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But two near-death experiences in her 60s made her rethink what she wanted the rest of her life to be.
Before Mark and Jackie opened Sun Singer together 22 years ago — first in Monticello, then relocating it to Champaign — Mark spent 30 years working in the family asphalt business. Mark and Jackie met and began dating when they were at Centennial High School together and got married young — Jackie was just 20, Mark Following the advice of a counselor before the wedding, Mark leveled with Jackie about his issues with gender confusion. After the wedding, the Yarbroughs went on with their lives, a man-woman couple, and Mark went on hiding the woman inside, having learned well how to cover since childhood.
A former veterinary technician at the University of Illinois, Jackie knew what to do and revived her spouse. The following year, Mark fell from a foot ladder cleaning out a gutter and broke four ribs in his back, and two weeks later had emergency surgery for bleeding in his lungs.
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She again sought help from a counselor, who diagnosed her and sent her to a doctor specializing in transgender care. She remembers the relief she felt when she began taking hormones in the fall ofeven before she took the first pill.
Jackie recalled the Mark-to-Michelle transition period as a bit overwhelming and frightening for her and a rough time in their marriage. And, she admits, she was angry.
Michelle said she moved out of their home in Augustbut was in her own place for less than a day. Jackie had an accident herself that evening, falling in the bathroom, hitting her head and bleeding profusely, and Michelle came back home.
The couple reached an agreement. At 67, Michelle is now both different from the person she married and the same, Jackie Yarbrough said. Hormone therapy has also given the former Mark more feminine curves, and voice training has softened what was once a deep, gruff voice. Still the same in her longtime spouse, Jackie said, are the sense of humor and the loving kindness.
To those who might be secretly grappling with transgender issues, she advised, love yourself and accept yourself as you are. Debra Pressey is a reporter covering health care at The News-Gazette. Her is dpressey news-gazette.
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