Monday, March 15, 2010

Is It Enough?

This morning while Madelene and I were having breakfast, we were watching a small interview with the cast of “TRANSform Me”, seen on VH1. Three transgender women travel around the world to give extreme makeovers for other women who are in need of a transformation---on the inside and out. Some of the video clips I have seen were really amazing, but that’s not why I’m writing about it. The three women who host the show are all beautiful women, who were once men. Each of them transitioned beautifully, fortunately.... My question is: what about those people who transform to another gender who don’t exactly ‘fit the bill’, or transform smoothly? I too, agree that it’s all about how a person feels on the inside that reflects how they appear on the outside, but what if the outside isn’t quite meshing up to what’s on the inside?

When I was young, before the age of thirteen, I remember people would mistake me for a boy. It first dawned on me when I was visiting my mom in the hospital that I really did look like a boy. My dad was holding my hand walking me inside, when a nurse yelled out, “Sir, sir! You can’t bring your son into that area!” They were afraid that my mom would get sicker if they let kids in. But in my mind, I thought, “Wow, I really succeeded in looking like a boy!” As time went on, I had plenty of male friends. We rode motorcycles, we traded baseball cards - we did “boy” stuff. It was then I had taken a liking to one of my female friends. She always tried to change the way I dressed, fixed my hair and tried even putting makeup on me. I cringed while she did it, but I let her because it made her happy. She made fun of me for wearing boys’ clothes, but in my mind, I figured, if she liked boys then she’ll like me looking like one...right?

At the age of thirteen, to my surprise, I learned that it was a different story. On the first day of school, I put on a dress with some dress pumps, feathered back my hair (yes this was the 80’s) and even put on makeup. I’ll never forget her words: “Wow, you look beautiful! I never thought I’d see the day.” I lit up like a Christmas tree. I was so happy that she saw me as “beautiful”. I had quite a time adjusting to my new look, but gradually, I began to accept “me” and accept that if I ever wanted to find that special someone in the future, that maybe I should take my friend’s advice and dress this way. I understand the concept of “be yourself”, but I was “me” -- but I also wanted to spread my peacock feathers a bit so I could attract the right type of person. Of course, this led to kissing many toads before I got to Miss Right.

I have many questions for the transgender community. I have friends who are transgender. I know, if it weren’t for my friend back in school, maybe I would have transitioned myself at a later age, but then, would I have ever met the love of my life in doing so? She would have never been attracted to me, seeing that I looked like a guy. Of course fate plays a huge role in this and yes, there are people who are more accepting, but my question is: why make it even that much harder for yourself if it’s hard enough already? To go above and beyond that, I do understand that sexual orientation has nothing to do with gender identity. With that being said and with the risk of sounding judgmental: why would a man transition into a woman in order to meet another woman, preferably a lesbian of course? I “understand” it - I just don’t understand it. I tried to be open about it and tried seeing it from a different point of view, but I can’t help thinking, with all their attempts to find true love out there, did they lower their chances in finding “Miss Right”?

No doubt - there are transgender women who have transitioned from male to female and look better than most women, however, what about the transgender women who have not quite transitioned so well? For instance: the beautiful Asian transgender from “TRANSform Me” looks genuine. Most Asian men are short, have beautiful feminine features, being that their cheekbones are so high as well as their facial features usually being small and delicate. Ru Paul aside, because he’s just a gorgeous freak of nature drag queen and looks absolutely stunning - the transgender women who are over 6 ft tall and still have masculine features are still going to be viewed as a man in some way. Reconstruction surgery is great, but is it enough? 

What’s more important to transgender women who haven’t quite made the ‘cut’, even if they have surgically: finding Miss Right or feeling like a woman? Of course I’ll get the comment that they were already women before the transition, but what I’m talking about is the realistic side of it; the superficial side if you will - the side that may affect the outcome of them being with a life partner. I’m also speaking about those transgender “women” who want to be with another women. Madelene explained to me this morning that if I were butch, she would have never taken an interest in me. She definitely looks for depth in a person, however she stated that it would be quite difficult to get past the outside shell of “appearing” as a man, or a butch woman in my case. Please understand that I am coming from a place where I questioned my own sex. I used to pray to God when I was younger to make me a boy when I woke up. Of course, I woke up disappointed. The reason why I wanted to be a boy was because I liked girls.  The only way girls would like me (in my mind) is if I became a boy.  But now, it seems as though that's not the case, which is why I have so many questions for transgender lesbians.

Yes, you have to love yourself before you can love anybody else, but what if that’s not enough?
What then? 


John said...

You asked "... what about those people who transform to another gender who don’t exactly ‘fit the bill’, or transform smoothly?"
That has an easy short (snarky) answer of "They don't get their own TV shows."

In dental school the final 2 hour lecture in Anatomy class was titlled "Anatomy of a sex-change operation" (I do not know why this was considered part of the dental school curriculum but that is another story.) In short be glad that you did not take that path. Iii is long and the outcome is not always success.

Jess said...

I need a beer. This is tooootally a Skype discussion! This topic is of great interest to me as well!

I always wanted to be a boy when I was little, but only because I 1) wanted to pee standing up and 2) I already played like a boy, did things boys did, so it would have just made it easier to be a boy.

I remember when I wore mascara for the first time. My Dad praised me up and down! I never got into the rest of the make-up thing, but I do wear mascara every now and then.

I still hate wearing dresses, but I do enjoy looking all hot on occasion! I still love baggy clothes and baseball hats!

Just_because_today said...

my hairstylist was a man (well, remains a man, or does he? I dont know, I get confused) who looks like a beautiful woman. He/she (I never know how to refer to him/her) did so much surgery to her physical appearance that one surgery went wrong and damaged her cheekbones. She was gorgeous as seen on her pictures (she has been featured on a few tv shows referencing medical malpractice), why was it not enough when he achieved the look of a woman? what is she or he really looking for?
What I am getting out of your post is, maybe he hasn't learned to love himself inside and is trying to find it on the outside.

Shadow said...

they had this programme on tv here where they filmed a guy in his transformation from boy to girl. from the hormone treatment, to the actual operation and after. and the closing questions was, was it worth it. and the answer was, that it wasn't quite what he envisioned, that is was painful, he still felt like he didn't belong, still needed to sort out issues with him family, and he couldn't give a definate yes or no answer...

Deb said...

John, I have to say that it’s very ‘left field’ to have the anatomy class learn about that since you are studying everything dental! Did you ever ask them why? I mean, it’s great to learn but apart of a dental school lecture?

Jess, you sound like me (minus the pee standing up part lol), but yes, it would have been “easier” for me, but not sure how my success in appearing like a man would have went now that I’m in my 30’s, + financially, it’s very expensive to keep up with. I didn’t know that about you though, very interesting! Let’s Skype it soon!!! Mad has similar experiences as well.

JBT, do you mean that you’re not sure if your hair stylist is pre or post op? I do believe a lot that is on the inside does reflect the outside, in terms of comfortability and self-esteem, but sometimes we can’t force a triangle to fit into a square and say, “It fits.” That’s my question. Let me ask you this: when you look at your hair stylist, do you see a woman? Do you “feel” him or her to be a woman? Has your hair stylist ever identified with a gender? Does he or she still have a male name or is it a female name? You know, through the few friends that I do have who are transgender, each one talks about their experience in such a different way, that when I ask one a question, the other gets offended because it wasn’t “their” experience and then one ends up telling me, “Oh you’re wrong about that...” I get so confused. (Yes, leaving myself open for a JBT shot.)

Shadow, unfortunately there is a high suicide rate among the transgender community. They want to be “this gender”, when some ultimately find out - they’re still that gender - regardless of surgical procedures. I just want to know what’s more important: having a life partner or being comfortable in another gender. I mean, if you think about it, we all get old, and just to keep up with hormone therapy and all the other maintenance that is required to upkeep the gender transformation has to dwindle out sometime, doesn’t it?


Side note: I just wanted to let everybody know that this post is about my questions for the transgender community (including those who are my friends that have experienced this) - it is not meant for this to be some naive & judgmental rant.

Anonymous said...

Deb, Darling, Nurse,,,
You do not have the slightest idea of what it is to be transsexual. Your childhood experience was obviously not that of a "Boy". I understand what you said "you understand, but you don't understand". Well you will never understand it. Accept that as yu would accept a person! Just like you will never understand what it is to be "Black", etc. It is just not part of your experience.
AND FOR THE LAST TIME, It never does, will or did ever have anything to do with who you are matched, mated to or oriented toward !!!
There is no fate in meeting your mate. Your fate is in your own soul, and if you meet a soulmate, that is great. Meeting your mate has nothing at all to do with your living in your own "IDENTITY".
AS to the question of someone who does not quite meet the criteria that you have judged to be "feminine" well, that is a line of crap to a transsexual, just as much as is the criteria they have had to be moulded into, and never applied. Just as does the one that you suggest is "correctly fememing, etc" It is a matter of just fitting "yourself".
Hope you may get some insight again thru this.
Love you as always,

Peta Joy said...

One of my many ex-roommates spent almost as much on having her teeth transition along with the rest of her body. But then she really did belong to the more money than brains club......

Deb said...

Sure, it's a huge financial blowout to get everything done, I'm sure. I do think it's sad that most insurances don't cover at least some of the medical expenses.

John said...

My program had 40 dental and 88 medical students in it so we got all the medicine and anatomy that they got, which is more than any other dental school in the country. Why that lecture was part of the program, even for them, I have no idea. Those procedures are not “rookie surgery.” They clearly belong in a surgery residency. The only thing I can think is that they wanted to show us what is possible or the “plasticity” of human anatomy. Another guess is that it is a “distraction” from the day to day of gross anatomy, which is a very intense course. You never question the “why” of what they make you do in dental school, you are too busy trying to pass everything they throw at you. Since classes are so small they are only given once a year. Fail the class, fail the year. No pressure.

Peta, I took this class in 1988. I distinctly remember the instructor saying that while it was uncommon, and yes a great portion of it is cosmetic, the surgery was not considered experimental. He did say it was “elective” and most who had it paid out of pocket. I am sure since that time many techniques have changed and some of what they now do may indeed be experimental. I also remember him saying that there is far more male to female than female to male and the actual surgery is the last thing that is done after a battery of psychological testing and having lived as your new gender for a few years.

Peta Joy said...

John, I got a crash course in being Trans from my roommate, my friends, and because of my own screwed medical history. The one thing that I had heard repeatedly was that GRS is considered an experimental surgery due to some doctor at Johns Hopkins having a "thing" about trans folk. He was famous for the line "You wouldn't give liposuction to a bulimic because of how they "feel". Why do this to a man?" This was all years ago and I've not really been involved in LBGT issues for many years, so it might have changed, or people were just taking out their frustrations on the "biggest bad" around at the time.

John said...

Peta, you reminded me of another reason perhaps for that lecture. NEVER underestimate the ego of a full professor. They love to “share” their research with you and make you learn things they discovered. (Ever run across one of these, it’s not unique to medicine, I’m sure they exist in archeology as well.) The instructor may have done a few or worked for someone who did these operations and felt the need to share.

(Ever hear of a primate archeologist named Peter Unger? He is a good friend of mine.)

Barbara Ann said...

I wanted to be a boy when I was young.Starting with my brother,boys had so many more privilages,they could be out later,and they got the girls,as soon as I got the girl,well ......lets just say who wants to be a dumb ol boy anyway

Peta Joy said...

ohn, I've heard of Peter, but I've never met him. My field of research doesn't go back that far. I mostly stay within the US. And Yes, I've run across a LOT of know everything people and professors. The worst are English profs that go on and on about James Joyce. The guy writes like a stoned third grader and I swear these people make stuff up just to justify their jobs!

And Barbara, GIRLS RULE! Boys drool.

the walking man said...

I have no answer but I will say I missed this past week of not reading here.

Anonymous said...

I need my meds.
We have got to talk.

I love your arguments, but you miss my point.
I am not trying to shove anythig down any throats.
I am simply saying that the Transsexual "Choice" as you call it simpley "is no choice" PERIOD
Its not like there is any chance you will not meet your soulmate because you are Transsexual ! You just ARE ! Your soul is just transsexual !
Like you just are Black ! or just are a cis-female !

Hope I can get the hotline answered soon!
Love ya,

Deb said...

Patty dearest darhhhlinggggg,

No, I don't miss your point, I just think you speak for everyone, instead of just speaking for yourself. For example, you downgraded my experience of living my childhood as a "boy". I felt like a boy, I wanted to be a boy and I "was" a boy in every way. I shared my experience on this post because I am relating to other people's experiences as well. I have another transexual friend who is a "woman", who doesn't believe it's a "soul", that she just felt more comfortable being a woman. In fact, she totally disagreed with everything you have said.

This post was not to point out that all transexual women should be feminine - it was to ask questions about what if that's not enough? What if all the 'tweaking' and transitioning is not enough not only physically, but emotionally?

"Your soul is transexual."

Souls transform? Or do you mean that your soul was of a woman? THAT I can understand. Once you start talking about "souls" and all this 'thought to be' wishy-washy explanations of the transitioning process, you lose me, as well as others.

I am very accepting of transexuals, but I still don't understand it, although I 'do' . . . because it has been explained to me 1,872,347,352 times in different views and explanations. Your experience is much different than my good friend's, and that of my friend who is a FTM. MUCH different. So, with all the differences, I love to inquire, not judge, but I do hold a strong belief that the transitioning process IS a choice, because you are consciously making the choice to go under hormone therapy and/or surgery if that's what's 'needed'.

I think it's great that people can feel comfortable who they are and with whatever means to go to the fullest extent. With my FTM friend, he has a hard time finding a mate because the women he is attracted to don't feel the same, or scared of the 'unknown' parts of him. But more so, it would have been easier for him (in his own words) to be pre-op and pursuing his dream mate. That's all physical and fine, but now after the complete transition and it's still 'not enough'----what then?

That's my question... If it isn't a "smooth transition", and the people who you are attracted to aren't responding in an intimate way, what then? And I know a mate doesn't define you, so I guess I have your answer that being "YOU" is enough out of life. For others, and for myself, I want to grow old with someone and for me to stay "me", even though I tend to still hold on to those 'boyish' qualities, I'll stay put so I can keep my wife.

Does that make better sense from where I'm coming from? I responded too soon before, and came across pretty harsh, but I do hold different views than you, however, know that I love and accept YOU. I may disagree with many things you say, but I do love you with all my heart... I do I do I do!


Hope that clarifies much. I'll call you later today after 4pm if that's good for you.