Three questions addressed in this post: The daughter of folks who were my church members expressed confusion over my transitioning, a man wants to know why I need the public to see me as a woman, and a trans friend was kind to ask how my transitioning is coming along.
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Q: I am very confused, perhaps because you were a minister and counseled my parents. How do you figure it is okay to change your sex when God made you as he did?
A: I did, indeed, spend a lot of time with your folks. We grew very close. They remain dear to me.
If you are interested, I have answered your question in many of my blog posts. Look for titles that sound like they fit your curiosity. For now, I will give you a concise outline of how all this came about.
I had issues with my gender identity since I was very young. My desire to be a female consistently grew throughout my life. When I hit my fifties, I began to grow to hate myself. In 2013, I crashed to where I suffered suicidal thoughts. I would say, “You hate being a man. You can’t be a woman. Just kill yourself.”
It seemed the most ridiculous idea that I might transition to female. Besides, I wanted to remain a pastor, and be the husband and father and brother that I am. But I kept growing worse. I began seeing a therapist and studying my condition.
I learned that it was likely that my mother took a drug, which is an artificial estrogen, when pregnant with me, to keep from miscarrying. The drug is suspected of causing my condition, in which I essentially formed as a male, but my endocrine system—the body’s hormones—were messed with, causing the desire to be a female.
The basic idea is that I was born with the hormone structure of a female, but everything else of a male, which created the male/female struggle. I can’t prove this as it can only be seen by having my brain cut open, as in an autopsy.
Before retiring from the ministry, I began taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT), to see if lowering my testosterone and raising my estrogen would help to calm the storm in my brain. It did. But living as a male felt worse than ever.
That the HRT helped my brain told me two things. First, that my mental struggles were more than “in my head.” Second, I came to understand that I am intersex, a combination of both male and female.
So, I was not simply created a male. Because the brain is in charge of the body, and my brain tells me I am female—and because my self-hatred kept worsening to where I truly believed I was going insane, so that to remain male would mean I would have to be heavily sedated all the time, which would render me dopey and useless—I attempted living as a female in order to see if it would prove helpful. It has. I am at peace with myself. I am healthy, productive, and able to live a full life.
I had to retire from the ministry, which still bothers me, but I took to this blog so that I could educate about being transgender, and to show that I am the same Christian that I always was.
This has had a huge impact on many people, but it has gone way better than I feared before I went public about it. Julie and I continue to have a marriage which is rock solid. My children struggled, but have been able to come to understand that the dad they had, whom they feared they were losing, is still the same person.
I don’t claim to have every answer. I lean on the Lord for His love and forgiveness, and I continue to study the science of the body. In the end, I view my transitioning as the same as a person having surgery or taking treatment for any illness or disease.
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Q: Why do you feel the need for the public to see you as a woman?
A: This question is akin to others I have been asked in recent months:
• If hormone replacement therapy calms your brain, why do you need to be a woman?
• Why is it so important to dress as a woman?
• Why can’t you dress as a woman in private, but be a male in public?
The same answer applies to all three questions. My hormone system informs my brain that I am a female. Because my sense is that I am a female, then I desire what is natural to females, to dress and behave as one, not to go back and forth between male and female, and for the public to see me as a woman.
Because I feel like a woman, and because I see a woman in the mirror, I want to be treated like a woman.
In the past few months, I have been in several situations where I sound and talk and debate as Greg always has. These occasions have been hard on me. The more I talk and act as the Greg, especially when it is with people who have known me for a long time, the more adversely affected I am, even to the point where I wish I could recapture that guy.
It always proves a foolish notion. It never lasts past that moment. I quickly recall the course of my life—that even as the man who did not yet find the need to transition, I was not emotionally healthy—and the moment passes as soon as I leave it.
As Gina, however, I don’t experience this. Indeed, the more I have positive experiences as a woman, the more it is confirmed in me that I am a woman. It never feels wrong. It always brings me joy, as when my eye doctor recently complimented my hair. My, but I gushed with glee!
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Q: How is your transition going?
A: If I were to rate it on the familiar 1 to 10 scale, some days I would give it a 9 and others a 3, because it is so complex.
For the sake of this answer, I will keep it to the aspects of physical transitioning. I had hoped to have sex reassignment surgery (SRS) this autumn, but the process of preparing the area for surgery, removing the hair, took longer than expected.
This coming Friday, I finally have my pre-surgery consult with the SRS surgeon. I am hopeful that we will be able to set the surgery date. I would be pleased if it could be in January, but I’m not getting my hopes too high in case it cannot be that soon.
A week from today, I see a surgeon for a consult regarding my voice. In a stunning reversal from Q & A #9, in September I met a trans woman who had vocal cord surgery, whose voice is now perfectly feminine. Here is a before-and-after video of her, which shows how stunning the change is.
This surgery cuts a piece from the vocal cord and reattaches it so that it is shorter. The longer the vocal cord, the deeper the voice, with a higher pitch achieved with a shorter cord.
I hope I can have this surgery as my efforts have been unsuccessful to train my voice at a higher pitch. I will learn a lot a week from today.
The other procedure that I anticipate is facial feminization surgery (FFS). I also had hoped to have FFS in 2016, but practical potholes tripped me up. In October, I had a consult with a surgeon who is in our insurance network (pothole patched!). When I get insurance approval, I hope to schedule surgery for early in 2017.
FFS and vocal cord surgery would address the two things I most need to improve, which is my presentation as a female. Because I still have Greg’s voice, I am called “him” way more than “her.” I need to sound like a female, and look more like one for the most practical reason: living in the world.
When we flip our calendars to a new year, my biggest challenge might be determining in which order to have my surgeries, with the number of surgeries amounting to three. Oh, that I will have this conundrum to consider!