Arts and Entertainment

Author reaches out to Oak Harbor survivors

Author Michelle Peterson will be in Oak Harbor on Dec. 18 to discuss her recent book, “This Is NOT My Life.” - Photo courtesy of Michelle Peterson
Author Michelle Peterson will be in Oak Harbor on Dec. 18 to discuss her recent book, “This Is NOT My Life.”
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Michelle Peterson

Michelle Peterson wouldn’t grant exclusive interviews with a Seattle broadcast news station or a Seattle-based newspaper. When she was approached about her story by a film producer, she declined the movie deal. But now Peterson is ready to talk, and Oak Harbor readers are her chosen audience.

Peterson’s journey started when she became a wife and mother at the age of 15. After suffering through an abusive marriage, she was divorced two years later. At 19, she married again and was blessed with two more daughters. But her second husband started drinking and became violent, and she was divorced again.

In her third attempt at marital bliss, Peterson was convinced she’d finally found a good man. Chuck was a good father and Peterson’s best friend. The two were married for nine years, but one day, as Peterson was getting back from visiting her kids for a holiday, everything changed.

Chuck picked up Peterson from the airport wearing a dress, wig and high heels. He told her he had changed his name to Amber and was getting a sex change.

“I couldn’t even hardly breathe,” Peterson said. “It was such a shock. It was the worst thing I had ever been through in my life.”

When Peterson’s divorce was treated by Washington courts as a same-sex divorce, the media’s interest peaked, but Peterson didn’t want her story put in the hands of others.

She said she felt like she had nowhere to go at that point. She had no job and no steady source of income.

“I started over like I was 18 years old,” she said. “I had absolutely nothing when this first happened.”

After long and messy court proceedings, Peterson took off for Thailand for two months where she began studying massage and sorting through her thoughts. She began writing her book, the now-published 130-plus page novel entitled, “This is Not My Life.”

“It’s not a feel-sorry-for-me book; it’s a survival story,” Peterson said.

Peterson will be doing a book signing at Yummies’ Eats and Treats in Oak Harbor (1191 SE Dock St.) at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18. She hopes to be able to talk to other women who have gone through teenage pregnancies or who have overcome abusive relationships or have known homelessness.

Peterson is now a licensed massage therapist in Bellevue and lives in a condo filled with pink and purple walls she chose.

She said for the first time in her life she feels she’s living just for herself and isn’t worried about pleasing someone else.

“I just want people to know that no matter what circumstances they go through, we can overcome anything. We can choose to take the high road,” she said.

Peterson’s book is now available through Amazon.com.

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