Skip to comments.Candidate's openness extends to her past life
Posted on 04/10/2006 3:50:49 PM PDT by Coleus
Barbara Colonna had a secret.
For most of her 56 years, she led a solitary existence to protect her identity. But now that she has filed as a Republican candidate for Haworth Borough Council, she's breaking her silence. The 5-foot-3-inch woman with bobbed salt and pepper hair and piercing green eyes was once a man named Edward. After becoming more involved in town, it made sense that eventually she would run for council. But what would she tell people about her past? She started with her running mates. When they were not alarmed, she was encouraged. Her slate plans to run on a platform of openness. If she was to preach it, she reasoned, she would have to practice it. Edward Colonna, affectionately called Eddie, was born in West New York to a Catholic family with German and Italian roots. His parents had a tradition of consulting a local man preceding the birth of each of their three children. He correctly guessed the sex of Eddie's older sister, Joanne, and brother, Joey.
Eddie, according to the prediction, was supposed to be a girl. The family laughed, but for Eddie it foreshadowed an identity crisis. In this extremely conservative family, any feelings of confusion had to be suppressed. "I was a good Catholic," said Colonna. "This was all sinful." In grade school, Eddie tried on his sister Joanne's plaid skirt and a pair of her shoes for the first time. "What I saw in the mirror didn't repulse me," Colonna said. No one ever suspected, Joanne Ducette said in a recent interview at the home she shares with her husband and Colonna. Eddie was small, but not effeminate, Ducette recalled. He built tree forts and played cowboys and Indians, and soldiers with toy guns. Eddie was caught wearing his sister's clothes only once, at age 11 or 12, by his mom. She told him not to tell his father. She told her son he would grow out of it.
She made a leap of faith joining a Haworth citizen's group that raised concerns about the borough's plans to replace a bridge. Colonna, who has a physics background, questioned architectural plans at council meetings. Each time she spoke, she worried her secret would unravel. Her family had lived in the borough since she was 15, but hardly anyone knew Eddie, who spent a lot of time out of the house -- first in a Manhattan high school, then college at Rutgers and later graduate school at Cal Tech. Colonna confided in friend and current running mate Jeff Schwartz. "It was not an issue," said Schwartz. "The woman has every qualification to do the job and demonstrated it by doing a lot of hard work." Though her running mates accepted her, Colonna wasn't sure the public would. But she decided to take a chance. "You can't be open and honest if you're hiding things," she said. "I want them to know they can trust me. I've spoken in the past on issues and every time I did, I was afraid. I can't be afraid anymore." Activists in the Garden State understand her concern, but say there's no need for fear.
A poll sponsored by Garden State Equality, a statewide advocacy group, found that 70 percent of respondents in New Jersey support transgender equality. "She will be judged by the same metric that any other candidate in New Jersey will be judged," said Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality. There is an estimated one transsexual per every 30,000 people, according to a study by the Harry Benjamin Institute, an international organization that examines gender issues. Applying that ratio to New Jersey's population, there may be about 300 transsexuals in the state. A transsexual woman is running for the Michigan House of Representatives. Goldstein isn't aware of any transsexuals in office in New Jersey. "We're thrilled," he said about Colonna. "She doesn't want to run as the transsexual candidate, and we respect that. But this is terrific."
Eddie kept silent at Rutgers, where he pledged a fraternity to escape his crowded dorm and joined the ROTC. "I didn't date, and I didn't think I was gay," Colonna said. "How can you date girls if you want to be one?" A bright student, Eddie studied physics at the California Institute of Technology. He joined the Army after graduation. While in the service in the mid-1980s, Eddie saw a talk show featuring transsexuals. He was scared when he started to relate. "I was scared of the possible answers. Scared that maybe I was a transvestite, which was a dirty term, and I didn't want to say transsexual because it means surgeries, risk, the family just disowns you -- too many fearful interruptions." Mentally Colonna was torn, but he used the Army to hide from his sexual identity. Colonna retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1993 after serving for nearly 30 years. His duties included commanding troops in Europe and working on experimental defense systems. A few years before retiring, he finally confided in his sister. "I thought she would say she was gay," Joanne Ducette recalled. "[That] would have been easier -- well, maybe not. It was a different time then."
Ducette still isn't sure what her brother told her. All she knows is that he wasn't saying he was gay and she was left envisioning men in drag performing in Manhattan's West Village. Even Colonna was confused. While stationed in Massachusetts, he found a support group for cross dressers. "I started to sense among cross-dressers I was different. Inevitably, they'd revert to male gestures," she said. "There was only one other answer," Colonna recalled. "You're not a cross-dresser, you're a transsexual.
"For the first time, I was enthused," Colonna recalled. She got a job as a tax preparer, and learned that "Eddie" and "Barbara" could not share an identity. "It was like having another persona," she said. "I could not see myself leading two lives." On July 4, 1995, Colonna gagged on her first hormone pill. In 1999, she changed her name and her gender on her driver's license. In 2001, she had her first operation -- an irreversible step toward womanhood. She felt regret only when she saw herself for the first time. "It was 'Oh my God, what have I done?!' " she recalled, adding that all her fears came flooding back.
Since then, she has never looked back.
Now with her secret widely revealed, her most basic fears remain. How would people react? "In my little mind, who's been secretive for years, I have to worry about people taunting me and pointing fingers." Colonna and her running mates have gotten support from some Bergen County Republicans. Guy Talarico, county GOP chairman, said anyone is free to run for office. "We don't have a litmus test on characteristics," Talarico said about potential candidates. "The voters are the ones who are going to have to make the decision." Her running mates see beyond her gender. "It's a pleasure to be a part of what she's a part of," said Barton Shack. "She is so dedicated to making some real meaningful changes in Haworth." For Colonna, it has been an excruciating decision to reveal herself. "This council run is ending my self-imposed isolation," she said. "I can participate in society and community in an open and honest way. It would be so easy to decide not to run."
"His parents had a tradition of consulting a local man preceding the birth of each of their three children. "
"I was a good Catholic," said Colonna >>
I guess his parents were not good catholics since no good Catholic would break the first commandment and "consult" a soothsayer/medium. And no good catholic would mutilate their bodies like this and not live in accordance with the way God had intended him to live and to be.
Perhaps a transexual Republican is our best hope in New Jersey.
The ultimate cross-dresser.
Same goes for this clown's claims of being a Republican.
A nip and a dress does nothing about that pesky Y chromosome.
Bait and switch?
Saaay...I think I went to H.S. with Eddie Colonna. We called "Eau de Cologna" because he was always wearing his Mom's perfume.
She can predict her own race results too.
I'm losing... I'm winning... I'm losing... I'm winning... Wait, hang on...
The post she is running for is entirely local, so her views on local issues would be important, but not one is mentioned in this story.
I saw something about the three actresses named Arquette on television tonite after 24..Patricia, something or other, and something or other...seems one of the sisters used to be a brother..bizarre.
Obviously I don't know that much about them since I can only remember one of their names.
OK, now that he/she has 'come out' so to speak, I wonder how long it will be before he/she drops the subject and concentrates on local politics. THAT will be a determinant, in my mind, if he/she is truly a Republican.