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What it means to be transgendered

Updated on August 8, 2012
Caroline Cossey - also known as Tula a successful model and actress
Caroline Cossey - also known as Tula a successful model and actress


I first came across this concept when I saw pictures of Tula (Caroline Cossey) in one of the tabloids.

Seeing her, I couldn't believe that she hadn't been a she from the very beginning and that was my first mistake. In fact, it's the mistake many make.

Tula's story is one that for a while was very highly publicised, not the least of the reasons was that she was a Bond girl. I don't think the studio that was producing For Your Eyes Only even knew that the stunning girl in the swimsuit used to be a man.

She appeared in Payboy in 1981 and was outed in 1982, which basically stopped her modelling career in its tracks.

Growing up in Norfolk, England, the then Barry knew there was something wrong with his life and having been bullied and picked on at school, he left home to become Caroline.

I can remember his article in the Sun newspaper (if 'newspaper' is an accurate term) where Caroline stated that she'd tried going down the gay route, but it just didn't work.

I couldn't understand the mentality back then. I thought that Barry was a bloke who liked blokes. How gay do you want to be?

In fact it took thirty years before I actually started to get it and understand what it meant to be transgendered.

When I said it was my mistake, thinking that she had always been a she, she had - just in the wrong body. It's a bit like making tea in the wrong cup. It's still tea, but it should have been in a china cup, not a mug.

My friend, Rachel

She was the one who really opened my eyes to what it was to be transgendered.

We met at work and I knew instantly what she was. Frankly, I didn't know what to say, but she took the need for me to even think about it out of the equation and did most of the talking.

I would say that at that time, it was pretty obvious that what I was looking at was a bloke who was trying to be a woman, but over the years I saw her blossom and now you'd never know any of what I saw ever happened.

True, it wasn't cheap and there was a list of ops and procedures she went through that probably cost a fortune. I know the dental veneers weren't free for a start.

But this was her dream and as we got to know one another, I asked questions and she answered them. There was no embarrassment, I mean I was truly intrigued by what happened to her both physically and mentally.

I'll admit, the people at work thought there was more to our friendship than just being friends, but not only did I not care, but nor did my better half, Penny - who interestingly also worked for the same company.

Right mind, wrong body

Let's get this straight here and now. Someone who's transgendered is literally the right mind in the wrong body.

I have heard no end of stories about people who have tried to suppress the need to be the person they are on the inside - outside too and have come to grief as a result, many not surviving. Some get over it by being 'themselves' on a part-time basis, but that's usually because work or family commitments don't allow for anything else. It's not unusual however, for part-timers to become full-timers eventually, but it's often not until they've exhausted all other possibilities.

Some M2F cross-dressers (otherwise referred to as TV's - transvestites) most of the time, have no intention of becoming women on a full-time basis. Those who practice cross-dressing are more often than not viewed by Joe public with even less regard than transsexuals. They see TV's or CD's as really perverted. They are not to know that there is a chasm between cross-dressers and Transsexuals and to them, they just lump everyone in together like they have by lumping the transgendered in with the gays, lesbians and bisexuals, when in fact, more often than not, they are not gay at all - even partially. What's worse is that the gays, lesbians and bisexuals aren't altogether happy with the idea of sharing their movement with the transgendered either.

It's probably difficult to understand if you don't have those same feelings or needs - even worse if you're religious. I know only too well what they think about the whole TG thing. They think it's something that can be cured. A few pills, maybe a mains electricity cable to the temples and presto!

After all, God doesn't make mistakes.

I beg to differ and not because I'm not a religious person, but because we're talking biology here, which it's patently obvious, is not infallible. We're talking about how the body and mind don't always match and how we really are more than the sum of our parts. It appears that while someone may well be male on the outside, they are not necessarily male on the inside too - or vice versa.

This is not something that can be cured by any means other than by changing the body to fit the mind. Changing the mind to fit the body doesn't work. They've tried that and failed miserably. So the only way to change what the mind needs to be wrapped in is to change the body.

Thus was the case with Rachel.

She gave up her family and her children, taking more crap at work and elsewhere for doing what she did than most people could take in a lifetime. In the end though, she made it; coming out the other end stronger and more at peace with herself and everyone else than she ever had been before.

Rock-on I say.

Jayne County - once Wayne County frontman of the Electric Chairs
Jayne County - once Wayne County frontman of the Electric Chairs
Isis King a contestant on America's Next Top Model
Isis King a contestant on America's Next Top Model
Cher and her now son, Chaz
Cher and her now son, Chaz

Living with transgender issues

When it comes to being transgendered, I'm the last person who can tell you what it's like because I cannot recount from first-hand experience. I can only tell you what I have been told; what I have seen for myself and believe me, seeing what Rachel went through and hearing her story was a real eye-opener.

I saw the way she was treated at work by people she was supposed to be able to trust; supposed to respect and that had to be difficult when they were sniggering behind her back, pointing fingers and making snide comments.

It's this that is the sad face of what we describe as civilisation.

How civilised is it to mock, ridicule and generally make miserable the life of someone who through no fault of their own has found themselves out of kilter with what they were supposed to have been all along?

How deep does this go and how far will they go?

This isn't idle curiosity, it's a deep-seated need to be the opposite of what the physical gender suggests. This doesn't make them gay or lesbian either, although many less financially fortunate than Rachel have had to go down the path of offering sex for money in order to fund the process of the change, which for may male to female transsexuals is the only way it will happen, .

Some men are so visually masculine, it's hard to understand how they could possibly want to go down a path that's possibly going to cause issues down the line. Sometimes it's difficult to hide the fact that the woman before them used to be a man. Similarly, some women who are transgendered are so obviously feminine that it's difficult even after all the surgery and hormones to disguise that fact.

This is just testament to how strongly this can affect someone. It's not all about coming out the other end looking like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie - which I'm sure some wish would happen, but just to feel and be right - however that appears to others.

Like I said earlier in this hub, others with malfunctions in their physical makeup are treated with so much more respect and compassion than the transgendered who are seen by so many as substandard or worse - perverted.

It's not a perversion; not a choice either.

It's just nature.

Sometimes people are born with things wrong with them - which is exactly what happens here. They are perfect but for the fact that the brain is one sex and the body is another, why shouldn't they be allowed to fix it without being ridiculed or persecuted? Some things don't grow quite the way they should and often there's no rhyme or reason for it; that's just the way it is. That shouldn't preclude them from being able to make it right.

In God's name?

They deserve respect, but instead, many inflict pain, mental anguish and even death upon them, sometimes with religious conviction.

I was told by a friend of their cousin who was beaten almost to death for being a transsexual. She was told during the beating that she was an abomination, that God wanted them to do what they were doing. What's worse was that while the boys beat and kicked at my friend's cousin, their girlfriends videoed the proceedings with their phones - a mistake they later regretted as it formed a pretty much open and shut case for the prosecution. Not that it made the girl concerned feel any better as she recovered from her ordeal.

Would you beat someone who suffered from polio or cancer? Would you ridicule someone with no legs?

No. I don't suppose you would.

Is it any wonder then why some can't cope with the idea of being transgendered?

You can't help the cards your dealt with, but in some games you're allowed to change them, make a better fist of what you have and I say full power to the courage and tenacity of those who go through with SRS.

It's not an easy journey and I think if we are to call ourselves civilised, we owe it to treat those who have to tread the path of transsexualism with a little more respect, compassion and understanding.

Thank you

I'd like to say a little thank you here, to all those who have made this hub possible. All those at BC and especially to Rachel, for without her story, I'd never have started writing in the first place.


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    • profile image

      Two much 

      6 years ago

      J, you seem to have an obsession with this 2 spirit thing you are forever writing about. Not saying the whole thing is true or not, but your one-sided opinions and comments appear on almost every trans related page. Chill out a bit!

      Also, and this is just my opinion although I know plenty of others who would agree in my saying, transsexuals and TG's are completely different and huge differences exist between them. They are not the same, regardless of this supposed umbrella terminology - the all-inclusive nonsense. CD's, TV's and others dressing en femme part time - when the mood is right. Men in dresses and flamboyant and totally ridiculous outfits no woman would wear, that's the essence of the CD and TV mindset.

      Of course, after the excitement wears off (meaning as soon as you get yourself off) , man mode comes right back - until next time.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for writing this ... I am a "two spirited individual" and you are correct in describing what the medical community has deemed the transsexual phenomenon... "two spirited" individuals have been here for thousands of years... we were advisers to Kings and queens and leaders all over the world... we have a history... Transsexual have a history of about 70 years... and since the medical community has been helping us... we are no longer leaders of the world but have been branded as the freaks on the Jerry Springer show... George you are almost right in there should never be regret or who we are and have been and will be once again... we are a separate tribe... we are this... not one or the other but both... the lack of education is what is in question...part of our tribe will be transition, but one day some of us will stand up and say enough to the binary system... I will not be forced to be one or the other... the medical community continues to tell me they can make me more by making me less... how can that be... some transitions today will be hailed as some of our tribe making the sacrifice... and fit into your system until we educate ourselves again to this world... Many TS and some here present on the site are pioneers into relations which with help all of man and womankind one day... I know it sounds strange coming right out of the box... but google "two Spirits" and see for yourself... have a great life and try and educate everyone you can... Trans are a great bunch of people... most are gifted boys and girls that had angry fathers or grandfathers who wanted them to be someone other than themselves... some had fearful mothers who hid them from their dads... think about it... if you did not know of my tribe... and what we did... when little Johnnie came in to say... he was really a girl... the uneducated parent takes him to the medical community who says... if he's not a boy, he must be a girl... maybe not... I could not survive being one or the other... my uniqueness lies in that I am both or have an intimate picture of both is more accurate...

    • Catsandogs profile image


      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      I found this very interesting, voted up.

    • Nicole1963 profile image


      7 years ago from Silverdale, WA

      I found your story to be passionate and heartfelt and I am grateful you decided to share it. We in this world are truly blessed to have individuals such as you reside alongside us. It is so wonderful to see one who truly understands the words compassion and equality.

    • sligobay profile image


      8 years ago from east of the equator

      Thank you for advancing the cause of openmindedness. You tackled a difficult subject with compassion and aplomb. Bravo.

    • Georgiakevin profile image


      8 years ago from Central Georgia

      Being transgendered would not be a personal choice for anyone. What makes life so horrible for them is when they fight their feelings. It is so much better to accept who you are when you are young and move forward than to get older and regret so many wasted years.

    • Nick B profile imageAUTHOR

      Nick B 

      8 years ago from Normandy, France

      Thanks to all for their comments. I know what I have written could be viewed as contentious, but it needed to be said.

      Thanks for the supportive responses.

    • SteveoMc profile image


      8 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      Intriguing information, I always want to have a better understanding. Although I struggle with this concept, I believe in the freedom of expression, and more so in the idea that all persons regardless of where they come from deserve our respect. Hopefully, this hub will make me more of the kind of person I want to be: caring, non-judgmental, accepting of differences, and enjoying life.

    • profile image

      Pippa K. 

      8 years ago

      Thanks, Nick, for your thoughtful descriptions. I'm particularly annoyed at the self-righteous God Squad types who use their religion as a bludgeon.

      I just want you to know that there are some Christian denominations who do no such thing. Granted, in the scheme of things, they're rather tiny. An example with which I'm familiar is the "unprogrammed" wing of the Quakers, who worship in communal silence without a pastor. To them, there is "that of God" in every person, because God made everything and everyone, didn't He? I certainly can't argue that there aren't bigoted and hateful Christians, and the evidence that there is is overwhelming. And perhaps those small denominations are "the exception that prove the rule," but I just wanted to point out that there are at least some devoutly religious people who try to behave towards others the way Jesus said you should.

    • profile image

      Annette MacGregor 

      8 years ago

      Nice article, Nick.

      One thing I might add - that might help some get the idea that society's thoughts don't always agree with the body and mind.

      Take handedness... How long in history were "lefties" considered evil or to have a problem? In the time of my parents, some were even FORCED to become Right Handed - to write, etc. Eventually, we learned that this is harmful to them. Why are they left handed? Because they are. Why is a transsexual person male or female, because they are, irrespective of whether their body looks like it.



    • profile image

      Gwen Brown 

      8 years ago

      Nick, this is very nice. I can only hope that as the years pass, the situation for T folk will ease. I think it has in the last 10 years.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Nick, this is a very powerful posting, thoughtful and considerate. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    • Nick B profile imageAUTHOR

      Nick B 

      8 years ago from Normandy, France

      Thanks for the comments chapesses. It's something I've wanted to write for a long time and I just hoped I'd got it right

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Nice article, Nick, nothing else to add, think you said it all.

    • profile image

      Beverly Taff 

      8 years ago

      This was an excellent article. Most importantly you demonstrated the all important factor that we are what's between our ears, not what's between our legs.

    • LillyGrillzit profile image

      Lori J Latimer 

      8 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      This is a remarkable Hub. Thank you for your kind path of giving information and hopefully bringing more compassion and understanding.


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