Wendy Chapkis



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Christine Caulfield, a 64 year old trans woman, discusses growing up in a military family. She discusses the challenges of moving multiple times during the first 13 years of her life as a military dependent and reports that military culture in the 1960s and 70s was not welcoming to LGBTQ people. She knew she was ‘different’ from age 8, but had no language to express it. She was seriously bullied as a child and also experienced sexual abuse during those years by an Assistant Boy Scout Master. She discusses a suicide attempt she made during her first year of high school. One survival strategy she talks about was to present as hyper-masculine, including playing on the high school football team, though she was also active in a theater group which allowed her more range of gender. It wasn’t until she went to U Mass Amherst for college that she socialized with anyone queer. She discusses meeting many gay men and lesbians in college including a roommate who had a romantic interest in her. Her internalized homo and trans phobia led her to drop out of school and join the Marines in 1977 in order to enact hypermasculinity. In 1990, she left the military after achieving the rank of Sargent. During that period, she occasionally privately dressed in women’s clothing and ‘flirted’ with gay experiences. But she concluded she generally preferred women. Christine has been married to her wife (who she met in college) for 42 years; they have two daughters.

After leaving the military, the family moved to Maine, where Christine attended USM and graduated with a BA in Communication Studies. She discusses working in the private sector for a number of years, becoming a karate instructor, and then returning to school for a teaching degree. She had a very successful career as a teacher in the public school system in Gorham. In 2001, working with a therapist, she began to come to terms with her transgender identity and in 2007 came out to friends and family. In 2014 she came out to her colleagues at Gorham High School; she discusses how family, friends, and colleagues responded to her transition. In 2016, she was diagnosed with cancer, related to her military service, and retired from teaching. She discusses the importance of culture (literature, poetry, music, and theater) in her life and in shaping her understanding of herself.

Please cite as: Querying the Past: LGBTQ Maine Oral History Project Collection, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer+ Collection, Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine, University of Southern Maine Libraries.

For more information about the Querying the Past: Maine LGBTQ Oral History Project, please contact Dr. Wendy Chapkis.


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Portland, Maine


Military life, the Marines, hypermasculinity, bullying, sexual abuse, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Gorham High School, University of Southern Maine, transgender identity, bisexuality, theater.


History of Gender | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Oral History | Women's Studies

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Caulfield, Christine



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