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Everything You Ever Wanted
to Know About Sex Change*
*but were afraid to ask

Last updated in 1997

Questions and Answers

As founder of the Transgender Community Forum on America Online, I often get letters from people seeking understanding or just wanting to share. What follows are questions and answers of particular interest to the community as a whole.

How does one know if one is transsexual?

A Reply to GAnnSmith, who wrote to me with questions about how one knows if one is transsexual:

Dear Gwen,

In your letter, you opened a dialog on what it means to be TS, and of course I'll be happy to help all I can. Your central question was how to know if one is TS or not; specifically, how did I know. Well, I didn't and I don't. Being TS is not something you can know because it is an emotional state, not a logical issue. As a result, I cannot state with certainty that I am TS even now. All I can say is that I strongly believe I am. In fact, I believed it SO strongly, I had surgery. But did that quash doubt? Not hardly. You see, the issue first comes in defining what a TS is. And as I say in my article on Mental Sex, even if one's brain could be proven to be female in a male body, that is only 1/4 of the issue. There is also subconscious gender identification, upbringing (experience), and free-will as to what we wish for ourselves. These three areas can completely outweigh any biological binary bias. So, the real heart of the matter is not "am I legitimate or not?" but "which way will I be happier?"

That, then, is the emotional decision we all must make. As such, it is not binary; rather, it is a process of growth. Your biology, your subconscious, your experience, your free-will all will change their relationship to one another as you learn more about what makes you happy and what doesn't. The problem we have BEFORE we admit our transgenderism is that we won't even look in those areas to see how we feel about them. How can we make decisions based on no information at all? So, admitting to being transgendered is not being any particular thing, but merely selecting a subject in which to educate oneself: a direction to explore. That's why my editorial in The Subversive comes under the heading "Explorations".

Are there no binaries then? Certainly surgery itself is about as binary as you can get. But the DECISION to have surgery or not is NOT binary. That is simply a tendency that you have seen grow or diminish as you approach the decision. On friend of mine lived full time for six years before deciding to have surgery. Another lived full time for four and decided to go back to being male. Both are satisfied with their choice. Each has some regrets. Why? Because for them, the decision was not so clear cut as it was for me. For them, the good and bad on each side nearly balanced each other. For them, they had to wait all those years for something in their SITUATION to change, rather than in themselves, since they were equally on both sides of the fence and therefore really not on either. And their situations DID change, in different ways for each of them, so they came down on different sides. Are they happy? Not always: who is? Are they happiER? Definitely - and not just because of who they are, but because they know themselves much better and have learned enough about themselves to live with their decision.

For me, it has always been a question of reconsidering the decision: If I had the success I'm about to get with my software program THEN would I have done this? If I had married a more demonstrative woman, younger, prettier, would I have done this? Now that I'm here, do I want to go back? I could, you know. Nobody pulls down your pants to see what you've got. Just shift the old voice back, go on testosterone, retrain the body English - I did it before; I can do it again. But I won't. And why not? Not because I'm so terribly happy. Not because I have found the end of the rainbow - far from it. No, I won't go back because there is no motivation deep within me driving me to do it like there was when I changed from male to female.

You see, when it comes down to it, the only real justification for surgery is that you can't stop yourself. No matter WHAT might happen you HAVE to do it. And so you do or you don't or you wait and then do or don't. It really doesn't matter. If the time is someday right for you, you'll be full of doubt but unable to stop. That is a real argument for it not being an easy thing. If we could just take a pill, we'd be flip-flopping back and forth three times a week. But then, it wouldn't matter, would it, because the consequences would be so miniscule. But, the consequences are fairly formidible the way things are, and the difficulty of the journey is just about tough enough to require that undeniable drive to get to the surgical table.

So, to bring it all together, just go with the flow: explore each step of the way. And when your drive gives out, you'll find that you stop dead in your tracks like those toys that walk up to the edge of the table and halt, OR your drive won't give out and you'll wake up and realize you marched right over the edge into the unknown. Then you'll spend the rest of your time rethinking if you should've stayed at the edge: but its a mute point - you really couldn't have, even if it would've been better, simply because your drive wouldn't let you stay.

I hope this helps give you some new perspectives as you ponder your future and the meaning of life.

Love and best wishes,
Melanie

How long before Hormones begin to effect the body and mind?

A reader asks...

  •  

    • Regarding hormones, how long does it normally take to begin to feel changes in the body/mind? I have heard that it varies from girl to girl. What time frame would you expect to feel breast tenderness, and feminization? I already feel mentally more centered. I haven't had any real depression or the mood swings that I was warned about before I began. I have asked my endoc about what time frame to expect on the physical side, and she keeps giving me those vague doctor type answers like "its hard to tell", etc. when I attempt to discuss it. I am not really happy with this endoc, but she is the only game in town when it comes to dealing with transition. Also did you have any reversal of male pattern baldness? I still have about 85% on my hair, with a somewhat receding hair line in the front. By the way, your hair looks really fabulous!

Melanie replies:

Physically, changes in the body occur almost exactly 10 days from the onset of hormone use. Also, any change in dosage will be seen in the body in 10 days. At first, the changes are small and gradual, so even after 10 days they may not be noticed. You'll need to wait between 30 and 60 days to see anything major. Also, you will eventually come to experience a reaction to change in doses about two hours after taking them. There may be slight hot flashes, slight muscle cramps, swelling of breast tissue, etc., roughly two hours after a dose. This is not uncommon, but also doesn't happen to everyone.

Emotionally, mood changes take place about three days after a dose. The effects are also somewhat cumulative, so you will feel mood changes three days after a dose is increased or decreased, but will also note a gradual change in your overall outlook over a period of months and even years.

In reference to your other thoughts, being centered is not enough. You also need to be in the right place while centered. Centered means that your sense of self is right smack in the middle of who you really are inside. But if who you are has any problems besides gender, then you can be centered all you want, but you'll still have those problems. So, make sure you don't limit your life changes to gender alone. Most TG people have developed quite a list of other problems that grew up as they worked to deny their true selves. If you can work those out while going through transition, by the time you are finished you will not only be centered, but most advantageous positioned within your world.

As for male pattern baldness, I never had any. Lucky in that regard! So, I just let the ol' hair grow, and once estrogen ruled the system, baldness just ain't gonna happen.

What about taking Altdactone to lessen body hair?

A reader asks...

  •  

    • One thing I'm curious about. The aldactone. I've been at this process for so long and no one has ever mentioned the benefits and I surely need relief from a hairy body. Is there any way these pills can be gotten except by prescription? Please advise.

Melanie replies...

I don't recommend taking anything without prescription. As for Aldactone, I don't recommend it at all. I took it for about six months and feel that it permanently dried out my body. The effect was most noticeable in the skin, which began to look "oldish". Spiroaldactone is a diuretic used for high blood pressure. Potential body hair loss is a side effect, but the primary effect is still working. I had minor relief from body hair (nothing major) but the side effects were enough to make me stop taking it, though I think the bad effects lingered.

Do home electrolysis units really work?

A reader asks...

  •  

    • A couple of questions have come up while chatting with one of my other pre-op friends. Did the electrolysis unit you purchased at K-Mart actually work, or did you have to return to regular electrolysis?

Melanie replies...

It did indeed work very well. In fact, I burned out five of them by the time I stopped using them. For the record, the machine in question is the "Inverness" home electrolysis unit. It sells for about thirty dollars and runs off a single nine volt battery. It is much less painlful than regular electrolysis, but requires many more treatments to do the same job. For me, It took forty hours EACH WEEKEND for a year to keep my face cleared. What a pain that was, sitting in front of a make-up mirror for FORTY HOURS once a week!!!

I used the machine for two or three years, and by that time I was down to a couple hours a weekend, and only had the clear hairs left. After that, I decided to go back to regular electrolysis (actually "thermolysis") and have been doing that for about 18 months as of this posting. I go in once a month or so for about an hour. That keeps everything absolutely fine for the next four weeks, and I will probably be more or less done in another year. (This stuff takes forever!!!) Of course, for the whole month, I don't have to worry at all, so I have no more concerns in that area, even under the most intimate conditions.

A word of warning though... The home unit IS very powerful. It has power settings from 1 to 10. I did all of my work at 1 or 1.5. I tried 10 once and a piece of my skin just baked and dropped out on the spot!!! Fortunately, that healed, but I suspect if you go higher than 1.5 you are going to get some eventual scarring, and if it is high enough the scarring will be immediate AND PERMANENT!

What is the "Biber button", and what does it do?

  • Another question...

    • Can you tell me more about what the "Biber Button" does. You only speak about it briefly in your diary. Are parts of the abdomen actually pulled down permanently to help give you a more female shape? If so, how does this work? If not, just what is its purpose? I'm just trying to learn as much a I can as I move on to my future womanhood.

Melanie replies...

Yes, that is part of it's job. The other part is to hold everything in place internally for the first week until enough healing sets in. The way it works is this: a wire is inserted into the abdomen, passed through the new internal surgical work, looped around the pubic bone, and back out the abdomen right next to the other side of the wire. The two wire ends are tied to what looks like an upholstery button on a sofa, and twisted so the whole thing pulls tight to the abdomen, flattening it.

After a week, they come in and snip one side of the wire and then use the button to pull the wire through and out. Now that is a weird feeling, I can tell you! It doesn't exactly hurt, but it feels like some little thing is crawling around inside you. Fortunately, they do it with one quick pull, so the sensation only lasts for a second, but it is so odd I'm sure I'll always remember it.

Did hormones change your sexual orientation?

A Reader Asks...

  •  

    • My name is Bob and this is the first letter of this kind that I have written. I hope you don't mind, and have patience with my attempts to articulate my thoughts. I've followed your story and transition during the past year or so through your Subversion articles on AOL. Now my questions. Hormones and perhaps your predisposition have changed the way you feel emotionally about men. Do you still feel the same way you did in 1992? Do you still feel aroused by women? How much of your "male" senses remain e.g. do you still look at some things from Dave's viewpoint?

Melanie replies...

Hormones have such a gradual effect (spanning many years) that it is hard to determine which changes in attitude come from the biochemistry and which simply come from life experience. For example, since I am still living with my family, they quite naturally look to me for the same kind of leadership of the household I had supplied previously. As a result, my entire mindset is much more geared to being the head of the household rather than a participant. Often, I do not get to enjoy the role I have chosen for myself since I effectively still fulfill the husband's position.

Certainly, Mary and I are no longer romantically involved, yet it is a strange mix of friendship and something closer. We still snuggle together and in many ways act like a married couple, though we do not sleep in the same room, and neither of us desires an intimate relationship with the other.

There are positive and negative aspects to dating men. On the plus side, there is an intangible, wonderful, feeling I get when with a man. Part of it is protection when in his arms. Part is the relief of not having to be the person in charge all the time. (But would I still enjoy that if I didn't have that role every day at home?)

Sexually, I find I am no longer attracted physically to women at all. Not that I couldn't be, mind you, if some gorgeous babe were to come on to me, but just that I never think of women in that way anymore on my own. (All right, well maybe once in a blue moon, but in fact I'll bet you that just about any woman alive, whether she admits it or not, finds herself briefly aroused by an attractive woman from time to time.) I don't experience that often, nor in any degree of intensity or for any duration to speak of.

As for men (from a physical standpoint) I don't find them sexually attractive at all - until one of them holds my hand or gives me a hug. Suddenly, I find myself getting turned on as if by magic. That never happens with jerks, but only comes to life when I have become aware that the man in question has compassion, intelligence, and wit. Put those three together and I find him interesting. Have him be interested in me and get around to making physical contact of any kind and that ignites the spark.

I'll tell you what - I never could understand this in my former life when women told it to me, but here it is - what attracts me physically to a man is not his looks or how many muscles he has but idiot things like suspenders, blue jeans, neatly trimmed beards, even round frame glasses like John Lennon. I look for how well he is dressed - not how expensively, but how tastefully, appropriately. That can be as casual as a T-shirt and jeans, but if they are clean and neat, in short (as corney as it sounds) if he is well groomed, that is a plus. Then, a non-show-off confidence indicative of a quiet strength, well that sets the stage. It doesn't mean that he can't ever be out of his element, petty, confused, or worried - as long as he deals with it in humor without taking himself too seriously, and if he unintentionally steps on my feelings, he is man enough to apology (after struggling with himself for a while because he is convinced it is my fault). It doesn't matter whose fault it is, as long as he looks after my feelings.

I've come to think that men are looking for physical profits and emotional security, whereas women are looking for emotional profits and physical security.

How has your S.O. dealt with your transition and surgery?

Another Question...

  •  

    • Now a question which bothers me in all Transgendered relationships with spouses or SO's. I realize this question is very personal, and will understand if you don't want to answer. But you have been intimate with both men and women after your surgery. You had ( up to Chapter 33) come to realize how much you needed a man in your life. You wanted to be held, to experience the dating game, to do all those things you had not done before. You don't want to give up your family-they're great but not fulfilling enough. You apparently have achieved some sort of new relationship with Mary. You have had the sex thing and now want to get on.

      This is your story and you have told it from your perspective. But what about Mary? What is her life now? Does she date, have intimate relationships with men, want a man to hold to have his arms around her. Want all these things , even if still loving you? After all, she has not changed. She has has the same female needs, desires and longings that you now enjoy. Does she have the same freedom in relationships that you have? It seems that she, and others in her situation, still living with their spouse, have lost something-perhaps more than what you have gained. I guess that I just worry about her and others like her, and find it hard to understand the emotional roller coaster that she went through.

Melanie replies...

Well, I often wonder about that myself, but Mary is a very private person with her emotions (much more like a man in that respect). So, I can only surmise what she might be feeling from the little clues I can pick up.

I think of the two (emotional profit and physical security) she is VASTLY more concerned with physical security. Naturally, like all women, she would like both. But also like all women, when it comes down to it, diamonds are a girl's best friend. It's not that you want to be rich - having a huge surplus is not the issue. Even a small, one room apartment will do, as long as the woman is sure she can keep it.

That is the real key, both for Mary and women in general: to know that what you have won't be taken away. That is why Mary gets so emotionally raw whenever our finances are a bit shaky. When we have enough in the bank to feel secure, she often comes to me without ever having had a conversation with me about money and says, "I don't know why, but I really feel content." Well, I know why - it's the security.

Now, beyond that, of course she would like a man to hold her and take care of her. I imagine that my knowing that is a big part of what keeps me here. I can't bring myself to leave her with nothing in that area. At least I can hold her when she is sad, take charge with strength when she is afraid or depressed, and give her father-like guidance when she is lost.

Of course, those are just the things I am looking for myself, not the things I want to be providing. But, with all her loyalty, well that means a lot to me. So, I'm willing to do what I can, even if it comes at an emotional cost to me.

Would she be better off if I left? Am I just a tranquilizer for her real needs? Would she find a good man if I gave her the space to grow into? Who knows! And would I be able to let the unpleasant attitudes I must adopt for her fade away if I was gone? Would I be able to have a stronger relationship with a man or would I remain alone in an apartment? Who knows!

I stay out of love and fear. She desires me to stay out of love and fear. Love of each other, fear of the alternatives. We have each overcome so much in our lives, I wonder if either of us will ever have the strength to risk it all, yet again, for something that might be better but could just as easily be worse?

I'll let you know in thirty or forty years....

Is being post-op all it's cracked up to be?

A Reader Asks...

  •  

    • I do however would like to ask you a few questions that I have asked myself many times. Is being post-op (SRS) all that its cracked up to be?

Melanie replies...

Well, that is like asking "Is life all that it is cracked up to be?" There is no overall answer, because although SRS deeply affects life, there is much more to life than that, yet the two are impossible to really separate.

  •  

    • I have read all the FAQ's available on the net but to this day I have not had the opportunity to chat with someone who has gone through SRS to get their personal experience. Does SRS change your sexual drive? I'm sorry to ask questions so personal but I have no one to ask these to.

Yes, it changes it. The best way to describe it is that it is the same feeling, but takes longer to be triggered, yet lasts longer. As a male, you know that feeling you get when you become aroused, but before anything physically comes to attention? That "pre" feeling that gets you started - that is what women (post-op and genetic) feel all during foreplay, once it gets going. For guys, the feeling then focuses right at the tip of Old Fred, but for women, it remains generalized, more like that initial warm glow all over the area "down there". The feeling doesn't "sharpen" for women like it does in men, but rather just gets stronger like someone turning up the intensity on one of those cheap halogen lamps. Orgasm is like when the bulb burns out. It is more a feeling of relief than climax. The throbbing is still there, but rather than feeling like the ultimate jet propulsion, it is more like major duty ripples dispersing the pent up energy.

  •  

    • I have read in FAQ's that after SRS some women become multi-orgasmic. Is this true and how does the "orgasm" (pardon my use of the word for a lack of a better word) feel in relation to when you were male.

Yes, one can have multi-orgasms, but it is not common in general nor frequent for those individuals that can. Yes, I have experienced that, but it was a lot of work subject to the laws of diminishing returns.

  •  

    • Is there still ejaculation?

There can be for some time after surgery, as the prostate is left intact, and depending upon how the healing proceeded. But, after a time, that will stop, though the prostate still provides additional sexual feelings through the rest of your normal sex life.

  •  

    • How real is the transformation. I once saw pictures on a medical web page of post-op (SRS) patient's genitals. They did not look very convincing to me. I have considered SRS but only if I'm going >to be left with realistic looking genitals. Please don't be offended by my questions. I'm just ignorant and I want to know more.

Don't worry - I didn't even know the answers to these until perhaps a year AFTER surgery. I simply didn't care, I just wanted it done, whatever it was they did. In answer to this question, there are two "stages" of surgery in the more respected procedures. The first stage is all the internal work that creates the vagina. The second stage is a "labiaplasty" that brings together the two sides of vaginal lips at the top to make a more "authentic" appearance.

As of this time, I have not yet had the labiaplasty, even though I am currently five years post-op. Why? Because 1.) You can't see much down there under all the hair, 2.) I've never had any complaints from lovers, 3.) It's another 3 to 5 thousand dollars, and the TOP reason I have not yet done it.... I simply don't want to take a chance of endangering my sex drive, which is doing just fine, thank you, and I don't want to mess with success.

  •  

    • I saw also from your bibliography that you had an understanding wife. How did your children react? (I'm afraid my family would react very negatively). My life is an open book if you have questions for me please ask me. I will answer them.

The kids have had their ups and downs. Its been up times for quite a while now. The kids tell their friends, but as I am a writer, have a web site, and co-created a popular software product, they generally think I'm pretty cool for a parent. Besides, I bake them cookies.

Also, I have worked hard to have a close relationship with my kids. My seventeen year old son and I still wrestle around on the livingroom floor. Of course, he does that with his mother too - we're just a close family. My thirteen year old daughter and I are two very good friends. We go on lots of trips together and she is my assistant in some of my business ventures.

All in all, I think they both wish I had stayed dad logistically, but as a parent, they love me very much and wouldn't trade me for any other dad or mom. And I feel the same about them.

Thanks for the note, and best wishes in all you hope to do and be.

How does one deal with conflicting masculine/feminine feelings?

Letter in response to a reader who was uneasy with conflicting masculine and feminine feelings:

Hi, xxxxx. Actually, I wouldn't worry about the conflicting feelings you have from time to time. After all, they only conflict in TIME. In space, they are all a part of you and exist in perfect harmony. It is when we lock ourselves in both time and space and say that we must only feel THIS way all the TIME, THEN we have problems.

Allow yourself to feel differently at different times. Allow yourself to be who you are not based on a single facet, but on the sum of all the facets that are naturally you. As long as it is honest, each little part is a part of you. And subjugating any of them just to be consistent is to deny a part of yourself. That is the greatest dishonesty of all. For a TS, one of the hardest things to learn is that you are not a woman until you are unafraid to be masculine when you feel it. For a TV, this is no less true. Its really more a matter of degree: how much time do you want to spend in each role and to what degree do you wish to explore and express each? Since it is difficult to successfully portray oneself in both roles alternately, one must choose the role that provides the greatest latitude to one's natural expressions.

It would be nice to think that we could have the courage to be all that we are in either role and not worry about the consequences. But the consequences are very real, and even if we ignore society, it won't ignore us. But do we not need society to protect us as well? To guide us and provide us with a commonality and security? If we desire these benefits, we must pay the price of a certain level of conformity so that we are not shunning the very predictability we are asking to receive. That is why we choose the role that is best for us, yet do not deny the parts of ourselves that do not conform to that role. Certain facets are compatible with public presentation, others are not. That does not make the hidden sides immoral or wrong, but merely private and personal.

So, in response to your other question about how to tell your wife? Rather ask, do you really NEED to tell? For a TS, yes, there is no way around it. But for a crossdresser, it is not necessary at all, nor is it dishonest not to. The choice really depends on how much of your life you insist that she share for YOU to feel close to her. But if you DO decide to tell her, be sure you know exactly how YOU feel about YOURSELF first. Unless she is wholly bigoted against the concept, she will take her cues from you and how you see it. If you are ashamed or confused, so will she be also. If you are comfortable with yourself and understand your feelings, she will likely sense this is a fully integrated part of your personality and find nothing within herself but the desire to understand and accept if she can. So, first know yourself and accept yourself. Then share, if you must.

What about disclosure?

Another reply to one of my email friends who was worried about the issue of disclosure.

You bring up some important and personal issues regarding disclosure. Its something I have given A LOT of thought to, especially recently. Here's what I think: There is no right or wrong answer that applies to everyone in this case. It really depends on your situation and your outlook. Meaning, that even the same person may have different responses in different situations, or as they grow and develop in different ways.

I can tell you how I feel about it for myself at this time in this place. If I were not still with my family, I would NEVER bring it up. Still, I would confirm it if confronted. To me, that is absolute honesty. If it was no longer part of my life, I could simply not talk about it. What then about referring to my past "when I was a little girl" and the like? Well, to me, there are two parts to the past - the physical part and the mental part. If I was talking, I would be thinking of my "self" not my body, and therefore, would feel quite honest saying "when I was a little girl". Sure, I cold always avoid the issue by saying "when I was little", but that's exactly what it would be - avoiding the issue. Now, what if I wanted to talk about being in Boy Scouts or some other male-only situation? Well, if I TRULY left the past behind, I wouldn't WANT to talk about it, so no problem.

The difficulty is, that none of us ever really want to leave EVERYTHING behind, forget our past COMPLETELY like an amnesiac. And every time something from the past comes up that doesn't fit in to the new life, you disclose.

So, what to do? Well, you know from your psych classes that first impressions really DO carry a lot of weight. In fact, they are hard to change. Which means that when you are living completely as a woman without any trappings of a male life CURRENTLY in your situation, then people who meet you as a woman, will have a heck of a hard time imagining you as anything else. The only danger would be if they found out and then YOU perpetuated their thoughts about your old life by sharing and sharing and SHARING, until the impact of that familiarity outweighed their first impressions. Then, you would always be a transsexual to them.

You see, you can't look at it from YOUR perspective to understand how they feel. Turn it around and imagine how you would feel if some woman you have known for a while turned out to be post-op. Imagine that. Unless she talked about it all the time, wouldn't you have a hard time thinking of her as anything but a woman?

Well, that's all well and good for people who can deal with it, but what of those who can't? In that case you are going to lose friends or a job or a grant or something because they can't come to terms with even knowing about your past. And therein lies the temptation to lie. I tried lying once. I denied my kids were mine, said they were Mary's and that I was just her roommate. I felt like crud for days until I came clean with the person. I just couldn't deal with it: it was a slimy, nervous, hiding feeling that I didn't like at all.

So, I don't do that anymore. But, for me, its a bigger problem than for many. I still live with my wife of 18 years. I have two children. I've kept the same friends, so they all know. Most if not all of the people at work have been told by co-workers. So, If I meet a guy or a business associate, there is no way for me to tell if they know or not. In that kind of situation, all I can do is be myself, count on first impressions, not volunteer the information but confirm it if asked.

In your situation, your whole career might hinge on secrecy. The thing to do is Consciously weigh both sides of the issue. How do you feel about hiding it? How do you feel about lying about it? How would you feel if you lost your position over it? Weigh all the options, not of what makes the most sense, but of how you FEEL. Then you can make the decision that, no matter how it comes out, you will be most able to live with.

What about using female sign-on names when on-line?

Letter in response to a gender friend who was switching to a completely female sign-on name:

As for your request for any suggestions about using the name in regard to deception: there is nothing wrong with passing yourself off as who you feel you might be. It is a good opportunity to explore your feelings. But there are a couple of bewares! I have known of several TV/TS folk who have done just that, then met someone on-line (both male and female) and become close Email friends quite by accident. They were then faced with the decision as to whether to be honest and share their secret or continue to hold back and feel they were lying to their friend.

In the second case, no pictures could be exchanged, no phone calls could be made; if the friend came to town on business or vacation, you could not meet. Telling the friend almost always results in their feeling betrayed and "used", and in one case I know of, resulted in the crossdresser being kicked off AOL because of the emotional anguish they caused by their deception. So the warning is simply to make darned sure you allow no friendships to develop under that name, but just use it to see how others treat you in casual conversations. If you sense a friendship starting to develop, either sign off of that name for good and switch to a new one, or be honest IMMEDIATELY so no one will be hurt later. Hope this helps!

How does one deal with a non-understanding wife and family?

This is a reprint of a letter I sent in reply to a cross-dresser who requested some thoughts on how to deal with a non-understanding wife and family. I felt the content may be of enough value to publish for others, however, I have deleted the name in order to insure privacy.

Dear (Anonymous) This is going to sound a bit technical, which will probably be the last kind of thing you would expect in response to a very emotional problem. The difficulty with emotional problems is that you can't measure them with emotions. You can't measure something by itself. Here is the problem in terms of Reason. The problem is not your wife and the problem is not yourself. The problem is BETWEEN your wife and yourself. Now, this problem is not caused by the way she is or the way you are, but by the difference between the two of you. If she was married to someone who did not want to cross dress, no problem. If you were married to a woman who understood, no problem. This problem only exists because you cannot stop crossdressing and she cannot understand.

In order for the problem to be resolved, one of you must change. Sometimes people can change or grow, and sometimes they truly cannot. It is not blameful to be unable to change, it simply means that the area you cannot change about is too close to the heart of your personality, and as long as you remain YOU, changing is impossible. So what can be done? Well, you are probably convinced by this time that YOU cannot stop crossdressing. So for you to change is probably not an option. But your wife has only had a little time to adjust, so it is not certain if she will be able to change or not at this early stage. When time has passed you will know better about the answer to that.

But what if she cannot change? What is the solution? There are three ways to deal with every "unsolvable" problem. Since the problem remains, none of them is completely enjoyable, but there are no other options if neither party can change. The first way is for the two people to separate. Then, they are not in conflict because they do not interact. The second way is to avoid conflict by staying off the subject. Conflict does not occur because the subject that creates the problem is not brought up. The final way to deal with the unsolvable problem, is to continue fighting over it. Eventually, this may lead to the other solutions of separation, avoidance, or even in some cases, change by one of the people, thereby eliminating the problem.

I wish I could offer a "quick fix" for your problem, but there really isn't any. Yet there is hope. People do change in time, and even if YOU cannot change because the desire to cross dress is part of you, you wife may very well change because her attitude is probably not part of her, but more of a held opinion, and opinions change every day. The real key is the strength of the love you share, compared to the discomfort, the pain of change, the love she has for her parents, and many other factors. Also considering that love is seldom equally felt between two partners.

So, my best advice is to avoid conflict while you see if she grows to change. You will know when enough time has passed to judge that. Then, you can decide if there is hope to resolve the problem or if one of the other options is the best under the circumstances. Take care, keep hope, don't let one area of conflict taint the rest of your life. There are many other pleasant areas to focus on while you wait to resolve this one.

My husband is considering SRS. What can I expect in my relationship?

This is a letter I wrote to the SO of someone considering SRS, who was worried about what the future might hold. I have removed the personal references to maintain anonymity and title the letter with a new term I coined to describe the mate of transsexual partners.

"SRSO"

As you know, every marriage, every relationship is unique in many ways. So the things I will be talking about may or may not apply to you. However, perhaps some will. So, I'll share what I can about how Mary and I have dealt with transition through post-op.

Mary and I have been together 17 years. We have two children, a boy 14 and a girl 10. We both work, she at a job, me at a career in the movie biz. I started experimenting with hormones in 1987, but did not go on them regularly until August 1989. Our married life had been one of smooth sailing, but not much excitement at all. We were both virgins when we married. Our sex life was sparse, and only rarely was it anything to write home about. There was a lot of fear of rejection on my part, so I gave up a lot of pleasure like Beatles music because she didn't like the Beatles (and so on with many other things).

My career was going nowhere, but only because I was self-defeating. I had a small business of my own doing video duplication and freelancing as a non-union writer director. Money started getting tight. We were heavily in debt. I got roped into some really bad deals and was forced to work 16 hours a day until 5 in the morning, and still we did not have enough to pay the bills.

I guess I had tried everything I could to find happiness OTHER than explore my gender feelings which I had surpressed completely for over 8 years. Finally, almost on a whim, I went out and bought a wig at Kmart. I liked the way I looked. I started taking little trips around the city and to local attractions in the summer of 1988, but did not tell anyone, especially Mary.

My mother died in January 1989, and that's when the dam broke on my feelings. I realized I was a workaholic who had forced themself to fail because I knew what I really needed in my life. I decided I had to know who I really was and began dressing again, and finally told Mary that I had to explore this side of myself. Mary never loses her cool. She was unhappy, but did not fight with me. She said she would deal with it as long as she could, then would give me the option of stopping or leaving. Each time I took a new step, she told me the next step would cost our marriage. But each time that next step came, she found she could accept it. That's kind of what happened with relationships as well. She does not like it, but she has learned to accept it. The benefits for her are that MOST of my time I spend here with my family. And that I have made a commitment to her as my Life Partner, that she comes first and always will. But that commitment is not that she is my ONLY relationship, just my first and forever one.

Since she was the only relationship I ever had, I found it very hard to get involved with anyone else. I have had only one brief fling before surgery, and three in the year and a half since. Mary and I still sleep together and cuddle, but do not make love. We tried that after surgery, but it was even a little less fulfilling than sex had been previously. We may try again some day, who knows. (Editor's NOTE: Since this letter was written, Mary and I are intimate partners on a regular basis again.) Still and all, sex does not have to be part of a Life Partnership. We share the house, the bed, the dreams, the future.

The hardest part for each of us was believing that we could have an open relationship without the risk of one of us leaving. We have no fear of that now. We share so much in our 17 years that no one could ever catch up to that for either of us. So, although she is lonely the nights I am gone, and I know I will suffer at first when she goes out with a guy and spends the night, we are 'growing in our love and our commitment every day. And we are growing as human beings, learning not to be as possessive, and to become ever more confident in the special feelings we have for each other that no one can ever share.

That is the heart of our success: that we believe in each others commitment so strongly that we no longer fear someone else taking away our partner. It took nearly four years to arrive at this point, and it continues to progress. And there were many fights and devastating scenes along the way. But it is working now, and it is worth all the suffering and compromise to get here.

Well, I hope this helps a bit. Email any time you have a question, or just want to share!

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