Cross-dresser Sissy Goodwin decides to leave the Cowboy State

Sissy Goodwin, seen here in 2013, has decided to leave Wyoming for Oregon.

Sissy Goodwin, seen here in 2013, has decided to leave Wyoming for Oregon.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

After nearly seven decades in Wyoming, for much of that time facing heartbreak, discrimination and even physical violence, the cross-dresser has finally decided to leave the Cowboy State.

Sissy Goodwin, who was profiled in the Los Angeles Times in 2013 for his insistence, despite an often-macho Western ethic, to lead the life he chooses -- as a man who prefers to dress in women’s clothing -- is retiring in May from his job as a college science instructor in Casper.

He and his wife, Vickie, are moving to the Portland, Ore., area, where they plan to buy a small farm and raise goats and chickens.


In fact, he’s already got a few lacy things in mind for feeding the animals.

“Oh, I’m sure it will be very inappropriate for a lady farmer,” he said. “Maybe petticoats, skirts and peasant blouses -- whatever the heck I feel like wearing.

“I don’t think the goats or chickens will be too critical.”

That often hasn’t been the case in Wyoming, where he was born Larry Goodwin in 1947, raised by an alcoholic mother and abusive stepfather. Looking back, he says now, dressing up in girls’ clothing offered an escape from a hostile environment.

Goodwin wants people to understand this: He isn’t gay; he’s been married for 46 years and has two adult children. As a young man, he competed in rodeo. He got in fistfights, drank beer out of a can. The former aircraft mechanic still loves to play golf, throw steaks on the grill (albeit in a dress of his choosing).

He calls it gender independence.

But people often didn’t understand a linebacker-sized man in a pink dress and 5 o’clock shadow.

Especially in a state that features a cowboy atop a bucking bronco as its state logo.

In Wyoming, men apparently are expected to be men. They don’t wear dresses.

Goodwin began wearing blouses and skirts in public in 1972. Severely depressed, he concluded that if he wasn’t true to his convictions, he might kill himself.

The outfits made people angry. A stranger once kicked out Goodwin’s front teeth. People called him a queer and a pervert. He was booted from countless stores, hotels and restaurants, all because of the way he dresses.

His defining moment came when Goodwin began to accept himself. Each morning, standing at a mirror, often weeping, he repeated a mantra: “I am a good person.”

Later, when a woman called him a sissy, he took possession of the insult and assumed the name.


Sissy Goodwin.

But now, it’s time to move on.

“I’m certainly not being chased out of Wyoming. Vickie and I made this decision because we’ve always wanted to live someplace more temperate than the High Plains, someplace closer to a major airport, a hub for future travels.”

It also helps that Portland and its environs are more accepting of alternative lifestyles.

Goodwin says he’ll miss his friends in Wyoming, but he’ll make new ones.

He’ll also miss the open vistas of Wyoming, where the plains run like ocean waves, framed by mountains in the distance.

“But Oregon has trees, and you can still get a glimpse of the mountains,” he said. “And the waterfalls fall straight down there. In Wyoming, they fall sideways because a strong wind is always blowing.”

Goodwin believes he has made headway here, changed the way people think about alternative lifestyles.

“The young students today -- they just don’t care,” he said. “One man came up to me recently and said, ‘How can the college hire you, with how you dress? I just don’t get it.’”

Said Goodwin: “He wasn’t angry. He was just confused.”

But some minds will never be changed. And the cross-dresser from the Cowboy State is OK with that.

In fact, he’s one of five instructors to have been nominated for an outstanding teacher’s award at Casper College.

“I don’t think they’ll give it to a 68-year-old cross-dresser,” he said. “But I’m honored to have been nominated, to be considered one of the best.”

Twitter: @jglionna