Transitioning early in life: Chloe's advice

[* name and certain details changed to protect her privacy]


Dear Andrea,

I came across your site through Dr. Lynn Conway's website. I've transitioned a few years ago. I'm now in my late 20s. My transition took place when I started college in Switzerland. I'm unique in some way because I grew up without any support from the community. To this day I have yet to meet another post-op woman. I may have come across a few who appear a bit masculine. That's about my only encounter. At this point in my life, I'm not sure I want to get involved since I'm so used to living a stealthy life. But after reading your section on passing, I would like to offer some suggestions that might be useful to young transitioners. Here they are.

1) Others have stressed the importance of behavior as well as appearance. I would have to agree. The eye contact, the stare, slight glance are all important. Men don't seem to know t he slightest differences. But women can sense them quite easily. Of course if you're awkward it doesn't mean that they clocked you... but their reaction may make you uncomfortable. It's hard to teach someone who just transition on how to be like other women. I think it really helps if there are close female friends who accept the new you... and invite you into their world.

2) Besides behavior, we all agree that the look matters. I would break down the look into your own physical appearance and clothing. Yes... the appearance part is probably the hardest. My advice would be to start dieting and exercising... that's something most do not stress. Clothes do not make you a woman. Know the average body size and weight of a female. Train yourself to reach that goal. For those who are quite tall, it might be more of a challenge. As a matter of fact, it's even better if you have proportions that resemble a more shapely (thin) female. I know... this is not politically correct. But a slim person in public does receive a more positive response from strangers.

3) Regarding clothing, my best advice is wear what other girls are wearing. Not trashy. It can still be classy and sexy. I wear jeans or casual pants a lot with simple shirts, blouses and sweaters. Don't try to stand out. No high heels please. No grandma dresses either. Wear very little or no make-up. Most assume that you need make-up to look more feminine. I would disagree. Most young women in my age group use very little make-up that stand out (like lipstick, eye liner etc.). Do invest in cleansers and moisturizers and other daily hygiene regimen that improve your overall skin texture. I think this is where exercise really helps. When I say exercise, I mean both aerobic and weight training. Some might be afraid to pump weights. There are ways to tone your body without causing too much muscle growth. If you're really looking to reduce your waist size, you must do crunches. Hormones will l not reduce your waist size. Yes that means giving up on fatty foods or sodas or your favorite junk food.

I think I'll stop here. What I'm emphasizing is that it takes a lot of hard work to pass. Study and learn female behavior. Diet and exercise. The attitude that "I feel like a woman. And if people cannot accept me, it's their problem." will not do you much good. Because in the end, it is you who will suffer. It's like driving on a freeway. If you obey rules and practices, you won't get into road rage with other drivers. Why confront with strangers you meet for a short time on a public highway?

And I haven't even touched on the subject of voice. I think your website does a great job in that department.

I'm sorry that I can't supply much information about me. I transitioned during the summer before my freshman year. I started dressing androgynously over the summer. I also lost a lot of weight (from about 135 lbs to 115). I got to a point where strangers don't know how to address me, sir or miss? :-) One time in July while I was jogging, it started to rain. I wasn't wearing a bra at that time yet. My T-shirt got soaked and male drivers started honking... it's very funny when I think of that incident. When school began, I dressed like other girls. My hair was beyond shoulder length. I think after about a year in transition (and after hormone therapy for four months), my weight was around 110 lbs. Oh, btw my height is 5' 7". My measurements were 34-24-34. My breasts didn't grow much.

All in all, it's been a very pleasant and smooth journey for me. And I don't see why it can't happen to other young transitioners. It's easy to stay locked in your shell and not face the world. It's easier to be around other trans-people who accept you. It's easier to frequent gay or trans-friendly establishments that welcome you. But it won't do you good in the long run. It does take much effort, but it has a tremendously positive effect on your well-being.

Follow-up comments

Dear Andrea,

Thank you so much for taking the time and including my take in the passing issue. I hope it has a positive effect on young transitioners. Hmm... I don't even like the word "transition." I would rather just call them girls or young woman :-). That's what they are.

I can give you a lot more details regarding college. I went to a prestigious school in Switzerland, then did my graduate works at two prestigious American schools. I just graduated last summer and have been working in Europe. In college, I didn't have to do much when I started college. I did see my doctor to let him know my circumstances. I used women WC (toilet) without hesitation. I didn't participate in sports (I was nerdy...) but often used the locker rooms and have a quick shower. (They have single shower units with curtains.) I didn't mingle with the gay and lesbian crowd just because I think the issues are different. This will get me in trouble but here's how I see it. The GL group tends to hang out by themselves and be comfortable with. They also date among them. There's no gay/straight misunderstandings. I felt like I can be with any crowd and date straight boys. My issues like passing, hormone therapy and its progress and side effects, financing for SRS, legal matters... are unique and they wouldn't understand. Also I don't want to become a curiosity when I reveal my sexuality as "that girl you know... is really a guy!'' If I tell them I'm straight, they think I have no business being with them. OK enough said.

I hang out with mostly people from the dorm. Close friends that I met in classes. I dated boys whenever I come across one that's cute :-) hmm... and there are plenty. We did mostly young couples' stuff (hee hee, you know what I mean). That's about it. My advice is "tell only those who absolutely need to know for legal and medical reasons." Don't tell your friends, professors or even administrators if not necessary. I know... you're probably thinking about dorm rooms. If your legal document (resident card, passport, driver's license) states you as a female, then they must accept you as one. (I don't know if any school admin. can expel you for not revealing that you're a t/s. If so you shouldn't study there anyway.) If you share with a roommate, then it's a case-by-case thing. If you know she will freak out, then ask for another roommate. I don't know when it is right to reveal your secret to her. You never know when she might turn against you. Trust me... women do gossip a lot, especially the juicy, put-her-down stuff. Then your life will be hell. I almost never take off my bra and panties even when I go to bed. Based on my experience no girl has ever accused or bullied me or be suspicious. We all come in many flavors, looks, shapes, breast sizes! I think it really helps if you have the right attitude and personality. I've heard others comment about going to the mall and studying female behavior, movement etc. It's not enough to just stare from a distance. You must be one of them by blending in. Yes you will feel a bit awkward and uncomfortable at first, but they won't suspect. There are students from all parts of the world and they are different in many ways. If you don't take your clothes off until you get into shower or if you don't walk around naked in the locker room, they'll just assume you're prudent, shy or modest.

It seems like I am preaching stealthiless... which I am. That's the path I have chosen and it suits me well. I can't say whether it will work for everybody else. I started a new person in freshman year. I'm sure it would be more difficult if the change comes in 2, 3 or 4th year. One option would be to have the legal work done (With a good attorney and letter from your doctor, you can obtain proper legal documents and ID.), and then transfer to another schoo l, preferably far away. I can honestly say there are many many good schools for a four-year program. No need to be attached to one. The financial aspect of getting medical assistance shouldn't be that hard either. Yes that means you might have to work part-time, you won't be able to buy all the pretty clothes you see at the store front... but the costs of hormones (even without insurance) is not high. (Oh btw, I think in USA most doctors treat their patients with anti-menopausal medicine. Almost all (Premarin, Estrace etc.) are natural estrogens with lab control for consistency and potency. They tend to be more expensive than the synthetic pills. Everywhere in Europe the standard practice is to prescribe synthetic (birth control type) pills. They are much cheaper. I can't say which has a more feminizing effective but the synthetic pill such as ethinyl oestradiol has a longer half-life and stays in the body longer. Their effect lingers even if you don't take them at regular intervals. That's a good thing because it is quite hard for a full-time college student to eat at regular times and take medicine afterwards. A female body has its own ways of maintaining this equilibrium. We have to simulate that cycle. I take birth control pills. None of my girlfriends suspect (hmm... maybe a little envious of my sex life!) when they see my prescription bottle.

Ohhh... I can't believe it's this long again. I'll shut up. Andrea, I do think teens have more resources these days. If someone feels uncomfortable with her body and the image it projects, and the way people treat him, then she should do her homework. Head to the library. Read.. read and read more. Everybody has something unique to share. Know all the potential hardships. Psychological, social, legal, medical and above all, financial. By saving money, getting a part-time job and being a good student will make things much easier. Maybe a college scholarship will spare you from college loan and ease the interest on your SRS bill. A good degree and high GPA will get you a high paying job and more friends in school (always true around exam time). Exercising and dieting and always keeping yourself busy with school and work will blow you blues away too. Otherwise you're just gonna have all the time to think about your miserable life and dig deeper into the hole. The efforts will be worth it. You'll be the real you that you have always wanted to be. Bubbly, friendly, caring, moody (sometimes), funny, open... Taking pills in the late teens really does make wonders. (The sad part is most post-op or even pre-op who transitioned young are so comfortable in their new lives they don't make themselves known in public. For someone who's at an early stage of confusion, seeing how others did and made it can be a big psychological boost.) I can't give much advice on dealing with family. It depends on so many things. Don't worry about your childhood or high school friends. Most likely they will abandon you. But you're gonna make tons more in college. You'll cherish those more because they love the new you. And they are the most lasting because we all get similar degrees, similar jobs, similar work environment, etc. And if you live in the dorm they become your family.

What I did right, and what I wish I did differently

Dear Andrea,

Sorry I couldn't answer your "three things" question sooner. I sat on it for over a week. Oddly enough I never thought of my experiences in terms of three "good" and three "bad." They were all a succession of milestones and learning experiences. I can say it is painful to revisit my past and figure what I really enjoyed and what I would have done differently if given a chance all over again. I can now think of a few. But... I would have to tell you more about myself for you to make sense. I wrestled with the disclosure for a few days.

I watched the fireworks last night in an eastern US city. Once my home town for a few years. The pyrotechnics is probably the most amazing I have seen. They seem to find a way to be creative every year. This year's always tops the last. It's our Independence Day. I’m visiting for about three weeks. Part business, part leisure. Ten days from now it will be the Liberation (Bastille) Day for the French. I remember bonfires, baked escargot (snails), tarte flambee with crème freche, Riesling wine and a lot of singing and dancing. I spent four years in France as a teenager. July is full of memories for me. On the 10th, seven years ago something volcanic in scale happened in my life that would changed my course of direction. Then three years ago, my Aunt died on the 17th. I had just finished reading “The Lovely Bones.” I had to stop and wipe my tears every few pages. Is it possible to talk to those you passed away? Are they looking over every move that we make? It was on the 14th eleven years ago when I cried so hard by the river and finally decided that I'm going to start dressing as a woman and face all the challenges that lie ahead.

And here I am on the 5th, regurgitating about my past experiences.

So where do I start? From the beginning! :-)... Hi Andrea, my name is Chloe. I am 28 yrs old. I currently work as a research engineer/technical consultant for a research institute in Europe. I'm a single child, a loner and inter-racial. Hmm... that's about it on the surface! My Mom died when I was 15. Ironically her death opened the way for my transition. I stayed with my Aunt that summer in Switzerland and saw a shrink for grief counseling. We talked about so many things, including my confusion and uneasiness with being a male. I enjoyed all things feminine: cooking with my Mom, shopping with my Mom, learning art and various languages, sewing and knitting, interior decoration, planting flowers and vegetables, colors and fabrics, real animals. And my addiction for stuffed animals! Whenever I see a teddy bear, I melt. That is when my doctor hinted that I might be gender-dysphoric. I have never heard of that term, and I didn't believe a person has a right to live a life of another gender. I told him about my cross-dressing behavior. How I used to watch myself in the mirror after dressing up, hiding my male organ between my legs and lack of interest in girls, and difficulty fitting in and understanding my male friends and their behavior. I always thought boys were mean, coarse, rough and insensitive. Soon I was dressing like a tomboy everyday. I was jumpy when I walk. I say hello to strangers I meet on the streets. I chit chat with vendors at the market. My mood changed. I became more open, happy, outgoing, at times funny. He then asked me if I feel happy being myself. I said yes and that was the start of my transition. I had full support from my Aunt. I confided in my Dad about my new experience. He was so angry he hung up. I cried for the next few days.

Come fall, I started college in Switzerland. I studied engineering. Growing up my biggest hobby was music, listening and playing various instruments. Along with music came my interest for anything electronic. I was fascinated with my electric keyboard and its ability to create all those wonderful sounds. When I was younger, I thought all kinds of tuned forks were built into a keyboard. Silly me. Well... that's what I saw when I looked at organs in cathedrals. It amazed me that there were only wires and little tiny pieces with different colors, and some looking like cockroaches. From that point I knew I wanted to know all there is about these little creatures that sing beautiful sounds. Since I lived close to the campus I was already familiar with the school. My doctor also teaches at the university. On the first day of school a cute shy boy stopped me and asked for direction. His name is Esteban. I will call him E. He spoke to me in Spanish, guessing that I was one. I told him I don't understand :-P. We both laughed and walked together to the Registrar's office. I wouldn't see him again for over a year and a half. But we were destined to cross paths again....

No doubt undergraduate years were the most fun. Yo started meeting new classmates and friends. They all come from different parts of the country and around the world. We all struggle with the studies and find time to have some fun too. I just worked very hard my first two years taking more than the full load of classes. I took other interesting classes outside my program (painting, religion, creative writing, etc.). I was asked out maybe by a dozen or so boys. I never said no. It was all pretty tame. Going to movies, clubs or just hanging out with other dates. (Oh… here the drinking age is 18.) I was very shy at first. The experience kissing a boy for the first time was electrifying. During my sophomore year, I started waiting tables to have extra money for books, clothes and other stuff like skiing and hiking. My Dad and I had a strained relationship ever since I started dressing as a girl. He didn’t approve it. I didn’t ask him for a penny. He wanted me to come back and attend school in USA. I said no and stayed with my Aunt. Most of my school expenses were covered by scholarship. Later that year I answered to a campus posting seeking band members for a rock/pop group. I was getting tired of playing all by myself. I went and met some guy. He asked to play guitar, piano and drums. As other members joined I was finally asked to play the drums. They all said, “hey… you’re pretty good for a girl.” Now that’s an insult! We needed a lead singer and that’s where E came in. He couldn’t play anything… but he could sing! He’s Spanish and he sang us songs by his idol heartthrob Julio Iglesias. You know those syrupy, cheesy love songs J And I fell for him right there. Of course I pretended like I wasn’t that interested. Grhhh….

I started hanging out with him and other guys in the evenings. We got gigs at some local pubs. No pay, just dinner and drinks and applause from drunken audience. Soon E and I started seeing each other exclusively. Other guys from the band knew about our “chemistry.” Once when we went hiking on the Alps, they let the two of us sleep in one tent. Later that year while I was waiting table, a largely built Italian man asked me a favor to pose for some pictures. I declined. He seemed like a slippery playboy. He came back again with two other men and camera stuff. He asked my manager if they could take pictures of me while I waited tables outside. He obliged, they took many and gave me a big tip. Soon he came to my dorm room and asked if I’m interested in modeling. I didn’t know what to say. I discussed with E and we both thought it was worth a try, simply for the extra money we needed for band equipment. For the next two years I worked with that Italian design/fashion team, and always E came along.

As years passed, we all graduated. I had a double major in elect. engineering and math. (I never thought I would like math. But this science is truly like an art. Systems, patterns, uniformity and all that. And I needed it to understand all those engineering concepts.) I got a job in in Switzerland at a large technology company. E took a job in Italy at an international organization. We made sure we see each other every weekend. We took turns commuting by train. By that time I have visited Spain and his family twice. I met his family (two younger sisters, Mom and Dad and Grandma and other relatives.) I had such a blast with them. They all fell in love with me from the get-go. I prepared meals together with his Mom and Grandma at an outdoor stove. His uncle played a strange looking guitar very well. I dressed up like a gypsy along with his sisters and danced.

Oh.. some key details… Before I took the model job, I came clean with E. I didn’t know how to gently disclose it. I had no advice or practice. I told him about the times when he wanted to be intimate and I hesitated. Then out of the blue I told him it was because I was born a boy. That night he was so distraught he walked out of my room. I cried all by myself for many hours. My roommate kept asking what happened, whether E had abused me. I couldn’t answer. I had a secret I couldn’t share. I think it was around 3 in the morning. He was pounding my door. I opened and I could see that he’d been crying too. He hugged then kissed me. He murmured “Baby I love you since the first day I met you. You are my girl…” and we both started crying again. He then sang me “You’re always a woman to me” by Billy Joel and put me to sleep. The next morning we both woke up simultaneously. I stared right into his eyes. He was smiling. He said my eyes were electric. Even though we slept for about 3 hours I felt fresh and warm already. We fooled around in bed. It was the first time I felt comfortable. He avoided touching my sensitive parts. I was happy to be submissive and pleasured him in ways I knew. There we were… lying on the bed for over three hours. Neither of us wanted to get up, but we eventually got hungry. (You know.. from all that love-making J) We both showered, got dressed and went out for breakfast. It was like a new beginning. That was the best day of my life. Over crepes and coffee we discussed about our future and my plan for surgery. (In Switzerland, most of the hospital and medical costs are paid for by the state.)
It all sounded too good to be true. My Dad never came to my graduation. It hurts deeply but I didn’t mind. Everyone else had family there. I was the only one without. I missed my Mom terribly that day. I always wanted to know if she would approve of what I have become. We both started our new jobs in Sept. On July next year, one Saturday morning as I was about to leave for the train station, I received a call. It was from his boss informing me that E had been taken to the emergency room from a gunshot wound. I first didn’t believe it. When it came to my senses I boarded the train to get to where he was. The high speed train wasn’t fast enough. I kept crying many many times on the platform and in my seat on the train. People around me were consoling… doing whatever they can to ease my suffering. I never made it… he was gone by the time I got to the hospital. Just like the time when I was at school and my Mom passed away …

What happened the next few months of my life was shrouded in dark matter. It took me so much strength to recollect what I was feeling then. I had purposely blacked out everything I wanted to forget. I didn’t fly to Spain to attend his funeral. How am I gonna face his family? It was a family I wanted as my own. Now they and I can never be related. I can never call his mother “Mom.” I was on the verrge of ending my life too. I so desperately wanted to be with My Mom and E. But I couldn’t say goodbye to my Aunt and everything I have in this world. I still wanted to travel. Teach young children. Go to Africa and do humanitarian work. All those thoughts and desires… I asked God for forgiveness… that I considered this as his punishment to me for leading this deceptive and sinful life. Every place and everything reminded me of him. I had no choice but to run as far away as I can from where we both built our lives together. That meant calling my Dad and asking for his help. After all these years I was on my way with a one-way ticket to the US.
My Dad is a military man. He always wanted a son he would grow up to be a fighter pilot or astronaut. What I have become is an unimaginable nightmare for him. He was quite shocked to see me after all these years. There was no way for him to recognize me if we ever meet in public. He said “If you’re gonna live under my roof, you are my son and act and dress like one.” For the next few months, I became a very unconvincing man. I had to give up my long flowing hair for a crew cut. That winter I applied for Grad. School and got accepted at a top US school. My research supervisor is a good friend of my advisor at prep school. He accepted me warmly. That year was the most miserable in my entire life. I was dressed as a man while not feeling or looking like one at all. I declined all offers from my friends for any socializing. Everybody mistook me as a girl. Even when I tell them that I’m male, they still shook their heads. I didn’t know how to sound like a man. Many years ago when I went through puberty my voice never deepened. When my close friends started sounding different, I asked “What’s wrong with your voice? Do you have a cold?” Their reply was “No.. I’m turning into a man.” I was shocked and awed. My voice never matured. You know how the voice of Charlie Brown sounds? Something like that. I didn’t grow much body hair. Almost no facial hair. (I never had electrolysis.) Whenever I get upset and raise my voice, I sounded more feminine. And you know about New Yorkers… Many men approached me assuming I was gay. I have never met gay men till then. First I didn’t understand their looks and advances… After a while I got it. During that time I cried and whined to my aunt over the phone and in letters. My close friend Sara became a shoulder to cry on. She’s from Spain. I unloaded all my past experiences to her. It was she who gave me the courage to break away from my Dad and pursue my happiness and true meaning in life. I was determined. I applied for a PhD program and accepted the offer from a prestigious East Coast school. This was the beginning of another chapter in my life.

I started life anew as a woman again. Next came a few years of hectic schedules, course loads, research projects, etc. During those years I first started spending time at the library and read all I can about transsexuality and biographies about those who have made it before me. Oddly enough it was my first full exposure to the literature. Before that I grew up just being a regular college girl like anybody else. It gave me the strength to realize that this is not a sin… that I’m not the only one in this world. That others found a new fulfilling life with happiness. I knew right from then I could make it happen too. Having become comfortable with myself, I started taking care of myself. I jogged almost every morning. I felt like shopping again without feeling guilt putting on a dress. I got noticed by geeky engineering boys as well as the more refined Ivy League guys. I started dating again. Once the relationship got more intense I broke it off because of my insecurity and my unwillingness to replace E with someone else. I was carrying a heavy baggage. I always managed to find some fault in every man I dated when compared to E. In the process I also felt guilty and sorry for the innocent guy who knew nothing about what I was going through. I don’t know if my knowledge of transsexuality was poisonous, but I became aware that most people are very uncomfortable with this subject. For that reason I didn’t want to divulge my secret. After a while I just said no thanks to any proposition. I felt lonely at times. In grad. School, friends are not as close as undergrads. We all live off campus and our own worries and concerns. Some are married. I hated seeing my favorite tear-jerking movie alone with no one else to share it with. I now had the urgency to complete my surgery. The next year I went back to Germany and completed the operation. I had my much needed R&R at my cousin’s place. (My aunt had died of cancer the previous year.) My cousin, who became very close to me, took the time and effort to show me everything and every place around Munich. I fell I love with that city. I knew immediately where my next home is once I graduate.

During that summer I went to see my shrink in Switzerland. I wanted to disclose the good news… that I’ve legally become a female! He was so happy to see me. We decided to have dinner that evening. He urged me to put my past behind… by revisiting places E and I frequented, to go to his grave site, meet his family and finally say goodbye to him… a closure of all sorts. I assured him that I would consider. That summer my cousin proposed to take me on a trans-EU trip. I accepted. We first flew to London. For once I had to leave my teddy bear behind. He was with me through all these years. E had kissed him many times on his big nose. After Holland and Belgium and Paris, we drove to Alsace. By the time we got to Strasbourg I was missing my teddy bear so much. I couldn’t sleep at night. I missed hugging him. That day he took me to the Notre Dame cathedral. Inside I lit candles and said a prayer quietly. Three candles… each for my Mom, E and Aunt. Out of nowhere, tears started pouring freely. The three flames became a blur into one. I started shaking and quivering hard… he came aside and held me tenderly. Once outside we bought a plate of tarte flamblee and a bottle of Riesling. Hmm… it was like old times. The Alsatian brick-oven pizza still tastes as good as before. He asked me what I prayed for inside. I told him… “I asked God why I wasn’t born with the right body and mind. Why did he give me all this beauty and brains and still a male sexual organ. Why?” While we were munching and taking turns sipping, he explained to me the history of the cathedral. All the intricate wood carvings on the outside. This gothic structure…instead of two steeples on each side, one was missing. The architect while building it fell and died. In his honor they never completed the second steeple. He said there are many other amazing gothic structures across Europe. But many people still come here because of this unique symbol. There I pondered for a while. What is the meaning of “one”? Does the cathedral need two balancing steeples to become one? Do two people need to be next to each other to be one? If a she is lacking one half of what’s considered normal, is she still one? It occurred to me… yes, I’m unique. A part of me is missing. The love of my life. But I still love my life. A part of me isn’t really female. But I’m see myself as nothing other than a female. I’m different from other normal people. That makes me unique. That makes me special. Because of it people will stare and be curious. Just be happy. It’s a gift.

While we walked back to the hotel, a souvenir store was selling stuffed animals. Hanging on a pole was this tiny cute bear looking a bit tired and worn out. One look and I knew I wanted it. I paid 10 Euros and brought it to my room. I wasn’t sure if it’s a boy or girl. It was wearing a red jumpsuit. Hmm… I thought for a second and declared to him, it’s a she! That night I slept like a baby. Not sure if it was because I was intoxicated with all the wine, or felt happy being unique and held a cute bear in my arms. For once I felt so guilty for not missing by old bear. Have I found another? How is that possible? I thought when you love someone, it lasts for an eternity. Over breakfast the next morning, I discussed this silly topic with him. “Hey.. what am I gonna do when I get back home? Do you think they both will fight for my attention?” Maybe this was God’s message… that I should learn to love a new beginning, a new life, another bear, a new love in my life while all along retaining all my memories and love of my past life. That I needed to move on… and we boarded an ICE train that was moving faster and faster as it left the station in Strasbourg towards his home town in Switzerland.

As we crossed the Rhine river, I opened our cabin window, threw out a stack of letters into the river. Each and every one E wrote to me. I have read them many times over and over through the years that I can remember every sentence. I’m sure I can recall them whenever I try hard enough. But it’s my past. I’m crossing the border from France to Germany. How things have changed. No border patrol. No customs and immigration. The outpost buildings are empty. It’s just an imaginary line that separates two countries that are united under one big umbrella. In the past Alsace went back and forth between France and Germany. Where is the borderline that divides these two nations? The mighty Rhine or the great Vosges mountains? Who cares. Most people in Strasbourg take the No. 28 bus to the German border town of Kehl to do shopping where there is no VAT tax J. Most Alsatian natives are bilingual. First names in French with German last names. The half-timbered houses are authentically German, but everything else, including the sleek tram system is very French. Why allow politicians and law-makers to tell us where the boundaries are. They are all shades of gray. That evening I spent time with all my relatives. Lovely gathering, wine and tons of food as always. Basel is another small pretty quaint border town on Rhine where France, Germany and Switzerland merge. French looking people speaking unique German. They are very proud to be Swiss. The best of both worlds! I couldn’t sleep that night. He was taking me back to my home town the next day, a place I vowed to never return once E left me without ever saying a goodbye.

Not much has changed. I walked the path all alone again.. where he and I first met. I stopped and sat in classrooms I attended. I then took him to the crepe café where E and I had our most romantic time. Amazingly I didn’t cry. While telling him about all the little things we did together, I smiled and reflected. It was all good… those were the best moments of my life. I thanked him for bringing me here. And I quietly thanked E, a shy boy from Barcelona, for having the courage to walk up and ask for directions… and walking into my life, straight to my heart and leaving those everlasting footprints. There I told him not to take me to Spain. I didn’t need to see E at his grave site. I didn’t need to see his family. They are all probably trying to get on with their lives. I’ve found my closure here. He is dead. I don’t need to confirm it. He will always live inside of me. He is my immortal…

Dear Andrea, I never put my thoughts and feelings in words all these years. I was too scared to let someone else see the turmoil inside me. But I’d learned to record those feelings in poetry. So here are some of them. I’ve written over 100, but I think a few will do J I like the sex symbol on your website. Do you know… I wear something similar around my neck. Just I met E in Italy, he took me to Venice. On a gondola he proposed and gave me a ring. After all these years I didn’t know what to do with it. When I was in his home town, my boyfriend bought me a birthday present. It was a silver necklace with a cross pendant blessed by the saints. After throwing out all his letters I couldn’t discard the ring. I wanted to cherish it the rest of my life. It won’t be appropriate to wear it on my finger. I slid it along the chain so that it rests next to the cross pendant. Just a few months ago I had a business trip to The eastern Mediterranean. A male friend bought a star pendant for luck and fortune. I thanked him and wore it with the cross and ring. I just realized recently when you combine the ring (circle) with a cross, they resemble a female sex symbol. When the ring and the pointy star are aligned properly we have the male sex symbol! Wow… whenever a colleague or stranger asks for the significance of the necklace, I give the “straight” answer.

To sum up, three things I did right:

1) Taking this path early in life. It’s been very rich and fulfilling in many ways. Some problems that other transgender women face were irrelevant to me. I never paid for electrolysis or facial surgery. Most of my gender operation cost was covered. I pretty much got a chance to live a young female life in college and further. I truly believe those who transition early can pass amazingly well. I can’t say for others, but if you look boyish cute when you were young, you grow up being a pretty girl. It seems easier to stay slim than genetic girls. And we don’t have cellulite! And above all, we know what men like and dislike. I can be both his girlfriend and his best friend at the ballgames.

2) Not committing suicide. There were many times when I seem to have reached a dead end. Killing myself seems the only solution. Nobody understands or loves me anyway. I didn’t know how to resolve issues at that moment. All I had was my optimism and a positive outlook that one day I will do something good on this earth. I owe it to my Mom for planting the seed in me. To all young transitioners, you can’t give up. But you can’t be slacking either. That miserable year in Columbia was when I was the most productive. I managed to file several patents and now I’m rewarded with a very good job.

3) Just trying to be a good person. Don’t expect others to understand your condition. It’s very hard. If people mistreat you, know that it’s not personal. When I started reading about transvestites and cross-dressers, I was ashamed of them. No… I’m not like that. They distort our true feelings inside. Then I realized I was prejudging them like anybody else. How am I different from those who only cross-dress? Maybe some couldn’t afford to fully transition. Maybe some would have a difficult time passing and get accepted in this hostile world. Foremost learn to forgive. The truth hardly matters. At the end of the day, don’t let little things bother you. Know your finish line, but also find ways to enjoy the journey. That way you won’t be let down after surgery. For me I wanted surgery for one reason only: to be intimate with a man. I won’t have to hide that thing. If I have the desire, I can confidently take my clothes off. So learn to enjoy the transition period. It is full of wonders. I had many many funny, thought-provoking, philosophical moments.

Now things I did wrong:

1) My relationship with my Dad. I was stubborn. I grew up mostly with my Mom. We always had a distant relationship. No matter what, he is my blood, my family. You can walk away from old friends and make new ones. But not with your family. I guess I didn’t have the experience or guidance from others on how to deal with this thorny issue early on. What I fail to see was what all this meant to him. He had a son. He made plans for me. He wanted to be proud. He was in the government circle. During the Clinton years, he worked in the Whit House. It must be difficult for him to answer what his son has become. I didn’t offer him a clear exit strategy. I wanted him to accept me on face value. I wish I had resources to show him that I’m one of many out there. I wish I educated him better. I wish I showed him in person how I blend easily in public. How I am liked and respected by peers. Seeing is believing. That he doesn’t need to be ashamed of my appearance. It’s hard for ordinary people (even so to most trans-women) to imagine how hormones and proper dress/make-up can change a person’s appearance. The line that distinguishes between a male and female look is very blurry. Now he has retired from government and holds a private job. He is eager to introduce me to his associates when I meet them in NY. They do not hesitate to compliment about his attractive daughter. They’re always amazed when I describe my profession. But you can’t replace those lost years. You don’t have a photo of him and you at the graduation ceremony to show. You avoid topics with him that may resurface old wounds.

2) My insecurity about my appearance and my guilt for cross-dressing. First about cross-dressing. I thought I was a psycho wanting to wear women’s clothing. You wanted to be one but also hated myself. It is self-defeating. Even if you choose not to transition, accept your cross-dressing needs. If single, do it discreetly. If married, talk it over with your spouse. Always take others into consideration. Just because you can’t resist the urge, it doesn’t mean others around you have to suffer. Find an amicable solution. In my case, it was more about hating myself. The insecurity issue was more destructive. For a long time I didn’t know why people were looking at me. Men stare, make double-takes. Women also glance in subtle ways. They peep when you’re not looking their way. It took a huge toll on my self-confidence. I looked at myself in the mirror. It’s not about whether I’m cute or not like other people. It was about what made me look male. Is it the hair? Should I comb it right or left? Is it the nose? What about my body? Too thick around the waist? Shoulders too broad? I always thought they clocked me. Even after all the compliments I still believed some people could tell. I don’t know where the truth lies. But IT DOESN’T MATTER! Don’t let yourself get trapped in this vicious cycle. Once I was in Office Depot. The woman in front of me with short hair was addressed “Sir” by the sales clerk. I know… J He was later so embarrassed that he was making all those small talk about the cordless phone she was buying. What can she do? Nothing. Let it go. People make mistakes. There are people whose ethnicity, gender, profession and age are misread. Yeah.. it hurts, but don’t let it linger. I think in my case, my model work was a major ego boost. Other girls tell me later that they sometimes stare with envy. From that point on, when someone stares I assume because they find me attractive… even if they are thinking I look “male.” It always makes me feel good at the end of the day. Think positive. It’s like what Tyra Banks said. “When you walk on that runway, see yourself as being at the top of the world.” I know.. I know… But a more confident attitude (and thicker skin) really helps. And it takes the right mindset to own it..

3) Lastly it has to do with dating. When you want to be accepted as a female, having a male companion next to you seems like the quickest solution. Nobody dares to assume you as a guy when you are with a man. But it’s a time bomb. You’re playing with fire. There are feelings and hearts at stake. What if you become attracted to him or him to you? Most likely he will abandon you once the truth comes out. He might even be physically abusive because you lied and it threatens his male ego. If you break it off with him without reason, he may suffer and get mad at the whole female species at your expense. Don’t mistreat some nice guy who takes you to the movies and treat you dinner. Most of all, most men assume there is something in return for all the money they shelled out. Nothing is for free! Be aware of what you’re getting yourself into. For me I wish I could go back and tell men I dated why I did what I did. But the truth is comforting to them either. I now have to swallowed them all with guilt and learn to forgive myself.


p.s. I don't think I'm strong enough to share all the details to the whole world. If you would like to use it by concealing some events and identities, maybe I can help you with it. Thank you.

Before The Last of May
I've been running in circles
Trying to hide my fear
Through the nights of endless awaking
Your voice is all I can hear.
I've been climbing atop mountains
Trying to view the world beneath me
Through the clouds of endless sailing
Your face is all I can see.
I've been drowning in my sorrow
Trying to wipe the tears away
Through the rain of endless pouring
Your shelter is where I can stay.
I've been searching for the lost horizon
Trying to find the glory of love
Through the journey of endless wandering
The magic is all from above.
I've been looking into the future
Trying to understand the meaning of 'one'
Through the eyes of endless questions
I felt it when you were gone.
Now I am hoping for a miracle
Trying to con


e the space in time
Through the years of endless waiting
It's my rhythm without the rhyme.
Now that I've found Heaven
A far distance from Milky Way
I'll be coming home to you
Right before the last of May.

Afraid of ... Everything
Afraid to open my eyes
Knowing you may not be here,
Lying beside me.
I wake up with this fear,
Every morning.
Afraid to unlock my door
Knowing you may not be here,
Waiting up for me.
I sleep with this fear,
Every night.
Afraid to make a phone call
Knowing you may not be there,
To answer me.
I dial with utmost care,
Every number.
Afraid to face the future
Knowing you may not be there,
To greet me.
I live with this nightmare,
Every day.

Never Meant...For Me
You were,
never meant to hear...
the silence of my footsteps
On your deafened ears
the echoes in my whisper
holding back the tears
the beating of a broken heart
longing for the years.
You were,
never meant to see...
a pale beauty in disguise
in the shattered pieces of debris
in the colors of a darkest night
The crying of a sorrow tree
Clinging to an empty presence
Before I set myself free.
You were,
never meant to be...
God’s answer to my prayer
for life and eternity
for the hidden truth of love
never was my destiny
Like a song that never ends
Time stands still for me.

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.