Transitioning early in life: Laura's advice

In December 2002, I received the following note from Laura,* a young woman who transitioned in her early teens and has some important information on the problems of stealth, especially before SRS.

[* name changed to protect her privacy]

Hi Andrea,

Thank you very much for your website. I found your new section on "deep stealth" very interesting. Though I have never heard the phrase before, I have been living in deep stealth for about ten years now. I am in my early-mid twenties, and I suppose I am commenting on or sharing my experiences with you to provide a prospective to your readers and others in my situation, which is fraught with relative rewards and terrors as can be expected. The main negative is obvious: here it is Christmas Eve and I am up at midnight with the burden of my situation and no one in my life with whom I can share it.

Some bio:

I began my transition informally at the age of 13. After watching a very informative interview with Caroline Cossey on Donahue, I began to realize that the Blue Fairie was not going to come with her magic wand and make it all better. I discovered that very soon great rushes of testosterone were going to permanently alter my physical appearance for the worse. So, I took matters in my own hands, which included a very serious bout with anroexia to prevent my body from masculinizing. At 14, I told my parents. They were generally relieved to know why I was starving myself, but it took about a year before they finally let me go on a proper, medically-supervised hormone regime. I must say in retrospect that they were incredibly supportive, and I promised them that a day would come when they could not think of me as anyone but their daughter. By the time I graduated from high school, my name was legally changed, and I had been living full time as a young woman for two years. The main benefits of transitioning so young was that there was really no transition involved. I went from pre-pubescent boy to girl.

But this is also a cautionary tale and a very difficult situation. I have been on high doses of hormones for ten years and I am only now beginning to climb the insurmountable financial path to surgery. Like most teenagers, I was told that college comes before anything else, and I am preparing now for graduate work. I have no friends who know that I wasn't always a woman. I have had numerous relationships with men. And this is where the caution comes in. I have never told any of my boyfriends, including one was I was with for 3 years. I do not need to speak to the obvious physical dangers of dating, dangers which I have fortunately never been exposed to. But there is another equally dangerous aspect that is not discussed. The danger to the heart. The danger to the conscience. If there are others in my situation, I would like them to see that this is also addressed even with an email comment.

For us (the "uncounted" and "stealthy"), issues of identity may not have been difficult, but there still is that gnawing loneliness of a burden which is carried alone in secret and, however justified, in deception. I can't express strongly enough how painful it is to end intimate relationships for reasons you cannot tell. Even in the closest of platonic relationships, there is still the despair that comes from hiding a central cause of stress and depression.

I admire and commend those who are "out" or who have transitioned later in life. But, a transition in the teens or twenties should not necessarily be praised or envied. It is a difficult and painful road that carries its own challenges and regrets despite any rewards in physical appearance.

Thanks for reading my rant. I hope it was somewhat coherent.

My comments

Here we have a best-case scenario: a young woman who was not afraid of telling her parents, who were then supportive. Those of you who are still living at home or financially dependent on your parents will have a MUCH easier time if they know and support your decision. However, it is extremely important that you think very carefully about how and when to tell them. See my page on coming out for more details.

Younger women tend to go full-time sooner, then take more time to save up for SRS. This is because women traditionally make much less than their male counterparts and have a harder time getting promoted. That's why you need to be especially disciplined with your money if you transition young.

Many people don't realize that one of the greatest difficulties for young women is that they often are completely accepted as female with ease. Starting young makes it much easier for this to happen. However, this can lead to situations where your difference from other women causes you to stay distant and avoid intimate relationships.

Everyone handles this differently, but my advice is this: think of your TS status not as something shameful, but as something private. It's nobody's business. However, there is a point where if you don't tell someone, it becomes an issue of trust. You end up revising your childhood, or leaving things out when you tell stories. This can become a huge burden.

Sadly, we are not at the point where we can be open with everyone about our condition. Some people will have a negative response or treat you differently. I can tell you from experience that people sometimes freak out and distance themselves when you tell them. And some people can't be trusted with the information, because they'll find it simply too tempting to tell others.

In the long run, only by having plenty of women who are out and proud will the public perception of TS women change for the better. Brave women like Caroline Cossey, who made the best of it after being outed, made it easier for me to be out. In turn, my being out will make it easier for those after me. In time, attitudes will change.

Being out isn't for everyone, but even if you are not out, do not think of your TS status as a shameful secret. It's a major part of who you are, and why you are a sensitive and kind person. It gives us a unique perspective on the world, and if you realize that it's something that makes you special and interesting, it can even make you a better person.

Even if you're not out and proud, be proud! Few people ever get a chance to live out their childhood dream, so live your dream and be happy every day that you can do it!

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.