the trial of Nikki Araguz, USA Thursday, August 19, 2010 Nikki Araguz - A Biographical Assay
While most of the mainstream media seems almost blindly focused with near tunnel vision on its excoriation of Nikki Araguz, on occasion, brief glimpses of the woman behind the news stories has slipped through the din of their diatribe. When assembling a portrait of any person, the traditional attributes people gather about another person usually include: professional interests, hobbies and avocations, socioeconomic background, education, beliefs and values, all deduced from a person's relationships, work, recreation, and residence, as a person structures their life. Without an opportunity to interview Nikki Araguz directly, it has been possible to ensemble the following cursory assay of Nikki Araguz and her life, based on sifting through the media disinformation in search of aspects of her life that appear credible and which provide a better balanced purview of the woman she is. Hopefully, some future opportunity will lend itself to a more well rounded, personal, and in depth portrait, based on information directly from the subject.
Nikki was born in the summer of 1975 to her mother Sheri, when Sheri and her husband were in Carmel, California, while he was stationed there during military service. Sheri and her husband were originally from Texas, so Sheri returned to Texas after her husband was ordered to a post in Germany, shortly after Nikki was born. A year later, Sheri's husband returned home to Bryan, TX, but was hit and killed by a semi-truck a month later, long before Nikki had any opportunity to get to know her biological father. A few years later, Sheri married Chuck Bockelman, Nikki's stepfather, to whom Sheri remains married today. Since the recent probate lawsuit was filed against Nikki, her entire family has made positive and supportive public statements about her, including her mother Sheri, her stepfather Chuck, her older brother Gary, and her younger sister Vanessa. Sheri's mother is active on the facebook.com page setup to support Nikki, where she has stated she would attend the hearings about Nikki's case if she were healthy enough to be able. The photo above, apparently taken some years ago, provides clear evidence of her family's support of her, with her stepfather Chuck hugging her, while all five of them were gathered for a family snapshot.
Meanwhile, as Nikki grew up, her teenage years were apparently a time of experimentation and exuberance for her. She doesn't appear to have had the benefits of affluence that often expose people to resources that provide information on topics that might not otherwise be readily available. As a result, Nikki apparently had a hard time getting detailed information about the congenital intersex condition she was born with, or doing much about it during her early life, despite her mother's attempts to get the attention of physicians about it. She seems to have struggled while trying to find her social place because of it, and more than once succumbed to manipulation by people whose primary purpose was to take advantage of her natural need for attention and positive social feedback. At one point when she was in her late teens, she attended a college or junior college near her in Texas, but none of the news reports have included much information about majors, graduation, or degrees she may have earned. Only one news report states that she has some form of degree in marketing. In a video documentary made of her when she was in college, she appears happy as well as reflective, but a little flighty, as one would expect of any young woman her age. She was in fact quite beautiful at nineteen or twenty, and an obviously sexually attractive young woman, apparently without medical or hormonal intervention. The college video documentary provides demonstrable evidence of her intersex condition, although it also demonstrates her lack of medical understanding about it at the time.
From all appearances, much of Nikki's twenties were occupied with low level jobs such as working in retail. In her early twenties, Nikki worked at a shoe store in a local Texas shopping mall. That is where she met her first husband Emilio Mata, who she married when she was about twenty-four or twenty-five. Without socioeconomic privilege to provide financial and intellectual stability, news reports imply that neither Nikki nor Emilio had very good judgment during that period of her life. Both she and Emilio Mata racked up minor convictions for petty criminal acts such as driving while drunk, minor drug possession, and petty theft, all the sorts of youthful indiscretions that people with financial privilege often manage to avoid getting on their permanent records, even if they have committed them. By 2002, she and Emilio Mata were also in financial trouble and decided to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If only they could have known the terrible fate that would befall them for unknowingly choosing an unscrupulous attorney named Frank E. Mann III, whose violation of her attorney/client privilege eight years later would be one of the falling dominoes that have knocked Nikki Araguz into the middle of an arduous legal ordeal. The financial and social instability surrounding Nikki and Emilio seems to have eventually become too much for their relationship to survive, and they divorced in 2007, about the same time Nikki met Thomas Araguz. Emilio Mata eventually worked his way up in the technology business and now works for a digital chip foundry in Houston.
Currently, Nikki Araguz presents the demeanor of the mature and maturing thirty-five year old woman she is, a woman whose thin youthful beauty has settled into a more filled out thirty-something attractive charm, and subdued calm. She expresses herself in video interviews with emotional presence at the same time she is capable of intellectually lucid clarity. Her attire demonstrates social awareness appropriate for her thirty something status, providing indications of social as well as intellectual sensitivity. She also has a beautiful voice; one that delivers her usually articulate ideas with a pleasant warmth. Just two days after her husband died, during a video interview she gave to a small local newspaper, she said of personal relationships:
"If there is anything that I can say to anybody, don't waste a minute of your life arguing. Don't walk out the door and not say I love you, because you never know when you'll never get to speak to them again.",
with heartfelt emotion in her voice, as steady tears of genuine grief streamed down her face. The majority of her statements since this tragedy began for her have been focused on similar forms of reflection, and requests for respect and dignity from the media and the public.
Although her small immediate family hasn't been physically present when she has appeared at the district courthouse in Wharton, TX, her family has expressed a desire to be there if they were physically able. Unfortunately, both Nikki's parents have severe chronic illnesses. In fact, Nikki has apparently made frequent excursions to help her mother, who has suffered and been hospitalized with strokes and seizures, and apparently has diabetes, heart disease and partial paralysis. Nikki's mother Sheri has been active and present on the facebook.com support page setup for Nikki though, providing what support she can through that avenue. As far as trying a case in the media is concerned, the presence of family seems to give the public an impression that someone has social legitimacy. With that in mind, the people from Nikki's immediate family whose presence might lend moral support to her during court appearances are her biological siblings Vanessa and Gary, whose public statements about Nikki have been entirely supportive and corroborative.
Meanwhile, Nikki also seems to have gained significant emotional support from Thomas Araguz after the two of them met at their church, and immediately struck up a soulful and collaborative relationship. There is some implication that Nikki had been saving money during that time to get corrective genital surgery as well, while Thomas had attended medical meetings with her to get information about the surgery. Somehow the two of them managed to put together a wedding with excellent photos, while two months later Nikki had finished paying nearly $20,000 for genital reconstruction surgery with a well known and respected surgeon in Trinidad, Colorado, which needs to be scheduled and paid for in cash, months in advance.
During the past couple of years, Nikki Araguz appears to have been focused primarily on building a home life with her husband Thomas Araguz, taking care of her husband Tom's two young boys four days a week, helping the boys with their homework, helping the boys with their toy trucks, and making a home of the house she rented together with her husband during their marriage. Her relationship with Thomas Araguz and his sons seems to have stabilized and grounded her. At the same time, she leveraged her knowledge of the magazine business, which she had developed while working for various local Texas magazines, including a GLBT magazine called Outsmart where she sold advertising, into a magazine business of her own. She was the creator and publisher of a local magazine called Wharton County Living, the sort of free circulation piece that is often found in shops around most communities these days, that generate their revenue entirely from selling advertising space rather than from subscription fees. Nikki has also described her marriage as one with a normal amount of emotional intensity and disagreement, that comes naturally from constant, daily, deep, emotional involvement with, and commitment to, another person. During her recreational time she apparently had a horse that she enjoying riding and caring for, something quite typical for small town suburban life in Texas. In an interview with the Houston PBS station, she described herself in the following manner:
"I was a housewife and you know ran a magazine, and loved my husband and my children, and rode my horse. This was my life prior to my husbandâ€™s death, and um, with the lawsuit that was brought on, I was thrust into the media."
Her weekends appear to have been consumed with going to church along with her husband and their two boys. When she wasn't busy with the boys, she seemed to have spent her time helping her husband study for exams while he was trying to get through Wharton County Junior College, to earn an associate's degree in firefighting and emergency medical technology, all on a very modest income. In the meantime, Nikki ran for Mayor of Wharton, a town so small that her loss to the incumbent mayor was by a vote of 382 to 118.
Meanwhile, sometime in the spring of 2010, Heather Delgado, Thomas's ex-wife, became discontent with her access to the sons she shared with Thomas Araguz, so she filed a child custody lawsuit against them. Delgado, somehow happened upon the unscrupulous attorney Frank Mann III, who seized at the opportunity to gain the advantage by outing Nikki's medical past to Delgado, and from there, Nikki and Thomas's lives suddenly became emotionally stressful beyond their limits, and apparently their judgment on occasion. Somewhere in the midst of the heated child custody dispute that preceded her husband's death, their occupancy of the house they were renting together appears to have been lost, as a whirlwind of events culminated with Nikki being left without a husband, the children she had taken care of for nearly three years stripped from her life - possibly forever, without a home, without a business and its income, and with a lawsuit filed against her, based not on what she had done, but because some people would rather not give her female legitimacy. While Nikki has been receiving intensive support from transsexual activists around Texas, the Houston Press wrote the following:
Nikki also told Fox News that, because she was actually born female, she never identified as transgender. And despite the fact that many in the Houston transgender community are offering Nikki financial and emotional support, and despite the fact that prominent transgender attorney Phyllis Randolph Frye believes the suit against Nikki threatens every transgender person's civil rights and has taken on Nikki's case pro bono, Nikki told Fox that she should not be "lumped in" with the transgender community.
Similarly, Nikki told Ernie Manouse of the Houston PBS station in an interview with him:
Nikki Araguz - I simply am a heterosexual woman. Thatâ€™s how I define myself. Iâ€™m not a medical professional, but I know that I have been diagnosed with partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, and that falls under a classification medically as a transgender syndrome.
Ernie Manouse - And folks have a problem getting past the idea, and they assume that when we talk in these that it is someone who was a male, born a male, grew up as a male, somehow felt they werenâ€™t a male, so they had sexual reassignment surgery. That is a different condition than what you went through, correct?
Nikki Araguz - Completely, completely, I, in my growing up, even in my early years, my parents started to notice that I was not developing into a boy, umm, that I was developing into a girl, and sought medical professionals, umm, late 70s early 80s, nobody knew what was going on. And so umm, they just allowed me to continue to develop into the woman I am today.
Ernie Manouse - And again I want to clarify for our audience, when you say it was the birth defect we are not talking about a fully developed all male individual going and having a sexual reassignment surgery.
Nikki Araguz - That would not be at all an accurate description of what happened for me, umm, because I was an underdeveloped, umm, and not past the age of two or three years old did I develop anatomically, genitalia.
Nikki's public posture in this regard may turn out to be an all important component of her legal argument that her marriage to Thomas Araguz should be considered valid under Texas law. She is going to need help from skilled attorneys and persuasive medical expert witnesses in order to make her case. While she has been unlucky to have chosen marriage in Texas, she is luckily surrounded by a legal team ready and willing to do everything in their power to help her.
With help from the Houston transgender support center, Nikki Araguz has apparently been staying with friends and supporters, and spending nights in hotels, as far from Wharton, TX as is practical, since her husband's death and the onslaught of media frenzy that surrounds her. Other than a couple visits to the courthouse there, and visits to her husband's grave site, she has stayed away from Wharton, TX. One possible conclusion that it seems reasonable to reach from such a portrait, is that Nikki Araguz is a woman whose life over the past few years has matured her in ways she probably never dreamed of before the day she met Thomas Araguz. One can only wonder how someone like herself, or like Christie Littleton and others before her, forge new life plans after such events, or how they structure their future personal relationships.
Posted by this site at Thursday, August 19, 2010
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