"Am I a
transsexual?" That is the first question all of us ask.
By the end of this article, you'll either have the answer or know
exactly how to go about finding it.
First of all, there
is a big difference between being transgendered and being a
transsexual. Transgender folk feel like the opposite sex
mentally. Transsexuals desire to change their bodies to become
the opposite sex physically.
You might think
these always go hand and hand, but they don't have to. I met a
transsexual once who went from male to female physically, but
continued to live as a male. He was completely happy with his
identity as a male, but plain and simply couldn't tolerate his male
I also know a
transgendered person who lives and works as a woman with complete
success, but absolutely never wants to have sex reassignment surgery.
She was born male and loves her male sexuality but feels completely
female of mind.
I bring these
examples up to illustrate a well-known psychological distinction - the
difference between gender dysphoria and genital dysphoria.
In plain language,
"dysphoria" means "can't tolerate." In the
real world, it means you are so unhappy with the way things are that
you are nervous, anxious, and may even consider suicide to end the
is not about what's between your legs. It refers to your gender
identity, and that is best described not as male or female but as
masculine or feminine. In the real world the term
"gender" is bandied about as if it were a synonym for
"physical sex." You see it when filling out
applications - "Gender - M or F."
But gender is
really all about your emotions (and, as we shall later see, also about
the way you think logically too!) In short, are you happy and
satisfied with the way society treats you on the basis of gender or
are you not?
If you like some
parts the role society lays out for you, but don't like others, or
even if you like all of the role you are assigned, but yearn to
experience some aspects of the other, you are not alone!
In fact, there are
very few people who are one hundred percent of one gender and nothing
of the other. Laying it out flat: everyone is transgender to
some degree or other.
It is when that
degree is very large that the feelings of dysphoria become very
strong, and that is when people begin to question their gender
If society allowed
and completely supported any individual acting and dressing any way he
or she wanted, there would still be two genders but they wouldn't be
based on physical sex. But society isn't like that. Even
today, society expects men to act like men and women to act like
women. And so, since just about everyone has some degree of
transgenderism, just about everyone feels at least a little
constrained in their assigned gender role.
Think of gender not
as a binary choice of one thing or another, but as a spectrum or range
with "Masculine" on one end of the line and
"Feminine" on the other. If you had to class any given
person on that scale, you would place them somewhere along the line
between the two.
But in reality,
that just sums up all of a person's traits, averages them together
like making a smoothie in a blender, and then describes what the whole
thing tastes like.
A better way to
think about gender is as a collection of distinct traits, each of
which has a range from masculine to feminine. For example, does
liking to watch football mean a person is masculine gendered? Of
course not. Like me, you probably know a lot of women who enjoy
football, though most, it is true, do not.
knitting prove someone is of a feminine gender? Nope. My
daughter is an award-winning knitter, and her fiancée has taken up
the craft with great enthusiasm. He's a masculine dude, but
finds it a relaxing hobby.
Still, do real men
not eat quiche, as the book title states? Society would have you
think so. Just look at television commercials and you'll see
that 98% of them cast men and women in masculine and feminine roles
based on their physical sex, as if the two attributes were tied to
How did it get like
this? Simple, really. Society is like a living machine.
It doesn't care if you are happy; it just cares if you do your job.
It assigns jobs to those best equipped to handle them - that's how
society keeps itself strong.
Due to differences
in the brains of men and women and also due to the effects of
testosterone vs. estrogen, adult men and women are not equally
equipped, mentally and physically.
For example, if
have a need for big strong people to help lift heavy loads, you'll
find more men than women. There aren't a lot of women working on
moving vans, for example. Men, in general, are just physically
bigger and stronger than women.
But, when it comes
to handling electronic components on an assembly line, you'll find
almost only women. Women's brains (and hormones) make them far
more patient with repetitive tasks then men for whom it is almost
So, society keeps
itself efficient by creating unspoken boundaries between the sexes
that guide men and women into activities for which they will be most
Though just about
everybody is transgender in at least a few small ways, there are so
many different kinds of jobs, activities, and lifestyles available
that nearly everyone can find a niche in society where they perform a
function and fit in with others who are attracted to that niche.
Think of all the
stereotypes - the computer geek, the debutante, the football player,
the housewife. There's a job, activity, or role for just about
everyone - just about. But for some of us, no matter which niche
we tried, we found the fit a little too tight, like a pair of jeans a
size too small.
Can you still
squeeze into them? Sure. But are you comfortable?
Suppose the jeans
were two sizes too small? Or three? What if they were so
small you couldn't get into them at all? Well, this describes
the varying degrees of gender dsyphoria.
Most people have
such a mild case of gender dysphoria that they can forge a happy life,
even if the jeans don't exactly fit in all areas. After all, how
many of us can't buy off the rack and need tailored clothes instead?
But if the role is
too tight, we live uncomfortably. The worse the fit, the more we
chaff and fidget. Eventually, we may become so uncomfortable
that we think perhaps a different role would fit better.
But how can we tell
without actually trying it on? And therein lies the rub, as it
were. How can we go about sampling the other role without
destroying everything we've built in our current role - relationships,
seniority, perhaps career recognition?
For males seeking
to explore the female society role, the first step is often
cross-dressing. For women , the tendency is to explore being a
tomboy. Why the difference? In society, the male role is a
lot more restrictive. So, any outward expression of feminine
traits brings immediate ridicule. In addition, men are not
"allowed" by society to wear anything pertaining to the
opposite sex. So, alone, at home, men exploring their gender
identity will try on female clothing as an aid to imagining themselves
as women, so they can act, move, and even practice speaking as a
Now there's an
important differentiation here. So far, we've said nothing about
sexual stimulation, essentially, what turns you on? Does
cross-dressing turn you on? If it does, does it mean you are a
transvestite rather than a transsexual. Naw. Not that
What turns us on is
as unconnected to any other traits as gender dysphoria is independent
of genital dysphoria. For example, gay men come in a whole range
of varieties from very feminine to very masculine. But, they all
like other men. Some like women too. And some are auto
Some who like women
also are really bisexual. Some straight men to also like men a
bit are bisexual. But like everything else, it is a matter of
degree - do you find both sexes equally attractive? Do you find
one more than the other? Are you attracted to one of the sexes
but also to just one attribute of another?
Many gay men who
would never want to make love to a woman find themselves oddly
titillated by female breasts. Go figger. In a phrase,
anything goes. So, when trying to figure yourself out, don't box
If you are turned
on by cross-dressing, you might just be a cross-dresser who gets off
on the experience. Nothing wrong with that at all. As we
used to say in the 70's, "Whatever turns you on."
But, a lot of true,
majorly dysphoric transsexuals also started by cross-dressing and were
also stimulated by it. I can tell you for a fact that a little
known secret is that many 'true" transsexuals who started out men
but whose minds are totally female still get turned on by
wearing women's clothes everyday, even decades after having sex
reassignment surgery. What's more, a lot of born women get
turned on by their clothes as well. Why do you think lingerie is
so popular? You think women do it just for the guys?
Any time anyone
enjoys some kind of activity sexually, it is a normal reaction.
When a lot of people do the same thing, society either condones it or
looks the other way. For example, men and women can kiss in
public, but look what happens if two people of the same sex kiss in a
shopping mall in most parts of the world.
Whenever less than
a majority of people engage in a particular form of sexual
gratification, it is branded a fetish by society, which frowns
on "aberration" because it threatens the efficient operation
of the social machine. But
there's really nothing wrong with it per se - it just gums up the
works of the Great Engine of Society.
transgendered or transsexual folk start by cross-dressing.
Some bypass it completely. Those are the ones for whom gender
dysphoria is really strong but genital dysphoria is weak. In
other words, they like their bodies but want to express themselves
So what about this
"genital dysphoria" anyway? Some clever person
described genital dysphoria in born males as "venus envy."
In short, they want to swap their genitalia for the other kind.
Again, this can
simply be a comfort thing where you feel as if you have some sort of
alien growth between your legs, feel unclean, and have to change it to
the other kind. Or, it can be a sexual thing where you have no
particular attachment to what you've got, but would really enjoy
wearing the other sex as your body.
Once more, a lot
more women than men get off on their own bodies. Women's brains
and hormones tend to make them feel more like the bait wiggling on the
hook than the fish looking for a quick lunch. Who do you think
enjoys mirrored ceilings more? (And speaking of mirrors, how
often do you see women checking out their reflections? In men it
is seen as vanity, in women, well, "Woman, thy name is
vanity." In other words, its normal for girls.
Okay, I've dumped a
lot of information on you, especially if you are a beginner just
trying to understand yourself.
So how can you
find the answer to the question, "Am I a transsexual?"
While there is no
single test you can take or single activity you can do to answer this
question objectively, I've listed a number of smaller questions and
tasks below that will enable you to answer this question for yourself
1. At what
age did you first feel different than other kids of your sex?
Help: Many kids
feel out of place or outcast for lots of reasons other than gender
issues. Maybe they are smarter than the norm, or a little odd
physically. Maybe they had an unusual or restrictive upbringing
or are just naturally shy.
For kids with
serious gender disorders, they usually feel that other kids of their
sex think in ways they can't comprehend. This usually gets worse
throughout the school years.
I, myself, found
boys to be so mean and rough, and I just couldn't understand why
anyone would want to hurt others like that. I was sick a lot in
elementary school and actually thought I had missed the day in which
they taught the boys how to think like they did - I kid you not!
For a while I
thought my parents simply had chosen not to teach me what the other
boy's parents had taught them. I began to wonder if my parents
didn't know that information or really didn't love me and didn't want
to share it with me, even though I was in a warm, supportive family.
It never occurred
to me that I might think like the girls. In kindergarten, the
difference between boys and girls was pretty clear, so I just thought
I was a defective boy.
Others I know tell
me they immediately knew that they were like the girls and not like
the boys, from the first day of school. It didn't hit me until
my 30's that I might actually have a female mind. All thought
years I had just thought I was a defective boy/man with a weird sexual
fantasy about becoming a girl.
Only when I
actually began transition (and was well into it) did I learn enough
about the real differences between men's and women's minds. And
that is when I realized that it all made sense. I could look
back and re-examine how the boys and girls acted in kindergarten and
throughout school. Based on what I learned, I could see that I
was so like the girls but never, ever saw it.
For example, in
kindergarten a group of girls used to chase the boys around and try to
kiss them. They called themselves the "Kissing Girls."
I thought that turnabout was fair play, so I told the other boys that
we should chase the girls around and call ourselves the "Kissing
They all thought it
was a stupid idea and ridiculed me. I couldn't understand their
reaction - my plan made perfect sense to me!
And this leads to
our second question"
2. Can you
recall times in which (in retrospect) you naturally acted more like a
member of the opposite sex when you were a child?
Help: You probably
didn't notice these things at the time, other than perhaps being a
little perplexed at the reactions you might have gotten. But, in
looking back now, you can see that your outlook and interests were a
lot more like the opposite sex than your own born sex.
We're not looking
for big things here - just a whole series of little things - a trend
that you can follow throughout your school years, dating even before
you were aware that anything like "sex change" existed.
Of course, these
days, sex change stories are all over television in both fiction and
the news. So, it is likely that younger people reading this
might very well know all about it even before going to kindergarten,
so that change the parameters a bit.
These days, even
before school age some children are telling their parents they are not
a boy or not a girl. They ask questions like "When am I
going to get to wear those clothes?" or "When will I get to
be a [boy or girl]?"
So take into
account your generation when answering this one. Regardless, can
you see a trend in your natural approach to live or manner of thinking
that seems a lot more like the opposite sex than your born sex?
3. As a
child, did you ever yearn for things appropriate to the opposite sex?
Help: Did you
ever envy things girls or women did? Were you ever attracted to
items of clothing or jewelry that you thought were pretty? Most
cross-dressers, since they are primarily driven by sexual interest,
don't start experimenting until puberty. But most transsexuals
either begin cross dressing at an early age well before puberty
A lot of us find
clothing or jewelry pretty and want to try it on (dressing up like
mommy) but are told we can't because we are boys. We soon learn
not to ask because we begin to get reprimanded sternly. But, for
me, I was about five years old when I was first attracted to articles
of my mom's clothing, wanting something like that for myself. I
started cross-dressing at age seven, secretly trying on clothes of
little girls my mom had taken in to iron for hire.
And while we're on
the subject, ask yourself if you ever lost the urge to cross dress for
perhaps years at a time. Most cross dressers never lose the
urge. Many transsexuals do lose the urge if their lives are
going well. Makes the role fit better, so the dysphoria
For example, after
I got married and up until my children were young, I didn't cross
dress for a span of many years because my career and finances were
going well and my family life was fulfilling. I was plenty
content enough during those times to not even think about gender
And while I'm on
the subject, there's a roaring debate in the transgender community
about who is more "real," those who change early or those
who wait until later. Many of the early changers feel that those
who marry and have families can't be real at all.
That's plain wrong.
Though there are many who wait until later who are just looking to try
anything to get out of an unfulfilling life and may have some mild
tendency toward transgenderism, true transsexuals who wait until later
life often do so because their maternal instinct is so strong they
yearn for a family more than to be in the right role.
Often, those who
change early, while pretty and (forgive the expression) "cock
sure" of themselves, are not nearly as maternal, not nearly as
shy or demure, and get a head start only because they are more
assertive, or perhaps because they come from a negative home
Fact is, the age at
which someone changes neither validates nor diminishes how
"real" they are.
back, have you been closer in your feelings toward your male or female
Boys and men
generally aren't really all that close to anyone. Although
sensitive and gentle men are not at all necessarily transgendered,
most men don't make those kinds of connections.
Male relatives are,
therefore, also a bit stand-off-ish. So, take that into account
when considering your answer to this question. Don't assume that
just because the men were more distant that makes you closer from your
side to the women in your family.
But, if you take
that into account and find that rather than emulating the attitudes
and philosophies of relatives of your born sex, you were in greater
empathy with those of the opposite sex, then you are in line with what
most transgednered people felt as they grew up.
For me, I felt all
cuddly when I hung out with my mother, grandmother, and aunts, but
felt uneasy and almost "on trial," or that I had to
continually prove myself when I was with my father, step father,
grandfather or uncles.
Doesn't mean I was
a feminine kid though. I learned early on to play the game and
by the time I decided to transition in my late thirties, it came as a
total shock to everyone, without exception.
Other friends tell
me that when they changed, relatives told them, "well, that makes
sense." Again, go figger.
you had lifelong fantasies of becoming female?
If so, you are
either a cross-dresser, transgendered, or transsexual. All
people occasionally fantasize about being the other sex. That's
why so many stories are made about that for the mainstream audience.
But for it to be a lifelong fantasy, especially to the exclusion of
other sexual fantasies, well that pretty well speaks for itself,
especially if the fantasies started before puberty. In such a
case you are far more likely to be transgendered or transsexual than
6. Do you
have to be on guard all the time to prevent yourself from falling into
feminine poses and movements?
This is a big one -
one of the best questions to help you sort out if you are really
transgendered. Crossdressers tend to naturally move, pose, and
act masculinely. When dressed, they have to make an intentional
effort to act in a feminine manner.
Men who are
transgendered tend to fall automatically into feminine poses and
movements all of their lives, even back in school. They have
learned how to act in a masculine manner, but even with years of
effort, they have to constantly monitor their movements to make sure
their arms are held "just so," their legs move with
authority, and so on.
In school, someone
once told me I walked like a girl. I spent the whole next Summer
watching movies with strong male characters and practicing their
moves. By the next year, someone asked me, "Why do you
always walk around like Captain America?" I had to tone it
down after that, but it was always consciously applied, for every step
I took until I went into transition.
My step-dad kept
having to tell me to stop putting my hands on my hips: "Men don't
do that." A friend's father complained about the way she
took off her tee shirt, pulling it up by the sides instead of from the
back. Why? because guys and girls do it differently?
Yeah, but WHY do
they do it differently? Because male and female bodies are built
differently at the skeletal level. Its just easier for each to
do it the way they do. Which, is why my friend did it the girls
way - she had female skeletal features.
Which brings us to
our final question:
7. Do you
have any physical characteristics that are far too female to be
believed to be caused by an aberration in the flow of hormones over
the brain of the developing fetus during pregnancy. Turns out,
that the more intense the mental transgenderism, the greater the
female physical attributes as well.
Now, this isn't to
say that it's not possible that the mind of a teenage girl might be
trapped in the body of The Hulk. I'm just saying that I haven't
encountered such a thing.
I personally know a
lot of transsexuals who had all the surgeries and now look pretty much
like women, but they never had the telltale physical characteristics.
Every single one of them acts more or less like a man, with male-ish
attitudes and perspectives. You know, sure they are right,
aggressive, competitive - and they still, of all things, treat other
women as if they were second class, not one's peers.
Now, they have just
as much right to get the surgeries and live as women as anyone, but I
doubt you'll find anyone who thinks of them as being mentally female.
Yet, they are, for the most part, well liked and loved by their
friends and relatives, and just seen as a bit quirky.
So what are these
characteristics (so you can look for them in yourself)? Here are
a few - smallish hands, narrow, delicate bones overall, wide pelvis
compared to shoulders, narrow shoulders compared to men, ring finger
and index finger same length (men have a noticeably longer index
finger), and then my two personal favorites:
1. Elbows. If
you let your arms hang down by your sides and face your palms forward,
male physical arms will be almost straight line from shoulder to
wrist. Female arms will be straight down to the elbow, but then
the arms angle outward, away from the body at about a thirty degree
Why is this?
In evolution, the angle makes it far easier to nurse a baby;
Male arms can't easily twist into a position to bring the baby to the
breast area, while cradling the baby's head in the crook of the elbow.
It is this angle
that makes girls throw like girls (and that led my friend to take off
her tee-shirt the way she did).
2. Crossing of
legs. We can all cross our legs, but can you double-cross them?
In other words, after you cross your legs, can you then tuck your
ankle around again, under the ankle of the leg on the bottom.
Guys can't seem to
do this because of the width of the pelvis and the angle at which the
legs are attached.
1. Never crossdressed? Try it!
If you think you
might be a transsexual but have never crossdressed or perhaps not in
many years, give it a try. Of course, you want to be careful to
make sure you aren't caught. And, you don't want to break any
laws. And, you don't want to venture out of your house until you
are a LOT further into this thing - nasty things can happen - you can
be found out, embarrassed, beaten up, or even killed. Be safe!
Still, do it right.
Go online and learn how to do make-up properly without looking like
Bozo the clown. Get clothes that fit, and a wig that looks
One of the big
mistakes people make when crossdressing is to overdo it. Garish
make-up, huge boobs, short skirts on fifty year olds. Yeach!
We all wish we were
young and pretty. Some of us transition while we still are.
For those, the skimpy, sexy outfits actually work. But no woman
wears that stuff all the time, and some of it most women never
Now, if you are a crossdresser, then you will want to ignore the above advice because it
is the very nature of the extremes that bring the most fulfillment to
most crossdressers. That's how you can usually tell the
differences between CDs and TSs. The Crossdressers are all done
up like a streetwalker and the transexuals are dressed dressed like
the girl next door.
Don't worry - we
all start out going overboard. We've been deprived for so long
that when we finally give ourselves permission to explore our desires,
we push it to the limit - well past the point of good taste or common
sense. Only later do we finally get down to a realistic mode of
attire for our age, our personalities, and our lives.
Still, until you
start you'll never get to that point. And regardless of whether
you are CD or TS, enjoy yourself! This hurts no one (unless they
are embarrassed by your activities) and it is just plain fun for both
groups. Drop the guilt and get on with it!
2. Join an
online message board
Back when I
started, there was only one puny online "bulletin board" to
which you could connect at blazing speed with the new 300 baud modem
on your Commodore 64 computer.
When the internet
came along for public use in 1994, I set up this web site - the very
first transgender support web site in the world. (Pat on own
These days, there's
tens of thousands of web sites, videos on the subject all over You
Tube and My Space, and hundreds upon hundreds of blogs and message
The best way to
find out what kind of bird you really are is to join one of these
transgender message boards. Many of them have several different
boards for whole ranges of kinds of folk who frequent the TG
You'll be able to
anonymously read postings and ask questions of people just starting
out like yourself, and of people who did it all five, ten, even thirty
The main thing is
to see how you appraise others as being more of a male or female mind,
and then to honesty determine which ones you are most like (no
cheating or rationalization or you're just cutting your own throat).
Perhaps the best,
most gentle, and most knowledgeable message board began as a simple
place to post on this very web site. After years, I let it go
and my friend took it over and built it into what I feel is the
premiere transgender support message board on the internet.
It is called
Beginning Life and you can find it here:
We all want to fit
in so much that we subjugate our true self to be like others. We
even try to convince ourselves that is who we are. You've don't
that for years, trying to make your current role work.
Don't make the same
You are about to
embark on a journey of self-discovery that still will have surprises
twenty years from now. It's great to have dreams and goals and a
positive self-image - it helps you get through. But don't lie to
yourself. Keep your eyes open and see yourself for who you
Just because you
can get away with being a certain way doesn't mean it is your natural
way of being. Don't blow this chance to be yourself because of
pre-conceptions or fantasies of who you'd like to be.
If there's one
thing I could share 19 years after transition started, it is that.
I motivated myself through all those years by striving to be this 18
year old beauty in a bikini. But I didn't start transition until
I was 36! So, I did the mini-skirt thing and I pictured myself
as being other than I was, and even today at a month short of 55 I
still think, "You know, with a few more facial surgeries and a
skin peel on my hands, I can still be that 18 year old bikini babe.
Transition is a process, not a miracle. There is no magic
involved, though internally it sometimes seems as if there is.
Keep your fantasies, but recognize when they can truly only ever be
fantasies. But also keep in mind that it is NEVER too late to
change from one sex to the other. People have done it in their
seventies, and are very, very happy.
Lastly, though, no
matter what anyone tells you, no matter what peer pressure is brought
to bear in the TG community, be yourself. Don't play roles, be
genuine. Let all falsehoods and affectations melt away.
Shed yourself of anything that is in conflict with your true self, and
live a life in the light and in harmony between your heart and your