LETTERS FROM FAMILY
We have a family e-mail list including an extended family. The following are two letters written about Danielle for all the family to read. The first is from her brother, and the second from her Grandma Clela. The third letter is from Danielle to the rest of the family.
Hello again everyone.
This is a subject that probably a lot of people have discussed but are a little afraid to ask questions about. The subject I am talking about is my wonderful sister Danielle.
Danielle decided to come clean to me with her secret while she was in Phoenix visiting me. I went to work one day and said good-bye to Daniel and came home to Danielle. At first I was full of self pity, and didn't know what I was gonna do or what everyone would think of it. For several weeks I could hardly sleep at night thinking of what would happen to her and why this had happened to our family. We had already been through so much and now this. Before this happened to our family I had watched talk shows where there were people in similar situations and I had to turn the channel because it made me almost ill. I always thought to myself that the people that were like that must have grown up in some really messed up families. I have since changed my mind and look at all people in a different light.
It's kinda strange how things can change 180 degrees when they hit close to home. At first I really thought no good could possibly come of this change that Daniel had made. He was my brother for 16 years, 16 years is a long time to know someone and then all of a sudden for them to change. The neighbor girl who was a very close friend helped Danielle go through this transformation and they became very close. I had known the neighbor, Denise, for about two years and we were pretty good friends. She helped me to understand a little about why Danielle had done this, and was there to talk to about it when I needed her. It almost felt a little like it was my fault that this had happened because I had been there almost all the time and I let this happen. I tried to think of where it could have gone wrong and why this terrible thing had happened to us.
As time passed I got more comfortable with it and eventually even got to the point where I could call her Danielle right to her face. I visited my Mom several months ago and took Danielle to the beach to stroll around the boardwalk.
I enjoyed the time I had with her immensely and know that it would have never been nearly the same if I had taken her before she went through the transformation. She had turned from a sort of mischievous boy into the most wonderful girl anyone could know. My friend in Phoenix saw her at graduation and instantly fell in love with her and her lovely smile.
It now seems to me that she is very happy to be alive and transmits that attitude to everyone she knows. I know from stories my Mom tells me that she is very outgoing and meets new people every day. Whenever I call, she is very excited about all kinds of things that she is doing in her life and it just fills my heart with pride because I can see the big smile on her faceand know the hard work and struggle she had had to deal with to get to where she is. I know if you all knew her the way she is now you would instantly be overwhelmed by the beaming attitude she has toward life, and the courage and confidence she has in herself to be a good person no matter what has happened.
Although at first I felt sorry for myself, I now consider myself lucky to have a sister such as she is. Most people fight with their sisters and don't appreciate them much. I think of how proud I am of mine and know that this is one of the bravest and most warm people I know, and it just so happens that she is my sister. While most girls her age are worried about makeup and perfume and how they won't live without a certain outfit, my sister is enjoying life and bringing joy to those that know her. She has grown up brave just like my Mom and she will be unstoppable in whatever goals she set for herself and I will stand behind her no matter what she decides.
This brings me to another subject I have to talk about. Some of you may wonder why I am not married and do not really have any serious girlfriends in my life so far. Well, any girl that I meet and is a candidate has some very high expectations from me because two of the women that I admire the most happen to be my family members. That is my Mom and my sister and it will be hard for any girls to come up to par against them. But then, half the fun is finding that special girl that I know has to be out there somewhere.
RE: MY NEW GRANDDAUGHTER
David did well to introduce us to his sister, Danielle. I used to have eight grandsons and two granddaughters and now I have seven grandsons and three granddaughters, and the most recent is the oldest. That might be difficult to explain, but not after you have met Danielle.
It has been a little more than a year since Evelyn told me that her 15-year old son, Daniel, had revealed to her that he believed he was really a girl. Almost immediately I said, "He has always been a girl!"
You see, I have many memories of this special child. I remember a small boy of about three years who often sat on the arm of the couch combing and arranging his mother's long and curly hair. (He was still styling her hair years later.) That small boy liked to play with dolls and he saw some kind of value in a dismembered Barbie doll in the toys that I kept for visiting children. On his ninth birthday, his wish was for a doll with long hair and a pony with a long mane - and the family fulfilled his wish. Several times he had me help him make clothes for his doll. He would pick out some material from the scrap box and together we would fashion clothes. His choice of cloth was always the bright shiny pieces.
In kindergarten when he was getting settled in a new school, I asked how he liked it. He said, "It is beautiful! The colors are so pretty." I didn't understand that statement until I had an occasion to pick him up from school. Every schoolroom door around the big court was painted a different color - pink, purple, green, blue, yellow - so it was very colorful. He always described textures, as well as colors, whenever it was appropriate.
He never played any sports, except when he was involved in acrobatic classes which seemed to fit him naturally. He did exceptionally well with it.
This little grandson was extremely loving. I always got a big hug when he came to visit, another when he left, and usually a time or two during the stay. He was also very sensitive to other people's feelings.
He could tell when someone was not feeling well or was angry or uncomfortable.
At an age when most little boys were finding their best friends from among the boys, his friends were girls. When he had a chance to take two or three friends on an outing on his birthdays, he always picked girls, and this pattern of having girls for his close friends continued through junior high school.
Daniel was always close to his mother in ways that you would not expect of a son. They appeared to have such fun together. When he became old enough to be aware of his mother's clothes, he would advise her on what to wear, and later she always took him along to pick out new clothes for her wardrobe. Two years ago his mother and I helped to host a bridal shower for a friend. Her son, then 13 years old, arranged her hair. He used a small chignon of curls on the back of her hair and with a ribbon, blended it in with her own curls. The style was perfect with the flower print and lace of her dress. She was pretty as a picture, and Daniel appreciated and praised her beauty profusely.
He was the one in the family that would get the urge to clean and straighten the house, and would get after his brothers to put things away. As he started to think about his life work, he chose interior decorating. At one time I sent him a subscription to an interior decorating magazine, and I knew he liked to visit model homes to look at the furnishings.
Those of us close to this special child recognized that he was different, but had no clue as to the cause. He was very animated as he talked, with unusual movements of his hands and body. As I watched him walk, I sometimes thought, "Can't he walk like a boy? Doesn't he know he walks like a girl?" He knew, because his schoolmates teased him about his walk, and I know now that he couldn't do anything about it. Now we see those same movements and animation and feminine gait as perfect for a teenage girl.
The age at which Danielle made this drastic change was unusual, for more often it is made much later in life. It wasn't a sudden idea, for Evelyn knew some months before the announcement that Daniel was emotionally upset. Some have wondered if a teenager of 16 years should be making this important decision. Consider this question: At what point in life did you make the "decision" to be male or female?
Many studies have been done to determine why girls act like girls and boys like boys. From what I have read, it is not because people expect girls to act like girls, but simply because that behavior is genetically determined. Girls play with dolls, are nurturing, and place great importance on relationships. Boy play with cars and trucks, are competitive, and play ball. For more information read, 'Brain Sex' by Mohr and Jessel.
I can identify with David's discomfort at listening to the transsexuals on TV talk shows. It turned me off too, because I figured there was something unhealthy and unbalanced about such persons, and I still don't understand their desire to become celebrities. I knew one woman that became a man after she had two sons, and later became a woman again. She told her story on national TV. But I have gained tolerance for those individuals whose sexual orientation does not match their sexual organs because of my close contact with Danielle. She does not want to be given attention because she is a transsexual. She is a girl and has always been a girl and doesn't want people to think about anything else.
What I think is commendable is that Evelyn immediately sought professional advice on how to assist Danielle to make the transition in the way that was best for her. This led to psychological testing, electrolysis, and hormone therapy - treatments which were uncomfortable and sometimes painful for Danielle. The fact that her brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles on both sides of her family were supportive, with one or two exceptions, is also commendable. Some who have had qualms about getting acquainted with Danielle have had their doubts immediately swept away when they meet the beautiful, vivacious, out-going young lady. Even though I too, understood the situation and knew it was right for Danielle, I have had a real problem with the pronouns - he, she, him, her - but I am getting better at it. I am so pleased to see her blossom scholastically and socially, and her excitement about life is contagious. She has courageously faced the necessary difficulties, and recognizes that the road ahead won't be easy, but she is up to it. Life sometimes uses strange ways to teach us tolerance and understanding of persons who have problems different from our own. How fortunate we are to be able to learn this lesson from Danielle.
Hello, My name is Danielle. I thought it was time I made an introduction to the family since I am a recent addition to it. It has taken be a long time to decide to introduce myself and am happy that I have finally gotten a small grip of my confidence to do so. I have been through many obstacles and challenges these last three year, for that I owe to my soul searching ( my happiness).
My mother is (as many know her) "Just Evelyn". Evelyn who I love, cherish and give thanks for giving me life and happiness. She is a very courageous women, hard worker, and one who has the biggest heart not fully seen by everyone but when seen is never ending. Through hard times and good my mother has raised three children: although she may deny this honorable task, her children know the truth.
I was born December 30, 1978. Since then I have lived two lives that are completely different from each other. At the present I am eighteen years old and very happy to be myself. I will be entering my senior year this fall; I am looking forward to it. I am living in Flagstaff, Arizona small town close to the grand canyon. Flagstaff is a very beautiful town with mountains surrounding it. It also has many trees. I have made good friends since I have moved to this small town: friendships that are often hard to find and I am glad for them for they have helped me to understand myself & other people. I cannot say how happy I am for some times it hurts and is hard to explain, but I know it is a good feeling, that I have waited so long for, and I know it will not go away.
As most of my family knows and for those who do not, I am a female now but I was born genetically a male. At the age of fifteen I told my mother that I was unhappy being a male and that I wished I could be a woman since I always felt like a women inside me. My, mother was very shocked since she thought I would grow up to be gay. The way I saw it was: I thought as myself being a women and liking a man and the man liking me for being a women so I did not feel gay. After I had told her it was like a wall between us had been torn down. We became one that night as daughter and mother. My mother knew that I was going to need her more than ever, she was also going to need me for support. Together my mother and I could do everything that we wished and we were not going to back down.
I dressed up as a girl the day after I told my mother about me really being a girl. My mother helped me get dressed up for the first time, she didn't say it but I could tell she really enjoyed it. My mother as a little girl I think never blossomed because she had many restrictions. So my mother lived out her childhood by watching me blossom into a very happy girl. When the shock had gone away from telling her, my mother began a mission to find out as much information as possible since I was anxious to start my new life. We soon found out that my complete transformation was going to take awhile. I had to first live full time as a women for one year and have two counselors evaluate me before I could have sex reassignment surgery (a sex change) I also had to change schools so that I could start as a girl since at the school I was they knew me as a boy. I was starting a new life. Those few weeks after I told my mother we were creating a new person. A girl was being born. Her name is Danielle.
On the date of June 27, 1996 I had my sex reassignment surgery in Neenah, Wisconsin. My mother was very helpful to me during it and I could not of done it without her. Clela Fuller, my grandmother dropped in right after my surgery which made me very happy that I had support from family. I was in the hospital nine days. On the seventh day, I got up from bed rest. The surgery turned out to be less painful than I had originally thought. A year has passed since then and I've just gone through breast augmentation which was very painful, but once again my mother was there to make it as easy as possible on me. Now that I have done everything surgery-wise, I am having fun blossoming into who I was always supposed to be. I am dating guys and just having a great time. If only you could all see my happiness.
I will always love everyone.
ADVICE TO TEENS
If you are a youth questioning your gender identity, you are not alone. There are many more like you than most people realize. There are other teens that feel the same way that you do. Your best source of information is the internet, or your local gay and lesbian center.
You can succeed and become who you need to be. It is not easy or cheap. You are very fortunate if you have a supportive family. I would suggest that you make at least one attempt to let your family know. I would have been able to start helping my child so much sooner if she would have told me sooner. Leave a book or pamphlet laying around by accident that addresses gender issues. Talk about a "friend" wanting to be a different gender than they appear or bring up the subject with your mother. If she freaks, then back off. Tell her you were just kidding, or under stress or going crazy. Then suggest that maybe you need counseling and see what happens.
At all costs, try not to get kicked out of the house. Stay in school, you are going to need a really good job to pay the bills involved in becoming comfortable with your gender. You can do it by yourself, but it takes longer and you may have to put it off until you can support yourself.
There is family you are born with and family you gather as you go along. If your family cannot accept You, don't drag them along behind you for years. It is a great weight on your karma. Take care of' yourself, find accepting friends, adopt other people who need family and then maybe someday your family will catch up with you.
You have the right to be the gender that you feel you are inside. You are not hurting anyone else, they are hurting themselves. You are not sinning, you are not crazy. You are not a second class citizen. You deserve the best, and if no one else will help you then do it for yourself.
Your sexual orientation is completely separate from your gender identity. Labels don't always work. You can feel attracted to men, or women, or both or neither. Who you are attracted to can change as you figure out who you are. Its OK. There is nothing wrong with you. Accept other people for who they are regardless of gender.
Your transition is your trip at your speed. There are some minimum times prescribed by the Henry Benjamin standards. But if it takes you 2 years to start hormones, or you stay in the androgynous stage for months, its OK. This is your trip and there are no maps.
Keep living. Don't put life off until you can have surgery. Enjoy the humor in life. Enjoy every day as another day in becoming you.
ADVICE TO PARENTS
After searching for the perfect way to raise a transsexual,
have found that every transsexual has a different set of problems
with, accordingly, a different set of solutions. The following
points are my personal opinions only and should be added to any
other information available and to the parent's own common sense.
Demand good care! do not consider yourself a beggar, a victim,
a second class citizen. Let your teen set his or her own pace.
Discuss options, but let your teen make the decisions about his
or her life whenever possible. Keep a sense of humor, and use
lots of hugging.
Moving to a new neighborhood and a new school during the summer worked really well for us although I know of a few transsexuals who have survived transition at their current school.
Ask the school district about alternative schools, home schooling and alternative PE programs in your area.
Ask the school district if they have a Gay / Lesbian / Bisexual /Transgendered student union on any of their school campuses, or if there are any openly gay teachers at any school. These campuses are more likely to be accepting of diversity.
Have your teen decide which bathroom he/she would feel more comfortable using and then encourage him/her to just go ahead and use those facilities. If you let the school administrators make a choice, they may choose something that is not acceptable to you and your teen.
Unless your teen is ready and strong enough to be an activist, the fewer people in the school who know, the better.
Questions to ask a prospective counselor:
What educational degrees do you have?
Are you licensed by the state in which you practice, and licensed by which state agency?
How many teen transsexual clients do they have? (seeing them on TV talk shows does not count). If they have seen none, or only one, this lets them know that you know that they are not an expert. Since you will be teaching them, maybe you can negotiate a better per hour price. (Don't count on it.).
Do you know the difference between sex and gender, gender and orientation, crossdressers and transsexuals?
How do transsexual teen issues differ from those of an adult? (some differences teens must address are problems with school, parents, dating, sexual orientation, peer pressure, self-esteem, while adults face problems with employment, family, marriage, children, finances, learning feminine mannerisms.)
Do you have a current copy of the Harry Benjamin Standard of Care, do you follow them, and if so, how strictly?
Do you require psychological testing? Which tests? How much do they cost? Who will administer them? Will the client or parents receive written results?
What is the minimum number of visits before you will write a surgery referral letter.
Do you know the side effects of hormones? (Be sure the counselor mentions or knows about the emotional side-effects.)
How do you feel about prescribing Prozac and why?
An experienced counselor should:
Know at least one endocrinologist.
Know one transsexual friendly electrologist.
Know the local support groups.
Be able to give you names of relevant books on the subject.
Know the requirements and forms for changing the Drivers license,
and Social Security.
Know contacts in the local school district.
Questions to ask:
How many transsexuals have you treated?
What do you charge for a new patient physical exam'?
Do you give a discount for cash payments?
Is your staff understanding of the issues?
What laboratory tests do you require and at what intervals?
Who does your laboratory work, and do you have a financial interest in the lab?
What is your usual regimen for treating transsexuals?
Do you use an androgen blocker?
What are the side-effects of hormones, emotional and physical?
Will you work with us if we want to try different things,
injections versus oral hormones, or synthetic versus animal
What happens if hormones are discontinued?
What hormones do you prescribe post sex reassignment surgery?
IT IS AN ART NOT A SCIENCE. The skills of the practitioner are more important than the method, or the type of machine that they use.
Electrolysists are required to be licensed in some states, but not in others.
Costs can range from $25 to $100 per hour. Some offer discount for multiple hours paid in advance. Electrolysis schools are a less expensive option.
One should begin to see permanent result after 20-25 hours of treatment in one area.
A full beard may take up to 300 hours of treatment or more.
Any marks from weekly electrolysis treatments should be gone after to three days.
Ask other transsexuals for referrals and look at their skin to see if they have scars or pitting, especially on the upper lip area.
Shaving is the preferred method to use between electrolysis treatments
All electrolysists should be using a new disposable needle for each appointment.
He/she should have and use a sterilizer to sterilize the tweezers after each client.
Before and after pictures are sometimes used, but taking full nude pictures is not an acceptable practice.
Laser hair removal has mixed results: it works better on some types of hair, on some people. I personally know people who have had to go back to electrolysis after laser treatment to complete their hair removal. No transsexuals that I know have had complete, permanent hair removal through laser treatments.
I am often asked about home electrolysis units but I have had no hands on experience with them. I have seen pictures and read the instructions and seen the scars as a result of infection on one client that had used such a machine. It is very hard to use these units on oneself. They are very slow in comparison to what an electrolysist can do, and the needles that are used repeatedly are less safe than the disposable needles used by electrolysists today. These small machines may be useful if there are only a few hairs that need to be removed.
Questions to ask the surgeon that is being considered:
Do you do sex reassignment surgery on teens and how many have you treated?
Do you require consent for minors from both parents?
How much does the surgery cost, and what is included? (This and other routine information may be available in a brochure. Transportation costs are in addition to the cost of surgery.)
Do you require genital area electrolysis? If so, why? What have been the complications that you have seen that were caused when genital electrolysis was not done? What percentage of patients have had complications from hair in the wrong place post surgery.?
What percentage of your patients need donor skin?
Are there visible scars after surgery and where are they? Do you have pictures of persons with the post-surgery scars?
Is the surgery done in one step, or is a second surgery necessary (labiaplasty)?
Is there a care facility for post surgical patients, or do they go to a motel for a few days?
What is the dilating schedule after surgery? What kind of dilator do you recommend?
Do you have a waiting list?
Writing is one of my coping skills. This following piece was written in the middle of the night when I could not sleep due to the anger and frustration with the counseling and medical industry.
As luck would have it a girl child was born in the body of a boy child and no one knew until the child came to the age of 15, when he revealed himself to a loving mother who quickly saw the anguish and dilemma of her son. She had seen his feminine side and the sorrow in his eyes. She went to seek advice from the counselors of the land and found the vultures instead. Although none had dealt with this problem in the bloom of youth, all were ready to charge high prices for their expertise. There were rules written by unseen Gods in the sky concerning these matters. One must first consult one of the above mentioned experts until he/she deems the child sane and capable of knowing what he feels inside, and only then is he allowed to use the magic potion that starts the physical changes from boy to girl.
The administrators of the magic potion also have their rules and practice much poking and blood letting. Then the child must convince at least two of the above-mentioned experts, that the child is not crazy, but was simply born with the wrong body parts. The child must continue consulting the vultures who have no experience for at least half a year and the child must live as a girl to match her heart and soul for at least a year before one can progress to the surgeons. Showing wisdom, the child asks why one does not need the advice of two experts before one has children, or gets married as the child sees that many do not realize the problems involved in those decisions. Why must they ask her so many questions when he knows very clearly what she feels inside? Why do they question her intelligence when anyone can clearly see that this boy has become a beautiful girl and only needs help removing the extra parts that are like a tumor to her.
Can they not see that within this one being is such a war, that the battle is often lost to drink, or drugs, or self-destruction. The vultures wait for the dead bodies. How many have they picked clean so there is no money or strength to continue the journey to the surgeons who sculpt the new parts? Along the way are the people who know what God thinks and judge the child as a sinner. There are others who cannot see the goodness in the child and shun her as if she were diseased, or might hurt them in some way. The mother can only hug the child and do her best to pay the prices demanded, but has been given no advice on how to help the child be happy and whole. She tries to shield the child from the evils of the advisors who question the child's intelligence and sanity, all the while degrading what small self-esteem the mother has been able to muster within her child with her love and encouragement. The vultures ignore her love and understanding of the child; no one asks her opinion about the future of the child, they only ask for money from her. In ancient times such children were considered as the spiritually gifted because they understood both men and women. When and how has it become an indication of insanity?
After passing through the long and narrow valley full of vultures, the child is able to submit her beautiful young body to the knife of the surgeon who does remove the unwanted parts, but in so doing left unsightly scars in other visible areas. The surgeons do much experimenting on the bodies of thankful victims, trying to perfect their art and become the best in the land, but in the meantime making many mistakes. The mother's heart breaks when she sees what has been done, but the child is so thankful to have the right body that allows her to be as one inside and outside, that the scars are a small price. So the mother hugs the child who is now whole and happy and ready to get on with her life, but the shadow of the vultures remain in the mother's heart.
Crossdresser: Person who enjoys wearing clothes identified
the opposite gender on a temporary basis.
Gender Identity: One's internal sense of being male or female.
Gender Dysphoria: Psychological term describing the
pain, anguish, and anxiety when gender identity and physical sex
do not match
Intersexed: Those born with ambiguous genitalia.
Hermaphrodites: Born with both ovarian & testicular tissues.
Male to Female Sex Reassignment surgery: Surgeon turns the
penis inside out to build a vagina, removes the testes, and
the urethra. A rigid dilator is used multiple times a day for
months to keep the new vagina open. Cost approximately $13,000
and up in the US and $7,000 in Canada.
Female to Male surgery: Usually includes several surgeries
including mastectomy, full hysterectomy, Closure of the vagina
and construction of a neopenis and scrotum. Cost $25,000 to $
Transgendered: People questioning their gender identity
differs from their physical sex. May include crossdressers,
transsexuals, intersexed and others as an umbrella term.
Transsexual: A person whose birth genitalia differ
internal gender identity.
Brown, Mildred and Rounsley, Chloe Ann, True Selves Understanding
Transsexualism for Family, Friends, Coworkers and Helping
Professionals. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996.
Stringer, JoAnn Altman. The Transsexual's Surviv al Guide II:To
Transition and Beyond for Family, Friends and Employers, 1992.
Moir, Anne and Jessel, David. Brain Sex, The Real Difference
Between Men and Women. Dell Pub/Bantam Doubleday; 1992.
Feinberg, Leslie, Transgendered Warriors: Making History from
Joan of Arc to RuPaul. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996
Israel, Bianna and Tarver, D., Transgender Care: Recommended
Guidelines, Practical Information, and Personal Accounts.
Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997.
NATIONAL TRANSGENDERED ORGANIZATIONS AND RESOURCES
American Educational Gender Inforination Service (AEGIS) is
excellent source of information, books and referrals.
AEGIS, P.O.Box 724
Decatur, GA 30333
The International Federation for Gender Education (IFGE) is
another source for information, referrals books.
PO Box 229
Waltham, MA 02254-0229
The International Conference on Transgender Law and Employment
PO Box 1010
Cooperstown, NY 13326
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).
PFLAG 1101 14th St., NW
Washington, DC 20005
Support group for transgendered people.
P.O. Box 19008
San Diego, Ca. 92159
Voice Mail: (619) 685-3696