A Catholic High grad returns to 40th reunion as a different person | Arkansas Blog

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Catholic High grad returns to 40th reunion as a different person

Posted By on Mon, Dec 7, 2015 at 7:18 AM

The essay that follows was written by Sarah A. Vestal following the 40th reunion of the 1975 class of Little Rock's Catholic High School for Boys. She was Charles Vestal in 1975 and, still, at the 30th reunion in 2005. Photographs show Vestal, who now lives in Tulsa, today and before she began receiving female hormones.

click to enlarge SARAH VESTAL
  • SARAH VESTAL
My recent 40th high school reunion was my first public appearance in my home town of Little Rock in almost a decade. I was a woman returning from transition exile in liberal queer San Francisco and walking into a full gymnasium of men as the first transgender female graduate of an all-male high school in a small Southern red state.

At the preceding 30th reunion of Catholic High School for Boys, Class of 1975, I was the well-known local businessman – a 5th generation native. This time was quite different.

As I pulled into the school driveway for the alumni dinner, students were directing traffic. “Picking up your son, ma'am?”

Many of my classmates knew of my transgender status for years, but Arkansas has never been known for progressive views. A few weeks earlier, the Vatican announced transgender folks were not morally capable of being god-parents. The local Catholic bishop barring my entry in a George Wallace-style confrontation was my frequent nightmare. To complicate matters, I now saw my male classmates in a different light, as I felt they also did with me. When they previously knew me, I was a straight man and father of two daughters. Now, I am the straight woman feeling a sexual tension with my former male classmates for the first time.

“You are hot, babe, really hot!” Smile. Blush. “Thank you, Mel,” was all I could reply. That same simple thank you, a hug, and tears were all I could manage in response to scores of supportive statements.

Father George Tribou was the legendary headmaster, a strict disciplinarian and devout priest who required the boys to wear ties and keep their hair short during our turbulent early 1970s. With many shared stories, fellow classmates and I visited his grave to pay our respects. While my classmates were joking about the ground not moving as I stood over him, I felt a deep connection. I recalled Tribou once telling me as a troubled boy, “Jesus will be with you no matter what.” I left his grave believing Tribou would accept me today, despite the hateful dogma of the Catholic Church concerning transgender people.

The major reunion event was a Saturday night dinner at one of the city’s finest restaurants and included the 1975 graduating class of the corresponding all girls high school. With my heightened concern over my male classmates’ reactions, I did not anticipate the kind and unconditional support I received from my female high school friends, many of whom I either dated or wished I had dated over the years as a man.

Acceptance was summed up by a classmate’s subsequent Facebook posting: "You were brave, but as it turned out, we're a pretty accepting group of guys. As I told someone, having adult children makes a difference in what is a big deal and what isn't. Proud of you; and proud of my class.”

Recognized authenticity is a wonderful experience.
click to enlarge CHARLES VESTAL
  • CHARLES VESTAL

Tags: , , , , ,


Sign up for the Daily Update email
Favorite

Comments (41)

Showing 1-41 of 41

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-41 of 41

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Two wounded in Indiana school shooting

    An adult and a child were wounded and a suspect is in custody in the latest school shooting, this one in a middle school near Indianapolis.
    • May 25, 2018
  • Another inmate death at Brickeys unit

    The Correction Department has reported another unnatural death at the Brickeys Unit, the seventh not attributed to natural causes this year at the Lee County prison.
    • May 25, 2018
  • PS: Casino amendment includes sports betting

    A casino gambling amendment now cleared for the gathering of petitions to qualify for the ballot could bring sports wagering to casinos if approved.
    • May 24, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Arkansas: Land of .......

    Welcome to Arkansas: Land of cowardly politicians, discriminatory laws, inhumane turkey drops and lots and lots of Trump voters.
    • Oct 8, 2016
  • Arkansas legislature rejects bipartisan effort to study race relations

    On Friday, the Arkansas Legislative Council soundly rejected a bipartisan effort by two senators to to create a temporary legislative subcommittee to study race relations in the state.
    • Sep 15, 2017
  • The inspiring Hillary Clinton

    Hillary Clinton's campaign for president illustrates again the double standard applied to women. Some writers get it. They even find the supposedly unlikable Clinton inspiring.
    • Oct 16, 2016

Most Viewed

  • PS: Casino amendment includes sports betting

    A casino gambling amendment now cleared for the gathering of petitions to qualify for the ballot could bring sports wagering to casinos if approved.
  • Another inmate death at Brickeys unit

    The Correction Department has reported another unnatural death at the Brickeys Unit, the seventh not attributed to natural causes this year at the Lee County prison.
  • Some working poor may still lose Medicaid under Arkansas’s new work requirements, study finds

    Many Medicaid beneficiaries work full time — or more — but only a portion of the year, the lead author of the study noted. Among the group of recipients who aren't exempt but are currently working, he said, "we found they’re averaging about 35 hours per week. So it’s not that they’re opting to not work ... . It’s more a matter of whether they have consistent work or not.”

Most Recent Comments

Slideshows

 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation