Additional chapters in This Section include:
MTF Transition Success: Making the Biggest Decision of your Life
MTF Transition - Detailed Guide
MTF Transition - Deciding to do it or Not
A Gender Transition: Final Checklist
Common Reasons We Feel Compelled to Change Genders
How Long Does it Take to Successfully Transition?
Hope for Anyone: What I looked like before transition
Common Mistakes of Beginning Transsexual Women
Defining a Successful MTF Transition
Where to Find a Doctor to Prescribe Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone Therapy MTF Transsexuals
Preparing to Start a Gender Transition
The Final Analysis on Transition
For male-to-female transsexuals (MTF) - transitioning is the period when you stop living your every-day life as man and begin living it as a woman. It sounds short and easy - what more can be said? Actually, a quick search of the Internet reveals that a lot of girls have a lot to say! For example,
"I did feel like I went through puberty at age 24. Learning to wear a bra, makeup, date boys, all that - everything other girls learn at age 13. And we're alone. Most of the time society hates us - people think we're freaks or whatever - so you're doing all this alone. And it can be really hard."
For the vast majority of western MTF's, transitioning is in fact an enormous challenge, and probably the most stressful time of their life. The former professional cyclist Robert Millar - a married man with a son - is an example of the real-world problems that transitioners face. Friends became suspicious when the then 40 year old was seen in pigtails with a suggestion of breasts under his top. One said "Every time we meet him he seems to have a bigger chest, but he won't talk about it". Two years later he - now she - moved town and changed her name to Phillippa York, leaving friends, family and son behind.
Emily De Salvo (formerly Stephano) failed to win a place at the prestigious Tito Schipa Conservatory as a male baritone. Following three years of vocal stretching exercises she succeeded at age 29 as a female soprano. (Italy)
Transition is not a brief event. I first posted this page in early 2001 - a few months after I had begun living and working as woman. However I was still far from comfortable with my new life and it was not until well in to 2003 that I stopped wondering if I had made a terrible mistake. I consider that my transition spanned over 10 years - from first taking female hormones in early 1994 to having sex-change surgery in late 2004. I could shorten the period by using numerous alternative key dates - the last day I dressed as a man, my orchiectomy, acquiring a female passport, etc. ... but none are really a better start or end point.
An important acknowledgment at this point - when I was transitioning I found Adele's excellent The Bird Cage
website to be a wonderful source of information and inspiration. Sadly this site is now long gone, as are her succeeding sites ... from the other side and Altered States. I've therefore taken the liberty of including some words of advice on this page; I hope they help a few transitioners.
A New Name
One of the biggest considerations when transitioning is selecting a new name. This will be 'set in stone' as you introduce yourself with the new name, ask embarrassed friends and family to use it, change bank details and documents, and submit it to government bodies.
Two approaches are common:
|Make it easy for acquaintances by selecting a feminized version of an existing Christian name, e.g. Jack to Jackie, Charlie to Charlotte, Terry to Terri, George to Georgina, Bob to Bobbie, ...|
|Emphasise your new female identity by selecting a very common female name that has no relationship to your previous Christian name e.g. Frank to Emma, Richard to Sophia, John to Elizabeth, Simon to Jane, Brendan to Kate, ...|
The first approach helps avoid the situation of someone calling you by your name, but you not reacting. A very possible scenario after a few glasses of wine late at night!
The second approach has the advantage that it aids stealth. For example anyone searching for you on Google will be overwhelmed by thousands, if not millions, of hits.
Of course, a third option is to simply to select a name that you like - Piper, Morag, Livia ... . But the challenge then is to remember it in challenging circumstances!
Transition is the start of the battle for passability. Staycee (left) said "being only 5' 4" really made my transition much easier" . Unfortunately many more transwomen are actually 6' tall and wear size 9 shoes like Tula (right), but lack her supermodel looks.
A feminine physical appearance is - unavoidably - a very large step towards passing. (Gabrielle Schaffer)
One of the primary tasks in every transwoman's transition is changing as much documentation and records as possible to reflect her new name and sex. I've included in a separate page
some information (mostly derived and updated from Adele's original and now off-line work) about how to change your name and documentation during the transition in the UK and Ireland.
However it all became out of date in 2004 with passing of the Gender Recognition Act. This established a Gender Recognition Panel which makes it immensely easier to get documents changed and re-issued to reflect a legally adopted female name and a change of sex, also the level of evidence and representation required has become less onerous and pre-SRS women are also often accepted.
In the UK, if granted a full gender recognition certificate by the Gender Recognition Panel, it is now even possible for transsexuals to get a new birth certificate reflecting their gender. In a UK context the next item that you should change is your passport, armed with this (which has a photo) it's then much easier to get other key documents and records quickly changed.
If for some reason a document cannot be re-issued, nowadays it is relatively easy to obtain or even produce for yourself a very authentic looking "corrected" version, this is a risk some transwomen choose to take. However the same march of technology also means that increasingly official records and archives (including Births, Deaths and Marriages) are readily available on both government computer systems and the internet, and even the most convincing "original" document may be only a few key strokes away from suddenly becoming suspicious.
Unfortunately - as so often - your passability as a woman (see below) can be a key factor as regards documentation. For example for
in some countries such as Ireland, if you pass convincingly as a woman then the responsible official just might let you get away with showing only your Passport as identification, but pass unconvincingly and even the most authentic looking Birth Certificate that 'proves' that you were born female will be checked out - leading to possible criminal charges.
Build up a financial background and credit history in the years
you transition, it will be very helpful.
When choosing your female name, try to keep your initials and surname the same - "Allison Beverley Smith" is a much better name for an "Allan Brian Smith" to adopt than "Jane Helen Monroe" would be. If you expect to eventually transition, avoid whenever possible using the prefix "Mr" or full forenames on documents, e.g. have "A B Smith" on your cheques rather than "Mr Allan Smith". Avoid using a forename in your signature, so the credit card of "A B Smith" can then be used by either Allan or Allison. If you have to give a photo with an application, use the most androgynous picture of yourself that you can find, ideally as unfocused (difficult with modern cameras!) as the issuer will let you get away with.
It's become hard in the UK and Ireland to open a new bank account without good supporting documents such as a utility bill and passport, which may not be available prior to your transition. However in my experience, your bank will happily issue a second credit card for a fictional female partner at the same address - in this instance use your female title (prefix) and prenom (first name), e.g. "Miss Allison Smith", and submit an en-femme photo, making it a useful form of emergency ID. Also, it may be possible to change an existing account in to two names (e.g. Allan Smith and Allison Smith) without needing supporting documents for your female 'partner', or even open a new "joint" bank account.
Change over a utility bill in to your new fictional female partner's name as soon as possible, this will become important proof of identify and residence as you kill off your old male identity and "go solo" on your new at transition time.
When passing as woman (pre- or post-transition), if the name, signature, address and [if present] photo is okay, then it may be possible to laugh off as a silly mistake give-aways like "Sex: Male" on documents or in records - but once again [unfortunately] convincing passability is critical here., combined with confidence and genuine astonishment.
The fantasy of transition is different from reality.
Beginning to Pass as A Woman
Although my viewpoint offends some people, I personally suggest that for most MTF women an ability to pass consistently as a woman is essential if they are to enjoy a successful and happy post-transition (and post-SRS) life, with little or no regrets about their actions.
If six months after transition you are still constantly getting strange stares when shopping, and your "friends" and even family obviously don't like going out in public with you, a very hard re-assessment is appropriate before proceeding further and undergoing irreversible actions such as surgery. The often lambasted one-year real life test prior to SRS does have a very serious purpose.
The challenges involved with transitioning are immense, just one small example is that that girls practice their make-up from as young as age 2. By age 16, most girls will have spent a thousands of hours on this, a transitioning 40 year old male-to-female transsexual will probably have only spent a tiny fraction of that time. This presents an immense challenge to transitioning transwomen - but their make-up is always vastly better a year after transition!
A few lucky boys look like a girl long before they transition.
But the good news is that you can stack the odds in your favour. Just fifty years ago only a very small percentage of adult men could in truth live and pass convincingly as a woman; nowadays a transitioning MTF transsexual woman can improve her percentages considerably. Some physical characteristics (height, hands, feet, ...) remain almost impossible to change, but the modern transsexual woman has an enormous battery of weapons that allow her to feminize many of her other characteristics. For example, good quality silicone breast forms and mastectomy bras are available for as little as £200 ($300) which bestow on a [clothed!] transwoman breasts whose appearance and movement are totally indistinguishable from a natal woman.
In general, my own advice is if that you can afford them and need them, then use them:- hormones, breast augmentation surgery, a 'nose job', additional facial feminization surgery, hair transplants, electrolysis, skin peels, liposuction, etc, etc. But a very
proviso is to always seek good quality professional medical advice, care and treatment - you get what you pay for and skimping is big mistake. To the physical changes you can add valuable aids such as voice training, deportment lessons, grooming tuition... even cookery lessons (really, they were a great laugh!).
Make up presents an immense challenge to transitioning transsexuals, however poorly padded bra's are easy to avoid.
Assuming that physically you are reasonably feminine in appearance, then passing then often becomes all about the small things - things that are second nature for someone brought up as girl but entirely strange for a man - and things that Hollywood often has a field day over when a man impersonates a woman in a comedy.
For example, personally I physically have too many "male" appearing characteristics for comfort - I'm quite tall (5ft 9in), have broad shoulders, large feet (size 8 UK), a thick neck, and a boyish waist. I will for the rest of my life be slightly worried about people (particularly strangers) instinctively classifying as a man based upon a first impression of physical characteristics. For me, maximizing my chances of making an immediate female impression means that I've learnt to emphasize some factors of my appearance: staying slim, a substantial bust, figure flattering clothes, suitable hair style, a good and very fair complexion with relatively light make-up, and an appropriately female (but
exaggerated) posture and manners.
In Between Two Stools
My long second puberty - the period from when I first took hormones in May 1994 (still - just - in my 20's) until I started to live full time as woman in December 2000 (age 36) - was difficult and hard. When still supposedly a "man" I worried about how people would take some of my oddly feminine characteristics. For instance, questions I faced included:
|How do I explain my shaved legs and plucked eyebrows?|
|How do I react to jokes about my "man boobs"|
|How do I react to comments about my pierced ears?|
|How do I avoid being seen topless? (e.g. at a pool party) |
You have no choice - you love these!
While as a woman (pre or post-transition) I faced new problems like:
|Do I have facial hair or a shaving rash visible?|
|How do I react to a groping or over-forward man?|
|How do I react to children and babies?|
|At security checks, will the guard discover anything unusual?|
|Sharing a changing room with other women.|
A man trying to "pass" as a woman faces a constant and often high-risk challenge and obstacle course. It is one thing to dream about being a woman, to actually try to live as a woman is quite another.
It's a real "chicken or the egg" situation - you can't successfully pass as a woman until you've lived as a woman, but you can't successfully live as a woman until you can pass as a woman! It's also very hard to go to work and be accepted there as a woman until "being a woman" - with all its many downsides as well as upsides - becomes at least second nature.
Before I transitioned I always worked as a man and largely socialized as a man, but in several 'waves' between ages 21 and 33 I also socialized as a woman - Toni, later Annie - who's background was known to only a few.
I found that it was much easier for people who had only met me as "Annie" to accept me as a woman (even if they knew that I was a transsexual) than people who previously known me as a man. Even my small family had problems, although the passage of time helped a lot and my mother was always generally supportive.
When I transitioned I was reasonably confident about my appearance and dress, but my mannerisms, actions, attitude's, reactions, and speech were still far from those expected of a woman. Every time I appeared in public or had to interact with someone, I was still "acting" a female role and had to consciously consider my actions and voice, at first I would get (or think I had got) strange looks several times a day. I frantically studied, observed and learnt from other women; desperately starved and exercised; and spent a large chunk of my waking hours in front of a mirror. Under pressure (near panic!) the human being is an amazingly quick learner, two months after transitioning I knew my instincts had become female. I still caused slight puzzlement occasionally, usually due to a strange ignorance, but it was getting rarer and more trivial. However an unfortunate physical give-away sign during my early months after transition was beard growth and a beard rash. I undoubtedly should have sought treatment for this before I transitioned, rather than after.
Swim Suit Time
There is a lot of curiosity as to how pre-SRS transsexual women hide their 'meat and two veg" when wearing revealing outfits.
As demonstrated by Victoria, the most common approach is to tuck the penis back in to the anus. It's achievable in seconds after practice. Surgical tape can then keep everything in place for hours.
The final appearance is extraordinarily female, although increasingly uncomfortable.
People who knew my background also had an all too obvious interest in the area of my crotch. Before transition I wore a gaff (my first one was home-made, age 15) to keep everything tucked in. I used surgical tape for skimpy outfits and the first weeks after I transitioned - but couldn't then go to the toilet. Years of hormones meant that there was very little for me to hide (and no chance of an erection) and slimming panties some became may normal ware. After my orchidectomy, everything that was left had was so small and placid that normal female panties were fine.
In my experience, transitioning and passing successfully is rather like sitting on large scales. You start off with the male side the heavier and dominant, you keep on adding weight to the female side but it doesn't seem to make much difference - the male side is still "heavier" and people still identify you sooner or later as a man. At 12 months, I was close to despair; I had been out'ed in three jobs, the last of which was a particularly bad experience. I began to seriously wonder if I was doing the right thing.
But keep adding the weight to scales and eventually adding just another a small feather to the female side makes it the heaver and the scales swing over - suddenly people are consistently identifying you as a woman. It took about 18-24 months, two operations, three moves and four jobs for the scales to finally tip for me, but suddenly I realized that I was comfortably "passing as a woman" [a truly horrid term] day after day in a largely female work environment - something that simply hadn't been possible a few months earlier - and my confidence soared. The feathers falling on the scales of my passability were individually light, but cumulatively they had finally reached a critical weight:- I instinctively touched-up my make-up every hour; my beard had gone; my hair lasted the day; I flirted as needed; I could often go a day without laddering my tights; my dress sense began to be quite fashionable!
Two year after transition, thanks to necessity and experience, I finally reached the point where I was confident that I would be perceived as a woman by a new acquaintance. That made me start to dream about going "stealth", I hated the feeling of being constantly under examination by everyone (even family) as a transsexual woman. My body, hair, appearance, manners, make-up, voice, movements ... I knew that they were all up for discussion when I was not about.
Very few transitioning transwomen don't have some surgery. By a large margin the first surgery sought by all transsexual women is breast augmentation - but the requests can vary from slight augmentation in order to reach a very natural looking B cup, to porn star "balloons".
Facial feminization surgery
(FFS) is often the next priority. Prior to about 1995 this really just meant a nose job (rhinoplasty), but progress since then has been extraordinary. For transwomen with deep pockets, and willing to stand the pain, an acceptably female - even attractive - face is often only a large cheque away.
Apparently a 36 year old transwoman after SRS.
, she (or perhaps her family) spent a lot of money on her very successful FFS when she was just 22.
Sex reassignment surgery (
) is usually but not always the last item on the surgery list. There seems to be multiple reasons for this, e.g.:
|The cost and medical risks associated with the surgery|
|Some transwomen still sexually enjoy having a penis|
|The woman's libido is so low that sexual intercourse is no longer desired|
|Financials gains from prostitution as a shemale|
19 - A very educational magazine for the transwoman!
For older women in particular there seems to be a divergence between intension at and the reality a few years afterwards.
Some transwomen would prefer having a natural looking vulva area or a sensitive clitoris over good vaginal depth, for sexual reasons that include lesbianism and masturbation desires.
A Teenage Girl's Education
A few month prior to my transition, I went on holiday for a few weeks as a woman. This was a rather traumatic experience in which I discovered that my ability to pass occasionally in a night environment did not translate in to 7x24 full-time passability. In addition to problems about my physical appearance, I was not thinking and behaving like a girl automatically. Without the immersive experiences of a female childhood and up-bringing, I was still lacking essential instinctive traits and habits. The adult transitioning woman has to work hard to gain these.
Careful observation of other girls and women is essential. I tried to react to things as my recent girlfriend would have done.
Reading women's and teenager magazines became very important to me in helping me to help develop a female
orientation and point of view. I can certainly recommend teenage magazines for advice on shopping, fashion and popular culture, and for plenty of tips on sex and love for the inexperienced heterosexual girl. My favorite magazine is still 19, which is slightly more mature than Bliss or Sugar, but far more entertaining and enjoyable than the likes of Marie Claire or Cosmopolitan.
Two transgirls in their 20's. Youth and ruthless dieting aids their passability immensely - but this will be hard to maintain as they move in to their 30's, 40's ... and later.
Perhaps one of the hardest mental battles I've fought since my transition is the battle of the waist line. Between 1997 and 2000 I put on a full stone (14lb, or over 6kg)! The increase was perhaps partly an age factor, but also one of the feminizing effects of estrogen is to increase subcutaneous fat deposits, which inevitably means a gain in weight if counter-measures aren't taken. As I approached transition in late 2000 I made a determined effort to get my weight back down to 10st (140lb or 63½kg) - acceptable for my height of 5 feet 9 in - and the constant challenge since has been to keep it there. Although I'm far less rigorous than I used to be (my 6 a.m. workout is ancient history!), most weekdays I alternate between a 30 minute jog on my running machine or a video based fat burning session, and every Sunday morning I go swimming for an hour (this really isn't difficult or risky). Minding what I eat is also important, although I'm now just habitually careful rather than rigorously dieting. A particularly difficult challenge was switching from drinking fattening lager beer to nursing one glass of white wine or sipping Perrier water when out at night!
Keeping my weight down will never be easy but ironically a very helpful factor is the much maligned social pressure on women (from my fiancée, other women, the media, ...) to stay slim. Also, I know from experience that I only need to slip for a few weeks (e.g. while on holiday) and my weight soars again.
Gossip and Maintaining a Consistent Story
In my first two jobs post-transition only one or two people (only) supposedly knew of my transsexuality when I started. Optimistically I hoped that this information would remain confidential (as they had promised) - I was fooling myself. Even a year after transition, a combination of marginal passability and a boss eager to gossip when asked was a disaster which led to me to leaving the job in tears.
One of my biggest problems I still have (like many transsexuals) is that some people know my background while others supposedly don't. Having the two types together can be an unacceptable risk, and trying to avoid their interaction can very unfortunately dominate arrangements. For our first Christmas my boyfriend invited many of his family over to our house, I nearly killed him as only a couple of his sisters [supposedly] knew my background at that stage. And when my darling arranged a birthday party for me, I could never relax in case those "in the know" accidentally gave something away to those who didn't.
Another nightmare is that over many months I've often have had to make up things on the fly to tell people who don't know of my transsexuality (particularly my colleagues at work) which I've since forgotten, and thus I may contradict myself in another spur of the moment situation. Lacking "Total Recall", there's always the chance of later being caught on one small point that someone thought strange or remarkable at the time, and remembered. One or two minor gaff's can be laughed off or the other person made to doubt his/her memory, but eventually people may start to wonder what's going on.
The Cost of Transition
Transitioning often has many serious non-monetary costs, e.g. the loss of life-long friends and the rejection by one or both parents. But the financial cost is often the most immediate disaster.
Rodrigo Lopes is one example. Age 23 he stared in the 2009 UK edition of the TV reality show Big Brother. After emerging from the show she transitioned to Rebekah Shelton but found it impossible to earn a living. In desperation she resorted to prostitution to fund her breast augmentation (2012), SRS (2014) and facial feminization surgery (2015).
Rebekah Shelton, age 26 after transition but before any surgery. The blond hair extensions and make-up are key to instantly identify her as a woman.
For me, transition had a devastating financial cost - my income dropped enormously. In the year 2000 - just before my transition - I was working as a man as a consultant on a tax-free salary of roughly £50,000/$75,000 at the contemporary exchange rate. Thirteen months later, after having lost two jobs as a woman, I briefly worked as a Teachers Assistant for what would have been €10,000/$10,000 in a full year. Things have improved slightly since then - in 2004 I obtained a job as a Sales Assistant at €22,000/$25,000 a year.
Although my income collapsed, some outgoings increased massively during my transition. Between December 2000 and July 2004 I spent £11,000 / $18,000 - i.e. about £3000 / $5000 a year - on doctors, hormones, laser hair removal, breast augmentation, orchiectomy (not SRS!) and a few other bits. That excludes other associated costs such taking as days off work and travel expenses. Also the added financial cost of simply living as a woman was extraordinary - I kept detailed records for a while when I was totally broke in 2002 and found that I still was spending at least €200/$180 a month on clothes, make-up, hairdresser, etc, and that really was an absolute minimum. The exact financial cost of my transition is impossible to calculate, but from rough calculations I expect that if I had stayed living as man in my old job, my bank account would have been at least £100,000/$170,000 better off at the end of the three and a half year period end-2000 to mid-2004.
The term "cost" can have other meanings as well. Almost all women instinctively make a huge investment in both time and money on their appearance (i.e. improving their
and attractiveness to men) because that's what society expects and that's how they've been brought up. As a man I guess I used to spend about 20-30 minutes a day showering, shaving, dressing, etc. When I first transitioned I had to get up (in England in January!) at 5:00 am so that I had two hours to get myself ready for work. I'm considerably more efficient and practiced now (standard mascara and lipstick in a minute), but I still spend at least one hour a day on my grooming, and on top of that there's the gym, the dieting, the shaving, the Hair Salon ... while preparing for a big night out can dominate my life for days. Personally I don't like all these aspects of womanhood, although I know that most genetic women and transwomen seem to. However the constant worry over my appearance is something that I've had to learn to live with and cope with, and even enjoy sometimes.
Shopping is yet another gobbler of time and money, half days off work and late night shopping trips dissolve in to over stretched credit cards, and aching feet - although a compensation is the relationship and long chats over a tea or glass of wine.
Marriage and Children
As a woman in my mid-30's, I was under constant pressure from uninitiated [and married] friends and acquaintances to marry my increasingly long-term boyfriend. By the time we did manage to tie the knot (overcoming a mass of legal and religious hurdles), I was in my late 30's. I then faced intense pressure to have children - hints and reminders that my biological clock was ticking and that I should have children before it was too late were constant. In some countries this would not be a big problem, but in parts of Ireland it's still fairly unusual. Baring some dramatic
this was clearly impossible, and for a while I seriously toyed with a having a fake pregnancy and miscarriage!
For many transsexuals transitioning in their 30's, it is a case of being almost - but not quite - able to pass.
The March of Time
I mention elsewhere on this site that the passage of time works against the transsexual woman, I should perhaps qualify that by saying that I mean mainly for the pre-transition transsexual woman. With hormones and surgery, women who transition in their 20's often pass, whilst those in their 40's often don't. Transwomen in their face 30's face an agonizing "if only" situation. When I transitioned, the first year was very
But to a degree, time then actually starts to work in favor of the transitioned woman who sticks with it. Actions, responses, motions, stories, even feelings, that start off requiring conscious thought eventually become automatic. with experience. I'm also certain that the effects of many years of
and later an
slowly worked on my mind and body in many subtle ways: fat thighs and cellulite, an inability to do simple DIY tasks, crying for days when a hamster died, ... a growing obsession with my nails! Looking at old photo's has become like looking at a stranger.
In 1998 Carlos Roberto Paz Wells became at age 38
Veronica Paz Wells,
an ex-husband and father of a daughter. Many transsexuals only face their gender dysphoria when they hit middle age and transitioning is very difficult.
Another problem I mention is that as transsexual woman you may eventually get caught out contradicting yourself on some small point. That risk will always be there, but in the bigger picture your slightly adjusted stories about your childhood, your first "boyfriend", your time at university, etc. become totally ingrained in your memory after a while, and the responses and comments are automatic and convincing. Even better, you slowly begin to have your own boring but true post-transition stories and experiences to tell, even better be told about you. I can now tell all about the weird admirer I used to have at work (he's now my fiancée!); starting to walk home when I couldn't get a taxi and having a guy in a BMW stop and give me a lift; my mammogram; the Arab in the Night Club who simply wouldn't give up holding my hand and telling me how beautiful I was; and somehow 'loosing' my bikini top on the beach!
A critical part is feed-back and support. When I moved in with my boyfriend (about a year after my transition), we had a "honeymoon" period lasting a few days, and then it became truly awful- for example I felt that I was the lackey on which all household chores fell. But after intense interaction and a huge effort by us both, I finally became the female partner of an often annoying but also totally devoted and loving man - and wouldn't change it for the world.
Copyright (c) 2012, Annie Richards