For ten years he was beaten; every single day kids slapped, kicked, punched and called him names. On the last day of school, while walking alone, six boys jumped out of bushes. They were about to attack Fred. “This stops now!” Fred fumed and for the first time ever, he fought back. His rage was furious and as a result, he pummelled all six boys. The next year, when returning to school, Fred discovered that fighting back had garnered him a new level of respect. No one bullied him and everyone left him alone. Despite this new found peace, Fred was still angry. He intuitively knew he was ‘different’ but could not pinpoint exactly why.
Carrying on with his life, Fred met and fell head over heels in love with his wife, selling his beloved pick-up truck to buy her an engagement ring. They married and had one child, a daughter. Fred worked many jobs: he was a truck driver hauling logs, a cook/chef and a heavy-duty equipment operator. Eventually, as he grew tired of his destructive lifestyle, he took up painting.
A friend displayed Fred’s paintings in his café where they sold very well (they were flying off the walls). As he continued to paint, his work received glowing accolades and won several awards. During this time, Fred encountered some less than desirable people including his agent who robbed him of 10’s of thousands of dollars in an international art scandal that made the newspapers. “When that news broke, I could walk into any art gallery. It was an awful time, but it put me on the map!”
But isn’t this a story about Francine, you might be wondering? Once, while his wife was out running errands, Fred was busy putting away the laundry. He picked up a ‘delightful to the touch’ dress and decided to try it on. As he pulled it over his head, he felt shivers run throughout his body. “It was better than any drug for me,” he said.
When he finally summoned the courage to tell his wife, he found her to be initially supportive; she even taught him about makeup and showed him how to ‘not walk like a logger.’ However, two years later, the marriage ended; telling Francine, “I have never seen you happier, I love you but do not need a roommate.”
In her ‘coming out’ period, Francine was terrified to tell her mother (her father had already passed away). Francine describes her mother as “a little old Scottish lady; five foot nothing with tissues stuffed in her sleeves.”
Francine’s worry was unfounded; in response to her news, Francine’s eighty-year-old mother said, “I don’t have one of those Google machines, but I’m going to learn everything I can about transgendered people!” She cried and hugged Francine; “I will love you no matter what.”
With tears in her eyes, Francine recalls how several years later, her mother said in passing, “Finally, I have the daughter I always wanted.”
When she came out to her daughter she replied with: “Like I never saw that coming!” When her daughter was engaged to be married, Francine told her: “I guess I will have to revert back to being Fred if I want to walk you down the aisle as father of the bride.” The daughters’ response, “What?! NO! You are now Francine and will walk with me as Francine!” On the day of the wedding, both Francine and her daughter walked down the aisle with both faces beaming with happiness and pride.
In the coming years Francine moved to Puerto Vallarta and like many others, she describes it as a “magical place.” Prior to moving here, she had quit painting for six years; she was burned out—“for fifteen years I produced three hundred paintings per year and all the galleries wanted the same thing.”
Today at many charity fundraisers you will likely see a Francine Peters painting donated. Silent auctions for her paintings bring in a healthy amount of money; money which Francine admits she could most certainly use. Despite living peso to peso and barely “making ends meet,” Francine prefers to help others; after all, people helped her and she wants to pay it forward.
She tells me about one summer when Danny Mininni of Act II Stages suggested she display her work on the walls of his theatre; he told her, “I want to see you make it.” She smiles when sharing this story and tells me that “now, every night, hundreds of people can see, and walk by, my work!”
This story began with Fred and ends with Francine. In being true to herself and becoming who she was always meant to be, Francine found herself with “more family and friends than I ever had in my whole life.” “I may be alone,” she says “but I am never lonely.”
Francine Peters passed away this past weekend. A memorial celebration is arranged for Thursday, April 4 at 6:30 pm at Langostino’s in Old Town.
Ed. Note: Originally Published in Feb 2017, this article has been edited.