TODAY'S TMJ4 Exclusive

Crash motivates lone survivor to change genders

CREATED Nov 2, 2012

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MILWAUKEE- In a flash earlier this year, a family was changed forever. 

Police say an oncoming driver suffered a seizure, lost control and slammed into a car innocently waiting at a stop sign.  Four family members were in the struck car.  The crash in New Berlin killed Patti White, her brother Tom Wagner and Tom's wife, Cathy.

There is a surviving sibling.  Tom and Patti's brother, William Wagner, lived. 

"I remember pulling out of the driveway and the next thing I remember is someone cutting my seatbelt and my brother's dead next to me," the survivor said.

That terrible collision not only inspired a life change, it has moved William to change genders.  He said he legally changed his name to Justine April.

"I decided that because I've lived, there was a reason for that," Justine told TODAY'S TMJ4 reporter Tom Murray.  "I decided that I was going to be authentic to who I really am."

Justine is 53 years old.

"Since I was about two, I wanted to be a girl.  I have three older sisters," Justine said.  "I asked myself this question, if this was the last day on earth that I was going to live, what would I want to present?  This is my answer." 

Justine wore a wig, skirt and high heels during the interview.

Justine plans to press forward with operations, facial surgeries and hormone therapies to fully transition from male to female.

"It's very expensive," Justine said.  "It's only money.  If I died on the operating table, it would be worth it."

Ed de St. Aubin is an expert in sexuality and gender studies at Marquette University. 

"It's hard for people not in that situation to be empathetic, but you really believe I'm in the wrong body," St. Aubin said.  "There's a lot of us, whether they're little or profound changes, that would like to be something a little bit different.  Not this dramatically.  I don't think that's very common."

The months since the crash that claimed three lives have been trying physically and emotionally.  Justine's decision has already taken a toll.  Relationships with family members are suffering and Justine said she lost a job as a therapist social worker.

Justine rejects those who might consider the decision "crazy."

"They're not my therapist and what is crazy anyway?  I was told once that crazy is a setting on a washing machine," Justine said.