Monday, February 22, 2010

True Story: I'm Transgendered

This is part of our 'True Story' interview series, in which I interview interesting people about fascinating/challenging/non-traditional things that they've done. This is the story of Anna.
For the unititiated, could you give us the definition of a transgendered person?
Let me begin with the usual disclaimer. I do not represent every transgendered person and my opinions and thoughts on the matter are just one person's viewpoint, blah and etc. I think the stock answer is that transgendered is an umbrella term for people who, for one reason or another, cross gender boundaries.

So, transsexuals, cross dressers, intersexed, people who identify as gender-queer, butch women, femme men, two spirits, drag kings/queens, and people who present as androgynous could be considered to be transgendered.To strangers on the street, I identify myself as a woman. To friends and people I feel comfortable with, I identify myself as a woman who happens to have started off as a male to female (MtF), preoperative transsexual.

How old were you when you realized you were different from other people of your gender?
I started feeling out of place from an early age...maybe six or seven. I think it takes a while for a kid's gender identity to develop, so for the first five years, I felt like any other happy, almost genderless kid and I behaved how I wished. There wasn't any one defining moment or realization, it was a lot of little moments. Like, when I was six or seven, I wanted to take ballet classes with my sister sooo badly. I knew that boys could enroll in the class, but I knew it wouldn't be the same. I'd have to dress differently and would be treated differently, so I never asked.

Gradually, I started to feel out of place and increasingly uncomfortable with having to behave like other boys. I distinctly recall knowing the word transvestite in the fourth grade and I used to wonder if I was one. Writing this, I realize that this experience isn't much different from the one a lot of "different" kids had growing up.

When did you 'come out' as transgendered? What was the reaction to it?I suppose I 'came out' to myself during my first year of college. We had a ginormous library on campus and I spent my first year reading everything I could on the subject. This was just before the Internet was widely available, so my reading choices were limited to super boring graduate psychology papers and the occasional mention in literature (Orlando, et al.).

I told my younger sister, my only sibling, about twelve years ago. I had played around and talked to people online before that, but my sis was the first "real life" person I told. Her reaction has never wavered from awesome and supportive and she has always been my rock. Nothing really changed after I told my sister. I still lived a sort of double life and only presented as female after work and in night clubs on the weekends. I wasn't ready to go further than that, so I spent the next eight years trying to cultivate a "normal" life. I worked, went back to school, graduated with an engineering degree, got engaged, and slowly progressed from merely wistful to a deep, desperate depression. My body's annoyingly good at showing me the way to go in life and I have major visceral reactions whenever I get lost.

Anyway, after my fiancee and I broke up, I decided it was finally time to change things. I started electrolysis and went to see a psychologist and my physician to get clearance to start hormone replacement therapy (HRT). I sent a novella-sized coming out email to my friends and family about five months later in October 2008. At the time, reactions were mixed. My mother was so not happy and father didn't reply. Most of my friends were supportive. My cat remains indifferent.

I spent the next five months thinking of a way to come out at work and not drive myself insane with worry. I wrote about it some here and here. I had a meeting with my boss and our human resources representative about a month before I went back to work. The place I work is kind of small, so we decided it would be a good idea to get everyone together to talk about my transition while I was on vaca. My boss read this letter to everyone and then they all took turns whacking a pinata, having coffee and doughnuts, or doing whatever it is you do after having a So your coworker's a transsexual? meeting. I went back to work the next week and it was a non-issue. I work with a bunch of smarties and they have either been super-supportive or quiet, which are both fine with me.Since then, I've reestablished good relationships with my mother and father (they're divorced), gotten closer to some friends and lost others.

How does being transgendered affect your daily life?Being transgendered is my daily life; it's not something I can take off or change out of. There are constant physical reminders...I'm 5'9" and taller than most women, I've had about 100 hours of electrolysis and I still go for an hour every Saturday, I take pills every day, and on and on. As I move further away from my first day back to work, I think about gender less and less (and I hope to get to a place where I don't think of it at all), but I think it will always be there.

I don't generally have a problem with being accepted as a woman in public, but I'm always evaluating people's reactions and how they treat me. I am self conscious and still too aware of the 152,396 things that are wrong with my body...but so are a lot of women. It's easy to forget that when you're up in your own head all the time like I am, but it's important not to. We all have our own body issues and crappy days, but they shouldn't define us and how we move through life or treat other people.

Does being transgendered affect your dating life?
How doesn't it affecting my dating life? I think dating is an awful experience for just about everyone, but it's extra fun when you have to disclose your surgical status right away lest you get assaulted or murdered. I wrote about how hard it is to find someone here. I identify as a straight woman (gender identity doesn't have a thing to do with sexuality) and have been dating for the last eight months or so. I met a nice guy and we dated for the last four months, but just recently broke up. So, if y'all know any really understanding guys...

I guess the thing that's most troubling about trans dating (and dating in general, I suppose) is that you have to really consider why that person is interested in you. Is it because they like you as a person? Are they into tall women? Are they obsessed with a particular part of your anatomy? Objectification is hardly a new concept to women, but it still stinks to be treated that way. I've tried to be painfully upfront with guys about my plans for surgery and I try to screen out the ones that aren't really into me as a person, but that drains the pool considerably. Still, I'm an insufferable optimist and hopeful that it'll all work out someday. I'll meet that one special guy that loves me for who I am (he's a pilot) and we'll get married and raise three children (Bonnie, Jack, and Shelby), two dogs and four cats on a small, boutique cheese farm in Vermont or Norway or whatever. :-)

Are you interested in having gender reassigment surgery? (you don't have to answer this if you don't want to - I'm not even really sure if this is an appropriate question!)Yes, I do plan on having reassignment surgery at some point. No, it's not an appropriate question, but I understand why people want to ask it all the time. I say it's not appropriate, because I was (and I think a lot of people were) raised to believe that health-related topics were private matters and not eligible for open discussion. Honestly, it isn't anyone's business, but that doesn't seem to stop people from asking. If they do, it makes me think about their motivation for asking that question. Sorry, I don't mean to get all snippy, but I have strong opinions about this :-)

When I'll have surgery is another matter. I think a lot of people have some idea about the current, poor state of our health care system, but there is almost no insurance coverage for trans people. My HRT is mostly subsidized through work insurance, but I have to pay out of pocket for electrolysis and reassignment surgery. So, my monthly transition costs are an extra $250 and surgery is around $20,000. Things are changing, however slowly; the AMA now recommends affordable health care for trans people and a recent tax court ruling made the costs for surgery tax deductible.

I don't have the money for surgery now, but things might get easier in the next three to five years.I'm also not what you would call an "out and proud" trans person. I sometimes write about life as a transsexual person on my mostly anonymous blog and choose to share that information with the special people in my life, but that's as far as I want to go. People have made great strides in accepting transgendered people, but Angie Zapata's murder trial was still in progress less than a year ago. It's still too soon and the stakes are still too high. Also, again, it's not really anyone else's business. I choose to tell who I want, when I want, and I ask my friends and family to not share my information.

What are the most common misconceptions that you've encountered?
I guess it depends on the sort of transgendered person you identify as. I haven't had many in-depth discussions with friends and family on what's it like to be transsexual. I don't bring it up much because I don't want people to think that it's the only thing that defines me as a person...it doesn't. These days, I'm way more concerned with blogging, dating, crafting, art, my cat, trying to have fun, paying my bills, getting to work on time, etc. So, I don't have a lot of experience with this, but I have had discussions with a couple of friends about sharing my status with people they knew. I've asked them not to do it but one of them had an issue with it. She asked me what I was afraid of in not coming out to everyone.

I think people just apply the lesbian and gay coming out model to us...like, once we tell them, we should be out and proud and not ashamed of who were are. I like myself and I'm not ashamed of who I am, but I'd rather not get murdered or treated differently because of that one detail.I think the more common misconception is that we're all freaks, perverts, just gay, just lesbians, sick, mentally ill, just in it for sex, hormonally imbalanced, attention seeking, drag queens/kings, someone to be pitied, or just pretending to be something we're not. For the record, I am none of those...ok, maybe occasionally hormonally imbalanced.

What advice would you give to other people struggling to come out of the transgendered closet?Advice? Eeep! I have a hard enough time taking care of myself/Miss Kitty and I'm certainly no role model, but here goes...

Do some homework:
These days, there are plenty of winning online resources for trans peeps...Andrea James' tsroadmap.com is an excellent resource for the MtFs, Hudson's FTM Resource seems like an excellent FtM guide, and Dr. Lynn Conway's site is an amazing catalog of sane, successful, beautiful trans women. I've never read it, but I sent my Mom a copy of True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism-For Families, Friends, Coworkers, and Helping Professionals by Mildred L. Brown & Chloe Ann Rounsley, and she really seemed to like it. Youtube has tons of trans people representin'...TrannystarGalactica is a good group of vloggers, but there are loads more. Read other blogs. Check out your local GLBT resource center, they may offer a support group. In other words, try to figure out who you are and where you want to go next.

Talk it out:
It's hard to figure this out all by yourself and you'll feel much, much better after you share this with someone. Talk to your friends or family if you feel comfortable. If not, speak to a therapist or another trans person. Take this time to lean on the people in your life that want to help you and love you for who you are.

Make a plan: If you decide that you identify as transsexual and think permanent transition from one gender to the other is in your future, think about how you're going to get there. Do you need to make a budget and earn more money? Are you going to change you name? What's the procedure? How do you change your driver license and records? Do you want to start HRT? When are you going to tell your friends and family? When are you going to tell the people at work? I spent a lot of time planning the details of my transition and I think it helped a lot.

Make it happen: You need to actually go out there and do it at some point. It's going to be mega scary and nerve-wracking at first, but I believe in you and I know you can do it! :-) Take it slow ( you can work on hair removal and saving money anytime), follow your plan, and don't forget to take care of yourself. Try to find a safe, welcoming place where you can be yourself when you need to relax or when it all gets to be too much. Do something with all that stress; go dancing, ride your bike, or learn how to play air guitar! Take advantage of your homegrown support system and cultivate relationships with the people you love. Keep a journal, blog, or vlog so Future You can cringe about how weird you looked or dumb you sounded back in the day. :-) Just kidding...this is an important time in your life and you'll want to remember it. I guess the most important thing is to just get to it and move on with your life.

Does anybody have any (tactful! respectful!) questions for Anna?

49 comments

  1. Will your experience change the way you raise your children to view gender and gender roles? Or will you raise them in traditional gender roles?

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  2. Wow, seems as tho Anna is a pretty together person... Being open and honest with herself foremost and gives very in depth answers ... How did Anna arrive at being in this mind set? I love her security and self assuredness...

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  3. Amazing interview! I wish you all the best, Anna! It's not that often that people get to determine their own name (or at least choose to do so). I'm curious about how choosing a new name for yourself helped you to form your new identity...? Was it a name that you had liked since you were a kid?

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  4. Being honest to yourself and others can be one of the biggest keys to your personal happiness..It's good to hear that your following your heart despite the cruel worlds opinions. Anna is very confident and that is so good for her..

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  5. Just wanted to thank Anna for sharing her story and to wish her the best!

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  6. One of the best "True Story" articles yet. By featuring all different types of people, you are showing that there is no one road to happiness. Thank you for this.

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  7. Ally: Thanks! That's what I'm aiming for :)

    I'm so glad you guys are enjoying these. We've got some fascinating ones coming up!

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  8. no question, but i did want to thank anna for having the courage to share her story. i agree with ally: this is one of the best yet. :)

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  9. What a cool, fun, realistic and courageous story. Also checked out Anna's blog, her writing is hilarious!!

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  10. I know how insecure I am about my looks and I'm not trying to change my look. It must be extra hard for you :(

    If it makes you feel any better I'm also 5'9" and I think that's an acceptable height for a girl. I'm still nervous about wearing heels but I'm working on it, VERY gradually.
    Some good things about being a tall girl are A. you automatically look thinner and B. tall people are statistically more successful. You've come this far try not to let insecurities about your physical appearance hold you back. Other people will think your confidence is more attractive than a conventionally beautiful girl who is self-conscious.

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  11. Anna, thanks for your candor. I've recently been educating myself on gender and sexuality issues recently (and yes, I've learned they are two very different things! :)), and your frank answers are refreshing. Thank you!

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  12. No question - I just wanted to thank Anna for sharing her story! :)

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  13. I enjoyed this particular interview a lot.
    It's always to interesting to hear these stories...

    I especially liked her plans for the future, pilot-husband, kids and the cheese farm. It made me smile.

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  14. let me start off by saying, thanks so much for all the kind, sweet comments, everyone! sarah has the most amazing readers! i'll try to answer your questions as best I can. if you'd rather ask something in private, please send me an email.

    @genevievethedog: as you might imagine, this experience has given me a unique perspective on gender roles. so, the short answer is that i'd raise them so they have the tools to be who they want and not be constrained by traditional gender roles. the long answer is that i'm not even dating anyone right now, so the cheese farm is just a fantasy right now. I don't even know if 'll ever have children, so it's hard to think about something that seems so abstract right now. it's also hard to just turn off years and years of gender socialization. i'm certainly aware of it, but that doesn't mean i always make the right choice, you know?

    I'm not opposed to, let's say, a man and a woman entering into a relationship where both of them play traditional male/female parts as long as it's their choice and they're aware of the alternatives. I don't see any problem with being a stay-at-home mother as long as the woman chooses that for herself and doesn't feel trapped in that choice.

    yeesh, these are getting long....best do one at a time!

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  15. @chrissy: how did i arrive at the self-assured, confident mindset? well, it's really easy to be confident on the internet :-) i'm not as outspoken or together in real life, but i'm generally not afraid to stick up for myself or offer my opinion. i think a person automatically gains confidence when they really and truly decide to do be happy and figure out how get that way.

    does that answer your question?

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  16. Anna, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. You are a courageous and beautiful soul.

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  17. @La Historiadora de Moda: wow, excellent question! beleive it or not, choosing a new name for yourself is sooooo hard! there are so many factors to consider i started picking names the way someone might pick baby names...i looked through lists and chose a number of names i liked and then eventually decided on one. but it was definitely a name that resonated with me and spoke to me. but no, it wasn't a name i was attracted to as a kid...that's where i got bonnie and shelby :-) my middle name has more meaning; all the women on my mother's side share it.

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  18. @eliza: thank you so much, i can't think of a better compliment! :-)

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  19. Whoa, this was a really good interview. Good luck Anna, I think it's really quite brave for you to put yourself out there like this. :)

    I do have one question, do you think transgeneder people are treated properly by the media? I mean, apart from Isis in America's Next Top Model (yes, I hang my head in shame now) I don't know if I've ever seen anything positive about the issue.

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  20. @meliasaurus: ugh, it can be really hard, but i'm generally happy with what i see in the mirror and make it out of the house most days :-)

    thanks for the tall girl love! that's awesome advice. there are ten other body issues i could obsess about at any one time, but it's the same for most of us. thanks for reminding me!

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  21. This is such an inspiring story. Thanks for sharing!

    ~Candice

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  22. @ helen: great question! yeah, there still aren't many/any positive media outlets for trans people. i think it's getting better, but it's going to take a while. there have been a couple of good logo shows. "transgeneration" was an unbelievably good documentary on trans college kids (i think it's still on netflix instant watch) and "transamerican love story" wasn't bad for a reality dating show. "red without blue" was another good documentary.

    i love antm and i thought isis was portrayed fairly, but everything after that was pretty bad. like, it seems like there's an edge of exploitation even in the most well-intentioned piece. exploitation is hardly a new thing, but it's still not nice.

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  23. Great piece Sarah! Anna, I loved your confident-yet-private perspective: too many people don't seem to realise the value of privacy, especially on the internet.

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  24. Thank you so much for sharing your story Anna! I have a friend who only came out as MtF transgendered about a year ago, and though I welcomed it with open arms and nothing changed, I realized how little I knew on the actual process and, terribly, how much opposition she faces.

    I hope that this brings what being transgendered means to light for a lot of people. The more you know... :)

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  25. @miss morgan: thanks! of course i realize the inherent ridiculousness of sharing my innermost thoughts on a personal blog while bemoaning the erosion of personal privacy. i guess it's about choices. i want to share with people i like, but i'd like it to be on my terms. like you blog, btw!

    @tegan: aww, give her a hug when you see her again, ok? i'm glad it helped :-)

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  26. Sarah, thanks for starting this feature it is really informative and interesting.

    Anna, thank you for sharing your story!

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  27. So wonderful that Anna had such a supporting sister as added encouragement through her coming-out process. It's very inspiring to read about someone who has to face closed-minded people (or merely just ignorant people) with such a topic but has a strong support system within their family (even if it catches some by surprise.) It took a lot of strength to break that mold and to be honest, so thank you Anna! Your story is truly inspiring and very informative for someone with a bit of ignorance to the transgendered lifestyle (I always knew it existed, and I've had homosexual friends and family, and even a transgendered co-worker, but it was something I never knew much about and I was almost afraid to ask for fear of offending anyone). Good luck with everything, Anna!

    Such a great read, Sarah! Keep up the fantastic blog!

    xo
    Kaelah

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  28. What a wonderfully honest and open interview. Even despite going through so much arguably traumatizing self evaluation and social acceptance, Anna sounds like she's got it together much more!

    existenceet.blogspot.com

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  29. To Sarah Von: This is an excellent post, and so far I love this series! Thank you for spreading different viewpoints and opinions.

    To Anna: I admire your level-headedness and organization in this whole process. My older brother was confused about his own gender identity over the last couple years, and I think he still struggles with/doesn't know who he really is. It's hard enough finding your way in the world without having to wonder whether you're the right gender, isn't it? I hope my brother finds his way, whatever that way is.

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  30. Anna and Sarah, this is an inspiring interview. Thank you.

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  31. just wanted to say thanks to anna for sharing her story, and wishing her all the best!

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  32. Anna, I'm a 5'9" girl, too, and I have been since middle school. (So, at the ripe old age of 17, not only am I taller than most girls, I'm still taller than most guys. bummer.) People do sometimes find me intimidating, but my height usually comes in handy. (putting up posters, seeing over people's giant heads at movie theaters, etc.) So you rock those high heels (but only if you don't have to walk too far. ouch!) and represent us ladies who aren't in any way vertically challenged.

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  33. To both Sarah and Anna, thank you. This was an inspiring and very well put together read.

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  34. @kaelah:yes, the hard parts of life are so much easier when you have people you can turn to. I was very lucky to have my sister on my side, many aren't as lucky. my advice is to ask that person those questions. if you're nice and handle them with respect, i'm sure they'll welcome the chance to talk.

    @heidi rose: thanks, that's of you to say! it sounds like you care a lot about your brother :-) if you feel comfortable, it might help to talk to him. you could say, "hey, i saw this blog post the other day..." and see where it goes from there.

    @butterfly: lol, i love your tall girl odd jobs! :-) we can also tell the shorter girls about the weather up there, pluck stranded cats from trees, and fully use those really high closet shelves! ugh, i know, being taller than guys is hard. i wear heels every once in a while and they always make me feel a weird mix of sexy/amazon warrior. still, i'll try to rock heels more and flats less in '010!

    @everyone else: thanks again for taking the time to write so many wonderful comments!

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  35. Thank you for sharing, Anna :)

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  36. thank you very much for posting this interview! it was a good read. i really liked the fact that anna has such an open, fascianting and strong personality. keep going anna!

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  37. Miss Sarah V, thank you so much for all the amazing thought and effort you put into this blog! I'm loving the new True Story feature even more than J. Timberlake loves endorsement deals with McDonalds!

    Anna, thank you so much for sharing your story. Your bravery, honesty and insights are truly inspiring, and I really appreciate you sharing your experiences with us. I can definitely empathize with you about the tall girl experience. I'm 6'2, and, like you, would like to see 2010 as the year when I start wearing more heels and less "are they slippers? or are they actual shoes?"-type flats. I've started my own website to address and serve as a resource on the unique and not-so-unique issues that tall people, especially tall women, face. If you're interested, come on by to http://theheightoflife.com/

    Cheers,
    Kylie

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  38. Ladies, this is such a fantastic post. The whole series has been a great read so far. I really appreciate Anna's honest answers. I have transgendered friends and while I've always been able to talk to them about things it's great to be able to learn things from another persons perspective.

    Keep up the awesome work, both of you!

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  39. Hi Sarah, Hi Anna, I read your interview a few days ago and I have been reliving it in my mind ever since. Sarah I think you are a great interviewer and I love your blog. You inspire me to try and be more myself in my blog! Anna, WOW!!!! You are a strong, wonderful, funny, and very brave lady. I am the mother of two boys myself, age 13 & 11. Although I doubt that either of them is gendered differently (or whatever the correct term is), we do talk openly about all kinds of gender issues. (That might seem unusual, but Im in Australia, we are less shy than Americans.) I know I would love them no matter what. The only thing I really want is...grandkids. I honour you as a person, and I would like to thank you SO much for sharing your story. Here's hoping that you receive the love and acceptance that you deserve. If I meet any very nice pilots, I will send them your way xxxx

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  40. Thank you, Rebecca, Felice, and LS+S!

    @Kylie: Aww, you sound like an awesome girl who should be wearing loads of lovely heels whenever you want. I happen to really like flats (even the slipper kind) but I think I rely on them too much. I should branch out! Your website sounds great and I'll definitely be stopping by.

    @Michaela: That's so sweet, thanks! It's not weird at all to hear that people outside of the US are more comfortable discussing gender and sexuality. In a lot of ways, we're still quite religious and puritanical. I think it's great that you discuss such heady topics with your children.

    Speaking of grandchildren, do you know my mother? Because she says the same thing, all.the.time.

    Finally, please don't joke about sending up a sexy, Aussie pilot. I would push people down to meet one of those :-)

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  41. Thank you, Anna, for sharing some of your story with us! And Sarah, you rock my socks off with your blog always... just another fabulous example of it :)

    Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was under the impression that there would be nothing but acceptance towards transgendered people (I was naive!). Unfortunately even SF is still not completely safe for my transgendered friends; brutal murders of transwomen in particular are much more common here than one might think.

    I say this not to be a big bummer, but because this post is a great step towards normalizing transgender-ness, and this to me is the ultimate way to fight back against the horrible violence that women like Anna may fear or even experience. Because this violence stems from FEAR and IGNORANCE. And educating people that being transgendered is NORMAL and doesn't mean there is anything wrong with you is imperative!

    So thanks again Sarah for bringing this issue to all of your readers, and Anna for your courage to share with us!

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  42. Cool story, thank you for sharing. But I was a little confused at one part. Were you saying that insurance *should* be covering all the stuff, like electrolisys, that you have to pay for to appear more womanly? If so, that's pretty ridiculous to me. I mean, why would insurance pay for cosmetic procedures for people who want to look like a different sex when they won't pay for them for anyone else?

    Anyway, sorry if that sounded terribly rude, or if that isn't even what you were getting at. By the way, there's nothing wrong with being 5'9". I'm a woman who's 5'9", and I wear heels all the time, and nobody seems to think it's weird. Remember, all the models are that tall, or taller. ;)

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  43. @Chelsea: I'm glad you said that I agree with every word! I think a lot of people think that San Francisco is this mecca for queer people of all kinds and that all your problems will melt away once you move there. It is a very tolerant city, but it's also a real city with all kinds of people. I think it's harder for trans people there because it seems like everyone can "spot" them. So, they have to go through their city life with that label and that can open them up to negative attention. I'm certainly aware of the ridiculously high murder and assault rates, but it's not like I skulk around fearing for my safety. I just try to be aware, you know?

    @screwdestiny: I don't think you're confused at all. I do think there should some sort of financial offset (be it insurance, tax refunds, whatever) for GRS, electrolysis, counseling, tracheal shaving, FFS, and HRT prescriptions. This is kind of out of scope for a comments reply, but here goes…those therapies are recommended by a document called the Benjamin Standards of Care. Surgeons who do reassignment surgeries evaluate patients to see if they are good candidates for surgery. It varies, but generally, they ask to see two letters from counselors before they'll operate. The counselors affirm that the patient is mentally fit and has successfully lived and is accepted in that gender for at least a year..."success" means holding a job or going to school. The un/underemployment rate for trans people is very high and this is mostly due to appearance. What would you do if some physical trait prevented you from supporting yourself? Of course their are limits to what they can do, but, in the case of MtFs, hormonal therapy and hair removal can really help a person "blend in."

    In the current system, if a person isn't able to work, they will neither be able to afford surgery nor be a good candidate for it. I feel that there are unreasonable financial barriers to successful transition and I don't think it's right that only the people with money should have access to health care. Do you think people that suffer from hypertrichosis should have to pay for electrolysis themselves? Where do you draw the line? I don’t think this is radically different.

    I think there should be limits to all offsets (notice I didn't mention breast augmentation), but I think everyone should get a fair chance at starting over if they need it.

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  44. Anna (and Sarah) - as a SOFFA, thanks for this.

    Anna, your comment about not being "out and proud" reminded me -- a big huge nerd -- of a paper I recently read, which I've found really helpful in discussions of "outness."* Essentially, the author makes the point that for LGB people, "coming out" is a one-step process, although it may have to be repeated over and over. But basically, you tell people you're interested in such-and-such a category or categories of person, and that's more or less supposed to be their window into "who you 'really' are." (Check out the double layers of scare quotes, there!)

    For trans people, in this framework, there are *two different* types of coming out, which Zimman (the author) calls "declaration" and "disclosure." The first is, essentially, pre-transition: people think you're a man, and you have to tell them that, hey, actually, you're a woman (or vice-versa, or some more complicated scenario). The point is, this is the type of coming-out that is most often analogous to the LGB kind: you're telling people something about yourself to correct a false impression that would interfere with them treating you as you.

    Disclosure is when, for example, someone perceives you as a woman, and you tell them that, um, FYI, you're this particular maybe-more-complicated type of woman. There are reasons why this information might be relevant. In some cases, for some people, it may even be more of an accurate representation of who they are. But for a lot of trans people, disclosure is a step *away* from the type of outness you get with declaration, because all of a sudden you risk going from being perceived as something you *are* to something you're *not* (in this case, a particularly complicated type of man).

    So at this point in your life, to expect someone like you to be "out and proud" as a very specifically *trans* woman is not really the same thing as expecting someone like me to tell people I'm bi every five minutes. (Oh, hey, by the way? I'm bi. Basically. It's complicated. Shocking.) And it drives me nuts (obviously!) when people who don't get that try to shame trans people into disclosure, even if it's not right for them.

    Anyway, this was a very long and pretentiously nerdy way of saying "you go, girl - your business is your business, and anyone who hears it, as we have, should consider it a privilege, not an entitlement." ;c)

    ---

    * citin' my sources, 'cause that's the kind of huge nerd I am:

    Zimman, Lal. 2009. "The other kind of coming out": Transgender people and the coming out narrative genre. Gender and Language 3(1):53-80.

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  45. @ M.E: ZOMFG YOU'RE AWESOME!1!! Thanks for the academic support! After I Googled SOFFA (and peeped your blog), I checked on that article. The author, Lal Zimman, is a CU-Boulder grad student (woo!) and a hottie to boot. +2 for you! Anyway, yes, well said/quoted; that is exactly how I (and I think a lot of people who have transitioned) feel.

    I may have mentioned that I've had problems with friends disclosing for me, but it's difficult for me to explain why it's a problem. Right now, the only model they have (if they have one at all) is the lesbian/gay coming out experience. So, a friend can feel like they're being supportive when they loudly proclaim, "she's transgendered and that's ok with me" and never see why that might not be a good idea. Then you look like a jerk for asking them to change their behavior; it’s lose-lose. I think people will be able to discern the difference someday, but it’s going to take a while.

    A couple of months ago, I read a quote by someone (can’t remember who, but I want to say Elliott Smith) and the gist of it was that he is against professional entertainers coming out of the closet; he thinks it’s irrelevant and could hurt their career. Then I saw this article from feministing.com questioning the need for people to disclose their sexuality at all. Now, I wonder if the time for declaration and disclosure is passing. I think it might be. I get that people needed to be “out and proud” at the beginning, but as long as most people are accepting of bi- and homosexuality (and I think they are), I don’t see the need for it. I know people will always be curious kittens, but my hope is that we’re moving away from this place where a person’s birth gender or sexuality is important and titillating.

    This applies to everybody…I think it’s important for people to let others know how they want to be treated, or manage people’s expectations. If you want people to treat you like a confident, interesting woman, act like a confident, interesting woman. I think people are oftentimes complicit in their own marginalization. I don’t always feel confident or pretty or smart or funny, but I’ll be damned if I let anyone tell me I’m not or treat me differently than I think I should be treated.

    Also, huge nerds are awesome.

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  46. I love this story. My dad is transgender and just expressed himself about a year ago. I've seen how happy is now that he's not living a double life. I do get frustrated because this is such a new topic for most and they dont fully understand it. So people are very quick to judge. This was amazing this isnt really a topic people like to talk about.

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  47. You don’t have to go too far to enjoy a great holiday, there are plenty of places to visit here in the UK, and the best time is winter sun holidays .

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  48. Sarah Von!! Great heart to heart post here and I would love to feature you in the tall girls journal. Sometimes it can be very hard being a tall girl and you have some additional challenges worth sharing with over 3000 people. If interested email me at tallgirlproject@tinitiative.org. Keep your head up TALL GIRL!! :)

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  49. Your story spoke to me. You stuck true to yourself,your inner strength is inspiring. Something I wish I had. I look at my self and see nothing in myself, want to do something about the process but scared :'(. I hope I gain the strength to change.

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