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Jennifer's Story about tranitioning at 19


From: "NeoGal"
Subject: To tell the truth web page

Hi Jen,

While I am no longer a 'trans teen', I certainly was at one time. Perhaps my perspective can illustrate what it was like to transition young more than 30 years ago.

I've know that I was not only a girl but 'trans' in some sense from the age of 7 on. I had the unique experience of hearing my mother and brother discuss his having met Christine Jorgensen at a theatrical party in New York City (my brother is 13 years older than I am). He had gone to NYC to become an actor and was about 20 years old when he came home to Wisconsin for a visit and related the story about having met Ms. Jorgensen. I recall hearing them describe, in very non-judgmental terms, the "man who became a woman" and thinking "Oh! this kind of thing happens to other people, and it's ok. Great.....that's me!"

I was a very precocious child and by age 10-11 was spending time in libraries reading reference books and anything else I could get my hands on for information about gender, identity, transsexualism (the phrase had barely been coined at that time) etc.

In 1966, and around the time John's Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore announced they would be the first US hospital to perform gender reassignment surgery (a news story that made my day, at the time.....), I was at my local comic book store to feed my weekly addiction (I LOVED Marvel Comics when I was a child) when I noticed a small paperback book on the turnstile near the comic book stand. The title of the book stunned me and almost made my heart stop. "The Transsexual Phenomenon - by Dr. Harry Benjamin".

I was 12 years old and had $1.00 in my pocket with which to buy 4-5 comic books (at $0.12 each then) and some candy, yet there on the rack was a book that I had to have....I felt like my life depended on understanding the information in that book. The book was the whopping price of $1.95...

I thought about putting the comic books back and going home to ask my mother for another dollar, then coming in and buying the book, but the social stigma and embarrassment of being a 12 year old boy wanting to buy a book with THAT subject matter on the cover from the old guy smoking the cigar behind the counter was just too much for me. Soooo.....I did the only logical thing I could do. I bought the comic books....and stuffed the pocket book down the front of my trousers and stole it.

From that book, I learned about estrogen therapy and these little magic pills called Premarin. I also learned that they were prescribed for women going through menopause. I knew that my mother was going through one day when she wasn't home I snuck into her bedroom and there on her nightstand, along with other medications, was this beautiful pill bottle filled with little yellow football shaped pills.

To make a long story childhood was very difficult do the fact that my parents weren't together and my mother was a rather raging alcoholic. She was gone a lot hanging out at bars and when she was home she was usually, if not drunk, less than fully 'alert'. This made it easy for me to 'borrow' her pills....and back then quantities and refills were not as stringently regulated as they are now. So....I began taking a 1.25mg estrogen pill 3-4 times a week and this went on for the next 3-4 years.

Within 2-3 months of having stolen that book, and having seen that John's Hopkins Hospital was beginning to do the gender surgery, I came to the naive conclusion that it was now 'ok' to have this condition and that ALL medical people must know about it, be educated about it and be sympathetic to it. I mean, as a 12 year old child, those were the conclusions I had drawn.

So one day I skipped school (it was during one of the rare periods when my mother actually had a part time job and was 'semi-sober' much of the time), dressed in my Mom's clothes, and took a city bus all the way across town to the County Hospital...the only hospital I knew and the largest one in Milwaukee. I walked in, looked up the 'Psychology Clinic' location, took the elevator to that floor, walked down a LONG tile corridor to the reception desk and told them, nervously but definitely, that I was a transsexual and I wanted to begin getting treatment like they were doing at that hospital in Baltimore.

Well..... I think that was the day that my naivete' went the way of the dinosaur.

The stunned nurse asked me to sit down on one of the nearby benches and went to get a doctor. Soon a doctor came out, knelt down in front of me and asked me to repeat what I had told the nurse. I did, and they asked me if I wanted something to drink while I waited. They also took down all of my pertinent information, including my home phone number and where my mother worked. I waited.....and waited.....and then I heard the sound of high heels walking down the same tile corridor. It was my mother.

They had called her at work and told her what was going on. She had tears in her eyes, but also a look on her face that I felt was saying to me; "How can you humiliate me like this? You are SUCH a burden...." Still, I knew that I HAD to do this, and that the educated, informed and helpful doctors would explain to her why they needed to help me.

A psychologist asked my Mom and I to step into his office, which we did and I remember hearing for the first time the sound of my mother's and my high heels clicking on the floor as we walked to his office. Not sure why I remember that so clearly, but I do.

Once behind the closed doors of his office, he proceeded to tell me that I was a SICK little boy and that I must STOP this bizarre and inappropriate behavior immediately. He said that I didn't KNOW what I wanted, since I was just a child, that I would DEFINITELY outgrow this phase I was going through and that my mother was a BAD mother for not having a man around the house to keep me in line and provide a masculine role model.

I was shattered.....and it would also color my perception of the medical community for many years to come.

My her credit, took me home in a taxi and immediately told me that the doctor had no right to talk to her or me that way and that she loved me and that if this was what I wanted, that she would let me give living as a girl a try.

I've never been happier in my was my dream come true. Of course, I failed to note that she was 'sober'....

Three days later, after having lived as a girl at home during that time and beginning to think about 'how' to handle this with school, friends, etc. my mother came home at about 1:00am with 2-3 male friends from the bar she hung out at. All of them were mother was NOT a 'pleasant drunk'....she was a 'mean drunk'. She brought these strange, drunken, leering and dirty men into our house, pointed at me and said "That's my 'daughter' DEAN. He thinks he's a girl....."

They all got a good laugh out of of the men even said "Hey kid. Doesn't matter to me what you wanna do with your life. Besides, you're kinda pretty."

Well...that was the end of my first 'transition' at a young age. I knew that my mother's alcoholism would make it an impossible situation for me and I just couldn't take that.....but.....I did keep taking her estrogen without her knowing it. At least 'I' knew I was doing something positive for my future.

Through those years I dressed as a girl whenever I could...certainly EVERY Halloween... I dealt with hiding the changes that were happening to my body as a result of the estrogen....being teased for being feminine...being 'educated' in the ways of the world and realizing that, especially at THAT time, there were NO resources or support for someone like myself. Yes, there were others out there, but we were EACH totally on our own.

To sum up this unbearably long story, I finally transitioned at age 19, moved in with a friend in Knoxville, Tennessee so I could get away from 'home'....and have never looked back.

There are many advantages to transitioning young....particularly from an 'external' societal viewpoint. I totally agree with Janelle's dislike of the word 'passing'.....I have never like that word, as it implies 'pretending to be something you're really not, but getting away with it.".....Yuck....but yes, being accepted in society as a woman has never really been much of a problem for me.

The other advantages of transitioning young were that I didn't gather any of the career, family, children, bills, responsibility baggage that others who transition late might have. Nor did I allow the further 'invasion' of male characteristics, behaviors or social expectations onto my psyche.

On the other hand....those who transition young are undertaking a dramatic change at a time when most young people NOT going through gender transition don't even know who THEY are! To add dealing with gender transition on top of things like 'What am I going to do for a living?" "Do I move out of the house?", "Who am I sexually interested in and HOW do I handle that?", "I want to party and enjoy life....but who will accept me as I am?"....."I'm 20 years old, how the HELL am I going to afford the money for electrolysis, surgery, therapy, etc.?"

Still...all in all.....I've loved my life for one simple's MY life. I own's my own creation and I'm doing the best I can with it. And I'm very glad I knew who I was at a young age and started doing something about it at a young age. It was hard....very hard....and I felt very unloved, unwanted and alone back then. But I did NOT let it harden me against being able to receive love and more importantly, give love.

I am 49 years old now (but thanks to the magic of estrogen, look about 35 and feel about....20!) I dated men for 6-7 years after I transitioned, but then realized that I am, at my heart, a lesbian and will celebrate my 21st anniversary with my life partner in February of next year. I love her deeply.

I had a wonderful 25 year career in the music and entertainment industry, followed by my currently great career in the high tech industry. I also work with youth in the performance field teaching them leadership, confidence and mutual respect through the medium of music and performance.

While I have lived what most people would call a 'stealth' existence (even though I don't LIKE that word and don't think it's every really 'true'), I have continued to be involved with gender issues. I currently facilitate a gender Peer Support group here in Portland, Oregon and my partner and I have been foster parents/safe haven providers to two trans youth within the last 6 years.

I hope that this rather long letter is helpful in some way to those of you who are reading it. If any of you have questions, thoughts, or just want to say hi, please send me an email. I'd be more than happy to respond.

Also, if you're interested, visit the web site for the Portland Trans Peer Support group:

Be true to yourselves and give love wherever and whenever you can....

Jenn (Not 'Anti-Jen....a different Jenn)

"Life isn't measured by how many breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away..."


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