Transgendered Widow of FF Regrets Springer Appearance
Nikki Araguz, transgender wife of a firefighter killed in the line of duty July 4, 2010, during a press conference at her attorneys' office Thursday, July 22, 2010 in Houston. [AP]
The Houston Chronicle via YellowBrix
July 28, 2010
WHATRON, TX – The transgender widow at the center of a court battle focusing on her late firefighter husband’s estate apologized Tuesday for her appearance on a tabloid talk show 15 years ago during which she surprised a man who once kissed her with the news that she was born a boy.
Nikki Araguz, 35, expressed deep regret for not telling the man the truth about her gender history upfront and for surprising him with the news during her appearance on the Jerry Springer TV show on Feb. 13, 1995, calling it a mistake she made as an inexperienced teenager. She confirmed her appearance on the show after being questioned by the Chronicle.
“It was a horrible experience for everyone involved,” Araguz said Tuesday of the TV show. Of the man who appeared on the program with her, she said, “I need to publicly apologize to him for any embarrassment or any situation I put him in. I am truly sorry for any problems and pain that it caused him then. … It was something I felt terrible about for a long time.”
Araguz, who was born Justin Graham Purdue and later had surgery to become a woman in October 2008, is fighting to keep her marriage to Wharton Volunteer Fire Department Capt. Thomas Araguz III from being declared invalid in court.
The 30-year-old firefighter died July 4 while fighting an inferno at an egg farm near Boling. Since then, his parents have filed a lawsuit seeking to void their son’s marriage to Nikki Araguz and to award all benefits to his two sons, ages 6 and 9, from a prior marriage.
The lawsuit declares Thomas Araguz was unaware of his wife’s gender history, though she has argued he knew the truth about her past. His estate remains frozen while the lawsuit is pending in a state district court.
The man who appeared on the Jerry Springer show with Nikki Araguz in 1995 spoke to the Chronicle only on the condition that his name not be published because he said the embarrassment could hurt his employment.
Now 39 and living in Beaumont, he said he was upset by Nikki Araguz’s deception 15 years ago and speaking now only out of concern for the late firefighter’s children.
The man said he was a 24-year-old University of Texas student in Austin when he came to Houston for a rock concert in November 1994. After the show, he met Nikki Araguz by chance while she was dining at a Houston restaurant.
He said they visited for several hours, kissed and exchanged phone numbers but never had sexual contact.
The man said he had no communication with her until the Jerry Springer show called him two months later, asking him to appear on the TV show in Chicago to hear some news from a woman from his past. He said the show’s staff refused to identify the woman.
“I was a poor student back then,” he recalled Tuesday. “I thought, ‘Chicago, cool.’ They flew me in.”
While he was on the show, Nikki Araguz appeared and told him she was born a boy. Her demeanor “was almost like tongue in cheek, not remorseful,” he recalled.
The man said he kept his cool but chastised Nikki Araguz on camera for being deceitful. The two of them never had contact again. ‘It was a big lesson’
Araguz, who was 19 at the time of the incident and received $500 for her appearance on the TV show, called it a mistake.
“Just me being deceptive, appearing at all deceptive, was wrong,” she said Tuesday. “It was a big lesson to be honest and upfront.”
She said that error does not reflect how she has lived her life since then, insisting she was honest with her first husband of 11 years, whom she later divorced, and made full disclosure about her gender history to Thomas Araguz as well.
“Upfront honesty is the best policy,” she said Tuesday. “I never ever did anything like that again. That’s not my current character or moral standard.”
Araguz said she appeared on four other TV talk shows — two more episodes of Jerry Springer, once on Maury Povich and once on Sally Jessy Raphael — in 1994 and 1995, all focusing on gender issues. Her mother appeared with her on two of the shows.
“I haven’t hidden my gender from anybody — hello, I was on five national talk shows. I was not hiding it at all. … Just because nobody else knew doesn’t mean my husband and our close friends did not know.”