My transition story: an offering for the Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is set aside to remember trans people who were killed because of transphobia or prejudice against transfolk.

It’s good to raise awareness of the fact that trans people are being killed simply for the crime of being who they are and expressing who they are. That’s simply horrible, and it’s good to show the world that horrible things are happening; we can’t solve a problem if we don’t even know the problem exists. It’s good to raise awareness of trans issues in general; the more familiar something becomes, the less likely others are to fear it. All this is good. But I want to provide a counterpoint to all that. Here is my offering for the DoR.

This is the story of my transition from male to female. This is a story of a transwoman who wasn’t murdered for being who she was, but is instead living a very happy and very fulfilling life. Let’s try to make the world a place where more stories can be like this one instead of like these.

In October 2002, when I was 26, I had my first inkling that I might not really be male on the inside. I started imagining what it would be like to be female, and it felt more right to me. It wasn’t that being male felt wrong, at least not yet; it’s just that being female felt like it might be more right. I had thought about transgenderism in the abstract before, but it wasn’t until I met and interacted with some other MtF transsexuals that it changed from a theoretical to an actual thing for me; it changed from something interesting to think about to something I could actually do.

So I thought about it a lot and decided to try an experiment. I decided to try taking estrogen for 3 months, then stop (at least for a while) and evaluate what hormonal balance was best for me. Also, I was experimenting with pronouns. I experimented with gender-neutral pronouns for a couple of months (super challenging) and then slid over to female. I found that I became happier and happier to be treated as female in social situations, and became unhappier and unhappier to be treated as male.

I started getting my face zapped with a laser in November 2002. (This was to remove my facial hair.) Even if I wasn’t going to transition, I still hated having facial hair, so it was a win/win situation… except of course for the extreme pain.

I started taking estrogen and spironolactone (an androgen blocker) in December 2002. I was impatient and didn’t want to cut through the Harry Benjamin red tape, so I found a doctor in San Antonio who respected my choice to do what I wished with my body; who would give me estrogen and make sure I was in good health. The estrogen changed my body in many ways, and it felt so good. I used to feel like I was my brain and I was in my body. But after a while on estrogen, I started feeling more connected with my body and it was wonderful.

I legally changed my name to Pace. It had been a nickname of mine since highschool, and it’s an androgynous-sounding name, so I went ahead and changed it. I told myself that I wasn’t committing to being female yet; the name Pace could go either way.

I started therapy because some of my trans friends suggested that it would be a good idea, and I agreed. The first therapist I went to was disrespectful and wanted to go by the book. She wanted me to stop taking estrogen, go through the proper red tape, and then start again. No way, I said (after a short cry in the parking lot), and found a better therapist, Katy Koonce, who totally rocked.

In January and February of 2003 I asked more and more of my friends to treat me as female and to use female pronouns to refer to me. My parents and most of my friends were supportive. They often botched my pronouns but they started getting better. After not too long, everybody knew except for my coworkers.

In March of 2003 I concluded the experiment. I had this wacky notion that estrogen would transform me from boy Pace into girl Pace, and that boy Pace needed to be consulted for the final decision. So I needed to transform back into boy Pace before making the final decision. This was just some paranoia based on my own issues and fears about personal identity; it turned out to be completely unfounded. Throughout the whole experiment, I was still me. Estrogen did change the way my brain worked, but it didn’t change my identity. I was still the same ship. When I stopped taking estrogen, I really flipped out. I started to smell like a boy again and wanted to crawl out of my skin. It was the first time through this whole experience that I felt like the stereotypical phrase of “a woman trapped in a man’s body”. So I got over my personal identity issues and started taking estrogen again as quickly as I could. My decision had been made. I was female on the inside, and I wanted to be female on the outside, both physically and socially.

So there was no more reason to wait except for fear. I screwed my courage to the sticking-point and came out at work. I talked to my closest coworkers, talked to the HR Boss and the Big Boss, then sent an email out to the whole company telling them that I was a male-to-female transsexual, that I’d be presenting as female as of today, that I’d be using the ladies’ restroom, and to please use female pronouns for me from now on. I made a coming out page that gave more information for those who were interested. The response was overwhelmingly awesome and supportive. My coworkers started correcting each other when they would mess up on pronouns and soon they were doing decently well. It still hurt my feelings a lot when they would mess up, though.

The next few months, the spring and summer of 2003, were my girly-girl phase. I had something to prove, and I was super paranoid about being pronouned “he” and being perceived as male, so I wore lipstick, dresses, stockings, sometimes eye shadow, sometimes fingernail polish, and lots of pink. I had a very girly chip on my shoulder, and by damn, I was going to prove that I could pull it off.

Meh. It was fine, it just wasn’t really me. I didn’t go through the hell of transition just to trade one set of sucky gender stereotypes for another set of sucky gender stereotypes. I transitioned so that I could be more me. So I gave up the girly-girl mode and went to lazy femme. I let my voice drop down a little, back to a more comfortable pitch. I didn’t have anything to prove any more; having a deep voice doesn’t mean I’m not a woman, it just means that I’m a woman with a deep voice. By this time, the estrogen and lasers had worked enough of their magic that I didn’t have to worry as much about being pronouned or treated as male. I’m very lucky to have such good genes.

I said “the hell of transition”. Yeah. Transition was really rough. I didn’t go into all the gory details, but there was a huge amount of emotional pain and turmoil, quite a bit of physical pain, and a ridiculous amount of social fear and awkwardness. And of all the trans people I’ve talked to, of all the trans people I’ve heard about, my transition was the easiest. So there’s some perspective for you.

I had dealt with a lot of my issues around transition, but I still had some shame about my body not matching up with my gender identity. The estrogen had taken care of most of these issues by reshaping my body, but I still had male genitalia and I had some shame around that. In October 2002 I went to Tejas witchcamp, and in a magickal healing circle I let go of my shame. I danced naked around the fire, being fully accepted as a woman by my fellow witches. In a way (a very big way!) my transition was complete. Stereotypically, people focus on surgery as what it means to transition from one gender to another. But really, what’s between my legs doesn’t really impact my life (or your interactions with me) in any way unless we’re dating. Taking estrogen and changing my social gender role to female were the main part of what transition was about for me.

I thought about it a lot and decided to have SRS (Sex Reassignment Surgery). I’m glad that I made this decision after witchcamp because I felt sure that I was doing it for the right reasons. I had the surgery in March of 2004, in Scottsdale, AZ with Toby Meltzer. Three people very close to me flew in and helped take care of me while I was recovering in the hospital. It cost about $17,000. Adding up all the costs of transition, including hormones, therapy, laser hair removal, and surgery, it came out to over $30,000. I was very lucky to have had a nest egg saved up from work. I was very lucky to have parents who would loan me a bit of money when I needed it. I was very lucky to have not had a clue about being trans until I was 26 and had the means to do something about it. And after I obtained that clue, I practically set a trans speed record! If I had known earlier but not been able to do anything about it, I would have suffered with gender dysphoria for years. I feel deeply for those who had to go through that.

After that, there was some post-surgery maintenance and there was a lot of getting used to the changes in my body, but my story becomes mostly just “my story” rather than “my transition story”. My story becomes more about relationships, and life, and new projects, like The Usual Error and Cloud Nine Staffing. For the most part, I’m just a woman, and I live my life to the fullest. It’s amazing! I used to be male, and now I’m female! Just walking along like everything’s peachy, sometimes even taking it for granted. I’m very thankful that I was able to rediscover myself, and reshape myself into a physical and social shape that is right for me. I’m happy that the world has been kind enough to me to make this possible, and I’m hopeful that we can make the world a kinder place for others.

Have a blessed Transgender Day of Remembrance, all.