Marian Beddill, an active participant in political and social issues in Whatcom County, recently wrote her autobiography, "None of the Three." The book details her gender transition as Marvin Redditt - who had a professional career as a civil engineer, as a freelance consultant who worked on agricultural developments related to water management, and other jobs - to Marian.
She reads from and talks about her book at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4, at Village Books. For more about her life, go to noneofthethree.com or noneofthethree.org.
Question: Did you really have a "secret life?"
Answer: It may be hard for folks to imagine now, since I am such an "out" person about my gender transition, just how secretive I was before I made the change. Yes, I really had a "secret life." I managed to keep my feminine role hidden from just about everybody I knew, except my wife. She knew and accepted it.
That secret life had two elements. First, that I must never do or say anything that could even remotely hint at my two-gender nature. Disclosure would have been professionally disastrous, I was sure. So I was socially reserved, and rarely got involved in community activities. My engineering career led me to move with some frequency to another city, and upon leaving I did not stay in touch with the folks in the prior place. Isolation was security.
The second element was finding ways, and places, where I could "be my feminine self." I kept a secret wardrobe of women's clothes, locked in a footlocker. Rarely, I would have some hours at home alone to dress and "be" female. And on trips out of town, a hotel room was a great opportunity, plus the occasional visit to a gay-bar nightclub, where cross-dressing was an OK thing. I was lucky that I was only accosted while "em femme" three times, none of them with any serious damage done.
Only in the years nearing retirement, did I feel safe in contacting trans-support organizations, and gathering books and magazines. But I never outed myself to my work circles until I retired, nor have I heard of anyone knowing about my gender duality until I finally outed myself.
One place that was safe was the Unitarian congregation in Washington, D.C., where I lived. I showed up there as Marian on Sundays, and it was a warm welcome, as I knew it would be. But Monday through Saturday I lived as Marvin.
Then at retirement age, I was able to fully transition. I knew I would be welcome at the Unitarian Fellowship here in Bellingham. In fact, I was quickly given two positions of responsibility. And I found a new, loving life-partner, Ruth, who made my life marvelous.
Q: Who do you hope will read the book?
A: My grandkids, and then theirs.
Q: How has your family been involved in who you are?
A: My family is widely dispersed, my four grandkids (all now adults) have never really known me. So I am introducing them to me - to all of me - this way.
Q: What do you hope people will learn from your book?
A: My take-away message in the book, as it relates to gender, is just let each person be, and live, in the gender style that they choose for themselves. Male and female ("sex") have significance for pregnancy, but masculine and feminine ("gender") are little more than how a person feels they should fit into society. Our culture has moved that way substantially in recent decades, thank goodness. Be an activist, and help to make it so, completely.
Q: Who has supported your personal journey in gender identity?
A: People dealing with a transgendered person in their life. The discrimination against non-traditionally gendered individuals is unwarranted, and I hope to show some of the harm which that causes. People should not be constrained by the arbitrary binary social constructs of masculine and feminine. Medicine clearly knows that there are numerous factors that fall in the in-between of those two extremes.
The gender of identity or presentation of an individual really matters to only three people - self, sweetheart, and medical staff. For everybody else, ho-hum. In fact, since there are no different traffic laws for guys and for girls, why is "sex" (gender) on the driver's license?
Q: You have received honors in the community as an "environmental hero" and for your participation in human rights issues locally. Why is community activism important to you and why should others get involved?
A: Every person should be involved in something to make the society better than it was. That can be through a job, or as a volunteer.
Both my parents were volunteers in community organizations, so I had strong role models. I began to do such activities at age 13, when I joined the Civil Air Patrol. Already at that age I was questioning my gender identity, which placed an overlay of timidity - shyness - on me. The participation in that organization gave me ways to strengthen myself, and I gained honors there during my senior year of high school.
There are so many things in our communities that can be made better; socially, culturally, environmentally, financially, and for health. I strongly believe in the triple-bottom-line concept for doing things not just the financial bottom line.
Q: Recently, your book has been on Village Books' bestseller list. Why do you think that is?
A: I can guess that since I am such an unusual ("odd") character here in the 'ham, that folks who have heard of me or seen me at some public event might be motivated to learn what there is under (or about) my clothing (be that a dress or trousers).