Transitioning early in life: Michelle's experiences

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

Editor's note:

Michelle wrote in 2007, after starting transition in her late teens. She writes: "First of all I want to say that I’ve read lots of your site and other sites who provided advice to young transsexuals, especially pages with information on how to get hormones.  Maybe my story would be helpful to you or others who read your site, just like Jessica’s story on your early transition pages. I have to tell you I’m not a native speaker since I’m from the Netherlands but I guess you’ll understand what I’m writing :)."

I think Michelle's English is great, and much of her advice applies to anyone in any country.

I will share you my story, how I started my transition, how I came out to my family, where I got hormones and how I told my classmates and co-workers. I will also tell you how I managed to arrange things financially and how I dealt with some difficulties. But before I will tell you about my transition, I will tell you something about my early years as well.

I knew from a very young age there was something different about me, though I started wearing girl’s clothes at age 12 or 13 I knew I was different than ‘other’ boys since age 4, maybe 5. When under the shower I sensed I disliked my male parts and sometimes when I watched girls I wondered why I wasn’t like them. I wanted to wear clothing with pink or purple colors and had a vague idea one day I would grow up to be a woman. Though at age 10 I came to realize this would not happen, and I was sad about that. Sometimes people referred to me as a girl and I liked it for that and when I went swimming I remember wishing I had a girl’s body and imagining how much better my life would be then. But I knew puberty would set in and one day me and my brother were recording some kind of role play on the computer using a microphone. I was maybe 13 years old, but I remember how scared I was upon hearing my lowered voice. Also at that age I secretly tried on my nieces clothes when I lived at my aunt’s place for a while.

My youth wasn’t easy and through all the upheaval my feelings of dysphoria towards my body went somewhat on background. My mom died because of cancer and we moved to a new town with my dad’s new girl friend within 2 years. When I was 15 I remember how I once got to the kitchen and began saying things to my dad like ‘I don’t know who I am and I have no idea of what I want or what my future will be like’ and I started crying. My dad responded that it is normal for teenagers to feel that way, but I knew it was not normal the way I felt it. Still confused with no image for the future I began to self-mutilate using razor blades or sharp objects. I would react my frustrations upon my body and would feel very relieved after doing so. At the age of 16 I began to read about gender dysphoria but the websites I’d read at that time suggested that counselling would help me to grow out of wanting to become a girl. Though I knew I would not grow out of my girl feelings. I’ve laid awake at night scared at the thought how my body would develop the wrong way and I would cry in bed while everybody else was sleeping. Puberty became a nightmare and my voice had already dropped in pitch I was scared that I would develop a real masculine voice and that I would grow a beard.

It took me 2 years, since reading about gender dysphoria at age 16, before I came out to my dad and stepmom. One evening I would be sitting with them on the sofa and I would start by asking them what they thought of homosexuality and then asked how they would think of me being gay, while quickly adding I was not gay. They said it would be OK and then I asked if it would still be OK if I wanted to be a girl. I started to introduce it slowly and initially they were very supportive. Since I had already grown out my hair and looked very androgynously my stepmom already used a couple of female pronouns for me. I already found out how to buy hormones online and was using puberty blockers and herbal estrogens, though my dad didn’t knew of this because I ordered them to my PO Box. I told the rest of the family using a letter which I sent via email. Next day I received several responses and loving phone calls from my aunts. Some didn’t expect this to happen but others had already seen female characteristics in me.

I also signed up for treatment through the Free University Medical Center which would take some 4 years to complete. It would take another 6 months before I had my first consult with a psychologist. Before I had my first appointment with a psychologist I had already ordered female hormones online. But my dad found out and he didn’t want me to the transition on a whim, he wanted to have it done under careful supervision in Amsterdam. But it would take a year before starting hormones, which was why I ordered them online. My dad and other families where scared by the thought of internet medicines and sent me to my physician. My physician was amazed at my appearance and metamorphosis and willing to prescribe me the medication. I was also lucky because I didn’t have any facial hairs neither did I have lots of body hairs.

After my traineeship ended, me and my best friend (female) sent an email to every classmate explaining my situation and that I wanted to be a girl and that I would return to school after a traineeship as a girl named Michelle. My friend already started to like this new person I was becoming on the outside and one evening we were watching together some teenage girl movies like What a Girl Wants and that sort of films. In the meantine while we watched the movie she would do my hair and make up and I would do hers and I really loved to finally be able to do all the girl stuff!! It felt really great to be myself! I also told my colleagues and most of them were girls my age... they were not surprised I was telling them I wanted to be a girl. Since they knew customers already referred to me as “ma’am” or “young lady” and they also knew I was very feminine. After a 3-week-break from work I returned as a new person and nowadays I still work there as a checkout girl.

Still I wonder how life would be like had my mom not passed away because of cancer. Dealing with the grief itself was very hard to do... and when my dad remarried things sometimes got even more difficult because there were tensions in our new blended family. I have accepted the loss, but I still talk to my mom sometimes. Sometimes to a picture of her, sometimes by staring out of the window and talking to "something above". I had never really have a chance to experience what a mother and daugther relationship would be.(btw maybe that's why I really like to watch the show gilmore girls). I see my friends getting in fights with there mother because they cannot have enough pocket money, or because mommy dislikes their boyfriends or because they should be home from a party at a specific time. I wonder if I would have all these arguments with my mom and how we would relate to each other in a mother-and-daugther setting. I know though... she loves me no matter what and so do I.

Because I had not changed my name before I went living as a girl it presented some issues at my sports club. Everyone subscribes for matches and sometimes your match is at your home community sometimes in another town. My name on the list would be still my old name... and the local managers would ask something like 'ehmm... that girl over there... is she called .....(old boy name)' I just thought it was funny to watch their expressions at their faces when they asked stuff like that. However it didn't get me into any problems and never did anyone question my girl being.  Of course that way you are easily outed to people from your home sports club since they new me as Michelle.  So I decided to have a speech at my sports club what I went through (and am still going through since I'm pre-op for that matter). They all responded very well to my speech... most of them would just say 'okay... well you're just a girl. We wont treat you any different.' ... or ... 'Hmm You just feel that way... you are a girl it belongs to you'. Others would comment how brave I was for sharing such a personal story. Some friends of me who were at the same sports club as I am and who knew me in the past... had to get used to people calling me 'she' or 'young lady'. But everyone adjusted very quickly and some of my male friends from the past also introduced me to guys when we are going out or partying. And these new boys who just knew me as a girl would usually ask me to dance and tell me that I'm hot and stuff :P Well it's great for my self-esteem anyway...

I'm still doing sports and it is just going fine. I would advice doing a sport to any person, no matter if you are a transexual or not (yuck... I hate that word anyway). Being in a sport makes you belong to a peer group and you get to know lots of new people. Also it is mentally and physically challenging and keeps you in good health.

Now I’m 19 years old and all this stuff has happened months ago and I still like my new life and also all the attention I receive from boys ;) . But I still had to wait like 3 years for insurance-funded surgery. Since in the Netherlands you have to do 18 or 24 months of RLT and then after that there are waiting lists of 1 year. But I was scared at the thought of having to wait 3 years so I began to look for other ways than through the Genderteam in Amsterdam and found out that I could have surgery in Thailand. I read as much about SRS techniques and different surgeons as I possibly could and since I think surgeons vary in their techniques I believe it is highly personal which surgeon one would choose. Also some surgeons in other countries than Netherlands have techniques in which the vagina is self-lubricating to some extent with vaginal depths of over 6 inches. I can only do SRS once in my life so I wanted to have it done the best way – or at least the way I thought would fit me best. I knew I would not find that sort of treatment in Amsterdam and throwing in the fact I had to wait 3 years in Amsterdam I knew I wanted to have it done the other way. I knew I would have to pay for it myself so I’m saving lots of money, working extra hours and in the end take out a loan to make up for the lacking amount. This way I can have my surgery finished in the summer of 2007 in Thailand. It is very important for me – after years of living as the wrong gender – to be able to enjoy my last teenage years and early twenties as a girl with a female sexuality. I’m already having lots of fun in my new life but having to wait 3 years was very scary to me, especially because I knew in the meantime I could not go swimming or go to the beach or date guys. I wanted all these things so badly and plus I didn’t want to be ‘different’ from other girls or feel ashamed of my body. I’ve told my dad and stepmom I wanted to quit treatment via the Genderteam and to have surgery in the summer of this year and pay for it myself.

After carefully explaining to them how I would arrange it, they seemed to be OK with my plans. But after a few weeks my dad began questioning if it was right to have things done so fast. He thought I would be making a mistake and maybe I would feel different about my body at a later age and then regret having had surgery. I tried my best to explain how I felt and how I really wanted to have things fixed asap and how my chances of adjusting into my new life as a girl were better this way. I also referred to Danielle (from Mom I Need To Be A Girl) to give an example of another girl who is succesfully living in her new life with the support of her mom. But the more I tried to convince my dad, the more angry he became with me. So currently I have moved out of the house and there is little communication with my dad. I’m still enjoying me and my new life and my friends but it is harder if your parents do not accept you. I hope acceptance will come one day but I do feel sorry for my dad that I am the way I am. I wish I was born a girl then I would not have these kind of problems and my dad would just accept me. I just want to be his daughter but it seems to be hard for him to accept me as such, especially because I went on hormones and planning for surgery my own way. Maybe he just needs extra time and I know it scares him that some surgeon will do something irreversable to my body especially because it is happening so fast. But I know it is in my best interest and cannot live with a wrong body for 3 years or more, since it will then be 3 years of extreme frustration and shame. I truly hope one day he will accept me, and in the meantime I just move on with my life knowing that I’m myself and that makes me strong. I’m happy to be accepted by classmates, co-workers, friends and nieces and nephews. My life has been so much better ever since the day I’m a girl, I can’t explain it in words!

So this is my story and if you think any of my story is useful to be put on your site then feel free to do so. Also I wanted to say that your website is very complete and has lots of useful information, I also like your pages that are devoted to young transsexuals. Since our needs and issues may be different than those of adults.

I read your contribution pages and read your questions you’d like me to consider these questions:

What were the smartest things you did in transition, and what things do you wish you did differently?

I’m very happy with the way I came out to my family and friends and classmates and co-workers. I explained it to them simply as a biological condition. Usually I would tell people I felt something to be wrong with me for years. I explained to them how I felt I was really a girl and giving some examples of my girl feelings. When people heard I knew something was wrong since age 4 they know this is something serious and I also tried to explain how it feels to be something you’re not. Also I left space for questions and people usually responded very nice to my coming out. My feminine appearance and behaviour as a “boy” definitely contributed to people being able to accept me as a girl.

Also because I could use hormones early and because I had the youth benefit it was easy for me to pass and be accepted as a girl by people who knew me as well as by strangers. The best thing  I did was starting hormones early allowing my body to start developing as a girl as early as I became aware I should be a girl. Also I researched every thing very well on the internet and planned things ahead. Also talking to other people who’ve been through the same and girls my age who are still in transition is a good thing to do. It helps to vent thoughts and feelings and prepare for changes. I also had a very self-assuring attitude and I think you need that if you're transitioning during college . I just thought to myself “I am what I am and that is OK and I don’t care what people think of me”.

What I could have done differently? Hmmm, I could have hidden my medicines better... since it would be better if my parents would not find out so early about me taking hormones. Also I wish I wasn’t so defiant to my therapist in Amsterdam (I was defiant  because she would refer to undiagnosed persons as ‘he’ and would deny me hormones before I was diagnosed).

Also because I worked as a checkout girl in the local grocery store I would meet people there who still knew me as the ‘old’ me and I would pretend to not know some acquantainces whom I hadn’t came out to. I thought they would not recognize me anyway and I thought it would be easier for me to deal with the situation that way. Though some people who knew me as my ‘old self’ did recognize this new person as me and didn’t know how to respond. I could have opened the conversation then simply by saying something like “Yep you’ve seen that right. It’s me! But now I’m a girl and I’m happier that way.”

Hmm... I’ve guess you had a whole story to read and I really hope it is helpful to anybody. I think it is good to read about other people’s stories especially those your age, just to know you’re not alone. I think it is best to be patient with your parents. My advice: Don’t expect them to accept you immediately. If you’re not sure if you can tell them in person, try to explain them everything using a letter. If they cannot accept you, you should know that you’re not a failure. It’s not your fault to be the way you are, nobody chooses to be born the wrong gender. You’re not hurting anyone, they are hurting themselves. If your parents cannot accept them, do hope that they will one day but do not count on it. Choose for yourself and your own happiness. One day they cannot ignore this new and happy person and maybe they will catch up with you again!

Again I want to thank you for setting up such a great website and hope there is anything in my story that is helpful or useful to you or others or maybe as a contribution on your site. If you think you have any advice or tips for my situation they are welcome and if you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Greetings from Michelle. (19 years old, The Netherlands)

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