Transsexual/Transgender; The Inside and Out
- My Father, The Transsexual
My parents were married 18 years. Several of those years my mom was a diehard housewife to the core, even when it meant accepting my father's crossdressing. I was young enough to think it was just a game when my dad played dress-up...
First of all the image above doesn't truly reflect most trans. The reason why I chose an exaggerated picture of both feminism and masculinity is throughout a trans life they will go through varying degrees of feeling this way or looking this way at least once in their lifetime. After all, this hub is discussing the inside and out...and hopefully everything in between.
5 years ago I made my debut on this site by writing a short personal piece about my experience with my transsexual father. Whenever I searched the Internet to understand transgender and transsexuals I came up disappointed in the sources. Simply put, there was a lack of sources, perhaps ranging from drag queen to homosexuality. In reality, transgender is not necessarily wither of those.
Today, of course there are far better articles and an understanding of this topic. I want to extend that media and be another personal and practical resource. As usual I'm forthcoming about my experience for an honest discussion- Yes, I always encourage a discussion in my comment section. My first piece has generated nearly 500 comments to date- it's become a forum! Not bad for a girl who just needed to get something off my chest and took the plunge.
Recently I found a site that impressed me- any time I come up with a search that isn't XXX Rated on transsexuals is a plus! This site has a wealth of basic info. There is a slight differentiation between transsexual versus transgender. I just want to reiterate that here as a foundation to this discussion:
- Transgender vs Transsexual - Difference and Comparison | Diffen
What's the difference between Transgender and Transsexual? Transgender and Transsexual are individuals who do not identify with the sex they are born into. 'Transgender' individuals feel a lack of fit between their own internal gender and the gender
identities that cross over, move between, or otherwise challenge the socially constructed border between the genders. While this can include medical or social transition, it may not.
a person who does not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth and wishes, whether successful or not, to realign their gender and their sex through use of medical intervention.
Usually involves no surgery
Most likely to get surgery
Can be categorized as Gender Dysphoria (Diagnostic Statistic Manual/DSM V)
Often diagnosed as Gender Dyshporia
Can be bi, straight, homosexual
Sexual preferences can be bi, straight, homosexual
Often experience depression, suicidal thoughts, other mental health issues
Often experience depression, suicidal thoughts, other mental health issues
The table above hopefully demonstrates some clarity on the topic. I like to add in something educational because it would have been helpful to someone like myself many years ago when personally faced with this topic and stumbling around on the Internet simply trying to understand my dad. Most of my trans hubs are meant as a resource for both trans and those close to trans in their lives.
I should add something about transvestitism too. In the trans community there is variance and I'll discuss that later here. For years, I knew my father as a transvestite: The practice of dressing and acting in a style or manner traditionally associated with another gender. Not all transvestites have a desre to actually be the opposite sex and that's when we dive into the other categories of transsexualism and transgender.
Since the age of 5 or 6 I was aware of my father "dressing up". It was a game of sorts as a child. I knew a little more about it at the age of 10 and well into my 20's I knew him as a transvestite although it was something he always tried to hide. I was, however, not prepared for his sex change when I was in my mid 20's. I had no knowledge of the differences in transvestites, and transgender. I had no idea dressing up was a sign or symptom of something much more life changing.
It is his life, I realize that. What we often don't recognize in many ways, is how our life effects others. What I say to my child effects them- I do not know how my child will take what I say (or do) so it's important to take that into consideration. That's why I believe my story/thoughts as a witness to my dad's life changes are just as important.
A couple of personal lessons
Lesson #1: Handle with care.it was how my dad handled it, not that he got the sex change in the first place. If your parents come to you and say they're getting a divorce...end of story. That lack of consideration (and explanation) does more damage than if you give the child an age appropriate discussion (free for them to ask questions) when you announce a divorce. Sure, you don't owe them an explanation but which scenario do you think fosters a good relationship and adjustment going forward? I hope everyone is on the same page with me here. You may not have a choice about certain changes, but you have a choice in how you handle it with others.
Having a father go from father to, as some would say another Aunt, is dealing with a loss similar to death. Believe me when I say, It's in the execution. If you take responsibility and be forthcoming and open and tolerant of responses, your loved ones (especially children) will likely follow your lead. For this to be a family secret so ingrained and put upon my shoulders at a young age, I'm sure I never learned how to appropriately understand and deal with my dad's transition. I know I kept my distance when befriending too many people. I even kept distance from relatives who asked questions that I couldn't answer. Instead I learned to trust few, lie to my closest friends and family, and always put my dad's needs first.
Lesson #2: Teaching truth, not negative associations. Trans can show up anywhere...your father (in my case), your co-worker, your uncle or aunt, your son, your sister, etc. The issue within them often is one of shame. That's too bad. I think it's a double-edged sword. Certainly it's uncomfortable for many to come out with the "truth" perhaps because of society, family obligations, etc. But not coming out with the truth is worse and further imbeds a stigma. It's about courage, really. When trans hide this truth about themselves it also reflects in society (even within their family), that it should be hidden. For years it was a secret in my family, with my dad. So of course in my mind something that needed to be kept secret must be "bad". I associated myself as bad so in all other ways possible I had to strive to be good and for God's sake don't mess up and spill the beans!
Doing my own personal research on this within families, the trans and their family seem to do better the sooner it is out in the open. There are children with Gender Dysphoria that begin living as the opposite sex and seem well adjusted. There are families that adopt the mentality of a second mom when dad decides to transition. The sooner the better. In the case with my dad, a lifetime of hiding it, ultimately being a "late transitioner" was not optimal.
Lesson #3: Question and answer session. As a trans, ask yourself if you are keeping it secret...why? If you're keeping it secret to spare your family, is it your family you choose? Which regret can you live with? How does this secret affect them? Are you making positive associations with the transition? If you plan on going through with the sex change and/or lifestyle change living as the opposite sex, then it's best to be open about it as soon as possible. Also, answer questions too. I'm pretty sure the United States of America wasn't built on mutual agreements (maybe after a few wars, battles, and arguments) so don't be resentful when a loved one defies you. You're pioneers on this forefront...lead the way!
"Courage is fear that's said its prayers"
I've got an arthritic autoimmune disease in my 30's. While I don't appreciate the stares I receive on days when I've got to use my handicap placard, I do feel the need to educate people and mention something about this illness since it also affects young children as well. Most of society's issues is lack of knowledge, lack of exposure. We get on autopilot and anything out of the ordinary, we are sensitive to. In fact, it's in our biology to be wary of these things. In times of the past it has saved our lives to have that cautionary instinct.
I think trans have an opportunity here. My arthritis is just a part of my life and I'd much rather be "normal", but it is also a chance for me to lead the way. Find my courage- a chance to get knowledge out rather than hide or deflect. You may not mention anything about it to a perfect stranger (although I've done this with my illness) but the education comes from passing it onto loved ones and family. My lack of education, due to my dad's secret, has made become a voice regardless. Sexuality, gender preferences, etc are all sensitive topics, and personal ones too, but this isn't just about you, it's about the next person who has to deal with it 20 years down the road.
I was born a woman and I know being a woman wasn't entirely comfortable pre-World War II era. Because other women in the past decided to get uncomfortable, women today have better lives. Education is also in how your handle things and be an example. I see the stares from people when I'm out with my dad (he's 6' 3 so blending in as a woman isn't easy), and I react as ordinary as it is to me. People take that lead and realize that's an appropriate reaction.
Being transgender may not be a choice, but everything before, after, and in between is.
About a year ago published on the Huffington Post Blog was a post about Transgender choices, or actually the lack of choice: The Choice That Isn't, Brynn Tannehill, 7/2014 (link below).
"Perhaps none was more controversial than my statement that transition is often perceived as a choice, and a selfish one at that. One of the most consistent criticisms of people who transition later in life is that they did not take the effects of their transition on others into account. This is untrue, as most transgender people agonize and delay transition for years precisely because of how hard it will be."
Most of my hub so far has explained that this statement above simply isn't true. I wouldn't argue much that trans feel as though they have no choice. Some days I feel as if my small children are too much for me to handle, and while some "crazy" mothers would disappear or worse, I'm doing what I've got to do. I'm a mother and I love them...first!! No guilt trip here, just explaining the way a woman thinks.
And...back to the statement above..."most transgender people agonize and delay transition for years precisely because of how hard it will be". How hard it will be for who? For them! I did a ton of schooling in family counseling and if I've seen families at their worst, it's out of guilty parenting, selfish parenting. It was more uncomfortable for the parent to discipline their child. The parent didn't want to feel uncomfortable even though it was ruining the kids. I argue here that the trans feels uncomfortable with this around family or coming out so they hold it in- that's also uncomfortable but not as bad as how they envision coming out. While they may "agonize" over it, they aren't sparing the family at all, they are sparing that uncomfortable moment their family finds out- they're sparing themselves.
- The Choice That Isn't | Brynn Tannehill
I have seen cases where the same people who would advise lesbians and gays to come out and be themselves counsel transgender people to stay in the closet because being transgender is so socially stigmatized, or for the sake of everyone else in the tr
I know two trans, one who changed (my dad) well into his 50's and another who was able to get away with being feminine throughout his life and career in the music industry, but later in life decided it's too late to change. It wouldn't resolve anything really. I understand both mentalities. My dad worked one job until retirement and knew, waiting for "his time". But since his transition, I don't see the changes one would expect. More feminine? Nope! Happier? Nope! I think it was too late. His lifetime as a male impersonator stunted his growth as a female. Perhaps he is more content on some level that I can't relate to, but of course it's difficult to see him as a woman when the male is still on the inside. To me, he just got "switched".
My dad was born in the 40's and in that era, men were MEN! The male persona he took on was strictly male. Today there is still a stigma associated with being anything but straight male or female. We are however seeing gender roles overlap. I think this is good news. Extremes and bullies (maybe one in the same) will always protest differences. You could be chunky, have glasses, be trans, be too tall (yours truly), or have a bigger than normal sized nose. What do you do with bullies? You ignore, you grow stronger, you carry on. Another sad truth is life may not be easy for trans even after a transition.
Confidence is another aspect here. My dad gained all his confidence as a male throughout his life so when transitioning to a female, all that confidence is gone and late in life, it's not just going to appear one day. Bullies and haters will find that wedge in lack of confidence and exploit it. You could be the prettiest girl at the party and if you display a lack of confidence, people will exploit that.
The Family's Perspective
- Transgender/Transsexuals from The Family's Perspective
We can hardly bring ourselves to discuss the topic of sex with our kids yet sex is literally everywhere from TV shows, commercials, Internet, and holds an exceptionally strong influence when selling products. As most adults have found out through...
Gender variance, or gender nonconformity, is behaviour or gender expression that does not conform to dominant gender norms of male and female. People who exhibit gender variance may be called gender variant, gender non-conforming, or gender atypical. Source: Wikipedia.
Third and fourth gender roles historically embodied by two-spirit people include performing work and wearing clothing associated with both men and women. Some tribes consider there to be at least four gender identities: masculine men, feminine men, masculine women, and feminine women. The presence of male two-spirits "was a fundamental institution among most tribal peoples." According to Will Roscoe, male and female two-spirits have been "documented in over 130 North America tribes, in every region of the continent." Source: Wikipedia (two-Spirited)
As you can see, there are many in-betweens that simple don't reach the mainstream public. Because being trans is a process, there are varying stages of that process, varying experiences the trans explores, varying decisions they make in regards to their gender preferences. One trans may feel comfortable taking estrogen but never fully transitioning versus one who will get a complete sex change. Another will have homosexual preferences once transitioned. That darn gender box has us all stumped.
Just because someone remembers identifying with the opposite sex all their life doesn't mean they knew what to do with that feeling all their life. They don't wake up one day and know exactly what to do with those feelings. That same confusion is displayed in society's lack of acceptance as well. If they don't know, how the hell are we supposed to know? Seriously, we live in a world where nothing much is beyond Google infinite wisdom. And even still, there lies confusion.
By far, a life changing course I took in college in pursuit of my Psychology Degree was Perception. Perception and reality are tricky. In fact I chose that path within psychology to do research for a year or so. It's amazing how your mind tricks you, how perception doesn't resemble reality. My point here is often a trans' perception of the opposite sex is not always the reality. Of course this can happen to any young girl or woman It's recommended to live a couple of years as the opposite sex, but a couple of years isn't much more than sticking a toe in to test the water.
I was in the last year of pursuing this degree when my father announced his sex change. Between his retirement then relocating a few states away and my busy school/work schedule I hadn't seen him in 2 years. I got the news in an email. My dad had returned from Bangkok, Thailand a woman. A shock, a blow to my small desperate reality was appropriate enough to describe how I felt initially.
I speak of this small desperate reality because as long as I could remember my dad was always in pursuit of a good shock, a trick, etc. In one of my college courses (Abnormal Psychology) I learned this was a narcissistic trait, something my dad had mentioned about himself in his brief counseling encounter. I realize many trans are highly motivated by the outside, or perhaps fixated on what their outside is perceived as, whether this comes in the form of how they dress up, how they "act", and how they dislike their genitals (not matching their inside). Trans or Gender variances are not inherently selfish, but can develop traits and personality disorders that encompass selfishness.
In the preoccupation of the outside, one can often lose reality within themselves. Well, really both inside and out. A trans may feel elated about finally "arriving" and may be displeased that their family isn't at that stage yet.
"But just as it takes transgender people years to accept themselves, they must also allow a reasonable period of time for family and friends to adjust. Expecting anything else can be very self-centered and selfish." Chris Tina Bruce, "Is the Transgender's Transition Process Selfish?"
Being unhappy with himself, my dad cause a lot of other problems. He had a preoccupation with my mom's weight problem to the point he was verbally abusive regularly. He had a preoccupation with looks in general, his or anybody associated with him. This is odd to me because once a trans has transitioned, many associated with them will wonder whether they want to be associated with them based on their appearance.
I'm not suggesting these traits belongs to every trans. What I am focusing on here is dealing with the inside and many issues occur before or during the process of increasingly focusing on the outside or that one euphoric day a trans will just feel "normal". In comparison it can be like the fat girl who finally got skinny. She hasn't dealt with the inside yet and still suffers. I'm just reflecting on how my dad's outside changed but the inside doesn't seem to match it. How odd since she got the outside to match her inside.
One of the most important thing to a trans is being viewed or accepted as the opposite sex.This "view" troubles me- any all or nothing view is troubling in the field of psychology. Also placing one's self esteem in something on the outside/superficial lends itself to other issues. This isn't an easy topic to discuss. It never has been in all the years that I've been writing about it. I appreciate everyone's comments and we all can learn from each other.
- Just Because You Have Boobs, Doesn't Make You a Woman
In reality the perception of what a woman is, is far different than the reality of a who a woman really is. My experience with my father, a transsexual, has made me realize this truth.