He said She said

Former police officer connecting with the woman she was meant to be

Cadence Elizabeth Vales would love to believe hers is a mundane story. Sure, she’s done some interesting things. She was a narcotics officer and had experiences that caused post-traumatic stress disorder. She’s a three-time cancer survivor. But she would prefer to simply blend in and live her life as a “modern-day Southern belle.” 

Unfortunately for Cadence, it’s not that simple. It never has been. She has spent most of her 43 years coming to terms with the fact that she is a transgender woman. After decades of repression and denial living as David, followed by years of “hiding in plain sight,” she has gradually shared her story with the world around her — not because she believes it extraordinary, but because she hopes others like it will one day be viewed as ordinary.

Cadence’s earliest memories of questioning her gender identity date to 4 or 5 years old, though family members recall earlier behaviors that foreshadowed the revelation to come. She recalls wishing she could take part in activities with her female classmates rather than playing with the boys and would often gravitate toward more “feminine” options like playing Barbies with her cousins. 

As she grew older, she repressed those instincts more and more and overcompensated with hyper-masculine choices, eventually leading her to become a police officer. She experimented with wearing women’s clothing, but her exploration of her gender identity was “haphazard” until she first went on the internet in 1998. Like many people struggling to reconcile their sexuality or gender identity during that time, the exposure to the web allowed her to connect the dots.

“That was the first time that I realized fully that I wasn’t alone,” she recalls, “but by that point in my life I had already committed to so many things within my life, like being a police officer, that it was impossible to just walk it back and be me.”

She was already married with a child, and it wasn’t as simple as flipping a switch. There would be so many people to worry about, from co-workers and friends to family members and everyone in between. 

“You kind of get yourself painted into a corner where you feel like you can’t make a decision, because the consequences to it are just so vast,” she says. “I used cross-dressing as a crutch. That was my mental gymnastics I used to convince myself that I wasn’t transgender. I spent a lot of time deluding myself.”

Like any major life change, it would take time, and it wouldn’t come easily.


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