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Friday, July 30, 2010

Transition Thoughts & Reflections - Stace

She's 30-something, close to her parents and family, and does well in her career.

She lives in The Netherlands.

She's also trans.

Musings of an (I)Tgirl is the name of Stace's blog. I've been following her blog from the beginning but sometimes it is interesting to go back and re-read some of the early posts to see how the blog and the person has changed.

I did that this morning, and Stace has changed quite a bit since beginning her blog. One thing that hasn't changed, however, is the honesty and from-the-heart thoughts that she shares with us.

Today, we feature her story.

Stace doesn't have a published email address, but you may find her on the T-Central Facebook page, at the bottom of this page, or you can contact her via my email address.

- Calie

In between ‘Non Transitioning’ and ‘In Transition’

When Calie asked me to write this essay I was wondering what to put in it. Ideas flickered in and out of my head, of how I could make my path clear and understandable. The problem with describing it is that I am not sure what the path is – so instead I thought I’d do an essay on the why of my path instead of what my path is. With any luck that will make more sense.
I expect my background story reads like most: I knew from an early age, started dressing in my teens and tried to do everything in my power to suppress it. I grew up, went to university, got a job abroad, found a lovely wife and brought a nice house. So far so good.
Then about three years ago things started to get more… interesting. The feelings I was suppressing started to bubble up to the surface much more frequently, and with more intensity. There were days when I could hardly concentrate and I started to look at the front of trains as they pulled into stations more and more. I wouldn’t have thrown myself in front of one, but when you are considering which part of the train would be best there is obviously an issue that needs resolving. I started to dress a bit more often (it had been on and off, with my wife’s knowledge – but only on the odd occasion that she was not there), but that really didn’t work.
About 18 months ago panic attacks started, I would suddenly get really anxious for no reason, and get very wound up. They started getting more frequent, and worse until April last year when I had a conversation with my wife, discussing the need to dress, and the need to do it more openly in the house. Directly after that discussion I had a fairly major panic attack. It started with what felt like an asthma attack – difficulty breathing and having to concentrate – which transformed into hyperventilating. I tried to control it, but without success and ended up in the A&E of our local hospital, being fed valium whilst breathing though a mask to reduce the oxygen intake. After several hours I was sent home, but it cost me a week’s sick leave to recover from the valium-induced tiredness.
Fast forward to December last year and I felt the same kind of thing happening. My wife asked what was wrong and I decided to tell her everything. Long discussions ensued and I said that I would fight transitioning with everything that I had. My wife made me go to the doctor’s to get a referral to the VUMC – one of only two gender clinics in the Netherlands – in order to do what I could to resolve my problems.
Over the last 8 months, whilst waiting for an appointment to come through, I was still getting panic attacks – only now the root thought that was causing them had changed somewhat. I was now panicking about the whole ‘fight it at every cost’ statement and specifically whether I had it in me to do that. I didn’t want to promise something to my wife that I could not deliver. Eventually we had another talk, with me telling her that I am not going into therapy with of view of transitioning. But at the same time I am not going in with a view *not* to transition either. Since the time I have had quite a large spell where I have been so down I could hardly function – I spent my time at work staring at my screen, with the tiniest interruption removing my concentration, needing 30 minutes to build it back up again. But I haven’t had another panic attack since.
So after the rambling history how does that fit into the in between status? Well, I spend 25% of my time at home as Stacy now. I have started going to therapy as Stacy – stepping out for the first time a couple of weeks ago. I am planning on having the hair removed from my face and every few weeks epilate my legs and arms to keep them hair free. In that regard yes, I am in some sort of transition I suppose. Though nothing there that can’t be kept in male life as well (I hate my beard full stop, not just for Stacy). But the end of the journey, for a myriad of reasons, is still not ‘I must transition’ and neither is it ‘I must *not* transition’. I’ve spent probably 30 conscious years suppressing my feelings. Until I know where I need to go to I am not setting anything in my head.
I suppose the best way to put it is I am being pragmatic. With a little luck therapy will help me figure out where I need to be in life, and what I have to do in order to achieve that. At the VU they assess your personality type to see if they feel you are strong enough to cope with transition, if that seems the right way to go. People have misinterpreted that as me following whatever the doctors say, and thinking that the doctors are making me jump through hoops. I am not so sure, to transition and regret it would, I fear, be worse than not to transition in the first place. I’ll only do it if or when it seems like my best path forward.
It hope that makes some kind of sense to where I am in my journey, even if the ‘to’ is still totally unknown for now.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Transition Thoughts & Reflections - Z

If I were to get up from my computer right now, leave my apartment, get in my car, and drive to New Orleans, it would be hard for me to get there. I’ve never been to New Orleans. I don’t know what roads to take. I don’t know the safest way to get there. Or, if safety isn’t my concern, the fastest. Or the cheapest. But I do have one helpful piece of information; I know the name of the place I’m going is “New Orleans”. That means I can follow road signs, use GPS, or maybe call someone who lives there and ask for directions. At the very least, I’ll know when I hit the city limits.

Male-to-Female and Female-to-Male transition is like this. It is a long, difficult, sometimes perilous journey. But we know how we want things to be; we have some idea how we want to look and sound, how we want the people around us to respond, and what our lives should be like. We know our destination.

But what if you needed to get to New Orleans only you didn’t know it was called “New Orleans”. How would you get there? How would you know you had arrived?

This is the journey my friend Z is on.

(see more of Z's spectacular writing at Chartreuse Flamethrower)

- Renee

Transition is hard. All of it is, but the social aspects can be the hardest. Even for people who have "good" genetics that allow them to easily be read as the right gender, there are many things that have to be worked on. Trans people often have to relearn how to walk, talk, stand, dress, and all these other things that most people don't have to think about after they hit age 5.

Even with quite a few guides online about how to do all these things, it's still difficult. But what are you supposed to do when you need to socially transition to something that, as far as most people know, doesn't even exist?

For many people with non-binary genders, that's the situation. For people who can't fit into either "male" or "female" with ease, the path carved out by the brave trans people of the past who decided they would stand up and fight for the right to be themselves doesn't always lead to the right place. Having a gender that doesn't fit into the current system is completely uncharted territory. The rules don't fit you- there's no pronouns, no titles, no speech patterns, and few clothes or hairstyles that are considered "unisex" (if unisex is what you want). There isn't even a set body that people expect you to be in.

And it's pretty much impossible to pass. Sometimes people will trip over themselves trying to figure out whether "he" or "she" is right (and not bothering to just ask), but the best most people can hope for is a roughly even split of he & she or a look that can easily be changed to adjust how people read you. But there are no guides on how to do this, it's a delicate balancing act that depends on everyone you meets' perceptions of gender. Depending on how much your social dysphoria effects you, this can either free up your presentation or be an extremely painful reality.

If it's painful, it can also be hard to find support and acceptance that might help. Even within the trans community, I've seen a range of reactions to my gender from playful disregard to outright attacks on my humanity. With therapists, who you'd hope would be kinder, there's no real guarantee. The DSM-IV doesn't acknowledge non-binary genders (it's possible the V will, but who knows), so neither does WPATH and most therapists go by that. I've had a gender therapist tell me that my gender is nothing but a pathology based on non-existant trauma (yes, I'm sure)- that there was something wrong with me because, if I started T, I'd want a similar GRS to what trans women get.

Most people barely understand transgenderism in general, without getting into other genders. Getting the correct pronouns is next to impossible. "They" is "grammatically incorrect", "it" is offensive, s/he is unpronouncable and "he or she" is a mouthful, invented pronouns are complicated. It's not hard to understand why so many non-binary people who can be comfortable without transitioning decide not to tell anyone. It's also not hard to understand why so many who aren't comfortable end up transitioning to the opposite sex (as Norrie mAy-Welby did) in the hopes of finding some comfort. I only know of one surgeon who's willing to do GRS to something other than male or female, and getting the greenlight is pretty difficult (I also asked the only person I know of who got surgery with Dr Bellringer, it paid for its surgery itself due to the UK postcode lottery even though transsexual surgery is usually covered by NHS).

So some of the questions regarding transition are a bit different for us. "What do I want?" and "What am I willing to give up to get it?" are still there, but with different considerations. "What do I want?" is a bit more difficult, because there are no guidelines. It can be very difficult to figure out what body you'd be most comfortable with, if it's even possible medically to get this body, and how much it would cost/if the professionals around you would allow it to happen. Socially can be a bit more tricky as well. Whether or not you'll be gendered correctly is rarely up to you, but up to the perception of strangers and the willingness of the people who know you to respect your wishes. So what you can get is probably out of your hands, but what you want (in that ideal world where no one is ever misgendered and everyone is respectful of each other's preferences) can still matter.

I have some of the answers. Top surgery, for me, was a no brainer. Ever since puberty hit I knew that those things that had started growing on my chest weren't supposed to be there. But other parts of transition aren't as easy. I don't know how if I want to start testosterone, if I'll ever be able to be seen as anything but female without it, or if I can come to terms with being seen as female for that not to be a concern. But I don't need to have the answers right away- there's no time limit on transition or finding your own path.

Trying to navigate the gender binary that's currently in place has always been tricky for me. The way people fit into gender compared to how I do often feels like a complicated dance routine that I just can't figure out, so I end up awkwardly trying to copy the fluid movements that are ingrained habit to everyone else. I think I've stopped trying so hard since realizing it's alright not to, but it can still be difficult. Everyone expects a binary gender to come just as naturally to me as it does to them, and can be fairly confused/angry/disturbed when you don't.

I'm still trying to detangle how I want to relate to gender versus how I'm expected to relate to gender, which I think is something most people have to figure out at one point or another.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Transition Thoughts & Reflections - Jenny

Jenny is the author of the blog, Large Blooming Flower. She has a delightful sense of humor and I encourage you to visit her site.

I asked Jenny, currently a non-transitioner, to do a guest post. Again, I did not offer much in the way of "rules". "Write what you wish...say what you want to say", is my motto to our guest writers.

What Jenny has to say in this excellent guest post is serious stuff. Visit her site if you want the humor. You won't find it here.

Oh, and I wanted to add that Jenny had her wife review this essay prior to sending it to me. That does say a lot about the love and mutual respect for each other in their marriage, doesn't it?

If you wish to contact Jenny, you can find her email address on her blog or, perhaps, you can find her lurking around the T-Central Facebook site, shown near the bottom of this page.

- Calie

It's not the winning, it's the taking part

When Calie asked me to write a piece about being a non-transitioner I was reminded of the quote attributed to Zhou Enlai, the 20th century Chinese politician and diplomat. When asked whether in his opinion the French Revolution of 1789 had been a success, Zhou is reported to have remarked that it was too soon to say. I'm self-declared in my aim to avoid transitioning to the female role, but only my obituarist will be qualified to comment on whether I achieved that aim.

At different times recently I have been shocked by people close to me accepting of their own volition that at some time in the future I will inevitably lose my personal battle with gender dysphoria and have to seek a medical solution, hormones and possibly surgery. Hearing this from my mother or my wife brings mixed emotions, sadness because I'm doing it for them as much as myself and relief that if I ever do reach the precipice those around me will still be there for me. A throwaway remark from my wife in a conversation about skincare - "When you have the hormones you'll have fewer zits then!" I am ashamed to say brought tears to my eyes, "When", not "If".

So in this light, why don't I go back to the doc and ask for a referral to the Gender Identity Clinic? After all, I've passed the first hurdle and thanks to the NHS it's free so I only have to ask and wait my turn. Simple, putting aside my height and passing issues for a minute I may have used the word "Accepting" in the paragraph above, but the truth is closer to "Resignation". Two of the people I care the most about in the world do not want to lose me, my wife doesn't want to lose her husband and my mother doesn't want to lose her son, and the fact that they care about me enough to accept that transition is a possibility does not change the fact that my doing so would hurt them. I know this is a contentious point in our community because there are many among us who have been to Hell and back trying to hold it all together but we will have all encountered people who plough ahead with little regard for the effect on those around them and I have no wish to join their ranks. It's no use saying "I'll still be me!" because to them I won't be, I'll have been replaced by an oversized and let's face it, rather unattractive middle aged woman who looks enough like the me that was to remind them of what they've lost every time they see me.

To be in this position and decide to stay as bloke you have to have some damned good reasons. They are the rocks you cling to when you have a bad week and you feel yourself being swept towards the edge and they are the rope ladder you inch your way back up towards safety. But to fully understand your resistance you also have to examine your conditions for capitulation and be prepared to accept that at some point they may be met. The main one is pretty obvious, the brain says "Mostly girl!" and my body disagrees, but that alone is not enough. If my wife ever left me I'd still have this conversation because the rest of my life would be a long time to have regrets. Someone in a very similar position to me though not AFAIK in the blogosphere and who made a different choice a decade ago said to me a few months back: "Only do it if you absolutely have to", and I took her advice to heart. For me I guess that condition would be met if I found myself returning to contemplating suicide, having been there in the past I think I'd be better placed to support my wife as an unconvincing woman than a dead bloke, something she and I are in agreement over.

In reality though there is no winning and losing in this game. It's important to face this head-on because it is unfair to tag someone who's fought this corner as either winner or loser no matter their outcome. Sure I've used words like "lose" and "capitulation", but "winning" and "losing" implies that one path is a good one and the other is a bad one. Can living as a sometime-crossdressing bloke whose bouts of depression and girl fog take a toll on those around him and his ability to earn a living really be described as "winning"? No more than becoming an unconvincing and probably lonely woman causing similar heartache to those around her can. I can't think of a route that leads to a sure-fire "win", but neither do all routes lead to "lose". Staying as a bloke for example isn't a complete "lose" in my case because I guess I'm fortunate that at least physically as a big bloke I'm rather good at it on the outside. I have simply tried to pick the path that leads to as little "lose" as possible for all involved.

It would have been too easy when writing a post about not transitioning to enunciate the day-to-day grind of coping with it all. But others have already done a far better job of that than I have and since I mostly follow their advice it would be pretty pointless to rehash it. What I've tried to explain here is not how, but why I continue to sample the myriad joys of gender dysphoria when compared to many others I am in the fortunate position of having both as accepting an environment as I could reasonably hope for and a readily accessible (though not perfect) healthcare regime just waiting for my call. Because sometimes, even to me, it all seems rather crazy.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Transition Thoughts & Reflections - Anne

In 1971, I often found myself frequenting a dark corner of my university library, continuing the research I began in high school. I was trying to figure myself out. I had a pretty good feeling want I wanted to be but I thought I was alone in the world with these feelings. Anything regarding changing sex and gender was at the top of my reading list.

In 1971, Anne became a woman, yet she never experienced life as a girl. She had figured herself out and did something to right the situation.

I first "met" Anne via a comment she left on another blog. She's not a blogger, but this woman can write. In my book, she's a rock star. A self-made, successful business woman, she has lived out her life to the fullest.

We have come to know each other very well. In one very touching email exchange, involving our nearly identical religious backgrounds, Anne made me realize why I was placed on this earth.

As an active dancer, Anne keeps herself in good physical condition. The picture was taken in 2003.

She has truly been an inspiration to me and I hope she will be to you, also. I look forward to meeting her soon, in person.

If you would like to contact Anne, please drop me an email and I will forward your note to her. You can also leave comments and, perhaps, reach the authors of these guests posts on the T-Central Facebook page (link at the bottom of this page).

- Calie

Anne's Story

A short Bio, 2008

I was born in 1947 and christened Adolfo Enrique, after the father I never knew. He was the son of a Columbian father and a Dutch/Jewish mother, whose family had emigrated from Holland in the early 1930's. My mother’s family, who raised me, traces its roots to the original Spanish settlers of Central America. The events surrounding my conception are a bit cloudy but the end result was that my mother legally emigrated to the USA prior to my birth. I currently am known by my legal married name.

I knew from my earliest consciousness that I was a girl. Despite what everybody told me, I knew that someday I would grow up to be a woman. The most significant confirmation that there was a serious dichotomy between whom I believed myself to be and the contradicting physical realities occurred when I started kindergarten. I was told to stand with the boys. From that day forward, my life became a constant struggle to live up to that lie and the expectations of others to be someone I knew I was not.

In 1965, I graduated High School in from a Catholic College Preparatory School for boys run by the Jesuits. I enjoyed learning and was highly motivated to excel. In 1969 I graduated from a Major University with a degree in Psychology, which included a minor in Philosophy. I went to work for the United States Government after graduation and learned quickly that I was not suited for that type of bureaucratic drudgery.

Less than one year later, I was working as a carpenter’s apprentice in a small town in a region of the United States known as the InterMountain West, where I had moved to ski the “greatest snow on earth”. Here is where I met the first mental health counselor with whom I felt comfortable enough to discuss what was just now coming to be described as gender dysphoria. I had read all the available literature, which was not extensive, while I was an undergraduate. I understood the jargon, but it was obvious, that no one had any idea what caused this phenomenon or what to do about it.

Nevertheless, I agreed to move to a major city to work with a “specialist” that “might” be able to help me. In addition, the snow was deeper, dryer and better at a newly opened world class ski resort. This “enlightened professional” tried to “cure” me by using electric shocks. This obviously did not work. The good news was that besides the better skiing, my move to this Major City allowed me to take advantage of a special program offered by the local University in their efforts to train and recruit teachers fluent in both English and Spanish. After completing the course work for a Master’s in Educational Psychology, (the art of learning), I accepted a contract to teach high school history and social studies for the local School District.

1971 would be my last year on this planet for me as a man. I had exhausted all known available options. I had tried living as a man with a woman. I had explored the possibility that I was gay to no avail. Cross dressing was most certainly not the answer for me. I could not see myself staying alive much longer by pretending to be someone I was not. I was now left with the one option that offered the possibility, however remote, of becoming the woman I truly believed I was. I had finally arrived at the incontrovertible conclusion that I could, and would, have to change my physical, morphological sex.

Starting in the early spring of 1971, under the direct supervision of a medical doctor, I began taking massive doses of female hormones. That fall I began my first and last term as a high school teacher. I was sporting a beard at the time and I kept my suit jacket on even as the weather warmed the following spring to conceal my newly developing breasts. By the end of the term I could no longer stand the hair on my face and finally shaved my beard the last week of school. Apparently the change in my appearance was so dramatic that some of my students noticed. There was some interesting speculation among them I am sure, but a week later, school was out for the summer and I was on my way out of state for surgery.

Very few surgeries of this kind had been performed in the United States prior to 1971, although they were becoming more common. I knew it would be a painful and risky procedure. It was not known if I would still have the capacity to orgasm or what would be the extent of other possible complications. Despite the risks, I knew that the cold, hard truth was simply, that I had no other choice. Fortunately, after a long and painful recovery, I survived with excellent cosmetic and functional results.

I returned home as an attractive young woman and legally changed my name. Surprisingly, this was accomplished by the simple order of a sympathetic judge. I chose to not continue as a teacher but would not allow the school district to revoke my teaching credential. I was able to address the district board directly and after consultations with State’s Attorney General, they agreed that I had earned my credential and had provided them with no legal cause for them to take it away.

In 1972 I began my career as a real estate investor. In the early 1970's, rental property could be acquired for as little as $9,000 for a small house in the City. I bought my first 4-plex for $22,000. I continued buying and selling and renting residential real estate until 1974 when I moved back to the state of my birth, where I married my first husband. He was a successful businessman and that allowed me to embark on my next great love in life which started with an extensive remodel of our home by the sea and evolved into designing and building custom luxury homes. My first marriage lasted ten years and he never knew that I was transsexual.

In 1985 I tried marriage for a second time. My second husband was an aerospace engineer and this again allowed me to continue to design and build homes. I also started a very successful engineering consulting business which evolved quite nicely into a recycling business. I retired from this highly successful business in 1997.

Also, by then my second marriage was on the rocks. I would not consider this one a failure, as we are still the best of friends. The simple truth was that we were just not compatible. My second husband did not know that I was transsexual until I told him years after our divorce. Initially he was nonplused but recovered well the following day.

My third attempt at marriage was short lived and ended in 2001. I told him that I had a transsexual history, before we married, but he was not to be dissuaded. Nevertheless, we also remain the best of friends. Since then I have lived exclusively with my current “significant other”. We do plan to marry “someday”, but in truth, what’s the hurry?

In the course of the nearly 40 years that I have lived as a woman I have accomplished very little of any social significance. I have been blessed with good health and above average intelligence. I have traveled the world over and experienced many incredible things. I have no children and few regrets. I have lived by a simple code of do no evil and try to be of benefit to others. I do have a deep faith in God and the power of prayer and I am extremely grateful for the blessings I have received and the time that I have been given on this earth. I sincerely hope to leave behind me a legacy for good.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Transition Thoughts & Reflections - Guest Post #3

All of us, who are transgender, will admit that we wished the general public was a bit more understanding of what it is to be trans.

We - those of us who are trans - all understand each other, right? Well, apart from a recent blog post I did, I would generally agree with that statement.

So, when I asked James if he would like to do a guest post on T-Central, he enthusiastically replied and asked for suggestions.

It was my response that so surprised me. No, I didn't understand. Here's a part of my reply:

....perhaps a little discussion about what has motivated you to do what seems so foreign to many of us....poisoning your body with T...taking a beautiful female body that we (speaking of the MtF's out there) wish we were born with and changing it into a male body....growing facial hair that we so hate....and perhaps most of all, lowering a voice to something that is so difficult for us to change. I don't say this in any way but out of respect for you and your feelings, so don't take it the wrong way. I think you would find a lot of interest in addressing these points besides those issues in your childhood, etc.

Now, I wrote that when the gender dysphoria was screaming inside of me. I was, perhaps, a bit emotional? But, it did make me realize that I do need to better understand my brothers who are transitioning from female to male.

First Jamie, Then James is his wonderful blog and it is so well written that one would think he is majoring in English Literature....which he is.

If you would like to contact James, you can drop me an email or, perhaps, we can get him to show up on the T-Central Facebook page, shown at the bottom of this page.

I'll let James take it from here..

- Calie

My Girlhood: A Very Serious Business

When I was born, the world suggested to me that I was a little girl. I took that suggestion very seriously. Bold colors startled me. Worms startled me. One year, I made a New Year’s resolution to not burp audibly.

Family trips, in particular, illuminated the self-policing that I imposed upon my childhood gender identity. A cousin and I used to borrow my dad’s video camera, write scripts, film ourselves, and exhibit our work at the end of the vacation. She invariably played an invented, comic masculine role and I basically played myself. We filmed music videos and sketches, tragicomedy and slapstick shorts. Our creative range stretched from complex improvised renditions of Shakespeare to thoughtful, existential appropriations of pop culture (such as our medley of “U + Me = Us” and “Total Eclipse of the Heart”).

My cousin’s freedom was stunning. It was one of the first things ever to make me laugh so hard I didn’t even care if I drooled or honked or knocked something over. Thanks to her influence, I found ways to be free with my laughter and my jokes and my facial expressions. I learned to dance with abandon and make noise. I learned to create Barbie characters who were silly or sarcastic, instead of simply smart and pretty.

The one thing that remained off-limits for play, however, was my gender. That performance was too serious to permit play. My gender performance obeyed a set of very specific rules. In hindsight, my personal gender boundaries from childhood don’t make any articulatable sense, except insofar as they were each designed to avoid any question, no matter how small, of my gender. Truthfully, neither my family nor my friends were particularly invested in a rigid template of femininity, and neither of my parents pressed me with gender norms in either direction. In fact, it was in the absence of external gender enforcement that I created my unspoken system of gender self-policing. As though I was trying to give structure to something that made me uncomfortable with its amorphousness.

I grabbed haphazardly at pop culture and young adult novels to generate this set of criteria for making myself the best girl I could be. I slept in a bra and tank top every night. I held my pencils with the smallest amount of finger surface area possible. I bought the smallest size pajama shorts that I could comfortably fit into, and I broke food into dime-sized pieces before eating it. I bought only women’s socks, women’s watches, even boxer shorts explicitly manufactured for women (Victoria’s Secret calls them ‘boxies’). The cute suffixes, the floral fonts, the style descriptors like “flirty” and “glam”—these were the only sure way to assure myself that I was dressing and acting like a girl. Barricaded in this version of girlhood constructed of toothpicks and gum, I was happy in most ways and I felt safe.

Twenty years passed from the world’s first suggestion that I was a girl. I met a queer theorist and I took her class. I met a butch lesbian and I dated her. I wrote several papers about gender in Shakespeare and scribbled one awestruck fifteen-line poem about my girlfriend’s genderbending. A tiny, hard ball of questions broke free and started rolling through my veins.

Those questions were twined tightly after two decades of compression. I tried to loosen one strand at a time, gently. Sometimes I would pull the wrong strand too hard and tighten the knot by accident, like the first time I thought I was ready to wear men’s pants out of the house. Three hours later, I hadn’t stopped feeling like everyone was staring at me and I’d forgotten why I wanted to wear them in the first place. I packed the jeans up (several sizes too big for me anyway, since I had guessed about my measurements) and wore a (somewhat ironically) more comfortable strapless bra and halter-top ensemble for a while.

What was I? I had lived for so long as a girl. Everyone recognized me as such; did that not mean I had been doing it right? If the discomforts could be balled up so small that I could avoid directly looking at them, then why not keep living that way? Why not continue to be easily understood?

Eventually, I realized that being recognizable as a girl was not the same thing as recognizing myself. In daydreams, I had never pictured myself with a face. It took photographs and mirrors to remind myself of what I looked like, because I honestly couldn’t call up a mental image of myself. There were whole swaths of my body I had never looked at. I quite frankly didn’t understand what my genitalia were for. They didn’t seem to have any point, except something vague about relationships that I didn’t think too hard about. I didn’t understand what sex was for, either, but it seemed to make most other people hungry. I lived for how it felt to sing onstage, but I never once heard my own voice and thought, Hey, that’s me singing. I had assumed in high school that the reason I liked Newsies so much was that I liked all the boys, but the line between liking the boys and liking to feel included in the boys was very fuzzy.

For years, my gender was a necessary process, the girl language I wrote on myself so that everyone (myself included) knew exactly how to read my body the moment they looked at it. In a way, I declared my gender as clearly as possible so that no one would look at me twice. Once I started asking questions, though, the toothpick-and-gum structure that was my gender couldn’t hold up for long. I was left with nothing for a while, until I realized that I had the power to build something in its place. Something better, stronger—something made out of my own bones and muscle, spit and fingernails.

I really do like bright colors. I really do care about hairstyles. I honestly would rather drink beers and play Risk than almost any other thing. I connected the wires that run from my crotch to my brain, and they’re both pleased to be gay. I take small bites of pie, big bites of toast. I pee with the men, but not in the urinal. If I walk into someone in the locker room, I’ll grunt, “Sorry, man.” If you’re sad, I’ll put my hand on your shoulder and squeeze. I buy my socks at Costco and the women’s ones fit me better. My gender is made of me.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Transition Thoughts & Reflections - Karen

Our second essay in this series is from another Scottish girl. Karen is a non-transitioner....someone who should transition but fights it daily. I might add that Karen is someone I lean on for support, since our missions are similar.

Karen has two blogs.


If you wish to contact Karen, send me an email and I'll forward it to her.

You can also meet our bloggers on the T-Central Facebook page. See the link at the bottom of this page,


When Calie asked me to do a piece for the T-Central series based around (not) transitioning, I have to say I felt very honoured.

But what to write on?

I'm one of those who choose to try not to transition, to hold back and be what we appear to be. Finally, I couldn't work out what single subject to waffle on about so this piece is made up of a few shorter subjects.

Will I ever...?

Will I ever make the decision to transition?

Yes. I decide to transition several times a day when the girl fog is bad, but I always seem to make one more decision not to transition, than to transition, though.

No, really I do.

Yesterday we were travelling and by the end of the day I was at the second of the three options of the apolcalypse, having been fluttering between all three all day.

What are the three options I hear you say - well they are of course not to transition, to transition or the third darker way which hits so many of us as a final and easy way out of the torture.

So on some days, when it is really bad, I'm screaming inside of myself, trying to keep the thought away. On those days I'm ready to 'cut it off' and go where my sub concious tells me I should be.

But, and it is a big but, I have a fabulous wife who I love to death and two cracking kids. Why would I want to put them through hell, potential ridicule and literally tear their world apart?

At some earlier points, I would have included the arguements about good job / house etc etc, but on reflection these are not so relevant. Sure if I transitioned our whole world would probably change financially [although there are some girls around the area who have transitioned in similar jobs to mine I am led to believe], but by the same token, some big financial crash could do the same easily enough, and we are pretty lucky to have gotten through the recent crash relatively unscathed.

The important point is not only would I be deprived of them, but they would also be deprived of me and the 'normal' stable family structure we are in.

Now, I know that if we were to separate under other more 'acceptable' situations, such as 'mere' adulterous behaviour [!!] or just to grow apart, the end result would be fairly similar, but the key point is I absolutely love these people. My wife is my soul mate, my rock and the one who has saved my sanity in the last year or so by the power of her pure love for me. I cannot do anything to harm them. I even struggle to pull sticking plasters off them if required. That is how soft I am.

So, while I love them, and they remain loving me, I'm going to fight the desire to transition. One day it might get me, but it won't be from a lack of trying.

Stand up and be counted

One subject that has been exercising me latterly is the invisibility of trans people. They remain hidden in their physical shells for years, before bursting, all beads and heels so to speak [for MTFs anyway], into the sunlight for a few months, or maybe a year or so, until they reach that basic level of passability where they are no longer obvious.

I believe this sudden transient behaviour is partially to due to the general perception of trans people and helps in some ways to reinforce it. I remember reading a piece by a prominent British trans woman who pointed out that until we stand up and become visible, both pre and post transition, we participate in our own oppression. Until we become a visible part of society, our experience will never be understood.

So, should those of us who have not yet transitioned or those of us who resist, stand up, if the situation demanded it, and be honest and brave enough to say - "yes I am trans"?
I really do not think 90% of the population appreciate the burden we carry at times and most would regard this as a lifestyle choice, and a sort of sexual deviancy.

I bet few know of the mental turmoil we have, the aches and cramps, anxiety attacks and depressions we go through and huge sense of being just plain wrong somehow.
If they did know would they think of us any better? Well, that is not for me to say but, given that most mental illnesses are regarded with suspicion, I think we would have a hard challenge regardless. But gradually if some of us stand up and make our voices heard, slowly things may change and people may start to realize that we all fight this and transition only happens when the pain is unbearable, when there are fewer reasons to stay than to go, and the remaining options are too dark to contemplate.

As far as us influencing any debate amongst the general public about transgenderism we have to be in it to win it as the saying goes.

So what do I experience?

I have a post it note on my PC at work that says INTBAW.


Stands for I Need To Be A Woman.

It's not there to remind me, it's there because I scribble it down many times a day as a way of getting the thought out my head. It's the thought that meets me on waking, if not before, lurks behind my shoulder all day and, given the slightest nudge, screams at me and beats me up physically.

To be fair it's not constant. Recently I've managed to bury it deep under conscious thought for 5 months or so. But, like a pool of water fed by a stream, it will always burst it's banks and wash away those barriers we have built.

But, it is also the isolation of having a condition that cannot speak it's name, which I guess is fairly closely linked to my point above about participating in our own oppression. More than anything I generally feel stuck at a place where no route offers a satisfactory way forward. Some Faustian version of hell where every choice damns you regardless. Stay as I am and accept the very real pains and mental turmoil; transition and lose my family and structure; or just lose everything. No way works, so for now I stay as I am, try to express the woman within as best I can (which is getting quite pressing right now tbh) and try to protect those I love from it.

Overall to me it has always seemed like a mental illness but one where the body and outward expression is wrong and the mind is correct, but primarily mental all the same.

Odd stuff really.....

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Transition Thoughts & Reflections - Alex

Today, we begin the first of several guest posts on T-Central. The subject is thoughts and reflections on transition. The series will feature a number of posts from those who have completed their transition, those in transition, and those who consider themselves non-transitioners. We will also have other related posts including one from the well-known wife of someone who is in transition.

I want to thank my on-line friend, Alex, for agreeing to do the first post in the series. Alex is a very special person in my life. She is the first person I revealed my true self to. She helped me through some bad times and I will never forget her and her caring responses to the emails I sent her a few years ago. [If you wish to contact Alex, her email address is on her blog.]

Alex has completed her transition and she has summed it up for us in this essay.

Transition Success?

My good on-line friend Calie had asked me to compile a guest blog for T-Central. She intends on publishing a few guest blogs covering different aspects, view points, perspectives, and outcomes, of people who have gender issues and how they dealt with the problem of Gender Identity Disorder. When I asked her for a rough guide to what area she wished me to cover, her thoughts were as follows:

I'm not sure I want to put words in your mouth. I just want a perspective from someone who did it right and has no regrets. Perhaps some background information (if you wish) and how you planned out your transition and surgeries. If it was me, I would do FFS, BA, and all external "female attributes" before SRS, which I think is what you did. Maybe how you worked this out with your employer. Why you are happy you made the change and why (assuming) you have no regrets.

I am also trying to find someone who does have regrets. I know they're out there but most will not likely come forth.

Just my thoughts but you are welcome to make suggestions.”

I could actually write thousands of words trying to cover these areas in detail, and you can see from the many blogs I’ve done over the years during my transitional process

that I think it would become too long winded a blog if I tried. So instead I will try to keep this basic and to the point, but at the same time do the requested main headers some justice by writing in my usual ‘saying it how it is’ manner.

Background Intro:

I’m now a fully transitioned woman at the age of 43 living in my birth country of Scotland UK. Physically I had been born as any other ‘normal’ boy would be in life, with no physical gender abnormalities, and with the normal XY chromosome markers for a male. From the age of 4 years old when the furthest back my memories can go, I knew I was different to most boys. I felt I should have been a girl, and something had gone very wrong with me before birth. Life for me had not been easy trying to fit in as my birth gender, and it took me a very long time to master the male façade I built up over the years to make it in life as a male.

I ventured down the typical male based route in life by furthering my education and career, to getting married and having two lovely and well adjusted children. This façade stood reasonably firm right up until my early 30’s, with my suppressed female side only subdued by the occasional cross dressing in secret.
I don’t know exactly what made the ‘switch flick’ for me in my mid 30’s to seriously look into and address my gender issues, whether it be a natural drop in testosterone levels, or the information explosion of trans issues on the Net, or a combination of both? Whatever, my interest took hold, and I had to find out who I really was, and find answers to try and deal with my continual internal gender struggles that were becoming increasingly more difficult to control and hide from society.

The Process:
The mid 90’s seen me starting to show up on the Net as a closet Crossdresser (CD) getting involved in Transgender (TG) groups. Time passed until I eventually ventured out in public as the feminine dressed Alex, in September 2003, and the then known Alex T’girl ego took hold on the transgender scene.

The more I experienced the part time femme living, and the more people I met involved to the scene ranging from CD’s to Transsexuals (TS’s), I began to realise who I really was, and I could not keep a lid on the female that had been suppressed all those years.

My wife at the time found out about my CD side by accident, and that caused major eruptions in our relationship. She had hoped by allowing me to do my CD thing in private, with her turning a blind eye, it would address the problem. It didn’t work that way though because, the more I experienced, the more I realised just how much my male based life had been a lie.

Both I and my wife went to see specialists, with me dealing with a gender consultant. Eventually after many hard times and soul searching on both our parts, we decided to split and lead our own lives. Believe me when I say we tried every avenue open to us to try and get round splitting up the family unit, but nothing worked if I were to go down the transition route. Sadly, I had gotten to a point where not going down the transition route would have lead to more depression on my part, and a slow down hill path to ill health. In other words, I had taken myself to the point of no return by opening up ‘Pandora’s Box’, with the lid no longer fitting.

With medical help, I started my physical transition on November 2004 by going on monitored low levels of female hormones. My physical and mental changes took effect very quickly, and I could see marked changes happening after a 3 month period. This had been on very low levels of hormones initially (2mg of Estrogen). This had been increased to 4mg after 6 months, and then to 6mg after I decided to go full time living and working as a female.

I had consulted with my specialist, and agreed with him that I wanted to look as feminine as possible before taking that step to full time living as a female. I just did not want to look like a ‘bloke in a frock’ to the rest of society. Laser Facial Hair Removal took place over a few years to help this process, by getting rid of the dark hair in the beard. The female receptors in my body must have been in abundance, because my male shape changed very well into a feminine form, and I lost most of the muscle I had built up all those years going to the gym and pumping iron. My mental state changed as well, for I became much happier with my self image, and my emotions kicked in as they never had as a male. In other words, my whole mental outlook and feelings in life changed as much as my physical shape.

Time passed, and it got to a stage where I just had not been able to pass as a male any longer. I had an hour glass figure hidden under hugely oversized male clothes, soft skin, and much longer blonde hair tied back in a pony tail not to show the female cut as much as I could. People had been starting to notice, and I regularly heard comments along the lines of “Do you think that is a woman”?

I knew I had to be at least 1 year living as a female before I could go for full Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS or SRS), and I also felt I may require some tweaking of my looks before then as well in the form of Facial Feminising Surgery (FFS). I therefore decided to go full time in July 2007, and inform my employer. I had been living all the rest of the time as a female in my private life, but the final step of telling your employer, who is the hand that feeds you, is a very difficult one to take indeed.

Thankfully all went well though, as my boss had suspected something along the lines of gender issues anyway. My Employer is also a very forward thinking company, who employ people from all walks of life with different nationalities and sexual preferences, so bigotry had not been likely to occur. Legislation within the UK is also very strong in protecting transgender people within the workplace, so the whole matter had to be handled in a professional and fair manner.

The years of changes on hormones paid off, for my new female persona had easily been accepted by the people in my workplace who could only see a female in front of them, despite knowing about my male background. All my fears about how badly coming out at work might go had thankfully been unfounded. It actually had been a much easier process than I had expected

Eventually my GRS and BA (Breast Augmentation) had been scheduled for November 2008, and even having two large operation procedures done at the same time, I still recovered from the surgery quite quickly. I had 3 months leave from work to fully recover from these procedures. I decided to get some FFS done in-between/before that date. It didn’t quite work out managing to have all the FFS done before then, but I did fit in a brow reduction and lift, hair transplantation on my temples, and laser eye correction (not part of FFS though). The minor works I had done on the outer edge of my jaw line took place in the later part of 2009 to finish off all my surgeries. The only ongoing process I’m doing at the moment is Electrolysis facial hair removal to remove the blonde or light coloured hairs that my earlier laser hair removal didn’t address at the time. I’m a maximum of a couple of months away from being near enough 100% facial hairs free for the first time in my whole adult life.


Was it all worth it, and do I have any regrets?

Transition for me personally had been a must from a health point of view, because I really would have become at the least a very unhappy and depressed male who would have become a bad husband and father as a result. The worst case situation would have been me eventually taking my own life, as I do believe I could not have sustained living the life of a lie. I basically needed to be my true self to progress through life.

I lost a hell of a lot as a result of going through the transition route. I had a family unit I loved, and I had a circle of friends whose company I enjoyed. I had a good standard of life, with a big house, two sports cars, etc. All of that I lost, and I had to start all over again with a basic two bedroom flat, no friends locally, and hoping it would not affect the income that kept even that much reduced lifestyle funded.

Years have passed, and I’ve settled into a life that is allowing me to keep my head above water, and above all I’m living a true life as the real me, with new people in that life who accept me for who I am.

I do not have any regrets about taking the decision to transition, for I know in my heart, mind, and soul that it had been the right choice for me to take. If there are any regrets, it is the fact that I had to lose so much to get there, and cause so much hurt to the very people I loved so much in life. I miss having my children in my day to day life more than anything, and that is my only major regret.

Basically you can’t have your cake and eat it in life, and you have to accept the downsides as well as the plusses. Everything about being the female Alex I am, now on a physical and mental wellbeing factor, is fantastic and feels 100% right. The results of getting there though, have been far from fantastic because of the damage I’ve caused along the way.

So in my case it has been worth it in the long run, but I am without doubt one of the lucky transitioning women who look very feminine, and fit into the female role very easily as well. If I had not been so lucky that way, and I had lost my job and income………maybe my summation would be very different.

Alexandra Young.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Reflections and Thoughts on Transitioning

In a few days, we will begin a series of guest posts on T-Central.

You will recognize some of the authors as well known T-Bloggers but there will be others who are not currently bloggers. What our guest authors have to say is from the heart and their writing is excellent.

You will see essays from those who have completed their transition, from those who are currently in transition and from those who fight the daily urge to transition. We will have at least one guest post from the wife (and many of you know her) of someone in transition and we also hope to have one or two posts regarding transition regrets.

I'd love to have a guest author who is the parent of a child in transition and perhaps another essay from the spouse - male or female - of someone in transition or who has transitioned. Please contact me if you are interested.

tiresias at hushmail dot com

Some of these posts may surprise you. Some may be a bit controversial. All will be "must-reads".

Guest posts will become an occasional feature of T-Central. We will be doing a similar series of posts on crossdressing later this year.

Our featured posts will be archived on a dedicated page on T-Central and available for future reference.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

PSA: "Transgender" or "Transgendered"?

This is a potentially controversial subject but nonetheless, my inner pedant feels the need to post.

I've been seeing the term "transgendered" a lot lately, and it bugs me, in the same way the term "transgendering" bugs me. Both are conjugations of a verb. But unless we're discussing drag queens, or perhaps purely recreational crossdressers, this isn't something we do, with a past and present tense form. It is something we are; we are transgender individuals.

The Huffington Post explains it as such:
"Readers of my age and older will remember a sad time when this country labeled African-Americans as "colored people." One problem with this label was that it implied something happened to make the person "of color," which denied the person's dignity of being born that way. Today, we are somewhat more enlightened and say "people of color" instead."
I think that pretty much nails it.

The Huffington Post piece goes on to make several good points, the last of which is that language is malleable and if individuals want to use the term "transgendered" to identify themselves, that's their business and there's nothing anyone can do about it. And I agree with that; so what if it bugs me, that's my problem, right?

Right. But if you are going to add the odious -"ed" and make a verb out of an adjective, it's helpful to understand the implications. Is this an activity for you, or is it part of your core identity?

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