In October, Brittany did a fabulous post on her blog, A Day in the Life of a Texas Transsexual. It is long but very well written and, in my opinion, well worth the time to read it. Rather than link to it, with Brittany's permission, I am publishing it as a guest post on T-Central.
Hello again everyone!
Transsexual people have to deal with many different things when they transition. Every aspect of your life is affected when you transition from one gender to another. Just living as a Transsexual in society is hard enough today with all the prejudice and ignorance that exists, but there are many other obstacles to overcome as well. The most important is no doubt keeping your job. I have known many people who lost their jobs when they announced to their employers that they planned to transition. Even if you are lucky enough to keep your job when you transition there are still many negative aspects that you have to deal with. The most difficult thing you have to deal with when you transition is dealing with all of the people in your life.
When a person fully transitions, every single person in their life is affected by it. Knowing that your transition will affect every single person in your life, and that you will most likely lose many friends and family members along the way, only makes it all the more difficult for the person transitioning. Add to that the possibility of losing your job, everything you own, your retirement, knowing that so much ignorance and prejudice exists towards Transgender people and it makes the thought of transitioning absolutely terrifying. It takes a huge amount of courage to overcome all of that fear -- but in the end you simply have no choice. You reach the point where your "bell goes off" and you either transition or you die. You reach the point in your life where you realize that you have to live your life and if you can't do that you would rather be dead. You transition knowing full well that most of the people in your life will never be able to understand why you had to transition and also that many of them - including family members - may never accept you.
When I knew I had to fully transition in early 2009, I fully expected to lose almost everything I had -- after all, I had witnessed this happen many times to many other people when they transitioned. I thought for sure that I would lose my job and that would in turn lead to the loss of my house, possibly my car and most other possessions. I also fully expected to lose most of the people in my life, including most friends and even family members.
When I transitioned I was very lucky. I was one of the very few who transition who was able to keep her job. I also kept most of my friends. I was positive that I would lose my parents but they kept me in their lives and did not turn their backs on me. My sister has known about me since approximately 1993 so I did not expect to lose her. I was also single and had no children, so I didn't have to go through the loss of my family like I have witnessed so many of my friends go through. Compared to most people who transition, I was very lucky indeed.
All of Your Relationships WILL Change!Even though I never lost many of my good friends or my parents our relationships were forever changed. I fully expected this, after all how could they not? All of these people now viewed me as someone entirely different from the person they thought they knew before -- and they were right to feel that way because they had really only known a small part of me for all those years. I wasn't even the GENDER they thought I was - at least not mentally! Although I knew these relationships would be forever changed, I never fully realized just to what extent they would be changed before I transitioned.
When I first transitioned I was really grateful that I was so accepted by most of the people in my life -- and that is still the case to this day. Every single one of those relationships did change though. Now I will try to attempt to explain how this 'change in relationship' has effected not only all of the people in my life but also how it has been from my own perspective.
EVERYTHING Has Changed
Transsexual people need to understand that although many people in your life may have "supported" your transition, the reality is that EVERYTHING has changed in they way they now view you. Do NOT expect your relationships with anyone who knew you before you transitioned to remain the same! The way EVERYONE who knew you before you transitioned feels about you IS now completely different. To all of the people in your life, the entire relationship dynamic has completely changed -- because now those people realize that you are a lot different from the person they always thought you were.
When you first transition and you receive support from people you are very happy to have it, but after time goes on you suddenly realize that things really HAVE changed after all. These people meant it when they said they supported you when you first told them about your transition -- after all, you probably told them BEFORE you actually transitioned. You may have told them in person, by telephone, or possibly by email, but since it was before you transitioned you were still presenting as "male" -- you seem like the same person they have always known. These people had no trouble facing you or talking to you at the time since you looked and sounded the same way you always did. However, once you transition this is NOT the case at all, because you now look and sound completely different – you look and sound like a woman! Just knowing about these changes creates problems for you and everyone else in your life as well.
It was easy for a lot of people to fully accept you when you told them you were going to transition, but after some time goes by and you do transition these people have had more time to think about what was actually taking place. They come to realize that you are not the person they thought you were at all. In many ways, you now suddenly seems like a total stranger to them in many ways and as a result they don't quite know how to maintain the friendship. These people don't just suddenly "stop supporting" their friend who transitioned, but the relationship HAS changed they really don't know quite how to deal with all of it. In the end these people just slowly fade out of the life of the person who transitioned never to be heard from again. Even though these people may have "accepted" you when you first told them you planned to transition, after a while you suddenly realize that in reality many of the people who first accepted you really ARE gone from your life after all.
Drifting Apart...Many people who transition who were at first "accepted" by their friends end up losing those same friends in the end just because they had drifted apart. This is a very common occurrence with people who rarely see you or have never seen you at all since your transition took place. Drifting apart is not really anyone's "fault" at all -- it is just something that happens for many different reasons.
In a recent post I told about meeting some friends from Missouri I used to work with while I was attending a conference in San Diego, CA. For me, these were the same people I had known for years - nothing had changed my view of them at all -- they were exactly the same.
However, the exact opposite was true for them. I looked, sounded and acted completely different than the person they had known for so many years -- I was not even the same gender I used to be! They had no real "problems" with me, but they felt awkward when they were around me because the relationship had changed so much from the one they were familiar and comfortable with. Years before they would have said anything to me and been unrelenting with their jokes, but they didn't feel comfortable to act that way with me now since they viewed me as a woman - or at least someone in the process of changing into a woman. I appreciated the fact that they did this, because I did not want or expect to be treated the same way that I had been when I had to be "male" around them.
Until that meeting in San Diego, I had never given much thought at all about how or why my friends might have difficulty relating to me now that I had transitioned -- I had only been concerned about their acceptance of me. Most people in my life were shocked but had no problems accepting the fact that I am Transsexual -- knowing how to deal with that change in the relationship was/is the hardest thing to actually deal with -- and not only for them, but for me also.
The reactions of my friends at the conference in San Diego were perfectly understandable. At the time it was a little amusing to me to see their discomfort, but at the same time knowing that they were uncomfortable was also very frustrating. The more I thought about it the more I wanted their discomfort to evaporate. I knew that if I could spend some time (at least a few hours) with them that much of their discomfort would probably disappear but unfortunately we just didn't have the time to do that at the conference.
And THAT is the problem! It is simply impossible for you to sit down with all of your friends for long enough periods of time to where they all feel "comfortable" with you! In my case, most of my old friends are scattered all across the country or even live in Europe. They have trepidations about contacting me - and I have trepidations about contacting them also, because I KNOW they will feel weird hearing me on the phone, or seeing me for the very first time and I don't want to "thrust" them into that kind of situation. It is a difficult situation all the way around and there is no easy answer.
My point is that you need to realize these things will happen when you transition. Do NOT think that things will be the same way they have always been with all the people in your life - because they won't be the same at all. The reality is that everything HAS changed!
Maintaining The Relationship
In an earlier post, I pointed out that it is important that the person transitioning maintains the contact in these relationships. Email is one way to do this. Using social networks like Facebook is another way that enables people to stay in touch, see how you look and know what is going on in your life. Social networks help you to maintain those relationships, because your friends and family members can see pictures of how you look and hear what is happening in your life. Social networks are a "safe" way for your friends to see you and learn about your life from a "safe distance." Social networks do NOT solve all of the problems mentioned before though -- all of those problems still exist.
For example, think about how it would be to call one of your old friends on the phone. You are now using a completely different voice (in most cases anyway) and you don't know how your friend will react or feel about that. Also, depending on your history with the person, it may be somewhat difficult to talk about "old times" now - for the very same reasons I mentioned above when I met my friends from Missouri in San Diego.
Like I mentioned earlier, actually seeing you for the first time is also very difficult for most people - and that might be very awkward for you as well. Before their friend transitioned they may have called "him" several times a year or invited 'him' over for dinner, to go to a movie, attend a party, set 'him' up with a date, etc. Now that "she" has transitioned, the person they thought they knew before seems much more like a stranger to them and they do not know how to approach her. They don't feel comfortable calling her on the phone any more -- after all, would she now sound like a woman on the phone? THAT would be weird! They have never seen their friend dress, look or act like a woman either, so they never invite her out to lunch or dinner, to the movies, or over to their house any more. Just imagining "him" as a "her" is very difficult, but to actually SEE it would really be difficult to deal with and would no doubt be quite a shock. It is no doubt be much easier NOT to have to deal with that situation at all -- after all, most people will always take the easiest way out of a difficult situation if they are ever given a choice. As a result, no contact is ever made with the person who transitioned.
I know several people who supported me since I transitioned who live fairly close to me but have yet to see me in the flesh. I have talked with some of these people over the phone or by email and they always seem to want to get together, but it never actually happens. Some have told me things like, "We'll have to go to lunch sometime" but I know when I hear that it will most likely never happen. Unless someone says something like, "Want to go to lunch this Tuesday at 11:30?" you can bet that the "loose" lunch date will never actually materialize...
It is really hard to know just what to do in these cases. For example, I know that these people feel strange about me to begin with so the last thing I want to do is to just suddenly show up on their doorstep just to say hello - how awkward would that be..?!!! I have even had people tell me to call them before I came over - probably so they could be prepared mentally to see me for the very first time. The fact that they told me to "call first" before coming over is understandable, but it still is a bit insulting. Realistically, just suddenly showing up on their doorsteps may be the only option in the end that will enable all of us to get past this initial phase of awkwardness.
Also, life goes on. All their lives as well as mine. Maintaining contact with people I haven't spoken to since I transitioned is far down on my list of things to do because I have a lot going on in my own life at the moment -- and I'm sure they do too. As life goes on more people from your 'old life' just seem to fade away...
Some Relationships Cannot Be Saved
Since I transitioned full time I have never had anyone just tell me to my face that they wanted nothing to do with me. Even though this has been the case, I also know that many people where I work have problems with my transition. There are about 1200 people working for the agency where I work in Dallas. Out of that 1200 people, only about 150 of them attended the Donna Rose training right before I transitioned. This leaves MANY of those people with no understanding of Transsexualism at all and many of them DO have "problems" with me. Most of the people I work with directly do not seem to have "real problems" with me, but there are a few who I know do. These people have no problems working with me on a professional level but anything beyond that, like friendship, is simply not going to happen.
For example, one woman who was a fairly good friend of mine before I transitioned used to care enough about me to stop by my office and see how I was doing if she hadn't seen me for a while. She has not stopped by my office one single time since I transitioned. The other day I even loaned her a new CD for her to listen to that I thought she would like. Later that day I went by her office and found the CD on her chair - she'd left it there for me to pick up if I came by. She had gone to a doctor's appointment and had left early for the day. Instead of stopping by my office (which she walked right by on her way out) to drop off the CD, she left it on her chair for me to find. This way she could avoid me. I have never mentioned this to her and never found out if she even liked the CD. Frankly, I don't care. She has made it clear to me where I stand as far as she is concerned.
I have also never seen this particular woman in the women's rest room a single time since I transitioned so I am sure she actually goes to a bathroom an a different floor rather than use one I might happen to be in. She is very friendly to me face-to-face but she obviously has real problems with me. She will work with professionally but it is obvious that she no longer considers me a friend. She is a real disappointment, but I will not waste time worrying about her -- life goes on and I will only worry about my true friends.
People Who Have Problems With GRS
Another relationship that has suffered and changed since I transitioned is my relationship with my parents. My parents did not shun me when I told them I planned to transition. My dad obviously had problems with the fact that I eventually planned to have surgery but he didn't disown me when he learned I planned to transition. My mother was really supportive at first but as time went on I could feel her support start to dwindle. It is now very clear to me that my mother also has problems with the fact that I will have surgery.
Several people knew I was Transsexual for years before I ever transitioned. My relationship with every single one of those people changed after I fully transitioned - and that was something I NEVER expected at all! Some of these people also clearly have problems with the fact that I will have GRS. These same people seemed to have very few problems with the fact that I am Transsexual, but their support seemed to quickly fade once they knew for sure that I actually planned to have surgery. Even though they have no idea when that surgery will be, they still know it's coming and have had less and less contact with me ever since as a result. There are many people who have real problems with the fact that I plan to have surgery!.
My point in all of this is that even though I didn't officially lose many family or friends when I transitioned, the reality is that I really did. The relationship with every single person in my life has completely changed -- even if they already were already aware I was Transsexual. Because of this, in many ways I can't help but feel that I have really lost many of the people in my life since I transitioned.
I knew before I transitioned that my relationships with all the people in my life would be different, but I never realized just to what extent this would be true. It has been MUCH worse than I ever imagined it would be - and NOT in a good way. Be prepared for this when you transition. You will be very surprised and shocked by just how much that change will be after you transition.
Sometimes They Come Back
I have witnessed many of my friends lose their wives and kids once they transitioned. I know many people who transitioned after 20-plus years of marriage and went through (or are currently going through) some of the nastiest divorces imaginable. I have also noticed that the younger (0 to early teens) the children are the more likely they are to accept the transition. Children who are older (mid-teens and older) usually have the worst problems with the fact their father plans to transition to a woman. Many of these older children are not only embarrassed and ashamed that their father is transitioning into a woman, but many obviously feel a huge resentment because of how their mother is affected by the transition and the breakup of the family unit.
I have known several people who lost friends and family members when they first transitioned, but as time passed a few of those people came back. This is more common with family members than friends, which makes sense since family members are closer to you and are normally with you all your life.
I have known several people, for example, who lost their children when they transitioned but over time some of those children - if not all of them - eventually came back. In some cases I have even seen how these children have completely accepted the transitioner in the end and actually think of and refer to them as another mother and their relationship was closer than ever before. This level of acceptance is very rare (from what I have seen) but I have seen it happen -- so never give up hope!
I have known Transsexual people who have turned their backs on all of their friends and family once they transitioned. This is pretty easy to do if you have little or no support from most friends or family members after you transition.
Things also change over time after you transition. At first you only wanted support from all of the people in your life, but after a while this isn't enough. You may feel you have support from the people in your life, but soon you realize that most, if not all, will never fully accept you as a woman because they have already "gendered" you as "male." This poses a big problem because you want and need to be fully accepted as a woman -- and this need, of course, only gets worse after you have had surgery and you ARE physically and legally female.
I completely understand how Transsexual women only want to live their lives as women and feel that having ties to anyone who knew them before they transitioned will only hinder them. They ONLY want to be viewed as women - NOT as Transsexuals. This is true in my case as well. I do NOT want to be known by everyone as "Transsexual" - I am a woman and I want people to only think of me and treat me as any other woman.
I have known Transsexual women who just suddenly "disappeared" at some point. They wanted no ties to the "Transgender community" at all. They did NOT want to be known as "Transsexual" by everyone who knew them -- actually, by ANYONE who knew them. They decided to "go stealth." They left all ties behind and started whole new lives where everyone who knew them would ONLY know them as women. If all the friends in your life ONLY knew you as a woman they would have no trouble at all accepting you as a woman. They would ONLY view and treat you as any other woman – which is exactly what most Transsexual people want.
Even my (ex) best friend went "stealth" on me. I had been her best friend and supported her through her transition from the very start to the finish. She had even given me credit for stopping her from committing suicide at one point when things really got bad for her. I was there for her every step of the way during her entire transition all the way through surgery, but as soon as she learned I was transitioning full-time she turned her back on me and I haven't heard from her since. Such loyalty… She obviously wanted to break all ties to her former life and I was a part of that life she needed to leave behind. She wanted no ties to the "Transgender community" and she probably considered me to be a part of that community. She also probably did not want to have to go through another person's transition -- after all, her transition had been hard enough. I still resent her for doing this to me at the time when I needed her the most -- because I never would have done the same thing to her. Still, I can understand WHY she felt the need to do it.
Like I said, I can fully understand why Transsexual people want to "go stealth." Having everyone in your life ONLY view you as a woman would be wonderful and it would solve so many problems. On the other hand, being stealth also CREATES a lot of problems as well. The main problem it creates is MAINTAINING that 'stealthiness.'
Being stealth years ago was fairly easy to do because it was much easier to hide your trail. All documents were paper-based and held somewhere in a manual filing system. Today this is not the case at all. Maintaining stealthiness in this day and age is almost next to impossible. Today documents are stored in digital format and can be very easily accessed by many different people all across the country. The Internet and digital databases make it very easy for people to "out" you at some point. For example, even though you can change your name and gender at the Social Security Office they still keep your original gender on file. I have also heard of Transsexual people who had been stealth for years who found that when they applied for Medicare that they were still listed as "male."
I do know some TS women who are stealth and married to men. In most cases their husbands know they are Transsexual but they also only view them as women since they never knew them before they transitioned. I have even met TS women who were married to men who NEVER knew that they were TS. Living in stealth mode is no doubt much easier for married TS women -- just the fact that they are married makes their stealthiness that much "deeper," because they appear to be no different from any other married couple in the eyes of society – I guess you could say that their husband is the perfect “beard.” Even though being married adds to your stealthiness, all the problems with maintaining that stealthiness still apply -- except now two people may be affected if you are somehow outed...
My (ex) best-friend once told me that transitioning was NOT the hardest thing to deal with for Transsexual people -- maintaining your stealthiness, on the other hand, is. In her eyes, if anyone knew you were Transsexual you were nothing but a "complete failure." She even thought that people who were TS fighting for the rights of Transgender people were complete failures just because of the fact that everyone knew they were Transsexual. Needless to say, she and I had some major differences of opinion on this issue...
People who are completely stealth (this is known as being "deep stealth") live in constant fear that they will be "outed" at some point and the life they had worked so hard to achieve will be ruined. I fully understand the want and need to be stealth -- but I certainly will never let stealthiness rule my life. I had to hide who I was almost my entire life -- because for years my life depended on me doing that -- it was a survival tactic. My days of hiding who I am are over! I am very proud of who I am now and it took years for me to come to terms with who I was and to feel that way. I REFUSE to go "back in the closet" again and forever worry that someone will eventually find out that I am Transsexual! I DON'T care if people know I am Transsexual -- I am very PROUD of that fact!
That being said, it is still possible to live with a very high degree of stealthiness. I can live in stealth mode easily enough when I am out in regular society. I can (eventually) live in an area where my neighbors have no "history" of me being "male" and they only view and consider me to be a woman. I can even have friends who only know me as a woman also. One day I may even have a job where everyone I work with only knows me as a woman. I can have all of that and actually be just as stealth as anyone who is in "deep stealth mode," but I will NEVER worry about being "outed." My world won't come to an end if at some point in my life someone somehow finds out that I am Transsexual. The greatest difference between me and someone who is “deep stealth” is that I won't live in constant fear of eventually being outed...
I would also have real problems hiding the fact of who I really was to someone I loved -- that just won't happen. I wouldn't want to be with someone who didn't fully accept me for who I am anyway.
I also have too much loyalty to ever turn my back on my friends and family and simply walk away never to be heard from again -- especially after they have supported me. There may be problems in some of those relationships now that I have transitioned, but they deserve better than me just turning my back on them. I will always do whatever I can to keep those friendships because they are very important to me and I care about every one of those people!
Developing New Friendships as My True Self
Although I will never turn my back on all of my old friends, right now I am at a point in my life where I need to create new friendships with people who ONLY know me as female. Even if some of these people know I am Transsexual, they still won't have the baggage or history of knowing me before as "male," and as a result, will accept me only as the true person I am.
I have recently made some new friends who fall into this category. They completely accept me as a woman and do not have a conflicting memory of remembering me as a ‘male’ -- and this is a rare and wonderful thing for me! These people have known me as my ‘true self’ right from the very start and it will be much easier to develop deep friendships or relationships with them as a result.
In previous posts I have mentioned that there are two types of surgery that I plan to have. The most important of all is gender reassignment surgery (GRS). I also plan to have facial feminization surgery (FFS) after I have GRS. Both surgeries are very expensive and very painful – but like I have heard so many times – “transition is both very painful and expensive.”
I have had people request that I discuss the different surgeons who perform both GRS and FFS. At some point I may discuss who and where some of these surgeons are located, but I will NEVER recommend one surgeon above another. If I did something like that it would no doubt create a firestorm of angry emails from people who disagreed with my recommendations. I have found that (in most cases) once someone undergoes surgery from one surgeon they will swear until the day they die that that person is the “best” surgeon in the world. I have seen people do this even if they had MAJOR problems caused by their surgeon. Because of this I will NEVER recommend one surgeon over another – even if I happen to think that some surgeons are clearly better than others.
In a previous blog post I stated that I would never divulge when or where I plan to have surgery (GRS or FFS). The reason for this is because there are too many people in my life who are bothered by the fact that I plan to have surgery. These people simply do not understand how important surgery is or exactly what it means to me -- or any Transsexual person for that matter. How could they? Only another Transsexual person would understand this. I have decided that what they don’t know won’t hurt them – or cause them to worry needlessly. I simply cannot risk someone reading this blog, finding out when I will have surgery and telling someone I do not want to know – so I won’t discuss my surgery dates or locations.
Although I do not plan to discuss the date or location I will have surgery, I MAY detail the experience afterwards on this blog. At this point, I haven’t decided for sure that I will do that, but I most likely will. I know that the details would no doubt bother and even upset a lot of people in my life, but the main purpose of this blog is to help other Transsexual people and if I decide that my experience will help them in any way I will write about it. Again, I won’t do that until AFTER the fact…!
Take care and enjoy your life!