To My Family and friends

Dear Family,

I wanted to take a few minutes and fill you in on some important information about some changes that will be made in the near future. I will change in some ways, but I will always be the same person. These steps I’m taking are very important for me. I do wish there was an easier way to move forward, but I have not found a better way. I have come to terms with this after careful research, analysis and professional guidance. I don’t take this lightly, I’m more informed then I ever was, and feel stronger than ever that I’m going in the right direction.

If you’re wondering what this is all about. I have Gender Dysphoria (DSM IV code is 302.85 or GID) I am a transsexual. In short. Since I was 5 years old, I have known that I was special and that there was something different about me. I always felt I was a girl, but my body did not match what I felt.

Because of the sex marker on my birth certificate I had to behave a certain way, feel a certain way, be a certain way. Since I was little I always was mindful of the mundane thing we all take for granted. How I stood. How I sat. What I wear. I’ve always been mindful of my interactions with others, and that I was not to femm. I just wanted to blend in to society. Which I did! GID has been crippling at times and I needed to stop fighting this and take action.

What does all this mean?

Well first off it will mean a lot of changes down the road for me and some adjustments at home. I’m working with therapist on the GID issues and have been in a semi-active transition the last 10 years. My first major goal is to live fulltime as a women. I have been making some advancement in that area and expect to start living fulltime within the next 2 years. I have been on hormones for over a year now and have had changes that are becoming noticeable (In the website links, I list a few sites that cover many of the changes you can expect). Some of the changes I make in the future may seen drastic, but I’m taking all this very serious and am under professional supervision. Eventually I will also change my name to Michelle. This will involve a lot of legal paperwork to change the drivers license, birth certificate, exc.. But it will be a necessary thing for me to do to live fulltime.

You may ask why I am doing this now. Well I guess I didn’t have the courage and understanding I have now to face this head on. As a child I never knew that there was anything that would ever help. I thought maybe there was something wrong with me, but I lived with it. I dealt with it daily. Until I was about 30 I thought there was not much I could do about all this. I always thought that all this would go away. But what I found as I got older it became more of a burden in my life. 10 years ago I started to learn about the research studies and finding many transgender friends I began to see a rainbow lighting the sky for my future. But still, I didn’t have the courage then to go fulltime. I do now! I know that this will never go away and I know what I need to do to be the best person I can be to my family and I. Transition!

I know that to some of you, this may have be a shock. But rest assured, I given this VERY careful thought. I have also talked with Vicky and the kids a lot the last few years about it and I currently have their support. I’m sure that you may questions for me. I will answer any question that you may have, so feel free to ask.

In closing, I’d just like to I’d like to quote a good friend of mine: Abigail Jensen

“In my experience, sacrifice of my own truth only leads to pain for everyone … not just me, but everyone. There is unquestionably much pain that comes with transitioning, but it is the pain of stripping away the illusion of who we are not, to find the truth of who we are. Painful as that might be, finding and living our truth (whether that includes transitioning only you can decide) offers the only chance that we and those we love can grow to know the truth about ourselves. And only by knowing ourselves can we, and they, find the peace, love and joy we all deserve and desire.

Websites

Here are a few sites that will provide plenty of information.
Dr. Anne Lawrence’s resource website
Understanding gender Dysphoria
International Foundation for Gender Education
Gender Identity Research and Education Society
Crissy Wild’s Medical Links

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“Being Male”

This is something I wrote in my personal blog, and I just thought I would share it here as well. It is a reflection on how I felt about my life as a “male” and how I experienced that life.

The concept of life as a male, that life before transition and even during transition, has been on my mind lately. I have been considering what it must be like to actually fully experience ones gender, rather than to exist within in the social construct of one’s gender in order to survive.  I think back to my childhood and my young adult years, and I realize that there was so much of life that I was never fully able to enjoy and experience.

There were periods of time, some of them fairly long, where I was able to suppress my dysphoria, but even in those times, I still never fully experienced life as a male. Instead I lived with a constant uncomfortable feeling about what I was expected to do, the things that were going on around me, and even the things that I was doing. I went through the motions, living life the way others wanted me to live it. Never really fully engaging myself in life, unable to fully engage. Instead I was left to look at what was going on around me with the constant feeling that I was an unwilling participant, looking from the outside in, looking in at a life that was not mine, one that I did not fully understand.

Yet, I was able to build a successful life, but the joys of my successes were often shrouded by that constant uncomfortable feeling. The feeling that something was not right. There were periods of time where I acknowledged what it was, I acknowledged my feminine self, but hid it away. Afraid to express my true inner feelings, I hid inside this “male shell” and continued to play by the rules that were set for me, the rules that were set by the gender I was assigned at birth because of the physical appearance of my body. Rules that ignored the relevance of my mind, my spirit, my true self. Even though awareness came around the age of 5, I am sure that it was not something that arose only at that age. Memories before that time are few. I think in many regards I attribute not knowing before this time to not remembering a lot of life before that age.

How does one experience life when they feel so disconnected from it? That is the question that has been on my mind so much. How did I experience life when I was young, fighting the knowledge that my body did not match my mind, fighting the urge to express my desire to break out of the mold that I was expected to fit into. I think about it now more than ever, the desire to break the mold, and all the while the fear that arises with the idea of being found out. I continue to laugh at the male jokes and partially entertain the “male” conversations, all the while thinking that I would not be a part of these conversations if I were presenting as a women. I stand there thinking that, then, I would be spared the low brow humor, the constant testosterone driven conversations, the things that men talk about when they think there are no women around. Sometimes it makes me feel like a spy, like I am a woman disguised as a male infiltrating male culture and observing male rituals.

The reality of it is that I am a woman masquerading as a male, only this is not by choice. I was born with the body, and until my transition is complete I must live with it. I will continue to be the spy, observing, and not totally understanding. If anything, that lack of understanding is what often made life difficult. I never understood why guys do the things that they do, why they behave the way that they do, why they say the things that they say. If someone were to ask me what it is like to be a guy, I would honestly say that after 34 years of living in the male world, I don’t know and I don’t really understand it.

What I do understand is what it is like to feel trapped within a social construct that does not fit with who you truly are in the inside. I look forward to the day when I can live fully as myself, and interact with the world as the woman that I am. I look forward to the day when I no longer have to feel like I am putting on my disguise and venturing out into the male world for more field observations. I can then get out of the spy business, and get on with the business of being me.

There are times when I wonder what it is like to experience life with without feeling this disconnect. I look at men walking down the street, in the store, or out at the park, and I wonder what it is like for them to interact with the world feeling like a man on the inside and being one on the outside. I look at women, and wonder what it is like to have your outside match your inside, to not just be a woman in your mind and soul, but in your body as well. I guess you could say that at times I feel envy for those living in the cisgender world, those who have never had to question their gender, those who have always been able to pursue their passions knowing who they are.

This journey, for me, is not just about aligning my physical body with my mind and soul, but about being able to not have to pretend any more. To be able to finally live life and interact with the world as the woman that I am. I know that transition is not a cure all, and I will, more likely than not, be out about my being trans and probably be an activist, but at least I will finally experience what it is like to look in the mirror and see the woman I am reflected back to me.

MSNBC’s ‘Born in the Wrong Body: A Change of Heart’

[Update to the review: Josef has contributed to the discussion forum on the show here. Worth a read. ]

I knew that I wanted to write a post about ‘Born in the Wrong Body: A Change of Heart’ before it even aired, especially so because many of my friends told me they were reluctant or nervous about watching it for themselves. As someone who has not made a gender transition even once (let alone twice, or even three times!) I felt I could view it dispassionately and objectively.

However, after seeing it, I found myself affected in quite unexpected ways. The aspects that I expected to feel negatively about were just not there, and my overall reaction was very mixed – finding both positive and negative emotions rolling together leaving me … somewhat neutral. I have decided simply to write a synopsis of what we were shown, and leave it up to the reader to come to their own conclusions. I’m sure if this spurs you to watch the show, you can find it on YouTube, or coming up in MSNBC’s frequent re-run schedule.

I’m going to use the pronouns that (mostly) match the current gender presentation of the two people shown in the documentary. (If this offends you, I’m sorry – in a case like this, there simply is no “right way”.) Without further ado, here’s what we learn:

It was stressed up front that of all those who transition, only a very, very tiny proportion ever “go back”. In fact, I suspect the two subjects we follow were the only ones who could be identified and were willing to have their stories told. Most similar documentary programs feature three or more subjects to give a wider experience.
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Ma’am or sir?

Getting “ma’am”ed or “sir”ed can really make a difference in the mood of a day of a trans person!  Yesterday, I went to a service call to replace light bulbs on a juke box and as I was opening my tool box to get my work keys, the cute young (female) bartender came around the bar and said to me, “hey juke box guy,….”  Ouch!  I wasn’t presenting as female at the time (still working on that issue, I present as close to it as I can without augmentation or makeup) but it still bugged the crap out of me!  What an ego killer!

Now today, I went to a campground that we provide games to, to work on the plush animal crane.  There was a group of girls there, and a boy, all about 8-13 years old, that age group.  Anyway, as I was working on the crane, the kids were watching me, and I kept hearing “she” in relation to what I was doing.  Now, that was really weird!   Again, I wasn’t presenting as female in particular, but I wear a ball cap to cover my receding hairline, I have no visible beard shadow, and I have dark red hair now, to match my wig.   Also, I try to practice my voice in public to get used to the sound of it in my own ears.   My mini-boobs may have been showing a bit also.   I guess, for them, it added up to female.   I was interacting with them, I even traded them a couple animals that they had won for other animals that they wanted from inside the crane.   All the while, when the kids talked to each other, it was always “she” this or “she” that.  I left there feeling kinda weird, it’s the first time that’s happened to me.  It was nice, but really weird!  And, of course, it really pushed up my desire to properly look the part!  I think it’s going to be harder to be patient as I work my way toward full time at work.

Has anyone else run into these kinds of situations in public?

Pretty/Handsome and A Little East Of Reality

I first came across the rumor of a TV show (based on GID) called ‘Pretty/Handsome’ buried in the comments section of the excellent ‘Being T’ (Thanks, Bitsy!). I was intrigued, but heard no more about it until yesterday when I was checking out the personal blogs of some other ‘Being T’ commenters and found Chosha, who had watched the pilot episode and reviewed it, and added some interesting thoughts and observations of her own on the topic of transgender:

In the end what I know for sure is that I don’t understand the hatred some people feel/show towards transgendered people. Even if you don’t understand it, even if it freaks you out a little, why does that translate into painting ‘die freaks’ on their house? (That’s what happened in the show.) ‘Freaky’ often just means ‘something I would never do’ or ‘something I don’t understand’ and that isn’t enough reason to hate on someone. It just isn’t.

I encourage you to go check out Chosha’s blog. I love how she’s taken up the challenge of educating herself on a topic in which, at first glance, she has no personal involvement.

And she’s a fan of the Riftgirl too! Yay!!

Review: “My Secret Female Body” on BBC America

Having reviewed “Transvestite Wives” earlier, I felt it was only fair to give a similar treatment to “My Secret Female Body”, another in the ‘Reveals’ series that premiered on BBC America on June 22, 2008.

This documentary focused on a twenty two year old transman, Danny. From the BBC America web site:

Born as Katie, Danny has been living as a man for four years and has had male hormone injections every two weeks for a year. Now, at 22, Danny undergoes a dramatic surgical transformation, which physically changes his body from female to male. This documentary sees Danny embark on the first stage of this irreversible procedure – a double mastectomy, followed by complicated penis surgery.

Like “Transvestite Wives”, Danny has an amazingly supportive girlfriend who loves him in his pre-op body, and is fully behind him in his decision to undergo SRS. We also get to hear from Danny’s mother (“I had a wonderful daughter, and now I have a wonderful and happier son”), sister and best friend who talk frankly about their initial misgivings and current acceptance. There’s very little discussion of social intolerance – just a couple of anecdotes about altercations “down the pub”.

Much of the focus is on the physical transformation. We see Danny’s doctor administering his testosterone shot, and discussing the bodily changes these have already brought about. We’re also there for Danny’s first consultation with the plastic surgeon who will be doing his top surgery. A note to sensitive viewers – although BBC America did blur out some visuals, probably to bring the show into line with American censorship guidelines, there’s still plenty of detail to the scenes in the operating theater and the descriptions used by the doctor made me squirm just a little.

When the surgical results are not as perfect as they could have been, the viewer is spared none of Danny’s anguish and emotional turmoil. At the end of the hour, we are left with the impression that there is no fairytale ending for Danny and his girlfriend – and yet Danny’s life is clearly a happier one even though he faces more procedures in the future. Just from watching his face as he listens to his friend discuss how his new phallus was fashioned from forearm grafts, we can tell what’s on the horizon for Danny…

This documentary is highly recommended for any FtM pre-op transsexual who is considering the next step. It doesn’t sugar-coat anything, but still manages to convery a message of hope.

For those of you with access to BBC America, this will be shown again as follows:

Wednesday, July 2, 2008 at 8:00 PM and 11:00 PM
Thursday, July 3, 2008 at 1:00 AM
Sunday, July 13, 2008 at 5:00 PM

“Transvestite Wives” will also be shown again on Sunday, July 13, 2008 at 6:00 PM, if you missed it the first time around.

I told the boss!

Hi all,

Today, I told my boss that I have Gender Identity Disorder.  It was kinda scary, but I needed to do it sooner or later, and the right opportunity came up.  I had a laser treatment on Monday and I think the doctor used a bit too much power.  My face and neck has big blochy spots on it and a couple of places blistered a bit.  Anyway, he asked me what happened to my face and I told him “this is what happens when the doctor uses a bit too much power on the laser”  “Laser?  What’s the laser for?” he asked.  I said “facial hair removal, I’m having all my facial hair removed.”  We went on to discuss the service calls for tomorrow and I was thinking, “you dummy, it’s the perfect time to tell him!”, so I went into his office and sat down and proceded to tell him about my GID.  He asked me a few simple questions and I gave him basic answers, no sense in complicating it at this point.  I told him that I hoped this wouldn’t affect my job because I like the job.   He said that he didn’t have a problem with it, he likes the work I do for him.  So, we’ll see how the summer goes now that he’s aware of this aspect of me.  It’s one thing for him to know what’s going on, it’s another thing to see it developing.  I’m hoping that by taking it slow, they’ll be more accepting of me as things change.

Amber