updated in 1997
G E N D E R A R T I C L E S -This regularly posted Internet column
provides educational information regarding transgender living.
column has been written to inspire contemplation and dialogue.
Authored by Gianna E. Israel, columns may be reprinted in any medium
insofar as each article, its introduction and the author's contact
information remains unaltered.
"H A R R A S S M E N T" #02 / May '96
We live in a society which does not promote respect toward persons
who have different appearances, ideas or ways of living. Consequently,
many transgender persons experience social difficulties ranging from
subtle harassment to indiscriminate violence. This article provides
useful information when dealing with these issues and specifically
provides coping mechanisms for transgender persons.
It is common knowledge that there are individuals who cannot
tolerate differences in others. At times such persons use
intimidation, coercion, harassment, or even violence, in an effort to
make others feel afraid. Depending on the level of harassment, such
persons are known by different names. These include: perpetrator,
victimizer, bigot, jackass, creep, scum, or jerk, just to name a few.
For sake of clarity, I like to refer to these individuals as
"bullies," because their behavior can easily be found on any
Bullies typically act with malice toward others who are different
for a variety of reasons. Many do so because their behavior makes them
feel powerful. Some bullies feel entitled to hurt others because they
believe it is socially acceptable or that their actions will have no
Others are harassing because they believe that their viewpoint or
way of living is the only correct one. Occasionally such persons are
uneducated and not aware that others have differences or that their
harassment is hurtful.
Whatever a bully's reason for harassing others may be, during a
confrontation such reasons should not be introduced as a topic of
discussion. Generally, a bully is happy to use such discussions in
order to avoid acknowledging responsibility for their behavior. The
Most Effective Way To Deal With A Bully, Is To Relay A Focused Message
That Their Behavior Is Hurtful And Will Not Be Tolerated No Matter
What Their Reasoning! Furthermore, another effective way to reduce
harassing incidents in general is to understand prevention. Here are
*Acknowledge your role in harassing situations. Nobody likes being
a victim, however at times people invite harassment without realizing
it. This may be particularly true when a person has been victimized in
the past or feels extra sensitive when criticized by others. Sometimes
it is possible to mistake another person's lack of interest in gender
issues as a form of harassment. Occasionally in such situations a
person may set themselves up for harassment by drawing unnecessary
attention to themselves.
If you are uncertain whether you are being harassed, pass your
feelings and information about the situation by several friends you
trust. Ask them how they might handle the situation, or if they
believe you are overacting, and then proceed with some extra insight.
If you find yourself regularly being harassed by others, or suspect
you may be continually setting yourself up for victimization, seek
professional help and learn assertiveness skills.
*Think Ahead! If you are newly "Coming Out" or have never
been out crossdressed by yourself, plan your activities with safety in
mind. Travel with friends, or restrict your activities to locations
where you feel safe until your confidence level rises. It is unlikely
that there is going to be a bully around "every" corner. In
fact, the more times you go out the more likely it is you will notice
that most people really don't pay allot of attention to others. Some
persons may however respond with curiosity if they have never met a
transgender person. Their curiosity may be acknowledged with a slight
smile, or simply ignored as routine. Finally dress appropriate to the
occasion. If a person dresses in a manner designed to draw the
attention of others, he or she should be prepared for that attention
and even potential criticism.
*When encountering harassment do not feed into it. You can do this
by simply ignoring the bully and his or her behavior. This advice is
particularly useful when encountering offhand comments from strangers
looking for a confrontation, such as out in the general public.
Additionally, if your find yourself encountering harassment routinely
from one particular person, avoid feeding into that person's behavior
by not acting revengeful or antagonistic.
Acting maliciously in response to someone else's behavior only
gives the harassing party further reason to bother you.
*If you encounter a person who is continually harassing, tell that
person his or her behavior is hurtful and you will not tolerate it.
State so in a brief, clear manner. Surprisingly, most bullies are
scared off by these assertive words. If you feel uncomfortable
confronting someone about their behavior, develop a
"confrontation plan" with your counselor or knowledgeable
friend. You may also take along a friend as a witness and for added
However if at all possible, stay away from persons who use violence
or threats of violence.
*Set limits or boundaries to the amount of harassment you will
accept. For example, you might say, if you continue to harass me I
will ask someone to help me deal with this situation. You may also
state that you will report
their behavior to a supervisor, the police or appropriate
you may state you will choose to no longer associate with the
Whatever limits you set, stay with those limits or the person will
not recognize you mean business and their behavior will continue.
*If you encounter a situation which becomes overheated, physical or
threatening in nature, leave immediately. If you cannot leave, at
least keep moving. A moving target is harder to hit, buying you time
to find a way out.
If you must hit back in order to get out of a situation, do so.
Once out of a situation, immediately contact friends, your counselor
or the police for assistance. If you become a victim to violence
because you are transgender, file a report with the police as well as
with the violence prevention program serving the gay, lesbian,
bisexual and transgender community in your city.
Do not allow the incident to go unnoticed. Otherwise, even if the
perpetrator stops harassing you, he or she will likely continue
G I A N N A E. I S R A E L provides nationwide telephone
consultation, individual & relationship counseling, evaluations
and referrals. She is principal author of The Recommended Guidelines
for Transgender Care, and Transgender
Tapestry's "Ask Gianna;" an AEGIS board member and HBIGDA
She can be contacted at (415) 558-8058 , at P.O. Box 4244447 San
Francisco, CA 94142, or via e-mail at Gianna@wco.com.
G E N D E R A R T I C L E S-This regularly posted Internet column
provides educational information regarding transgender living.
(TS/TG/CD/SO) Each column has been written to inspire contemplation
and dialogue. Authored by Gianna E. Israel, columns may be reprinted
medium insofar as each article, its introduction and the author's
contact information remains unaltered.
"TELLING PARENTS" #03 / June '96
Telling Mom and Dad that you crossdress, have questions about your
gender identity or that you are making a gender transition, each can
be a difficult process. This article explores preparing for that
Before actually introducing the subject to your parents, there are
many questions which are helpful to examine. What do you hope to gain
from disclosing? Most persons disclose to their parents with the hope
that at the very least their parents will acknowledge the issue
exists, and perhaps be accepting or supportive. Gaining this type of
acceptance in many circumstances is not always immediately possible,
particularly when the parent responds with rejection, denial or
indifference. Occasionally, when a person least expects it, a parent
may give unconditional support.
Whatever you feel your situation may be, before disclosing you
should be prepared for a wide-variety of responses.
Is disclosing to parents actually necessary? Not always. Persons
who share their gender issues with others, in many circumstances are
best served by only doing so when telling is going to increase the
quality of the relationship. While most persons recognize this when it
pertains to friendships and co-workers, they are not aware that
parents about their gender issues may not be beneficial. This is
particularly so if the person has no experience talking about
issues with others or has no support system.
Most persons disclose their gender identity issues seeking some
type of validation. This process can be a healthy part of defining
one's sense of self, however it can also be misplaced depending on the
For example, if a person's primary motivation for sharing
originates in a desire to share experiences and needs, than these are
good things. However, if a person's motivation is designed solely to
gain emotional support in a time of crisis, they may find the parent
so shocked by the
news that little support is gained. Additionally, disclosing during
times of personal crisis may unnecessarily portray you as unstable. In
most circumstances it is best to first seek validation as well as
emotional support from persons familiar with gender issues.
Generally, the more invested you are in incorporating crossgender
elements in your life the more essential it becomes to have a
"support team." Utilize your support team to learn about
disclosure, talk about your feelings, hear about the experience of
others, talk about your own and get feedback on your situation. Having
done these things you will then be better prepared emotionally to
disclose to your parents. For example, you will be able to relay the
fact that exploring gender is a healthy part of self-development, and
do so with confidence!
There are a number of other questions you may also ask. How
validating have your parents been regarding you or your siblings
needs? How well do they deal with hearing difficult news? Also, what
views do they hold regarding matters of personal independence, and
gender or sexual identity issues? Your answer to these questions can
lend important insight into how your parents may respond to your
disclosure. If your parents have not been supportive of your personal
growth and needs in the past, that is a fair indication they may not
be so regarding this issue. If your parents are relatively accepting
of persons having different gender or sexual issues, then they may so
with you. As you examine these questions, take time to find out how
others have dealt with parents having similar attitudes.
When faced with the prospect of disclosure, many persons are
uncertain how much information they should tell their parents.
Choosing how much to disclose can depend on several factors. These
factors include their ability to receive new or complex information
without undermining relationships. Also, you need to take into
consideration your own self-interests, including to what degree you
believe gender issues affect your overall life.
Examples of this process include a variety of possibilities. For
example, a person who only intends to crossdress privately on weekends
may or may
not disclose. Sometimes this depends on whether or not the person
has concerns about being discovered. Occasionally in these
circumstances it is better to disclose on your own, rather than having
your parents find out through another source.
The transgenderist or transsexual who intends on living "in
role" or making a permanent transition, obviously will need to do
more disclosure. If you are convinced that living in role and having
surgery are the right steps for you, be cautions how you portray these
to persons not familiar with gender issues. In these situations it is
best to inform others that living in role are steps of a "real
life test" which will help you determine which permanent changes
are right. Clearly this would include surgery. Disclosing information
which portrays an interest in thoroughly thinking through changes
shows good judgment.
As you prepare for coming out to your parents, remember that
initially these issues can be difficult for others to understand. Do
not give so much information that your mother or father ends up
confused. Stick with the basics. Initially you might set the stage for
discussion by simply stating you have been having questions about
gender or that you currently are seeing a gender specialized
counselor. Once you are prepared to come out, let them know how these
changes will effect you and them. Invite questions. If you are
uncertain what the future holds, confidently state so and let them
know you will keep them informed of developments.
If your parents are important to you then disclosing in person is
preferable, doing so by telephone is good when physical proximity
doesn't allow face-to-face contact. You may prepare for the occasion
by writing out your thoughts in a letter. Write out your thoughts,
edit and pass your letter past several informed persons you trust. Try
to avoid overemphasizing how anguish you have suffered or how
desperately you fear losing them. Be confident. Try to save the more
unsettling details for a conversation after your parents have heard
In my practice I regularly provided consultations to parents
seeking information about gender issues from an objective, specialized
source. You can do the same by providing your parents 3rd
party literature that they can read about the issues you are facing.
Examples of literature include:
Coping with Crossdressing (JoAnn Roberts, Ph.D.); The Uninvited
Dilemma (Kim Stuart) or Information for the Female to Male (Lou
****G I A N N A E. I S R A E L provides nationwide telephone
consultation, individual & relationship counseling, evaluations
and referrals. She is principal author of The Recommended Guidelines
Transgender Care, and Transgender Tapestry's "Ask Gianna"
column; an AEGIS board member and HBIGDA member. She can be contacted
at (415) 558-8058 at P.O. Box 4244447 San Francisco, CA 94142, or via
Bible and Tgism
Compiled by Wendy Phillips
"But the Lord said to Samuel, Look not on his face, nor on the
height of his stature . . . : for the Lord does not see as man sees;
for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the
mind." (1 Sam 16:7)*
"For as he thinks in his mind, so is he . . ." (Prov
23:7)." . . . Neither let the eunuch say, Look, I am a dry tree.
For thus says the Lord to the eunuchs that keep My sabbaths, and
choose the things that please Me, and take hold of My Covenant; Even
to them I will give in My House and within My walls a place and a name
better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting
name, that shall not be cut off." (Isa 56:3-5).
"Therefore if your hand or your foot offend you, cut them off,
and throw them from you: it is better for you to enter into life limp
or mutilated, rather than having two hands or two feet to be thrown
into everlasting fire.
And if your eye offend you, pluck it out, and throw it from you: it
is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having
two eyes to be thrown into hell fire." (Mat 18:8, 9).
"For there are some eunuchs, who were so born from their
mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, who were made eunuchs by
men: and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the
Kingdom of Heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him
receive it." (Matt 19:12).
"For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in
marriage, butare as the angels of God in Heaven." (Matt 22:30)
"For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry,
nor are given inmarriage; but are as the angels which are in
Heaven." (Mark 12:25)
The apostle Paul said the living saved would be likewise-as Jesus
Himself already now is (1 Cor 15:42, 49, 52). And John the apostle
agreed (1 John3:2). With the Lord "there is neither . . . male
nor female . . ." (Gal3:28).
". . . the Lord has created a new thing in the earth-a woman
shall encircle a man" (Jer. 31:22)"Then Peter opened his
mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of
persons." (Acts 10:34) He isn't concerned about one's sex.
"For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and
cherishes it, even as the Lord the church." (Eph 5:29) Obviously,
a M2F TS who hates "his"own flesh to the extent of doing, or
desiring to do, all possible, up to and including GCS (genital
conversion surgery-SRS), to change it to the opposite sex cannot be
". . . I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to
be content. (Phil 4:11)
As for Deut 22:5, it anciently referred to idolaters who
crossdressed as part of cult gay or straight prostitution (SDA BIBLE
COMMENTARY, I, 1030). Ellen G. White applied it modernly as against 19th
century unisex dress by some dress reform movement women then, adding
that unisex dress causes confusion and a "great increase in
crime" (TESTIMONIES FOR THE CHURCH, I, 460).
As for Deut 23:1 (& Lev 21:20), it applied to those who
mutilated themselvesin honor of their idol (SDABC, I, 1033).
Editorial - The One True Path
by Marla Louise Baldwin
The preacher stands before his congregation and does what comes
naturally, he preaches. He also tries to maintain his flock and cause
it to grow. What will cause a member of the congregation not to stray
to some other preacher? Maybe prove that the path for that member is
ONLY by following the true path and the only true path is through this
A specific religion faces the same problem and use the same
solution. "There is only one true path to god, that is through us
and all other paths are falsehoods."
I have heard this approach elsewhere. There is only one true low
price and that is through our car dealership. There is only one true
country, so love it or leave it. There is only ONE TRUE WAY TO BE A
WOMAN, and that is through SRS and full time living!
Ask most therapist.
Ask the government.
Ask some preachers within the gender community.
Hell, ask Geraldo!
Obviously, with so many making such a statement, it must be true!
And by definition, all those transgender individuals who do not follow
the 'true' path cannot be women.
Did I say 'by definition'? Yes dears, I sure did. For I have had
'womanhood' defined for me by many of the preachers of the one true
path. They define womanhood as living full time as a woman with female
genitalia. Convenient isn't it. If one believes this definition, the
only way to achieve womanhood is to follow the one true path.
If one does not live full-time, if one has male genitalia or if one
keeps the option of 'escaping' (?) to the male gender when one wishes;
one cannot live the experience being a full woman and therefore cannot
be a woman.
You've all heard of the 'Big Lie'. Well, here it is again. Tell it
often enough and long enough and people will start believing you. The
fact that it is obviously false is irrelevant. First, let's make sure
it is obviously false. I have an easy logic and test. First, the
logic. Gender has been defined, and it is generally agreed to be
'between the ears' while sex is 'between the legs'. If such is true,
the second part of the lie is obviously false. The genitalia in and of
themselves do not define gender. For some, the changing of the
genitalia is necessary to achieve the balance and vision in their
mind, and I cannot object to (and maybe even understand) this
necessity for themselves. But when they try to force their vision on
me or others, I will object strongly. The body is just a receptacle to
carry ones 'self'. It does not define the self and as such, can be of
any form. If my 'self' is woman, how can the fact that my plumbing is
an 'outie' change this? It can't and doesn't. The lie starts to
The definition also requires one to live full time as a woman
without the ability to retreat to a different gender. I guess the
assumption is that somehow this creates a woman where there wasn't one
there before. Although I'm not sure how. It seems somehow attached to
experience. But there is no one experience that defines being a woman.
Who lives more as a woman anyway, the individual who hides in her room
but wears a dress 100% of the time or the individual who takes her
female self out to society and interacts with it in many varied and
rich ways, but only does it for part-time? How does living as a man IN
ADDITION TO living as a woman detract from being a woman? Ah, but the
test I promised. If this definition of womanhood is true, it should
apply to genetic females as well as males. Many females may have less
'woman' experiences than many part time dressers and other woman may
crossdress as well, but I've yet to hear anyone claim they are not
woman because they don't have these experiences or live full time as
women. The rule seems to apply only to genetic men. And if gender is
between the ears, the chromosome pattern of the individual should not
cause an exception to the rule.
So we are faced with a falsehood masquerading as an 'obvious
Why the 'big lie' exist is a bigger question. My best guess is that
it is a fallout result of societies simplification of gender to binary
poles. If the 'big lie' was true, it would still keep gender as a
simplification and hide the 'successful' transgenderist away from
societies view. It is much more difficult to realize that there can be
people who are happy mixing the genders, or having 'conflict' between
body and gender.
But the result is a limitation on ourselves. Rules and ideas that
try to restrict us from finding that life path that is best for each
of us uniquely. No, go back to the basics and search within your self.
Gender is between the ears, and only there can you find out if one is
woman or not. The body and experience are only relevant in how they
form the gender in the mind. Do not believe the 'Big Lie' but find
your own path to womanhood. That path may be the 'true path', because
for some that is the right answer. But it can just as easily be a
different path! Only you can know which route will lead you to your
own needs and self. Ignore the preachers and search it out yourself.
ON A TRUE STORY"
excerpts from the transition diary of Katherine Collins
I am trying to make submissions to The Subversive [Melanie's
gender-oriented cyberzine] which address "the spiritual side of
transsexualism". Several times a week, I write a few thousand
words in my "transition diary", detailing thoughts or
feelings or events. I have been doing it regularly for two years now.
This writing is amazing to look back on. Every phase is so
distinct, every step forward so tentative and yet momentous, and then
so quickly left behind and forgotten as new developments overwhelm the
The "spiritual side" of the transition is proving to be
the most important part of it, but also the most elusive. I am not
forming precepts or coming to definite conclusions. My spiritual
growth is a blind grope down a path I have never imagined; and so what
I want to do is share with the readers of The Subversive some of the
stages of that journey as I have experienced them.
In this and future issues, I propose to publish some edited
excerpts from my diary-not the whole diary, as Melanie is doing, but
in my case only those bits which bear upon spiritual matters (loosely
interpreting that term). You will be spared a lot of my personal
agonies over my appearance and my relationships and my work and
finances, although all of that, too, is of course part of the larger
story of any transsexual's life.
I started seriously working toward my transition in April 1992,
first by just "dressing" part time in public, and, luckily,
finding a partner (now an "ex") who was able to help me
explore my female sexual side. I spent over a year working on my
appearance, in order to make "full time" possible, and now,
since July 1993, am "living full time", taking hormones, and
day by day altering my social persona in the eyes of all who know me.
I am scheduled for "SRS" in September 1994.
In The Subversive #15, I published two diary excerpts from
September and November of 1992; and the first here is from December
1992, as the process began to deepen.
The Door * December 17, 1992
I think that my "trans-gender" status is a very great
gift in my life. Of course it is also a huge hassle and expense, and
sower of confusion and fear-but the gift of it is that I am blessed
with the opportunity to go through a magic door.
I am crossing, back and forth, and straddling, the breach which is
normally thought of as uncrossable, that great divide in creation,
between male and female. I feel the power of this magic opportunity
most clearly when I am out in the natural world. I felt it acutely
when I was on my long, solo Scottish and Portuguese hiking trips, when
there was no human contact for most of the day, and my true inner self
could fall at rest where it naturally lay, instead of being influenced
by people's perceptions of me. I have never felt more undeniably
female-all of the female side of the universe was singing to me,
calling out to me, and I was at home at last, welcomed and at rest.
When out in nature, I feel acutely how wide open is that
"door". I feel that every step I physically take on a path
is a step through the door; I feel male and female nature spirits
around me, guiding me, welcoming me to a wider perception of who I am,
letting me live half in "our" world and half in the spirit
world, where nothing looks physically different, but which is teeming
with those powers we have called fairies, dryads, dybbuks, etc. etc.,
which all fleetingly take a shape only to lose it again.
The essential elements of the universe-dark and light, dead and
alive, male and female-are all one to them, they cross back and forth
in split seconds. As one who is traversing the normally uncrossable, I
am privileged to be a part of this company. This is a great adventure,
something given to only a few, a journey to the unknown, and as great
a quest as there can be in life, to become "other" and
simultaneously attain oneself.
My soul, in this silly human body, is lighting up, coming alive as
never before, traveling outward, reaching intently, becoming more of
all and everything, all at once. It is a giant blessing and gift.
Stumbling In The Darkness * February 7, 1993
This is a night-time experience, not even a reality by the
standards of day. This is another of those half-illusory nights of not
sleeping until dawn, futilely chasing sleep with vodka, valium, and
marijuana, shuffling down the hall, nightgown hem clutched up to my
waist and tripping still; stumbling, bumping into the wall . . . . and
thereby fulfilling one of the forgotten expectations of my youth, that
some day I would be an adult in a big city in the midst of some
complex, obscure, possibly existential dilemma, part of the world of
literature and pills.
But when the grainy 16-millimetre images that fed my youthful
imagination tossed up raddled, tousled, gender-uncertain faces,
wavering between dissolution and absolution, who did I think I would
be? Did I divine that I would stumble down that hall feeling like a
transvestite, or like the archetypal over-the-hill drag queen,
muttering and cursing with her makeup streaming down her face; or some
other debilitated queer? Did I ever think I would stumble down that
hallway feeling like a transsexual, like a creature from some
fantastic fiction? Or like a woman? Or did I think my outlaw
peculiarities would be somehow of a less affronting nature?
Tonight I knew, in some hidden recess of my being, that I had been
destined all this time to come to this-that this is my path, that it
has brought me to that stumble down the hallway in the dark-that it
takes me toward some end which is hidden still, far beyond the
darkness at the end of the hall.
NOTES * February 22, 1993
Last night, I had a very strong vision, about my progress toward
transsexualism. Whether it was wishful thinking, or what, I don't
know; but it is the kind of thing that I usually use as my guide, in
making life decisions. I do rely on my "visions" and
intuition whenever it doesn't seem completely crazy.
It was a very simple vision-simply the knowledge that forward,
toward transsexualism, is the direction toward joy and life; and that
backward, away from it (and therefore toward what?) is the direction
I have long believed that anything that is not growing is
shrinking. There is no such thing as stasis. So that is more or less
the same thing. Transsexualism is growth. Anything else is not, and
therefore is death.
Praying for Magic * February 27, 1993
The other day, I was walking on the street, looking up toward the
sky, through the tree branches, trying to send my spirit higher in a
rather literal sense, as if God and the truth and a sense of wholeness
and rightness might be up there. The act of casting my spirit outward
toward infinity quite simplistically made me feel that I was perhaps a
bit closer to leaving behind the old life, the old male identity; as
if a female identity were something purer and cleaner, more swept by
the wind and clouds, something to purify my gaze and absolve my
imperfections, something to be attained by reaching to a higher,
better, sweeter part of my nature.
Most of that is nonsense, of course. But catching myself with this
unconscious motive suddenly brought back to me a memory which I had
completely forgotten since some time in my childhood. I remember it
absolutely now, as if I had never forgotten it, but I probably have
not thought of it for thirty-five years.
Back at that time in childhood when one still half-believes in
magic-story-book magic, the power of the certain words or the magic
wand-I used to cast my thoughts out and upward, and try to make them
so clear and so strong, and so impossible for the powers of magic to
ignore, that I would by magic be able to make a wish come true. And it
was always the same wish: that I be turned into a girl. I remember
time after time, lying in bed and thinking that I might wake in the
morning and find it true, knowing all the while that it would not be
so, and yet needing that thought as a buoy, something to sustain me as
I went off to sleep in a world where things were inexplicably not
I think I had magic and religion all mixed together as one thing.
Since we were not a religious family, I had no training and no
ideology to give me any clear idea of what prayer was for and about,
or how it was done, but it seems clear to me now that I was praying as
much as I was doing anything else; for what is prayer if not trying to
influence a greater power by the purity of your own desire?
And what was I doing the other day if not the same thing that I did
thirty-five years ago? I was sending my thoughts, and I hoped, my
soul, aloft to be transmuted. Perhaps that is what I am doing every
day, in these writings, in my therapy, in my introspection: trying to
find the magic spell that will not only give me the gift I seek, but
also make it right, make it be God's will, make it be the work of the
fairies who see a pure soul captured in mortal flesh and condescend to
give it, if not freedom, a finer existence.
I want not only what I seek, but the blessing, that I deserve to
Relationship's end: Loving The Wild One * February 27, 1993
Last night, after all day successfully dodging and running from my
sorrow and fear and loneliness, as I got ready for bed, suddenly deep
sorrow and loss could not be avoided. I prepared the wide, empty bed,
and reached in the closet for the pretty white nightgown that Carol
had given me-her first romantic gift to me-and the hurt little girl
inside me started to despair, and to weep; and I clutched the bundled
nightgown to my heart and for a moment vacillated in consciousness
between the little girl and the adult, born-male person . . . .
The fight I had won all day, to remain in control and stay on some
kind of productive work schedule was no longer necessary, nor was
control in general. A moment more of self-conscious weeping, an adult
trying to express something, and then I leaned against the wall, hand
to my brow, and I was gone . . . . Gone. A dream has disappeared,
another one; and perhaps all my other romantic dreams over the years
were really substitutes for this one, dreamed by the little girl-maybe
she is thirteen-who lives inside me, yearning to grow up, yearning for
love and romance and someone she can give herself to. Some words for a
possible song had come to me the night before:
"I put my arms around the sun
When I held you,
My only one . . . . "
That is my predominant impression of my love for Carol-holding her
as I lay down, with her above me; looking up at her, admiring my
prince, my boyfriend, my husband. The Wild One, who could take me
somewhere I had never been; and she loved me for being young and sweet
and pretty. She was above me, like the sky, stretching to every
horizon of my world. She was above me like the sun, shining on me at
last, and I held that sun in my arms so it would shine on me some
And her arms around me bound me to her, so I could let go and fall,
fall all the way down yet never fall away, never hit any bottom
because she held me and so I fell in place, away from care, away from
fear, away from thinking or needing to care, but never away from Carol
because our arms held us together, and our love held us together,
falling together through an infinity; and yet the sun never falls, it
is the centre, and so in all time and space I could look and see I
held my arms in a circle around the sun. A young girl's dream-love to
save me, love to set me free, yet never leave me alone.
One magic night, we visited the Yuba River, and swallowed some
Ecstasy, and at one point ventured out under the wild profusion of
stars in the country night . . . . this was at a time when it was
still novel to me to wear female clothes, and so I felt all my
female-ness spilling out, and I knew Carol felt I was her girl, and
she was my man, so I felt new and bursting with growth, and joyous at
being myself under the whole universe's big eye . . . . and we kissed
under those stars, and she pressed something hard against me through
her clothes and mine . . . . and later we made love and she held me,
and I thought I had gone to heaven.
But it was only a dream. For all the mortal reasons I have
relentlessly analysed elsewhere, no matter what I felt I was getting
from Carol's love, she did not get what she needed from me. The awful
reality intruded, that I did not have a free ride; it was not enough
to let myself go and fall into her grasp. Like all first-love dreams
of girls who fall in love with The Wild One, the dream evaporated,
turned to something harder and sterner and easier to grasp, but as
unwelcome as full daylight after a night of stars. It turned to human
relations, the stuff of the adult world, where there are needs and
compromises and negotiations and realistic understandings.
Last night, the little girl cried. The adult's body was leaning
against the wall, but the little girl was lost, somewhere far away in
grief and mourning, hovering on the lip of falling again, but this
time with no one to hold her, falling into that infinity all by
herself, with no sun in the sky, no arms around anything. The sun had
turned angry, the sun had turned sullen and unwilling, the sun had
turned away and was gone.
The little girl came back, found herself standing in the hall, and
the adult tried to recover and prepare to go to bed.
The little girl had come back just a bit different. Only a little,
but older and wiser, as the expression goes. And the adult realised
that that girl has to continue to live and grow.
At first I thought perhaps she would be gone, if Carol is gone. I
thought she had no life without Carol. But instead I think my time
with Carol has summoned her forth, and she needs to grow, to grow up.
If there is to be a complete adult woman in this body, she will need
an adolescence. The adult's brain is working fairly well, but her
emotional underpinnings are merely vestigial.
As I was slowly descending toward a tense sleep, I found my mind
was back in time, picturing clearly a juncture of my life that was
like a fork in the road. The reason my female self is only now
beginning to grow from about age thirteen is that that was the age
when I had to embark upon one road or another in life-the age of
puberty, of course, and of increasingly gender-specific socialisation.
Not knowing I had any alternative, and more importantly, not knowing I
was making a choice, I went down the path which I can see so clearly
now in retrospect. There is a process which I imagine is more or less
the same for everyone, which I can recall participating in, with its
slow day-by-day effect. That process is the building of one's social
persona, which is related to but not quite the same as one's
In learning how people react to you, you learn who to be. That
which works well, you repeat. That which you feel expresses yourself
clearly and to the effect you wanted, you learn to summon again. That
which people tell you they think you are, you believe. There is
scarcely any other way to know who you are in the world. Who they
think you are becomes who you think you are, and you act as the person
they think you are, which convinces them further that it is true, and
they tell you it is true, and so little by little in some sense that
becomes who you are. You can go your whole life believing that you are
who you have always been.
I developed, from that fork in the road, at age thirteen, into
something that I and others believed was a man. It took me years to
fully comprehend that my inner feeling about myself in the world is
widely divergent from what is usually understood to be the male
So there is another path I can tread; part of my task is to go back
and take that other fork, let that girl be socialised again, this time
in a way that is more pleasing to her tastes and inner balance. In the
meantime, the adult can also learn to live in the world as a woman;
but she will never be whole until the girl catches up, to inhabit her.
A Thoroughly New Bottle * March 14 & 15, 1993
Last night, as I sat in the living room, taking a break from work,
I was dressed in a comfortable skirt and sweater. I was smoking a
cigarette, which I seldom do, and felt, I realised, like a somewhat
different person, sitting there in my feminine clothes, and with my
cigarette poised between my fingers. I suddenly felt a persona inside
of myself which is struggling toward complete existence-the female
persona, of course.
I realised that the female persona is somewhat different from the
male person I have been for so long. I have been writing about the
growth of the young girl inside of me, growing up to inhabit the woman
who I will become; but in fact I have just barely begun to become
acquainted with the female persona. The male must move over and make
room, and then relinquish primacy, and then-what? Disappear
altogether? I don't know-is there some process of assimilation?
In any case, I felt that the habits and attitudes and tastes of the
female person were at that moment quite clear to me. Thus to my
surprise I realised that there is a different person who I may become.
And it suddenly struck me, since I was understanding her as a truly
different person-not just my male self in a skirt-that there is indeed
a very good reason why, nearly universally, transsexuals change their
names-and not just because they don't want to be a woman named Henry.
One begins to understand the new persona as a separate person, with
new, different, characteristics and habits. The taking of a new name
is necessary, because everything and everyone must have a name. So for
the first time, amazed, I seriously contemplated that I may need to do
it, too. Perhaps keeping the old name will be a roadblock to really
admitting the new persona. What changes, and what remains the same, in
a complete transsexual transformation, has so far been a mystery to
me. Now, after last night, it seems perhaps that the old wine of my
spirit-my soul? -- will be getting a more thoroughly new bottle than I
realised. It will not be just the body, the clothes, the carriage; not
even just the emotions, the social assumptions, the spiritual
attitude. It seems it may be the very basic manifestation of the
individual, something which I had thought immutable, the very
"self" which we think of as our core being. This is truly
becoming a re-birth, much more so than I could have ever imagined.
I have thought I could keep the old name, because it is not
particularly gender-specific. Perhaps I still may, but this is
something at least to consider. My spirit has inhabited the male
person for so long-and the male is now a bit reluctant to let go, I
think. Will it fight to keep the old name, and if so, is it fighting
to retain primacy, when it must let go?
Should I change my name to Katherine? That is clearly the name that
awaits me if I choose to change it. My fictional "Katie"
character has always been my surrogate. (Could I change my name and,
since it is already established, let my male name be a pen name? That
could lead to a very odd, schizoid life.)
This remains to be seen. But I do already know that I had better
let Katherine in. And I may be performing a more profound act than I
can possibly know.
Copyright 1994 Katherine Collins
On A True Story" (Other Thoughts)
excerpts from the transition diary of Katherine Collins
Introductory note * November 15, 1993
Somehow Melanie and I cooked up the idea that I would make
submissions to The Subversive, which addressed "the spiritual
side of transsexualism". Ever since we agreed to that, I have
been wondering what form to give it. It is not that I have nothing to
say on that subject, but rather, far too much.
Several times a week, I write a few thousand words in my
"transition diary", detailing thoughts or feelings or
events. I have been doing it regularly for almost two years now. This
writing is amazing to look back on. Every phase is so distinct, every
step forward so tentative and yet momentous, and then so quickly left
behind and forgotten as new developments overwhelm the old.
Inevitably, I hope to have the resultant bulky tome published at some
point - heavily edited, one hopes, perhaps with garden shears.
The -spiritual side+ of the transition is proving to be the most
important part of it, but also the most elusive. I am not forming
precepts or coming to definite conclusions. My spiritual growth is a
blind grope down a path I have never imagined; and so what I want to
do is share with the readers of The Subversive some of the stages of
that journey as I have experienced them. In this and future issues, I
propose to publish some edited excerpts from my diary - not the whole
diary, as Melanie is doing, but in my case only those bits which bear
upon spiritual matters. So you will be spared a lot of my personal
agonies over my appearance and my relationships and my work and
finances, although all of that, too, is of course part of the larger
story of any transsexual's life.
I started seriously working toward my transition in April 1992,
first by just "dressing" part time in public, and, luckily,
finding a partner (now an "ex") who was able to help me
explore my female sexual side. I spent over a year working on my
appearance, in order to make "full time" possible, and now,
since July 1993, am "living full time", taking hormones, and
day by day altering my social persona in the eyes of all who know me.
These first two excerpts are from September and November of 1992,
when I had just recently started therapy and electrolysis, and the
whole process was still all new.
Excerpt One: "Splinters of the Infinite" * Sept. 1, 1992
It never ends now. This transition is on my mind nearly all the
time. It takes a lot of my energy, just thinking about it; and more
energy, doing anything about it.
Day by day I see the new self emerging - sometimes summoned forth
through applications of makeup and through careful dressing - and
sometimes simply there, by surprise, staring me in the face from the
I am getting used to it, but it is also an astonishing situation.
Sometimes it feels as if I have fallen into a dream, as if everything
I am saying is the fantastic prattle of dreams, and that I shall
awaken and shake myself and say, how incredible.
I look at myself in the mirror and realize how deeply into this
dream I have fallen. It is infinite, like the reflected galleries of a
hall of mirrors - the reality of my profound changes reverberates
through my personal time and space, altering my relationship with the
world, and with the cosmos. The dream is deep and multi-layered, and
new meanings flash as one rounds every corner. And the infinite speaks
back, and like the mirror, affirms what I know is there. It says,
"Yes, I know." And it says, "Yes".
I had two visions - splinters of the infinite, sent my way, and
through me. They are among the more palpable of the affirmations I
have been receiving.
Both came to me in the same evening, several hours apart. Both came
while I was being held by Carol.
The first: suddenly I was present in another time and place, in
another body, in another life, in almost another world. It was the
early days of civilisation, in Mesopotamia or Sumeria. We were thin
brown people, Carol and I, poor, in a hot dry land. This harshness was
to us simply the human condition, and our comfort was that my scrawny
female body was being held by my husband, who was also small and thin
and who loved me and wanted to make love with me.
And peculiar words came to me - "At last my bones are wanted
upon this earth."
I don't think I have ever felt before that my body, and my self, as
one, were welcomed and desired. I have been ill at ease on earth, like
an unwanted guest. Inhabiting that brown body, so nearly nothing but
bones, and its bones so nearly just another bit of brittle debris in a
dry landscape, paradoxically made me feel more desired, and more at
home in the world as a woman, than if I had suddenly been transformed
into a buoyant pin-up queen. I was desired from the bones outward. My
husband's arms around the frail package which held my soul gave me a
sense of completeness, which echoed through to today, from the life of
that person I perhaps once was, to the life of the person I am
Later - much later - lost in the wilds and visions of sexual
energy, I felt strength and power running through me. My articulate
imagination labeled it for me, with symbols I already knew. I knew
them, but had never felt them within me before.
It was the female energy which in Puritan times was labeled as
witchcraft. It is that energy which women today are reclaiming, and
dedicating to the Goddess, and channeling through themselves once
again. The symbols were of the supernatural: of spirits and fairies
and magic, of demons, and of the dead and the living. They came from
somewhere on or near the earth, and arched their way, through me,
toward the sky. The dead yawned toward the heavens, and the living
were rooted in the earth, and all the spirits between were in a
twisting cycle, with energy far beyond my control.
I have no rational understanding of what I felt, of what came
through me. It was a gift, for a moment, which I hope I will receive
I think there is no turning back in this process; it's far too late
for that and I am far too certain of my direction. So whether it is
all a dream, or stark reality, I am living it now.
Excerpt Two: "Ghosts In The Hall" * November 20, 1992
I feel a marked dissonance with my own body. Saying that, I realise
it is almost the textbook definition of what being trans-gendered is
all about. Still, it is currently disturbing me more than it has in
quite a while. I catch sight of myself in the mirror - in either
women's or men's clothes - and I am shaken. The appearance is so far
from what I feel I am, that it is discouraging and depressing.
Despite the success of my hair additions, which give me a full,
bushy head of long hair, when I look at my face in the mirror I see
behind that to the greying, balding, middle-aged man which is my
natural appearance. This dissonance is repeated when I survey my
entire body, and see the portly stomach of the middle-aged man.
Then the dissonance rises to a din, when I hear the voices of those
girls and women I might have been, but have never been, and will never
They are like ghosts running through the halls of my apartment.
They surround me and follow me. Sometimes they follow faithfully like
a shadow but of a different shape, and sometimes they run off in some
other direction. At times I can follow - but other times I definitely
I have written before, at least briefly, about the feeling of
having missed out on the childhood, the girlhood, that I wish I had
had - and the adolescence, and the young womanhood. Instead I had some
other life - not quite somebody else's, exactly, as I certainly lived
it and made it mine. And it made me its own, to some extent. But it
was not the life that I should have had, and it detracted from
connection with a great many parts of myself.
It is, to say the least, challenging to develop as a middle-aged
woman without having been a girl and a young woman. One of the missed
connections was with my own sexuality. And now, only recently, one
major way that I have been thrown face-to-face with my "lost
selves", with the girls and women I "should have been",
has been through sexuality. Its sly budding, that I missed having as a
girl and a woman, I seem now to be having. And through it, I can
experience and express the many unfulfilled young personae that I find
in myself. I can live them out to some extent.
Even the fears help. Like any young girl, I feel a tremulous fear
of the power of sex; but also a reluctance to turn away from it. I
feel small and powerless before it, and yet it is coming from me, or
through me. It is especially bewildering that my sexuality has the
ability to affect others. My fears, my hesitation, my clumsy lack of
experience, my confusion and embarrassment, are all conspiring to
locate me, psychologically, in the mind of a young girl.
No part of this "transformation" process has been
anything I have expected in advance, or could have predicted. I
certainly did not imagine this - the inhabiting of myself by a young
girl's undeveloped self. This can be wonderful, and I'm sure it is
"healthy", but it is also adding to the uncomfortable
dissonance between my inner self-image and my outer appearance. It is
not my aim, as a middle-aged transsexual, to generally try to live in
the world as a teenage girl. This would add infinitely greater
absurdity to a social persona which is already going to be hard enough
to integrate into the larger society.
The everyday self wants to continue as an adult being, able to
handle the rigours of career and social relationships, and of
intellectual perception. But the inner self is hungering for
experiences - social, not just sexual - which I have not had. I want
to get the affirmations I never had as a young person: to be seen and
perceived and related to as a tender, budding young woman; to have my
sweetness and romanticism, and desire to be pretty and have innocent
fun, be perceived as part of a young female personality.
Every experience of maturation that I have had, I had as a
"young man". To actually have those experiences again, this
time as a young woman, is of course impossible. But as a replacement,
now a powerful magnet exists in anything that is able to tell me,
intellectually or intuitively, what it has been like for others and
therefore what it might have been like for me.
In part, I am absorbing other people's memories, in order to have a
past. I sometimes feel like the character of Rachel, in the movie
"Blade Runner". She was a manufactured being, a
pseudo-human, who was given someone else's memories so that she would
believe she is "real". For years I have been reading fiction
and memoirs by women, at first quite unconsciously choosing it, and
have been gaining at least a bit of fellow-feeling with adult women.
Recently, the experiences of younger girls have become more vital
to me. In a period of a couple of days, I saw a movie ("The
Lover") about a 15-year-old girl's sexual and romantic awakening,
and then began reading a memoir of the Beat Generation, in which Joyce
Johnson vividly recalls her 13-year-old self, uncertainly exploring
the world of artists and bohemians.
I sat in bed and read it, captured, as page by page she grows older
and her experiences broaden, and I got further inside the details of
the life of a girl in New York in the fifties. A spell deepened, which
I did not want to disturb, either by stopping reading or by stopping
to think too closely. I felt that the hall of my apartment was full of
ghosts, moving back and forth. They were an almost overwhelming crowd.
The spirits of girls and women had come forth and were a discourse, a
traffic, a colloquium and communion of women, oblivious to me
specifically, but connected to me, available to me, open to me as one
of them. Were they archetypal people, or other people, or fragments of
people? Or were they ages and aspects of myself, persons for all the
days of my life in which my female self lived silent and dormant? I
have no answer, but that day I was immersed in them, in a warm sea,
and they seemed to be passing through my skin, imbuing me with their
Perhaps a lot of fragments of people, of personae, are slowly
accumulating - all of those things which I might have been, all those
experiences I might have had, all adding up. Will they make a whole
person whom I can understand some day? Can I ever catch up on all that
lost time? Can I, if not re-make my past, at least have a coherent
sense of what it might have been, who I might have been, and therefore
who I am now?
I need, if not to have a female past, then at least to have gone
through layers of growth that can get me to a place of being female as
an adult. I cannot leap from male to female, full-grown.
This process does not solve the problem of the physical dissonance,
and may in fact make it worse. But I cannot deny the vividness with
which I am absorbing new realities, through other people as well as
through my own experiences. I know of the ghosts in the hall, in the
room, all around me at times, inside me at times.
_ 1993 Katherine Collins
"ARE GENDER SUPPORT GROUPS SELF
by Denise Anne Fell
As I write this, I freely admit that I have never had the so called
benefit of a support group. From the observations that I have made, I
feel that I am fortunate in that respect.
The idea behind a support group for any reason is wonderful,
especially in an area as touchy as gender problems, however, from
things that I have seen and heard, I also believe that they can be
very damaging to individuals that attend the meetings. I believe that
in order for a support group to work, there must be a leader. Not one
of the girls, but someone who is far ahead of the others, or even
better a member of the medical profession that has knowledge in the
area of transsexualism. The second and perhaps the most important
thing is total and complete honesty. Granted, the idea behind a
support group is to offer support to each member, however, building
false hopes and not being honest in order to make another person feel
good at that particular moment can have far reaching consequences.
It is one thing to leave your home or apartment in the dark and go
to a meeting in a dimly lit room and tell each other how good everyone
looks. When reality strikes and that individual has to go out and face
the world in broad daylight it becomes another story.
I wonder how many transsexuals, who are appearing in public for the
first time will handle being laughed at by some little teenage girl.
It happens and I can tell you from experience, it hurts. It can
shatter your self confidence. It can make you doubt your ability and
it can drive some that are close over the edge.
In addition to the comradely from these meetings, a time should be
set aside to discuss current problems and issues involving the members
as a group or transsexuals in general. Members should set up times
when guest speakers can attend. Get someone to come in and give makeup
demonstrations. Mary Kay and Avon should be more than happy to send a
representative to show proper techniques. Have someone knowledgeable
in wig styles come in and explain how to properly choose a wig. One
that will not only match your skin tone, but will enhance your facial
features. Sometimes what we think looks best is actually the worst for
our features. These people have the knowledge to help the entire group
succeed in their goal of becoming a woman or man.
One of the most important things that the members of a group can do
is to learn to give and even more important accept constructive
criticism. Above all be honest, it is better to hurt a members
feelings in the security of a safe group than to fill that individual
full of false hope only to have it broken into a million pieces when
they first venture out into the world by themselves for the first
Last semester I returned to college for the first time in 15 years.
I had two purposes in coming back after all these years. One, I wanted
to take a psychology class to help me understand what the
"scientific" community thought of transsexualism and the
differences in brain sex. Two, I wanted to "undo" my bad
memories of college as a man and replace them with a college
experience as a woman.
I did not know how my age might affect my social status, nor was I
really sure how to be "one of the girls" in an educational
setting. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. College these
days is filled with people seeking second careers as the job market
shrivels, so I was not alone in my bracket. Besides, I'm rather with
it for a 40 year old chick (except I keep using dated phrases like
Anyway, I felt so much more comfortable this time around than I had
before. One girl came over and introduced herself on the first day and
we decided to be study partners. She was the first close girlfriend I
ever had who did not know my past. We went several places together
over the course of the semester: breakfast at IHOP, study sessions,
shopping for bras, etc. That's why it was a tough decision to tell her
about my past.
About this time in class, we were studying the nature of
relationships. We learned that there is a significant difference
between the factors that make a good short term relationship and what
is needed to create a long term relationship. In the short term, first
impressions are VERY important and very hard to overcome. However, in
the long run, a relationship can only survive if the parties make
"self disclosure" about all the things, good and bad, that
surround their lives. If one wants to take a friendship from casual to
close, one must disclose.
I fretted over the decision for weeks, knowing that I would not
feel honest and could not let the friendship grow without coming
clean. Yet, I did not want to jeopardize my relationship with the
first woman to accept me as an equal. Close to the end of the
semester, honesty won out. I waited until an appropriate moment, then
told her as we walked back to my car, as I was taking her home that
day. The way I filled her in was by letting her read two of my
psychology assignments in which I had referred to my transition.
For the briefest of moments she was taken aback, but after just a
few minutes, it was like I had told her something that brought us even
closer. She saw none of the old me and simply felt honored that I had
chosen to share with her.
Bolstered by this, I decided to take a chance and share with the
entire class - partly for honesty, partly for curiosity, partly to get
ready for the expected scrutiny of the press I will experience as a
result of the software I co-designed, and partly to gather some
data that might help others in similar situations.
I approached the teacher, who was also my counselor and therefore
already new my past. He said I could have a full class period to
lecture on transsexualism. On the appointed day, he began with a brief
discussion of human sexuality, then said, "We are fortunate to
have with us in this class someone who has gone through the
transsexual experience." Everyone looked around to see who it
was. I got up and noted the surprised faces.
I gave a 40 minute presentation to good effect and received many
words of praise for my courage, honesty, and success in transition. I
had no negative effects after the class, and was involved in many more
conversations, with both men and women that I had been for the
previous part of the semester.
This experience alone is useful, but I realized at the time that
hard data was even more important. So, before I started my
presentation, I asked everyone in class to take out a sheet of paper
and anonymously put down their feelings as I went through my lecture.
At the end of the class, I collected their comments. I reprint here as
a guide to what civilians think of transsexuals when forced to
confront the issue in an unexpected moment.
"As a human to another human, I admire your openness. I think
your intelligence helps carry across your story without shocking the
listener. You carry yourself with such confidence that I feel
comfortable asking you questions. As you noticed I used the word
human. This is because I see you as a person, like me. Therefore your
accomplishments mean more to me than your sexuality and I don't
believe you need to "out" yourself unless it makes you feel
"I admire you for doing what you did because you really wanted
to and you did! I don't think any different about you, but its nice
that you're happy. Thank you, Melanie! You should be a guest speaker
in many classes. I learned a lot.
"Surprised! NO WAY! I never knew anyone who was a transsexual.
I'm glad you didn't relate to little boys because they turn out (most
of the ones I knew) to be jerks! Sorry about generalizing! Honestly,
it was scary to hear about it at first. But if you're happy, that's
great! I want to find out what your name was as a man. You seem so
much happier as you talk about the change."
"I never would have guessed it. It's amazing how well you took
your whole ordeal. You also seem to know so much about the subject of
sexuality. Have you ever thought about teaching in a university?"
"There's a million things going on in my mind, but I'm just
completely shocked. I've never met anyone that was a transsexual. I
don't know what to say. I never thought that I could accept someone
like you, but I do. I give you a lot of credit for doing what you did
and what you are doing. Good luck with your life!"
"It's your choice to do what ever you want, but I was always
taught to live with what God gave you. After looking at your pictures,
I really don't believe everything that you are saying. But I wish you
happiness and a long, good life."
"I would never have known that you had gone through
transsexual surgery. It is surprising, however, does not change the
opinion I have of you from what I have seen. I can't imagine how
difficult this must have been for you. I find it very interesting the
feelings you had throughout life. As I sit here and look at you I
can't believe you were a man. I would imagine it is interesting to see
how people treated you as a man vs. how you are now treated as a
woman. I think it's great that you are happy and feel comfortable
sharing your experience with us."
"I found the lecture very interesting. I find that you're very
comfortable with your new identity and I think that's great."
And the professor wrote:
"The students are RIVETED. Interested that you fantasized
about being female at age 7. Your presentation is very matter-of-fact,
so not so scary or sensationalized. "Picking the birth control
pills out of the mayonnaise" really legitimizes your actions -
that really shows me the depth. You will be interested in 'cognitive
style mapping' which is a developing discipline within educational
My conclusions, based both on what I learned in theory and what I
experienced in fact, is that the more you are comfortable with
yourself, the more others will be comfortable with you. As for telling
vs. not telling, I think honesty will always win out on the average.
As for when to tell, first impressions ARE very important. Don't wear
a sandwich board advertising your change. But when you have grown to
know someone and feel the friendship might have long-term potential,
then its time to tell. It may blow the whole thing out of the water,
but better at the end of a short term relationship than in the middle
of a long term one.
So, gather what you can from this experiment in disclosure, and
please send in any experiences you have that can guide others to be
more secure in their decisions.
Here are the two psych papers I let me friend read in order to
share my past with her:
As a transsexual, I needed to develop a whole new set of reactions
and behaviors that were both socially appropriate to my new role and
at the same time true to myself. I soon found that the difficult part
was not in changing my actions, but changing the way I organized my
thoughts from years of "training" as a male. I decided to
employ a combination of Classical Conditioning and Cognitive Learning.
Unlike Pavlov, I could not directly stop the conditions stimulus
that led to each conditioned mannish thought and wait for extinction,
as I was not aware of the stimulus until after the thought occurred.
But I could in each instance identify the stimulus and create a second
order conditioned response of a new thought that I cognitively
attached directly to the first order stimulus by connecting them
together in an association. I would hold or repeat the new thought in
contingency with the stimulus (essentially rehearsing the association)
until I felt it had set into long-term memory.
Eventually, the new conditioned responses had been experienced more
than the old in reference to the same stimuli, and slowly began to
supplant them. Over a period of time, my mind adopted an entirely new
wet of "appropriate" conditioned responses.
but a real surprise came when I read an article one day about the
history of elementary school children visiting the old Griffith Park
zoo. The article had pictures of several of the classes from my time
in school. I began to look and see if I could find myself in one of
the pictures, and then I stopped, amazed at myself. I suddenly
realized I had been looking for a little girl.
Apparently, in the process of transferring the connection of
stimuli from old Conditioned Responses to new Conditioned Responses, I
had also diminished old memory cues and created new ones as well. From
one pathway at least, I had experienced cue dependent forgetting in my
long-term memory, but more startling than that, I had actually created
a new cue pathway to the same memory that altered my understanding of
reality. In a sense, I had rewritten my past.
As a transsexual, deciding if and when to tell others about my past
is an area of much concern. In my first job as a woman, I did not
share my background with other employees. I was accepted, but I felt I
was lying to them. So at my next job I was upfront with everyone, but
they were cold and stilted. However, I could not tell if it was their
rejection or my insecurity.
This was one of my major reasons for returning to college after a
twenty year absence: to make some new friends as a woman. but just how
much could I loosen up and still keep my secret? As I began to relax
and be myself, due to the effects behind Skinner's "Cyrano"
study, any non-typical behavior was accepted as Opinion Molecules, and
did not influence their assessment of my gender. Also, Solomon Asch's
study of conformity came into play as the tendency toward conformity
in the social atmosphere made it unlikely that anyone would mention
anything should they suspect. This was aided by the Fundamental
Attribution Error, which led them to assign the causes of any oddness
in my demeanor to my disposition, not my situation.
To test this, I intentionally lowered my voice farther each day
over a one week period in Psychology. I finally saw some curious
glances and backed off to my original level. I had reached a MUCH
lower voice than I could have with people who did not know me. The
Primacy Effect in conjunction with Conformance and Attribution gave me
much greater leeway than I would have in a "cold" crowd.
These factors all served to support Familiarity as the second most
important factor in short term relationships, and allowed me to loosen
up a bit in my demeanor.
But I still felt incomplete in that I could not share my first
thirty-six years. I determined to discover how important First
Impressions truly are by developing some "test"
relationships. I began performing at a local coffee house some weeks
ago until they got to know me. Last night I delivered a five minute
stand-up comedy routine as the "world's first transsexual
comedienne." The reaction was initially one of startled surprise,
but then admiration and comraderie. Best of all, I could be myself and
still be accepted. Apparently, the Primacy Effect makes it better to
give people a chance to know you first. In addition, because I no
longer look, sound, or act like a man, the Recency Effect is
diminished when I finally do disclose, as the only Cognitive
Dissonance is in their knowledge not their observations.
But what about long term relationships with people I want to have
as close friends? By far, the most important factor in a long term
relationship is Self Disclosure. This leads me to believe that
eventually sharing my past will not only free me to express all that I
am, but is a prerequisite to any meaningful relationships to come.
Certainly there will be an attrition rate of those who cannot deal
with it, but those who remain will truly be my friends.
Disability and the Transsexual
by Denise Anne Fell
Two subjects that currently are considered hot on the talk show
circuit are disabilities and transsexuals or gender issues in general.
Yet these are two subjects that are considered different and separate.
Take into consideration a disabled transsexual. Is there any reason
that a disabled person should not be allowed to have their dreams of
becoming the person they were meant to be. What comes first? The
disability or transsexualism. Interesting question. It is my intention
to show that a physical disability should not deter one from reaching
out and grabbing their dreams. I am such a person. I am bilateral
amputee. To say the least this has made my transition to date most
My background is no different from any of the older transsexuals on
this board. I dreamed of being a woman from early childhood. I
experimented with dressing whenever I could and being the oldest and
assigned baby sitting duties I was afforded the opportunity on
I grew up in the 50's and early 60's. However, during this time
this was not a subject for discussion. It might have been discussed
behind closed doors, but as I grew up I felt that I was the only
person in the world that felt this way. I honestly believed that if I
told anyone of this desire I would be locked up for the rest of my
life. It was a very frightening and confusing time of my life.
I grew up doing what society expected me to do. I was a male and to
my knowledge at that time there was absolutely nothing that I could do
about that. I dropped out of high school at the young and tender age
of 18 and joined the U.S. Navy and went off to boot camp. I had my GED
Equivalency Diploma months before my class graduated and I eventually
ended up on submarines. This is something that had always fascinated
me. The Silent Service. The exploits of some of the World War II
submarines and submarine commanders were legendary. I felt that I had
found my notch in life.
One day while visiting a local bookstore I found the book that I
was looking for ("The Man With The Golden Gun") and on the
next rack a book that caught my eye and forever changed my life. I
found Christine Jorgensen's autobiography. The cover caught my eye and
I read and re read this book. The relief to find that I was not alone.
My years in the Navy continued and I received a medical discharge
on October 1, 1975. The doctors had diagnosed me with a bilateral knee
disorder because I had pain in my knees and I was falling down. This
was the beginning of a long road of self-discovery, not only to find
out what the physical problem was, but finding out who I was.
My marriage ended. I lost my children and I was miserable. My first
attempt of discovering who I was failed. My parents totally rejected
the person known as Theresa. This was the first name that I chose.
The condition kept getting worse. I had more episodes of falling
down and was eventually put into leg braces and crutches to get
around. At that point the crutches were more for balance than anything
I began to have other physical problems. I began to lose bladder
and bowel control. It became more and more difficult for me to get
around on braces and crutches and I began to get painful spasms that
would cause me to wake up at night screaming in pure agony.
The doctors tried all the medications (beta blockers) on the market
for blocking spasms originating in the spinal cord. I had adverse
reactions to all of them. I was at convinced that I was going to spend
the rest of my life in pain or zonked out on prescription pain
relievers. I was taking large doses of Tylox or Percocet just to get
I was then told about a procedure that could help stop the spasms.
This is called a rhizomoty. This is where the nerves in the spinal
cord are burned with radio waves and it is used to help control severe
spasms. The only problem being that the nerves can regenerate if they
are not burned completely through. I had two such procedures. The
procedure is extremely painful and in my case did not last.
About 18 months after the second rhizomoty the spasms returned and
the pain was even worse as the nerve impulses were traveling through
damaged nerves. I was tired of the pain and I was tired of no help
from the Veterans Administration. I went to a private neurosurgeon
with my health insurance and after consulting with him I was given two
choices. They were a cordectomy or amputation of the lower legs.
Not an easy decision to say the least. Two things helped me make up
my mind. Keep in mind at the time I was living as a male, trying to be
the person that society wanted me to be. I was not happy, but everyone
else was. From my experience in playing wheelchair basketball I knew
that people with a complete spinal cord lesion had some very bad
problems. The worst being loss of sensation and the pressure sores
that were caused by this. Also, I would have lost the ability to have
sex. Not a real important issue, but still something to be considered.
I opted for amputation.
On September 6, 1990 my legs were amputated through the knees. The
amputation is called knee disarticulation and I went home from the
hospital 4 days later. I was sore, but I was healing.
I went to some physical therapy and learned to walk on prosthesis,
but they proved to be cumbersome and not practical as they were so
heavy. I opted for using a wheelchair. I was far more mobile and it
really gave me greater freedom.
My life really turned to the pits and I began to realize that the
only thing that was going to make me happy was to be me. It took quite
a while, but in early May 1992 I wrote the doctor that had interviewed
me and accepted me for SRS years before and told him that I was ready
to get on with the program.
I received my hormones and gave myself the first injection on May
20, 1992 with the second on June 6, 1992. The injections then followed
every other week to this date. After the first couple of injections I
really began to feel a sense of well being. I also began to experience
the first mood swings. Nothing bad, just wanting to cry for no reason,
etc. Life was certainly getting interesting. I also had a lot of
tenderness around the nipples and was getting some slight swelling.
In less than 4 months I had so much swelling that it became obvious
that something was happening to me. I was letting my hair grow and
people began pointing fingers and whispering. I knew that it was time
to do something so I went to mid-level management and told my story.
In short, I was told that I could begin my transition on my job and
that I would not be harassed. My co- workers were told and a tentative
date was set for me to begin my Real Life Test. I actually began 4
days earlier than originally planned.
I can honestly say that one of the hardest things that I have ever
done was go through the back door of the Federal Building on November
12, 1992. This is the day that Denise made her debut to the world. I
went straight from work to the mall and rolled up and down several
times. It was a Thursday afternoon and the mall was basically empty. I
watched and I noticed nobody staring or giggling. It gave me a
wonderful self confidence boost. I have lived for almost one year as a
disabled female. My outlook on life is great. I am accepted as a
woman. My greatest pleasure comes when I am addressed as Miss Fell.
I will admit that there are things that I cannot do. I cannot walk
in high heels and I can't walk and watch my breasts bounce, and they
are large enough to bounce. I can't change my own light bulbs, but I
could not do that before I went full time. My point is that I honestly
believe that a disability should not prevent a person working towards
their goal. It does not matter if it something simple or something as
complex as being accepted for SRS.
In my situation, I knew who I wanted to be, I became disabled and
now I am on the verge of achieving this life long dream. A disability
can come into someone's life unexpectedly anywhere along the way. I
sometimes refer to able bodied people as TABs (Temporally Able Bodied)
because you never know when you will take a fall, be hit by a drunk
driver or be struck by a disease that can change your life forever.
The experience that I have gained has given me great insight. I
look at life and I have come to some conclusions regarding the gender
issues. I speak from experience. Although a transsexual does in fact
diagnosis their own disorder, it should never be done without guidance
from a trained professional. No matter what your background is. If you
are a doctor, nurse, lawyer, psychologist, etc. You should seek
guidance from an outside source. There could be far more involved than
just gender issues. Also, one should never experiment with hormones
without medical guidance. Hormones are a very dangerous drug and they
are nothing to be played around with. You can kill yourself or cause
great bodily harm. I know a PhD that is writing a book on hormones and
the transsexual. In cases where excessive hormones are taken, taking
female hormones can actually work the opposite and masculinize your
body, doing more harm than good. This is just a word of caution.
In closing I would like to say that a physical disability or even
your physical appearance should not deter you from reaching your
goals. There are lots of disabled and quite homely generic females out
there. Seek professional help with your hair, your makeup, etc. Most
of this help is free of charge. All you have to do is be honest with
the sales person and ask. You will be surprised on how helpful sales
people can be. Remember, you may have to work a little harder to reach
your goal, but it makes it all the sweeter when you reach it.
I've gone through nearly five years since the first moment I
seriously considered becoming a woman. I've had hormone therapy, RLT,
SRS and learned to pass so well, that close friends are amazed if I
tell them of my past. I get wolf whistles, horn honks and heads
turning most everywhere I go. So what is it that makes me still feel
like a man in woman's clothing?
No matter how successful I was, no matter how accepted I became, I
still could not shake that inner feeling that something was missing,
that somehow I was not the same as other women. And I desperately
wanted to be. What more could I do? What else could I be?
Then it hit me: You can't become someone only by being like they
are, but must also NOT be like they AREN'T.
What does this mean? It means that people and roles are not only
defined by what the INCLUDE but also by what they EXCLUDE. But for me,
this goes against the grain! Becoming a woman should be an ADDITION to
my life, not a DELETION of any sort!
Any yet, I knew it was true. All I had to do was look around me at
some of the other TVs and TSs I knew. How many times have you seen a
gorgeous CD who slinks up to the bar and says, "Gimme a
beer!"? There may be any number of ways a woman might order a
drink, but that is definitely not one of them! The point being, this
person had done all the right things to be completely passable, but
had ALSO done something that was specifically not part of the role.
This is fine for passing, but what about for my mental state? Was
there something I was doing MENTALLY that I needed to stop?
Yes there was. I was keeping the memory of Dave alive.
You see, all through transition, especially AFTER surgery, I
enjoyed my new role by constantly comparing it to the old. Every
morning when I awoke, my hands would find their way to the new
smoothness between my legs and I would smile, thinking back to how it
USED to be and how much better it was now. Then, throughout the day,
every time a stranger accepted me, every time I attracted the interest
of a man, I thought about how that never would have happened before,
and the strangeness that it should happen now. What irony! What magic!
What a mistake!!!
I was engaging in a mental activity that no woman has ever gone
through. My whole euphoric experience was built on patterns of thought
that were not appropriate to the feminine role. I had been everything
a woman MUST be, but was still being something they MUST NOT! In a
sense, I had not become a woman at all, but only a very successful
But to give that up! To let go of that comparison that brought so
much pleasure. What an emotional loss! Did I really want to do that?
Who would know but me. Who, indeed....
Suddenly I realized that all through transition I had been telling
everyone I met that I used to be a guy. I even carried an old photo of
a bearded me in my purse to whip out and shock people. I enjoyed that.
To me it was measurement of my success as to just how shocked they
were. Every time it happened, I felt so PROUD of myself - so
accomplished - so SPECIAL. And therein lies the problem. If I based my
"specialness" on having been a man, that man would always be
a part of me.
I had a lot of justifications for telling, of course. Mostly, it
seemed the only truly honest thing to do. After all, I really WAS a
man before, and wouldn't it be lying to keep it hidden? In fact, the
closer the friend, the bigger the lie it would be.
Well, from a logical standpoint, that is true. Physically, I WAS a
man. But what about the emotional side? Did I ever FEEL like a man,
no. Did I ever THINK like a man, no. Did I ever THINK OF MYSELF as a
man, no. I never felt like a woman either, but only because I didn't
know what a woman was supposed to feel like. But for sure, I never
felt like a man.
And what was my purpose here? To revel in a job well done? To have
a way to become the center of attention at any party? Surely those are
interesting powers and temptations, but was it what I really wanted
for my life? Was it the kind of person I had fought so hard to be? No.
Then what was I to do? Did I need to hit myself over the head and
become an amnesiac, waking up in some unknown park, wandering the
streets of a strange city, then begin a new life never knowing of my
male past? Maybe in the Twilight Zone, but not in Burbank. They don't
allow that kind of thing here.
So how do you go about intentionally forgetting something anyway?
Well, it depends on what you are trying to forget. Okay, then, what
was I trying to forget? That I ever was a man? Not really... I don't
think I could EVER forget THAT! What then? What else was there? If not
facts... Ah! That was it! I didn't want to forget the I WAS a man, I
wanted to forget what it FELT like to be a man!
All right... so how do you go about forgetting feelings? Well,
actually, it happens by itself. The more you find yourself separated
from situations that created those feelings, the less you will
remember them UNLESS YOU CONSCIOUSLY KEEP THOSE MEMORIES ALIVE.
That was my problem, I had not let go. I was constantly
regenerating those feelings by the very act of comparing the present
ones to the old ones. Each time I did this I dredged up the old
feelings and gave them new life.
The solution was simple: let it go.
Once I realized this, implementation was easy. When I awoke each
morning, I still might examine the female nature of my body, but not
so that I might compare, rather so I might simply enjoy it for what it
was. On the street I would simply smile to myself in response to a
wolf whistle because it made me feel good to be attractive. At work,
my conversations lingered less and less on the gender aspects of my
history and more on the things I had done, the place I had gone, and
the current and future activities I was engaged in.
And I made a commitment: to begin to lie. No longer will I share my
story with new friends or acquaintances. Depending on the situation,
there are some who will find out, either by circumstance or from
others, but they will NOT FIND OUT FROM ME. When I speak of my past, I
will no longer temper the truth by saying, "when I was a
child", but will bold-faced state "when I was a little
girl" AND MEAN IT. Because although it may be a lie in terms of
logic, it is God's honest truth in terms of feelings.
This week I have made an appointment to change my school records to
Melanie from Dave, and I am beginning the process of altering my birth
certificate and obtaining a legal name change. I have spoken with a
counselor, and will be registering for the spring semester for
continuing education at the community college. On Monday, I'm calling
Parks and Recreation to find out how I can volunteer to help backstage
at the local amateur theatre. And all of the new people I meet will
only know me as Melanie.
Does this mean I will no longer write about transition and gender
or no longer be involved in the community? No, the KNOWLEDGE I gained
is valuable and is the basis for my current and future career. I
intend to expand my efforts in these areas and explore the
relationships between the genders as far as I can. But all this will
be done under the name that I was born with, whereas all my personal
relationships will know me only under my step-father's name that I
have used since I was nine.
It may not be a perfect solution, but with the nature of my work
and my career, a perfect solution is not possible. Yet it is a far
better solution than I HAD been employing.
Now... now that all this is said and done, how do I FEEL? I feel
like all the woman I ever wanted to be, because although I know I used
to be a man, I can't seem to remember what it used to feel like.
Every transsexual gets caught up in the "Cinderella
Syndrome", picturing a prince on a white steed sweeping her off
her feet. Unfortunately, fantasies don't happen as often as realities,
so it is always a thrill when a guy comes onto you, especially the
first few times. The problem is, you have the body of a woman and the
experience level of a little girl. It doesn't matter how sophisticated
you were in the old role, none of that applies now. So as a new woman
you are extremely vulnerable to male attentions.
My first encounter with a pick-up artist was before surgery as I
was shopping in the shoe department at K-Mart. I was wholly focused on
which heels to wear with my new white dress for my 20th
High School Reunion, when an accented voice broke my concentration.
"Too many different styles", the voice said.
I looked up to meet the eyes of a rather handsome man of
middle-eastern decent, his thick mustache curled up in a smile.
"I know", I replied. "It makes it too hard to
choose." I smiled back.
Now if I had any sense at all, I would have realized that this
fellow was not hanging around the women's shoe department looking for
a pair of penny loafers. But, no, innocent me just appreciated the
I was nervous, to be sure, as I was still not confident in my
presentation, but he picked up the thread of conversation, and before
I knew it, we were talking as we walked through the store. I headed
toward the checkout line with two pairs of shoes, wondering what was
going to happen next. While we stood in line, he asked if he could buy
me a cup of coffee. I figured, what the heck, and agreed cheerfully
(it was GREAT to get this kind of attention! I had never experienced
anything like this before.)
As we waited for those ahead of us, he asked how much the shoes
were. Being cheap (after all, this WAS K-Mart!) I had purchased
inexpensive shoes at $10 a pair, and told him so. He offered to buy
them for me. Well.... I may be naive, but I'm not stupid. I
respectfully declined, saying I didn't want to impose, but in fact did
not want to be obligated in any way - this guy was moving fast!
Eventually, I got through the checkout line (although not without
being thoroughly checked out by this guy) and - as I had truly enjoyed
his once over - I asked him where he wanted to get coffee. Actually, I
was kind of looking forward to having coffee bought for me. Somehow it
made me feel like I had some value. But he had other plans.
"It's too crowded in a coffee shop to get to know each
other", he began. How about if we just sit in m car for a while
Well, even I could see where this was leading, but still I felt
flattered by the attention, reasoned I could get out of the car if I
needed to, and as long as I did not let him drive me anywhere I would
"Okay", I said.
He had a middle-of-the-road car: no great shakes, but quickly
explained, "My car is in the shop... this is a loaner."
Then, he riveted those steely black eyes on mine, never looking away
from my face, and began to tell me how he had been so attracted to me
in the store that he just had to spend some time with me. He told me I
was sexy and began to stroke my shoulder. Moving his hand slowly
toward my breast, he described how "men are not like women: They
first get the physical attraction, then they fall in love."
Of course, I knew this was all bull, even though I had never tried
such a thing as a male. Yet, the attention was so intoxicating, his
hand massaging my nipple, so heady. If I had not been male, he would
have had me right then and there! But I had been male, and so could
call up just enough objectivity not to succumb.
He told me that he wanted to make love to me and that we should go
to a motel right then and there. I kept hedging, trying to get as much
of this as I could without going any farther. He kissed me and said we
should go. Still, I did not give in. He said, "Are you worried
about getting pregnant?" I replied, "I don't think I have to
worry about that."
Finally, I told him I would not go to a motel right then, because I
had to think about it with a clear head. He asked for my number; I
refused. I said he should give me his number and I would call if I
decided to go. That's when he got really nervous, but seeing that the
fish was about to steal the bait and run, he went ahead and gave me
his number. But it came with the instructions: "Don't call except
on Tuesday or Wednesday nights, and if a woman answers, say you are a
customer at my upholstery business." Right.
Well, I escaped with my virginity that time, though if I had been
post-op at the time, I rather think I wouldn't have. But did I learn
how to stave off male attention? NOT! Some months later, I was working
as editor of a feature film. One of the actors came in to see the
dailies. Later, he found a moment with me alone and told me he
recognized me from my support group meeting. I had not recognized him,
as he was not there very often, and was not transgendered, but a
"TS Shark" - one of those guys who has a special place in
his "heart" for people in or after transition.
He wanted to have lunch, and I thought, "Okay, it'll be fun to
have a guy buy me lunch." That went fine, and he was very
gentlemanly. However, each time he came in after that, he got more and
more "friendly", eventually telling me he wanted to start a
relationship with me.
I was (and am) still married, but at the time, did not want to
jeopardize my marriage, so I thanked him for the flattering offer, but
declined. Several days later, we were recording sound at Universal
Studios, and he came in to loop his lines. He sat next to me and kept
putting his hand on my knee. That evening, the director, the producer,
a friend of theirs and myself went to dinner near the studio. The
fellow in question approached the director and invited himself along.
I realized he just wanted to close in on me and so I found a moment
to tell the director what the problem was and that I would appreciate
it if after dinner he would keep the guy busy while I went to my car.
Sure enough, after dinner, I left in a hurry, and he was going to
follow, but the director snared him. That didn't work for long,
however, as I had not quite gotten to my car when he caught up to me
anyway. It was in a dark alley behind the restaurant, and there were
no other people in sight.
We started talking and he made a number of suggestions about how we
might be involved. After several minutes he began to come on to me
very strongly. He gripped my derriere tightly and pulled me to him. He
tried to put his tongue in my mouth.
Now, I know what you are thinking: why didn't I just tell him to
bug off? Well, part of the whole thing was my fault. The ol'
Cinderella Syndrome kicked in and made me feel special that he was
interested. I didn't want it to go any farther than talk, but I didn't
want it to stop completely either. I liked where it was. Problem is:
guys just can't leave it at that. I now know that they just keep
charging ahead until they get resistance and even then they keep
trying until they are sure the resistance can't be broken down.
Well, I was standing there clamping my lips together but even
still, his slimy little tongue kept weaseling in and lapping up
against mine. Why didn't I just push him away? For the same reason
women everywhere are afraid to fight back: they are afraid if they
resist they will get beaten up. Suddenly I understood the nature of
female fear. Here I was in a dark alley, alone with a determined horny
admirer whom I was sure was a lot stronger than I was. I just held out
and didn't respond until some people finally came by and I had the
opportunity to break away and tell him I had to run.
I shakily opened my car door, got inside, and was just about to
close the door when he stepped in front of it, blocking it open. He
told me he wanted me to know how much he was excited by me, took my
hand and placed it against the bulge in his pants. I replied, yes, I
could see he was interested. I can still feel him running his fingers
across my lips when another group of people came by. I used the
opportunity to close the door, waved good-bye and took off into the
Now, I'm sure he remembers it a different way. I'm sure he was
convinced I wanted him as much as he wanted me. But that is because
men and women don't evaluate things the same way. This kind of
miscommunication is just what we have to learn to avoid as new women.
As a final example, there are two 7-11 stores equidistant from my
home. One to the East, the other to the West. When I go to work in the
morning, the West one is right on the way. I like to stop there for
coffee on my way in from time to time. At least I used to until the
counter guy got the hots for me.
The first time I met him, he riveted his eyes on me and started a
conversation. The next couple of times he would always hold my hand
when giving me my change. Finally, I went in and while getting my
coffee was startled to feel an arm go around my waist. I looked up to
see him smiling and asking me how my day was. I just rolled with the
situation and said it was just fine, thanks and then paid and left. I
could feel his eyes on me all the way to the car.
All the way to work I hated the way he had taken liberties and
loved the way he found me attractive. Nonetheless, I determined not to
go back for awhile so things would cool down. A couple weeks later, I
went back and didn't even get to the coffee before his arm was around
me. This time I was really beginning to feel harassed.
Still, the fantasy of having some guy so turned on by you that he
makes those kinds of advances was narcotic. But I kept from swooning
with it, paid my bill and left. I vowed never to return again. Several
weeks passed and I had occasion to stop home for lunch. Afterward I
decided to buy a candy bar at the other 7-11 which I had gone to
exclusively since the last incident. This time, however, I was running
late and knew I had to stop at the trouble spot or go without a candy
Suddenly I got enraged. How DARE he make me feel ill at ease in
going into the most convenient store. How DARE he encroach upon my
freedom like that!!! So, I girded what loins I have left and pulled
into the parking lot. I looked through the window and was relieved to
see that there was someone new at the counter: maybe he quit!
I went inside, feeling comfortable there for the first time in
months, and looked over the candy bars. No sooner had I picked one,
but the guy at the counter yells to someone I couldn't see, "Okay
then, I'll see you later!" He walks out of the store and MY guy
takes his place!!! I couldn't believe the luck!
Of course he saw me immediately, riveted in on his prey and kept me
in his sights as I came to the counter. My skin crawled in
anticipation of what might come next. But he surprised me. He just
made pleasant conversation! Things are looking up, I thought. He's
gotten the message! After he gave me my change, he even offered me his
hand to shake. Well, I thought, he's a gentleman after all!
I reached out and took his hand... and he grabbed mine and pulled
me across the counter and into a kiss! And then another one! Right
there in the damned 7-11!!! He released his grip, I smiled and left
and haven't been back since.
Now, why did these things happen to me? Because I didn't understand
men, that's why! Men are more aggressive than women. To them, the only
time to quit is when they are convinced they can't make any progress
at all. But I don't like to offend. And by nature am flattered by
attention. As a transsexual, the whole concept of being desirable is
better than sex - maybe even preferable to sex!
The combination of the two different points of view led to me being
"violated" by these three men in ways I preferred not to be.
But even as I was being kissed between the Lotto tickets and the $1.99
roses, I had the strongest surge of sexual desire I've ever
experienced without foreplay! Even while I was being violated, I was
being turned on!
What does all this mean? That when fantasy and reality collide, its
easy to be of two minds. I know I am. And until I make up my mind,
this sort of thing is likely to happen again.
Cinderella Liberties aren't just taken by the man, but are also
given by the woman. We are both participants in the act. Until you can
sort out how you really feel and learn how to communicate if your
shiny new baubles are for touching or just for looking its a good idea
to err on the side of caution. It's the best way to make sure you live
happily ever after.
There is a tendency, when changing sex, to stare into a blank wall.
The mind propels itself forward only to the moment of completion, then
falls short of the other side, plunging instead into an abyss of
uncertainty. One entertains fantasies of the life that will be without
truly considering what will become. It is as if the Dreamer takes a
tangent path like an illusionist's left hand, distracting the audience
of our conscious from what the right hand is doing. Transition happens
right before our eyes, yet we see it not: our attention is elsewhere.
What Comes After is not fantasy. It is not dreams or speculations.
The reality of the New Life is not unlike the old one, yet so much
I have been reading "Orlando" of late, written by
Virginia Woolf (who drowned herself in 1941). Losing myself in the
twisted, ornate passages, I can see why. Orlando succumbs to the same
foggy urging of an emotional imperative that I, myself, have suffered
in the vortex, caught up between the masculine and feminine on the way
from male to female; sometimes touching down in one land, other times
remaining aloft in uncertain currents for weeks, only to alight once
more precisely where I started. No doubt, Miss Woolf suffered
Orlando is a young nobleman, as we meet him. He is wealthy,
respected, able, and lost. He can find no meaning or solace in his
fortune, station, deftness or love. He leaves his country as
Ambassador to forget his lack of focus through immersion in details of
protocol. And there, in another land, he awakens one day to find
himself female - yet, surprisingly, unperturbed by the fact. Through
three centuries, Orlando seeks self-knowledge: some scale by which her
essence can be weighed. She rises in society, then cavorts with call
girls; expresses the essence of femininity, then dresses as a man to
move more freely in the world.
From the Elizabethan Age through the Restoration and on to the
Victorian Age, Orlando remained essentially unchanged; experiencing
the same feelings from another point of view - but the person
themselves continued unaltered. "And so she
began...thinking...how very little she had changed all these
years.", muses Orlando at the hand of Woolf. "She had been a
gloomy boy, in love with death, as boys are; and then she had been
amorous and florid; and then she had been sprightly and satirical; and
sometimes she had tried prose and sometimes she had tried the drama.
Yet through all these changes she had remained, she reflected,
fundamentally the same."
These thoughts have been my own. How I have suffered that I feel
unaltered in spirit, identical in outlook to he whom I have
supplanted. How hard I have yearned for a sense of difference. Where
is the change I risked so much to attain? When can I call myself
"'After all', she thought, getting up and going to the window,
'nothing has changed.'", says Orlando. "The house, the
garden are precisely as they were. Not a chair has been moved, not a
trinket sold. There are the same walks, the same trees, and the same
pool, with, I dare say, the same carp in it." My own diary
mirrors Orlando's words: "Its strange to contemplate that
someday, the changes I have set in motion may seem commonplace. The
strangeness of my new body has become its normal feel, and the
question, even awareness of what sex I am, what gender, never enters
my conscious thought. What then of my life? The wind still blows, the
sun still shines."
Where is the future I struggled so hard to achieve? I am still
married to the same woman I have been with for almost 18 years. My
children have grown some, but they are essentially the same. I live in
the same house, visit the same friends, play the same games, both for
fun and emotionally. Where is the change? When will I get there? When
will I be a woman?
My friends say they first noticed it maybe a year to only six
months ago. That would be about one year to 18 months after surgery. I
only noticed it in the last month or so. All the little, slow moving
things that add up to a big holistic change. In and of themselves,
none are particularly noteworthy or noticeable, yet taken together,
the overall effect is both substantial and basic.
Every part of how I measure who I am from the kinds of thought I
entertain to the emotional responses that just happen to the physical
shape and feel of my body to the level of my strength and the way my
"insides" feel (from heartburn to exhaustion) have all moved
just far enough from my former self to have stretched the rubber band
of recognition so far that it snaps back with, "This is not the
same person as the one you had in mind." I other words (fewer
words!) I have changed gradually so much that who and what I am now
can no longer be defined as who I was by any measurement. The stretchy
state of shifting spectrum eventually has to result in red becoming
purple, then blue, then green, then yellow. Yet, where upon that
spectrum one becomes the other is a fool's consideration. Still,
somewhere, somewhen, one wakes up, stares at the rainbow and says,
"Well, yep. I used to be red, but damned if I'm not yellow
So, that's the story - its not specific effects, but the
holographic effect of all the little standing waves in the
interference pattern of the dynamic process of change that have taken
on a different pseudo-structure. I no longer entertain any doubt that
I am Melanie now, not Dave. And such odd juxtapositions as
conversations with old friends upon memories of the way we used to
talk, getting made up in the mirror and then viewing a video tape from
Christmas of five years ago, recalling an unfinished thought from
before transition and realizing the logic no longer makes sense - all
these little signs force one to accept that the self has shifted,
though still feels like self. Then one has a choice of becoming scared
and scampering, terrified, back along the path that is no longer there
(as it is erased behind our heels as we journey) until we are lost and
cold and alone OR ignoring the end of the road and pushing on past the
light into the heart of yet another jungle OR "getting it" -
that one has actually become. Becoming is no longer required.
Transition never changes, it just changes direction. To stand at the
corner of "Male" and "Transition" streets and take
a left turn onto "Female" requires not becoming, but being.
Two years after surgery (this January 9th). FOUR years
after beginning to live as Melanie. SIX years after seriously
considering this path. All the magic numbers line up - they have to:
they're magic numbers! And when totalled, they add up to one. Me.
And what of Orlando? What of Woolf? Well, Orlando finds her answer,
laying entwined in the roots of the same Oak tree she sat by as a boy
- the Oak tree that has proven her only consistent focus throughout
the turmoil of her self-consideration. Her eyes fly wide, her
yearnings stop, her happiness begins. But Virginia does not share this
revelation with us - it is for Orlando alone. Perhaps because the
author had not found it for herself; perhaps because we all must find
it for ourselves.
So, in the end it is not a change in our selves we must seek, but a
change in our sense of ourselves. We will always feel like we no
matter how different we become. Yet, we can stand back from ourselves,
take a wider view, sense not the flow of one day into another but the
dividing lines of months and years. We carry the past with us like a
big tail - the wake of a boat, not sure if we should judge our path by
the waves off the stern or the stars off the bow - and unsure if we
are wagging the tail or it is wagging us.
"Am I pretty?" (Compared to what?) "Am I old"
(When?) "Am I a woman?" (Says, who?) You'll stare into that
brick wall, chasing your tail and leaving circular wakes until you get
it: the wall moves with you. It is the horizon line of self awareness
and we can't see anything beyond that. But we don't need to because
its really just a matter of focus. For when we shift our view from the
spatial "Who am I?" to the temporal "Who am I
NOW?", then we see that the wall is really not a wall at all, but
a mirror. And the edges of our own self awareness are not the ends of
the earth, but the shape of things that came.
So, "Who am I?" becomes "How am I?", describing
the the process, not the state. Being a woman is not a condition but a
way of life. It is not a structure, but a dynamic. We will never find
the answer until we realize that it lies in the kinds of questions we
ask. We self-define; we are recursive, reflexive, and reflective. The
farther away something appears, the closer it is to home. The wall
before us in only dark because it is a mirror. The shining light at
the end of the tunnel is the sparkle in our own eyes. Look deep into
that light and see yourself.