Crystal's StorySite


Masculinity Lost, Femininity Found

by Emma Kate


It's funny, but during the last few weeks I have had this deepening desire to get into writing some of the strange story of my life, and have decided to focus it around what happened on one particularly momentous day. This has been gnawing at me so much that for the last few nights I have woken up in the small hours and found myself tossing, turning, and worrying that I have not started work on it.

So with the house now quiet, and a cup of herbal tea by my side, here I find myself sitting in my favorite chair with the sunshine of a New England spring filtering through the greening branches of the trees around our home. I spent an especially long time in the bath this morning thinking over what I am going to write and how I am going to tackle it. There are some of the experiences and feelings of that time that are as fresh as yesterday, but I hope by trying to get my story into writing forgotten memories and dreams will be reawakened and will find their way up to the surface.

Well, here goes…


I sat there on the stage as Jason delivered his paper. It was witty and insightful, but although I had learned a lot about his field in the last few years, occasionally he lost me with his complex medical phrases and concepts. I was slightly at an angle to him so I could see more than merely the back of his well-tailored gray suit, and would occasionally catch a glimpse of his boyish smile and intelligent eyes. Lots of others had passed over the opportunity to take on this project, so here he was now in his mid-thirties and a rising star in the world of medical research.

It was inevitable that I would have picked up a substantial amount of medical language after having been a human guinea pig for so long, but every now and again I was totally lost. I did notice that when Jason mentioned "the subject," people would furtively glance in my direction and I would sit there feeling even more self-conscious, which in turn would make me cross my legs again and tug at the hem of the rather conservative tailored black dress I was wearing, fearful that I was showing more than I ought.

The hotel ballroom was packed to standing only as this seemed to be one of the most popular sessions of this medical conference to which I had been taken by the team who had been working with me, had garnered so much information from my case, and were now sharing their findings with their peers.

It took him almost forty-five minutes to deliver, but Jason finally wrapped up his paper and then signaled me to join him at the podium. "We are happy to answer questions, but first I want you to hear from Kathy Putnam, who is the subject of this work, and from whose unique experience we have learned so much." I stood up, the butterflies in my tummy doing loop-the-loops, my mouth dry, my bra feeling as if it was squeezing all the air from my lungs, and my toes pressed hard into my high heels.

It was strange to be on the verge of addressing a crowd of people after so long spent in the company of a small team of scientists and researchers. In my past life I had quite often stood up and addressed large groups, but it was nearly three years since I had done so and my life had been turned inside out since that time. There was a round of applause as I sidled to the podium and put down my notes. Jason gave me a squeeze, brushed his cheek against mine in a little kiss, whispered "Good luck," and then I was alone with four hundred sets of eyes looking at me.

"Good afternoon," I began, my voice sounding shrill over the speaker system. "Let me introduce myself. My name is now Katherine Louise Putnam, the woman about whom Dr. Dennison has been speaking. I suspect you all guessed that when you saw me sitting here. Jason has told you the medical side of my story, my brief is to tell you what these last few years have been like from my point of view. There do not seem to be any cases that are parallel to mine, so I guess you can say that the person standing in front of you here is unique."

I never asked to be unique. Indeed, after all this time in a tunnel of change, and as much as I appreciated who I was now, there were still little bits of me that wished I could go back to my old life. But that was now completely impossible, and besides, when everything was said and done I was very much at home with who I now was, and while scared there were times when I was almost looking forward to a life which now had a very different potential set of parameters. However, in those early months of the whole process I was so depressed that I could hardly bear to wake up and get up in the morning, and the tears seem to flow constantly. Such episodes still occasionally came back to haunt me.

When what was happening to me was finally identified and the consequences became apparent, I had decided I should resign my position because of 'irregularities' that would cause so much embarrassment to others; yet here I was introducing myself to the world following a journey that no human being had taken before, and perhaps no one would take again. As I did so there was an inner twinge, for it was this evening that Tina was marrying again, and if I had not already committed to being here I would have been present to watch her and her Douglas exchange vows, although I know I would have had very mixed feelings about that.

I looked up from my notes at the audience with its eyes intently set upon me, ran my fingers through my long brown hair, had a go at a winning smile, took a big breath, and then launched into my presentation. "Three academic years ago I was male and not female, while my job was to coach track and teach at a private school with rather a conservative religious bias, my spouse and I went to church every Sunday, and I would never have dreamed in a million years that I would find myself in my present position. We had married after we graduated from college, and she had helped me through graduate school; at nearly twenty-five I felt as if I was beginning to settle down to the pattern that would be the rest of my life. Our deal had been that she would put me through school and then we would start our family. We were happy and very content. Yet strangely enough it was the business of having kids that finally made us aware of what was starting to happen to me."

Even as I spoke these words, the back of my mind's eye was working overtime and I could see Tina lying there naked on the bed grinning from ear-to-ear because she had stopped taking her birth control pills, and was encouraging me to make love to her. We had both been virgins when we had married at the age of twenty-two and after the usual business of adjusting to one another had had a pretty good sex life, but this would be the very first time that we had ever had intercourse without any kind of protection. The next couple of months would be the last good sex the pair of us ever had together because even as we got into the baby-making business in a big way we began to discover the first evidence that something wasn't right.

The first symptom was that I was finding it increasingly difficult to have and sustain erections. For a young male with a healthy libido that is something that is not easy to cope with, but when it became a habit rather than an occasional mishap, there was cause for worry.

"I need to preface my remarks by saying that prior to the discovery that my body and whole being were entering this unprecedented period of fluidity, there had never been any evidence of anything that could remotely be described as gender dysphoria. I was a straight male who had always enjoyed his sexuality, and was happy in his marriage. I was looking forward to being a father." I paused, smiled, and then said softly, "I really would have freaked out if I had known then that I would be who I am, dressed like I am today."

I had added this paragraph at the suggestion of Susan, one of my closest friends, who is one of the most feminine creatures I knew. She is a post-operative male-to-female transsexual. She had read through what I had been writing and had told me that I needed to tell the audience what I had been like before all this began happening to me. "Do you know how weird it sounds to someone like me," she purred, "That you never had any longings about your femininity whatsoever prior to this?"

Susan had spent her entire life since as early as she could remember struggling with issues of gender identity. She had tried marriage to a woman, had parented a couple of children, but after a relatively successful career in banking had made the decision that she admitted she had known she would have to make since childhood. When she had come back from Thailand some months earlier having had her SRS surgery, she had been excited and delighted, finally she was complete – and just a few weeks earlier she had starting to sleep with the guy she was dating, and I would regularly be regaled with blow-by-blow accounts of what was happening.

I went on with my paper, describing how around this time a terrible tiredness seemed to dog me, and also increasing problems with concentration coupled with deepening inner feelings that something was amiss inside me. I kept visiting the doctor, and he kept subjecting me to endless tests. I was given tonics and pick-me-ups, but nothing seemed to work and this sense of dread would reduce me to tears, although there was no way to make sense of all this.

So our plans for baby-making crashed. It had begun with occasional erectile dysfunction, then there were occasional days when erections were impossible, then not having erections became the norm, and finally erections stopped altogether. Tina kept accusing me of masturbating to pornography so that I couldn't make babies, but nothing could be further from the truth. I wished I could participate in intercourse, I wished I could masturbate to hardness (goodness knows I tried), but not only did I have less and less energy the desire also seemed to be evaporating. Finally, I had a blackout while trying to make love and was carted off to the hospital. There is something disconcerting about waking up in the Emergency Room when the last thing you can remember is being naked in bed with an angry wife because there was no hardness.

This was the point at which the medical profession kicked into high gear and testing really began in earnest. I thought I would be in hospital a day or two and things would sort themselves out, but that was not the case. Test followed test, and then doctors with different specialities began to join in. About three weeks of exhausting work I was put in a wheelchair and taken to a physician's office where there were a dozen people waiting to talk to me. Tina sat teary-eyed behind me.

"God," I thought, "I'm dying." I began to brace myself for the news.

The doctor convening the meeting cleared his throat, "Thank you for coming over here," he said to me, "I expect you are wondering why we have called this meeting." I nodded and could feel my heart pounding with terror and anticipation.

Then another senior-looking doctor cut in, "First, here's the good news. There some extraordinary biological developments within your physique, but these are not life threatening." I was puzzled. "You are experiencing something that none of us has ever come across before, which is why there is a lot of medical firepower in this room." He then went off into a long rigmarole, none of which made much sense to me at the time, although since a lot of what he said has become part of my everyday vocabulary for I have lived through everything he predicted. Finally, he said, "Depending on your point of view here's what may come to you as bad news: you appear to be in the very early stages of what we have concluded is an irreversible transition from the male to being female."

I was stunned and the room was silent except for Tina's sobs. "What does that mean, doctor? How are you going to treat me to solve the problem?"

"I don't think you understand, Robert," he replied, with an embarrassed smile, "There is no treatment, the only thing that we can do is to help you make this transition as smoothly as we possibly can."

I was quiet for several minutes, the only sound in the room being Tina's sniffs and snuffles. I needed space to let the whole thing sink in. My heart was still pounding, but there was this funny feeling now in my groin. Here was a doctor telling me that I was in the process of changing genders, and from the limited biology that I knew this was supposed to be impossible. Finally I asked if they had any clues about what had caused this.

Another doctor shook her head. "None as yet, but I hope we will eventually uncover something. We can only think that there is something genetic about this, and it may have been that you have been in an environment that triggered this genetic response. But other than that wild guess, we have no idea."

I outlined to my audience what it felt like to discover all this, and they seemed to be hanging on my every word. Then I looked up, smiled, and said, "It is hard to describe how it feels to effectively be told that your life as you have known it is over, and something completely different is beginning. I had no idea of all the implications, but a death sentence had been pronounced over my male self, and how does one move forward from something like that? Also, I realized that no one knew what to do with me, least of all my wife." A torrent of thoughts cascaded through my head, I shrugged, and swallowed hard so that I did not burst into tears. Having gathered myself, I brushed my hair from my eyes and went on with my address.

I will never forget that moment in the doctor's office. Tina was beside me comforting me, and then we just clung to each other and wept copiously, but even as we did I sensed something separating us. In the following days many decisions had to be made, one of which was for me to move to a medical research facility on the West Coast where I could be observed, monitored, and measured. My case was unprecedented in the annals of human science. Then there were financial considerations, especially as I needed to give up my job.

When the time came for that to happen I sat there in my boss's office explaining to him that I had been diagnosed with an unusual and undocumented complaint, and that I was being taken to the Seattle area where I would be under observation and be receiving help and treatment. I told him nothing about the fact it was gender-related, or he would have flipped.

"Well, Rob, keep in touch," he said. "I'm really sorry to see you leaving us you have just started to make an impact. When this health scare thing is over, if we have a vacancy and you want to come back, then we would be delighted to have you on staff again. Keep in touch."

As I walked out I wondered whether he would want to take me back when he discovered that this time next year Robert would be wearing skirts, have a different name, and be experiencing something no one on earth had ever been through. Needless to say, I never kept in touch.

I went from the boss's office to the counseling session. Already my wife was holding me at arm's length, which became very obvious as we got down to talking with Danielle, the counselor. "I am married to a freak," Tina said after some coaxing, "I married a man, and now that man is hard on the road to becoming a woman. I don't want to be in this position and I am beginning to feel as if my husband disgusts me. I am not a lesbian, I don't want to become one, and it seems to me that we have reached the point where we need to settle amicably and go our separate ways."

That night she asked me to move into the guest room, and we never slept together again. As if to accentuate her negative feelings toward me, on the last weekend we were under the same roof she brought a man friend home and he stayed the night. I wept copiously.

To cut a long story short, four weeks after the diagnosis, in late May, I was heading for the West Coast. The research facility had bought out my share of our house and given it to Tina, who had filed for divorce and hurt me tremendously by her enthusiasm to get me out of her life and find another man who would be the father of her children. I was in inner agony.

What worried me also was how I was going to tell my parents what was going on in my life. We weren't exactly close, and our relationships had got even looser since my mother and father had separated and divorced, nevertheless, what would they say when they discovered they no longer had a son?

I sat on the plane, in a window seat, and for four hours did nothing but watch the clouds and try to make sense of what was becoming of me. During the last month my external appearance had not changed much, except for the very slightest beginnings of a redistribution of my body mass, but that was it. The only other thing was increased sensitivity around my nipples, and a softening of my skin in places, while my male organ seemed now to be dormant. I was assured that apart from the penile remainder of me I was very much where they might expect a prepubescent girl to be as she experiences that delight of incipient womanhood coming upon her and altering her body forever. I was, in fact, an eleven or twelve year old girl in a twentysomething mostly male body – an utter abnormality!

It was the internal, psychological and emotional stuff that initially poked above the surface of my changing life, my appearance would catch up later. In the last month my bi-weekly examinations had determined that as my testosterone count went downward, estrogen levels were rising and having an impact. In addition my chromosomes were in some disarray, while it felt as if my whole brain was being molded into a different shape.

"Protandry in homo sapiens has been unheard of until now," one of the medical researchers had said to me, "So you are a fascinating case study."

"What's protandry?" I had replied.

He grinned, "You may not realize this, Robert, but there are quite a few species of fish who do all sorts of sexual jigs. Protandry is the description of those who go from male to female, while protogyny is the description of the suckers who go the other way. Then there are all sorts of hermaphroditic behavior among species of fish, so while sex change in nature is not common, it isn't impossible. What I wonder is if you are the first recognized case of a new twist in human evolution." I shrugged and pursed my lips to keep from crying, all I knew was that the old me was coming apart and I couldn't work out what the new me was going to be like.

All of this meant that my emotions, on edge for a while, were now in freefall. The tears in the doctor's office that had been the first time I had cried in public in as long as I can remember, but since then I wept a little almost every day, with crying jags sometimes going on for hours. I felt as if my emotions were raw, on the surface, and unpredictable.

I wanted someone to hold me and tell me that everything was going to be alright but instead I was now on very much my own, and it was terrifying.

But there was more than that. In the next few weeks, if theories held firm I would see a steady flow of subtle changes in my personality, although no one was quite sure what shape these would take. With testosterone being flushed from my system I would find myself becoming less aggressive, competitive, pushy and I was certain that my old sexual desires would be history. When Tina and I had hugged at the airport that morning, and said goodbye, I realized that for the first time in all the time I had known her that I was not physically attracted to her one little bit. Perhaps this was because she wanted to divorce me and had already started sleeping with another man, but perhaps it was because my desire for women was dissipating into a confused mass of inner feelings that were beyond my ability to unravel.

Just the other day when I had been getting ready to leave, I had found myself gazing at a girl in the mall, liking how she dressed, and wondering if something like that would look good on me. I also speculated whether my hair would eventually look good in the way she had hers done. I was surprised when I realized that there had been nothing sexual about my analysis of her whatsoever, it was a case of wanting to be like her than to be in bed with her. While I found my attraction for women waning, there was no concomitant growth in sexual interest in males. The very idea of sex with a man was still an anathema to me, and I wondered if it would remain that way. I was neutral and becalmed in the world of love and relationships. I was a freak: a soon-to-be-divorced man whose destiny was that of single womanhood.

My mind strayed far and wide over all sorts of topics but kept returning to the one that intrigued me the most. I had spent a month divesting myself of anything that would be of no more value in my new life – which meant just about everything I possessed. I had determined to make this chapter change with as little baggage of any kind as possible. I had temporarily at least abandoned religion, my tools, sports, and my wife had decidedly abandoned me, and it wouldn't be too long before I would have to abandon my name as well, that symbol of my identity. When I got to Seattle one of the things that I would eventually have to decide on was what I wanted to be called. I had been Robert Alan Quinn-James all my life, now I had to come up with a whole new name, and I was also considering changing my last name, too. We had an unusual family name, and I didn't want my dad to be embarrassed because I was naïve if I thought my case would not one day catch the interest of the media.

I wanted a name that didn't draw too much attention to me, also. Tina had suggested Roberta, but that was too obvious, besides I had been at elementary school with a Roberta who was one of the most really unpleasant people I have ever known. My mother had planned to call me Jennifer if I had been born a girl, but I didn't really like that. I had thought of Susan, Stella, Sarah, Anne, Alison, Vanessa, Valerie, among others, but nothing seemed to work as I turned them around in my mind. This would be my name for the rest of my life and I was desperate to get something that I could live with. I had already decided that my new last name would be my grandmother's maiden name, Putnam, and what I chose had to go with it.

I felt like that feather that floating on the breeze in the movie, Forrest Gump – I had no roots, no name, no things, and I was leaving for a part of the world I had never visited before to become someone no one knew. How was I going to start over as someone else. And so the tears started to flow…

This was when I realized I was getting dirty looks, especially from the women in the cabin of the plane. Some months later I was to take the same flight back East, and at that point it would be very different. By then I was dressing and living as a woman, once again I burst into tears, but on this later occasion other women gathered round me and encouraged me and comforted me. But, all this was in the future. Here I was at that moment, to all outward appearances a male, blubbering away like an adolescent girl in the school where I had recently worked who has just broken up with her first boyfriend.

I was glad when the flight ended and I had pulled my two bags off the carousel at the airport. Having got them together I found the place where I was told to stand so that someone would meet me to take me to where I would be living. I had not been there for more than a few minutes when this tall slender man came up and asked, "Are you Robert?" I nodded. He smiled and took the cart with my bags on it. When I protested he grinned again, and said, "You may be Robert now, but as you're on the way to being a Roberta so you must allow me to be a gentleman."

I was a little taken aback, but I walked along beside him and said nothing because I felt so awkward about my changing status, and its implications. My chauffeur was Bill, a medical researcher who was part of the team that would be monitoring, prodding, and poking at me. As we chatted I learned that he was divorced, lived with a male partner, and between them they were raising his partner's young daughter. I was not only changing my place in the scheme of things, but I had been catapulted into a very different world from the one in which I had been living, and it came as a bit of a shock how new everything would be to me.

Rather than putting me in some soulless and depressing apartment complex, the research institute had acquired the lease of a beautiful home on a hillside to the north of Seattle, overlooking Puget Sound. The place worked perfectly because there was a small apartment giving me privacy and a sense of being at home, but then those working with and on me had the run of the rest of the place.

Several were living there so I was never alone, and the team of six was there to greet me when Bill pulled into the driveway. Three were male and three were female. Bill laughingly pointed out that he was the only gay. When Bill did this, Rachel piped up that he might be the only gay but she was the only transsexual. I had never met a transsexual before! She was a tall slender woman with a pretty face and a sophisticated taste in clothes. Ultimately she would be able to teach me her pleasure in fashion, but at the outset I wasn't going to be an easy sell.

I was told later that it would be her job to help me to make this transition out of one gender into the other, and to learn to function, present, and socialize as a woman. This whole idea seemed bizarre, but I suspect a lot of what would be happening to me in the coming months would feel that way. There were no precedents for what was going on inside me, and I supposed that transsexuals were the nearest parallels that anyone could find. I determined at that point I was not going to like Rachel, but she worked hard with my recalcitrance and turned herself into one of my closest friends and confidantes.

The apartment that had been prepared for me smelled of fresh paint and new furnishings. It was decorated tastefully in a pastel pink shade, with floral drapes, bedspread, and so forth. It felt warm, friendly, and was far more feminine than anything I had anticipated, but this décor pointedly emphasized that my old life was over and an entirely new one was beginning – and if my development following the course expected, I really had no option. This was further reinforced by the bottles of perfume on the vanity, alongside of which nestled makeup and the various other bits and pieces that the average woman accepts as a normal part of her life. This was further reinforced in the bathroom where there were all kinds of bath oils and talcs. I opened the closet and found hanging there were a couple of female robes and a rather pretty satin kimono covered with Chinese embroidery.

A couple of hours after arriving, and having stowed my few things and had another little weep, I found myself standing naked in the examining room, with ever conceivable measurement being taken of my body – even more than those that had been taken already. This was when I met Jason Dennison, the young medical doctor and researcher who had been brought in as leader of the team.

Jason's office fairly Spartan in its décor, and his attitude toward me was friendly, but sad, and perhaps a little brusque. He seemed pleasant enough, tall and quite good-looking, perhaps four or five years older than me. I was to discover over the first few months of our acquaintance that he had been devastated when about a year earlier his former wife had told him she was leaving him because, quite honestly, her career was more important to her than he was. He was to admit later that his emotional recovery time had barely begun when we met, and that choosing to work of this particular project had enabled him to escape from the part of California where he and Yvonne had lived.

During that first examination I was photographed from every conceivable angle. There were both men and women present, and although I was embarrassed to be naked in their midst, but numbness had taken hold of me. I was to get used to such close examinations of my body during the following months, but the first time round it was a little disconcerting, especially when they spent a long time working with my rather pathetic genitals. When it was over I went back to my room and the tears flowed in torrents. I lay there on the bed, stark naked, looking at my body and wondering whether I would ever be able to stand all this. For a moment I wondered if suicide might be better than what I was facing, but quickly dismissed that thought.

I cried a lot during those first days in the Pacific Northwest, and emotionally and psychologically was barely functional. Everyone was very kind to me, and I was shown around, taken shopping, and that kind of thing, but I felt like a fish out of water. Here I was on the opposite side of the country living like a specimen in a huge biological fish tank, being measured, prodded, poked, having fluids drawn, my brain plumbed, and so forth, all in the name of science. At the local hospital they MRI-ed me, CT scanned me, and so forth until they must have had an intimate knowledge of every cell in my body.

What made all this more difficult was that people did not know how to treat me. Was I a man, was I a woman, or was I some kind of horrible freak? Would things actually work out as the team suspected or would I turn into some kind of monster trapped in a limbo land between the two genders? Was I a specimen or was I a person? Was I Robert or who was I? Was there a God – or had that been a figment of my imagination?

I had loved my work but now I was jobless, and although I was being paid a comfortable financial retainer just for the privilege of being watched as I turned from a man into a woman, just existing as who I was becoming did not provide much inner satisfaction. While it was nice to know that I had a roof over my head, my medical expenses were all found, and there was money in my pocket, all this didn't really give my life much purpose, and already there was the nagging anxiety about what I would do when this was over? To begin with I didn't know what to do with my time. I read a lot but nothing very demanding, did therapy, and went out for long walks. It is hard to describe how fragile I felt and how much support and counseling I needed especially in the early months of this journey into the unknown.

But little by little I settled into a routine, and because there was so much emphasis on what was happening to me, I gradually found myself becoming wrapped up in what was going on with me, my body, my personality, my identity, and trying to grasp what it was to be a total anomaly – less and less a man, more and more a woman. I became fascinated with notions of identity, and how identity and gender are related to one another. Sometimes, however, just existing was so uncomfortable that all I could do was curl up into a tiny weeping ball wishing this new life would somehow go away. Of course it didn't, and with every passing day I became more aware that who I had been was gradually being erased and from the vacuum a new me was being born.

I was given all sorts of tests and these were constantly repeated. One was rather distasteful, the use of pornography to test my sexual arousal. For a while I had not been especially aroused by any kind of image of naked women, but in early August the evidence started to suggest that I was sexually interested in male bodies, especially strong shoulders and even erect penises. These factors were measured through the electrodes attached to me in appropriate places, and as Jason and I looked over them one morning he casually suggested that I might be moving out of gender's neutral zone and in a more feminine direction.

Somehow that impinged upon me more deeply than I had anticipated, and this was the point when I started writing about what was happening to me. The words were recorded in long meandering stream of consciousness journals that kept picking things over and over, while at the same time wondering what it would be like to be predominantly female rather than male.

Things moved forward jerkily rather than steadily, and there were several months of apparent calm before my physique rapidly began responding to hormone, chromosome, and goodness knows what else changes that were going on inside me. Within a few weeks what had been a chest became more obviously a pair of breasts, and I feel myself becoming slighter and less bulky.

A socialization tipping point came when I needed to start wearing a bra. I fought this all the way despite Rachel deciding that I was very fortunate that I did not naturally have a chunky body, or heavy bones, and that even these were losing some of their mass. She excitedly reckoned that when the transition was completed I would look really good and very natural in female clothes, and I should really take an interest in them. Yet like a man hanging onto a cliff face for deal life, I held onto any remnants of my male past that I could salvage, and this was not something I wanted to hear.

Hardly had we had these conversations than my body gave me skeletal agony. I started experiencing episodes of excrutiating pain which for several weeks meant I was groggy from huge doses of morphine and pain-killer. Trips to the hospital were sometimes even daily, and there I was given endless batteries of CT scans, MRIs, xrays, and so forth, and all sorts of interesting things were discovered as a result. Then no sooner had the discomfort in my bones eased than my whole genital area erupted with pain, and it felt for days as if I had been kicked in the balls. Even more pictures were taken and the pictures and revealed the obvious – that major re-engineering was going on. For days I was so uncomfortable that it was difficult for me even to get out of bed, and when I did I couldn't stay upright for very long. Despair seemed the only response possible to all I was experiencing.

This was probably the darkest time of my transition and sometimes I wonder how I emotionally made it. I was lonely and felt abandoned. Tina would occasionally sent emails and sometimes we talked on the phone, but from the names she dropped it was clear a series of men had been passing through her life. I felt jealous, both of her and for her. It hurt thinking of her being with other men, but as I examined the pitiful remains of my own masculinity it was clear I would be no use to her now. Yet talked to her made me realize that when this terrible period of my life was over I would myself be free to date men. Rachel got me some Harlequin Romances, and once I had got used to how sentimental and flowery they were I found myself occasionally enjoying them and sometimes relating to the women rather than the men in the rather repetitious stories – yet part of me remained strangely detached.

I continued to cry a lot, my body was always uncomfortable, I felt lonely and homesick for a life that had gone and on really bad days I toyed with notions of taking my own life. I wasn't sure about God any longer, and that didn't help, but then everything about me, including my beliefs and my values, seemed to be up for grabs. I still needed to choose a new name, and that seemed to paralyze me because when I was called something different I would be someone different.

I worked hard to use a handful of well-chosen words to explain my struggles during those early months I was in Seattle to my audience, but I didn't want to be utterly negative. My moods wavered all over the place, and I wanted them to know what it felt like to feel so totally lost. The room was very quiet. Then I went on, "But little by little there were turning points and small victories. The biggest was when it became blatantly obvious that there was no way I could continue maintaining the ridiculous fiction that I was a male. I clearly wasn't, but neither was I yet female, although it was obvious which direction I was heading."

There was a sort of sigh, especially from the women in the audience at that point and for a moment I felt awkward about myself. Then I went on, "While it took somewhat longer than many of the researchers had anticipated, I eventually reached the point where my body was telling me that I ought to stop pretending trying to be male. I reached a point around Thanksgiving that year where because of the changing shape of my hips, male jeans and pants no longer worked. This was when Rachel Grove, the transsexual woman who has been helping me adjust to my new circumstances, started what she called wardrobe therapy. While we had walked through malls together we had never been shopping, but now it was necessary to buy a few pairs of female jeans. I don't need to tell the other women here this, but there is a certain relief in having clothes that fit in the right places. Yet abandoning those male jeans was crossing an invisible barrier, and in due course it would make it easier for other garments."

It seems funny to me now, especially as I love clothes and elegant dressing, but it took me a long time to adapt to my new gender's approach to dressing, but there were all sorts of mental and spiritual barriers that stood in the way of me claiming my woman-ness. I remember vividly a few nights later, as I was getting ready for bed, in great trepidation trying out one of the nightgowns that had been bought for me before I arrived. It was long, soft, and pink, and I found that when I put it on the bodice pleasingly shaped itself comfortably around my adolescent-becoming-woman's breasts. The next morning I decided to experiment with one of the robes that had been bought for me before I arrived; a few days later my old male robe went off to Goodwill.




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