Read Sharon Roark's inspiring story in her own words.
Artist, trans-gender, US Veteran, wife, mother and friend
"Im 61 years old. I started transitioning from male to female at 39 turning 40. Ive done most of my transitioning alone without support except for the help of my wife starting about 7 years ago.
Because of her and Javier Melian and others Im alive and Ive certainly attempted suicide a number of times. A friend of mine did commit suicide in 2008. She was the only close transgender friend
Ive ever had. Like the recent suicide of the teenager, Leelah Alcorn, my friend's wife buried her as a "him" and forbid any of her LGBT friends to attend the funeral.
I knew very early, at about 4-5 years old that I was different. There were things I sensed-like liking girls more than boys. I grew up ashamed of the bulge in front of my pants. Unlike boys and
men I was very embarrassed and uncomfortable being bare-chested in public. I didnt enjoy rough sports. I did not get along with straight men and I despised how they treated and talked about
women. Ive had very few male friends and that trend has continued throughout most of my life.
At the age of 12 I got caught once by my aunt after cutting up my sisters one-piece bathing suit because I wanted to know what it felt like to wear a bikini. I enjoyed the styles, colors and
textures of female clothes and I felt right with myself in that state. I once stole shoes and clothes while working as a Goodwill drivers assistant and I got caught and got fired. I had
experimented with two males early in my life because my family said I was "queer." The word "transgender" didnt exist yet so I believed what my hateful family said. This didnt feel right to me
and the result was that I felt confused. It was still years before I heard the word "transgender" but when I understood the term I knew it was me.
I had never dated a girl and I couldnt get a date no matter how hard I tried and didnt understand why until midlife. I started psychological counseling that took me nearly 10 years. I learned
that my overt behavior was effeminate and all my life apparently I had tried to cover it up. I believed I was displaying masculine behavior and I wasn't. I even enlisted in the military
trying to prove my manhood and married four times trying to be a normal husband and father. This is when I learned that we cant see ourselves as others see us and that I wasnt being my real self.
It took a lot of hard counseling for me to learn to let go of the protective but pretensive behavior and learn to let my real self emerge. My transgender art reflects this inner struggle to
understand and express the femininity I felt. I believed for most of my life that girls and women were somehow special and superior and I was suppressing this within myself. This led to the
images Ive created.
Most of my life Ive been abused by family and strangers and while Id like to boast about having grown strong, sometimes I am still weak. I can honestly say that this period of my life, while not
perfect, is my happiest and most content and peaceful. My wife and I have become friends with the daughter of the man who designed the original Dr Pepper soft drink logo. He is now retired
from Disney but offered to assess my art and write me a letter of recommendation. His daughter informed me that he was astounded by some of my art but is also going to honestly point out my
mistakes. They are also trying to talk a local museum into giving me a first full public exhibit of all my art. All of this frankly shocked me. Its the first time in my life Ive ever received
such high compliments and honesty. Im well aware as an artist that I have been blessed. After a lifetime of enduring hate and pain its hard for me to describe the elation I feel. I hope the
success continues because I feel the need to be a role model to my daughter and to others whose lives may have been like mine.
Mr Melian asked me what my philosophy in life is. Be yourself and learn to listen to the inner voice and your own intuition. This can be difficult to practice but its the path of truth."