These are letters, and their responses,
sent to me by supporters of this site.
I am proud to include them because of their useful
and worthy content.
This is Volume Three of the Guest Dialogues.
Wherein can be
found the anonymous
texts of actual letters written to OTHERS,
THEIR answers in
return. All letters in this
section, and any names used or credited are USED BY PERMISSION OR
The QUESTIONER is in CRIMSON, and the GUEST WRITER is in EMERALD.
Articles and Open Letters are in BURNT OCHRE.
Two articles by correspondent Jenny Browne
experience with a gender group meeting
Coming out a little too late!
Well, I got up my courage and for the first time, went to a transgender support group meeting. I did some advance planning and still had some surprises. Here is what I learned. I pass it along hoping that the story of my experiences will help others to plan their own first steps in meeting with others like themselves.
It was a newly formed group of about 15 members, but this time the attendance was small - about 6 people, which meant I felt kind of conspicuous. It wasn’t exactly a lively meeting, and I came away somewhat disappointed at first. I wasn’t sure what good it would do to attend a meeting once a month that could only meet for an hour and a half before the building closed. But I thought about it more on the drive home, and I realized that going there was more important than the content.
One reason that I was disappointed was that I had over prepared myself and expected too much. On the other hand, since I didn’t know what I was getting into, I was ready for almost everything, and that was reassuring. I also gave some thought to my appearance and safety. I was going to a city of a few hundred thousand people that has a major college campus and a reputation for being liberal. But it is also only fifty miles from where I live, and I have acquaintances and colleagues there, and I go there to shop.
The meeting took place at the offices of an outreach organization near the college area that was mostly, but not necessarily safe, and I didn’t know if locals were aware of the nature of the Center’s visitors. So I left my credit cards at home, and put my driver’s license and other ID in an elastic holder around my ankle. I dressed in my usual casual way of girl jeans, girl long sleeve top, girl hiking boots, and girl winter coat; a very comfortable, neutral appearance. I had my hair in a more feminine style than usual. I wasn’t trying to pass, but I didn’t look completely like a guy either. Good guess, since this seemed the outfit of choice, though most of the others there were further along in transition.
I arrived early, and found the doors to the building locked! Oh no! I was nervous enough without this! I found a public telephone 2 blocks away, but no phone book. I walked back to my car, got the phone number from an events calendar, returned to the phone and called. “Had I seen the doorbell,” I was asked? “No? Oh, never mind. Someone is propping the door open now.”
I had already decided on who I would be. Since I wasn’t trying to pass and I didn’t know what the name conventions would be, I wouldn’t be Jenny, but I wasn’t going to use a guy name either. I settled on using initials, and introduced myself as JJ. That was neutral and worked for me. Other people there had feminine names except for one guy that I think was a Female to Male transsexual.
There was not any prior screening, which meant I could just show up, but then so could anyone else. In fact, part way through the meeting, a guy who seemed to be a pushy general advocate type, came and sat in on the meeting, and he really didn’t belong there.
Coming anonymously, I hadn’t thought about the possible need for an address. When there was a chance to sign up for a workshop, the coordinator asked for an address or phone number so she could confirm who would attend and tell us where the meeting would take place. Ackk! I was sitting in the wrong place and got the sign up sheet first, so I didn’t have a clue as to what to do, and I did want to go to the workshop. (From now on, I sit in the middle)! I thought fast, and asked if an e-mail address was OK. It was. That solved the problem of giving out a phone number, address, or even a last name.
If all of this seems overly cautious, remember that I am just starting to come out and that I need to continue to pass as a guy at work for awhile.
Since I don’t have any trouble talking about my feelings, I did speak up at the meeting. We talked a little about the holidays and family acceptance. And since I wasn’t quite sure of the status of some of the group, I decided to let them know how I identified myself, so during a discussion I mentioned that I was a late onset transsexual. Later, I realized how important that step was. It was very much like what we hear about being at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting with your peers for the first time, and saying publicly, “I am an alcoholic.” I hadn’t done this before, and it felt right. Must be more of that coming out validation of self that Jennifer pointed out so well. “I am a late onset Transsexual.” Yes!
The meeting also gave me the chance to compare myself with others in a variety of ways. I positively envied the look of the tall girl next to me! I am about six feet tall, and though I have a slim build, I am about fifteen pounds overweight. She was thin, had long legs and wore boots with heels, and I felt kind of short and squat next to her. But she looked feminine, and I learned that my height isn’t the problem I thought it might be. I also realized that my build was another blessing, since there were others in the room with a larger more masculine shape. I can get back to exercising and lose weight, but they were stuck. Some of them in the midst of transition confirmed my belief that I should wait to try to pass until I have a little facial work done. But almost everyone in that room had a feminine sounding voice, while mine, like a lot of me, is kind of in-between.
And being a late onset type, I have a good job and lifestyle. I felt almost embarrassed when I learned that some of the people in the room were working at menial jobs, didn’t have a car to drive to the meeting, or were having difficulties at work because of changes in their physical appearance. And I winced when the coordinator mentioned that there was another upcoming conference that would have several transgender workshops, but apologetically added that it would cost about $35 to attend. Hmmmm. We all have a tendency to compare ourselves unfavorably with those whom we feel are further ahead in their progress or more successful than we are, but we forget to look in the other direction. It was good to remember that I do have some fortunate circumstances as well as the difficulties ahead.
But comparisons are a trade off. Some of the people there were in their early twenties. They knew who they were NOW, and would not have to experience an additional twenty some years of agony and soul searching to find that out like I had to. But since we don’t get to choose or trade places with anybody else, we’d all better just accept our circumstances, count our blessings as well as our curses, and get on with dealing with the lives we have instead of worrying about what might-have-been.
The free workshop that I signed up for will be conducted by a speech therapist from a different university campus. It will be an all day session on speech patterns and developing a more feminine voice. I need that, so I came to the group just in time to learn about it. Another reason to go; you don’t know what useful information is going to appear just when you need it.
I would have liked to go somewhere to talk more after the meeting, but everyone seemed to just want to leave and go home. Of course, it is a new group so most of the people don’t know each other. Maybe they were all a little nervous like me. We all had parked in a nearby ramp, which was an obvious point I’d missed when I was planning to be anonymous, and me with a really conspicuous car yet! But they had all parked about a floor up. They did all come out on my floor though, when the coordinator was saying goodbye to me, so I was included and not ignored or anything like that.
I don’t think I’ll feel so nervous next time. I did feel like I belonged at the meeting, and a larger turnout would feel more comfortable too. And there is a larger group in a bigger city about two hours away that also meets monthly on a different night. I plan to contact them too.
I have been facing my gender identity problems alone for a long time. Ten years! And I spent most of my life before that wondering why I always felt so out of place. Only in the last few years did I discover the information on the internet and finally learn more about what I could do. Only in the last year did I start cautiously reaching out, first by e-mail, then recently to my few friends. And now, finally, I have met others face to face. True, they are a mixed lot, but then so am I! I now have a means of comparison about where I am, and if I am more fortunate in some ways than some of my sisters, I am also less fortunate and have more to do than some of them. So what. After all, it isn’t a contest. And there were at least 3 people there that I would like to get to know better. I will attend the meetings here and in the other city and the two workshops and hopefully find some new friends to learn from.
Something has changed in the last few months. I am no longer alone, and now I am sure of who I am. Coming out, even in a selective and sometimes anonymous way, has done something both subtle and overwhelming to me. I can now forget about the soul searching and the “agonizing reappraisals” of the past. I AM a transsexual and now I can do something about it instead of just wasting time doubting it or wishing it would go away. And with that knowledge comes a peace and acceptance that will let me get on with my life instead of resisting it. It’s time to stop worrying about where I came from or my destination and realize it is the journey that counts and I’d better pay attention and live it or I’ll miss the whole point. In the words of a songwriter friend of mine;
“It’s a journey
of our Spirit, it’s the journey of our time.
It’s a journey of our hearts and of our minds.
And when things become unravelled, there’s always a time to mend,
Because the journey of our Spirit, never ends.”
OK, this is the last one. I have run out of friends to come out to! Well, not quite, but my only other close friend belongs to a religion that does not look kindly upon sexual and gender differences, so I think I’ll spare myself that one. But the story I will relate is sad enough, sort of bittersweet. In fact, it isn’t easy for me to write about it at all, but I share it with the hope that others may benefit from it.
This time, my friend wasn’t the one who got the Startling Revelation; it was me! The conversation had gone on for awhile. I find it hard to be direct sometimes. I think this is due to a life of self justification, so I usually explain a lot, present what happened and why, talk around the subject, and generally try to overwhelm someone with enough facts that by the time I get to the punch line, they can’t help but accept or agree with whatever I’ve been saying. Of course, I may just be boring them into acceptance too!
Anyway, I was doing my lengthy explanation leading up to the big announcement, when she interrupted and asked,
“So are you finally coming out?”
Long pause on my part, thinking that she had made the usual mistake. “I’m not gay.” ………Another long pause while I decide to cut to the punch line. ……..“I’m a transsexual.”
“I knew that!”
Oh. “Ah…., how long have you known that?”
“About five years,” she answered, leaving ME the surprised one in this scene, because five years ago was when we met, and I wasn’t even sure about me then. And that meant that back when we stopped being intimate two and a half years ago because I couldn’t tell her who I was becoming, she already knew and it didn’t matter to her! I realized that I had missed out on a supporting relationship that could have evolved even as I was evolving.
Five years ago, we had met when I was still trying to come to grips with who I was, and had just suffered a devastating personal loss. My new friend had suffered a similar loss a few years before, so she understood my feelings better than anyone else around me. She was also a casual, easy to be with sort of person, and it was inevitable that our relationship would grow from mutual support to becoming more physical, since we both really needed someone, and we were so good for each other. It would be my last attempt to have a physical and romantic relationship with me in a male role.
We got together for weekends, usually at my house. She felt very relaxed there, and I enjoyed having someone to fix special meals for. We also had the kind of sexual compatibility that I had been waiting for all my life and never found to that extent before.
But I was becoming more aware of who I was, and my feminine feelings were becoming more constant instead of on again, off again. I began to understand that our relationship was a last attempt of mine to prove to myself that I was really a guy. You have to realize that I’d been hit hard by male hormones at puberty, and because of a variety of reasons, not the least of which was being raised in a repressive religion, I had found an accommodation with myself over the years. But it was becoming more and more obvious to me that I wasn’t really a guy, even if I did still want to have girls as sexual partners. And I found myself somehow wanting more of a passive sexual role. This is not to subscribe to any stereotype about females being more passive during sex, rather it was a change in what I wanted that I am reporting, the way I felt. I became uncomfortable “performing” in a male role. I came to prefer the build up before and the aftermath, the closeness and the cuddling became far more important than penetration. I was losing interest in sex, just when I had finally found someone that fit my prior ideas of what I wanted a sexual partner to be like.
I became more and more nervous about her discovering my secret. She did know a few things about me, like that I occasionally shaved my legs, and that I bought T-shirts and tops from the “wrong” side of the store because I liked the colors better. (I guess they really were “T”-shirts)! ?
I also was reading that relationships usually don’t survive disclosure to the other person, and I began to feel our relationship was doomed. And that was really too bad because I felt so comfortable with her, and we were so good for each other in many ways. Finally, I was so nervous about discovery, that I wouldn’t let her into my house when I wasn’t there. That was the last straw for her, and we had a fight that should have ended our friendship. It certainly ended our intimate relationship, and although we slowly became friends again, I didn’t invite her over anymore, and we just occasionally got together in the city where she lived.
Unfortunately, this meant that now I was REALLY alone, and my grief and regrets from what happened before I had met her, made me oblivious to my surroundings. My house slowly became very cluttered, and so full of stuff that I stopped making an effort to keep it clean. I was cutting myself off from any kind of company while I wrestled with who I was and what I was becoming, and I became increasingly isolated.
And now I find that it needn’t have happened. When I ask how she knew about me, she gave me a list; my color choices, my style of conversational speech, etc. She worked in an area that put her in contact with a lot of different people. Before she knew me, she had known some crossdressers, and had even helped a couple of them buy clothes. So she saw some familiar characteristics in me.
In effect, I had
allowed our relationship to fade, because I couldn’t face telling her
she already knew. I missed out on a chance to have an
friend to help me discover who I was. Of course, she could
to talk to me too.
One of the problems that we had was what I considered her lack of communication. And she never confronted me with my issues even when it meant our breaking off our relationship.
But this is all in the past, and I have learned the hard way not to try to breathe new life into old relationships.
So, this is the end of my coming out to friends stories. What have I learned? I am aware that I have been lucky in my coming out experiences. Of course not having more than a few friends helps too. I realize that I haven’t experienced loss of family or friends - yet. And just finally being able to be honest with my friends has made an incredible difference in the way I see myself, as I have reported elsewhere. I know now that after ten years of dealing with this on my own, I should have risked it sooner. And if I could have risked it, I might have been able to maintain a loving, supportive relationship, instead of becoming more isolated. And facing my issues back then would have given me years more of being able to be myself, years that I can never reclaim.
is mostly wasting time. You may have the illusion of
happy, even euphoric moments, but you aren’t going anywhere.
out really does “make you come alive in the world”, and that IS worth
forced by circumstances to pass as a guy at work for a few more
years until she can safely escape her academic career, she is
nevertheless beginning a slow transition and is feeling more like
aspires to be a writer or maybe a hermitess living in the woods.