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Transsexual/Transgender; The Inside and Out

Updated on April 6, 2014

Bare Necessities

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:

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 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.

Too late

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.


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.[1] 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."[1] 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.

Inside Out

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.


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    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 3 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Thanks too.

    • profile image

      Anon1 3 years ago

      izettl, you are so sweet. Thanks for being so kind and understanding.

      Best wishes to you and your family. :) :)

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 3 years ago from The Great Northwest


      My dad was "forced" to go hunting, go to war (drafted) and most of it persuaded by his dad to man-up. I believe this led to him pursuing being a full woman even more.

      I also believe the line between men and women is slowly but steadily thinning. More men are doing things women do and vice versa. I think it is best for our society as we will recognize our strengths and build off that instead of typical gender roles. What a difference now compared to 1950. Right?

      The bra thing is still trial and error for me at age 38. Good luck with that.

      I wouldn't apologize for who you are. There may always be that male stereotype out there and those that don't fit it may struggle. I'm sorry for that. As a mom, I feel my weight is normal, but looking at Hollywood mothers, I should be much skinnier. this is what we have to compare ourselves to. And of course it's where the male stereotype comes from too. Macho man who saves the day.

    • profile image

      Anon1 3 years ago

      Hello to everyone. Thanks for the kind words from Jeanine and izettl.

      I just felt the need to say I use the "Anon1" name to reduce my chances of my family finding my opinions posted, but also I have been harrased by others for not "being a man" or the phrase I have heard millions of times (eyes rolling up in the air)..."man-up".

      I have been told to go and race cars, shoot deer or other animals, go fishing or build a house or the most stupid so far...go and chop down some trees. Well....I do not like car races, I do not shoot animals (I love animals), I do not like fishing and I do not have the skills nor the knowledge to "build" my own home. Opps....I think I just may have offended about three quarters of the male macho population outthere. All I can say is I'm sorry.

      I do like shopping (especially mall shopping), going for slow walks, like to listen and help others if they have problems they wish to share, I do like simple cooking, sitting and enjoying the outdoors with others and talking. Let me see.....I guess this would make me a "tomgirl". I don't mind the title, I think it kinda fits me. Why? wife (to whom I love very much), loves football and I do not, loves baseball and I do not, loves nascar and I do not, loves basketball and I do not. The things I listed above that I do like, she does not like. Kind of funny huh? Did I just hear someone outthere quitely say "role-reversal"?

      Regarding clothes and undergarmets (bras), I have looked into Soma and La Senza, but do like a lot from "Herroom" and a few from "Bare Necessities". Sizes differ greatly from each other too. I ordered a strapless bra from "Va Bien USA" according to their size charts and the bra was too small, so I used a band extender to make it fit. I ordered a bra from "Maidenform" and the bra fit but it was a full cup, I didn't need a full cup coverage. It's a trial and error fit if you do it via the internet. I would love to just go bra shopping in person and get it right, but that may be just in my dreams. I will stop rambling now and wish everyone outthere the best of all wishes. Thanks for all the kind words. ;)

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 3 years ago from The Great Northwest


      Thank you for sharing your story. Perfect example of the "variance" I talked about. I know of a few trans and consider themselves that but none are exactly the same in the way they express it. We have "lesbian, gay, bi, and transgender" titles but there is nothing to explain all the in-between. Nothing to be ashamed about by in between somewhere on some spectrum out there. I've always been a tomboy- so much more comfortable in jeans and a t shirt. I feel less feminine sometimes because I'm 6 feet tall. gender is a tricky thing because it's part how we're born and how we grow up and not many of us can control how we grow up and what we're exposed to- we're just infants or kids at that time.

      And don't get me started about the macho male persona...doesn't make sense to me. Boys are so hard on boys. I have both a girl and a boy child and I see the differences from birth but I also see how sensitive and sympathetic and gentle my boy can be. I look at him at 2 yrs old and I how hard life will be for him someday having to "man up". And of course it's just as hard if a boy chooses not to "man up".

      I truly hope everything turns out OK between you and your wife.

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 3 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Thanks so much Jodah for stopping by!

      Ms Dora,

      Nice to see you here. It is a difficult and sensitive topic to talk about but I know others have or may go through it and I hope to get this info out to them. thanks for reading!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      I remember reading the other article. Both this and that are informative and enlightening. You explain parts of this situation which could only come from a front-seater. Thank you for writing on this difficult topic. Voted Up!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Very interesting hub Izettl. Thank you for sharing your personal story. It is an important one that will encourage others, as is evident by the other comments here. Voted up.

    • profile image

      Jeanine 3 years ago

      Anon, I can relate so much to what you are saying.... at a very early age I missed my mom so much that I began to just hold her clothes close to me where I could smell her fragrance... the more I missed her the more I held her clothing... I was alone after my sister had married at an early age... my mom worked because my dad was not a very educated man and he worked hard but never made great money... so she was gone... the more I was alone the more I missed her, the more I held her fragrance close to me the better I felt... so it was very natural for me as a boy of 9 or 10 to start to dress in her clothing... I was short and didn't grow until the eleventh grade... so it was very comforting for me to be more like my mom and not as much like my dad... and I love my daddy so so much... I just wasn't like him... he could do anything in the yard and around the house in that his that had been a farmer as he was growing up... he always got frustrated with my slowness to grasp those kind of things so he would just push through and do it himself as I watched... he loved my mom beyond anyones wildest dreams.... and because my sister had been rebellious their relationship was very strained.. this dynamic in my family did a number on me and now years later I realize why I am transgender or gender variant. As a small boy I just needed more love from my dad, he loved my mom and I wanted that, but also he was a good man in my eyes so when my sister was giving him so much trouble, I felt sorry for him and thought he deserved a better daughter really... so as a boy... a small boy that didn't fit in, I was continually looking for my place in the family unit... I began to see a place where I could receive more love and that was he and my mom needed a good daughter to even out my sisters trouble they were going through... it was as simple as that really... I began to act in a way that would soothe the both of them and I did receive more love because of it... the clothes I eventually wore each day when I came in from school reinforced my feminine desires... so it became a very natural thing... now I loved my sister beyond belief as well because she raised me from age 6 to almost 10 but then when she married at 16 she left and I was there all alone... I say all of this to say, with your condition you certainly would enjoy wearing a beautiful bra I'm sure, but here's the kicker... your desire to be fem will take over so you need to simply sit down and discuss this with your wife... tell her the truth and tell her how you feel... this reason I say this is if I had known early on to actually tell my dad I needed more and I was thinking about being his good daughter... I'm sure he would have said ... no you don't need to change... I need to change and give you more love... the mind of reality and the mind of perception is what Izettl is talking about here and perception in the feminine mind can be a funny but true... hope to hear from you.. I love that she has a different opinion than every other trans site on the net... caustic sometimes but always honest in her approach.. she has helped me and I'm sure you will learn more about yourself from her work... if you decide to get a bra... Soma has some very beautiful bras and they are pretty reasonable...

    • profile image

      Anon1 3 years ago

      Hello. Being a man, I never really labeled myself trans...anything. I am more sensitive than most other men, don't really care for sports, and do love shopping and clothes. I am an only child, so I didn't have other brothers or sisters to grow with. I now look back and can see that I have really always have had a fondness for women's clothing since my youth.

      I have been told in the past and recently by other males in the population, that I am just not right, I need to be careful and need to "man-up". I do not like that phrase at all.

      Where is the laws that say I am supposed to be a hairy macho man, bite nails in half, and pound on my chest to the call of the wild.

      Truth is, I'm shortish, a little on the heavy side and kind of quite. I have been interested in female clothing for a long time, because it is more colorful, lightweight and plenty of designs to choose from. Men's clothes on the other hand are dark, very heavy and depressing to look at.

      Now over the years, I'm in my very late 40's, I have developed a condition called "gynecomastia", and now have tanner stage 2/3 breasts. Conical in shape. So men's shirts no longer properly fit me. So I must look to women's shirts. I'm now married and my wife does NOT like men who even think of wearing women's anything. But with the advent of breasts, she has started to consider a tiny little bit about looking for me women's shirts.

      A question from a quiz I took recently asked, if you could travel back to just before your birth, would you change your gender?

      I know what I would do, but what would you do?

      Best wishes to all ;)

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      What a great hub. Very comprehensive information here . Thank you for sharing this personal story. It has opened my eyes to the transsexual/transgender world. Voted up.

    • profile image

      jeanine 3 years ago

      enjoyed the first read... my grand is here so I can't wait to read it again later on...