Nicole Michelle Garcia was born Michael on December 12, 1959, in Boulder, Colorado, the oldest son in a Hispanic, Roman Catholic family. On December 12, 1532, the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to an Indian peasant, Juan Diego, and told him to take roses to the Bishop of Mexico. As Juan Diego opened his blanket, the roses fell to the floor and the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared on the blanket. Michael was a Guadalupano. The church and the Virgin of Guadalupe were important parts of life during his formative years. He grew up a good Roman Catholic boy; played guitar in the church choir. While in college, he served on the church council. To the world, Michael was a quiet, studious, young man. On the inside, he constantly battled depression. He tried too hard, but never felt like he fit in anywhere. He prayed to God to help him fit in. He didn’t like the things the other guys liked and felt uncomfortable spending time doing “guy things.”
Michael met Gwyn while in college at the University of Colorado in Boulder. She seemed to like Michael because he was gentle and sensitive. Gwyn was his first “girlfriend” and was very independent and open-minded. She introduced him to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Michael saw this movie at least 30 times in two years. He had never heard the term “transvestite” before and had never thought anyone else liked to do what he did. When he told Gwyn he liked wearing women’s clothes, she was not surprised. She actually let him “dress up” for her.
Michael received a B.A. in political science in 1982 and started graduate school. During the first semester his relationship with Gwyn ended. He feared he would never again find someone with whom he felt safe with this secret. He did not finish the second semester; moved out of his parents’ house and lived in a house with friends. Michael worked in retail sales--at one time or another, he sold men’s clothing, jewelry, women’s perfume and cars. By November of 1989, he was living with a cousin in the back room of her trailer. Life was going nowhere, fast. One morning he ended up in a detox center. He realized that he had lost all direction, faith and hope. He started attending Alcoholics Anonymous and grudgingly allowed God back into his life.
During the following years, Michael worked hard--was promoted a few times and became an assistant store manager. He was able to afford his own place. He was praying again, but hadn’t found a church to attend on a regular basis. Michael was “buying and purging” on a regular basis. He would get the courage to buy a few pieces of women’s clothing to wear around the house. Later he would feel terrible about having these feelings and throw away all the women’s garments. He tried to repress those so-called “shameful” feelings.
Michael met a woman in 1993 who seemed like every man’s dream. The family adored her. They were married on October 1, 1994, in a big wedding in a Roman Catholic Church. Michael began a new career, law enforcement. He didn’t have to think about what he was supposed to wear. He was trained to be to be commanding and finally learned to be macho. By his 41st birthday, he was married to a wonderful woman and they both had successful careers. They lived in a large house near downtown Denver with two new cars in the garage. But there were problems looming. They wanted kids, but she didn’t get pregnant. Michael managed to avoid sexual situations as much as possible--usually working second shift and taking on extra duties. He was still trying to repress his shameful feelings and began drinking again. They agreed to divorce and he moved to a little house in the suburbs.
The downward spiral continued and Michael even contemplated suicide. But when his employer sent out a message about confidential mental health treatment, he made the call out of desperation. After two sessions, the therapist recommended long-term therapy. With the therapist's help, he began to come to terms with the fact that he may be a “cross-dresser.” At the therapist's recommendation, he went to a support group at the Gender Identity Center of Colorado (GIC). In February 2003, Michael attended the Goldrush Conference, sponsored by the GIC, bringing together the transgender world for a few days. Speakers and workshops dealt with a wide variety of topics, such as make-up, clothes, surgeries, therapy and how to walk and talk like a man or a woman. Although Michael went to the conference to come to terms with being a cross-dresser, he sat in on a workshop that dealt with transsexuals. As he sat there and listened to the stories, he started realizing they were telling his story. During that workshop, Michael had a “moment of clarity,” a term from the AA Big Book. This moment happened when he realized and accepted who he was. Michael was a woman. Then came a feeling Michael had never felt before--inner peace.
The prospect of making this gender transition--to become Nicole--was huge. Her therapist referred her to another therapist, who specialized in Gender Identity Disorder. She was referred to a medical doctor and on July 8, 2003, started hormone replacement therapy. As a part of therapy, she decided to dress as a woman during the evenings and on weekends. She began attending St. Paul Lutheran Church in downtown Denver with René, a friend from the GIC conference. She joined St. Paul after several months--in April 2004--because the people treated her as an individual, not as a transgender woman.
Nicole first talked with her sisters about her transition. Nicole's parents also took it well, but feared Nicole would end up alone in the world. After giving them six months to process the reality of Michael becoming Nicole, she began to wear more feminine clothing on family visits, then some make-up. It took time, patience and understanding, but Nicole's family worked through this transition.
The reaction at work was easier than expected. Nicole initially came out to an officer with whom she had a close professional and personal relationship. With her help, she told a few more officers, then her immediate supervisor. After some consultation Nicole was asked to attend a department-wide supervisors’ meeting where the Director gave her full support, directing all supervisors to contact her directly if there was any dissention in the ranks. Nicole was transferred from the streets to a desk position for the transition. It wasn't long before everyone in the office was a friend and supporter.
Nicole had gender reassignment surgery in Trinidad, Colorado, on November 11, 2005. Her birth certificate was amended to reflect her new name, Nicole Michelle García, and sex, female. Soon thereafter, Nicole was transferred back to the streets at work.
In July 2008, Nicole was elected the Transgender Representative on the board of directors of Lutherans Concerned/North America (LC/NA). In June 2011, Nicole became the co-chair of the board of directors. Being a member of the board of LC/NA has provided many opportunities. In 2010, Nicole accepted an invitation to join the Latino/a Roundtable, sponsored by the Pacific School of Religion, Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Ministry and Religion. In 2011, Nicole joined the board of directors of the Interfaith Working Group (IWG). IWG supports people of transgender and gender non-conforming experience by being the umbrella organization for TransFaith On-line, Allies Gather, and the Yes! Coalition of Philadelphia. Nicole chairs the Leadership Development Committee as a member of the IWG board. In that capacity, Nicole is reaching out to connect with individuals in the transgender and gender non-conforming community to develop the future leaders of the movement.
In an effort to understand the complexity of human existence, Nicole has become a graduate student in counseling at the University of Colorado Denver. Nicole is on track to earn a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology in August 2013. And, after fulfilling the requirements for the state of Colorado, intends to become a Licensed Professional Counselor.
As a self-identified transgender Latina, Nicole has presented workshops at two previous LC/NA biennial assemblies (2008 and 2010), at National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Creating Change (2009. 2011, and 2012), the Philadelphia TransHealth Conference, (2009, 2010, 2011), and countless events in Boulder County Colorado for PFLAG, Boulder County Public Health, and the University of Colorado Boulder. Nicole is a trainer for A La Familia - a bilingual guide for addressing LGBT inclusion in Catholic and Protestant Latino families and congregations created by The Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and UNIDOS, the National Latina/o LGBT Human Rights Organization.
(This biographical statement written by Mark Bowman from an autobiographical article by Nicole Garcia in the Winter 2007 issue of LC/NA's Concord and from additional information provided by Nicole.)
Nicole talks about her gender identity transition and her emergence as an LGBT religious advocate and spokesperson in this interview recorded on October 16, 2015 at the Multi-Faith Trans Summit at the Pacific School of Religion.
Transcript of interview with Mark Bowman,
Audio recording of interview with Mark Bowman,