Transitioning early in life: Anna's coming out letter

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

Editor's note:

Anna wrote this heartfelt letter to her conservative parents in 2007. It includes some passages discussed in my spirituality section. She happily reports that it worked well and wanted to share it for others as a possible guideline.

Dear Mom, 

I need to share with you an important part of who I am.  The person I really am.  You may question the need of this e-mail, or infer it has a hurtful purpose.  Nothing is farther from the truth, for I hope not only to retain your love and affection, but to forge a stronger relationship through this intimate process of disclosure.   

I have hinted to my condition in the past in an attempt to prepare you for a most shocking realization.  In fact, I have come close to saying it outright.  Nonetheless, the vast majority of my entire self-aware existence has been spent shielding you from the truth.  Even during the limited contact we’ve had over the past few years I have behaved completely disingenuously so as to deflect suspicion of my true self.   In all likelihood, I could prolong this subterfuge for another year and disappear quietly after graduation.  However, I cannot escape the fact that such circumlocutions are not only deceitful, but unfilial.  Therefore, I am morally compelled to tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. 

Given that laborious prelude, you may safely infer I’m about to divulge something prodigious, something that will forever change the way you see me.   Here it is: I do not just want to be a girl, I believe I am a girl.   

Although you will no doubt need time to let this new information stew in your mind, I want to assure you of a few facts.  First, as far as I can tell, my dysphoria can in no way be attributed to your parenting.  If I ever have a family, I would seek to emulate you.  You raised me with love and devotion that I hope is reflected in my thoughts and actions today, but none of this is your fault.   

Secondly, I would like to examine my condition from a spiritual perspective.  I have found my faith in God to be invigorating, and to be a source of strength in all dark times.  Therefore, it would be extremely distressing if my transition was proscribed in the Bible.  On the contrary, I have found the Bible to be a source of support, and my own prayers to have guided me towards the inevitable conclusion that this is right for me.  I cannot claim any special moral authority on this text, but I have sought answers in a humble way, and hope only to share my findings with you. 

First, I should note two important verses in the Old Testament.  Deuteronomy 22.5 states in no uncertain terms that a man should not wear women’s clothing.  Deuteronomy 23.1 says that no emasculated person shall enter the assembly of the Lord.   

If I were to simply ignore these verses, I would be guilty of selective morality, picking and choosing which laws I want to obey.  Instead, I could try to put all the Mosaic laws into context.  The same book contains other laws which can be seen as esoteric or downright cruel.  For instance, Deuteronomy 22.8 says to build a rail on the roof so no one falls off.  Other verses describe strict dietary guidelines and ceremonial practices that Christians do not practice.  By that standard, we are all guilty.  Moreover, other laws seem downright contrary to Christian teaching: stoning the unfaithful, killing the divorcee, paying 50 silver pieces to atone for rape.  Certainly “an eye for an eye” and “a tooth for a tooth” contradict Jesus’ doctrine of love and forgiveness.  Why should certain laws be elevated in importance, while others are wholly disregarded?   

Of course, I am not advocating Christians be given a free pass to disregard the Old Testament.  Rather, I believe it should be put into the context in which it was written, and reconciled with the New.  Jesus said He is not coming to abolish the Old Laws, but to fulfill them, or bring them new meaning.  Generally, the most important guidelines for Christians in the Old Testament are the ones repeated in the Gospel.   

The Old Laws were written in a time before Jesus.  They were written for the Israelites as a way of distinguishing them from other peoples of the Middle East, hence the importance of many ceremonial acts such as “wearing garments with four tassels” and sacrificing helpless animals.  In addition, fulfillment of the Old Covenant depended on the Israelites obeying these laws.   

My personal opinion is that, when they were written, those laws were good.  Certainly they came from God, and if they did not matter, they would not be in the Bible.  However, the coming of Jesus changed our entire relationship with God.  This change is clearly foreshadowed in the Old Testament: Jeremiah 31.31: “Behold, days are coming,” declared the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.”  Of course, Jesus ratified the New Covenant with his blood (Matthew 26.28), so that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3.16).   

Naturally one wonders if a New Covenant is an addition to the Old Laws, or a replacement.  As usual, the Bible provides an answer: Hebrews 8.13: “When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete.  But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.”  Moreover, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5: “Our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”  He continues: “For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory.”  Consider also Galations 3.19: “Why the Law then?  It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed should come to whom the promise has been made.”  Paul is essentially saying that the law should have been held until the coming of Jesus.  Later, he says “But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.  But now the faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”   

Anyone who ever walked the Earth is a sinner, except Christ.  Therefore, as described frequently in the New Testament, the purpose of the law before His coming was to show us our sin, to lead us to Christ.  The law shows us we all fall short, and need a Savior to redeem us.  Instructively, Paul writes in Romans 7 “But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.  What shall we say then?  Is the Law sin?  May it never be!  On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.”   

Perhaps most instructively of all, Jesus, the One without sin, did not keep the Old Law.  For instance, He touched the sick and the dead.  His disciples did not keep the Sabbath.  In Matthew, Jesus says “Not what enters into the mouth defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”  In the same chapter, the Pharisees ask Jesus why His disciples transgress the tradition of the elders by the way they eat bread.  Jesus replies: “And why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?”  A few verses later, “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesize of you, saying ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS THEIR DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’” Later, in Chapter 23, Jesus says of the Pharisees, the strict interpreters of the Old Law, “they do all their deeds to be noticed by men, for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments.  But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men, for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in… you shall receive greater condemnation.”   

What I wanted to show is that is the path to salvation is not through the Old Testament law, but through Jesus Christ, Who died for our sins to give us everlasting life.  Matthew 10:23: “Every one therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven,” and that brings me back to John 3.16 as well.  However, are there any other verses which may further ameliorate the sting of the Old Testament verses on “wearing women’s clothing” and “emasculation?”  I will try to keep this short, but I believe such verses can be found in both Testaments.  Remember, although I am definitely not a “eunuch,” that may be the closest approximation to my situation found in the Bible.  Incidentally, the Catholic Church was complacent in the forced castration of many.  Without further ado: 

1 Samuel 16.7: ...I do not judge as man judges. Man looks at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart. 

James 4.13: There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor? 

Acts 10.34: Peter began to speak: "I now realize that it is true that God treats everyone on the same basis. Whoever fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him... 

Galatians 3.28: ...there is neither male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus. 

Mark 9.43: If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.  [suggesting alterations of the body will not exclude one from heaven] 

Matthew 19.12: For there are some eunuchs, who were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, who were made eunuchs by men: and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

Acts 8: 29-36: [Philip baptizes a eunuch]

Isaiah 56.4-5: For thus says the Lord: to the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast to my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument better than sons and daughters, I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off."

Matthew 7.1: Do not judge lest you be judged yourselves.

John 8.7: …he who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Matthew 5.5: Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.   (and see Matthew 5.36-48)

James 1.2: Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Finally, let me add that that I question whether the Old Laws I mentioned would apply to me, since I am not “a cross dresser,” but rather believe that I am in fact a woman, created that way by God.  Moreover, I received Jesus into my life only by acknowledging and embracing that reality.  In sum, I do not believe the Bible excludes me from salvation on the basis of my gender identity. 

You can see the importance of faith in my life.  However, I recognize that there is more to life than religious doctrine.  You may still have many questions or doubts about me, or still not accept me.  Thus, I will present some practical information you may find illuminating, both specific and general to me.   

I have known I’m really a woman for some time now.  I have tried terribly hard to suppress or change my feelings over the years, but to no avail.  I don’t remember much of my childhood but I was always described as “sweet and loving.”  The only experiences I remember are distinctly feminine: watching Titanic, playing with beanie babies, listening to Christina Aguilera, and so on.  You can see why I would get uncomfortable with picture taking, why I always wanted to stop getting taller, or complained about my voice changing.   

You probably think I am a very unattractive girl.  Well, I do not know what people really think about me, but I have been presenting to you an intentionally unattractive image.  I hate being so tall, but besides that, I get good feedback on my appearance, especially regarding my hair, eyes, and smile.  You should know at this point in my life I am living as a girl fulltime.  My objective is to live in “stealth” so that no one is aware of my past.  Believe it or not, I have had less trouble with that than you might think.  For instance, I went to New Orleans for a service project, and slept on the floor in an elementary school without adequate bathrooms.  You might think such conditions would not be conducive to maintaining a female appearance.  However, I was never questioned once by the locals about my gender.  Moreover, these are not the people you would except to be open minded or especially tolerant: they were a low socioeconomic status group who’s homes had been destroyed, but the guys still found me attractive and flirted with me repeatedly, apparently never guessing my past.  Really I do most of the things other girls my age would do, and I’ve not had too many problems.  The only problems arise when I have to provide legal documentation!  Otherwise, I get pedicures, go shopping at the mall, dance, and a live a normal life.  My gender is not questioned at work either.  While my teachers are aware of my legal name, they do not seem to care, since I am obviously more of a girl than a guy.  Maybe it would be best to just show you some pictures at some point.  I really have been asked to model on more than one occasion.  Alternatively, maybe I’m deluded, or maybe people are just too nice to me.   

However, it would be wrong to say my life is all fun and games.  For instance, I have suffered mightily from depression, the result of living one reality for such a long time while deeply feeling another. I was severely depressed at ….; I was put on suicide watch, I’d been cutting, and so forth.  I thought I might get better if I went back to ………, where I’d be kept under closer tabs and have less opportunity to explore my femininity.  Of course, I did not get better.  I was still really depressed, even though I tried to pretend otherwise.  The vast majority of my nights were spent tearfully into the wee hours of the morning.  It’s no surprise I did not flourish academically.  Caring about grades is less important when you want to die.  This semester, however, I am living as a girl.  I am much happier.  I am making good grades again.  I have not smoked or consumed heavy alcohol in a long, long time.  I am exercising again.  Sure, life is not easy.  My height will be always be a problem.  As my phone message demonstrates, I (think) I can do a decent female voice, but only with a lot of effort.  Maintaining such a voice, and using it spontaneously, is difficult.  I also am plagued by my IDs and legal documents.  In addition, supporting this transition is very expensive.  That’s why I never have any money anymore.  I work very hard to buy things like clothes and makeup.  I don’t exactly wear Prada or Versace but I have a fairly comprehensive wardrobe at this point.  I am quite fashion conscious!  I also pay for therapy and treatment.  I want to get facial hair removal but so far I can’t afford it.  At any rate, I am actually somewhat optimistic about my future.  I hope you will be too.   

I have tried to anticipate other questions you might have.  These are the most concise answers I can give. 

Can I change?

No.  If I knew I had to live my life as a male I would find a gun and blow my brains out right now.  I have had these persistent feelings for a good 9 years.  I am infinitely happier as a girl.   

Am I really some sort of homosexual?

Absolutely not.  I am 100% heterosexual.  In fact, I’ve not engaged in sexual activity of any sort.  I am old-fashioned: I believe in waiting until marriage.   

What is my long-term goal?

To live as a woman and never have to talk about this again.  I don’t want anyone to know my past. 

Have I been “brain-washed?”

Not at all.  Again, my feelings are rooted in my earliest memories growing up.  Furthermore, I no longer have any contact with any gay organization of any type.  I have come to believe they are immoral and subversive.  They engage in sex and drug use at any time they please.  In addition, their agenda includes upturning the time-honored traditions of our Union.  I believe marriage is between man and a woman.  I am conservative, Christian, and Republican.   

I am sure you probably read what I’m saying and a lot of thoughts go through your head.  Unfortunately, a few perverse, exhibitionist men have trivialized the concerns of people who have a real biological need.  Well, I have absolutely nothing in common with any of the sorts of freaks you see on daytime TV or hear about in the media.  We should not be compared or lumped together in any way shape or form.  However, I should note I have found a few persons in similar circumstances as I who have gone on to lead successful, professional lives as scientists, doctors, and lawyers, and in a variety of other professions anyone else might do.  For instance, the person who pioneered microchip technology, the head of NASA’s Ames Research Center, and my friend at …. who manages the Microelectronic Systems Laboratory are all examples of what I’d consider “successes.” 

Why am I this way?

My preliminary investigation suggests that in utero my brain did not masculinize properly; the default state of all brains is female.  I can’t really prove this without examining the sexually dimorphic structures in my brain.  However, I have seen several therapists.  All have confirmed my own diagnosis.  I have also taken a few tests of innate gender.  On one test I scored more female than 90% of all takers, and I performed similarly on the other.  Furthermore, my index finger is significantly longer than my ring finger, which is a measure of pre-natal hormone exposure (guys show the opposite pattern).  Also, I have never shown any desire or ability to function in a male-type sexual role.   

Well, I suspect you knew this was coming.  You are very smart.  I just hope you’re not disappointed.  Maybe now you can give me some good advice even.  Finishing college with your support is my aspiration.   

The cost of hiding is tremendous.  I can’t let you and Dad see my room, answer my phone, or talk to my friends.  I can’t share my true self with you and share experiences or benefit from your wisdom.  I cannot be happy going back and forth, and doing so is increasingly difficult and burdensome.  That’s why I lost my key: I had it on a cute pink lanyard but I had to take it off, and somehow it disappeared. 

Please let me know if you have any questions.  I am sure such a weighty e-mail as this will bring forth many.  I hope I have not hurt you in any way.  I know you love me, and want what is best for me.  This is what is best for me.  I am still afraid of the future, but I am more afraid of the past.   

Remember, the last thing I ever wanted was to hurt and upset you, and the first thing I ever wanted was to make you proud.  With your help, I can convalesce and make you proud.   

I love you very much. 

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.