People of Vallarta: Francine Peters

For ten years he was beaten; every single day, kids slapped, kicked, punched and called him names.

Once, after being assaulted, Fred recalls walking home with ripped, dirty clothing.   “Those are brand new clothes! “ exclaimed his mother— “What did you DO?!”   “I was beat up” he said; “I DON’T want to hear it!” She replied.

Fred could not find any solace.   On the last day of school, while walking down a path, 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 pummeled 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, Fred states he still became an angry, pot smoking SOB.

He intuitively knew he was ‘different’ but could not pinpoint exactly why. Fred carried on with his life.  He met and fell head over heels in love with his wife; she was unlike any other woman. They married and had one child, a daughter.  Fred tells me he sold his pickup truck to buy his wife an engagement ring.

In his past life, Fred worked many ‘manly’ jobs: he was a truck driver hauling logs, a cook/chef and a heavy-duty equipment operator.  Eventually, as he grew tired of the constant drinking and gambling lifestyle, he took up painting.

Fred displayed his paintings in a friend’s local café; 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; owners of an art gallery in Hawaii charged Fred 75% commission for each sale of his paintings! In another situation, his agent robbed him.

Ironically after making the news headlines, Fred’s work became very well known in international art circles. “When that news broke, I could walk into any art gallery. It was an awful time, but it put me on the map!”   The only reason Fred discovered the fraudulent agent, was due to a friend approaching him and asking, “why do you keep increasing the price of your paintings?”

This statement puzzled Fred; “I haven’t changed the price for years, they are still $5,000 each.” “Five thousand dollars?!” exclaimed Fred’s friend.   “Do you realize your agent is selling them for $30,000 to $40,000 each?”   Needless to say, the agent was giving Fred $5,000 minus the commission and pocketing the rest as personal profit!

In this story, we frequently mention the name Fred because this identity is vital to her, yes you read it right—her—story.  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, after two years, the marriage ended; she told Francine, “I have never seen you happier, I love you but do not need a roommate.”   In her ‘coming out’ period, Fran – cine 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.”

Francine was slowly coming full circle.  When she disclosed to her daughter, the reaction was less than nonchalant.  Her daughter 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. Francine moved to Puerto Vallarta two and a half years ago.

Like many others, she describes Vallarta as a “magical place.” Prior to moving here, she had quit pain – ting 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, if you attend charity events, you will most likely see Francine donating her artwork to the cause.  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 knew Francine was struggling financially.  He 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.  As a lonely, solitary young boy, Fred found nothing but enemies and pain.  In being true to herself and becoming the woman she was always meant to be, Francine now finds herself with “more family and friends than I ever had in my whole life.”  “I may be alone,” she says (not married); “but I am never lonely.”