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This is a letter that Kate wrote to her freinds

Subject: In Case You Were Wondering

I'm writing this because there's something you should probably know. You probably would've figured it out anyways if I didn't tell you...if you haven't already. Half of you already know what this is about.

I'm not sure where to start. The following might come as a shock...or maybe it won't seem very surprising at all at this point, I have no idea. I've been dealing with something for quite some time now. While you might not entirely be able to understand it, I hope it won't make things too awkward. My greatest concern is that maybe someone won't be able to handle it, and will no longer feel comfortable around me.

I bet you think I'm gonna tell you I'm gay, don't you? Well I'm not. ;-)

What I've been dealing with is a condition called "gender dysphoria." I've been seeing some professionals, and have been diagnosed with "gender identity disorder." This is a condition that occurs when, in the womb, the brain of the fetus develops into a gender in opposition to that of the body. Basically, my brain is "female-gendered" for all intents and purposes. For the past year and a half I've been in the process of physically changing my sex.

(Another word for this is "transsexualism," but I tend to shy away from that term to a degree, since for many people it recalls images of Jerry Springer or men in flowery dresses.)

Like I said before, I don't expect you to be able to understand what I'm going through. Describing what it's like to have a gender incongruity to someone who hasn't experienced it themself is difficult. An analogy I often use is, it's like if a blind man asked you to describe for him what the color blue looks like - where would you start? There's no point of reference. All I ask is that you trust that I'm not just making this up.

Anyways, I don't want to ramble on here for too long here. The only other thing I really want to say is: if you have any questions or anything, feel free to ask. No matter how dumb you *think* it might sound - I've pretty much heard it all at this point. I'm generally pretty open to talking about anything.

This is the end of the main part of this email, but in case you're not sure what else to ask at this point, I want to run through some common questions and things I've encountered. So this is if you're curious about more of just what's going on here:
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

1) So you're just like ______? (Tootsie, RuPaul, Rocky Horror, etc.)

The short answer is: no. There are many different forms of gender-queerness, and sometimes things can get confusing. To help alleviate some of that, here's a quick rundown of various terms commonly used.

a) Transgender - Generally used as a catch-all umbrella term to encompass all things gender-queer. Pretty much all the terms below are grouped within this category.

b) Crossdresser - A person (usually a straight male) who wears clothing of the opposite gender for whatever reason, but doesn't necessarily identify with the opposite gender.

c) Drag Queen - A person who crossdresses in a very over-the-top manner for entertainment purposes. Usually gay males, who dress in an exaggeratedly feminine manner, sometime as parody. A famous example would be RuPaul. Or Dolly Parton. ;-)

d) Female Impersonator/Illusionist - Like a drag queen, crossdressing to perform, but not as exaggerated. The goal for them is to achieve a convincing act of femininity onstage and sometimes off. Like in "The Crying Game."

e) Transvestite - A person who crossdresses out of a sexual thrill. They are usually straight males, and get arroused by the idea of temporarily switching gender roles or of wearing particular articles of clothing. Rocky Horror is often referred to as being a transvestite.

f) Transsexual - Unlike crossdressers, a transsexual person desires to permanently live as the gender opposite to that originally assigned at birth. They often cite feelings that their body does not match the way they think and feel, and seek to remedy this by changing their body to match their mind. Both male-to-female (MTF) and female-to-male (FTM) transsexuals exist, in roughly equal percentages - however, FTM's appear to be more often overlooked by society at large, for a variety of reasons.


2) So do you like guys or girls or what?

Gender identity and sexual orientation are actually separate traits, though many people might have trouble imagining them being seperate. There are straight transsexuals, gay/lesbian transsexuals, bi transsexuals, etc., just like with non-transsexuals.

I'm not into guys, so you don't have to be nervous or anything. ;-) But I'm also not really into girls either. My sexuality is kinda goofy at the moment. It'd best be described as "asexuality" - I'm not particularly attracted to either gender at this point. Maybe that'll change in the future - I have no idea.


3) What are you planning to do?

You've probably noticed I've started to look a little different - I've been working at this "transition" thing for awhile. I've been taking female hormones for close to a year now, and have been struggling (especially recently) to hide a lot of the physical changes that have been going on in my body. I don't want to get too specific, because I don't know where your comfort level's at, but they've been doing a lot.

And if you're curious, I'm probably going to change my name to "Kate." Don't laugh. ;-P It might be difficult to imagine at this point, but eventually...


4) What about your voice?

Obviously, not many girls sound like I do. However, voice is like an instrument - things like pitch, resonance, etc. can be used in such a way to create a different sound. It's completely possible to develop a female sounding voice - and with my experience singing, it should come fairly easy. It's just going to take some practice.

In regards to what I'm going to do about my singing voice - I have no idea. I think about it a lot.


5) When are you planning to go through with all of this?

Like I said, I've been at it for awhile. A lot has happened. I'm probably going to, I guess, "switch over" near summer. Maybe that seems kind of soon? But once warmer weather comes around and I can't wear sweatshirts anymore, I'm going to have a tough time hiding anything anymore.

And that's what's going on with me. Hope you're having a good holiday season? See you next semester...

Also, a little credit should probably be given to Wikipedia.org and to Andrea James (http://www.tsroadmap.com/reality/jobtrans.html) which I used as a guide when it came to the section on terminology.

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