Robert Allen Eads

Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #103, Fall 2003.

by Maxwell Anderson Robert

Allen Eads was born December 18, 1945, in a tiny no-nothing of a town in West Virginia. The middle child of three, he had an older and a younger brother. Until the day he died, his mother called him Bobby.

Robert himself used many names. When I met him, he called himself Bob. At times he used Ray, and for those hillbilly times, he called himself Ray-Bob. As he matured, Robert became his name of choice.
Robert grew up poor, as did most in West Virginia at that time, but this didn?t necessarily mean he was unhappy. He
wasn?t. There were rough times, of course, but all-in-all, he was loved and cared for. His mother was a stay-at-home mom, and since Robert was a ?she? growing up, the bond was strong between them. Although his mother had difficulty with the transition to Robert, she continued to love him, and is with him now, since her death in the early part of 2001.
Robert?s father is another story. He loved his children, but was an absentee father. He was a salesman, cars mostly, and tended to work long hours away from home. His good-old-boy nature and country charm made him successful as a salesman and somewhat of a harmless con-artist. Robert had this same trait.
Robert was married three times, twice to men as Barbara, and once to a woman as Bob. His first marriage was cut short by an accident Robert never got over. He had a three-year-old daughter, who along with the father, was involved in a motorcycle accident in which they were both killed. This haunted Robert, and was clearly on his mind in his last few days of life.

His second marriage gave him two sons, whom he loved a great deal. He could not stand their father, and the marriage ended quickly. Robert?s relationship with his sons endured, though the oldest son, Doug, left home early and had little to do with his mother throughout the years. Theirs was a cordial relationship at best. His youngest, Bo, adored Robert and vice-versa. The love of Robert?s life was his grandson, Keegan, who was fathered by Bo. This was his only grandchild, but unfortunately, Keegan doesn?t remember Robert well. He was three when ?Pawpaw? passed away.

Robert?s third marriage lasted for several years, but wasn?t an overly happy one. His wife was a lesbian and never fully accepted the change from lesbians to married straight people. She kept her label and her identity and never let Robert forget that.

For obvious reasons, this
kept a distance between them, until finally the marriage ended in divorce, and a messy one at that.
Robert spent most of his life in West Virginia. When his youngest son was 14, Robert moved to Daytona Beach with his lesbian lover. They lived next door to his parents, while he left his son behind in West Virginia. Robert was in his
forties when he moved away from Mom and Dad, going
farther south, to Fort Lauderdale. At church, he met the woman who later became his wife. And he and I met.

Robert and I became best friends as he began his transition?although to hear him talk, he transitioned all his life.

I have the pictures to prove he was a newbie when I met him! Robert had no secrets from me!
I watched Robert grow and mature into a wonderful man and a lovely human being. Robert had faults, as do we all, but his heart was always good and caring. His passion was cooking; he had been a chef for many years. In his church, he cooked large meals every Wednesday for the congregation: homemade soups, main course dishes, fabulous desserts, Robert truly had a talent?no, an art?in the kitchen. I had many a meal cooked by those precious hands of his.

In the trans community, Robert stayed mostly in the background. He ventured out a few times to sit on panels a therapist friend of ours held in South Florida for her students. He rarely left Florida. His one stint of activism was helping to man a booth, with myself and three women from IFGE, at the American Medical Association conference, when it was held in Miami. He also hosted parties for our local support group, The Eden Society. The monthly meetings were held at the same church he attended and cooked for. He would come to the group meetings, but usually later in the evening. As I said, Robert kept a low profile.
Robert?s only regular trips were to Atlanta. Every year, we drove up together to attend the Southern Comfort Conference. When I joined the conference?s planning committee, he would drive up with me. He never joined the committee, but was always there to offer a smile and
support me and the rest of the folks involved.

Robert?s contributions to SCC, and to the community itself may have been from the sidelines, but were immeasurable all the same. His charm and wit alone lit up a room. His compassion and loving heart were always given freely. Robert was truly a special man, and he is sorely missed.
For years, Robert and I shared with each other. I attended his wedding, he helped me through my divorce. He teased me about being a leprechaun?I?m Irish. Go figure! I teased him about his cowboy hat and boots; it added to his country charm. More like blarney!

We were the best of friends; even closer than that, we were brothers. We were family in every sense of the word. We fought?don?t all brothers?. We competed with each other, but always in the sense of pushing the other to do more, to be better. It was never a vicious or serious competition between us. We wanted different things out of life. We had different goals for our futures. We drank together, partied together, broke bread together. He was very much a part of my life. His absence now leaves a great hole I will feel until we meet again on the other side.

Robert?s illness wasn?t a surprise, but his death was. From the day we met, Robert was ill. He had sustained a disabling back injury many years earlier, in West Virginia. He walked with a cane as the result of that injury, and occasionally spent the day in his wheelchair.

Robert may have had a good heart, but he had a stubborn soul. Doctors? visits were only for renewals of his medication. He didn?t have a lot of respect for the profession, and went to the doctor only when he absolutely had to. This stubborn streak cost him in the long run, being diagnosed so late in the stages of cancer. Believe me, for a long time, there were signs something was wrong. He would cough up blood or have blood in his stool, but he would shrug if off. I?d harp at him, and he?d say not to worry. That was his answer a lot: ?Not to worry, bro!?

There were but a few firsts in his life. His one and only venture outside of our trips to the Southern Comfort Conference was to Maryland to attend the True Spirit Conference. It was the only other conference he ever attended. In this case, once was enough. That trip was meant to happen, for that?s where he met Kate Davis, the filmmaker. She was filming an A&E Investigative Reports episode titled ?The Transgender Revolution.? Robert appeared in it.

I told you Robert was a charmer. He charmed dear old Kate right off her feet. He opened up to her about his life and about his cancer. She said she knew in an instant that she wanted to film more of this man. We talked about her on the flight home, about the film she wanted to make. Outwardly he laughed, but I know he wanted it. This would be his legacy; his words would reach people he never had the chance to reach while he was alive. With this film, Robert would live forever.

Another first happened at the Southern Comfort Conference, and was put in the film. For the
first time in his life, Robert gave a speech to his peers. Many of us were worried he wouldn?t have the strength, but he did. He had the entire lunchtime crowd in tears. His words went from his heart to ours, and none of us will ever forget them. I know I won?t.

At this same conference, and again in the film, Robert presented his one and only seminar. There?s a running theme through the film between myself and Robert about intimacy versus sex. Robert felt I had no sense of intimacy, and throughout our entire relationship, teased me about this. It was never a serious debate, although the film makes it seem like it was. Jealousy, I believe some call it. I had nothing to be jealous of. This was and is my only dislike of the film. Just so you know, his seminar was titled ?Trans-to-Trans Intimacy.? When I had presented it in the past, I did talk more about sex. What can I say! I like sex! I stayed in bed during his

The documentary started as a film about an FTM dying of ovarian cancer. He was refused treatment for being an FTM. Subsequently, the cancer spread quickly, and Robert, in his last days, fell into a coma and passed away. During the nine months of shooting, the focus of the film shifted. Kate met his friends. That would be me, Maxwell; my then-girlfriend and now wife, Cori; Cas, another FTM friend; his wife Stephanie; and a new girl in Robert?s life, Lola. Kate also met Robert?s parents, his grandson, and his oldest son. The film quickly became about family. A chosen family, as Robert puts it. We were very much a family, still are.
I can?t say the film was
difficult to make, only because Kate filmed it herself. There was no crew other than herself and her co-producer Elizabeth Adams, who also did the sound. Kate used a digital camera that was small and very much out-of-the-way. There were no big bright lights in our faces, no cords for us to trip over. Kate is our friend, and the camera was just an extension of her face. All in all, it was very unobtrusive.
Watching ?Southern Comfort? is another story. We are all our own worst enemies, and none of us liked the way we looked or came off on film. None of us! Of course, after the initial shock, we?ve come around. All of us agree Kate did a wonderful
job. She filmed a family dealing with love, relationships, and, ultimately, loss. The unfortunate fact is that Robert never saw any of it, but I know in my heart he?s proud of what he did, what
we all did, what this film is accomplishing.

There are things left out of the film?which is to be expected. Robert?s youngest son?s job kept him traveling so much that the timing never worked out for him to meet up with Kate to be filmed. Robert had a previous love affair that ended just prior to the filming. Tanya was never mentioned, although Robert was still in love with her. His treatment for
cancer was also never mentioned or shown, other than his medications.
Robert began to hemorrhage; this is when he was finally
diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The doctor he ended up going
to was located in Augusta, Georgia, a three-to-four hour drive from where he lived. A
large, apparently inoperable tumor was detected on his
kidney. Medication didn?t make it shrink. He underwent radiation treatments, but they worsened his condition. His bladder and kidneys were damaged. Radiation was stopped.
Robert was adamant about never going through chemotherapy, but in the last stages he was desperate. He loved Lola, he was scared of dying, and he was in so much pain. For a few months, he did subject himself to chemo treatments. I took him once for this treatment. He slept most of the time while hooked up to the bags of fluid they pumped into him. It was an all-day-long trip, eight hours of lying there as bag after bag pumped the poison into his system. It was the aftereffects that were so horrible. On the ride home, he would sleep, then wake up just to vomit. We made several stops on the way home. Once home, he could barely walk. He laid on the couch, sleeping, vomiting. He would be incoherent, dizzy, and in immense pain. It usually took most of the week for him to recover. Then, three weeks later, he would do it all over again.
The strain weakened him even more, and the cancer spread more quickly. A few months of this, and he finally came to terms with the fact that there was nothing else he could so. He lived out the remainder of his life with his dignity intact.

He endured the pain with drugs but in the end even they
couldn?t help.

Robert?s wish was to die on his farm. This didn?t happen. He needed constant care, and was put in a hospice, where he lived the last few weeks of his life.

Robert fell into a coma.

His breathing was shallow. I believe he heard me when I spoke to him. I touched his chest, brushed the hair away from his brow, whispered in his ear. It was time for him to go. When I met Robert he had been heavyset, with a stocky build. Lying on his deathbed, he weighed less than 80 pounds. He was ready. On January 17, 1999, he left.

Some have asked whether if he had found a physician closer, if he had found help sooner, he would still be alive. I don?t know. I do know Robert had been ill for a very long time. He ignored it. He took his hormones, had his chest surgery, and felt he was finished. The bottom organs were ignored. They didn?t seem to matter, or even exist. This is what killed him.
Robert was refused treatment. This is unconscionable, but it happens all the time. People without insurance are turned away from hospitals. Physicians don?t take on new patients, for whatever reasons they deem reasonable. Robert had a lot of strikes against him. He had no income, no insurance, a female disease to go along with a male name and a male identity. There?s no doubt that his being a female-to-male contributed to his being denied assistance by many of those so-called professionals he contacted. But in the end, it was Robert himself who did the most damage by ignoring the signs his own body had been showing him for years. There are doctors out there who will treat us. The key is persistence, and honesty.
Robert didn?t want his death to be in vain. He wanted people to learn from his mistakes. He wanted the community to wake up to the very real dangers of denial. He wanted a shift in the importance we as a trans community put on surgeries. It?s time we started thinking about taking care of those dreaded female parts all FTMs are born with. It?s hard to pass with a
size D chest, and even if it?s embarrassing, it won?t kill you. Prolonged testosterone use
without a hysterectomy can.

No matter how female they may be, those parts are still with us and we have to deal with them. If we don?t remove them, we should at least have regular exams and checkups. If Robert was here, I know he would tell you so himself.


Think About It

by Maxwell Anderson

Truth, fact, reality: sometimes we may want to ignore them, forget they exist, but ultimately they do, and we must face them at some point in our lives. The truth can?t be ignored without consequences. Facts exist whether we like them or not, and reality?well what?s real is real and there?s no way around that.
Transmen have female organs. Sorry, guys, but that?s a fact we have to live with. Sure, we can have our breasts removed and have hysterectomies, but do we? The reality is that many of us don?t have the latter. And it?s the latter that can kill us.

I know the difficulties: before transition, no doctor will remove the healthy organ; after transition, it?s embarrassing for the doctor to have us in their office. During transition, it?s embarrassing for us.
Is there a solution? Yes, take a deep breath, get
aggressive, and deal with it. There are doctors who will treat us; you just have to find them. Be persistent and don?t give up. Ask around, ask others in the community, ask your primary physician?after all, he knows about you, or at least he should. Look in the phone book. Call the offices. Be honest on the telephone. They don?t know who you are when you call. Ask them about treating you, ask them if they?ve ever known any T people. Ask them directly if they have a problem. That?s how we found our doctor.
Yes, some will reject you. A few may be honest and say no thanks to your patronage. Others will use the standard, ?We?re not taking any new patients.? Some might even hang up on you. Obviously, you don?t want to use them! There?s no shame in honesty. Tell them who and what you are. Be direct and honest about your situation. You can judge by the answers you get how comfortable they will be with you. If you don?t feel comfortable, go on to the next number. A phone call doesn?t cost anything but your time.
There?s an added obstacle though?our own perceptions. Call them insecurities, phobias, or just plain stubbornness and denial. No matter what you call them, they prevent us from seeking and obtaining the medical attention we must have.

I know how female it feels to have your feet up in stirrups. I know the awkwardness of having to go through those dreaded gynecological exams. Pap smears, who needs ?em? We do, guys!
If you want advice, depending on how open you are to the experience, look for a gay physician. Male or female, they?ll tend to be more open to your situation and will respect your privacy?although all doctors are supposed to.

Our physician?both my wife and I are trans?keeps up with all our health issues. He monitors our general health as well as our hormone therapy and any issues with regard to our transitions. And he keeps trans out of the records for my insurance. How did we find him? We called around and asked specific questions. We told him we were trans, we weren?t out, and didn?t want my T on my insurance. He said no problem, and there hasn?t been a problem. We?ve been seeing him for almost two years now.
There are doctors out there. You just have to do your homework. You do it when it comes to SRS surgeons; do it for your general health needs, too.

Please, guys, don?t put this one off. I don?t want to lose any more friends. Losing my best friend Robert was enough for a lifetime.

Think about it.

Maxwell Anderson can be reached at .

Since the film was made, both Southern Comfort and True Spirit have arranged for FTMs in attendance to spend a day at a medical clinic that understands their issues. Thanks at least in part to Robert, the humiliation and discomfort of the annual checkup becomes a comradely experience.