The outsider looking in could have been forgiven for assuming Charley was born to a life of ease. Unfortunately, things don’t always work out that simply. True, she was the much-hoped for daughter born to a prominent wealthy couple, her father a doctor and mother a wealthy socialite. She knew the joy of two adoring older brothers, an admiring little sister, a doting grandmother, and a cousin who left her a valuable estate.
Given that mix, the fates dusted in a bit of trouble to complicate the life to which she was destined. At birth, the father who delivered her, noted an oversized clitoris which he snipped before presenting her to her mother, thinking he’d spared her a life of confusion. Unfortunately, it had just the opposite result. Gender identification goes a lot deeper than outward appearances, as he learned over time.
Not only that, Ellen, Charley’s mother was repulsed by the imperfection of the child. Ellen and Charley never bonded due to her mother’s rejection. Little Charley was cherished by the rest of the family and nurtured by Cora, the family’s maid. Her grandmother and Cousin Jean adored her. Early on Grandmother Geneva and Cousin Jean recognized the child’s nature and allowed her the freedom to express it.
Charley’s nebulous connection to her mother was severed on the occasion of her baby sister’s birth. Ellen developed post-partum psychosis, attempted murder, and lived out the short period of her remaining life in a state hospital. Unresolved psychic trauma was to follow Charley from that point on.
Life has never been easy for an intersexed child. It was likely that a well-meaning surgeon to assign the child a female identity, if anything at all was done. Unfortunately, this was as apt as not to be wrong. So it was for Charley. The child who would have been celebrated as a robust little boy was expected to behave as a dainty little girl. The confusion was overwhelming.
From the time Charley’s mother went into the asylum, Cora and Grandmother Geneva assumed maternal roles with both girls. Geneva and the children passed the long summer weeks at the farm and the lake house where Geneva encouraged Charley’s relationship with the Washington family who maintained the farm, knowing they’d likely be in her life for years. They were good people.
Josie, the girl who’d helped cared for the girls since Ginny’s birth had married Bobby Washington who’d grown up working the farm along with his father Robert. Since the dairy barn was no longer in use, Geneva gave Robert permission to tear it down and build a cabin for the newlyweds on the land Cousin Jean left him. They worked evenings till a tin-roofed three-room shotgun house stood proudly under a pecan tree with a toilet about one hundred feet down the hill. It was close enough Bobby and Josie could share the older folk’s well. It was a fine thing for a young couple to start out with a house on eighty acres they could look forward to inheriting one day.
Life was a succession of peaceful days till Charley requiring her to be at her father’s house. Cora was devoted to both girls, spending a great deal of time with them. Geneva lived just a few blocks over, so they frequented her home as well. Charley enjoyed several years of relative peace till she reached the age of cruelty.