Transitioning early in life: Noel's advice

In December 2002, I received the following note from Noel.* It's great advice that proves you don't need to go to college to start a successful transition. She's also doing all this in a small town, which some claim is harder. Don't tell Noel that! Regardless of what she claims in her essay, I think she's a great writer with an important story to tell.

[* name changed to protect her privacy]

Greetings and Salutations!

My name, as of recently at least ;-) is Noel and I have been reading your informative websire, TS-Roadmap. Although I am not living full-time yet, I truly think the advice I have here may be useful to the "young, intelligent, surgery-tracked young TS" just as much as it was to the "oh goodness, what am I, how can I manage for now, and where do we go from here" gender variant individual. (that was me, by the way)

I hope you will share this story and advice on your site, so that the TG / TS youth can see that there are many ways to become a success in life. Feel free to edit this if you like, because frankly, I'm a lousy writer. ;-)

I will admit, this short piece originally started as advice to a less-than-certain TG friend of mine, as it is the advice I took when I was in the same position. However I am now on-track for a full transition, and I have found, through experience, that this little plan works wonders for any young person who's in a tight spot and needs to make a living.

I for one was always the queerest kid in class. My grades were high sure, and I had plenty of friends, but cutting it as an ordinary male just wasn't possible. I found out a bit of it had to do with hormonal imbalances actually. I didn't even look like a normal boy. After a dozen or so years of counseling, therapists, etc, I gave in. I came out and started living as, well, whatever I was, at age 19.

Back in high school, I knew I wasn't college bound. Not everyone is cut out for higher education, and I for one was not. However I refused to let that keep me from being a success. I took a job at Wal-Mart, where I worked full time, in "male-mode" for $6.50/hr. At the time, I lived with my grandparents, who allowed me to live in their un-used appartment in exchange for fixing up the property. I have since helped many of my friends find rent-free living arrangements under the same type of consideration. You'd be surprised how many people think they have to shell out massive amounts of bills in order to find a place to live. That simply is not so.

This is my first piece of advice to a young TS or TG who is having trouble making money. "Look for barter arrangements. They can save you a fortune. If you are doing someone a much needed favor, they are highly unlikely to give a hoot about your gender or preferences." As I live in a very conservative, rather restrictive area in rural Kentucky I can tell you this plan works even in the most closed-minded areas of the world. Nobody passes up an opportunity, so see where you can be useful in your community, and take advantage of the returns. Also, while you are living "on the cheap" you can take what little money you can earn and put it in the bank, or put it toward important things like transportation. While living under my grandparents' roof, I payed off a used car. Saved me a lot of bills in the long-run.

My second piece of advice, and I know this sounds difficult but I know many successful TS women who never attended college and pulled this off is: Become self-employed. If you work for yourself, there's no chance of losing your job unless you fail. No matter what your situation may be at the time, you are guaranteed a job. You can never be fired. It's very easy to make a living doing whatever you're good at, while keeping a roof over your head using the barter method. Granted, this may be difficult in a big city, but it works in small towns and rural areas quite nicely. Now I will admit, I had an "advisor" in the sense that I had a family member who had run numerous businesses and helped me manage my paperwork, but I ran my own business, successfully, at age 19. There's no law that says a person can't.

After my 20th birthday, I took out a loan for the amount of $1,500 (this was easy as I had paid off a $3,000 loan back in high school which I bought the car with). With this money, I payed the deposits and first month's rent on a small building in our little town. I lived and worked in it at the time, running a small computer and electronics repair shop. In the beginning I made just enough to pay the bills, but it worked. I figured it would because there was no such business in town, and with a population of 4,200 people, and at least 100 businesses in town, there had to be at least 200 computers needing fixing, along with TVs, radios, business machines and such. Well, within 6 months I was making an actual living, so I guess I was right. This did not require any special college education, no electrician's license, etc... All it took was a standard business license and a tax number. Anyone can get one and begin making money doing whatever comes to mind. I thoroughly recommend it!

Anyone who lives in a small community and has a profitable skill can do this. Honestly a customer does not care about the personal preferences or life story of a business person. They just want to know if you can do the job, and do it cheaper than your competitors. I have had countless customers who read me like an open book, but even the most closed minded have told their friends what a wonderful job I did, and most come back when they need something else fixed. The reason is because I always gave them the best deal, I made housecalls, I stood behind my work 100%, and treated them less like a customer and more like an old friend. It's easy to make a living on one's own, if you have a little kindness in your heart.

The reason I give this advice is because I came out one year ago, after having just graduated high school (barely), I was not going to college, I was nearly broke, and I still lived with my grandparents. For all accounts I looked like I was about to become another casualty on the loser highway, and being TS was not helping the situation. However with no money of my own, very little actual credit, and a little patience and hard work, I managed to get myself a wonderful future as a self-employed entrepreneur, a small chunk of money in the bank for my transition, now scheduled to begin in a year or so, AND I've earned the respect of the people in my community.

Many people have told me that this is wonderful and that I am special and many other things. The TRUTH is that I'm just an ordinary person, not great in any respect, who got out there and did what worked.

I wanted to share this story so that others who are having trouble could see if this might work for them. Sure, it won't work for everyone, but no plan ever will. I, for one, could never have gone to college and tried to repress myself for another two to four years. I would have made a lousy professional anyway. I don't even have the patience to pay attention in class!

I just wanted those who are reading the advice from the college graduates and the 24 year old professionals and feeling bad because that doesn't sound like them, to know that there are other ways to become a success, and being TS or TG won't stop you. In fact, I've found this is one of the easiest ways to be "out and proud". I admit, I'm beginning to see alot of business from the gay/trans community in nearby cities, but that came with time. My first customers were just locals in need. I helped them, they payed, everyone went home happy.

Anyone can do the same, and it just takes determination. Don't let anyone tell you what you can or cannot be. Best wishes as always ---Noel.

My comments

Having a good job, no matter what it is, can have an enormous impact on your self esteem. Although money is obviously important, I believe that having a job where you are valued is very important to us as we go through sopmething that's this hard on us mentally and physically.

As I mentioned in my hair removal section, bartering is one of the best ways to save money in transition. If you're reading this, you obviously have some computer skilss, and there's always plenty of stuff people will happily pay you to do for them, like mow lawns, paint and clean, etc. You are only limited by your imagination.

Nothing in life just gets handed to us, especially in our community. That means if you want to do this, you can't sit and dream all day. You have to make a solid plan and follow through. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can do this, but you have to be motivated and focused. You don't have to live in a big city or have a college degree. All you need are realistic goals and self-acceptance.

Thanks to Noel for the inspirational essay!

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.