Editor's note: Dr. Danielle Kaufman, a Bay Area physician who came out as a transgender woman and published a groundbreaking book, Untying the Knot: A Husband and Wife's Story of Coming Out Together, was found dead at her Santa Rosa home Monday, Sept. 30. She was 53. Danielle was a Huffington Post blogger who generously shared with our readers her feelings about transitioning to being female, the difficulties of gender dysphoria, the surprising side effects of estrogen therapy (e.g., feeling vulnerable, having emotional "periods" and losing muscle strength), the menace of unwanted whiskers and much more. Her honest, witty and wise voice will be missed. Here is a tribute by her former wife, Cathy Kaufman.
When I met David Kaufman at college in 1987, I never imagined what changes were in store for our lives. Actually, our first 18 years together were fairly normal for two Midwesterners. We started living together in Detroit while Dave attended med school, and we married when he started his internship and residency. By the time our son was born in 1996, Dave had just one more year of fellowship, and then he would be finished with nine years of postgraduate training.
Then, one day, he came home and told me that he had just been standing on the top of the hospital building, trying hard not to jump. Although I'd been with him for nine years, I'd had no idea that he had been taking antidepressants all that time. I'd also been unaware that he had attempted suicide twice before I met him, once in his teens and again in his 20s. When I came home one day and found him feeding popcorn to our 4-month-old, I realized that I could no longer trust him alone with our son.
After a short stay in a residential hospital and treatment with shock therapy, he slowly returned to the person I knew. I remember thinking, while sitting on the floor of the clinic, trying to keep my 6-month-old playing happily while we waited for several hours as my husband's head was being hooked up to a machine to be purposefully shocked, "It will never get worse than this."
We both came out as gay to each other in 2009. We had been together for 22 years, and although we remained friends after that, it was no longer a traditional marriage. He had a difficult time fitting into the gay single life, and three more years passed before he realized that the problem was that he wasn't a gay man. He was a straight woman.
Dave began the transition to become Danielle in the summer of 2012. At the same time, she was finishing her book, Untying the Knot, our coming-out story. In it she admitted, for the first time, that she had felt like a girl inside since she was very young.
In the past year Danielle became an advocate for transgender people. She published her book, blogged on several sites, including this one, and appeared on TV and radio and in many online publications. It was a struggle for her. She never thought she was very pretty. She hated her body, both the weight that was difficult to lose on estrogen and the parts that reminded her that she was not born into the body of the woman she so desperately wanted to be.
She endured hours of laser hair/whisker removal. She had painful facial reconstruction surgery that left her swollen for weeks. Her back caused her a lot of pain when she tried to wear the high heels that made her feel like a woman.
She projected a brave smile and held her head high, even when she could feel the disapproving eyes searing through her in public. Everything she did was for one reason: to prepare for the surgery that would finalize her journey to her true self.
As her year of living as a woman approached the end, she was planning for recovery from her reassignment surgery. She would fly to be with her family in Michigan as soon as she could leave the hospital and spend her recovery surrounded by the loving family who knew David so well but also accepted her now as Danielle.
Only one thing stopped her dream. The surgery date for mid-October 2013 was taken off the surgery schedule and delayed indefinitely. Why this happened is still a mystery that I would like to solve. But Danielle was not willing to wait. She took another road to becoming what she couldn't wait one minute more to become.
I imagine her last moments in my mind. I think that after she took the large amount of pills that she knew would be enough, but before she fell asleep forever, she lay in her bed and imagined the face and the perfect body of the smiling baby girl who would awaken.