February 20, 2023
Imagine growing up with a secret so big, you had to change your name. A young man opens up about finding out that his father was an axe murderer. He describes what it was like meeting his dad for the first time in prison. He shares what happened when he realized that his college professor had picked up a hitchhiker that turned out to be his father. He and Geth also discuss America’s fascination with true crime and coming to terms with his trans identity.
359 — My Dad Was An Axe Murderer
Chris [00:00:00] Just wanted to give everybody a quick heads up. This week’s episode talks about homicide. So if that’s something that you need to brace yourself for, consider yourself warned. Hello to everybody who’s growing increasingly wary of true crime as a genre. It’s Beautiful/ Anonymous. One hour, one phone call, no names, no holds barred. Hi, everybody. Chris Gethard here. Welcome to another episode of Beautiful/ Anonymous. I’m flattered and honored to be your host. Couple of things to let you know about. One is a reminder, BeautifulCon-onymous.com. That’s right, everybody. We’re finally doing our fan convention, originally scheduled for March of 2020. Bringing it back May 4th, fifth, sixth and seventh. Brooklyn, New York. Movie screenings, comedy shows, live calls, music, meet past callers. It’s going to be epic. Also, want to let everybody know a special thing happening in my life. I’ve been touring a show called A Father in the Sun. Happy to tell you I’m going to be recording it, three nights only in New York City at the Minetta Lane Theater, a.k.a. The Audible Theater. That’s March 31st, April 1st and April 2nd. Tickets are on sale now. Want info on those tickets? Link is at ChrisGeth.com. This week’s episode is wild. You could tell from the title. Caller found out accidentally that their dad was an ax murderer. That’s about all you need to know. Right? The circumstances of how they figured out- the story with the college professor is very crazy. I won’t spoil anything else about that. You can imagine there’s a lot to talk about as far as how finding that information out affects you. Short term. Long term. Caller is also someone who has defined themselves and embraced their identity and thought long and hard about their truthful identity. Hear more about that and we’ll see if those things tie together. It’s a really, really wild story, grounded in a lot of very thoughtful, personal stuff. Proud of this one. Think you’re gonna like it too. Enjoy it.
Voicemail Robot [00:02:30] Thank you for calling Beautiful/ Anonymous. A beeping noise will indicate when you are on the show with the host.
Caller [00:02:38] Hello?
Chris [00:02:39] Hello?
Caller [00:02:41] Is this Chris?
Chris [00:02:42] It is.
Caller [00:02:44] Wow. This is so surreal.
Chris [00:02:47] Here we go. It’s all happening. Everything’s happening.
Caller [00:02:51] All the things.
Chris [00:02:54] Everything you and I both ever dreamed of is unfolding right now before our very eyes.
Caller [00:03:00] You know, I’ve actually thought about this moment for years.
Chris [00:03:06] I have too. I’ve thought about the moment you called and what we would have to say to each other. This is, of course, not true, because I don’t know who you are, but I am thrilled to be talking to you.
Caller [00:03:21] Thank you.
Chris [00:03:23] How are you?
Caller [00:03:25] I’m all right. I’m a little nervous.
Chris [00:03:28] No need.
Caller [00:03:29] This is a lot.
Chris [00:03:32] No need. We’re good. I promise. You’re good. Everything’s fine. Everything will be okay. We’re just going to have a conversation like two goddamn human beings.
Caller [00:03:44] So you want to know my my inspiration behind calling in?
Chris [00:03:51] Sure.
Caller [00:03:52] So I watched the Jeffrey Dahmer documentary on Netflix, and that spurred me to call in.
Chris [00:04:04] Interesting. Interesting.
Caller [00:04:09] I’ll I’ll get into why later.
Chris [00:04:15] Okay. I’m certainly intrigued.
Caller [00:04:18] Yeah, I guess I’ll just get into it then. So what I’m about to say, I have only told a few family members and a few friends. So this is like a huge moment for me. Um, I do think you’ll want to put some content warnings because I’m about to talk about something that involves homicide.
Chris [00:04:47] Wow.
Caller [00:04:48] Yeah. So the real nitty gritty trauma.
Chris [00:04:54] Okay, I’m buckling up for this one.
Caller [00:04:57] Yeah. So I guess I’ll start with my childhood trauma, because that’s where all the good stories start. When I was ten years old I was watching a movie with my childhood friend and their sister was there and their sister was kind of giving me a hard time because on the screen there is a scene where a person was using an ax. And it was kind of like a horror movie. And the sister kept saying, Oh, you got to be careful. You got to be careful. And my little ten year old brain was like, What’s going on? Like, this makes no sense. And after a while, she goes, You don’t want to be like your father. And I was like, What? And then I just saw this look on her face, like, Oh, man, I shouldn’t have told you that. So, yeah, that’s how I learned about my father with an ax murderer.
Chris [00:06:17] Wow. Okay. Take a deep breath. Heard a lot of this show. But, I mean, you really came out of the gate very strong.
Caller [00:06:27] Yeah.
Chris [00:06:28] Your dad’s an ax murderer. And you found out by accident?
Caller [00:06:33] Yeah.
Chris [00:06:35] Okay. Okay. We can- how- you tell me how quickly you’d like to get into the specifics of this. Because I’m certainly curious. Or if you want to talk about more of the emotional side of it first. But certainly there is a part of me that my my initial instinct is what happened?
Caller [00:06:58] Yeah, I’ll get into the specifics a little bit. I feel comfortable sharing about that. When I was ten years old, my father killed his best friend. And so I wasn’t- I was two years old. I didn’t know what was happening. And my father definitely had a mental health diagnosis and he was a substance user. And I just want to say that a lot of people that have a mental health condition or use substances, they don’t generally kill people. So I just I want to throw that out to like not stigmatize the issue. Like, yes, he had a mental health condition and used substances, but a lot of folks who have those conditions do not kill people.
Chris [00:07:56] Mm hmm. And in fact, and I don’t know if this is the case, but just to get your back on this, in fact, it’s the rush to say, you know, when you see tragedies and the rush to list people’s mental health issues, it can be very demonizing and stigmatizing. So I’m glad you’re delineating that note. I think, too, there’s a lot of people out there, especially people years ago, who maybe had mental health issues and were using substances in an effort to self-medicate because it felt like something that you had to deal with in the shadows. And again, I don’t know if that’s the case, but that can be a very dangerous and combustible mix. And it’s part of why we should fight against stigmas so that people don’t have to deal with this stuff on the fringes.
Caller [00:08:44] Yeah, I actually my last job, I was a help line manager and that’s what I did is I talked to family members of people that had mental health conditions. And I talked to them about mental health stigma.
Chris [00:09:03] Mhmm. That’s good. That’s a great thing to do. I feel a… I feel lucky there are people out there stepping up to the plate to do such a thing. Thank you for doing it.
Caller [00:09:15] Oh, definitely my my personal experience with the stigma of my father, I definitely feel very passionate about it.
Chris [00:09:27] So you’re a two year old child. Your father is a troubled person. Has a night where things get out of control. Murders his best friend.
Caller [00:09:41] Yeah. And there’s another twist.
Chris [00:09:45] Okay.
Caller [00:09:46] So, this is a bit of a long story, but it all wraps around. When I was a senior in college, I was having an existential crisis and I was like, What do I even want to do with my life? And I was actually with my therapist at the time, and she was like, you know, I’m really not supposed to tell you what to do. That’s not my job here. But have you ever thought about being a counselor yourself? And I was just like, What? Like, I’m here for my problems. Like, why do you think me with all these problems could be a counselor too? Um. So that kind of got me thinking. And then she helped me get into Intro to Counseling class. And I just I fell in love with it, like, immediately. And it was awesome. But I always think about the fact that, like, had she not said that, I would have never been in that class. Because it was all like first year students and I was a senior. But one day my professor starts telling this story about when he picked up a hitchhiker. And it just so happened that he said the hitchhiker was an ax murderer. And my heart just dropped and I was just like, what are the odds? Like, is there another ax murderer in like a 30 mile radius? Probably not.
Chris [00:11:37] I guess at the very least, like when your dad’s an ax murderer and you hear about an ax murder, you can be pretty sure like they’re talking about your dad there. And it’s probably not like, Oh, no, that’s that other ax murderer. I don’t know. What am I rambling about? Anyway I tried. We need transitions for the ads. And sometimes the calls are such where it’s really awkward. This is one of those. Anyway, we’ll be right back. Thanks to our advertisers. Now, let’s get back to the phone call.
Caller [00:12:09] It just so happened that he said the hitchhiker was an ax murderer. And my heart just dropped and I was just like, what are the odds? Like is there another ax murderer in like a 30 mile radius? Probably not.
Chris [00:12:29] I’m sorry to laugh, but you are presenting this in a funny way. Kudos to you.
Caller [00:12:34] I do have a very dark sense of humor.
Chris [00:12:37] You have- I think you have to. When your father’s an ax murderer, I think you’ve got to learn how to laugh.
Caller [00:12:43] Yeah. Yeah. So he starts telling this story, and he was like, Oh, this, the guy that I picked up was, like, this tall, and he was this old, and I was like, Check, check. Like, he’s, he’s running through all the list of describing my father. And he said that not only that, he picked him up hitchhiking. He picked him up immediately after the crime was committed. So he said the guy had a duffel bag and he suspected that maybe some of the weapons were in it or like maybe a change of clothes. So this guy, who is my professor, my counseling professor, literally rode with my dad after he committed the crime.
Chris [00:13:35] Wait this is- post-merger pre-arrest? This guy rode with your dad?
Caller [00:13:42] Yes. Like immediately after the crime.
Chris [00:13:45] So does he… Does is your dad in a mental state where he tells this professor, Hey, I just killed a guy with an ax? Or does the professor later see your dad on the news? How does your professor come to realize this is an ax murderer?
Caller [00:13:58] He said he learned he learned it after. And the wildest thing is that, like, my dad presented so calm and my professor was a psychologist, and he didn’t pick up on that.
Chris [00:14:13] And do you. Do you go up to the professor after this lecture and say, so just FYI, you gave a ride to my dad once? Also, just FYI my dad as an ax murderer.
Caller [00:14:27] Yeah, I did go up to him. I, I said, Oh, were are you talking about so and so, like I use my dad’s name. And he just looked at me. He was like, Yeah, why? And I was like, Oh, he’s my dad. And I swear, like, that man was white, but he turned translucent. Like I have never seen, like, that’s the best facial expression ever seen in my whole life.
Chris [00:14:50] So you two must have had quite a chat after that, huh?
Caller [00:14:53] Yeah, we did. Well, I was crying at first, but after we had a great conversation.
Chris [00:14:59] Right, right, right, right. Oh, wow. Okay. Yeah. This is one of these ones that’s keeping me on my toes. I’ll just ask this question. I’ll just be blunt and get it out of the way. You mentioned that you were inspired to call after watching Dahmer on Netflix, but he’s a serial killer. Does is your dad does did your dad do this again or is he just a one and done ax murderer?
Caller [00:15:21] Yeah, he’s just a one and done.
Chris [00:15:23] Okay.
Caller [00:15:26] So, you know, could have been worse.
Chris [00:15:28] Did your- certainly could have been two. Yeah. Wow. This. I don’t know why. I’ve heard a lot of this show. It’s something it’s a combination of the info and also the fact that you seem pretty chill. It’s. That’s what’s thrown me for a loop. Did your dad go to jail or to a mental health facility after he was caught? How did it how did it go?
Caller [00:15:51] Yeah, so he went to jail. And he served almost his full 20 year sentence. And I actually met him for the first time when I was 16.
Chris [00:16:08] So that’s 14 years after it goes- well, no, 14 years after, you- or no, after it went down. Right? You said you were two?
Caller [00:16:15] Yeah. Yeah.
Chris [00:16:18] And he served almost 20. So you met him when he was still imprisoned?
Caller [00:16:23] Yeah.
Chris [00:16:24] How did that go?
Caller [00:16:26] It was bizarre, like… It’s so weird to meet someone that’s, like, supposed to be, like, your biological father. Like, it’s, it’s such an important role in your life… But to just be like, Wow, like one, I’ve never met you before. And two, like, you killed someone.
Chris [00:16:49] What did you guys talk about? What do you do?
Caller [00:16:55] Yeah. So, like, I got let into, like, the infirmary because he was sick. Um, part of the reason why I actually started to get a relationship with him is that I got a call that he was actually dying. So that’s what spurred me to reach out. And I just, you know, shared that I was in school. I shared what was going on in my life. And we watched the Patriots game.
Chris [00:17:32] You just sat and watched football. Very traditional, traditional father son activity right there.
Caller [00:17:40] Yeah, it was just bizarre. Like it was it was underwhelming. Like I’d thought about that moment my whole life really up until that point. And it was just like, Oh, hey, hey, I’m your dad. Cool.
Chris [00:17:56] And you were by yourself. You weren’t accompanied by your mom or any other relative or chaperone or anything?
Caller [00:18:03] My mom did have to go with me because I was a minor.
Chris [00:18:08] And I imagine I mean, they, did they stay married?
Caller [00:18:11] No.
Chris [00:18:12] Yeah. I was going to say, you break up with someone at that point.
Caller [00:18:16] Yeah. So more with that dark humor. She, the other day, she said, Man, I’m so mad I could kill someone. And without even thinking I said, huh, what are the odds that both of my parents commit homicide?
Chris [00:18:33] You said that to her?
Caller [00:18:35] It was hilarious.
Chris [00:18:36] Did she- did- does she laugh at that, too?
Caller [00:18:39] No. She kind of just gave me a look like, Are you serious? And then I laughed even harder.
Chris [00:18:48] Now, you said he served- you got to call when you were 16 because he was dying. But then you said he served most of a 20 year sentence. It sounds like that was a few years beyond, after you met him. Did he pass away eventually or did he did he get out of jail?
Caller [00:19:03] Yeah, he actually he passed away one of I think it was my my first year of college. So I was 19.
Chris [00:19:15] And he was still in prison at the time?
Caller [00:19:16] Yeah.
Chris [00:19:17] Wow. How do you feel about that?
Caller [00:19:21] I’m honestly really thankful that I got to know him. I mean, honestly, like just to- in a weird way, I see it as a blessing because. I got to meet someone that wasn’t just a killer. Like, I got to see him for who he actually is. And just being able to see, like, the gray area and like, yeah, like my dad killed someone, But he also was a goofball. And like, he read the dictionary for fun and he used to wear, like, booty shorts and timberlands. Like, I just I think it just gave me more of an appreciation for, for people. And I really think it inspired me in some ways to start work in the human service field. Because I can see that he was really struggling. I read in some of the, the articles that was written in the newspapers that he was trying to get sober and that he was reaching out for help. Like, I know that he was really struggling and I really believe that this isn’t something that he really, you know, wanted to do, but under the circumstances, he just snapped. So, I mean, I really, really feel terribly sorry for the family that he affected and the person that he killed. But I can also feel compassion for him and what he was going through at the time. I don’t think anyone that does something like that is in a good headspace.
Chris [00:21:25] It sounds like, you know, you mentioned you met him when you were 16. It sounds like that was not your last meeting. Sounds like you had a relationship.
Caller [00:21:34] Yeah, we did. I mean, we talked a lot over the phone and we even wrote letters.
Chris [00:21:41] It does beg the question of if he ever spoke directly to his crime in the course of your relationship.
Caller [00:21:50] Never talked about it.
Chris [00:21:51] Wow. Did you want to ask or did you feel like it was better to just let that lie?
Caller [00:21:59] I thought it was better just to let it lie. And that’s kind of why the whole meeting my professor that was in the car with him was such an eye opening thing for me, because he had been passed away for a while when that happened, so I was like, Wow, like, I actually got to hear an account of like how he was acting like in the time of the crime.
Chris [00:22:28] Do you remember the specifics of what the professor said about how he was acting?
Caller [00:22:33] Yeah, he just said that like he seemed a little anxious, but not anything like that he could pick up on. And it just blew my mind that he talked about me. He talked about-.
Chris [00:22:49] He did?
Caller [00:22:50] Yeah, he talked about having a kid and just like, how much he loved his kid and he couldn’t wait to see what they did in their life. And my professor actually was like, you know, I always thought about that kid and where they were. And I was in the front row just like, it’s me.
Chris [00:23:11] Bet that professor stopped telling that story for cheap, cheap thrills.
Caller [00:23:15] Yeah, I actually did- I had some strong words for him. I definitely schooled him about stigma.
Chris [00:23:25] I bet, because I mean, it sounds like it sounds- and we all have seen, right, I’ve had some good teachers in my life. I’ve had some bad teachers in my life. But it does smack of that thing bad teachers do, at the very least on bad days of like, hey, I’ve like, I’ve got all the attention on me so let me put on a little show here. Let me let me tell you this wild thing. Like, I can’t imagine the context with which that was worth sharing to a class. And for you to say like, oh, actually there was a lot of human collateral damage with that. And I’m a living example of it. So maybe chill out. I have to imagine is that along the lines of the strong words of like, you’re being a big showoff with this. Calm down with that. There’s no need?
Caller [00:24:09] Yeah, you hit the nail on the head. That’s basically what I said. And I even said I was like, You have a responsibility as a psychologist who works with people with mental health conditions to have a humanistic approach, and you definitely do not. Like I told them too. I was like, You caused me to have a panic attack outside after you gave that whole spiel. Like, how was that trauma informed? It wasn’t.
Chris [00:24:42] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, to be fair to the professor, the odds that he would pick up a hitchhiker who would be your dad, let alone that your dad would mention you, let alone that you’d later wind up in that front row are minuscule. But this is why you don’t take chances when you’re trying to be responsible and in a position of authority.
Caller [00:25:05] Yeah. And even just, like, not demonizing people that do commit crimes.
Chris [00:25:11] Yeah, of course. Of course. I have to wonder, you know, you grow up, you’re in school, you’re a functioning human being out in the world. You’re meeting people. There’s there’s probably times where friends are meeting your mom. There’s probably times where you’re- I’m- who’s to say for sure, but conceivably, situations where you start dating someone and you’re meeting their parents and they’re wondering why they’re not meeting yours. How do you how do you navigate this? Because you mentioned at the top of the call that you haven’t really spoken to too many people about this.
Caller [00:25:48] Yeah it’s a tricky one. I, I normally skirt around the issue. Like I say, yeah, my father was in prison for quite some time and that that really limited the time that we had together. And I leave it at that. But if I get really close with someone then I’ll open up and tell them more. But typically, if people ask about my father, I just kind of generally say that he was in prison.
Chris [00:26:25] Do you still live in the same area where the crime took place?
Caller [00:26:29] Yeah, so I actually- well, no, I don’t live there now, but that’s where I went to school.
Chris [00:26:39] Because I have to imagine your professor’s not the only one talking glibly about this at times. I know where I live- and listen, I’ll be honest, I’m a bit of a I’m a bit of a shit talker. I love a good tall tale. And I love a good, crazy story. And I know that there’s, uh, speaking of Netflix, that there’s that one that just came out, The Good Nurse. That guy grew up around the block from my mom, Charles Cullen, the angel of death. And there’s a part of me that sits here and goes, My mom grew up around the corner from that guy! I have to imagine when someone commits an ax murder, that must become a little bit of local legend on some level. So you find out about it from another kid who who gets out of line and says too much. This professor gets out of line and says too much. But I have to imagine there had to have been other incidents where there’s talk of the ax murder that you’re overhearing.
Caller [00:27:34] Yeah, I actually had to change my name.
Chris [00:27:38] Wow.
Caller [00:27:39] I’m actually I’m on my third name.
Chris [00:27:41] On your third name? You had to change your once for an ax murder related situation. Why did you have to change it a second time?
Caller [00:27:48] I’m actually transgender.
Chris [00:27:52] Excuse me?
Caller [00:27:53] I’m transgender. So I, I changed from-
Chris [00:27:57] I’ll tell you. I initially thought you said I’m a transcender. Like, transcendent. Like transcending. And I thought I was going to learn about something new. And instead, I’m happy to tell you I’m familiar with the phrase transgender and I’m psyched to, uh psyched to hear that it’s not a new thing that someone’s going to school me on and that I’ll put my foot in my mouth 10,000 times with. Congratulations on a on embracing yourself, living as your true self. I support you.
Caller [00:28:35] Thank you, Chris. Yeah. So, uh that’s part of the reason why I brought in the idea of Jeffrey Dahmer, because when I was watching that documentary, I really I felt really close to Jeffrey Dahmer’s dad because there’s a part- I won’t like give spoilers or anything, but there’s a part of the of the show that he’s really like coming to terms with what his son did. And it shows him like one minute crying and the other just trying to do research and really like trying to grapple emotionally with something that like how can you grapple with that? And I definitely don’t condone what Jeffrey did, and I feel very sorry for all of his families and victims. But I just felt connected because I felt like my whole life, my voice as a family member of someone that committed a crime, I’m demonized, too. I can’t talk about what happened because then people will just label me as like the ax murderer’s kid.
Chris [00:30:00] That’s really interesting. There’s a lot to be said about that. Caller has a lot to say and I have a lot to say. And I bet you’ll have a lot of thoughts. Listen, we’ll get into that thought right after these ads. We’ll be right back. Thanks to all the advertisers who help us bring the show to the world. Now, let’s finish off the phone call.
Caller [00:30:23] I can’t talk about what happened because then people will just label me as, like, the ax murderer ‘skid.
Chris [00:30:31] I’m sure. I mean, there’s this obsession with true crime the past, what, three or four years in the States. All over the world, really. I mean, but this explosion of true crime podcasts, I certainly as a podcaster, I’m like, oh, I kind of grew out of the comedy thing and went in a different direction. But then I’ve watched, I think the same week my show launched, My Favorite Murders launched. And you’ve got certainly Serial, I mean so many. S-Town. I don’t need to tell podcast listeners that this obsession with true crime is there, but there is something very, very fascinating about what you’re saying about this part, because how do I want to phrase this without being snarky? There’s some projects like this that you can tell are in the hands of people with integrity, whether that’s journalistic integrity or the integrity of a documentarian. And there’s people who try to be responsible. Those can be really fascinating to watch. But as this true crime stuff has become a fad and a phenomenon and a moneymaking venture, there’s more and more of it to me, that just boils down- and I’m a fan of true crime historically. I’ve always liked it my whole life. But lately, I feel like a lot of these vehicles just come down to somebody basically going, Listen to how fucked up this was. And then reading a Wikipedia entry into a podcast from their microphone. Or stuff even making it to platforms as big as your Netflix’s of the world. Not to call out Netflix in particular, but some of that stuff on there is better than others. And the problem is when it turns into pure entertainment, when there are entertainment vehicles, the credits roll. That story ends because someone has outlined it and a writer has written how it’s going to be broken down and producers have helped structure it and people have given notes. Credits don’t roll in real life. And we got to be really mindful not to boil this stuff down because there’s so much… When when traumatic incidents like this happen in communities, it shouldn’t just serve as fodder for entertainment. Because that trauma is like throwing a big boulder into a pond and then those ripples just keep coming out and hitting the shores. And that’s people in your position, the friends, families, loved ones of these people who have to reconcile what they’ve done. This is victims. This is neighborhoods where people used to not lock their doors and now they do. And all the sense of freedom and trust that communities deal with in the aftermath of stuff like this. There’s, I mean, endless, an endless litany of effects that this has. And I’m I’m really wary of sensationalized, irresponsible true crime as a genre. I’m I’m a little bit I went from someone who has always loved true crime in my life to someone who’s like, I will wait to hear when something’s actually good from someone I trust because I can’t just listen to more stuff that’s just, listen to how messed up this was. Because that’s not that’s not a story that’s totally worth telling if that’s as deep as we’re going to go with it, in my opinion.
Caller [00:33:58] Yeah, it’s like essentially like victim porn, serial killer porn. Like, it’s just so enticing. Like, I get it, too, because, like, I watch that stuff too, but I always try to think about the family members and like the whole picture of everyone that’s affected.
Chris [00:34:17] Yeah. And all the other people with that same last name who got to go to work that next morning, or all the people who are missing a loved one who, you know, someone who goes, Yeah 15 years ago, my, my family member got murdered, and now it’s the water cooler topic because it’s a show on some streaming platform. You got to think a little bit about the human cost of all this. And I’m sure someone in the future who’s very smart will look back and say, whatever was going on in America, like my opinion, our obsession with true, true crime definitely will be viewed in the same lens as why did Q-Anon get so popular? What was January 6th all about? Why were there riots in the streets? I think our obsession with true crime will be one of the bullet points that history writes about when they look at the sort of strange, mistrustful, violent streak we’ve been in as a country the past few years. That’s just me. I’m just an idiot in New Jersey. Who knows, I could be wrong about that.
Caller [00:35:25] I think you got a point though, Chris.
Chris [00:35:28] Who knows? Sometimes idiots from New Jersey say smart things.
Caller [00:35:34] You brought up January sixth.
Chris [00:35:37] Oh, boy.
Caller [00:35:39] I’m not. I want to preface. I’m not an extremist. I don’t believe in Q-Anon and all that. January sixth was actually the day that I started my medical transition.
Chris [00:35:54] Wow. January six, 2021?
Caller [00:35:58] Oh, yeah.
Chris [00:36:00] So the January sixth.
Caller [00:36:02] Yes.
Chris [00:36:03] So whenever what everyone now refers to, I mean, there’s two dates we all know, right? There’s 9/11. There’s January sixth. These are in the American lexicon. What if you turned around, you’re like, I was actually born on 9/11. I’m so sorry to laugh at that. I’m so sorry. But what if you did? What if you’re like, really funny side note about that. But so this date that everyone holds up as one of the worst dates in American history, and that’s endlessly debated about ever since, you look back on and go, God damn it, that was supposed to be the day that marked a rebirth of sorts for me. And now it’s forever stained.
Caller [00:36:44] So yeah, I was mad about America and I, like I went to my appointment and I did the whole like, learn how to jab yourself with a needle safely, all that. And I was on cloud nine and I was just so happy. And I was like, riding that high. And then I got home and I saw these yahoos, like, I saw that guy, like in the elk-
Chris [00:37:10] I know which guy. You don’t even- you just need to say on January sixth, I saw that guy, and we all know which guy.
Caller [00:37:18] Right? And I thought it was fake. I was like, What is this guy doing?
Chris [00:37:25] He’s trying to save us all. He’s trying to save us. From the corrupt forces within those walls. No, he’s… And again, it’s not we’re not here to demonize mental illness, but I will merely judge that person’s actions and say what was going on. What a bad, what a bad, what a bad way to kick off a rebirth.
Caller [00:37:51] Yeah, definitely was not the best day, but I can’t forget it.
Chris [00:37:56] No, no. What a bummer. What a bummer.
Caller [00:38:02] Yeah, I swear, I felt the whole range of all the human emotions in one day.
Chris [00:38:10] I am so sorry. I’m sorry to laugh now, but you’ve had some life, huh.
Caller [00:38:15] Yeah, I do think it’s funny. It’s. It’s pretty ironic. Actually, the way I remember it is insurrection is kind of like injection. That’s how I think about it in my brain, because that was my first testosterone injection.
Chris [00:38:35] There you go. There you go. Now, you mentioned that you became a counselor. You had a teacher who stepped in, kind of totally directed your path, opened your eyes. But it sounds like you don’t do that anymore?
Caller [00:38:52] Yeah, I’m actually in school to be a counselor.
Chris [00:38:56] Oh, you’re in school to be a counselor?
Caller [00:38:58] Yeah.
Chris [00:38:59] So that is still the goal. So what is that? Are you going for social work?
Caller [00:39:02] I’m going for mental health counseling.
Chris [00:39:05] Mental health counseling. I tell you, I think I mentioned it on the show. I just after many years solely as an artist, I applied to grad school because I’m thinking about maybe going and getting my social work masters and see if I can become a counselor. Who knows?
Caller [00:39:22] No way. That is amazing.
Chris [00:39:26] I mean, it seems it seems tough, but it’s weird and people are sit- and people sit here and they say to me, What are you talking about? You’ve had this, like, charmed life. And I go, Yeah, but it’s also kind of uncertain. And I my instinct right now is to find a way to be at home with my son and be on the road less and be dragged out to California a little less. And who knows, maybe that’s me being self-defeatest. Maybe I’ll snap out of it. Maybe I’ll get some job in entertainment and I’ll go, What was I thinking? But right now, I actually I applied and the website for the school I applied to says they’ve made their decision, but it’s not telling me their decision yet. So who knows? Maybe, maybe before the call is up, I’ll go refresh and we’ll see if they give gave the decision. We’ll all find out on the air together.
Caller [00:40:16] That is so perfect for you. I honestly, in all of the episodes that I’ve heard you, like I always imagine you as a social worker, like just the way that you talk. It’s so it makes people feel so at ease.
Chris [00:40:32] That’s nice.
Caller [00:40:32] I feel like you have a lot of the social work skills already.
Chris [00:40:37] Thanks. Yeah, that’s the joke. That’s the joke people make. I tell them I’m going for social work and they’re like, Oh, yeah, you might as well get a degree in it because it’s, you know, go learn how to do it correctly and ethically because it’s sort of just what you do anyway. And I say, touché. I make comedy that has no laughs and that people feel as- anything I put up, people go, Is this a TED talk or is this standup? I go, who cares? Are you getting something out of it? Then who cares? And people.
Caller [00:41:06] You also need to have a dark sense of humor. And you’ve got that.
Chris [00:41:10] You got to. Me and you, maybe- listen, maybe we’ll team up. We’ll start a private practice together. We’ll, if I’m sick, you cover me. If you’re sick, I’ll cover you. We’ll become counselors together. Who knows?
Caller [00:41:21] Perfect. Let’s do it.
Chris [00:41:22] There you go. And if you’re a listener and you’re looking for mental health counseling, check me out in three years. No, imagine if I started plugging. If I started trying to harvest listeners as clients, that would be- I have to imagine that will be day one what they will tell me not to do. Anyway, let’s get back to you. Let’s get back to you and your story. When you grow up, you know you had, you had this other kid blurt it out. This is how you find out. This is not ideal. I’m sure that the other adults in their life and in your life were pretty upset that that’s how it went down. I do have to wonder… If it comes up more throughout childhood. I have to wonder, do you ever meet anybody else who you identify with? Do you meet other people along the way? Are there support groups for people whose parents have murdered? Are there are there people you meet who have been through their own trauma where you feel like you can open up to them and identify because they get it? This is a very unique thing, and it’s important to find people who get it in life.
Caller [00:42:30] Honestly, I didn’t find that until I started working on the help line. So I spent most of my life feeling alone and just feeling like I had this huge secret that I couldn’t tell people.
Chris [00:42:49] Mm hmm. And then- I’m not trying to be reductive here or go for anything too easy, but it is it is sitting right there on the table- to live a life where you have this huge secret you can’t tell people in relation to your father, and then also to eventually transition which I think, you know, the the popular view of it is that a lot of people who eventually transition also live with a huge secret that they are hesitant to tell people for many years. I hope that’s becoming easier on children, although we’re certainly not as a society, making it much easier in a lot of areas. But that’s a real double whammy of things that you are reconciling internally. And a lot of people wouldn’t be able to handle either of those. And you handled both. It seems.
Caller [00:43:42] Yeah. I mean, I think I turned out fine with going through all of that. And I just have a dark sense of humor. It could be worse things.
Chris [00:43:51] Can I ask a question that’s probably too basic and you might roll your eyes and listeners will and they probably should?
Caller [00:43:57] Go for it.
Chris [00:44:00] Which was the harder internal truth to navigate, I think is the way I want to phrase it. You know what I mean?
Caller [00:44:11] Yeah, that’s such a good question. Uh. You know, I’d actually have to say being transgender because I grew up in a pretty rural community, and honestly, I didn’t even know that trans people existed. So to build back like all those years of internalized transphobia, it took a lot. It, actually… I had it for so long that I first really came to terms with being trans like during the pandemic when I had time to actually think about what I wanted for my life. So yeah, I really think just having to affirm for myself that, yes, this is my identity and who I am, and then also the whole social aspect of that, knowing that I’d have to change my name, I’d have to come out to literally everyone in my life.
Chris [00:45:27] When you put it like that, that’s, that’s… I can see how that’s more daunting.
Caller [00:45:35] That’s not even really getting into the fact that there’s certain people that I knew would just wouldn’t accept me cuz it’s such a such a polarized thing, like my identity is politicized.
Chris [00:45:52] Yeah.
Caller [00:45:53] And I was I was afraid of of losing family members too.
Chris [00:46:00] How has that been?
Caller [00:46:03] Actually, it’s been great. Like everyone has actually been more supportive. And I was really nervous about my grandmother and she’s so good. She- all my Christmas cards, she like puts “my grandson” and she buys me like, razors and she tells me that I’m handsome. It’s actually been great. But it definitely was terrifying.
Chris [00:46:34] That’s cool that that grandma stepped up. And is that your mom’s mom or your dad’s mom?
Caller [00:46:41] My mom’s mom.
Chris [00:46:44] I also want to just put something else out here real quick. So and hopefully it takes the weight off of you to have to even say this… But I want to put this out here is you just said before your whole identities politicized. That’s got to be exhausting. And I want to say that there might be people listening right now who are tempted to say that the two things that we’ve talked about in this call relate to one another. By what I mean is there might be people out there going like, see, like if you have a dad who’s mentally ill and causes this trauma, then that’s going to mean that your kid is all messed up and comes out as trans. And I just want to say they don’t necessarily have a thing to do with each other. They might. They might not. And the point the main point being there’s a lot of people who are trans and who are embracing it fully, who had no trauma. There’s people who have had a lot of trauma who it doesn’t make them focus on their identity in any way or consider their identity in any way. They’re separate issues. You could have had a dad who was home playing catch every night or at every soccer game, cheering you on, the textbook perfect white picket fence, two car family with that dad, and you could have been you could have been whoever you wound up being. And I just want to nip it in the bud as far as anybody tempted to say that there is some causation between your father and your identity, because there is not.
Caller [00:48:21] I really appreciate you saying that.
Chris [00:48:24] I can see it coming already. I can see the comments from people flirting with that idea. And I just want to say everyone handles everything differently and you can’t cherry pick aspects of people and point towards others and and and have knee jerk reactions to try to affirm your own biases. Anyway, let’s all move on.
Caller [00:48:49] So on a positive note. On a positive note, I. I’m going to work to specialize in my counseling, and I want to work specifically with transgender individuals.
Chris [00:49:07] That’s huge. That’s huge. I mean, you ask me, and I’m no expert, the people I’ve always trusted talking to are not necessarily people who claim to be experts in their field; they’re people who can empathize. They’re are people who get it. The shrink I’ve been seeing since 2007, I don’t necessarily know that she plays by all the textbook rules, and I’ve seen shrinks who have. I like her a lot better because there’s a lot of aspects of her personality where I go, she gets it, she gets me. She gets where I come from. She gets it. And that’s that fit. The idea that you’ve transitioned yourself I feel like it’s going to help a lot of people who come after you, who you interact with as a counselor. The idea that you’ve lived through so much trauma means that anybody else who’s lived through trauma is going to inherently sense, whether you get specific with them or not, they’re going to inherently sense that you get it. And I can’t tell you the number of times in my life where I’ve been positively affected by someone who can just quietly indicate to me, not even necessarily verbally, but where I just quietly sense, okay, this person gets it. I can let my guard down. So the idea that you’ve been through so much trauma, the idea that you’ve, like you said, the politicization of who you are, it’s exhausting. I can’t imagine how exhausting the past few years have been. The idea that you’re also going to dive into a line of work that’s exhausting and how much you have to put out there, how much red tape you have to navigate, how much of other people’s trauma you take on, inherently, the fact that you’re going to step up and do that when you’ve already dealt with so much, it’s going to serve those people so well. And I feel grateful that you’re doing it. And I feel like the people you come to help are going to be lucky for having you there. Because certainly you’re never going to judge anybody. I have to imagine.
Caller [00:51:15] Oh, I can’t. Like I’ve been through, like you said, so much myself that I really can’t judge anyone. I’m just I’m so excited to get into the field cuz the state that I’m in, I don’t even know another trans actually a trans person doing transgender specific therapy. I mean, there could be a few, but it’s just it’s not common. And the ones that don’t even specialize, but just have some experience, their weight lists are out the door.
Chris [00:51:58] I bet.
Caller [00:51:58] I’m just I’m so excited because a lot of people don’t think that there’s also like a power imbalance because you have to get your your therapist to sign off on a document like if you want to get surgery. And if your provider doesn’t know anything about that, then that’s another barrier. A lot of trans folks actually have to teach their providers how to do their job. Have to present themselves in a way that makes them seem coherent and healthy, because that’s another thing, is that counselors also are the gatekeeper of hormones in a lot of situations. So if there is a stigma that someone if someone thinks that a transgender person is inherently mentally ill, then they might not let them have access to their hormones or have a letter for surgery. So much power dynamic that I don’t even think a lot of therapists are even aware of.
Chris [00:53:16] I’m sure. And there’s also inherently a trust too in the sense of for anyone who comes to you where you might turn around and go, I’m not sure that I can certify hormones yet. There’s going to be more trust there that that’s not coming from a place of closed mindedness or bigotedness. It’s going to come from you going, we got we’re we’re going to do this in a way that’s the most healthy for you. And there will be more trust from that direction as well. That’s another thing I don’t think people get of, I don’t think there’s people out here just trying to like willy nilly prescribe whatever anybody wants all the time. There’s people trying to help kids get to where they need to go and feel safe and comfortable as who they are. And that trust is going to be incredible. I feel like you’re going to find that trust from the people themselves that you’re helping. And I also have to imagine, too, there’s going to be parents banging down your door going, I grew up and we didn’t talk about this and I’m so happy to find someone who knows how, who can connect with my kid. Can you help us? I bet there’s going to be so much of that and it’s going to be overwhelming.
Caller [00:54:35] Yeah. I know I definitely didn’t choose an easy path, but I really feel like it’s my calling. I just feel like I really want to make meaning of everything that I’ve experienced in my life and this sounds like- it feels like that’s the best path for me to kind of use all the stuff I’ve gone through to really help others.
Chris [00:55:01] Here’s a companion question to something that happened before, before I asked you, you know, you have these two things that were internal; the situation with your dad and transitioning. Which was difficult, you said honestly transitioning. We all have been listening to the conversation. Now, what will be harder for you as a counselor, helping people navigate their transitioning or if by coincidence someone sits down once and goes, Hey, there’s something I’ve never told anybody about. I have a parent who murdered someone. Which do you think will be harder as a councilor?
Caller [00:55:48] Ooh. I mean, initially, I’d like to say that I have enough of like I’m able to separate myself emotionally. But I don’t know. If I talked to another person that was a child of someone that killed someone, I don’t know if I could do that. That’s just such a specific trauma. Yeah, I think that would be the hardest one.
Chris [00:56:22] What a life. What a life. We’re all just making our way through it. I feel, you know, you and I have laughed at the dark parts and we philosophize on so much. I also just want to say thank you, because you mentioned you haven’t opened up about this to too many people. I feel really flattered that you’d open up to me on this platform. And also, you know what I think? As you say that would be too much, being a councilor and rallying as part of community that you are a part of and a community that needs more people speaking from experience, being able to help people who can inherently trust you because it’s empathy, not just sympathy, not theoretically or anything, there’s part of that is you are sacrificing, you know, you’re becoming a counselor. You’re giving of yourself. But it will help community. Everything that happened with your dad, I have to imagine, has been incredibly lonely. And when you’re facing something that fosters that much loneliness, to come across someone else who understands that loneliness… That’s like a one on one thing that you might never encounter. And if you do, it will be rare. It might almost be like the loneliness might in some way be its own warm blanket and having to face it down with someone else within it could be terrifying.
Caller [00:57:55] And I think, yeah, because I’ve gone through so much, it gives me a lot of confidence that I can sit with people in their deepest traumas cuz I had a therapist that was really great and sat with me and like, I’ve done so much work on myself. And I feel like there’s not much that someone could throw at me and I would have a special visceral reaction. And I don’t think that I would react in a way that would say that I didn’t believe that they could heal. And I know that feeling is possible because I’ve had some wild things happen in my life. And I’m doing great in my life, so I know that anyone else who has other traumas and has other, you know, like negative thinking patterns or mental health diagnoses, I know that it’s possible even when the world puts you in a box and says that you shouldn’t be able to have a good life, like I know it’s possible.
Chris [00:59:06] It really is. That’s a beautiful note to end on. We’re, we’re running out of time. I got to thank you again for trusting me with this story. And I got to thank you again for stepping up and dedicating your future to helping others. I hope it really goes well. And it’s going to be hard and difficult, but I hope you help a lot of people and I hope that it’s incredibly satisfying.
Caller [00:59:28] Well it’s been great to talk to you, Chris.
Chris [00:59:36] Caller, thank you so much. As I said towards the end, you mentioned you haven’t shared this too often. You’ve shared it with me. That’s hugely flattering. It is an honor. The fan base of this show, I think, has a reputation for being kind, taking in these stories, and I feel grateful to be a part of a community that you feel this trust with. And good luck to you in the future. This show is produced by Anita Flores. It’s engineered by Jared O’Connell. Our theme song’s by ShellShag. You want to know more about me, including when I’m going on the road to do stand up and live Beautiful/ Anonymous tapings, ChrisGeth.com for info. And hey, wherever you’re listening, there’s a button that says subscribe, favorite, follow. Hit that button. It helps us so much. You can find our latest merch at PodSwag.com. Got mugs, shirts, posters and more. And if you want your episodes ad free, you wanna head over to Stitcher Premium. You can use the code “stories” for a one month free trial. That’s at Stitcher.com/premium.