questions and answers
these are typical things people ask me
(btw, i finished this page in january, 2002 - so some of what you read here may become somewhat dated with time...)

how long have you been thinking about this?

well, if you read the my story section of this website, you'll see that i've been thinking about this for most of my life. if someone told me when i was 13 that they could magically make me female overnight and it would be done so that no one would know the difference, it would be as if i had been born that way, i would have taken them up on the offer in a second. the reason why it has taken me an additional 20 years to reach this point is because i was scared to death of being a transsexual. i was scared of people finding out that i wanted to be female, scared of what people would think or say about me, scared about whether my family and friends would accept me, scared about how much it would cost and the physical pain involved, scared about whether i would pass as a woman when all was said and done, scared of whether people would truly accept me as female regardless of how i looked, scared about being considered a freak for the rest of my life...well, you get the idea.

as much as i always wanted to be female, i didn't want to risk everything in my life to make it happen. so remaining male was like following the path of least resistance. but, it just got harder and harder to do. the emotional stress and sadness that my gender dysphoria caused me grew with each year. over the last couple years, i lost the ability to manage that pain and i saw it spilling over into everything else in my life. it began to consume most of my thoughts and became debilitating. by early 2001, i had finally reached the point where the idea of living the rest of my life out as a male seemed way more scary than the idea of being a transsexual.

so do you feel like a woman trapped inside of a man's body?

i can honestly say that i've never really felt like that. i mean, how does one actually know what it's like to "feel like a woman" or "feel like a man"? that implies that you know how other women and men feel. i'd have to say that i have always simply felt like myself. for me, the hard part was figuring out whether "myself" was male or female or both or neither.

so how would i describe what being transgendered is like then? well, on a consciousness, cognitive level, i have always been very aware of the fact that i was male. from the day i was born, i was told i was a boy, i was treated like a boy, and encouraged to act like a boy, so it just made sense that i thought of myself as a boy. however, on a subconscious or unconscious level, i always saw myself as a girl instead of a boy. it's as if my brain developed female in some way - not the part that "does the thinking", but the part that controls perceptions, feelings, and instincts.

transgendered people sometimes talk about cognitive dissonance. this is a term for describing the psychological tension and stress that occurs in a person's mind when they find themselves holding two contradictory thoughts or views simultaneously (in my case, subconsciously seeing myself as female and consciously seeing myself as male). people are driven to relieve cognitive dissonance by reducing the number of conflicting views. for most of my life, that meant trying to deny or suppress viewing myself as female. but, since that occurs on a subconscious or unconscious level, i have never been successful at controlling or changing that part of myself. i guess you could say that recently i learned to relieve that stress by changing my conscious and cognitive view of myself - i've pretty much accepted the fact that my brain on some level is female, and therefore i am female.

how common is transsexualism?

well, nobody really knows for sure. while there are lots of different estimates, one usual figure that gets thrown around is that approximately 1 in every 10,000 people in the US is transsexual. of course, that number only includes people who have already changed their sex. most people believe that the vast majority of transgendered people never change their sex for one of many reasons: they lack the access to information or treatment, they lack the financial resources to pay for transitioning, they cannot bare the thought of coming out to everyone in their life and possibly losing their jobs, families, etc. plus, i have read statistics suggesting that up to 50% of all trans people die (generally by suicide or substance abuse) by the age of 30.

how did you become transgendered?

most experts believe that gender identity (like sexual orientation) is determined before birth. it is often presumed that GID is the result of variations in hormone levels during a particular period of brain development during pregnancy. there are some rather limited studies comparing brains of transsexuals to heterosexual and homosexual men and women. such studies found that there is a specific region of the brain that is generally smaller in women than in men, and that this region in male-to-female transsexual (but not homosexual male) brains more closely resembles that of women. of course, there are plenty of caveats in this kind of research, so these results should definitely be taken with a grain of salt.

is this genetic? well, no, at least not in an obvious way. i have never heard of a case where the child of a transsexual turns out to be transsexual themselves. also, i've heard of at least one case of identical twins where one was trans and the other was not. of course, you can never know for sure whether somebody is transgendered if they choose to hide it from you. so i suppose that it's possible that there is some genetic predisposition to being transgendered, but no one really knows for sure.

is this due to upbringing at all? all the evidence suggests that it is not. nobody has ever found any factor (geography, culture, economic class, family stability, parents, number and sex of siblings, specific childhood traumas, etc.) that increases the likelihood that a person will become transsexual. from my own personal experience, i would have to agree: i had a very happy and relatively normal childhood, and my family, teachers, friends, and society at large had only ever encouraged me to see myself as male and to act masculine. yet, i turned out to be transsexual despite all of that conditioning.

is there any way to turn a person into a transsexual? well, if your not transgendered, you can probably answer this question better than i can: is there anything that i could have said or done to you at a young age, or even as an adult, that would make you want to be the opposite sex? i didn't think so...

are there alternatives besides changing your sex?

well, people have tried all sorts of things over the years to try to "cure" this condition. this includes testosterone injections, electroshock, years of psychotherapy, anti-depressants, you name it. none of these have been even remotely successful at relieving GID. transitioning is the only treatment that has ever been shown to work. while it may seem like a pretty extreme treatment, it has an amazing success rate: 95-98% of all transsexuals report that they no longer feel gender dysphoria after living in their gender of preference.

you might say that there is an obvious alternative to changing my sex: i could choose not transition and just try to live out the rest of my life as male. well, this is what i have been doing for 34 years and i can tell you it does not work for me. it has been taking a physical, mental and emotional toll on my health and happiness with every year that passes. to be honest, if i had to remain male for the rest of my life, i don't think i would make it another 10 years. this is not a suicide threat or anything, it's just that the stress and unhappiness was literally draining the life out of me. i decided to transition when i knew for certain that i did not want to live one more day as male. it hurt so bad that i just didn't want to wake up in the morning. so, living as male is no longer a viable option for me.

what are you doing to change your sex?

well, right now, i am doing two main things. first, i have been on hormone replacement therapy (this includes estrogens and an anti-androgen) for a couple months now. this has had/will have many physical effects on my body. my muscle/fat distribution is becoming more feminine, my breasts are developing, my skin has become softer, my body hair is thinning out, my emotions have become more intense. i also feel a lot more at ease and relaxed - this feeling of calmness has been generally described by transsexuals (both MTFs and FTMs) after beginning hormones.

the other main thing i am having done now is electrolysis. while hormones do reduce/thin out body hair, they have a minimal effect on facial hair. so, i have to have my beard removed by electrolysis. it takes a really long time (in my case, probably about 150-200 hours total), it's expensive and it hurts a lot. but, there is no other way around it.

will you have a "sex change operation"?

well, when i first decided to transition, i wasn't sure if i wanted to go through with SRS (sex reassignment surgery). i have always had a sort of love/hate relationship with my penis - i've never really liked having that thing down there, but at the same time i sure do enjoy having orgasms! after doing lots of reading and giving it a lot of thought, i've decided that i do want to have SRS eventually. why? well, during about 99% of all the sexual experiences i have ever had (both masturbation and sex with partners), i have imagined myself having female genitals rather than male ones. so i've been kind of looking forward to not having to imagine for once in my life. plus, these days the surgery is pretty amazing - not just from a cosmetic or functional point of view, but also with regards to retaining sensation. the majority of MTFs (who go to respectable surgeons) report being capable of orgasm post-SRS.

so when will you have surgery?

well, changing one's sex is a highly regulated process and there are all of these rules to follow if you do it by the book (which i am). one of these rules is that you have to do a real life test (RLT) before being eligible for surgery. in other words, i have to live full-time, 24/7 as female for at least a year before i can have SRS. so it will be at least a year, but most likely longer. why longer? well, it is really really expensive! we're talking about $15,000 to $20,000 total if you want to go have it done by a good surgeon in the U.S. and frankly, i don't have that kind of money. i plan to save up for it, but unless i hit the lottery, i don't think i'll be having SRS anytime soon...

do you plan to have breast augmentation or facial feminization surgery at all?

no.

does your insurance cover any of this?

no, no, no! the vast majority of medical insurance plans do not cover any of this: not the surgery, the hormones, the electrolysis, not even the therapy. why, pray tell? well, let's face it: insurance companies are evil! they wouldn't cover cancer if they could get away with it. and in the case of transsexuals, they do get away with it. why? well, first off, only about 1 in 10,000 people are transsexual. since there are only so many trannies in the world, there are very few people out there crying foul. plus, it's hard to get the rest of the public to be sympathetic about the plight of transsexuals. most people are extremely ignorant about this condition and tend to view it more as a "lifestyle choice" rather than a bona fide medical treatment. so, insurance companies declare sex reassignment to be an "experimental" treatment - despite the fact that it has greater than 95% success rate and has been being performed for over 50 years.

when will you start to look female?

well, um, pretty much right now, i guess. i've already pretty much lost the ability to pass as male. this may seem a little hard to believe, since to people who know me, i probably look pretty much the same as i did 6 months ago. and believe me, it REALLY took me by surprise! i guess i had the advantage of starting out as a really small, androgynous boy, so i kinda reached this point earlier than expected. but, as strange as it may seem, people who don't know me tend to think i'm female now. and i'm not talking about being ma'amed on occasion - i mean it happens almost every single time, despite the fact that i still dress like a boy and often have stubble growing out of my face. i've even had multiple occasions where i was talking to someone i didn't know, and when they asked me my name and i said "tom", they didn't believe me because they thought i was a girl.

despite all of the wonderful progress i've made, those of you who know me as tom will probably think i still look and act male to some extent. i'd imagine this will be the case for quite some time. why? well, we here in the western world, we are gender fundamentalists. i don't care how open minded you are, as a young child you were told that the most important distinction to be made about people is whether they are male or female. this distinction is reinforced in our language, our traditions, our social interactions. it is etched into our brains. if you knew me first as tom, then you have mentally put me into the "male" category in your mind. it will take some effort and time for you to truly start thinking of me as female. similarly, people who meet me as julia will probably tend to think of me as being female even if at some later point they find out i use to be male.

what is going to happen with you and dani?

dani and i are going to stay together. i have only ever been attracted to females. dani happens to be bisexual, so the fact that i am becoming female doesn't bother her with respect to her being attracted to me. we have always been open and honest with each other, we tell each other everything. i told her the day we met that i was a crossdresser (that's how i saw myself at the time) and throughout our relationship she has known about me being transgendered and has helped me get through some of the most difficult times i've had dealing with my gender sadness. initially, she was very concerned that my transitioning would result in my personality changing to the point where the person she fell in love with might just sort of vanish. over time though, she has realized that while i will change in some ways, i will be the same person who she has always loved.

dani has been the most supportive partner i could have ever hoped to have! there can't be too many things harder to deal with than being partnered to someone who is in the process of transitioning. i wouldn't wish this on anyone. while i can't change who i am, and i don't regret my decision to transition, i do feel horrible about the fact that this has brought instability into our lives. however, we know our love for each other is strong enough to make it through the rough patches.

i'm sure it will probably seem weird to some people that i am coming out as a transsexual about half a year after our wedding. it's unfortunate that my transition coincides with the year we married - the two events really have nothing to do with each other. i asked dani to marry me in june of 2000. at the time, neither of us had any idea that i would eventually decide to transition. i was definitely dealing with my gender dysphoria a lot at the time, but that was nothing new. by the time i had resolved this issue with myself and was thinking about transitioning, it was early 2001 and we were already well into planning the wedding: the date was set, the hall was rented, we had made the invitations, etc. we talked it over and agreed that we both still wanted to get married. we decided that the best course of action was for me to begin going to therapy and after the wedding, if i still thought i'd be happier as a female and if my therapist agreed, then i would begin the process of transitioning. and that's how it happened.

i'm sure that since many people believe marriage is suppose to be between "a man and a woman", some may be offended or upset that we went ahead and got married despite knowing ahead of time that we might very well spend the rest of our lives together as a lesbian couple. well, too bad. dani and i have always viewed our wedding as a celebration of our commitment to spend the rest of our lives together, and me deciding to transition doesn't change that one bit.

so what will happen to the legal status of your marriage after you transition to female?

well, dani and i will be in a legal version of "the twilight zone". while there are specific laws stating that a marriage can only occur between a man and a woman, there are virtually no laws on the books to address where transsexuals fit into the equation. for instance, in some states (including california), once an MTF has SRS she is legally allowed to married a man, but not a woman. in other states (e.g., texas), the terms "man" and "woman" are defined based on a person's chromosomal sex, so the same MTF is allowed to marry a woman, but not a man. pretty weird, huh? i haven't heard of a single law that addresses whether a couple like us (where one spouse changes their sex after the couple is legally married) are still considered married post-transition. anyway, dani and i have no plans to die or divorce - we still consider ourselves very much married!

why did you pick the name julia?

picking a name for yourself is really really hard. back when i first started crossdressing, i had to come up with a name pretty quickly and i picked lisa. i liked it at the time because it was a very feminine name, but later i found it to be a bit too girly for me. since that decision was rushed, i tried to come up with a name that fit my personality better. at one point i came up with julie - i always liked that name and for some reason i thought it seemed to fit me.

so this year, when i first decided to transition, i was considering julie. but i thought that if i was going to have this name forever and ever, it would be nice if it meant something to me more than just "it seems to fit". dani gave me the idea about choosing a name from a character in a book that meant something to me. the first book that popped into my head was "1984" (that probably sounds like a weird choice, but i read that book 3 times during my late teens/early 20s - i guess that as a transgendered person i could relate to people being forced to hide their true thoughts, passions, identities from a repressive world). i wanted to name myself after the lead female character in the book, but i couldn't remember what her name was off-hand. so i looked it up and it was julia. i thought that was perfect since i was considering julie anyway.

so are you going by julia or julie?

well, right now i don't really have a preference - i like both names. i guess i will go by both names and just see how it evolves. maybe i will grow to like one over the other. or maybe everyone will end up calling me julie because it's one less syllable. dani says that julie reminds her too much of the love boat cruise director, so she plans to call me julia.

what will you be like as a girl?

i once heard someone describe themselves as a "femme tomboy" - perhaps that is appropriate for me. i'm definitely on the femme side, but not too girlie. i also have a lot of boyish qualities (besides my body parts). most of the girls that i am attracted to and who's style i like tend to be bisexual; feminine but with a hint of boyishness. to be honest, that's how i would describe tom - it's just that since people saw me as male, they probably thought of me mostly as a boy with some effeminate qualities.

i know there will be some things about me that seem to change. i will be able to more freely express myself with regards to appearance, mannerisms, etc., then i am now. being on hormones will also effect me emotionally. but my basic personality - my sense of humor, the things i say, the way i treat my friends, the kind of movies i like, etc. will not change. if anything, i'll probably be even more fun to be around because i'll be much happier!

....................................
that's it for now! if you have any burning questions, you can email me and i'll try to answer them. to check out another page, click one of the buttons at the top of the screen. or click on the switchhitter.net logo to return to the home page.
 

julia serano ©2001-2002