Six years later, Heyer became engaged to a woman (many transgenders are not homosexual). One day, he invited her to his apartment, then walked out of his bedroom wearing a red skirt and blouse. His young fiancée cocked an eyebrow and said, “We’ll work through it.”
Heyer married in 1962, hoping marriage would “fix” his issue, whatever it was. It didn’t. He and his wife had a daughter and a son, but that didn’t cure him either. He soon began drinking harder and frequenting transvestite-friendly bars in full feminine getup. Someone at a bar referred Heyer to Paul Walker, a psychologist and founding president of an organization now known as the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). A mere three sessions later, Walker diagnosed Heyer with gender dysphoria and recommended surgery.
Heyer sneaked up to Colorado for the operation with world-renowned sex-change surgeon Stanley Biber. But the day before surgery, he panicked and backed out. Heyer then confessed to his wife what he had almost done. It was a cry for help, but his wife, fed up, filed for divorce. Heyer’s daughter stopped talking to him, while his confused teenage son continued to meet him but one day blurted: “I wish you had cancer. At least then I can tell people what’s wrong with you.”
By then Christal, the little girl in young Heyer’s head, had morphed into Andrea, who wasn’t content with cross-dressing. She wanted surgery.
A year after his divorce, Heyer once again gained approval from Walker to undergo sex-reassignment surgery. This time, he went through with it. He’d already lost his family—what more did he have to lose?
Plenty more, he soon learned: His company terminated his employment. He blew his six-month severance pay on more cosmetic surgeries, hormone therapy, and child support.
He slid back into drinking, and each night, he cried himself to sleep, deeply depressed, suicidal, and isolated. Then one day in 1985, a Christian counselor connected Heyer to a pastor’s family willing to try to help him.
Heyer wore a snug red sweater, bright red lipstick, and matching nail polish the day he knocked on the door of Roy and Bonita Thompson’s house in Pleasanton, Calif. “Well, this is obviously going to be interesting,” Roy Thompson remembers thinking, but Heyer stayed nine months and won the entire family with his kindness and quirky humor.