Arts & Culture

He wasn't like other 'rednecks' in his small town, so he kept a big secret for 50 years

When Kimberly "Richard" Davis was 18, his parents sent him to see a psychiatrist in their small town of Brinson, Georgia.

After a conversation, the doctor told Richard he was a transvestite and had two options — move to a large city like Miami or New Orleans and live his life, or stay in his small-town Georgia and suppress who he felt he was for the rest of his life.

That was in 1968 — before medical professionals used the term transgender. And for a confused teen who had never felt like the other "redneck" boys in his town of 500 people, Richard knew he had a choice to make. But he wasn't ready to leave home.

"As scared as I was of coming out, I was even more scared of uprooting myself from my familiar surroundings and leaving my home," Kimberly Davis told Justin Mitchell in Biloxi, Mississippi, for "Out Here In America," a podcast by Sun Herald and McClatchy that explores what it's like being LGBTQ in the Deep South and other rural areas across the country.

"So I buckled down and decided to do the best job I could by pretending to be a guy. And that's what I did for the next 45-50 years."

For decades, Richard lived his life as a man — he married twice and raised three children and grandchildren. Richard could not become who he felt he was inside until after the death of his second wife in 2016. That's when Richard began the transition to Kimberly "Rebekah" Davis.

"I had always been someone’s son, someone’s husband, someone’s father, someone’s husband again," she said. "Then I just all of a sudden realized, I really didn't have a clue who I really was."

In this episode, you'll hear:

  • When Kimberly first knew she was different from other boys in her hometown
  • Why she chose to raise her family and later live as a trans woman in a town that did not treat its LGBTQ citizens kindly
  • How Kimberly came out to her family and friends

  • Why her son, Thomas, a Mississippi resident, is proud of her transition

  • How life has changed since coming out

  • An inside look at her new book, which is full of surprises

Have an idea for "Out Here in America?" Send your suggestions to Justin Mitchell.

Justin Mitchell; 228-604-0715, @JustinMitchell_