GLAAD co-chair is haunted by a disappearance

GLAAD Co-Chair, Jennifer Finney Boylan, wonders what happened to Sam Todd, who went missing on New Year's Eve 30 years ago. Writing for the New York Times, she also looks at her own life and transition and wonders if she could have met the same fate as Todd.

The world is full of people who wonder what it might be like to vanish without a trace and begin life anew, under a new name, under a new personality, even — as was the case with me — under a new gender. Who among us, besides those without imagination, has never dreamed of escaping his or her own history?

For that’s what I imagined Sam Todd had done. In my fantasy, he was no victim of foul play or amnesia. In my heart, he had struck out for a place where no one knew him, like Gauguin boarding a steamer for the Marquesas. How hard could it be, I wondered? To head out like Huck Finn into “the Territory ahead of the rest,” a place where you could become, at last, the author of your own life?

I got my answer three years later. In May of 1987, I loaded up my Volkswagen and started driving north from Baltimore, where I’d been teaching a class at Johns Hopkins. I wound up in Nova Scotia, on Cape Breton Island. I wasn’t certain what was going to happen next, other than that I was going to find a way to end this transgender business once and for all.

One night, I dressed in drag and looked in a motel room mirror in Dingwall, N.S. Why shouldn’t I settle down here, I thought, and start life over as a woman? I could get a job working on a lobster boat. Then I lay on my back and sobbed.  No one would ever believe I knew anything about lobsters.

The next day I climbed a mountain and, near the summit, stood by a cliff overlooking the sea. A fierce wind blew in from the Atlantic, and I asked myself — is this what you came here to do?

Then the wind blew me backward and I landed on some moss and looked up at the blue sky. Something in my heart — or perhaps something from on high — whispered to me, “You’re going to be all right.”

Read the full essay at the New York Times.