Transitioning early in life: Allison's experiences

[I’ve changed her name to protect her privacy]

Editor's note:

Allison wrote in 2007, over ten years after starting transition at age 19. She writes: "I am immensely pleased to know that you are still out on the internet. The last time I looked at your site was probably the year 2000. Your site was very helpful to me at the time."

Allison reflects the growing trend of coming out younger and younger, and her difficult decision to transition in college allowed her to spend her 20s living as herself. She currently lives in a small town with her husband and dog. She has some excellent advice to share.

The story part:

Even when I was very young, I wanted to be a girl. I had decided that some terrible sort of mistake had been made. When I learned that the male/female birth ratio was 51/49 percent, I decided that since the proper ratio would be 50/50, I clearly had to be part of the 1 percent of boys who had been meant to be a girl. Of course we know that transsexuality is not actually that prevalent, and the birth ratio has an evolutionary reason, but as a child, my explanation made all the sense in the world.

I cultivated as many female friends and habits as I could. I took Gymnastics, jumped rope, and grew my hair long. I read girly books (Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Anne of Green Gables, Sweet Valley High, The Babysitters Club, and other popular girls books/magazines of the time). I learned to fold paper fortune tellers, play cats cradle, write slam books, and braid hair. These habits were seen as somewhat odd at the time, and I did receive some ridicule from other children, but not so much that I stopped. Wonderfully, this has helped me relate to other women who grew up in the same time period. Knowledge of typical female childhood activities has probably helped me to pass more frequently than I would have expected.

At some point I learned that transsexuals were a real thing, and that I was not simply an oddity. I quickly devoured every resource I could find at the local library. There was little to be had, but it did give me real hope.

When I got an internet connection in high school, I was able to find all the rest of what I needed to go through the process, so I began to plan. I decided that I would start working toward my goal immediately after getting to college, and I did.

I started Electrolysis at the age of 19 in 1996. Then came hormones at 21 in 1998, full-time at 22 in 1999, and surgery at 24 in 2001.

Through that, I had all a manner of interesting adventures:

I came out to my parents shortly after I started college, which may have been foolish. They expressed strong dissapproval, but they did seem willing to continue paying for my education. The idea that I should be gay seemed far more practical and socially acceptable to them, so they encouraged it as a sort of practical compromise. Because they continued to discourage me from being TS, I quickly started working toward that goal without telling them, since I was still afraid that they would stop paying for college. To meet my financial needs, I took a number of part-time jobs, so that I would have personal money for transition expenses. My parents are now accepting, but it took a long time. My mother continued to call me "he" long after everyone else in my life had ceased to do so. I think she is still a bit freaked out when nearby people call me "she" or address us as "ladies" in public.

I decided to transition to full-time once I graduated from college so that my first real job would be as a female. This meant that I would be able to have an all-female career, so it would be easy to keep disclosure of my gender change off job interview forms. I was very afraid that I would not be able to get a job, especially since I needed one to save for surgery. In the end, it worked out just fine.

I was also crazy/stupid enough to play women's sports while pre-op. I was never caught, and nobody ever complained. I was never a particularly good player, perhaps because I had strenuously avoided sports in high school. Still, I was a dedicated player, and so I would eventually be recruited for various sports. At the time, this amazed me and really reinforced the feeling that I passed well. Playing sports also helped me build up a network of friends and learn to socialize better as a woman.

One of my favorite stories to tell folks who know about me, is about the time I was recruited to play a sport while I was in the courthouse to get my name change.

Notably, playing sports also gives me an immediate social group wherever I
move. If you can get away with it, I highly recommend them. I expect that
Church or any other large social institution can serve the same purpose.

Sports even served me well during my first job, where I was asked to play on the company soccer team. This turned out to be great fun, and it helped me get to know my coworkers better. I still pretty much suck at soccer, though.

I am an engineer, and the company I was working for folded during the tech downturn, shortly before my surgery. This would have not been too annoying except that I had scheduled for a month of paid time off, so I could recover. I had to take the time unpaid, but this was OK since I had saved up enough safety money for such a circumstance.

My next job ended up being in a more rural town. Strangley, this helped me to pass even better. In a large city, you might see a tall guy with long hair, but in a smaller rural city, someone with long hair is usually a woman or a bearded biker. People who look at my face know that I am female, but on rare occasions someone who looks at me only from behind assumes I am a man, espeically if I am wearing baggy clothing. It is generally amusing to listen to them apologize for caling me "sir" when I turn around.

After getting surgery and moving to a more rural town for my new job, little of real interest has occured in regards to being a transsexual. I have simply continued with my life as an otherwise normal woman. I am not stealth, but "don't ask, don't tell" is my motto. In truth, nobody has ever asked, and I have only told a select few people. I even got married, which probably adds some further validity to my femaleness.

Do I have regrets? Sometimes I wish that I were somewhat less tall, and maybe that could have been achieved by starting hormones earlier. Still, I am frequently amazed at how many women tell me they wish that they were taller. I tell them that it can be hard to find clothes, but it makes getting to the upper cupboards a snap.

The advice part:

I have heard it before, but it bears repeating. In terms of appearance, your face is the first best key to passing. A woman in lumpy jogging sweats is still clearly a woman. If you have a masculine face and want to pass, get electrolysis and facial surgery.

The rest of your body is also important. Hormones will do wonders, but it
may be helpful to get chest surgery. In appearance, I was extremely lucky. I may be tall, but I have a nice face, a waist, and teeny hands for someone my size. Hormones helped to accentuate all of this in helpful ways; may they do the same for you. Starting young was also surely helpful in this regard. It may have been my imagination, but I am convinced that my cheekbones grew after I started hormones. My one personal disadvantage is probably small breasts, but considering my skinny build, they seem appropriate enough.

If you do not care whether or not you pass, more power to you. That is not me, however. I wanted to integrate socially as a woman, and if you do not pass, know that you will probably never be entirely accepted.

Unfortunately, all of the surgery, electrolysis, and such require plenty of money. These days, it seems like anyone with enough time and money can go tranny. In my case making enough money meant working part time as a boy while in school to earn hormone and electrolysis money, and then it meant working full time as a woman after graduation in order to make surgery money. Either way, your source of income, and your ability to save that income for transsexual pursuits will be very important. I personally went without many things to help save. I did not have a car. I rarely ate out. My entertainment came almost entirely from used books and sports.

Keeping that stream of money going will be very important. I feel it is better to work as a man so you can save up for that facial surgery than to end up as a woman with a face too manly to get a job. Losing your income stream can destroy your hopes of changing gender. I watched it happen in more than one case.

Of course, we gender swappers worry about far more than money. I personally worried a great deal about the bathroom. In the end, I was never found out, or even complained about, but I worried incessantly until the surgery was over. The first few times I went to the women's room, I tried to ensure that I would be alone, which helped me get over initial nervousness and jitters. Eventually, I learned to calmly walk in and do my business, which is the key. Do not look nervous or worried. It should never even cross your mind that someone would question your being there. Genetic women have been using the bathroom their whole lives and the idea that someone would question their presence is completely insane to them. You should feel the same. If someone ever questioned me, I would simply look at them as though they were derranged.

It may sound a little nutty, but because I was so nervous about the bathroom, I took it upon myself to worry about how it sounded when I peed. First, the sound of women peeing is differentthan that of men. Women usually make a sort of spraying noise, and men do not. I achieved a good facimile by trying to pee at the a point just above where the edge of the water meets the toilet bowl. Women also rarely give that one last squirt of urine that men often do after they are basically finished. I took it upon myself to stop peeing a bit before I was done every time. This may sound insane, but I was very nervous about the bathroom.

I was also quite nervous about my voice. The only remedy I figured out was incessant practice. I had to learn to talk from my head instead of my chest. I needed to learn female speech patterns. I needed to raise my tonal range. Other people have written excellent instructions on the topic so I will not get into specifics. To practice, I would sing while I walked from place to place, which was particularly helpful. This may have seemed insane to people nearby, but I did not care, and eventually I stopped getting sirred on the phone, which was my first major goal. In the end, my female voice became second nature. I can still talk like a boy if I want, which has its entertainment value. In the end, I think that voice is secondary to face, since lots of women have husky voices, but it is important that you not sound like a man or a typical drag queen.

Socially, I would say the most important thing to be is somewhat shy and somewhat reluctant to make decisions, particularly for other people. This means that you let other people take the lead almost all the time. Trying to take control and make firm decisions is more a masculine trait anyway. In my experience, women usually try to reach a group consesus.

By the time I got the lower surgery done, I had lived full-time for almost 2 years. I had already integrated well into society as a woman, which was the most important thing for me. Lower surgery was icing on the cake. My surgeon was Toby Meltzer. I recommend him highly, and have been quite pleased with the surgical result. It should be noted that I got mine done when he was still in Oregon. Apparently he is now in Arizona, and I do not know if the change in hospitals represents an improvement.

For me, lower surgery was not the main event. I know that it is for some people, and that is OK, but I do worry about those who pass poorly in respect to their ability to integrate into society. It has been said before, but the lower surgery will not solve your social problems. You do not run around in public with that part of your body bared to the world (I hope).

To close, I would say that if you want to succeed at this you should be tenacious. The process usually takes years, and it affects your whole life. You need to work hard at it, probably sacrificing many luxuries to get there. You also need to keep your sense of humor so that despair does not set in. Anyway, I wish you all much luck, and I hope that I have been helpful.



P.S. I have attached a photo of me and my dog next to a very tenacious tree, tenacity being the thing I feel a tranny needs most. It is certainly not the girliest picture I have of me, as it was taken when my husband and I were out camping. Still, it is easily one of my favorites.

[Editor's note: Photo not included for privacy reasons.]

Send me your thoughts, links, and advice!

If you transitioned in your teens or twenties and have any advice you'd like to share, please contact me , and I'll give it a permanent (and anonymous) home.