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Sunday, August 29, 2010

gwen's tgirl adventure

“To put on these clothes--and to revel in my femininity--to walk and stand and move like a woman-- feels like the truest thing I've ever done.”
Most of us have been there at some point and how we have dealt with the emotions from then on has defined us. Our newest addition to T-Central, Gwen started her blog early this month. Her admission in that first post reads like a manifesto for many of us.

I particularly enjoyed her post “where is this all going”,  a good place to start; a very straight-forward post that lays it all out there.

Follow along to see where Gwen’s Adventure leads her and us.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Transition Thoughts & Reflections - Helen Boyd Guest Post

Some time ago, I had asked Helen Boyd if she could do one of the guest posts, from the perspective of a spouse, for our Transition Thoughts and Reflections series on T-Central.  She graciously replied in the affirmative but the actual post has been delayed due to their relocation.

But, true to her word, she delivered and we have it for you today!

Helen, as many of you know, is the author of My Husband Betty, and She's Not The Man I Married.  

I have both books.  I thoroughly enjoyed both books.  I strongly recommend both books.  But more importantly, I got a lot out of both books.   They helped me to better understand myself.

Helen's blog is en|Gender and her books are available via her own website or from Amazon.

 - Calie

Post Trans Post: Life After Transition August 2010

Betty transitioned. Apparently we’ve forgotten to announce that officially. I can’t imagine anyone is surprised; looking back, I see chapter 5 of My Husband Betty as tea leaves neither of us wanted to read. But I wrote My Husband Betty seven years ago (and it’s still in print!), and that old joke says it only takes 2 years, right? Maybe that’s from crossdresser to transsexual, because surely it takes more years than that to become a woman or a man. It certainly took me a few more than 2 to become a woman, and that was without any trans interference. (Sometimes, when someone asks me if I’m trans myself, I wonder if I ever did make it to “woman,” but for me, that’s a compliment, that all of my gender is showing.)

What we are, post transition, is more relaxed. That has something to do with our move from New York to Wisconsin, and something to do as well with us both having jobs we like. It may also have something to do with our being together for 12 years now. But hearing that other shoe drop, at long last, has brought us both relief as well.

We find it easier being perceived as a lesbian couple than as a trans couple. Granted, we “do” lesbian with our bizarre heterosexual privilege – by which I mean we are still federally recognized as legally married. I certainly don’t mean to imply it’s easier to be a lesbian couple; it’s not. It’s way harder then when we were seen as a somewhat eccentric het couple. But you do a lot less explaining at parties, and that’s a nice break. People know what lesbians are, even if, as in our case, the label isn’t wholly accurate. Mostly we don’t prefer to tell people Betty is trans; if they know, & have questions, we answer them when we’re in the appropriate time & place to do so, like in a private conversation and not at a party. But otherwise, I have no interest in outing her on a regular basis.

Often the question of whether or not to be out as trans rests upon the assumption that you’re either out or stealth. Yay, another binary! The reality is that there is a significant gray area. What has surprised us most is that the old advice – to move clear across the country – has its reasons. We did, but not as part of her transition plan. We did, and so we’ve reaped the benefits of being in a place where no one knew her as male, where no one knew us as het, where no one knew us before at all. That is, when we meet people now, they need only know as as a same sex couple. Unlike many if not most trans people, Betty is undeniably out. Once someone asks me what I do, for instance, it is only a few short stops to “She used to be a man?” To preserve some of our privacy – and yes, even memoirists like some privacy – I usually tell people I write gender theory which invariably leads to one of two responses: (1) “Oh.” Or (2) they actually want to know what I think of Lady Gaga’s/Caster Semenya’s gender, at which point the conversation turns away from me and onto cranky female athletes or Gaga’s little monsters. That is, the titles of my books don’t ever have to come up, which keeps me from outing Betty. One of the best parts of working in academia is having people assume they haven’t read your work.

Sometimes I like to joke that I threw Betty over for a “real woman” but that’s only if that someone will get the joke. (The short version: I don’t believe in “real” genders.)

What we’ve found is that the guy at the local equivalent of the 7-11 doesn’t need to know. We are often assumed to be friends, and not a couple, because of general LGBTQ invisibility, and I’m learning to leave with that & all the heterocentric bullshit the world is steeped in. When someone’s head is still getting used to the idea of homosexuality, you don’t really want to hit them with Teh Trans, anyway. They’re not ready.
A friend of mine, both lesbian and trans, was once asked to talk to a student about being out. My friend promptly explained her experiences being out as trans, to which the slack-jawed undergrad responded, “I thought you were just a lesbian.”

So now we’re “just lesbians.”

But is anyone “just a lesbian”? Every lesbian woman I know is a host of other things: parent, daughter, lawyer, trans, Asian, etc. We are not “just lesbians” either. We are something like post trans queers. Or I am, at least. I’m not really sure anymore.

The only sad thing for me is that I have lost my partner in crime. Betty is (quite frustratingly, some days) gender normative, trendy, and magazine feminine. I have to remind her not to flip her hair so much. I love her, but I still nurse a general dislike of normative femininity. I’m naturally suspicious of people who fit in. I assume I’ll get over it. You don’t really make it through transition as someone’s partner without having an awful lot of flexibility.

What I will say to the partners: my resolve to be her friend first, and her lover/wife second, was tantamount. We still worry that our friendship has replaced or supplanted our marriage, but I suspect that’s the kind of thing a lot of long-term relationships wrestle. When it comes down to it, our journey, and my midwifery, has been an honor and a pleasure. It is a remarkable thing to watch someone go through gender transition and to help them do so. She has assisted me through a few life transitions, and we will, no doubt, see a few more in our lifetimes, and any and all of those changes can be a threat to a couple’s permanence and happiness. Her gender transition’s challenge to who we are as a couple was maybe more challenging than others, or maybe just more obvious in the ways it accessed axes of identity. But surely unhappiness, self-repression, and stagnation would destroy any relationship as easily and with far more bitterness and regret, and you know? Phooey to that.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Penny's Arcade

Penny claims she isn’t special, but she is putting herself out there as we all do, trying to work ‘stuff’ out and letting us follow along.

She is a fine teller of tales and oh, by the way, she just happens to be married to a wonderful girl that likes guys who dress up as girls.

She seems pretty special to me.

Do yourself a favor and head on over to Penny’s Arcade.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"OMG, She Had Her Surgery!"

By no means am I making light of it, but our girl, Liz, still has her sense of humor.  Read her post-op report on her blog, "OMG, It's a Tranny!"

  - Calie

Friday, August 20, 2010

My Road to Womanhood

I always like to introduce a brand new blogger!

April's blog is My Road to Womanhood.  She's just beginning her transition and dealing with the many complicated issues associated with that.  Check out her blog and follow her transition from the very beginning.  

Oh, and do leave April a comment if you get a chance.  All bloggers just love to hear from their readers.

 - Calie

See April's newer blog, My Road Redux.
Addendum, April 4, 2015

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Slippery Slope

Karen has a nice post, postulating the slippery slope theory. Go to SHOUTING DOWN THE WELL.

Calie xx

Friday, August 13, 2010

And Now, Back to Our Regular Programming

Over the past few weeks you have read the thoughts and reflections, relating to transitioning, from some excellent guest bloggers. The goal was to publish a diverse group of guest posts. For the most part, I think we succeeded. You've read the thoughts from some in transition, from some who are post transition, and from some who who most likely should transition but are attempting to remain status quo. You've read "Z's" thoughts and Caden's thoughts. You've heard from FtM's and MtF's.

We really wanted the thoughts of a transitioner's spouse. I had one essay lined up and am still expecting it, but it has been delayed due to personal reasons. If I get it, one of us will post it.

I also sought out one or more who regretted transitioning, but never found someone who would commit to an essay. There are some well known sites on the Internet regarding transition regrets. I don't want to link to them here, but I will send links to those interested. Just send me an email.

All of the guest blogs will be archived on a separate page on the T-Central soon as one of us gets around to it.

My heartfelt thanks go out to our guest authors:


I also want to thank our T-Central team members: Veronica, Renee, Christianne, and Halle, for assisting and for just putting up with me.

Oh, and I can't forget Karen, who has set up the T-Central Facebook site. Thanks, Karen!

Your response to these posts has been tremendous, and it's obvious that you want more. We're going to give it a rest for now, however. In a few months, we'll start up another series of guest posts.

If you're trans, and would like to do a future guest post, please contact me.

I also want to thank Lori. While no longer directly associated with T-Central, she remains the heart, soul, and founder of T-Central. It was Lori who suggested the idea of doing these guest posts.

And now, back to our regular programming.

- Calie

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Transition Thoughts & Reflections – Guest Post #15

It’s a little strange for me, introducing this piece, since a good portion of the T-Central audience probably knows Veronica as well, if not better, than I do. She is truly the woman who needs no introduction; a constant in this community for as long as I can remember, Veronica has always been ready with a kind word or supportive gesture for anyone in need, while inspiring others through the various incarnations of her own blog. But for those of you who are new, or haven’t followed her story from the beginning, or maybe missed a few salient details along the way, here then is what we like to call “the short version”. And like so many of our other guest bloggers have shown us, it demonstrates that while our narratives have much in common, they are also entirely unique to ourselves at the same time. Enjoy.

- Renee

The unlikely transition


In the summer of 2007, when I first saw a doctor who was a specialist in trans health, he was skeptical. Shortly afterward, when I started to see a trans knowledgeable therapist, she too was skeptical. They weren't the only ones. I had my doubts as well. Here I was, 53 years old, having lived a reasonably successful life as a man, not constantly bothered by thoughts of being a woman until fairly recently. How could I be transsexual?

I didn't fit the profile. I realize now, of course, that there is no one profile of transsexualism, but there certainly seem to be commonalities that I did not share. I did not know I was a girl at four years old. I did not insist on being included with the girls. I did not try to wear girl clothes or makeup. Later, I had a fairly normal social life, and I loved sex. The only reason I was ashamed of my body was because I was somewhat overweight and out of shape, not because it was a male body. I never suffered from clinical depression, and I never attempted or even seriously considered suicide.

And yet by late autumn of 2007, I knew I was transsexual, and my doctor and my therapist agreed, if still cautiously. I began my transition. And here it is, more than halfway through 2010. I have been living full time as a woman for more than two years, and sex reassignment surgery is now more than six months behind me. I have never felt so right in my life, and I have never been happier. It's still early days, but I can't imagine having any regrets other than not having transitioned sooner. This life is so wonderful that it's hard for me to believe that I could have lived without it for so long. From such unlikely beginnings, how could things have worked out so well?

Nonstandard back-story

In fact, the signs were there all along in my life, but it took close examination to see them.

When I was around six years old, I used to do a bit of strategic tucking and look at myself in the mirror. I knew what my baby sister looked like down there. Apparently, that was what I wanted too. At the time, I didn't realize the significance of this, and before long I stopped doing it.

Lots of things seem to have contributed to pushing gender issues far into the back of my mind. I was not a rebellious child, and indeed I've been a pleaser all my life. I have always wanted to be liked and accepted. Once puberty hit, I was strongly attracted to women. Before I was even out of high school, first alcohol and later drugs became ways of taking the edge off my dissatisfaction with life. I looked almost everywhere except at my own sex for answers to why I wasn't happy: religion, philosophy, political activism, music, acting, and more. Eventually, there was resignation. "If I had another life, I'd rather be female" was the way I considered my gender issues. Dwelling on what you can't have will only make you miserable. Better to make do with what you have.

At the same time, I had outlets for gender expression that most transsexual women seem not to have had. As a child, I idolized my older sister, and although she was never quite a playmate, I tended to be included in her world until she reached puberty. I played both boy-typical and girl-typical games, and no one said I couldn't. I was told not to be such a crybaby, but I was never punished for not being manly enough. I was allowed to grow up as a nerdy, not very athletic, somewhat androgynous boy.

Later, sex and intimacy with women became an outlet. I always wanted to be close to women. I rarely bonded with men, and never with groups of men. My best friends have almost always been women, and I had a tendency to have sex with my friends. If I could not have a female body, I wanted to be as close as possible to one. To some extent, I lived vicariously through my female companions, especially my current partner (of nearly 30 years).

Music and theatre were also great outlets. I was leading rock bands during the early 1980s, when hitting the stage in eye makeup and tight jeans was pretty much the norm. I would go to clubs that way as well. Even when I wasn't being as overt, I had a spiky shock of dyed blond hair and two earrings in my left ear at a time when that was far from common among men. I often had epithets for gay men flung at me and once had the shit beat out of me as I left a club. And then there was that Hallow'een party for which I borrowed a pink and black dress and wore black tights and boots (which I still own), plus the requisite punk makeup. I looked like Aimee Mann at the time minus the cheekbones. I had such a fun time confusing the boys!

Other than that one foray, however, I rarely did any cross-dressing, and then only in secret, imagining how much better it would be if I were shaped differently. It was always a disappointment.

Even during less androgynous times, I did not behave in a particularly manly way. Thus, I never really built any male façade. I was who I was. I cried when I was moved, without shame. Many people thought I was gay, even though I was married to a woman. That's how gentleness and femininity in a man are often interpreted. My sister-in-law used to call me a "straight gay guy."

If all those coping mechanisms weren't enough, there were also ignorance, fear, and shame. I truly did not know what was possible. At first I thought that no one could change sex. Then I heard about Wendy Carlos, and I thought, OK, it's possible for famous and special people. Then I heard about Renée Richards, and I did not want to look like her. And later, I saw someone at a trade show whom I had known by sight as a man and who was now a woman, and again, her appearance and her obvious loneliness scared me.

So there seem to have been all kinds of things that helped to dissipate or squash any wishes to be female. Yet we all know that it is rare for transsexualism to stay hidden for one's entire life.

Coming out, slowly then quickly

Advancing age has a way of concentrating the mind. As I approached 50, I realized I'd let myself go. My partner and I got into watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and I went very metrosexual for a while. I lost weight, firmed up, and starting taking better care of myself. As I did this, I found myself wanting to push the gender envelope further and further, and wished that my body, as well shaped as I had made it, was softer and rounder and lacking in equipment below. That stuff had always got in my way.

The dam was showing cracks by the time I joined Second Life at the end of July 2006. Here was my "if I had a another life." I created a female avatar, of course. I never had even a thought of creating a male avatar. And in creating a female avatar, every repressed dysphoric feeling was unleashed.

Second Life was pure dream fulfilment, and its power was overwhelming. As my avatar, I went shopping and loved it. I was beautiful and sexy. I had virtual intimacies, sex but also more, first with men and later with women. Most importantly, I interacted socially as a female with other avatars whose typists saw me as female. It all fit extraordinarily well and was amazingly fulfilling. I also met a variety of trans people for the first time, people who opened my eyes to possibilities that I had thought were only fantasies. After a few months, I realized that being a virtual woman was not enough. If I didn't do something about my first life, I was going to get lost in Second Life.

I began to make up for lost time, talking with new friends, searching out blogs, and gathering information from the interwebs. I came out to my partner. I went to a support group. I went out several times with a "girls night out" group. I saw a counsellor. I wondered if I might be a crossdresser, bi-gendered, some kind of genderqueer, but none of that fit. By the time I began to undergo assessment and therapy that summer, I knew I was transsexual, but I could not yet admit it to myself.

No doubt

Then something changed radically. I read a book by Antonio Damásio called Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, and I had a huge insight. I had never trusted my feelings! And because I didn't, I never knew what I really wanted. All my life, I tried to make decisions based purely on rationality. As a result, the decisions I made were often poor ones, and I second guessed myself constantly. I ignored my heart, because I had been taught not to trust my feelings. But Damasio showed me that good decisions come from both reason and feelings, from both head and heart, not one without the other.

Bringing head and heart together was the key. The clarity was amazing. Once I knew what I really wanted, there was no holding me back. I had spent my entire life first not allowing myself to consider such possibilities, then thinking they were for others but not for me. I had denied, very effectively, my heart's desire, and I had found enough ways to keep the dam patched up that I didn't realize just how much water there was behind it.

That autumn, 2007, I started going out as me in real life, first only occasionally then more and more often. I began hormone therapy in January 2008. I went full time at the end of May. I had SRS in January 2010. Two people have asked who I went to for facial feminization surgery, so that's a pretty good indication that I don't need any (but might want some anyway). And I have come to terms, for now, with my small breasts, because at this point I simply do not want implants. Hormones, SRS, and living life were the most important things to me. For someone who does indeed love clothes and makeup and girly things, I'm much more "classic" than I ever imagined.

When I was evaluated by the two psychiatrists in the province who make decisions on whether to recommend candidates for funding for SRS, I was nervous. Still, I told them my story without hiding anything. They recommended me. They said they'd heard stories like mine. It turns out my nonstandard story wasn't so nonstandard after all!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Transition Thoughts & Reflections - Becca

I'm truly at a loss of words for the introduction of today's guest post.

Becca is a close and dear friend of mine. I have known her from just about the start of her transition....a friendship that makes any friendship I have had with guys just seem superficial. What we have now, and have had from the beginning, is a true female-to-female friendship. I have not other way to explain it and I cherish it.

She transitioned quickly, but it was very well planned out. Our girl is smart and does things very methodically. She endured pain and frustration but has reaped the benefits of the focus and hard work she put into her transition. Her voice, for instance, has changed dramatically since the early days....and that just did not magically happen. Hormones will do little to change the voice of late transitioning MtF. Attaining the female voice requires training, practice, and constantly focusing on how you speak. Becca's voice is just never questioned. It is the voice of a woman.

I'll stop blabbering and just mention that the pictures she gave me, to go with this guest post, simply do not do her justice. Becca is a beautiful woman, not only in body, but in mind and soul.

I encourage you to visit her blog, Rebecca's Thoughts, along with the T-Central Facebook page. The link is at the bottom of this page.
- Calie
My Name Is Rebecca

One of my closest and dearest friends, Calie, asked if I would be willing to write a guest post about what transition has meant to me. I was honored, but really couldn't think of a good approach to take. So, please forgive me as I ramble a bit, and hopefully get my thoughts across well...

I originally started writing this post in a similar manner to several of our other wonderful guest bloggers - by telling my history. But then I realized that this was supposed to be about my thoughts and reflections on my transition... and that made me realize how much my transition is a part of my past, just as my male history is my past. And I thought I would reflect on that a bit.

Although I started my life as a boy, grew into a young man, became a husband and then a father of two.... Although all of that made me who I am today, and I have very few regrets about any of it, and actually quite a lot of great memories because of it.... I am a woman now. I know, we've heard that before from so many people in the community. But honestly, there isn't a single bit of me that feels male or even trans anymore. Sure, this history will follow me around forever, and I can't allow myself to ever forget it, deny it, or pretend it didn't happen... but it feels like it all happened to someone else. It doesn't even feel like a dream or a nightmare. It simply doesn't feel like it ever really happened to me.

My past was similar to so many others, and yet different from most. I didn't cross-dress. I didn't lurk on the forums. I didn't experiment with sex, drugs, alcohol, hormones. I didn't have depression issues. I wasn't even close to being suicidal. I didn't body-build, join the military, sleep around. I lived as "normal" a life as I possibly could manage... all the time suppressing who I was as hard as I could. Sure, I was drawn to all the gender-bending movies and books. And yes, I struggled on some level every moment of every day. But consciously, I didn't know what was going on. I didn't recognize my reflection, nor my image in photographs - but I thought that was normal for everyone. I had to monitor my mannerisms at all times, because I knew I was naturally feminine, and had always struggled with being the "sissy" in the crowd. I wasn't nearly as masculine in any way as all the other guys. All the other husband, fathers, and boyfriends. I hated sports, and enjoyed fashion, cross-stitching, flowers... But I knew I wasn't gay. I was just "a nice, gentle guy." I tried to be a father, a husband. And I always showed immense love and commitment... but I was about as far from a father and husband as I could be. I made no effort to be masculine, as I felt that you should be accepted for who you were.... But the lack of self-confidence all of this brought to my life left me a co-dependent mat, moving from bad relationship to worse, ending with my daughter and I the victims of an extremely abusive 8-year relationship. And that's when my bell finally rang.

My kids were adults. My relationship was beyond over. And I had been stripped of every ounce of self-esteem and personality that I had ever had. I hit rock-bottom, and my system rebooted. And when it started up again, my subconscious death-grip on my true self was gone, and I finally knew who I was. Everything I had always struggled against finally made perfect sense. At that point, I had a decision to make. Terminate my life, or risk everything I had built to start over as a woman. It took me several months to fully admit what I was facing and make a choice - but when I did, I moved at lightning speed and moved my life completely from male to female in just three months. Successfully, and "passing". Any semblance of maleness was gone in a blink. I didn't have to learn mannerisms, speech inflections, walking, nothing except retraining my voice... because I had struggled to hide my natural femininity my entire life, and was now just simply not doing so anymore. The social transition was extremely difficult, and I will be paying off the extreme debt from the physical part of the process for several more years.... but it was by far the best decision I ever made.

It's been just over two years since I went full-time, but I am and have been for well over a year, 100% integrated with society. And other than my closest friends and family, and some people in the workforce, my history is private, and I intend to keep it that way. I can go where I want, do what I want, and be completely accepted and treated as a woman. Not a woman who used to be a man... but as a natal female. I deal with misogyny daily, risk of attack (physical and sexual), bias in the workplace and the dating realm, bloating, cycles (yes, cycles!), body image issues, dieting, clothing issues.... and I enjoy the benefits of chivalry, flirting, smiles, cute clothing, compliments, the power of sexuality, and so many other perks and freedoms that come with being a strong-willed, confident, attractive, sexual woman.

My trans history is just that, and honestly doesn't cross my mind. Ever. Well, except when one of my friends brings it up (which is totally cool, as long as it's in private.) It simply isn't a part of my life anymore. I often run across old pictures from my male life, and although I recognize the person, it's like looking at another person, from another life. I just don't associate myself with that image or life anymore. When I reminisce with friends, or about past events, I remember them simply as events from my life. Not his life. Just mine. Rebecca's. And sometimes, if I'm talking with a friend, something will remind me that this person used to know me as a boy, a man, a father.... and it just feels.... weird. Strange. Like someone else's past. I wonder how all this must seem from their point of view, and I'm amazed at how normal it seems for me. Because although what they remember used to be me, I was always Rebecca - just trapped in a prison, and unable to even scream for help. Perhaps this is because I was so disassociated with my body and self image all my life, or perhaps it's simply because I subconsciously refused to accept the maleness that society imposed on me... all I know is that my transition is about as complete as it's possible to be. Mind, spirit, body, friends, family, society - all woman now. As it should have always been.

No regrets. Not a single one.

Sure, living my entire life as my true self would have truly been a gift. But it wouldn't have been without its own set of issues, and I would be a completely different person now, too. And I can honestly say that I love myself now. How many people can say that? I risked the successful life I had worked so hard to build in order to flip society the bird and become who I was meant to be, despite their issues. I fought the fears, the issues, the relationships, the surgeries, the expenses, the dating realm.... and I won! I kept my life, and built it back into the normality I enjoyed before. Only much better! I am fully and completely in love with a wonderful woman, and she with me. And God willing, we will spend the rest of our lives together. I have friends who I love dearly, and who love and need me too. I have a good career, wonderful children, and a future I wake up every morning looking forward to living. And I thank God for each day I have to fully appreciate life now.

Sure, I still have bad days, struggles, and issues that arise... but everyone does. Trans, cis-gendered, gay, straight, disabled, ethnic.... Everyone has burdens and issues, and has a choice to make of life what they will. That is what transition was all about for me. Making a conscious decision to do what I needed to do to be as happy as I deserved to be, and making it happen now. And that's the mantra I live by now, and plan to continue doing for the rest of my life.

My name is Rebecca. I am a lover, a partner, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a niece, a granddaughter, a friend.... and I am happy. Finally.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Transition Thoughts & Reflections - Debbie K

She is a talented writer and a talented artist.

There's emotion in nearly every word she writes and every picture she paints.

She never neglects to remind us of the love and respect she has for her parents.

She is Debbie K.

Now post-op, Debbie has been sharing her thoughts for some time in her blog,
Debbie K Being True To My HeART.

I've been following Debbie's blog for some time now. I often pop in not only to experience the emotion in her words but to relish in the absolutely beauty in her art.

Today, Debbie shares her story with us.

- Calie

Leap of Faith

As I approach my 50th birthday, reflecting on my journey, it feels like for the first time in my life I am finally being true to my heart.

I was born in the UK in the 1960’s, an only child with loving parents. I began seeing a gender specialist Dr Read & counselor in 1996 after many years of gender dysphoria. From an early age I knew something was wrong & that I felt I had been born in the wrong body. I had always suffered from low self esteem & a lack of confidence.

Puberty was a nightmare and confusing time for me. During my late teens to early twenties, in denial, I had tried occasional binge drinking to numb the pain. I avoided relationships of any kind for fear of anyone discovering my true self. Unknowingly I had found myself becoming more & more isolated. I became a workaholic to try to distract my GD. The times working away from home were the worst for me. Without my family & friends to focus on, my GD consumed me.

When the stress became too much for me to cope my doctor recommended finding a relaxing hobby & so I joined an art group. These creative friends allowed me to develop as a person in ways I never felt able to before. Sometimes I found it easier to express myself with a brush than the written word.

This painting is over 12 years old. It is child like & simplistic but captures for me what living with gender dysphoria can do to a loving family. The heartache & the joy. If you have personally experienced the tsunami like emotions GD brings to our lives it may not need any explanation. My heart goes out to each & every one of you.

For those who are perplexed at this surreal scene I will try to explain the emotions that went into its creation:

It was painted at a time when I had gone back to painting for the first time since I left school. A time of great change & wondrous emotions as the glorious effects of hormones coursing through my body turned my world of drab feelings into vivid Technicolor dreams. A time when I finally had the courage to share my condition with my beloved family.

The right hand side is quite dark & represents confusion, denial & turbulent life changes. The rocks represent our little family, Mum, Dad & me. They came to me through memories of the "Three Sisters" rock formations I had seen a few months previous during a trip to the Blue Mountains just outside Sydney Australia. A far off land that seemed a million miles away, just like my journey would seem. The rocks show a single tear forming on each of them to represent the many tears we would (have) share on the journey. The burning flames represent us never being able to return to our previous life. The heavy price of disclosure, that I felt I had so selfishly handed to my family. The nightmarish "Scream" figure is based on the Munche painting & needs little explanation. The lightning strikes represent the pain GD brings.

The cartoon stork represents my rebirth, as it flies off into the distance to deliver a new born child. Quite where it would end up was a mystery to me.

The left hand side represents the incredible feelings I experienced. The star represents the beautiful uplifting emotions that I felt at finally beginning my long journey, which may be referred to as transition. I simply could not live without the magic that those hormones brought to me. I felt more alive than ever before. I felt things so much more deeply. The highs & the lows. I was just so lucky to be able to have them.

The girl represents a dream like, romantic fantasy figure, full of great emotions. I so wanted her to be me. One day, please God make her me. She was setting off on a great journey that was both exciting but also tinged with some sadness at the passing of a dear friend. He had been a life long friend & would never ever be forgotten. She has thrown a rose covered wreath into the raging sea for her lost friend.

That friend was me. There is a ghost like image of a drowning man waving to her as he slips beneath the waves. That figure haunted me, bless him. He led an invisible life. Like a stranger always playing my part. No one could see the real person trapped in his soul, until now. Thank God.

When I painted this all those years ago I hoped I could find peace, a life without dysphoria but had no idea what was ahead.

My doctor had agreed to provide joint care with a gender specialist initially funded by the NHS for the first year & subsequently funded by myself, to oversee my hormone therapy & progress.

When I had finally told my elderly parents that I had been diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria & wanted to transition, they asked me not to go ahead while they were alive. The last thing I wanted to do was to hurt my loved ones. In truth I now appreciate although my loved ones pleaded with me not to transition I was simply not ready or needing to transition at that time.

There was so little information about transsexuals available in those days. I did not have access to the internet then. There were only sensationalist hate filled transphobic stories from the media. Although I wanted to, I did not know how anyone so lacking in confidence could ever transition.

My elderly parents were from a bygone age. They were afraid I would lose all my friends, my job & that I would have to move away to start all over again. Their fears became mine but I was eventually to find out, without your health you have nothing.

I tried to find a balance between my families wishes/ needs & my own. A compromised existence; living as androgynously as my confidence allowed during my daily routine, while in the confines of my own home, in role as Debbie. The hormones felt so right for me. I could not imagine living without them. The effect on my emotions seemed far greater than the physical changes to my body. Subconsciously I was probably hoping the hormones would eventually out me.

The dual role existence gradually began to cause even more conflict. I continued with counseling as bottling my feelings up again, without an outlet was not an option. Foolishly although continuing with prescribed hormones as I became stuck in stasis with nothing seeming to be changing, I stopped seeing the gender specialist regularly to have my progress & hormone levels monitored. The combination of antidepressants & hormones may have reacted to add slightly to my health problems.

Eventually after living a lie for ten more years, a combination of ever increasing dysphoria, work related stress, victimization & depression caused me to suffer panic attacks & a complete breakdown. This resulted in me having to give up my career of 29 years on health grounds. Having been so ill for so long my doctor advised me it may take some time to get well. He also told me not to seek further help from a gender specialist until I could give myself the best chance of a firm foundation on which I may finally be able to make the necessary changes to my life & transition. During this healing process I finally got access to the internet in my home & was able to find out a whole wealth of useful information.

When I was finally allowed to seek care from a gender specialist Dr Curtis in London, in 2006, I discovered the answer to my eternal dilemma of “why or how do some people find themselves needing to transition”.

I broke down in tears during the appointment. At this point he explained he had come across a small number of transsexual patients who perhaps with low self esteem, had chosen to sacrifice their lives for their loved ones. He also suggested it may help for me to find like minded friends who may be experiencing similar challenges in their lives. How prophetic his words were.

These wise words initially broke me. When I got home that night for the first time in my life I found myself coldly & calmly planning my own suicide. Thankfully I was not alone that night. I really did have Angels for friends. Life is so precious. His advice about finding friends who understood what it was like to experience GD was to transform my life. The empathy & kindness of those new friends I made at this halcyon stage in my life is something I will never ever forget.

I joined a support group called UK Angels & was blessed to find some wonderful supportive friends. Gradually I began little steps forward. Facing those fears I had & growing with each challenge faced. Critically they were undertaken at a pace that was right for me & my loved ones. It was time for my life to blossom. I began pushing my boundaries more & more. I had always known of my condition but I was unsure if I could actually live the life I so longed for.

Inspired by kind hearted friends from all over the world, at which point I have to say a huge thank you to Lori D, I was able to discover I had a spirit inside me I never dreamed possible.

We can be thousands of miles apart. Yet so close. We are all unique but perhaps share that time where we feel so isolated & alone, our wings caked in the oil that is our GD. Yet we have sisters, some so close in the same town or far away in another country, whose empathy helps us survive, to find the path that is right for us. We share the same tears. The love of those kindred spirits; keep us going, & share a place in our hearts.

There came a point in time when I finally felt ready to transition that for me really did feel like a leap of faith. Did my bell go off; did my own realization of mortality push me into being a late onset transitioner? I am not sure I will ever know.

Coming out to family & friends went incredibly well. I had no idea how they would react. I only have a very small family. With the support of my best friend we went along to let my friends know. I wrote everyone a personal letter to take with me in case I became too emotional & also to give them a chance to digest my news afterwards. It was a huge thing for me & my family but none of our fears happened! It was not an issue. Most were just relieved it was not something terminal as I had lost so much weight due to the stress of it all. Most were great, it seemed to be my male friends I had known since school who found it the hardest to take & although initially supportive, they perhaps understandably found it unable to maintain the friendship.

Having had FFS with Mr Dussen in Belgium over 2 years ago I have been living full time in role ever since. The change in my self esteem was almost immediate. I had my GRS through the NHS, with Mr Thomas, at the Nuffield Hospital during 2009.

You certainly find out who your true friends are on this journey. You may perhaps have to consider what you may lose if you find yourself needing to transition but for me there seemed no choice. I certainly have no regrets other than having to hurt the people I loved most in this world. Our love found a way. The rewards have been life affirming.

The mental anguish before transition was far greater & harder to deal with. The physical pain from the surgeries I have had was fortunately minimal & my care first class, for which I am eternally grateful.

It is not all perfect but it’s certainly much better. It is not a magic cure all for all my insecurities. There is some difficulty in being able to move on or let go of my past. I cannot & do not chose to deny my past but still feel slight dysphoric jarring at times as small parts of society will not let me forget or my body reminds me. Times have certainly thankfully changed from my parents perceptions & even in my life time but that’s sadly not true of everywhere.

Transition comes at a price. All of the procedures are expensive. Hair removal for example takes a very long course of treatment & is something with hindsight I wish I had began earlier in life where ever I thought my life may take me. Facial feminization surgery for me was something I found so important. The gender surgery bought a sense of completion, affirmation & authenticity. It proved to be a very spiritual experience for me.

It is only us who can decide what is right for us; what & how we achieve the changes we feel we need to make to our lives. No ones path is right or wrong, their T bigger or better. We are all unique, we are people not labels. Perhaps some things can only be seen with your heart?

Financially I have never been poorer but my life has never been richer.

Yesterday my dear elderly Mum who once had been so opposed to me transitioning, who mourned the son she understandably believed she had, went shopping with me & kindly gave me a beautiful ring as a birthday present, a token of my parents love for their daughter. A magical memory, I never dreamed possible. Miracles can happen.

Where ever your journey takes you I hope you can navigate a path through any dysphoric seas that’s right for you & your loved ones.

May there always be hope in your heart.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Transition Thoughts & Reflections - Kiddo

In our last guest post, I asked you to imagine yourself as a 17 year old in the year, 1937, and questioning the gender you were born with. You got to read the thoughts of someone who was 17 years old in 1937.

Today's guest post is from someone who is currently a 17 year old. Born female, but questioning that.

"C" wrote me a few weeks ago and signed the email, "Confused". I asked "C" to share a few thoughts with us about being 17 and questioning gender.

If you would like to contact "C", you can go here to find an email address. You can also comment on the T-Central Facebook page. The link is at the bottom of this page.

Finally, before we get to "C's" guest post, I want to mention that I also received an email last week from a 15 year old, born a male but questioning gender. It really is not for me to offer advice other than the opinion of a parent, yet my heart goes out for those who are around the age of puberty and questioning their gender. Indeed, I can get very emotional about this subject, since I was there once. There is help out there. Lori D is on the Board of Directors of Transmentors. I encourage anyone questioning their gender to take a look at this site. If you wish to contact Lori, you can do so via an email to me.

- Calie

Male, Female, or "Kiddo"?

A lot of my earliest memories are pretty typical- learning to ride a bike, starting school, trick-or-treating for the first time, and so on. But I wasn’t a very typical kid. When I look back on these memories, I think about how I had such an internal struggle with my gender identity during each of them. I remember not giving it my all when learning to ride because my bike was pink, how my parents let me wear boy’s clothes on the first day of school and how remarkable it felt, the feeling of dressing up in male costumes on Halloween and PASSING with flying colors. I’ve never really expressed my gender identity issues with anyone other than a few people online, so I was unsure of how to respond when I was asked to write this. I suppose I’ll be honest and take you though my life thus far.
A lot of my early memories took place in Japan. We didn’t live on base, so our blue eyed and blond haired family got stared at habitually. Some who spoke English would even make comments, “She’s so pretty!” At four years old, I thought this was a joke, and a vindictive one at that. I would correct them, “You mean handsome.” A baffled expression would mask their faces. I didn’t get it. I was a boy, so why were people using female pronouns? It loved being mistaken for a boy but my confidence would be shot down the instance someone would correct them. I hated hearing the female pronouns. I would always beam when someone would refer to me as “kiddo.” Kiddo just meant I was a kid; it didn’t apply to a specific gender. It just made me feel like I was a person, not having to identify or conform to anything.
As I got a little older, I realized that I was a girl. At least, according to biology I was. I didn’t know about being transgender or gender identity or anything. I thought there were boys and girls, and that the world was playing a malicious and bizarre trick on me. The word “girl” haunted me day and night. When I thought about the future, I saw myself as a father, a firefighter with a beard who played hockey in his spare time. I thought I’d change into a male eventually. Somebody, I don’t know who, made a mistake. Looking back at pictures of my childhood, I see a little boy. Shaggy blond hair, fire trucks, bugs, dirt, and swim trunks with no shirt.
I grew up a little, but I still had an irrational piece of hope entrenched in my brain that said “you’ll grow up to be a man.” I looked and carried myself in a typical boy form until third grade or so. Before third grade, kids didn’t see it as a matter of concern. They liked me for who I was and that’s all that mattered, what was below my waste did not. When we all started getting a little older the daunting question was recurrently asked by strangers, “Are you a boy or a girl?” Being asked wasn’t the difficulty, the answer was. I knew I was a girl but admitting it was hard. Saying I was a boy wasn’t true, so what could I say? Could I explain myself and how confused I felt? I went another route. I said nothing and cried about it later. Classmates and friends knew their gender identity and were confused why I did not. “Why do you look and dress like a boy if you’re a girl?” I loathed the fact that they knew I was a girl, and even more so that it mattered to them.
Conforming was the only thing I knew how to do. I grew my hair out and switched to unisex clothes that were from the girl’s section at least. I passed as a tomboyish girl and went on with my life. I sometimes spoke about how I liked boy things even though I was a girl, but nothing deeper than that. My parents reassured me that there was nothing wrong with that, society shouldn’t tell you what you should and shouldn’t like. They explained that I could be a firefighter, play hockey, horse around, and be myself. Although heartening, I wanted to do these things as a boy. I was too embarrassed to express it though. I didn’t think there was anyone else like me.
Life went on without anything too problematic happening. I still felt uncomfortable with my body, but I was loved and supported by my parents and that’s all that mattered to me. I would wear my brother’s clothes and skateboard around the neighborhood. I would pass. It was like an escape or getting some sort of fix to stay sane. I still got to be myself but it wasn’t enough. I longed for a body that matched my mind. When I had fantasies in my head, I was a boy named Jack. Jack became my alter ego and made things a little easier. I would replay instances from my life in my head as Jack, and make up new stories as well. I would get so lost in my daydreams that coming back to reality often felt like an enormous slap in the face. I looked forward to going to bed and time spent alone so I could create more stories of how I felt my life should be. It was a nice escape for a while, until I realized none of it would ever happen.
Now I was twelve years old, and puberty hit me like a semi truck. I felt extremely out of place, like a kitten growing up to be a whale. It seemed like there was no turning back. I had my hair in my face and baggy clothes to hide behind. I wasn’t very social in middle school, not because I’m shy, but because I didn’t feel like I could be myself. Kids in middle school are harsh, so telling people about my confusion wasn’t even an option for me.
I carried on living as Jack in my head and hating who I was. I flipped on the TV one day and there was an episode of Tyra about transgender children. Transgender? I didn’t know the word existed. There was a boy on the show who was just like me. He was twelve years old, born female, but identifying as a male. He talked about binders, his father not accepting him, testosterone, and how he felt he was male from a young age. I was astounded that I was not alone. Ever since I saw that episode, I have watched and read everything pertaining to gender identity that I can.
Now, I’m seventeen years old. I still daydream about being a male and Jack still exists. I dress like a girl and there are some typical teenage girl things I enjoy doing, but that doesn’t mean I feel female. As I start coming out of my awkward pubescent stage of adolescence, I’m a little more comfortable with myself. If I could choose what gender I was born with, it would be male. No question about it. But I’m starting to realize I would probably be the same person no matter what my gender is, so I try to focus on loving who I am. There are times when I want to go back six years or so, tell my parents everything, go on puberty blockers and change my name. But I can’t now. I still beam with all of the contentment in my being when someone calls me “kiddo.” I feel as if I had been blessed with an internal feeling of glee that says “you belong.”
I look up to people who have the courage to transition, I certainly would not. Thoughts race through my head. What about people in my past? What about my small body structure? I’m only 5 foot three and a little over one hundred pounds. I’m seventeen, but a young seventeen at that, I look around thirteen. Would I ever be able to pass? I worry about my parents, albeit liberal and accepting, I don’t want them to grieve the loss of their only daughter.
I suppose life will go on. Everyone has internal demons, some different than others. I guess I’m alright being a girl; I do enjoy it and feel comfortable sometimes. It wouldn’t be my first choice, but it’s not so bad. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have a gender, and that I could just be. What do I identify as; male, Female, or none of the above? I honestly haven’t got a clue. Maybe I’m still finding myself or maybe I’ll never know.
I guess for now I’ll embrace who I am and enjoy life for all its worth, male, female, or “kiddo.”

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Transition Thoughts & Reflections - A

Imagine, if you will, that the year is 1937. You're 17 years old and have feelings that your gender and sex do not match. What would you have done? How would you have reacted?

I suppose for some that suicide was an option. Others may have suppressed it while living very frustrated lives.

Gender reassignment surgery was (with one exception) unheard of at the time.

Per the Andrology website:

Much as it might have been desired by patients thus afflicted, hormonal and surgical gender reassignment were impossible until the thirties of this century. Modern documented history of transsexualism and gender reassignment starts in 1930 with the first recorded adult sex change operation on a Danish artist in Germany. Einar Wegener became Lily Elbe.

After that, it was only in 1953 with the story of the surgical gender reassignment of the American ex-GI George Jorgensen, who became Christine Jorgensen, that transsexualism received worldwide publicity.

"A" didn't have to imagine what it was like to be 17 years old in the year, 1937. He lived it and he had to also live with "it", although he didn't know at the time that "it" would be referred to as gender identity disorder many years later.

"A" sent me an email some time ago, as the result of a guest post I did on Lori's (former) blog. Although clearly transgender, he always has referred to himself in the male persona, as I am referring to him now.

I asked "A" to share his thoughts and reflections on transitioning and he sent me a draft. I was somewhat concerned with a paragraph near the end of the draft, because it referred to me. I told him that this was his essay and it should not be about me and asked him to delete the paragraph. He insisted it stay. At the end of his essay, I have included his reply and the reason why.

As usual, if you would like to contact Arthur, you can do so, by contacting me via my email address in my profile. You may also comment on the T-Central Facebook site. The link is at the bottom of this page.

- Calie

The View From The Mountain Top

Hello friends,

Calie has asked me if I could express my thoughts on the subject of transitioning of gender. I am strongly in favor of transitioning as early in life as possible, with some caveats.

That being said, may I introduce myself. I am a man, age 90. Old enough, and with much experience (not all good). My childhood was spent in the 1920's, and my youth in the '30s. And more than that, I was born with an apparently serious case of Gender Identity Disorder.

In those days, total ignorance reigned, nobody - the doctor, the teacher, the lawyer, the clergy, the press, had ever heard of transsexualism, its problems, its causes, its treatment. Add to the problem the fact that my father was a Baptist Minister, bed rock. A really good man, kind and giving, but he knew Sin when he saw it, and Sin had invaded his family. My weakness had to be removed, and it was up to me to do it, with lots of help. I lived a life of hell, for I was effeminate.

Obviously, after years of pressure, I ended up believing everything they said, and buried my other self deep in my psyche, hardly ever to appear. There was great sinful pleasure when it did, soon to be again submerged. A huge Depression, and the stress of a great War overwhelmed me, still without recourse for the TS within, then college, a profession, marriage, and an interesting career. I learned to cope with my 2 persona's by deeply burying one.

Christine Jorgenson, six years my junior, completed transition in the mid 1950's. Then, close to 40, I was appalled, confused, and didn't realize that it might apply to me.

So, I never transitioned, and I have lived a life of deep, constant, frustration. It forced me to concentrate on my sciences. It created a strong and helpful drive that relieved that constant pressure, resulting in needed fulfillment as a creative engineer. I am probably the last articulate survivor from that infinity of earlier generations of humans, and the millions of TS people who were denied transition in the past. Obviously they all lived out their lives, as I did, the difference is that now you have a choice, we didn't. There is much pain either way one chooses, and I don't know which is worse. But, now you have a life choice, and it's a tough one.

In the mid 1990's I retired, discovered the Internet, and began to uncover my secret, which soon came alive, then overwhelmed me. She talks to me many times a day, a welcome joy. I follow many blogs, read much, but have done nothing to adapt. My wife, 87 years old, & my children, know none of it and sadly would absolutely reject me. It's too late in life for me to take the five years needed to modify my being, and at great cost too, to reappear in preferred form at age 95, given that I did live that long.

I am much hurt by the terrible fate awaiting many transitioning transsexuals. Many, many, have to become prostitutes to survive. The extremely high level of unemployment, and the desperate living standards of many are deplorable. The answer is money, and gaining the skill to obtain it, and that means much pre-transition planning, and getting the education to survive. I am appalled by the innocent, ignorant, young people starting transition with no hint of the horrors ahead, and no plan. They should make sure that they will be relatively safe and, without resources, they are in much danger.

I believe Calie to be a blessed and wonderful human being for rejecting transitioning to preserve her marriage and family. She suffers terrible frustration for it, but her love for them makes her do it, an extraordinary sacrifice. A tough, painful, responsible, and humane decision. Her wife must be a wonderful person.

Thanks for putting up with me. I love you all, and respect you.

- A

[When I asked "A" to delete the second to the last paragraph, this was his reply:

I mention at the essay beginning that I was strongly in favor of transitioning, but added that it was with caveats. The second caveat offered, not directly described, is that the crucial social consequences of transition should be recognized and accommodated when making the decision. I do not present that specifically, for it is too preachy, but I did praise the selfless decision of a person with full blown GID, who put transition aside out of love for wife and family. That person happened to be you, sorry, but the case remains important and valid, and should be strongly stated. Please don't invalidate the issue by weakening the example to cover your modesty.

Both the caveats could stand much more stress, but this is not the place.]

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