GRAY, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Imagine being trapped inside your own body. That what’s a woman in Gray is dealing with every day.
She's living halfway between a man and a woman and says there is nothing she can do about it.
Lillith Chute started the process of transitioning to a woman at the age of 44. That's when she began her long and complicated battle with health insurance.
She and other transgender people face difficulties with employers who won't cover certain medical procedures or medications — a situation that has left her stuck between being a man and a woman.
Chute and her wife Noelle Forrest are known to their friends in this rural community as two moms raising their 10-year-old son. But Chute deals with inner turmoil every day and now is risking everything to tell her story.
"You are in danger if you are recognized as being transgender. Going on camera is dangerous because I am making it public."
Growing up in the small town of Pittsfield, Chute came into this world as a boy named Lloyd. She loved dressing up in her mother's clothes and knew from a young age she was different.
The harassment continued through high school. Looking for a fresh start she got accepted into United States Military Academy at West Point.
"I always felt like I had to prove myself as a man as a young man," Chute said. "I was picked on unmercifully."
She excelled at West Point and was in the top 10 percent of class but couldn't escape the harassment she had endured all her life.
Raw interview with Lillith Chute
► WATCH: Raw interview with Lillith Chute
After resigning from West Point, Chute graduated from college in Chicago, got married, got divorced and then moved back to Maine. She met Noelle who shared the same passion for ballroom dancing. They got married in 2000 and had a son, giving her the family she always wanted — but something was missing.
After suppressing the memories of her childhood, they suddenly came back and helped reveal who she really was.
"I told Noelle I think I am transgender and we were both in shock," Chute said.
"Once she accepted it and decided where she wanted to take it then it was easy for me to choose a direction," Chute's wife said. "This is what is best for our son and we make up the rules as we go along."
Five years ago Chute started her journey to become a woman. She got cosmetic work done like hair transplants, hair removal treatments. Hormone treatments which were covered by insurance helped her look and feel more like a woman. But when it came to getting gender reassignment surgery her employer wouldn't cover the procedure because it was excluded in its insurance plan.
Chute appealed the decision and lost. The cost of the surgery is $30,000, which she can't afford to pay on her own.
"I am not complete, I am not physically complete and I can't get help to deal with that fact," Chute said. "I am stuck and I have been stuck for years. It's just awful."
Dr. Laura Trask is an endocrinologist who oversees Chute's hormone treatments. She says gender reassignment surgery is medically necessary for people like Chute who have gender dysphoria, a condition in which people feel emotionally and psychologically different from their biological sex.
State Rep. Matt Moonen, D-Portland is executive director of Equality Maine, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. He says in 2016 President Obama signed a regulation stating that employers can't discriminate on the basis of gender identity.
"That regulation under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) did not cover all employees," Moonen said. "There was an exception for self-insured employers. So we have been talking to self-insured employers asking them to voluntarily make this change."
A federal judge has since put that regulation on hold and DHHS officials under the Trump administration have said publicly that the rule could be repealed or reworked.
Meanwhile, Chute recently got laid off from her job, she feels partly due to the fact she fought to get the procedure she needs. With her family's support, Chute won't give up on her dream to transition completely as a woman one day.
"I can't go through life not physically being what you know you are internally," Chute said.