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...)
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?
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
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