Letters Volume Six
This is Volume Six of the collected letters.
Wherein can be found the anonymous texts of actual letters written to me, andmy 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 sixth set of letters
Reference Topic Index
Relative ONLY to this volume:
For the complete list see main letters page.
can I help my reclusive transsexual friend?
I may be an atypical transsexual and I don't know what to think
Looking for a safer place to live!
Why don't they remove the prostate in reassignment surgery?
Three little questions..perhaps the most important three!
I have a
transsexual friend who I really feel is having
a difficult time. She is going through the 'real-life-test' living
completely as a woman hoping to get her surgery. She never wears
anything that could be called women's clothing - she remains in a
track suit all the time. She is also very timid in public -
VERY timid, to the point that she very rarely goes out of her
apartment. She has a supportive boyfriend, and seems to have
everything going for her, but she really has a hard time of
everything. I want to help but I don't know how. I am a transvestite,
and I have even offered to take her shopping for clothes, but she
doesn't seem to want to do that, or much of anything. She also has
put on a lot of weight, and generally seems really down. What would
This is ever so familiar to me. While I cannot know the complexities of your friends situation, I can hazard some guesses, based on my own experience.
The reason I created my site was because I had to find a way to conquer my own self loathing and shame over Being. Existing in the world. Being. Especially Being Transsexual.
This issue has dogged me for sixteen years AFTER my surgery, independent of my acceptability in the world. Only in this last two years have I made any real progress, despite the best help from everyone.
Transsexuality is very loathed in the world, and the messages of loathing are part of culture. Despite all intellectual evidence that might invalidate them, these messages can affect the emotions with incredible power. It is a difficult thing to unlearn.
I was once much like your friend. I would never dare to wear a dress, years after surgery, even more years after becoming perfectly 'passable' through hormones. When I looked into the mirror, I saw only perceived flaws in my appearance, and no one seemed able to convince me otherwise. Though my face and body had changed incredibly, my mind seized upon the slightest detail and blew it all out of proportion, making me see only a strange, masculinized horror, instead of my actual countenance.
I loathed leaving the house and dealing with anyone, for fear they would be able to 'spot' me, and I felt alienated from the species for my difference.
This was never worse than during the required pre-surgical 'live for one full year' period.
It is a hell that most transsexuals go through. So what helps, and what hurts?
What hurts is anything that draws attention. I, and any other transsexual I have met, basically want to become invisible during this phase. There is a keen desire to blend in, to just be accepted without note, to have no fanfare. Yet in contradiction to this, some transsexuals...like myself at that time...develop an almost 'crusader' like attitude to defend against their own fear. Others withdraw utterly.
You mentioned that you are a crossdresser, and that you offered to help your friend go look for clothes. If it were me in the role of your friend, I would be horrified, but not want to say anything for fear of hurting you. Why? Because, no matter how well done, no matter how perfect, a crossdresser can not 'pass' as well as a transsexual on hormones (at least hormones that are working well..hormones affect folks uniquely).
During transition, many transsexuals emotionally wish to utterly escape from the actuality of being transsexual. They want to 'just be normal'. This is impossible, of course, because the experiences of a transsexual are by definition different that the norm, but it can be a strong desire nonetheless. If you offer to take your friend shopping, do so only outside of a crossdressed context, and make that condition clear. The reason has to do with insecurity.
The last thing a person hiding in a house all day wants is to take any risk, howsoever small, of being spotted, of folks knowing what they are. They want to be invisibly accepted. Hiding is the ultimate invisibility: they are not there at all. Anything that might draw attention becomes a problem.
I have known...to be honest, I have BEEN, the sort of transsexual who did not want to be seen in the company of perfectly successful other transsexuals for the fear that having more than 'one in a group' would somehow draw attention. It is that much of a fear...or can be.
So basically, anything that makes a person feel more 'different' more transsexual than they already are, is generally right out. Think bland farm wife, and you are getting warm. Frumpy and plain are means of mimimalization, of camoflage, of hiding from being attacked.
Why jumpsuits and such neutral wear? I did the same thing: the fear of pushing to far into being female. A fear that if one goes all the way, and dares to wear a dress or makeup, or whatever, that one will be hurt. Beaten, savaged, killed, for transgressing the 'laws of gender'. Yet it is clear that they have changed, even to themselves, so dressing in the previous role is not only repugnant, but hopeless. So clothing is often chosen that is neuter, neutral, carefully selected to attempt to be innocuous. Bland. Invisible. If anyone confronts them, the emotional reasoning is that they 'are not REALLY dressing like a girl'...yet it is still tolerable, because it is not dressing like a boy, either. See?
Of course, I should mention that clothing, per se, is not much of an issue for most transsexuals to begin with. Unlike transvestites, clothing is not an important matter, as the heart of the transsexual issue is identity rather than image. Keep in mind that your friend might simply enjoy a casual outfit. Then again, one mark of depression is a lack of concern with appearance, hence my statements above.
What helps then?
What helped me most was not just constant compassion from my family, but actually being able to realize that I had passed the 'halfway' mark and that nobody was making a fuss. This took some doing, for I was forever peeking out a people to see if they were staring at me, and, oddly enough, that itself drew attention. It took me years to learn that my own shuffling about with my head down, glancing furtively to see if anyone was staring, made people nervous! It was weird behavior, and I was so scared i could not see that.
I started 'passing' perfectly long before I realized it, but I realized it when I started walking with my head up, acting out a confidence I did not feel, and paying attention to what was really going on around me. It was obvious that when I acted confident...whatever I felt...people never noticed me. I blended in. I was no longer a 'freak'. I had not been for years, but I was unable to know that.
That year of gradual hormonal change, of being visibly 'halfway' left psychological scars. It took effort to overcome them. My family helped me by encouraging me to do the above: to recognise what was really going on in my, and others, that i was creating how people reacted to me.
It was a concept that was utterly new to me. It helped a lot.
The shame, however, was much harder to deal with, and it is not completely cured now. Having panic disorder also complicates things for me. But three things that helped me greatly, were daring to 'come out' to the neighbors I had known for some years, and finding that they simply had no issue at all. I felt mute, because I was unable to be honest about my own life.
The second thing that helped was finding a free gender group to attend. (well, mostly free, they ask for a small donation if one has the money). Being in contact with other folk like me, helped me to see I was not alone. It also helped to see that other folks had many of the same issues and problems. That helped validate that my self image was incorrectly founded, an important part of getting past the vicious circle of "every time I peek at them they are staring at me". Of course they are: I am acting weird in my fear.
I suggest that many transsexuals go through some pretty standard phases of adjustment. I imagine that there is the agony of transition itself, where the body is changing and appearance and presentation are hopelessly strange and awkward. This can be traumatic in a long term way. Next comes a period of fear and hiding, and 'invisibility' phase, where the transsexual still imagines themselves to be under constant scrutiny, living in terror of being found out. Eventually it is possible to get to a mental outlook that recognizes that one has succeeded more or less, and to simply live, often trying to forget and erase all that has gone before. After that, I have found, seems to come a time when the transsexual, comfortable but utterly hidden, feels trapped and mute, forced by habit into a restrictive role of hiding the story of their past experience.
In any event,
encouragement without threatening the sore point from which the fear
that creates the reclusive behavior probably works best. Transsexuals
get so very emotionally savaged, that I believe the best way to help
them is as one would a beaten dog, or battered child...by gently
demonstrating and encouraging that it is safe to come out and play
once again, and to make each excursion as safe as possible, in order
to break down the defenses born of pain.
I have been taking
female hormones now for some time and they
have done me a world of good. I have noticed that I am happy and
content and centered and now have little (though there is certainly
still some) interest or need to take the next step which I suppose
should be more time as my true self. I want to and will keep
taking the hormones, I want to and will keep up with the electrolosys
but I just don't know if this is a way station or whether this shall
be my life and how long might this last if not.
My counsellor has said that I may be an atypical transsexual but there
is no doubt in either of our minds that TS is the correct diagnosis.
Well, the point of dealing with any issues, gender or otherwise, is to be able to create a way of life that works for you. In life, one size does not fit all. Far too many people try to fit predefined roles: Mother, Father, Parent, Worker, Boss. Roles are simplistic, and so are definitions that in any way try to encapsulate a person.
It is one thing to have a useful, general name for how to define yourself. But having a definition does not mean having to be anything. You are what you are, the definition part is only a tool. You can pick up and put down tools.
The only thing that should matter to you, bottom line, is how to live your life in a way that makes you happy and effective, and successful in the ways that you define as important, while at the very same time making it possible to exist in society and the world safely and powerfully, and well.
What you may call that unique creation, or how you define or make it, how you live it, or what you become, is up to you.
To be transsexual does not mean that you have to be a specific thing. There is a very wide and undefined zone that is the label 'transsexual'. I know transsexuals who will never have surgery, and others who fit the classic textbooks to a 'T' (pun intended!).
I know folks who have done hormones, done surgery, and are not transsexuals by any stretch of my imagination or their own definition. They have unusual reasons, though they did pass themselves off as transsexuals to achieve their desires.
There are as many ways to be in the world as there are minds to dream them up. All are valid, but it is very true that some ways work better than others, and that some compromises have more survival value.
You ultimately should, must, and will invent your own unique way of living. Try to create a way that serves your needs as best as possible, while at the same time being viable in the world.
If you are an 'atypical' transsexual, OK, that's neat. What are you going to do with that? It is your life, your needs, your situation, and your best decisions about what to do with yourself.
Roles are for actors on a stage, not for living people.
can become a role, too. Keep that in mind.
Hi saw your email
in Transsexual.org page. I am one too. I
Missouri (missery). I am 48 and just finally getting to the point of starting my completion. The area I live in is very hostal (local towns celebrations the KKK and Natzi floats are big hits). I an also looking for a friendler place to relocat to.
Woo, you are in a dangerous part of the nation! Well I can help this much: I have been working on a method to rate relative safety for transsexuals in any given area. It is preliminary, but what the heck, here is the basic jist of the concept:
Safety is related to the presence of certain factors. These factors seem to be:
1. Overall educational level of an area. The higher the safer. This can be judged by the local industry. If the local industry is high tech or computer work, then the area will be safer, if it is farming or blue-collar work, look out.
2. Diversity of population. Danger is caused by tribalization: folks form 'Us VS Them' style groups. If an area has only two or three racial or cultural groups, it can be dangerous...but if there are 10 or 20 different nationalities and cultures, things will be safer by far. Why? With so very many different subcultures, it becomes much harder for hate groups like the KKK to gain any ground, or for any group to single any other out for persecution.
3. Local gay community. The more the better.
4. Size of population...within reason. New York is too big...and dangerous. Seattle is much better. Small towns are hell.
5. Lack of interest in religion. Any area that has a high degree of any religion, will have a high degree of hate crime, and of overall danger. The less power religion has over peoples lives, the safer it is to be...well ANYTHING just about. Salt Lake City is a big city with a high level of education: following the other rules here, it would seemingly be safe, right? Wrong...dominated by one single religion, in this case Mormonism. Very dangerous for queer folks. It seems that the strength of religion outweighs most any other factor in being safe: for it is from religion that the real danger to transsexuals and homosexuals occurs at all.
6. Seacoast port. A port city means great diversity, and lots of ideas and concepts from all over the world. Many ideas and cultures limit the power of any one 'We Have The Truth' group from being powerful.
7. North West. Because of migration patters during the formation of the country, the North and the West of the US is filled with folks who are more independent of thought, more liberal of attitude, more forgiving of difference, and safer in general to be around. There are exceptions, such as most of Oregon, say, but overall, North and West means Free. It stands to reason...the folks that left the South and the East did so not just because they wanted a better life, they did so because they were oddballs that could not fit into the rigid society they came from. History is so colorful!
Using this impromptu guide, it should be possible to determine fairly safe places to live. It explains why, for instance, San Francisco is safer than New Orleans. Or that Seattle is safer than Los Angeles. And that all of these cities are safer than Peehole, Alabama (the town motto of Peehole, Alabama is 'String 'Em UP!').
Um, I digress.
I hope this
helps, overall. Humor aside, the basic principles are reasonably valid.
why isn't the
prostate removed during the surgical
procedure? and can't it be used for something besides the
standard doctor's answer i get (well it just feels good to have it
manipulated, so don't worry about it, and
besides thats more cutting than necessary). can it be used for vaginal
lining, or anything else?
I have written in my site about how sex organs are homogenous, that the scrotum is just sealed together labia from the stock fetal pre-female form, and that males have a tiny, 1/8 inch hymen sealed off in a pocket just below the bladder.
Well, guess what? Women have a prostate.
It is called the 'Cowper's Gland', and it is a bit differently shaped than a prostate, but that is because it did not mutate as far from proto-female stock form.
The Cowpers produces a squirt of fluid that in Victorian Left Handed Literature was the source of 'Women Spending over the bedcloth'. It produces a fluid that, at best guess, may be for the purpose of lubrication, but frankly, has not been studied all that much. The fluid itself is almost identical to the emmissions of the prostate: mostly water, a few slimy lubricating proteins, and a dash of salt and glucose.
What are the main differences between the prostate and the cowpers? The prostate is dougnut shaped, and is wrapped around the urethra, the seminal ducts, and some major arteries, and it is about the size of a walnut, sometimes bigger. The prostate is basically wrapped around the 'root' of the penis.
The cowpers is olive shaped (it did not stretch and meld to form a doughnut yet) and is smaller, it is also located just under the pubic bone. This makes sense: a penis is a mutated clitorus, and so it is reasonable that the cowper's gland would follow the structure it is 'assigned to' wherever in the body that structure migrates to. One neat point: you know that 'G' spot we have all heard endlessly about? The Cowper's gland! (Incidentally, stimulation of the prostate can do the same for men, and is a trick of gay men with each other -and some adventurous women with their men)
So, the prostate of a transsexual woman can be thought -very reasonably- as a mutated cowper's gland, normal for a woman to have, if perhaps not in that shape and position!
There is an error in the above, which has been brought to my attention by a kindly doctor, visiting my site. While the cowper's gland is all well and good, it is not, as I thought, the homologue of the prostate. According to my source:
"If I am
not mistaken, the Prostate is homolgous to the Paraurethral Glands
The good doctor is correct, and I am wrong. However, the basic gist of my argument is still valid, even if I point to the wrong equivalent organ.
Information on the basic functions of the cowper's are still valid to the best of my information, as well. I simply add this update for reasons of accuracy.
OK, so we can see that retaining a prostate is no big loss of being female, still, there are another few reasons not to remove it.
One, is the total loss of sexual capacity. Since the prostate encircles the 'root' of the penis, it is wrapped around the major blood and nerve lines for the sex organs. Removing the prostate is a big risk in terms of the very high chance of severing the nerves that make it possible to feel anything at all in one's groin. This happens all to often to men who have the organ removed because of cancer, and is one reason many men elect to simply live with prostate cancer.
You see, prostate cancer tends to develop in men late in life, and progresses so slowly -especially with treatment- that basically, the man will die of old age before the cancer becomes a dangerous threat...at least men age 60 and above.
Guess what the treatment IS?
Estrogen. Estrogen slows or halts the progression of prostate cancer, and if a man could be on it for most of their lives, would prevent it altogether: the cancer seems linked to testosterone.
Transsexuals are protected from prostate cancer. There has yet to be a case. Period.
Indeed, under the influence of years of estrogen post operatively, and the obvious absence of testosterone, the prostate shrinks, attempting -impossibly- to reverse it's mutation. The density of the prostate emmision (the only real difference between the cowper's and the prostate's fluids are the density and proportions of the slippery proteins) alters to increasingly resemble normal compers composition.
So, to summarize:
1. The prostate is a mutated form of the cowper's gland, which all women have.
2. Removing the prostate risks total, permanent numbness throughout the groin.
3. Transsexuals are safe from prostate cancer.
4. The prostate gradually becomes more cowper's-like over time...well as best it can.
So, that is the
whole 'Readers Digest Presents: I Am Jane's Prostate' story on this.
I salute your courage and your desire to share your experiences in the hopes of helping others in their struggles. I do not have gender struggles, but I do have intellectual ones. I am a teacher (not by profession, but by "calling") and thus, I'm driven to satisfy the curiosity of my mind. For if I can enlighten my own mind, I can enlighten those of my audiences as I pass on the knowledge I've gained. I'm interested in some of your feelings and would appreciate it if you would take time to help me understand something further. I have three little questions to ask.
If someone asked you to come up with 7 specific characteristics that define what "female" is what would those be?
If you changed your physical body to conform to the "female" inside you, what specifically WAS that "female" inside? Was it a feminine spirit? Feminine brain chemicals? Or something else?
What did the "female" inside make you want to do or feel that you believe a male's insides would not also make them do or feel? Thanks so much in advance for sharing your feelings and knowledge with me.
You have just asked the most vital question with regard to this, and if I may, it seems that all of your questions can be reduced to but one:
"How did I know that I was a woman?"
Really, how does anyone actually know what they are? What does it mean to be male or female?
Nevertheless, I will answer your questions as stated.
You know, your
three questions are among the most useful and thought provoking
questions I have ever received. Good show!
If someone asked you to come up with 7 specific characteristics that
define what "female" is what would those be?
I cannot define the word 'female' from a godlike perspective, as an arbiter of Meaning. I can define the word 'female' in terms of my own experience. So....
1. My internal, for lack of a better term, "Body Map". Amputees sometimes complain of phantom limb sensation, and so do those born without arms or legs. Even without ever having possessed limbs from before birth, they still feel fingers and toes. The brain has a kind of map of the construction of the body. This map functions even when parts are missing. Naturally the map is different for males and females. I felt, was aware, of what I lacked. I could feel it. After my surgery, that feeling is about as equally cured as my surgery was successful. Until my studies included knowledge about the brain's map of the body, I was amazed that I had somehow 'guessed' exactly what having a female body would feel like. Now I have learned it was no guess: my internal map literally did know how I should be constructed. Knowing that makes things seem less mystical, I must admit. So for me, being 'Female' is having a body that matches my internal 'map'.
2. My internal emotional state under both male and female hormones. Under male hormones I was angry yet emotionally suppressed, like a dam about to explode. My sexuality was out of control, and I felt horrible feelings and had loathsome drives. Unchecked, I am fairly certain I could have eventually committed any manner of violence or savagery from the insanity I felt. I literally felt out of control, distanced from my own actions and perceptions, and constantly out of balance. I felt physically and emotionally ill. On estrogen, on female hormones, I am better in every imaginable way. I am nicer, happier, safer to be around, and healthier. I love my life and feel a part of it. I can express my emotions and they are appropriate to circumstance. So for me, being 'female' is feeling like my self, rather than feeling like somebody else other than myself.
3. My position within society and the world. In the male social role, there was almost nothing that I could do and feel comfortable about doing. Whatever action I took, I had to act in a manner alien to me, in an artificial way, or risk being physically harmed. I suffered many beatings before I learned how to walk, talk and act in a way that would not have males hurt or berate me to dangerous levels. Now, living as a woman, I simply act from my heart. I act without thought to how I act...I sit, stand, walk, talk, and function as is natural to me, and this causes me no injury or danger: indeed I am complimented or simply left alone. So for me, being 'female' means being able to stop performing theatre, and simply live my life naturally.
relationships with others. Interpersonal relationships are deeply,
intimately affected by all of the factors I have already listed in
parts one, two, and three. When I was out of my head from male
hormone poisoning, suicidally depressed over my missing organs and
deformed body, and unable to act like myself but was instead forced
to live out a perpetual nightmare of performing a theatrical role of
'more-or-less-male', I found it impossible to actually feel truly
close to anyone. It was incomprehensibly LONELY. Especially when I
was around anyone. Think about that.
Now I have wonderful relationships, which have lasted for over 16 years. I know love, and emotional honesty and enjoy trust and closeness I never dreamed possible. So for me, being 'female' means being able to actually love and be loved.
5. My overall functionality. I can actually function now. Before, I was seriously messed up. It was amazing if I could accomplish anything. It was hard to stay alive. Now, physically corrected, I am a game designer, artist, website creator (I create professional sites, like HappyPuppy.com and others, not just silly TS issue sites!), hetaera, writer, cartoonist, collector, software pundit, and much more. It would take several pages to list all of the things I do, or have become competent at. Goodness, it is all the difference between being a failure and a success! So for me, being 'female' is being powerful and effective.
6. Not lying. Not lying about who I am, what I am, what I like, what I do not like, what I do, what I dream of, what I hope for, who I like, who I love, how I feel, needing help, being, doing, trying, living. For me, being 'female' is the privilege of finally getting to be honest. Damn, but you would be amazed how precious and important such a simple seeming thing actually is!
7. Sex. I suppose I really should put this one in the list, even though it is not very important to me. It is a real thing, and when I actually am sexual, being the correct physical sex turns what was once a nightmare horror into something that can -if I cope well with my emotional scars from having had the wrong flesh- even sometimes be pleasant. I doubt I will ever be truly comfortable with sex, but at least it is no longer tantamount to an internal raping of my very identity. So, finally on this list, for me, being 'female' is being able to be at least a little comfortable with sex.
Those are my seven specific characteristics.
If you changed your physical body to conform to the "female" inside you, what specifically WAS that "female" inside? Was it a feminine spirit? Feminine brain chemicals? Or something else?
You ask a poser here, equivalent to requiring me to define my very soul. The answer is 'yes' to every single one of your concepts, plus an endless additional lot. It was my chemistry, my spirit, my essence, my identity, my Self, my everything and anything 'inside' that defines me as an entity. Physical, emotional, spiritual, biochemical, and all that stuff that there simply are no words for at all. I am myself, and that mysterious uniqueness is best represented in reality as the woman who is currently writing this response.
What did the "female" inside make you want to do or feel that you believe a male's insides would not also make them do or feel?
This is like asking what your brain made you think about. The question itself is flawed. There was no 'female' inside me...there is only ME, all the way down. I was always myself, from first awareness, and that internal self has never wavered. Even under the horror of the wrong hormones in my blood, twisting my thoughts and my feelings, my core self is the same self I have always been, and am now. I cannot know what a males 'insides' would feel like, because I have never been male. I can never be male. Male is alien to me.
I once wore a male body, I once felt the poison of male hormones, I once pretended to be male to avoid being killed or injured, and I lied to everyone long ago about who and what I really was. These things happened. In the midst of all of that, I was still me, and I endured it as best I could.
In order to ask the right questions you have to have a correct understanding. I have always been myself. I am me, and I am female. When I was a little girl, I suffered because I looked just like a little boy. It hurt. As a young woman, I suffered because I looked just like a young man. Now, I finally had that appearance problem solved, and have been living happily for sixteen years. I suffered because not only did everyone treat me according to how I looked, instead of who I actually was, I had to actively support that lie to keep from having my head caved in.
Transsexuality is NOT about being a 'man who becomes a woman', or is it about 'being a woman who becomes a man'. No matter how often you have heard such phrases, they are WRONG.
Transsexuality is about being a woman who has to fight to live as a woman, or being a man who has to fight to live as a man. The reason that the fight exists, is because Nature has screwed up -as She often does, ask any blind and deaf quadriplegic- and made some poor sap look for all the world physically like the opposite sex. That little birth defect HURTS LIKE HELL.
defects go, it is not as debilitating as being deaf, say, but it is
often far more fatal. Folks can adjust to being deaf, lots do. But
being trapped in a body entirely and utterly in the wrong shape,
function, form and appearance, as well as role in society, affects
absolutely everything inside and out. It makes all of existence a
hell, an utter damnation. It is impossible to adjust to. It must be
dealt with. One way, or another. By change, or by extinction.