Last month, after Rep. Carl Wilson announced he will introduce a bill to ban transgender teenagers from having sex reassignment surgery, the Grants Pass legislator admitted he had not yet knowingly met a transgender person.
Elaine Walquist decided to be his first.
A 64-year-old retired teacher, Walquist spent most of her adult life living in "stealth" after having the surgery in 1980. Last week, in an hour-long meeting both parties called friendly, Walquist experienced something new, too: It was her first time telling a stranger her story.
Walquist grew up in Michigan, the second of four children. She was a skinny, honor-roll student who loved Broadway musicals and spent prom night reading a book. The morning of her 13th birthday, she began wishing she would wake up a girl. She wished every year until 1980, when she was 28 and had saved enough from a job working at a hotel.
Legislators weren't talking about women like Walquist then. There were no advocacy groups lobbying states and insurance companies to cover transition-related procedures.
When she began taking female hormones and going through lengthy, painful electrolysis procedures, she did so alone.
In 1977, Walquist told her family members she was "transsexual," the word most commonly used then. Her parents accepted her, she said, but never wanted to know details. They didn't come to the hospital during her surgery, and they didn't want to see the results. They never again discussed who she dated. She didn't tell them about the department store workers who kicked her out of dressing rooms or the men who yelled slurs as she walked by.
After her surgery, Walquist went to college and became a public high school language and history teacher. After that, she felt she never could tell people the whole of her life.
"In Michigan, I could not tell my story at all," Walquist said. "It would have cost me my job."