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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.]


  1. Thank you for a point of view that we do not often see! Or maybe ever. From the way you write, even though you did not live the life you wish you could have, you have still lived a good life, and that's commendable.

  2. Thank you Arthur. Younger people who have grown up with the internet, it's social networks and wealth of information, along with the support groups and other resources needed to see them through their transitions, have very little perspective on what it was like to grow up and grow old with none of that. Much of your experience reflected that of my early years, so naturally, I have a strong feeling of empathy for you. Thank you for your kind support of others.

    Melissa XX

  3. I was looking out for your post, Arthur, and it was worth waiting for in its final form.

    Every transition causes some damage, never intended but nevertheless awful for anyone badly affected, and sometimes the side-effects must be too much to bear. Each person must 'decide' for themselves - it's really a choice between the lesser hurt. One thing seems clear: the younger you are, the freer you are to do something about the pressure within. Nowadays the diagnosis can be made early, and 'only' readjustment is involved, chiefly confined to family and schoolfriends. There is not yet a spouse or children to tear apart, nor a career to put at risk.

    But for the older generations...


  4. I just want to say, I think it's a little presumptuous of us to believe that suppressing our inner needs for the benefit of our wives/families is *always* the best, most selfless thing any of us can do.

    It's as if we believe that our wives could never do better or ever be happy again. That it's somehow fair to them to know that they are the reason their husband is suffering such inner turmoil (assuming they're even told). Or that a divorced family can't be "whole", or that a family untouched by divorce can't be "broken".

    My wife and I went through this and were just talking about it was hard, and it took a long while for the hurt to go away, but we're both happier now, sharing and being part of separate lives with each other than we ever were with the one life we had together. There doesn't always have to be damage, and sometimes doing what's right for you is also what's right for someone else (and vice versa).

    Okay, have at me now. :p

  5. Arthur, even though I am 40 years your junior, you wrote so much here with which I can relate.

    In a community that often seems so selfish and self-centered, it is wonderful to know that there are people like you and Calie, who choose not to drag your wives through transition. It brings to mind something a friend once said... "A woman sacrifices herself for her family."

  6. @Renee:
    I agree there need not be damage. It can theoretically all be managed in such a way that there is no lasting hurt, and losses in the relationship are covered by gains. But only with receptive understanding on all sides, and no unforeseen incidents to disrupt an otherwise well-discussed, sensible grand plan. My own transition did not begin smoothly and although I am keeping it on track, I am dreadfully aware of consequences that have included anxiety for my parents (who both died still worrying) and the alienation of my partner, who (with some point) says she has been robbed of her man and her expected future life with him.

    Still, with determination anyone can find a new and possibly better future. Ordinary widows and widowers and divorcees have to do it after all. And the transitioner can still be a supportive person, if allowed to be.


  7. @ Lucy

    I agree completely. We always act like divorce is this horrible, shameful, totally rare thing, when in truth, it's pretty common and most people figure out how to move on from it. The bottom line for me is that sometimes you just need to take care of yourself and trust that those around you can do the same for themselves; doing so isn't selfish, it's showing them respect by placing your faith in their strength and allowing them a voice in the things that impact their lives.

  8. Hmmmm...Sounds like the greater good for the greatest number. Not a bad idea.

    I think it is important to take note of Arthur's mention of the importance of EDUCATION as a neccassry requirement of the large sums of money required to effect such a monumental undertaking.

    It is interesting to note that of the few posts by those of us who have physically transistioned, (that is, had our genitals surgically reconstructed to match our pysche's), there is NO mention of the cost of the surgery or the financial burden involved.

    My point is that monetary costs are just one of many daunting obstacles. Arthur's pointis well taken and worthy of note. Once an individual has made an accurate WELL-INFORMED assessment of their condition and their options, then a foward looking well thought out plan is essential.

    Since the science and research clearly shows that transsexual children become aware of their gender just as soon as they become self aware.

    In my experience, substantiated by the literature, these children express themselves very early on in life. The education needs to be directed at young adults of child-rearing age and primary/secondary school educators and counselors.

    While there is a great deal of energy expended, (rightfully so)towards the acceptance GV children, I think that while diversity acceptance IS a good thing, the needs and fate of the NON GV child whose neurology does not match up with their physiology MUST be addressed.


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