Trigger Warning: This story contains details of sexual violence that may be triggering to some.
“My story is unlike many others, but yet very similar to others like me. Anne Frank once wrote, ‘We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same.’ My story starts on November 23, 1976, at 11:58 p.m. From a Google search, I found out it was a freezing winter day with temperatures never reaching higher than 30 degrees. My young — too young — biological mother was rushed to the hospital for abdominal pain, by who I found out later to be her abusive stepmother. Her mother died when she was only 5 and by the age of 13, she was pregnant with me. Allegedly, she hid her pregnancy from stories I was told, which, considering her age and the time period, isn’t a surprise.
Nonetheless, I was born in Toledo Memorial hospital shortly after she got there. Allegedly, because stories are conflicting and my maternal grandfather is no longer alive to tell his side, I was rushed out of the room, never held by my young mother, and was quickly given up to an adoption agency at the request of my grandfather. My young mother was told I died after I was circumcised, which is ironic now being a Trans woman. ‘Conflicting’ is a term I will use often, because different stories have been told by different family members. Ultimately, only Corbin, my deceased maternal grandfather, and the hospital staff know the real story.
Lies, secrecy, and betrayal run rampant in Gentrey family line. I am not the only child who has been a victim of it. Many of us don’t know our ‘real’ stories, nor do we know who our fathers are either. Very few of us live productive lives, with many more of us dealing with things ranging from depression, anxiety, drug addiction, violent tendencies, and a few with criminal records. Even one of the ‘family’ members was listed on the ‘most wanted list’ by the FBI for killing two people and evading/escaping prosecution, who was rumored to change his sex to a woman and to this day, hasn’t been found. The irony of that situation isn’t lost on me, and I often wonder what life would have been like if I wasn’t adopted.
It’s no wonder why my mother and her siblings lived precarious lives filled with their own toxicity. Some were drug-addicted, which I’m sure was to numb the feelings of the past, some were violent to their own children, and some broke from reality, never being capable of telling the truth. My mother for the most part was the latter, at least in my experience. She is the perpetual victim. No matter what the story, no matter what the situation, she in her mind is always correct. Everyone else is wrong and never try to confront her on it, as she is quickly angered and even more violent. Therefore, I have made no effort to meet her in person within the few years I’ve known her.
The romanticized idea of meeting the person who gave birth to me was quickly shut down when questions were perused about my biological father. Still to this day, she adamantly sticks to her story she was raped in a park by a man with dark hair, and dark eyes who drove a white Corvette. While considering her childhood I wouldn’t deny the possibility of that happening to her at some point, but that is not how I came into being. She allowed me to believe that for the first year and a half I knew her. The very thought half of my DNA belonged to someone who would do such a thing sickened me to my core. As a child I would often fantasize the who, the what, and the where. I knew rape could be a possibility when I was older and could understand how life wasn’t the fairytale told by Disney movies. However, nothing can prepare you for that information.
Thankfully, during a visit to my birthplace, a maternal aunt told me she didn’t believe that story, and she remembered my mother dating a boy with the last name Henley. She said even though I looked so much like a Gentrey, she could see the other families’ resemblance too. My heart raced with excitement, and I knew I had to uncover the truth. At the beginning of my journey, I always knew I had to know where I came from. Since I was adopted through a closed adoption, I was told I would never obtain that information.
When I was 18, I was able to send off for what they classified as ‘nonidentifying’ information through the agency. It listed vague facts of appearance, some stuff about my grandparents’ lives, but nothing that satisfied my curiosity. I always felt I deserved to know, and it affected my mental well-being through most of my childhood. I remember scanning the crowds of places I went to look like for a face that was like mine. I didn’t grow up with people who looked like me, no less with being Trans, I always knew I was different and I had to know why. It wasn’t until a few years ago the DNA tests were available to track your ancestry and without any knowledge of that, I thought that was the closest to knowing anything I was going to get. I thought if I at least knew my genetic heritage, it would give me some type of resolution to those constant, nagging questions.
When the test came back, I was not only shocked by the results but, to my surprise, it also showed I had biological relatives who also had taken the test. As I sat there, stunned, I didn’t know how to react. Could this be the link to my past I had always dreamed of? After I gathered my thoughts, I decided to reach out to the people listed. I told them an abridged story of my past and finally, one distant cousin reached back out to me. He was a distant cousin from Mississippi who did genealogy as a hobby, and was taken by the story I told him. He didn’t know how we were connected but wanted to help me all the same. He reached out to numerous people but to no avail.
Life works in mysterious ways sometimes. A court case was won by another adoptive person in Ohio, making all private adoptions public for health reasons. I was able to send for my original birth certificate, and my biological mother’s name was listed. Like a Private Investigator, he tracked her down on all places through Facebook, and that’s how everything finally came full-circle. When my aunt gave me the last name Henley, I gave him that information and with that, things became even more interesting. I knew every story doesn’t end happily, but I figured we came this far. I couldn’t stop now. Luckily, my maternal cousin still lived in that area and was eager to assist me. She also grew up without knowing her father, and she knew firsthand how I felt. She took the same company’s DNA kits to one of the oldest male child’s daughters, and then a second DNA kit to his sibling, who was rumored to be my mother’s boyfriend at that time.
We thought the story would come to some magical happy ending, but like most things in my life, it did not. A lot of going back and forth between the oldest son and the middle son lead to that family completely shutting me out, per the request of the oldest son. Still, to this day, there is no communication and denial is the common web weaved. The one thing about science is DNA doesn’t lie. People can choose to tell whatever story suits them but finally, science has gotten up to the point their lies can no longer hide. Long story short, I am the oldest child’s offspring. He was 17, my mother was 13, and from what little I was able to piece together, I was conceived in the back of a car after a rock concert. It’s no wonder why he didn’t want the truth to come out. Regardless, I got what I finally needed to let go. I’m not sure why my biological mother won’t finally come to terms with it, but that’s her struggle, not mine.
I’ve never judged her for giving me up. I’ve only judged her for the actions after the fact. Allowing me to believe I was the product of violent rape is inexcusable. Her looking for love in all the wrong places, while living in a volatile home is understandable, but lying to me when faced with the hardcore DNA proof just goes to show her mental instability, especially when she threatened me when confronted with it. Hearing from stories from my siblings, I got off easy.
If anything, all of this made me even more thankful I was adopted by unconditionally-loving and supportive parents. At the end of the day, I am who and what I am because my mother was going through puberty and pregnancy at the same time with no prenatal care. Both parents also carry genes of other LGBTQ relatives, with the father having a gay brother and the mother with a rumored MTF Trans cousin. Only God knows why, if you believe in that, but science definitely shows I was born this way. This never was, and never is, a choice for myself or any others like me. There is no blame, there is no judgment. Just a series of events, and biology.
The one thing I can say is the fullcircle moment I craved finally came into focus. The years of the who, the what, and the where finally had names and faces. During this process, the most important thing I learned is how lucky I am to be adopted by such loving and supportive parents. I often say to others, I would be here today if it wasn’t for the unwavering, unconditional love I was given by my true parents. My best qualities of compassion and fortitude stem from their guidance.
One of my fondest memories is the way my mother told me I was adopted. I was around the age of 5 when I was told. She sat me down on her bed as she reached into the bottom drawer of her dresser. She shuffled through some papers and pulled out a small book. She took my hands into hers and said this, ‘Some babies are born in the womb, and some babies are born in your heart. You were born from my heart, and I just had to go out into the world to find you. Never forget you were chosen. You are special, no matter what anyone says, and I will always try to be the best mother I can be to you. ‘
Looking back now, I truly believe searching for the answers I didn’t know brought me to the conclusion of the answers I always knew. Family isn’t defined by blood. It’s defined by love. I may look different than my family, but I am my parents’ child. I am the product of their love and devotion. I may have been born a Gentry-Henley, but I will proudly carry on the Miller name.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jasmine Nicole Miller. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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