Gender Dysphoria Then Body Dysphoria
Age: 55 years old
Identifies as: Woman/Transsexual MTF
There were four of us: me, my brother and my two sisters. My mom threw us all in the tub at the same time. Don’t ask me how old I was. This was my “gender stupid” era.
My sister pointed at my penis and said, “What’s that?” I think my mom had given us baby names for our parts so we would have something to call them, so at the time I think she called it a dinky. I don’t remember, but I think I called it that. My sister said, “Well where’s mine?” and I was brilliant – I said, “You broke yours,” not understanding that we were different. I failed to grasp that we were different.
Here’s the funny thing. I didn’t have the body dysphoria per se. I had gender dysphoria. I used to play with a couple neighborhood kids when I was young, a boy and a girl. I had started going by my middle name, the female version. My middle name was Paul, so I used Pauline. The girl I was with was named Paula. I wanted to be a Paula. It was more gender than body dysphoria, more about who I was. That’s just how I felt. Of course I never shared this with my family.
All my childhood I was crossdressing. I was relieving tension with my sister’s and mom’s clothes, whatever I could find. There was even another experience when I was a child. I don’t know how old I was. A boy, a friend named John, we grew up together and hung out all the time. We were in his cellar one day and we were playing and we found this box of clothes that were his sister’s, with all these dresses. I said, “Let’s put them on.” I didn’t think anything of it. I thought it was fun. We put the dresses on, and I think it was his mom who told us to take them off,that it wasn’t appropriate.
I always had this penchant for living as a female. It wasn’t body, it was role. I knew what I wanted to do.
There was peer pressure going against all this. Growing up, in school yards, I used to play hopscotch with the girls. At a certain grade, I think second, there was a shift, and girls didn’t want me around any more because I was a boy. I found out that this was normal at this age. Boys can be dominating and girls want their own space, and girls shun boys and so I was shunned. The boys didn’t want me in their camp either, so I was alone. I couldn’t understand why the girls didn’t want to play with me anymore. “No, you’re a boy.” Oh crap. And boys always sensed something in me that wasn’t up to snuff, making me a target for bullies. I didn’t want to fight but would learn the hard way that respect sometimes comes from a punch in the nose.
I was a nobody. I was in no camp. I couldn’t be with the girls and I couldn’t be with the boys. I realized that I wanted to be in the world and I knew I had to make a change, or puberty would. The testosterone gave me so much energy that I naturally rolled into rough and tumble play, which was appropriate for natal boys – playing baseball and football as a boy was perfectly normal and a good way to expend the energy that was pouring out of me. I had to expel it somewhere and it gave me the appearance of being a normal male because I was doing all the normal male things.
The testosterone was a huge driving force that makes you need to do something, whether it be climb a mountain or go to the moon. To be honest, I miss that aspect of the testosterone. I used to be inspired to do things all the time. I could never sit still and do the girl stuff when I was young. Sitting around for tea parties, as nice as it might have been, I couldn’t sit still.
I could see how everyone would assume that I was a typical boy. It was a way to vent the rough and tumble drive that T gives you. It works on any brain, I think, in that way when it’s in your system.
Upon growing up, I remember being derided by other boys for not being “boy enough,” and that stung. That’s why I realized that I had to make changes. It really shocked me. I told my cousin, and his dad had repaired this little toy car and he gave his dad a kiss on the cheek, and his dad laid into him, telling him that boys don’t kiss like that. I was shocked. Even some of the other adults didn’t agree with his methods of raising his son. This was my education, my uncle deriding his son for not being man enough and I got the same peer pressure growing up. That’s why I learned to fit in. I wanted to fit in. That’s when I started making a real effort that I was one of them.
This is why when my body started changing, I didn’t resist it. Besides, being the analytical type I understood that I was a male after examining the evidence and had to accept this reality. I tried to use these changes to become what I was “supposed” to be. And then bragging rights, like shaving, I could shave. “Look at me.” I grew a full beard, better than most guys. I didn’t resent it because I needed it. I needed big muscles, I needed a deep voice, which I never really got, and I needed body hair. I was bullied a lot when I was young for many years by many boys. Being able to defend myself and ward off attacks was so important. This went to my psyche and helped ensure my survival. I developed an aura, a puffing of one’s chest, as it were, to be fierce, and the body gave me that so when threatened, I could fend off an attack. In that sense, my changes were beneficial.
On many levels, I could fit in, I could defend myself, and I assumed I would be attractive. At the time, I wanted to be attractive to women. I didn’t realize that my fascination with women was really a living vicariously through them or wanting to be them. Even when I married my wife, I loved to shop for her clothes. I was living through her on some level (she knows this because I told her). That was as close as I could get.
Going back to the body some more, growing up, when I was curious about sex, my dad wasn’t forthcoming and wasn’t comfortable about it. My mom would talk to me about it and we had discussions about sex. I remember saying to her, “You know Mom, if you hadn’t told me about how it worked, I don’t think that people would ever know how to do it.” She had this funny look on her face and she said, “Really?” and I said, “Well, yeah,” because it wasn’t natural for me. I wouldn’t have figured it out on my own. If this information hadn’t been passed on, I wouldn’t have known what to do. Whether I was just young or this was the dysphoria, I was unenlightened. I needed that information, because I wouldn’t have been able to figure it out otherwise.
I remember growing up, those guys would look at girls, and I was aping them, but I don’t think I was looking at the same things they were. I also found out it was easy for me to be friends with women. I remember I was sent out of state for training in my job. I was with all these guys in my training class and we found this woman who was taking a coffee break the same time we were. She and I hit it off and we were pals for the whole time we were out there. But the guys, they knew she and I were hanging out. At class the next morning, the first thing on their mind was, “Did you fuck her?” I was shocked. First of all, it was crude and it was offensive as far as I was concerned. But this was “normal guy talk.” I think I mistook our friendship for normal male-female relationship. I was trying so hard to be a boy – wearing a mustache, wearing steel toed shoes, trying to fit in, and not once did I think I was a girl with a girl because that wasn’t the image I was trying to project.
I don’t know how old I was, but I must have been a teen. I had raging hormones and males have spontaneous erections all the time. And at sometime through guy talk, I learned about masturbation and through experimentation, learned about orgasm. Also, having a penis is very practical. Being able to pee standing up outside. I was torn. I needed to dress female badly, but my body was deceivingly male. I was looking at myself and it wasn’t working. I was exercising, building my muscles, I was hairy, and I had a fully functioning penis, but it wasn’t enough. I didn’t know what was wrong. I was so frustrated that I was in the bathroom, and I was holding myself in my hands in the mirror, and I was fully erect. I was cupping my balls in one hand and had the shaft in the other, and I’m looking at this thing and I’m trying to make it work, and I’m wondering, “What’s the big fucking deal about this thing?” Physically, it didn’t work for me. It was confusion with a capital ‘C.’ I still didn’t realize I was trans at that point. I knew I was confused, and I thought I was fucked up because I liked to wear female clothing. Not once did I realize I was trans.
My family was anti-gay. They would make sport of men who were effeminate, and I knew this growing up and I didn’t want to be that nor lose their respect. Their derision of all things LGBT for so many years was a powerful reinforcement for me to toe the line.
I assumed I was a transvestite because I was a man who liked to dress in women’s clothes. This was the dark ages. There was no internet. There was only Phil Donahue with transvestites. There was one book at the library and it was always checked out. Information was lacking at a time when I really needed it. Analytically, I assumed that as a “male” who wanted to wear women’s clothes, it became quite clear – I was a transvestite. Christine Jorgensen came out when I was very young and was barely on my radar so she was not a help to me at all. Without a guidepost or an example, I just reasoned that I was a transvestite. It was actually easy but I didn’t like it. It was clinical and a derogatory term for me because it implied a mental illness.
I met my wife while struggling through all this crap. I could count all the dates I’d ever had on one hand. She actually asked me out for a date. In less than a year, in four months of dating, she asked me to marry her and I turned her down thinking there wasn’t enough time. So I waited a whole month before accepting. We were engaged in five months. My point was that there was a role reversal. She asked me out and I had no expectations because I was a lousy dater. I didn’t put any stock in it and I had given up hope. But she has some “guy qualities” in her thinking, although she is very feminine. We thought a lot alike.
I thought that marriage would cure me of my desires. That was my hope. I believed that “I just need a woman” and my life would become normal. I had this idea that I would be better. Turned out, it just put my needs on the back burner for a while. They resurfaced and wouldn’t be abated.
The first time we had sex, it was easy to get aroused, but the actual act itself was not natural per se. I knew mechanically how it was supposed to work, but emotionally, it felt wrong to push myself inside someone else. It felt alien, but for all I knew, it was normal. People don’t share this kind of experience and so I had no way of knowing that other people didn’t feel this way. After practice, it became “normal.” We’d been married for years and we had sex all the time. Don’t ever underestimate testosterone – that stuff is amazingly powerful. At some point, my GID just reared its ugly head and believe it or not, during sex, I would do a role reversal in my mind and I would become the female. So, even though ostensibly things seemed normal on the outside, on the inside, I was rewriting my reality.
As I got older, I don’t know how I knew about transition, I had somehow become aware of it not believing for a second that it could ever be possible for me. I had prayed many a night to God asking him to allow me wake up a girl. Believing nothing short of a miracle caused me to give up any hope of changing. One day after work I was reading a local paper and saw that the IFGE opened shop in Waltham and I was shocked and knew that there were other people like me who had these feelings. I saved the newspaper article and I wanted to go visit. I was scared. I got on my motorcycle wearing my leather jacket and full helmet and rode up to IFGE’s building. I would circle to see who was spying and to see the type of people who would go in and out. I was paranoid. I got off my bike and puffed up as much as possible – didn’t want any crap – and slowly crept up the stairs and got a glimpse of one of the members. They didn’t see me but I saw them, and what I saw frightened me. I saw a man in a dress. I thought, “That is not me. That cannot be me.” I got on my bike and left and went home, yet I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I knew I had to do something. I knew I wasn’t a man in a dress, but I had to do something.
I went back weeks later and walked upstairs and ran into one of the founders – she looked pretty good. She was in transition. She welcomed me. She asked if I had ever seen a transgenderist before. I said I didn’t know and she said, “Well, you have now.” That’s when she gave me literature about transsexualism. Back then, the differentiation was that if you took hormones and had electrolysis and were full time but didn’t want the surgery, you were a transgenderist, and if you wanted the surgery, you were a transsexual. That was in the 1980s.
She encouraged me to go to outings rather than only dressing at IFGE or at home. I was still scared to go outside – I knew I needed to. I felt the pull. It was the life of a woman that I wanted first; later the body would follow. As I had more and more of this new life, I looked at myself and I realized that this body wouldn’t work. I tried to make it work but I was a failure. My mind would not rest. By this time the noise in my head was like a constant drone telling me that I have to change. I would not know true peace until I had transitioned.
I met a woman at a transgender convention who became my “big sister.” I was enthralled with the way she had changed her body. It showed me the path, to know that there was something that I could do. It was demonstrative, what was possible. I found an electrolysist and even though I was scared to come out to them, I needed this beard off, so I got it taken off. Still I kept telling people I was a transvestite or a crossdresser, but each step I took I realized that it was never enough. I was still resisting the idea that I was a transsexual, mostly because my life as a male was so entrenched that I believed it to be unchangeable. Still I continued to move forward, at each step I rationalized it to myself because there was no going back. With electrolysis, those hair follicles were gone. And hormones are only reversible up to a point. I was slowly transitioning. I would take a step, analyze my feelings, contemplate my life, and take another step. This continued throughout the entire process.
One of the arguments in our community is whether you should get FFS or SRS first, but it’s truly a personal decision. For me, no one sees my genitals and it was more important to be accepted as a woman, so it was easy. I got my face done. But, I always felt dishonest when I would meet people and said, “Hi, I’m a woman,” when in fact, I knew that between my legs, I was not a woman. That hurt me. They didn’t know it. I’d had electrolysis, hormones, FFS, and they couldn’t tell, but I knew it and I felt dishonest. I had to get rid of it. By this time I had grown more sensitive to the incongruity of my body to the point that when I held myself to pee it felt like I was touching something that wasn’t a part of me.
How do you know you’re doing the right thing? When my therapist green-lighted me for SRS, I knew things were serious. I knew Dr. Meltzer and sat in his workshop, and when I got the letter from my therapist, I went to Arizona for a consultation and it was a dry run for me. The day I got into the cab to go to the airport, I was dead calm, and I knew I was doing the right thing. It was easy. Wearing a gown, sitting in the examination chair, he lifted the gown up and was tugging and pulling and rearranging things to see how they would go into their new shape, and I was fine with it. I was,”Yes, get it off please.”
I never identified with that part of my body but I had reconciled it with myself. The decision was an enormous one to make, as the results were irreversible. I wouldn’t know the truth until it was over, as the proof is in the pudding. When I went back for my surgery, I was so relaxed, so calm, that I told the doc that he didn’t have to put me under. I was totally relaxed with a huge smile on my face. At this point I had put all my choices behind me, not allowing any second guessing.
One of my first experiences with my new parts was while sitting on the toilet not expecting to pee yet, for I still had a catheter in me. But one morning, the swelling from my surgery was down sufficiently that I was urinating around the catheter. My first thought was, “Oh no,” as I wasn’t sure that something wasn’t wrong. My second thought was, “I’m peeing like a girl. Really cool!” The first time I went out in public (I was released for 2 hours per day) I was out for the first time by myself and I went to a jewelry store. A woman came up to help me and for the first time I felt completely honest. Even though she could not tell the depth of my change, I knew. I wasn’t hiding and I could identify with women as a woman.
Another change I noticed post-op was when I would drop my hands in my lap. The feedback my brain received from feeling my new outline was most natural. The body template in my brain and my body now matched. In the same way my breasts were also now congruent with my template; all was correct.
It would take me several years to get to the point that I was able to shed the trans moniker due to the constant reminders in my life. But now I can only think of myself as a woman, like I had been born this way all along, total assimilation. The noise in my head abated I now know peace. Healed!