Letters Volume Seventeen
This is Volume Seventeen of the collected letters.
Wherein can be found the anonymous texts of actual letters written to me, and my answers in return. They are included because it has been suggested that the discussions are of value. The letters are presented as a rather loose, ongoing continuous dialogue between a hypothetical questioner, and myself.
You can write to me, too!
These are the seventeenth set of letters
Reference Topic Index
Relative ONLY to this volume:
For the complete list see main letters page.
issues of children dealing with transgendered relatives
An example of the most important part of 'Passing' in action
The universal 14 year old who needs help...my most difficult letter to answer
All about 'Tucking'...hiding the genitals for the pre surgical folk
I am the daughter
of a Transgendered father. I am in my 20's,
and I only learned of her "other life" fairly recently. Our
family is extremely close, and we all support her as best we can. My
feeling is that I would not be the person I am today if I had not had
such an extraordinary father growing up, and that she would not have
been such a parent if she was not transgendered. In this sense, I am
grateful for who she is. She has not transitioned and is not sure if
she wants to, (although I think she eventually will), but she is
considering asking those of us who know about her to refer to her by
her feminine name and with feminine pronouns. I fully support
this request, but I have one concern. I have two very young daughters and a preschool age neice who see their Grandfather almost every day. How can we deal with the pronoun issue (until she is visibly a woman) so as not to confuse or upset the girls as they get older? I really need some advice
on this matter, and I appreciate any thoughts you may have. Thanks so
In general, with regard to children, a simple rule can be applied with regard to dealing with the gender issues of a parent or guardian: Anytime But Puberty. This is not absolute, for their are always exceptions, but it is a safe rule for most families to follow. Here is a very generalistic overview of the situation:
Children below the age of puberty accept changes in pronoun, role, and sex in a parent, guardian or relative much easier than any other age group. Devoid of most prejudice, the accompanying shame, fear, and humiliation that induces bigotry in humans, the very young child accepts a change of sex designation usually with only two issues in their hearts: "Will I be loved any less because of this?", and "Will this happen to me, too?"
If the child can be informed what is going on, within their ability to understand, and are assured that the change will in no way affect their security; that it will not affect the degree to which they are loved or cared for, and that they are not going to have to go through such things themselves (almost certainly, it's very, very rare) then the young child faces transgender matters with aplomb.
Once puberty approaches, so also comes the problems of approaching sexual maturity and socialization. As children try to define themselves, and as they are force-defined by their parents and by society, they inevitably assume the bigotries, fears, and opinions that they are immersed in. Added to this is strong insecurity and some uncertainty over the changes they themselves are enduring, and the result can be some surprisingly strong problems with the transition, or atypical gender behavior of any person around them. Even subtle attitudes become magnified though the distorting mirror of pubescent children, and the pressure, taunting and sometimes violence of their peers can lead to powerful issues regarding sex and gender. Puberty is the second most difficult time for any child to handle a change of sex designation in anyone at all.
Shortly after puberty is the very worst time; teenagers are unrelentingly cruel to each other -as you may remember- and social fears and embarrassments, the need to comply with acceptable peer norms is at the highest level. Not until adulthood does a person generally become individualized enough to handle gender variations with some degree of grace once more.
Now, as I said, there are always exceptions. I have met teens who fiercely defend the rights of minorities, including sexual minorities, and they tell me that there are some places, some locales, where such thinking is normal among their peers. However, I have heard from far, far more teens that feel that any observed deviation from gender norms, by themselves, or members of their families, would lead to their death or mutilation. Some of these....have mysteriously stopped writing.
So, the situation is, that if you live in an exceptionally liberal area or region, you will have only minor problems with regard to your children accepting and dealing with gender issues in the family. If you live in a highly conservative region, then the above is very applicable.
In dealing with your children, then, my advice is that at their young age, no matter what the situation, they are at the optimal age to accept and suffer no problem with, the transition, or potential transition, of a family member.
However, as time goes on, the world around them could cause problems for them because of a transgendered family member. Obviously, they will have a much easier time if your parent can find a permanent and accepted place on the gender spectrum.
However, one must wonder whether this is for the good, for is your parent would be made miserable by finding an acceptably polarized niche, then the problem becomes complex. An obviously transgendered family member is a dread embarrassment to most teens. This is a fact, even if it is an unhappy one. Our society makes this so. And such amplified bigotries can have physical consequences.
The bottom line is that understanding and dealing with a transgendered relative cannot hurt any child. But having an obviously transgendered family member can attract savage cruelty to any child who attends public school, or who is exposed to the vast majority of their peers. This cruelty can be beyond vicious, it can even, sometimes, be fatal.
So your question really cuts to the heart of the problem of being transgendered in any degree within the world, and the issue of prejudice and bigotry in society overall.
If I were a child, I would fair much better with a relative who had completed transition in my early childhood, and was totally passable in my teen years and beyond. In such a scenario, I would suffer very little at the hands of my peers, for there would be nothing to suffer for. I would need not explain anything to anyone, for no one would be curious or upset.
And that is really the problem: other people's children; other people.
I do not like all that I have written here. The politically correct thing is of course to support all minorities in every circumstance. That is the ethical path.
But the fact is, kids can -and do- suffer because of the bigotries of others outside the home. I always remember being a child, and a teen.
Finally, after all of that, my advice to you:
circumstances, your location, your local society and culture.
Consider the ramifications as the years go on, as you children
approach the difficult teen years. Consider what is your own ethical
code, and what you want to teach and be. Then choose the wisest
behavior with regard to your children, according to those factors.
I've been reading some of your letters this evening, and wanted to add something to your response to the woman who looked and moved perfectly yet still didn't pass because of self-consciousness. I was self-conscious for twenty years, during the time before I read about us having female brains. That one little bit of information changed my entire life!!! If I have a female brain, then I am a woman. Granted, my body needs surgery to make me a normal woman, but a woman none the less.
This simple change of perspective takes all the shame and guilt out of transsexualism, in my opinion. It's been about ten months since I first made this discovery, but the memory of those first few days remain fresh in my mind. Taking a long, hot bubble bath and shaving my legs, not feeling it was a guilty pleasure, but something I, as a woman, had every right to be doing. Walking down the street wearing makeup, heels, and a dress, thinking to myself, "of course I'm wearing a dress - I'm a woman, it's perfectly natural."
Since then, things have happened to confirm that being accepted hinges entirely on self-acceptance. I get called ''ma'am" by store clerks when I'm in blue jeans and a t-shirt, with no makeup or bra on, and trust me - I still have a long way to go with electrolysis and hormones before I will have either a hairless face or noticeable breasts. On days when I'm feeling low, my self-esteem suffers, I start to get a little self-conscious again, and I get read no matter what I'm wearing or how I walk or talk. The key there is to get plenty of sleep and not drink too much alcohol. My health is good unless I abuse it.
Anyway, I know I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, but I hope presenting it all from this perspective is helpful next time somebody writes to you wondering why it's so hard to pass. Feel free to use this letter if you think it would do others out there any good.
This is absolutely the case. 'Passing' is a very complex interaction of many factors which are effectively 'computed' by the brains of other people. The subtle cues in motion, voice, action, bearing, and carriage that a body cannot help but express because of mood....be it doubt and fear or self confidence and security....may arguably be the single greatest factor that is used in the computation of perception.
This makes rational sense: all animals have a serious evolutionary advantage if they can assess the mood or disposition of any other creature. In survival terms this is more important than even determining what another creature in fact actually is, or even if what is seen is another creature at all. Danger can come from inanimate things too.
One can see that the brain is well developed to construct, to compute, a hypothetical 'mood' or 'personality' immediately upon the accumulation of sensory impressions. This is a possible explanation for animism, the feeling that inanimate objects are alive, plotting scheming or just being happy. The brain may compute the emotional 'mood' of a situation before total definition even begins. If this is indeed so, information below the conscious threshold would be certainly used. One example can be found in babies. Humans do have a few instinctual responses, clearly hardwired into us: even a babe of a few months will show fear of falling, if placed on a glass sheet over an abyss, and will respond to any pattern of objects in the familiar shape of 'eyes, nose, mouth'. We are hardwired from birth to recognize such situations, even when we have no actual, experiential knowledge of the world at all.
Passing is more than appearance, it is to a great extent how one feels about one's self. Appearance is not unimportant...it is a very significant issue...but real confidence and security can outweigh a simply astounding level of physical imperfections. This is the kind of understanding that all T folk need to know to thrive.
I am in desperate need of help, I took your cogiati test and scored a 465, (class 5). I am 14 years old and have always known I should be female. I'm writing because I just don't know how to tell my parents. I have talked to some people online and they said it might not be necessary to tell anyone yet. But I think it is, it's all I think about. Also I've heard hormones work better when you are young, is that true? Anyway, if you have any advice for me on telling everyone please let me know.
Letters from your age group are always the hardest for me to answer. I know how much it hurts, and I know how long time itself feels at that age. At 39, where I am as I write to you, a year really does not seem very long. But at 14, with so few years behind me for comparison, a year seemed like forever!
I speak of years, because that is the difficult part of my advice. Unless your parents are pretty intelligent, rather clear and open minded, not narrow, not overly religious or bigoted, it is likely that telling them that you are transsexual would be....really bad. Possibly even really dangerous. Now some young folks have succeeded, and gotten the help they needed, but most -by far- who dared to tell, seem to have had terrible consequences. I myself would probably have been killed, had I truly pushed things. At 14, one is the captive of one's parents.
It is true that if hormones are begun at a young age that the result becomes increasingly perfect. Hormones started at 14 would make you a perfectly flawless female, utterly as good a result as it is physically possible to achieve. Problem is, if your parents are narrow, you would never see hormones, and your future could be grim...or even nonexistant. Better slightly imperfect, than not at all. You need to carefully judge your parents, and your safety.
Now if you have to just endure, lay low and hide your true self, except to trusted friends, and survive until you have some power in your life, the future could be very bright in only five years. At 18, you would have some legal rights, but you would also have to deal with your own survival in the world too. At 20, you could be in a situation where you are on your own, supporting yourself, and be able to go through transition without interference. Age 20 is only 6 years away. If you can make it that long, you could own your life, and do what you need to do.
If you could have the support of caring, loving, decent parents, you would be able to transition early. Only you can judge your parents, and your safety. However, it is unlikely that this is your situation, since the majority of parents, of people, are narrow, foolish, bigoted, and unclear on what love and devotion really mean. The statistical probability of having actually decent parents is very low. But if you do....cherish them utterly, you are the most fortunate of the fortunate.
Examine your situation. Judge your parents, act according to your own best interests long term. That last bit is the most vital: long term. At 14, a year seems forever, but I assure you that is an illusion, a mistake of judgement caused by a lack of perspective. Think about it: all you have to judge time is however long you can remember being alive, and for most people, the earliest memory is around five or six. That means you only have around 8 or 9 years of memories to judge time with. It is easy to get desperate and impatient, and feel like a few years is forever, is too long, is terrible.
If you are smart, you will live to be an adult, you will live to be 25, 35, 45....and on. You have many times your current life left to live, and I can assure you it gets better. I am unbelievably happier at 39 than I ever was at any age previous. I have more fun, more wealth, more freedom, and more confidence than ever. And only now, am I approaching the half-way mark in lifespan. Consider that. I have just as long -barring accidents- left to go, as I have already lived.
Life is both short, and very, very long. One thing is true always, though, the length of years become less of a big deal the older you get.
My advice is simple: if you cannot get what you want now, then wait. Endure and prepare, then when you get the chance, do what you need to do as young as possible and safe. The promise of getting your body fixed only matters if you live to enjoy it.
So, judge your situation, decide based on your expectation of safety, and if necessary, endure until you can fix your life. You will still turn out fine at 20, -I did!- which helps to know if you do have to wait. If your parents are cool, though, avoid the special gender identity clinics some states have for the young (they can be less than helpful), and get help directly from a good general practitioner. Contact the Ingersoll Center (top of my links page) for help, and shop around with any doctors until you know you have a supportive one. Doctors can have bigotries too... they are just folks, like everyone else.
Be careful, and
think long term. This is your life, take it seriously and carefully.
I am a pre-surgical TS, but i am trying to live a normal life as a woman in the world. One thing I am having a very hard time with is hiding my penis it seems to be my only dead give away. Is there anything that can be done to hide the wretched thing?
The secret is...'Tucking'! Tucking is the slang term for hiding the male organs by pulling them backwards, between the legs, so that the penis is 'tucked' twixt the buttocks. The idea, is to bury the penis backward, between the buttocks cheeks. It can be a bit uncomfortable, but it works. If one can -I could pre surgery, for instance- it is possible to gently push the testicles up under the skin over the pubic bone...and hide them partly inside the body cavity. Of course, be careful of anything that hurts too much, be sensible. But, it is possible, by doing these things, to hide the genitals so effectively as to be able to wear a swimsuit or catsuit and be undetectable.
A bit of surgical tape can help, taping the organs in place, slightly tightly. There are some cautions: don't do it for too many hours or chafing can occur, sores from the pressure and the compression. Sitting down must be practiced, because sitting too hard is equivalent to being kicked in the groin. Ouch. Sweating and itching can also be problems.
This is the
technique used for generations by all sorts of people...from actors
to transvestites, to pre-op transsexuals. It is a 'traditional'
technique. It was even used by Louis 14, the king of
France....arguably a transsexual. Goes back a looong time.