I wrote about the steps in transitioning what feels like way back in May. At that time, most of the steps were theoretical for me. Now, they are real. Thus, this time, as I explain the steps I will also describe where I am with them.
I have confused folks by using “transitioning” when they thought I was talking about “sex change” surgery. They are not interchangeable. Indeed, I am going to describe more than ten potential areas involved in transitioning.
The place most transitioning people begin is with engaging a therapist. In order to receive medical care, psychological care is required.
Commonly, a trans person will first desire hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for the physical changes it provides, yet there are folks who neither require or want it. For most, HRT not only provides desired bodily changes but, perhaps just as important, mental stability. My brain was raging so much that I truly thought insanity was on the horizon if I did not kill myself first.
When genetic females take HRT, testosterone causes beard growth. For males, HRT does not stop beard growth. Trans women almost invariable make use of electrolysis or laser hair removal. Lasers do not kill gray hair. Because my beard is mostly gray, I could only have laser work on my mustache and a few spots on my chin. Every four weeks, for seven treatments, I had laser treatments this year. Laser work is way more efficient than electrolysis, but, wow, for me, it was terribly painful.
Today, I will have my fortieth hour of electrolysis. Even with the seven laser treatments and forty hours of electrolysis—where an electrified probe is inserted into the follicle, zapping it dead, then the hair is pulled out (one at a time, eight or nine per minute, over five hundred per session, each one its own little pain-fest)—I might only be one-third done if I am going to be completely facial-hair-free. I have enough removed that I am able to go without make-up cover—no more 5:00 shadow—which greatly pleases me.
Breasts are very important to both trans women and trans men. Trans men will bind theirs, a painful experience, to flatten their chests. An important step in the transition to living full-time as a male is to have a double mastectomy. I saw Chaz Bono’s documentary. When he had his surgery, he was so happy and relieved.
For males transitioning to female, breast growth from HRT varies widely. It is common for trans women to have breast augmentation. For my age, my breasts are growing very nicely. I am happy to say that I should not need breast augmentation.
Our face is how we, um, face the world. Since males have bone structure so different from females, to have facial feminization surgery (FFS) is another part of transitioning which, while not a universal aspect of transitioning, is an important one for many. I have thought all along that I will have FFS. I could have it as early as the first part of 2016. As I said in one of my videos, I want to be able to look in the mirror and see a female-shaped face, not to mention having the public easier see me as female. For me, it will mean having my brow-bone shaved and chin rounded, so that both are less prominent, and neck lifted. I could also have cheek implants and a slight nose job.
The voice needs to speak well for the trans person. Some are able to train theirs to an acceptable male or female range. Others accept their natural voice. Still others work with a vocal coach. Vocal cord surgery is now on the scene, but not yet commonly performed. I am able to affect a voice which suits me, yet it does not feel right yet when making videos and talking with folks who have known me for a long time, all whom I believe expect my old voice. I call my fem voice my grocery store voice.
Topping the head, hair is important to most of us. I am trying to make due with my thinning hair and high forehead. I got it cut, in early September, into a feminine style, and now have bangs. I could have my scalp moved forward as much as an inch and have hair plugs. I don’t want to wear a wig. (Been there, worn that.) I will keep working with what I have. Thankfully, HRT has slowed down or stopped my hair loss.
An important aspect of transitioning is learning how to act properly. It is no small thing for a person, who has been a male for many years, to walk female—but not too much!—and display more feminine mannerisms—but not too much!—and show a feminine persona—but not too much! I am pleased to report that Julie compliments me on how I am doing with this; again, I am more aware in public but let my guard down with family and friends.
Once one is quite certain the transition is going to be permanent, it is highly desirable to have ID match appearance. In the first weeks of living as Gina, I was hyper-sensitive using a credit card with Gregory on it, and heaven forbid I should get pulled over by a police officer! I have experienced wonderful growth in self-confidence, and I know that I don’t fool anyone. My level of personal comfort, coupled with my sense of humor and quick wit, has paid off well for me.
- Waiter, to our group: “We have this unusual dish tonight that we’ve never before offered.”
- Me: “Gosh, I don’t really like trying new things.”
- Wait a beat. He got it, and laughed just the right amount.
You need not have sex reassignment surgery (SRS) to have a legal name and gender marker change. In Indiana, you file a form with the court and receive paperwork to take to the newspaper. The paper runs your ad for three weeks, the purpose of which is to make sure you are not changing your name to escape obligations. Passing that step, you go to court and, assuming no other barriers, are granted the change. From there, you are able to change your drivers licence, credit cards, and the like.
This stands before me as a huge step; it might come soon. The other step, which I do not foresee even if I have SRS, is to have my birth certificate changed. Many, even most, who have had SRS, desire that. Since I do not foresee getting a passport or traveling oversees, I might not have any situations in life where I will need my birth certificate. I do not desire to dishonor how I was born. (Yes, I have thought about the headstone on my grave. Don’t ask!)
I have arrived at the last item—forgive me if I’ve overlooked one (like totally overhauling one’s wardrobe)—and I have listed many areas important to transitioning. This is instructive in showing this: SRS—“the surgery”—is far from the definition of transitioning.
Perhaps surprisingly, SRS is not undertaken by all. Some are comfortable with their genitals. Some, who greatly desire the surgery, might never be able to afford it.
Do I foresee having SRS? Yes, I do. My sense of who I am is that important to me. I would likely have FFS first, and SRS later. I would be pleased to be done by this time next year.
If all of this seems like I have moved quickly, please remember that I only brought you into this last April, while this has been my entire life. It has now been months since I have had even an inkling that I could fight to be male.
As Gina, I will once again travel, leaving this afternoon and returning on Friday, to visit family and friends, some of whom have not yet met the new me—another huge aspect of transitioning.