Transitioning early in life: Kelly's advice

(ed. note: I've changed her name to protect her privacy-- A)

Kelly successfully transitioned several years after an unsuccessful attempt in her early twenties. Her story illustrates two important things: some common mistakes to avoid when you're young, and proof that you can always succeed later if an early attempt doesn't work.

Things I did right

Right before junior high, we moved to a new city and lived 2 blocks away from a college library. I read everything I could about transsexualism and hormones which was more than you would expect from a small college. Make sure your reading list is up to date. Educating myself probably had a lot to do with me never thinking that there was anything wrong with being a trannie. However, it didn't stop me from being afraid of what other people would think. You will need to be as knowledgeable as possible to manage your own transition. Bad advice from "experts" can do a lot of damage.

Education, education, education! I firmly believe that your number one priority is to get through college. I went to very large college which made it very easy to not stand out and just be another face in the crowd. I found it much more comfortable to live by myself off campus. Unbeknownst to me, I happened to select a college that was in a state/city that is quite progressive on social issues. My choice of major (Computer Science) turned out to be blessing because it was something I like, am very adept at, pays well, and has a fairly high percentage of women. If you are going to transition after college, research the successes of women who have transitioned in your career.

Location, location, location! Contrary to popular opinion, there are insurance providers that cover SRS. I happened to end up living in a state where the two largest insurance providers routinely cover SRS. However, employers (like the state government) are free to put in their own exclusions so check them out prior to accepting a position. And having SRS covered does not obviate the need to save a lot of money. Your surgeon of choice may not accept payments from insurance providers - I still had to prepay for surgery like everyone else and get reimbursed from my insurance provider.

To me, the whole point of transitioning is to have a normal life. I spent at least as much effort in this as with the physical transition. And I started on it long before RLT. I quit trying to keep up a guy image. I actively pursued friendships with women, especially those who I felt were good role models. I made sure to tell friends that a new outfit or hair style was cute and remember birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, babies, etc. Don't get in a rut socializing with just trannies.

I love playing team sports but wasn't active in for several years prior to RLT. It is possible to play team sports pre-op as long as you don't have to worry about showers or locker rooms. They are a tremendous way build a social network and I always feel my greatest sense of community when I am with other athletically minded women. When I find myself having a hard time making a decision, I always ask "What would I do if I wasn't a trannie?" and then going ahead and doing that!

Things I wish I did differently

From the time I was 10 or 11, I desperately wanted to tell my mom or someone else about my being TS. I really wish that I had been able to get up the courage. Instead, I lied through my teeth whenever the subject came up, especially when I got caught shoplifting women's clothes, or got a perm, or when my dad found my wardrobe, or when an local endocrinologist called back to schedule an appointment (and left a message with my mom). Don't ever resort to shoplifting even if you are a minor. If you live with other people, I highly recommend getting a PO box and a cell phone for privacy.

I went to a local gender clinic (currently where the HBGIDA mail address is) when I was 21 and it ended up setting me back at least 12 years. Although they can be good for some people - generally those who need to told what to do and when - it was the opposite of what I needed and probably what any highly functioning person needs. Their model was pretty much group therapy and getting approvals from committees for things (like HRT and at the time they required 6 months of RLT before starting hormones). Hmmm, let me see, I'm shy and afraid of what others think - so let's put me in a group of people. When I did pull my head out of the sand, I did things very differently.

One thing I regret is not pushing my mom on telling all of my extended family. We moved to the US when I was young and most of my relatives still live overseas. About half them know of my transition and are extremely supportive. My mom didn't tell the other half out of fear of their reaction. My only problem with this is that my grandmother recently passed away and I didn't feel comfortable going to her funeral because of these people not knowing. I really don't care how they react but I didn't feel that my dear grannie's funeral was the place for them to find out. I wanted her funeral to be about her and not me so I didn't attend. I really wish that things had worked out so that my grandmother could have met her granddaughter and that she and my son could have gotten to know each other.

I just read one of your comments on dating and can only add that one thing I stay away from is anyone who says "best of both worlds"!

I also regret listening to people who put doubts in my mind. Things like "You'll never look like anything other than a guy in a dress" or "You couldn't possibly be a woman because you like playing <some sport>". Although in my case, I ended up with a great life and perhaps wouldn't be the woman I am if I didn't take the path I did. Besides, it can be hard to predict exactly how someone will turn out. Believe me, based on a "before" picture, I can see how people would have thought those things. Often times, these comments come from people who claim to love you the most.

Andrea's comments

As usual, I am in agreement with these excellent comments.

Information is the most important thing you can be gathering while figuring out what to do. You should look for reliable up-to-date information. Many books on the subject are out of date-- the websites I list under info sources are generally considered very reliable. Just be careful of relying on anecdotal information from those you meet online. They're often no further along than you are, and sometimes they're just fakes or wannabes.

I absolutely agree about the importance of schoolwork. Because all of this is very expensive, you are going to want the best-paying job you can get. If there's something you love to do, you should pursue that with a passion.

While insurance does cover SRS for some people, it is generally the exception rather than the rule. You should definitely look into the option wherever you work, but you should also plan on getting the money yourself, since you'll probably need to pay out of pocket up front and get your money back later.

While having TS friends is extremely important for many, even necessary, I agree that it's potentially limiting to limit your circle of friends to TSs or the queer community. In my opinion, having diverse friends will make it easier and faster for you to adjust to a female role. It also gets you out of a very small subculture and involved with the world at large. Non-TS role models are just as important as TS role models!

Team sports or collaborative creative projects like plays or school papers can be great for your self-esteem, too. They can build a group of friends, but they can also teach you a lot about setting goals and interacting with others.

Coming out to parents must be handled with extreme caution. The younger you are, the harder this is, but the younger you are, the better off you'll be in the long run. Read the info in my section on coming out. Almost everyone I know wishes they would have said something sooner to their parents. Many did and were dismissed, and let that keep them from bringing it up again for many years. The main thing is to think it through and then be persistent but not pushy once you do come out so they understand it's not a phase. See my section on coming out for more on this complicated topic.

I think gender clinics are generally a bad idea for anyone, but they are especially bad for younger TSs. Their cookie-cutter approach is rarely designed with younger women in mind, and many are even more cautious with minors than a private practitioner will be.

I had the same problem as Kelly where my mom refused to tell certain family members, which led to a very awkward time for a few years where I was inexplicably absent from family gatherings. Read my page on coming out to my grandfather for details.

Anyone who's dealt with admirers of TSs knows that more than a few of them have major issues of their own and treat the objects of their desire as just that-- objects. I'll add more on dating in the future, but be careful of users. A lot of TS women have low self-esteem, which can get them into unhealthy relationships or cause them to engage in high-risk dating practices.

Finally, and this is important: If you know in your heart this is what you need to do, don't let ANYONE talk you out of it. Don't let fear of disapproval make you delay. You must believe in your self and believe that you know what will make you happy. Once you have realistic expectations for what transition can and cannot do for you, and once you have self-acceptance and truly like who you are no matter what sex you are, nothing can stop you from being the person you dream of being.

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.