Vicki Estrada Feels Like a Natural Woman
Meet Vicki Estrada. She's a San Diego businesswoman and she used to be named Steve.
My interview with Vicki took place in December, and it was historic because Steve Estrada was a guest on These Days two and a half years ago when he announced that he intended to become a woman. Since then he has had sex change surgery and facial "feminization" work. He's even had voice lessons to make him sound more convincing as a woman.
Steve was definitely a person of high standing in San Diego. He was the president of Estrada Land Planning , a landscape architecture firm. He had been involved in politics for many years as an urban planner and civic visionary. If anyone had a lot to lose, from the stigma of a sex change, it was him.
Now, Vicki says she has not lost anything, aside from the burden of knowing she was living a male life that she didn't want to continue. Her firm's clients have continued to do business with her. She remains well-connected to City Hall. While her mother is still getting used to the idea of the sex change, her two kids and her father were supportive of her decision. In fact, her father actually accompanied her to the clinic that did the gender reassignment. (Her two children, by the way, still call her "Papa.")
I look at my relationship with Vicki as one that's also undergone some change. I can't say that Vicki has ever been a close friend of mine. But the fact that she told the world that she (then he) wanted to be a woman on my show makes me feel that I've played a role in the drama.
And who am I? I am a married, straight white male with two kids who tries to be honest and open minded. Yet, accepting transgender people -- in fact, accepting the very notion that you can discard the gender you were born with -- has been a challenge. It seems easier to understand same-sex attraction than the earnest feeling that one is living in the wrong body.
What I think I've learned from Vicki is that it is possible to make such a monumental change, yet remain who you are. Vicki says she is the only transgender person that most of her friends and family actually know. One reason for that is a lot of transgender people go underground. They have the surgery, leave town, and try to start a new life, passing as a member of the opposite sex.
Vicki said she could not leave her old life behind . There were too many people she would miss and too much to give up. As a result she's had to put up with some people being uncomfortable around her, not knowing what to say, and in some cases being downright mean. I guess if she can accept that, she's not asking much when she asks us to accept her new life as a woman.
A.S. from San Diego
January 29, 2008 at 01:19 AM
I heard the December interview and am still struck by the depth of that show. It was impressive to hear how vulnerable Vicki allowed herself to be on air, and also how candid you allowed yourself to be in raising difficult questions. It made for a very compelling dialogue. Vicki allowed the public to transform along with her in a way, and did it in such a down to earth manner, it was very cathartic as a listener to hear her resolve so many of the issues I'd imagine would be incredibly tough. Her responses to your questions about her relationship with her daughters were (I thought) the most interesting. She fully understands the way she is viewed by others (like letting her kids still calling her "dad"), but still directed by her inner urgings. Good story.
Aaron from New York
March 04, 2008 at 05:17 PM
I am Vicki Estrada's son. I have to say that I have always been extremely proud of my father for many reasons. Holding true to convictions, thinking outside of the box, being open-minded, thinking rationally, having a strong work ethic, being a loving father (which, as a father myself now, I believe is underrated), having a strong common sense... these are just a few of the many reasons I have always respected and admired my father. I have always hoped I could emulate these wonderful attributes and live up to the standards set forth from my father. This has been a rather difficult process for me to endure, losing your 'father' forever. I can never again politely introduce anyone to my 'father' ever again. This was almost like a death in a way. I have a hard time explaining these feelings to my father though, because she is so good at rationalizing her decisions and making it appear so valid. Although I tend to disagree with the philosophy of having a sex change and of course would rather not see my father get lost in the process, I must say that once again, my father has stepped up to the plate. Despite the difficult and sometimes awkward social situations I am forced to be put into, I have never once felt that I have actually lost my father. I do resent being forced to become an almost 'de facto spokesperson' for transgender people, because although I accept my father and respect what kind of person she is, I do not really understand the mind of a transgendered person, so it's impossible for me to explain it to people and justify it. All I can say is, I don't care what other people do to their bodies. So just because I don't understand it doesn't mean I have to be distant or upset about it. I don't have room here to explain what its like to be a child of a transgendered person completely (it hasn't really changed things THAT much, I'm sure it helps living in New York), but I wanted to get across that the reason I still call my father Papa is because that's still who she is to me and I refuse to let the father I respected so much as a child 'die' in my eyes. My son calls him Tita and that is great, but for me, Vicki will always be Papa...
L.A. from San Diego, CA
September 04, 2008 at 06:56 PM
I went to school with Steve and saw Vicki at a reunion a few years back before her surgery. I applaud her for staying true to herself. I am even more deeply touched by her son's comments. Obviously Aaron was raised to put love and family before all else. Another example of how Vicki raised his children. God bless them all.