Jay Curlee: A Personal Journey

Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get.—Forrest Gump
Jay Curlee, one of our club's charter members, left Rotary several years ago to Texas.  He left uncharacteristically without explanation to his fellow members.  He was here today to explain.  And we are all better people because of Jay's willingness to share.
The military trained Jay to be tough.  In 1973 he was assigned to Schofield 25th Division where he trained soldiers to resist interrogation.  But he was also trained to be tolerant and accepting, serving as the race relations NCO to ease tensions between races that were high at that time.  
 
Life was was going great with a dream job as KGMB cameraman where he befriended TV personalities such as Linda Coble.  He married and had two sons—Ben (graduated from Punahou and went to American University) and Sam (graduated from Kealakehe and became a marine).
 
On a June day after a game of golf, Ben announced to Jay that he was a transgender woman.  His initial reaction was to laugh since he thought it was a joke.  After a few minutes to sink in, he asked-- now what?  Ben was married and had two kids.  Ben became Julie.
 
The transgender population is more pervasive than most of us are aware:  15,000 active duty; 150,000 veterans, 1.5M Americans; 1 out of every 200.  Between 25-40% attempt suicide because the majority of us are indifferent or intolerant to accept them for who they are.
 
It is not easy when it involves you.  Jay’s wife did not accept at first.  Sam, Julie's brother, backed her.  Julie called Jay everyday for about 6 months to talk for about an hour; Jay realized that he had to focus on his family.
 
Ultimately, Julie’s marriage failed, but they share custody of the children.  Her employer and fellow employees supported her.  Julie has remarried to Samantha, a brilliant attorney.  Sexual preferences did not change, but sex i.d. changed.
 
We are diverse.  The choice rests with each us as to who we can accept.