby — as Joshua Alcorn, not Leelah.

Dr. Bobbi Lancaster
Dr. Bobbi Lancaster
Evie Carpenter

You would like Dr. Bobbi Lancaster; everyone does.

She cares easily about the well-being of people.

She wasn't always a woman.

He was popular in school, a born leader.

In high school, he could high jump six feet without employing the "Fosbury Flop." He captained his college golf team.

But Lancaster grew up keeping secrets.

He wore women's underwear beneath his clothes.

The garments made him feel good. Sort of.

"I always felt sinful. I felt defective."

He grew up a devout Canadian Catholic, an altar boy who played hockey and football and always golf.

"When I went to confession, I knew I couldn't go to a local priest."

So Lancaster sought out clerics who were strangers.

When he was 13, he got down on his knees and confessed that he liked dressing in female garb.

"What do you think, Father?" he inquired.

The priest did not pause to catch his breath.

"He let me know with guns blazing," remembers Lancaster. "I got a big penance."

He grew up ashamed of who he was yet unable to change who he was.

"I knew I was a sinner."

His sin was that despite being a jock who ran with a macho pack of friends, he felt like a girl inside.

"I don't like looking at dicks," the doctor says. "I hate them on cows, guys, and I was disgusted with what was between my legs."

Lancaster is not trying to be vulgar; she has a doctor's frankness about the human body.

As a young teenager, he developed "breast buds" and fantasized that he would morph into a girl, much like a butterfly.

"I was pretty delusional."

He was attracted to beautiful women.

"I wanted to make love to them but not using the machinery I had."

He wanted to love them as if he were a woman, too.

In college, he dated and confessed his desires to the woman he eventually married.

"She was okay with it, but she didn't want her parents to know."

His wife made him clothes and bought shoes for him. Heels.

He appreciated his good fortune: "I know that 99 out of 100 women would have run."

He says neither of them had much interest in sex except that they wanted to have kids.

"I would imagine that she was taking control. She would be thrusting at me. That would get me through it. It was easy to forget who had the dick."

During interviews, she never stops talking about others.

The doctor was short-listed as Canadian Family Practice Physician of the Year, and it is not hard to picture.

Much of the conversation revolved around family — the one he grew up with and the one she created.

The details, like the snapshots in any family photo album, are mundane. Until they are not.

Lancaster and his new wife, Mary Jo, a nurse, adopted a fetal-alcohol baby. The doctor who delivered the child noted that when he performed a C-section, the mother smelled like a keg of beer.

The baby had facial deformities and had to be fed by a tube, then endured behavioral problems and several open-heart surgeries. And is 32 today.

"He was a project," Lancaster says, "that only a doctor and a nurse could take on."

If you have experienced special-needs children, you may appreciate that Lancaster's assessment is an understatement, an understatement resonant with the roiling emotional demands of gender confusion that framed this family.

The marriage to college sweetheart Mary Jo splintered.

"I sometimes can't believe I got divorced," ruminates Lancaster as she glance into the remarkable rear-view mirror where her life unfolded. "That's not how I imagined myself. I was true blue to my word. Till death do us part meant something to me."

Lancaster's assessment is, typically, candid.

He had stopped cross-dressing because of the risk to his career. But he felt like he was in hiding.

To avoid confronting the contradictions in his secreted life, she says now, he overcommitted to activities, charities, boards.

This took him away from his wife and his children.

Lancaster felt a lack of intimacy and communication within the relationship with Mary Jo.

He had shared with her his feminine side and asked if she minded him cross-dressing at home.

She definitely minded.

The marriage collapsed from the stress.

But Dr. Lancaster simply is too gregarious to spend life alone.

As his home fell apart, he met a woman at work, Lucy, a nurse practitioner.

They fell in love, and he moved in with her.

Lucy understood Dr. Lancaster's secret life from a loving perspective.

"She said, 'That's the best part of you. You're a great physician; you'd have been a better nurse.'"

They married in 1999.

Despite Lucy's enlightened attitude, Lancaster still was living two lives: one public, one private.

The anxiety spiraled into depression.

"I just didn't want to be here anymore."

In 2001, he wrote goodbye letters to everyone he was close to in Canada and the United States.

"I've hurt people. I've been sinful. I wanted to hurt myself. Not pills. I wanted to hurt myself seriously."

He contemplated checking into a hospital and shooting himself there. Then he started to worry that the bullet might exit his body and hit someone else in a setting as public as an emergency room.

This drama unspooled gradually over months. He eventually went to Papago Park to play his last round of golf.

That was the precise moment when Lucy discovered the suicide letters.

She called her friends for help.

Lancaster ended up on medication and in counseling.

Interestingly, as he was treated for depression, he never mentioned his cross-dressing or gender-identity quandary to his counselor.

Why would a seemingly self-aware professional hide during this crisis?

"I wanted to be loved. I wanted to be respected. I did not want anyone to know my feelings that I wanted to be a woman."

The psychiatrist told him: "There is something about you that is missing. I can't put my finger on it."

In 2005, Lancaster survived a stroke and gained an urgent sense of mortality.

He decided, once and for all, to address his interior identity; he began to take hormones.

"Within two weeks of taking female hormones, my sadness went away. I felt wonderful as breasts started to develop."

In short order, body hair began to become sparse, and the ability to have an erection vanished. The doctor endured very painful procedures to remove any trace of a beard.

Lancaster also suffered through the horrifically painful removal of genital hair.

"Do you know anyone who wants a hairy vagina?" Lancaster muses. "These treatments were excruciating, fist-clenching, rapid-breathing, nail-biting ordeals. I tolerated them because I was determined to finally look like the woman that I knew I was. I am not sure I could go through this again. It takes determination and focus and a will . . . to live."

In 2010, Lancaster approached a doctor about gender-reassignment surgery.

Lucy was not on board.

So he checked himself into a Scottsdale hospital, alone, on April 25, 2010, and was taken to the operating room.

The world-renowned Dr. Toby Meltzer removed testicles while creating a vagina and a clitoris out of Robert's scrotal tissue and penis (vaginoplasty).

Robert woke up as Bobbi.

For three days, Lucy did not come to the hospital.

But she could not hold out.

The couple reconciled and went out to dinner. Bobbi had on a dress and wore a wig.

At the restaurant, Lucy was uncomfortable and asked her mate: "Did you see the way the waitress stared at you?"

Lancaster says Lucy feared she would be regarded as a lesbian.

As the couple wrestled at home with their new world, Lancaster's struggles continued.

"I had to insert, daily, ever-increasing sizes of dildos in my new 'vagina' to keep it open and increase its size. It was awful. I detested this ritual. It was like I was preparing myself for intercourse with a man in the future that I never wanted.

"All I ever wanted was my Lucy."

The marriage has not been easy.

"It is five years since these surgeries. My bladder has never been right. I leak urine every minute of the day. I wear a pad . . . Lucy and I have a non-sexual love affair that most couples would envy. We admire and respect each other."

According to Bobbi, her wife drew strength from the example of other women.

Lucy considered how Christopher Reeve's wife stayed with the actor, best known for his role as Superman, after he was paralyzed in a horse-jumping accident.

Lucy was also inspired by the loyalty of Jason Schechterle's wife. When the Phoenix police officer was disfigured inside a squad car that caught on fire, his wife remained at his side.

Lucy stuck.

The same cannot be said of Lancaster's medical colleagues.

She continued to work as Robert, only opening up as Bobbi at home.

In 2012, two years after the surgery, she'd had enough of the duplicity.

Management at the rehab facility where Bobbi worked, as well as at Hospice of the Valley, where she volunteered, both responded in similar fashion to the doctor's revelation.

Not well, not well at all.

She particularly recalled the conversation at Hospice of the Valley, a service to those who are dying.

"They told me: 'Doctor Lancaster, I don't think this will work. Your team will lose respect for you. The other concern is the patients. They're dying. And you will make them feel weird."

Yet the staff invited Lancaster to the Christmas party and requested that the doctor come as Bobbi.

"The executive director told me: Don't you dare!

"He told me they were going to create a new unit to treat the LGBT community, and I could run that.

"Put all the lepers together," she says.

In 2012, Lancaster began to explore other options.

She became part of a team that provides mobile medical service to those who are incapacitated. She also has a small private practice.

And Bobbi found that her golf game still is as spectacular as it was during college.

She applied for membership in the Ladies Professional Golf Association and played on the Symetra Tour.

Her success provoked an uproar of protest from women who felt Bobbi was more than a woman — she hit the ball too far.

But other parts of her life, more important parts, settled down.

Bobbi and Lucy still are an item.

The physician's prognosis: "We are in love."


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