What I did right

[I got the following from a reader in 2004, shortly after her vaginoplasty]

The four smartest things I did during transition were:

1. I worked on self-acceptance early on, first thing, before I saw my first therapist or took my first hormone tablet. This was the most important thing I ever did. I realized early on that all the surgery in the world could only do so much, and that the most important transition work would take place within myself. I came to accept the things about me that couldn't be changed, no matter what. I could either be miserable about what I had, or I could make the most of it. Accepting myself, and becoming comfortable with myself, made the rest of the journey a whole lot easier.

2. I held on to myself and to the other things that made life interesting. Sure, transition's a big thing, and it has a huge effect on everything in your life. It certainly did in mine. But, even with all that, I needed time for my other passions in life. Sometimes there's a temptation to say "well, I'm changing genders, so that means I have to change interests and everything else." Some people do that because they genuinely want to, and that's perfectly fine. But it just wasn't me. I would have cashed in almost everything I cared about. I've been a tomboy all my life, anyway, and while there are some "girl" things I love, there are some "girl" things I just can't get into. The real me wears blue jeans and old shirts most of the time, anyway. The key? Be yourself. Life's too short to force yourself into things you just can't dig. There's plenty of genetic women who love old cars and who fly airplanes, just as there's plenty of genetic men who like needlepoint and who take ballet lessons. All that is fine. We're all individuals, TS or not.

3. Over time I learned that there's no need to advertise myself as TS. I used to feel compelled to do it because I wanted to defuse the situation early on, get the issue out of the way and take out any awkwardness there might be. However, I later realized that sometimes introduced awkwardness -- and, conversely, if I never brought it up, the issue probably wouldn't come up in most everyday interactions. There are instances when the issue does need to be brought up -- medical care, intimate relationships, etc. -- but common sense will tell you when it needs to be brought up, and with whom. Listen to that common sense.

4. How you project yourself is everything. I've not had one bit of surgery done on my face, but if I project "happy, confident young woman" then that's what people see and how they treat me. It's been enough to sustain me through job interviews, buying cars, traveling (under my old identity, no less), even sharing a room with several genetic females during a work-related trip. Nobody said anything about it -- I was just one of the girls. I couldn't have done that had I acted nervous or been less than self-confident.--

The three things I should have done better?

1. I wish I'd managed my money much better. I spent a lot of money in my transitioning years on things that now don't matter to me. I should have saved it up and applied it towards surgery and electrolysis. As a result, I had to reschedule my surgery three times over four years. It also would have made my post-transition life easier, especially when it came time to buy real estate and the other necessities of life.

2. I wish I'd started electrolysis much sooner. It can be a very long process. It should have been the first thing I started on, but it wasn't. It's miserable being a woman with a decent face, a not-bad body, and a wonderful new state-of-the-art vagina...but who has to shave each morning. Ewww.

3. I wish I'd just generally been a lot smarter, especially early on, when it came to dating and relationships with men. It's easy to be so starved for acceptance that you let yourself be used by people who only want you as an exotic conquest. I had one incident early in my transition with a guy who, it turned out, just wanted to have sex with me, and it left some emotional scars for a while. Of everybody I was mad at, I was most upset at myself for letting it happen. There are some wonderful guys out there who will accept you, even after they know. They are worth waiting for. (The guy I'm married to is testament to that.) Don't, however, be so starved for acceptance that you settle for something that's bad for you. You have more dignity and self-worth than that. Be smart and be aware.

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If you have any advice you'd like to share, please contact me , and I'll give it a permanent (and anonymous) home.