Basic TG/TS/IS Information
by Lynn Conway
Copyright @ 2000-2003, Lynn Conway.
All Rights Reserved.
Part III:
Life as a Woman
after TS Transition


[Hope to add more sometime . . . ]

Photo of Lynn on her honeymoon, August 2002.
We learned in Lynn's story that she was born and raised as a boy, and later in life was changed into a girl by female sex hormone treatments and major surgical procedures. Because of this past, Lynn is sometimes called a "transsexual" woman. Why did this happen to Lynn, and what is transsexualism anyways? And how does life turn out for women who have transitioned this way?
In Part I we first answered some basic questions about gender and transgenderism. We learned about the nature of gender identity, about where it comes from and about what events occur in nature that interfere with correct assignments of gender. We also learned about transgenderism and transgender transitions.
In Part II we then provided detailed information about male-to-female (MtF) transsexualism, including historical, cross-cultural and prevalence information. We also describe current methods and technology for complete MtF transsexual transition, and provide links to more information about TS transition.
Here in Part III we discuss some of the issues that TS women face after their MtF transsexual transition as they strive to socially assimilate as women and live full and happy lives.

Part I: Gender Basics & Trangenderism

Part II: Transsexualism (MtF)

Part III: Life as a Woman After TS Transition

 Part IIIcde: (Life, continued)
 TS Womens' Resources  TS Women's Successes [NEW]  Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS)
 TG/TS/IS Links  Successful TransMen [NEW]  Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS)

Part III - Contents:
 Envisioning Life After Transition
 The stories of others can help
 To assimilate or not to assimilate - a key question facing postop woman
 The issue of passing
 The issue of stealth
 Costs of living in stealth
 Bureaucratic Hurdles to Overcome
 Changes in Social Security policies cause major new problems for transitioners
 Interactions with the medical community
 Interactions with law enforcement
 Decisions about religious affiliations
 Legal issues after gender transition, especially regarding marriage
 Family Relationships
 Dealing with Loneliness
 Starting over in socializing and dating
 Early experiences in lovemaking and partnering
 Exploring your sexual orientation as a woman
 Compartmentalizing and adjusting one's stealthiness
 Staying healthy and being physically active
 The Process of Ongoing Refinements
 Being an immigrant to a new social gender
 Enjoying and finding fulfillment in the world of work as a woman
 But what if you are outed?
 Building and experiencing a full social life
 More about love and lovemaking
 Reaching out and sharing our stories
 What happens as you get older?

Part III: Life as a Woman after TS Transition
Section IIIa:
In the past there have been many media stories of "transsexuals in transition". However, those stories usually end abruptly at the point when the woman has her sex reassignment surgery (SRS). Most of the media attention is focused on her "sex change" and the awkward stages of her early social transition. We seldom hear about her later life as a woman over the long term.
This has led many to wonder "what happens to all these women?" Many people imagine that they mostly end up marginalized as "transsexuals", living on the edges of society in dismal ghettoes in big cities. The social invisibility of longer-term postop women, most of whom live rather normal lives in stealth, has thus added to the fears of many transitioners who can't see good role models for post-transition life.
However, things are finally changing. More and more long-term postop women are now coming out via the web and are sharing the details of their lives. Knowledge about long-term postop life is expanding rapidly, and is helping newly postop women better visualize many options for handling the practical issues they face.
Transition is a time when most TS women cannot avoid being somewhat visibly "out". It is a time when they desperately need to interact with others in the same situation, in order to gain knowledge, find mutual upport and have contacts with whom to share their fears and worries. After years of suppression in the other gender, many feel strong urges to "be seen and known as women" even though they are novices and may not pass well yet. They have to make many encounters with the bureaucracy to change all their ID's, legal papers, school records and business records, and each of these encounters can out them to many people. Therefore, it is no surprise that transitions are so visible. The transitioners can't easily hide what is happening to them, media people often want to know and tell the "lurid details", and everyone involved tends to be overly obsessed by what is happening to the transitioner.
Undergoing transition is similar to experiencing a "second puberty". The emerging woman's body undergoes rapid physical changes. She is bombarded by a rush of new physical, emotional and social experiences. She is suddenly a "beginner" in society again, and under pressure to learn many new skills and conform to many new norms. She must experience all this, and learn by making many embarrassing mistakes, just as any teenager must do.
However, at some point, the basic physical and social changes of this puberty are behind her. She is no-longer a "teen-ager" again. The new woman now usually sees more clearly that transition wasn't an end in itself, but was only a new beginning. As the rush of fears and excitement of her recent "puberty" recede, a more open-ended phase of life is entered - adulthood as a woman.
At this point, most TS women realize that they should proceed much more quietly and covertly than during transition. Most begin to feel a strong inner need to be more stealthly, if they are passable enough and clever enough to possibly do this. They feel the need to be seen only as a woman, and not a "transsexual" anymore. They want to feel the warm social embrace that women feel, and aspire to assimilate and fully live their lives as women. This is a time when these women literally begin to "disappear". They often cut ties with family members, past friends and colleagues, and with most of their transition-time TG/TS friends as they move on into their new lives.
The newly transitioned woman now more quietly faces issues much like those facing any girl in her late teens or early twenties. What kind of woman does she really wants to be? How can she become this new woman and live her new life fully? At the same time, how will she handle the legacy of having transitioned? Here in Part III we explore some of these issues.
As we'll see, the postop woman faces pretty much the same issues as any other woman of her age, ethnicity, nationality, education and social background. The differences that intrude from time-to-time are mainly due to bureaucratic, medical, employment and legal matters because of her special past. And she also must worry about the ongoing issues of whether or not to reveal her past, and whether or not to maintain contact with people from her past. Otherwise she is free to explore and enjoy life pretty much as would any other woman.
Much of this section is based on the real-life experiences of long-term postop women whom Lynn knows well. These women's stories are used here to illustrate key points as we go along. These women can serve as good role models for others who are re-entering life as a woman after TS transition.
The real-life examples in this page are based on the stories of
postop women from among the many women listed in Lynn's TS Successes webpage. To read more about their stories, see:
Envisioning Life After Transition:
Newly transitioned women must begin to consider many longer term issues such as living in stealth vs being open about their pasts, adjusting or severing post-transition relations with family, relatives and former friends, finding and maintaining good employment and managing their careers, dealing with a variety of legal issues, obtaining effective and compassionate health care, fully adjusting to their new sexuality, building new circles of friends and social activities, finding and maintaining love relationships, and achieving full social assimilation as a woman.
Many women who've just completed transition haven't thought ahead about all this long-term stuff. Instead, they've been caught up in the dramatic challenges of transition. Suddenly their basic transition is over. They now have an entire new life ahead of them, and this future must be entered, shaped and experienced as a woman.
Everything now may seem up for grabs. Many of the woman's pre-transition thoughts and plans may now seem naive and unworkable for the long-term. Some women find it difficult to start working hard on all the new things they need to do. Some even experience a "post-transition blues", a let-down feeling that can follow such a profound project. They may be very uncertain about what to do next, and are vulnerable to letting things slide and drift in their lives.
This is a time of many questions. How can the woman visualize what to expect in her life ahead? How can she figure out what she might really be able to do now? Where can she find guidance for sorting out the many options she faces?
The stories of others can help:
One good way for the woman to think ahead is to study the lives of other postop women. By reflecting on other women's lives and how their lives worked out over time, she may get some good ideas for her own future. Here in Part III we'll do a lot of that - using the stories of successful postop women to visualize various issues and learn how these women handled them.
But first, for a light-hearted yet poignant and thoughtful introduction to many issues of postop life, Lynn recommends that you watch the 1997 movie "Different for Girls" (for a review, see this link). Although a fictional story, this movie is well grounded in reality, and is a pretty good way begin visualizing the many issues, complexities and potentialities of life after transsexual transition (it's available from Amazon in DVD and in VHS).
"Different for Girls" follows events in the life of Kim, a newly postop woman in the UK, as she struggles with family and employment issues and begins her early experiences at dating and romance. Kim is an attractive and reaonably passable woman, even though she still retains some "tells" of her boyhood past. She is not unlike many newly postop women in their late twenties or early thirties that we see today. Most people accept her for what she appears to be, although a few folks will "read her". Shy and somewhat "bookish", she lives mostly in stealth yet is close to family members who fully know about her past. She has an upbeat spirit, but must also be constantly wary of getting into various problems. Kim's adventures and misadventures illuminate many of the important issues facing such women. Issues such as how and when "to tell", entering the dating scene, making love, coping with being outed, interactions with the police, employment issues, family relationships and finding a love-mate.
By following Kim's story in this movie, and then imaging all the other kinds of stories out there, you can begin to visualize the challenges and complexities that face post-transition women. You can also imagine the joys they find in life as they assimilate begin to live full lives as women.
"Paul" and "Kim" in the film Different for Girls
Of course each woman will have her own unique set of post transition experiences, and their lives are as varied as are the lives of any other women. The transitioned woman's options in life will depend upon many things, including her past gender trajectory, her age at transition, the country or locale she lives in, her race, ethnicity, religious and community affiliations, her family situation, her education, her appearance and passability, how successful her gender transformation procedures were, her personal skills and adaptability, her postop sexual orientation, her personality, and her general outlook and drive in life.
Fortunately, there are now many sites on the web that describe details of the lives of postop women of very diverse backgrounds. Lynn has compiled links to many of these women's stories on her "TS Successes" webpage. Transitioners should read these stories and identify role models for their own situations.
To assimilate or not to assimilate - a key question facing postop woman:
Once the bewildering rush of events and challenges of transition are behind, postop women begin to face a new, more subtle challenge: figuring out exactly what kind of woman they're going to become.
In many cases, the women will have spent at least two years preoccupied with transition and with interactions with other transitioners. They may have been rather open about what they were doing, at least within their transition community, and have also become rather "activist" in outlook as they stumbled into the stigmatization and obstacles they faced during transition.
It is VERY easy at this critical point in their lives for these women to stay "stuck in transition", to reach a certain "comfort zone" among transitional friends and activist activities, and to not push hard to get beyond this stage. This is especially true if they have multiple problems with passability that are going to be difficult to overcome.
At this point transitioners tend to separate into two major groups: Those who will stay visibly present in society as "postop transsexuals", and those who will move on much futher towards social assimilation as women.
The "transsexuals" will build their postop lives from within the social environments they encountered during transition. Most of their friends will be other transitioners, preop and postop. They may spend lots of time maintaining contact with the transitioners' e-mail groups and bulletin boards on the net. Many of them will become activists. Many will remain in support groups as "mentors" for other transitioners, and this will tend to reinforce the visibility of their chosen path, since most transitioners never meet assimilated postop women - instead only meeting postop "mentors" who chose to stay "inside the community".
Some women make conscious decisions about whether to assimilate or not. Some will wonder if they can assimilate, and are frightened of leaving their "comfort zone" for the larger society. Some just don't feel confident enough to try to assimilate, and will decide to remain in the TG community and mainly identify as TS's. Others will decide to move on and work hard to "assimilate" as a woman, hoping to live their day-to-day lives just as other women do. They want to seek the same joys and pleasures that any other woman might seek, and have the entire world of the larger society open to them for exploration.
Interestingly, many newly postop women do think about this important decision, but they do it rather subliminally. They may not realize it, but by doing many of the things they do shortly after their transition, they ARE making a decision to "assimilate" or "not assimilate". Thus many women let this critical decision occur by default, it sortof happens to them without them consciously making a decision. They get dragged along by events in their immediate personal lives that may seem beyond their control. They let things like passability, employment difficulties, family situations, the reactions of friends to their transition, etc., bias their actions and move them towards or away from assimilation, without consciously reflecting hard on their long-term goals and thinking through which path would be best for them.
Part-III is primarily aimed at the group of postop women who want to move on, enter the wider society as women, and eventually assimilate as women. These are women who don't want to get "stuck in transition". They feel a powerful need to move on, and leave the familiar DQ, CD, TG or TS scenes they've been transitioning in, and get on with their new lives as women.
Of course, even if one does try to move on and assimilate, it's easy to get the post-transition blues. It's easy to fail to set clear new goals and seek new horizons, and get the feeling that you are still in transition. This is somewhat like getting through puberty and then stopping short, and not exploring and experiencing full adulthood. This can easity happen to girls if they are frightened and insecure. Girls who''ve had a profound inner drive to get through transition, may now feel so tired, burned out and still insecure that they have difficulty summoning up the courage and strength to move forward. These girls can end up somewhat marginalized by inaction, even if they don't get "stuck back in transition". This is similar to the problem of teenagers who never leave home and never really become independent, or to "professional students" who never seem to manage finishing college, but keep on going there anyways.
However, there are others who will move on into their new life with the same passion with they brought to their transition. They realize that basic transition is just the first big step into their new live. They know that they must continue to work hard if they are to fully assimilate as women, because there is still much to do and to explore. Those who do best are the women who DO NOT LET UP IN EFFORTS TO MOVE FORWARD, even AFTER their basic transition is completed, as we'll see here in Part-III.
The issue of passing:
In the early stages of transition, most TS women worry a lot about how well they are going to "pass" after transition. An estimate of one's ability to pass is often a crucial factor in gauging the feasibility of transition. The early feminization effects from hormones and electrolysis and crossdressing can lead some women into being too optimistic about how they look. Any slight degree of feminization seems thrilling, and early in transition women often overestimate the objective reality of these initial, minor changes. Such women aren't helped by well-meaning friends who tell them that "they look great", when in fact they mean "you look OK for a guy made up as a woman". It would be much better if these women were given realistic feedback by more experienced transitioners, and encouraged to work hard on key things they need to fix.
As time goes on, the transitioning woman usually becomes more objectively aware of her passability from feedback in a wide range of social encounters and encounters with many strangers. She learns many subtle things she needs to work on in order to pass well. However, she may ultimately face limitations or physical constraints in certain areas that aren't easily correctable, and these may limit her ultimate passability even after full transition.
In the end, the woman's overall passability several years after her transition is a major factor in her long-term options in life. We're not referring to "attractiveness" here, although that's also a factor affecting many life-options. Instead we're talking about being able to move comfortably around in society without being "read" or hassled or otherwise constantly reminded of one's transsexual past. The woman wants to pass well, not to fool people or because she is ashamed of her TS past, but because she wants to fit in and be comfortable and even popular as a woman in all social interactions.
Therefore, most postop women work hard during their early post-transition years to refine all aspects of presentation and behavior that affect their passability. This involves a lot of hard work and making many compromises and tradeoffs while searching for a consistent persona and image that fits well with their physical presence. For example, the large-framed woman who tries to go too "femme" is obviously going to have passing difficulties, whereas she might be just fine if she consistently presents herself as an outdoorsy outgoing amazon. All postop women face these issues, and must fine-tune their presentations until they find a style and persona that works for them.
As she proceeds on this quest, there are certain situations that can stress and frighten a newly transitioned women, even those who do pass fairly well. One example is encounters with children and teenagers. Another source of stress can be the simple act of answering the telephone.
School-age children are often quick takes on gender cues, and they can be unwittingly cruel in their loud questions regarding someone's apparant gender inconsistency. Groups of teenage girls are especially good at "reading people" and sensing the presence of "men" - and they need to be, because men represent a potential danger to them. The best advice is to not show any fear, and to keep a happy smile on your face at all times - especially when around children and young people. If the woman shows signs of fear, she may attract the extra scrutiny that can cause her to be "clocked", even if fairly passable. Children are particularly good sensers of fear in adults. To avoid this problem, look directly and warmly into their eyes and try to make them smile! (BTW, practicing on making babies smile is a good way to develop and test your "happy face" capabilities).
The telephone is also a source of troubles, because many a voice that passes "OK" in face-to-face conversations simply does not pass on the phone. Thus a TS women may be constantly reminded of her past by being called "sir" whenever she interacts with strangers on the phone. She then has to say "it's ma'am, not sir", and have to suffer embarrassed silence or confusion. Being "ma'amed" on the phone becomes a goal many TS women strive for, but that some just cannot manage. On the other hand, the phone does provides a great objective test of one's voice. If you work on training your voice and are consistently ma'amed on the phone, then your voice certainly will pass well in person. Fortunately there are excellent voice training courses now available, and even long-postop women can benefit from undertaking such training.
During the early post-transition years, many women undergo additional reconstructive procedures to improve their appearance and their passability, both socially and intimately. Some who haven't had breast reconstructions may do this now. Many others will seriously think about Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS) if they haven't undergone that yet.
Facial Feminization Surgery, in the very aggressive form pioneered by Douglas Ousterhout of San Francisco, is one of the most important gender-shifting technologies to arrive on the scene since hormones and SRS. In many ways it is co-equal with hormones and SRS in the profound effect it can have on a transitioner's life-options. It can make a huge difference in one's passability. More than that, it can provide a tremendous sense of comfort and validation when looking in a mirror - and truly seeing a woman looking back.
FFS can even be life-saving for those who initially have highly masculinized facial features, enabling women to comfortably transition who would have faced ridicule and degradation without it. Many long-postop women who passed well and lived comfortable lives can also benefit greatly from the additional feminization provided by FFS, as it eliminates all the subtle cross-gender cues that somewhat spoil their looks. (For more about FFS, see Lynn's FFS page).
It is amazing that so many postop women, even many long-time postop women, do not grasp the gender-identification problems that bulging browridges, tall chins and widely flaring jawbones cause them. Perhaps they've never looked in the mirror in profile, which is how others often see them, and compare their profile with those of natal women. Thus they simply cannot grasp how much their lives could be improved by FFS. Thinking that they "look just fine", most of these women are nevertheless subliminally often very sensitive about their appearance, as in a state of denial. Any effort to suggest that they have facial structural problems, and should investigate FFS, can cause them a lot of angst. It's a catch-22 where friends who could help advise them dare not open the subject. Then too, aggressive reconstructive procedures such as FFS are very expensive, frightening and painful. Not all postop women can find the means or the courage to undergo them.
When you take all these factors into account, it is clear that these women face many complex tradeoffs as they plan their life trajectories. In the end, there is the question of "when is it all done", of when has the woman finished with her body modifications and is content with the results. Many of these tradeoffs are influenced by her passability and attractiveness, and her satisfaction of lack thereof with the personal and social status she has gained in her new life.
Because of the powerful social, emotional and practical impacts of one's passability, passing has taken on an important sociopolitical dimension in interactions among TS and TG women. Those who pass well are envied, considered elitist, and often caricatured as being "too stereotypically feminine" by those who don't pass well. Those who don't pass well are in turn often made to feel uncomfortable when around those who do. The reason is fear - even a passable TS woman may be "read" when seen in among poorly passable women, and passable women may emanate fear when placed in such situations.
All these mixed feelings have led to a kind of rebellion in some quarters against the idea of working hard to pass, and especially against having surgeries such as FFS in order to pass well. Some women think that it's better to relax and just "not pass" and not worry about it. Some activists even take pride in looking like "trannies" and being in people's faces about it. Others just can't take the daily hassles of "not passing". They reject the notion of "not caring" and do whatever they can to finally pass comfortably, including undergoing extremely painful and costly facial reconstructions to feminize their faces.
The extreme level of body-modifications that many TS women undertake in order to transition and then pass well are often completely misunderstood and derided by many gay and lesbian and other TG people, who cannot imagine what it's like to live "full time" and not pass. Passing is an important prerequisite for social assimilation as a woman, and thus for actually gaining and experiencing a fully female gendered identity. For more insight into the important issue of passing, see Rebecca Kastl's essay below:


To Pass Or Not To Pass
By Rebecca Kastl

I'm sitting here in a coffee shop on a cold, windy, and rainy day in the Midwestern U.S. I'm watching people come in and order their cappuccinos, their lattes (I have one myself), and their baguettes. Small groups sit at each table in hushed conversation. Occasionally, a snippet of a discussion will filter itself out from the background noise of coffee grinders, rustling newspaper pages and ceaseless mumbling. And in the midst of this otherwise normal appearing Midwest kitsch lays a terrible secret that, if anyone knew, would disrupt the tranquility of this room with the force of a train wreck. There's a transsexual in the room! This is slightly better than having an elephant in the room, only because it is harder to hide the elephant. Had this been a year and a half ago, I'd be one of the most paranoid people on the planet. It is one of the most incessant and pervasive fears that any transgendered person could encounter - the fear of being discovered; the fear of being "read."

I know that the topic has been batted around in the transgender community like a badminton birdie, and the discussions have led to all sorts of conclusions. But I've always had a problem with the usual discussions where the conclusion is that "passing" shouldn't mean anything. I personally have a problem with the whole concept of "passing." For far too many people, "passing" means hiding - denying who and what you are, and pretending that you are not transgendered by hiding from the world. This accomplishes little except to raise the stakes of being outed. But there is another motivation behind "passing" that is altogether different. I'll forego the descent into the Politics of Bornstein (as I call Kate Bornstein's views on the dichotomy of gender), but suffice it to say that I think there is a psychologically healthy aspect to "passing" as it liberates us to define ourselves as we see fit.

The reason why this has recently come to my mind is because I have made an appointment to visit Dr. Osterhout for facial surgery this summer. I am frequently questioned and chided about going to such extremes to "pass." A pleadingly imperative "why?" usually accompanies such conversations. I would like to think that I'd be the last person to be vain enough to think of myself as "attractive," but I do feel that I have physical shortcomings that could be improved upon; my chin is too wide, my jaw is too square (yes, I'm entirely self critical, much as any woman in our consumer culture would be). But why would I choose to undergo such an extreme measure to improve upon what others declare to be little more than extraneous and insignificant imperfections?

Therein, dear friends, is something that causes us to look at the whole "passing" issue in a slightly different light than we have before. Being transsexual, the issue of "passing" takes on an entirely different perspective than what one would normally consider as a cross-dresser or transvestite. Why? (There's that word again) There are several reasons for this, but two primarily stick out when this topic comes up. The first is that as a transsexual, once we have transitioned, there is no reprieve - we cannot escape ourselves now as transitioned transmen and transwomen any easier than we could escape ourselves when we were living the life of a wrongly gendered person. When we go out each day, we are who we are. A step backwards for a rest or reprieve is a step backwards in the name of progress. Because of that, we need to find comfort in the identity that we present to the world each day.

Secondly, the nature of my gender identity is that I identify as female, not "a guy in a dress." My remarks aren't meant to disparage cross-dressers or transvestites; not in the least. I could be unattractive as a woman and be comfortable, because at least I'd be a woman. But given the temporal nature of cross-gender presentation by cross-dressers and transvestites, the issue of "passing" is placed into an entirely different context than it is for transsexuals. For the cross-dresser, the return to male presentation is normal and appropriate. Once back in "guy mode" (as some call it) the world is none the wiser about any gender issues, and the whole topic, for the most part, may be conveniently ignored. Some people who identify as cross-dressers will likely have a problem with the second point. I don't mean to be indignant here, but the basic fact of being transsexual is that life is already difficult enough; why should we complicate things further by being indifferent or dismissive about our own appearance? And this concept cuts both ways. Should a FTM not "pack" or bind because it shouldn't make a difference? Should an MTF not wear makeup? If there is something I can do to correct the gender obstacles that nature gave me, then why should I not do so? Just because I cannot escape who I am, doesn't mean that I can't work to improve upon my lot. Of course, there are those who don't fit neatly into any classical definitions used by the transgendered community, and quite often the lines between any two points on the gender spectrum become easily blurred. But in that light, the issue of "passing" then becomes one of "passing as what?" To which one would likely (and appropriately) answer "yes."

So here I sit, watching these people in the coffee shop come and go, drink their drinks, carry on their conversations, and no one appears to notice the woman sitting in their midst who isn't exactly all that she seems to be (or who is more than she seems to be). And I go about my apparently dull little life, clacking away on my laptop and sipping my latte.

The issue of stealth:
Depending on her passability and employment trajectory, the woman must somehow decide whether to be "out" and open with people about her past, or whether to go into "stealth" and start a completely new life somewhere else. There are many gradations of stealthiness, from "being publicly out" to "being open" to being "woodworked" to being "stealth" to being in "deep stealth". Many women are somewhat open during transition and then gradually woodwork and become less open about their pasts over time. Many women are stealthy in most aspects of their lives, but remain open to a circle of friends or family members. Others live in deep stealth, yet even some of these women may be "virtually out" via the web, and thus able to maintain contact with the current TS community that way. There are many possibilities and variations on "stealth", and each woman must decide what's the best path in her own case.
Each woman's choices are constrained by where she fits into the "passing and attractiveness spectrum". There are some women who pass so well that they can easily exercise the option of stealth. Then there women who simply do not pass, and who have no choice but to be open and out about their pasts. Many of these women cope by being "out and proud" and by just not to worrying about something they cannot change.
However, the majority of women are somewhere in a wide range between these two extremes, and can pass and be stealthy to varying degrees of success.
One curious thing about stealth: The better a woman passes and the more attractive she is as a woman, the less she has to worry about being occasionally "clocked" or being even outed. It's a sad commentary on the strong connection people make in our society between attractiveness and femaleness, but people are generally more "understanding" and "forgiving" of a transitioner who looks really good. You can almost read folks' minds as they give think "I guess you had to become a woman if you looked like that!". The woman who is attractive may even get an occasional boost to her self-esteem by being outed, and having people be really suprised that she was once a boy. By getting such good feedback about her status, she may even lose her fears and concerns about people "knowing".
In contrast, those women who are only somewhat passable and those who are not particularly attractive as women often feel much greater pressure to be stealthy. The reason is that many of the outings they experience can be very painful experiences. A very plain-looking TS woman who is occasionally read or outed will sense other people's fear and discomfort when they find out about her past. She'll naturally want to avoid having such experiences. To her people seem to be thinking "I can't imagine why 'you' wanted to become a woman", and this can hurt her self-esteem. These women have to try extra hard to feel quietly and warmly happy inside and to project a friendly open-eyed smile, in order to comfort those they encounter and improve their successes at passing.
Women who transition on the job may not be able to conceal their pasts, independent of their passability, if too many people in their career field or company know about them. Some of these women can gradually "woodwork" over time as their transitions fade into the past, but others may not be so lucky.
Some women continue to live in the same home as before transition and even maintain pre-existing immediate family relationships. These women usually won't have the option of stealth except in social circles away from home, no matter how passable they are.
Continuity of employment during transition and being able to continue past personal relationships can provide wonderful support for TS women who are open during their transitions and in the early years afterwards. However, this advantage often comes at the cost of being treated as "trannies" instead of as women. Their strong connections with the past often marginalize them in their new gender and keep such women from fully assimilating.
After all, constantly interacting with people who know about your past reminds the transitioner herself of her past. It keeps her "looking backwards" instead of "forwards". This is one of those weird effects that you can only understand by experiencing it. It is an insidious effect, because to experience it you must find ways to not experience it first! Only by living some of the time in a stealthy manner can you sense the profound contrast between being among people who "don't know" vs those "who do know".
Many newly postop women remain in ongoing contact with family and friends and co-workers they knew in the past, and may never get beyond this "out phase" in their lives. Unless they find ways to carve out social niches where they are stealthy, they may never realize how wonderful life could be that way. Out of habit and a desire to retain past companionships they may even remain "out" among most people in their day-to-day lives.
By comparison, stealth has many advantages. While in stealth, the woman more easily make new friends who know her only as a woman. Stealth makes it much easier for her to fully integrate her new personality as a woman, and to build a social life and establish love relationships as a woman. Being stealthy opens up the possibility of fully assimiliating socially and emotionally as a woman, of living without looking back all the time.
Either path, being open or being stealthy, has its advantages and its disadvantages. The decision of whether to go stealth or to remain open, and how far to go in either direction, is one of the most complex and difficult decisions facing women after transition.
In many cases, those entering transition do not think ahead carefully about this tradeof. They don't take care to avoid doing things in transition that would close off the option of stealth afterwards. During transitioning women often feel a strong compulsion to "tell others about what is happening to them" and even to seek publicity in various ways. This is a natural result of feeling wonderful about what is happening to you, of wanting to "be widely seen" as a woman, and to explain to others what is happening to you.
Later, once the realities of post-transition life sink in, many tansitioners often wish they could go back and "quiet down" some of the noise they made while in transition, wishing that they could woodwork more easily and better enjoy the benefits of finally being a woman, instead of everyone still thinking of them as a "transsexual".
We don't have secrets; our secrets have us -
- Richard Gilmartin
Costs of living in stealth:
Even though stealth has many advantages, it often comes at a heavy price. Many stealthy women end up losing all past connections and social bonds, and until they make lots of new friends and gain a sense of community, they can live very lonely lives. Many live in ongoing fear of being "outed". Stealthy woman must constantly "wing-it" in conversations, and constantly invent "past histories and stories" to cover the early parts of her life. These daily challenges can build up a lot of accumulated stress.
The life of a woman in stealth is much like the life of a spy - she's always using cover stories and trying to avoid any "tells" that would break her cover. Since she never tells anyone about her past, she cannot know how any of her new friends or coworkers would react if the DID know. That doubt often leads to unnecessarily-elevated levels of fear about what would happen if she WERE outed.
This cycle of secrecy and fear can become a vicious cycle, because the woman has no ways to "test" what would happen if any "little mistakes" are made. In some cases, postop women go way overboard in insuring stealth to the point of seriously limiting the things they'll attempt to do in life - out of unnecessarily high levels of fear about even the tiniest exposure.
In addition, the woman may be very proud of what she had accomplished, and amazed at all the adventures she has had along the way. But she dare not talk to anyone about these things. This fear of outing can lead to the buildup of a lot of angst over time, as the woman wishes more and more that she didn't have to keep her past a "terrible secret, not to be revealed", and instead could just tell people about her life.
Having to constantly invent cover stories takes its own toll. The woman has to constantly remember what she said to whom, and work hard to avoid getting caught in "lies". For this reason, it's usually best to hedge in the direction of saying less, rather than inventing more. However, if you invent little and say little about your past, then that itself is a big "tell" that you're concealing something. Gradually over time, most postop women come up with a "standardized past" that seems to work for them based on past experience. It become ever easier to handle new situations as they come along. This is like becoming a practiced spy who never blows their cover.
Another important aspect of avoiding outings is carefully anticipating practical problems in advance of new situations. Most stealthy postop women do a tremendous amount of "casing things in advance" just to avoid such outings. If the woman needs to fill out some new bureaucratic paperwork, or needs some kind of medical procedure done, etc., she'll often try hard to find out in advance exactly what is going to happen, and whether that will out her, and if so how she can bypass whatever the problem is.
Many stealthy women wish they could make contact with other successful postop women, in order to learn about and "case" various situations they have to face. By contacting other postop women who've negotiated that particular obstacle, they can become better prepared to do it themselves. Many woman also want to contact others in order to learn more about current medical knowledge and treatments that they might benefit from, and that could help them take their physical transition to a higher level of success.
However, fear of outing can hold postop women back even from contacting other postop women, since they may not be able to visualize that there are now very secure ways of making these contacts. Fortunately, the internet and the availability of relatively anonymous e-mail accounts is making it much easier for stealthy women to interact with other transitioners.
For more insight into the special difficulties of being in stealth long-term, read the stories of Kimberli and Leslie Townsend. Both these women lived in stealth long term, and then decided to be more open - Kimberli by being "virtually out" by telling her story via the web (using a pseudonym) and Leslie by writing a book about her life experiences. Both these women experienced feelings of growing isolation while in stealth. Both have benefited greatly by becoming open about their pasts. In Kimberli's case this didn't even require her actually "coming out", but only of making contact with others via the web.
Leslie Townsend 
Hopefully, as time passes more postop women will be able woodwork or be stealthy in their careers and social lives, and have a chance at full assimilation. At the same time it would be good if these stealthy women could find ways to be in contact with other postop women and have friends with whom they can share their special experiences and stories. These women would thus be able to reduce their feelings of isolation, and enhance their pride about what they've accomplished, without risking being "outed" in any major way.
One important method for accomplishing such things is to "compartmentalize" one's stealthiness, being very stealthy in some social circles in life and at the same time very open in others. Although this can be difficult to manage and keep track of, it enables the woman to retain the advantage of stealth without paying to high a psychic price for it. For more on this topic, see the later section "Compartmentalizing and adjusting one's stealthiness".

Section IIIb:
Practical Issues
There are certain aspects of life where postop woman faces different hurdles than other women. Most of these are practical issues such as getting her records and ID's fully updated, finding access to good medical care, and certain issues regarding employability and employment. She must also think carefully about interactions with law enforcement, decisions about religious affiiations, and various legal issues. This section discusses some of these practical issues that postop women need to study and think carefully about.
Bureaucratic Hurdles to Overcome:
Most postop women will have obtain a legal name change and a new driver's license sometime early in their social transition (during their RLE). Letters from their counselor(s) attesting to their gender transition are usually accepted by courts and motor vehicle departments as adequate evidence for these changes. After undergoing SRS, most women then try to get a new birth certificate, since that is an important legal document attesting to their gender.
The bureaucratic difficulties facing transitioiners vary a lot from state to state in the U.S. In some states it's easy to get a new drivers' license in the new name and gender after getting a legal name change. Some states make you jump throught lots of bureaucratic hurdles to do this, in others it is almost automatic. The procedures for getting new a new driver's license are so variable state-to-state, and in some cases are variable within a given state - so it is important for transitioners to "learn the ropes" from other recently transitioned women on just how to go about it and how to avoid difficulties.
After completing transition, it's also fairly easy in some states to get a new birth certificate in one's new name and gender by submitting the legal name change order and basic documentation of surgical change of sex. In other states, such as New York, very extensive documentation and review is involved. In yet other states, a new birth certificate with the new name and gender will be issued - but with an explicit mention of the change in gender.
In a few states it is not even possible to change one's birth certificate (Ohio, Tennesse and Idaho). However, a U.S. Passport in one's new name and gender can be obtained with proper documentation of TS transition (including SRS), and evidence of legal name change. Fortunately, a U.S. Passport usually serves just as well as a birth certificate as formal documentation of one's name, gender, birth date and birth location.
 See Becky Allison's website for
state-by-state information about
As a result of the variations in state regulations for changing birth certificates, the legal status of a postop woman varies considerably from state to state. There have been few legal precedents so far to clarify that status.
In addition to having to get legal name changes and new driver's licenses and birth certificates, most women face what seems like an endless process of updating and cleaning up the many other records of their past lives. All these bureaucratic processes, including updating life insurance, medical insurance, credit records, social security, high school and college transcripts and diplomas, past employment records, etc., can seem like an unending series of "outings" and embarrassments and struggles with the system.
Sometimes the woman will encounter bureaucrats who freak out about her change and refuse to help her update her records. Fortunately, many bureaucracies have seen enough transsexuals by now, and have procedures for making the necessary changes, so that it's less of a hassle to update one's "paperwork" than it used to be.
There is a lot of shared knowledge in the TG/TS communities in the various states about how to get many of the records changes done with the least hassles, and all transitioners should try to find out in advance what to expect before approaching a particular local state or municipal office for a change in their records.
It is best to always approach bureacrats very politely, calmly and with a friendly smile. Don't show any fear or embarrassment, since that will signal them that you think there is something wrong about what you are asking them to do. Tell them very matter of factly that you have had a gender transition, and indicate the change in records that you need them to make. Tell them you'd like this matter to be confidential, and that you'd appreciate their help. If they are uncertain about what how to make the change, tell them that you understand that there might not be a set procedure for doing this, and that maybe you should talk directly with a supervisor who might know what to do. After a while, you'll get somewhat used to this drill, and it isn't so upsetting and scary as it is early in transition.
Changes in Social Security policies cause major new problems for transitioners:

For many decades, it was possible to obtain a new Social Security card in one's new name and gender after obtaining a legal name change and documents showing that "sex change surgery has either been completed or started". This not only enabled postop women to correct their Social Security records, but also enabled many preop women in RLE to do so too. Obtaining an immediate correction of Social Security records upon entering RLE greatly helped those women find and maintain employment during the critical period of transition. The old rules also enable many TG transitioners to obtain a full change in name and gender in their Social Security files, by providing such letters from counselors (even though they didn't intend to have SRS).
However, in a mid-October 2002 policy change that took place without announcement or explanation, the Social Security Administration instituted a tougher requirement for changing one's gender marker in the SSA records. The new policy requires a person "to provide clinic or medical records or other combination of documents showing the sex change surgery has been completed".
This now presents a MAJOR NEW HURDLE for all transitioners: When you enter RLE and obtain a legal name change, you can only obtain a change your name in your Social Security records. You must now wait until AFTER SRS to change your gender in the SSA records. This produces a period of ambiguity in your SSA files: When you get a job as a woman in RLE, your name will match your SSA file, but your new social gender will not. Each year the SSA cross-checks employers' submissions of SS data to see if the names and gender match the account number of each account. A list of any discrepancies of name, gender and number are automatically sent to the employer for "correction". Thus anyone who still has an "M" in their SSA files is potentially outable to their employer's personnel department once each year.
This problem may also strike many stealthy postop women who are growing older, and whose gender correction may not have been properly documented in their SSA files. When they turn 65 and go to SSA to sign up for Medicare and Social Security payments, they may potentially be "outed" as having an incorrect gender marker. This can be a huge problem if their SRS is not well-documented, because they may now have a hard time obtaining old medical records to "prove that they are women".
Those women may not realize that once they become 65 and need to go on Social Security and Medicare, that unless their gender transition is properly documented, a "MALE" in big bold capital letters will be printed right on the front of their new Medicare card. And remember, although you never really needed to show a Social Security card (you just needed to remember your number), once you are on Medicare you'll need to show your Medicare card quite often in order to obtain medical care. Lynn advises all postop women to take full documentation of their SRS surgery when they go to a Social Security office upon reaching age 65, and to be prepared to show that documentation if they discover any problems in their records regarding their gender status.
Unfortunately, the situation is far worse for the many women now undergoing TG transition (without SRS). Although they can still change their names in their Social Security records, they can no longer change their gender designation by simply submitting a letter from a counselor to SSA saying that "they have begun a sex change". Lacking certifiable documentation of SRS, they will never be able to change their gender designation in their SSA file. Thus they will be subjected to lifelong outings via "correction notices" to employers from SSA. They will also face the longer term problem of ending up with a Medicare card that has "MALE" printed on it.
All transitioners should also know that once they have submitted a change of name and gender to the SSA, their prior name and gender are permanently and prominently visible in the internal Social Security Administration files. Not only that, but their former name and gender will be printed on all updated information sheets that you receive when, for example, you sign up for medicare and social security payments (Lynn just went through this process). Therefore, even those who are in deep stealth are potentially outable by that data in their Social Security files. And, since the data is so visible there, the question of whether your gender was properly updated (via documentation of SRS) is quickly raised when you go in to sign up for Medicare.
For more information on this new area of serious bureaucratic problems that now confront all TG and TS transitioners, see the NTAC Press Release at the following site:

See the NTAC Press Release about how
Employment is one of the most pressing issues facing most new transtitioners. Many women will have expended all their savings and past income, and even run up substantial debts, in order to pay for their transition. Without secure employment, and without anyone to provide for her, the new woman can be in serious trouble.
Some transsexual women face serious employment problems even after full TS transition. The woman may have been fired for transitioning, and then have difficulty reestablishing her career. If she was well known before as a male in her career field, it may be very difficult for her to return to similar work without being outed, even if she works in a different location. She may also have difficulty in getting good references from bosses who knew her before.
In a few states where it is difficult to change records such as driver's licenses, the employment options of postop women are very limited. In many locales there are no anti-discrimination laws protecting transsexuals, and postop women can be fired without cause if they are outed somehow. Even in states where transitioned women can easily get new driver's licenses, the recent changes in Social Security policies can threaten them with being outed and losing their jobs too.
Therefore, even if they do find work, many women live in desperate fear of losing their jobs if anyone discovers their past.
However, the employment options for postop women are improving. Many companies now have EO protections for TG/TS people, and accomodate on-the-job transitions. Those who transition on the job (OTJ) are usually secure in their employment, as long as they have made a successful transition, have remained productive and have maintained good relations with coworkers during their transition.
Although the woman who transitions on-the-job (OTJ) is more secure in her employment during transition, she of course is outed at work by her transition. This is one real disadvantage of OTJ transitions. Being surrounded by people who know about your past can greatly interferes with your emotional and social assimilation as a woman. In order to cope with this problem, some women stay in their current OTJ transition location until they've established a good work record and are financially, physically and emotionally far enough along to make an employment move. With good references from their transitional job they can relocate elsewhere in the same company, or leave for another company. Upon making that job move, they can then more easily quietly "woodwork", or even go into stealth mode.
- - - methods for finding work - - - networking among colleagues - - - try to be open to moving anywhere in the country - - - learning about and thinking about locales, companies and occupations that are better than others - - -
- - - taking advantage of important new internet resources for identifying and cross-comparing "GLBT friendly" companies - - - especially the Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) "Corporate Equality Index" - - - and the HRC WorkNet Database containing details and ratings of company GLBT policies and friendliness - - -
 The HRC's Corporate Equality Index rates a company
on a scale of 0 percent to 100 percent on whether it:
  • Has a written non-discrimination policy covering sexual orientation.
  • Has a written non-discrimination policy covering gender identity and/or expression.
  • Offers health insurance coverage to employees' same-sex domestic partners.
  • Officially recognizes and supports an LGBT employee group, or has a policy that gives employee groups equal standing regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Offers diversity training that includes sexual orientation and/or gender expression in the workplace.
  • Engages in respectful, appropriate marketing to the LGBT community and/or provides support through its corporate foundation or otherwise to LGBT or AIDS-related organization or events.
  • Avoids any corporate actions that would undermine the goal of equal rights for LGBT people.
Information about a company's GLBT rating can be very valuable from another standpoint: Companies that are GLBT friendly are very likely to also be "woman friendly". These are the companies that provide women with full and equal opportunities to men. In contrast, those companies that are not GLBT friendly often do not provide equal opportunities for women either. The reason is that homophobia and transphobia are highly correlated with misogyny and prejudices about women. Postop women can thus benefit from employment with GLBT friendly companies for two reasons: (i) to have job protection in case they are outed, and (ii) to have full job opportunities as women.
Here are examples of companies that are at the very top and the very bottom of the HRC Corporate Equality Index. Information such as this can be valuable in pointing transitioners towards some companies and away from others:
 Companies having perfect scores on the HRC Corporate Equality Index:
  • Aetna Inc.
  • AMR Corp./American Airlines
  • Apple Computer Inc.
  • Avaya Inc.
  • Eastman Kodak Co.
  • Intel Corp.
  • J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.
  • Lucent Technologies Inc.
  • NCR Corp.
  • Nike Inc.
  • Replacements Ltd.
  • Worldspan L.P.
  • Xerox Corp.
Companies having excellent scores:
  • General Mills Inc.
  • Starbucks Corp.
  • Motorola Inc.
  • Raytheon Co.
  • ChevronTexaco Corp.
  • British Petroleum
  • Shell Oil Co.

In contrast, here are some companies having extremely poor scores:
  • Domino's Inc.
  • FedEx Corp.
  • MeadWestvaco Corp.
  • Meijer Inc.
  • Shaw Industries Inc.
  • Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
  • CBRL Group Inc./Cracker Barrel
  • Emerson Electric Co.
  • Lockheed Martin Corp.
- - - the question of "whether to tell" your employer you have transitioned - - - if you entered stealth upon transition, or after a later job move, there is the issue of whether to tell your new employer about your past - - - and this can come up over and over again with each new job change - - -
- - - this is one of the big problems hanging over the heads of even long-postop women, who may face difficulties finding new employment, for example after a layoff, even if they have established a good job record over many years post-transition - - -
In the past it was easier than now to go completely stealth, and for the most part eradicate all available links to one's new identity. Things weren't as computerized and centralized as now, so it was easier to make a clean break. This was fortunate back in the older times when the stigamitization of postop women was so extreme. Nowadays it is much more difficult to establish a totally new identity and eradicate all links to the past because of the wide computerization of such records. Fortunately, it is easier to "come out" to new employers these days and still be hired, because many companies now have official policies protecting TG/TS people.
One good rule is to never lie on any job application or employee record. It is often possible to hedge a bit, or simply not fill in certain items that might give you away very openly in your files. However, if there is anything on the application that requires you to reveal your past, or if the company requires a physical examination and medical records that would reveal your past, then you should tell the Human Resources (HR) people about your past, and get their advice on how to fill out the forms.
There is a great advantage gained by telling Human Resources people about your past when you join a company. That way, you "know they know", and you are protected from and don't have to worry about, being outed by anyone. After all, the company "already knows". Human Resources people can usually be trusted to keep such information very confidential and they can often be very helpful if you stumble over other things that might out you in the company, things such as additional forms you have to fill out later, etc. In most cases, you will not have to reveal your past to any other people in the company, not your hiring manager, or any other managers, but only the HR department.
By being "quietly honest" with HR people during hiring procedures, and by keeping your transsexual past well-compartmented and away from any connection with your work environment afterwards, you should be able to gain good employment even while remaining in "deep stealth". At the same time you can feel comfortable in knowing that minor outing incidents won't likely cost you your job.
Being scrupulously honest, while also being very discreet at the same time, can have many benefits. The HR people will recognize that you are serious about your work, that you are an honest person, that you are not at all ashamed of your past, and yet at the same time you'd never "stick it in people's faces" and make a big deal about being TS while at work. All these things will help you get taken seriously and have the same opportunities for advancement as would any other employee.
One's initial employment moves after transition are very important ones. They set the stage for how aggressively or meekly you will move out into the world of work after transition. At some point after transition, it is usually best for one's career to make a break, to take a chance and finally leave past comfortable and familiar friends and surroundings, and make a fresh new start. Making a major move of this type sometime after transition is usually a good idea anyways. It can help a new woman make a lot of progress in other areas of her life, helping her move on towards full assimilation.
Interactions with the medical community:
Interactions with the general medical community often present challenges even after full transition. General practitioners, nurses and other medical care givers very seldom know anything about transsexualism. Some will practically go into shock upon learning that the patient in front of them is a postop woman (Lynn recalls one male G.P. doctor almost fainting during a physical exam in which Lynn was undressed, upon being told by Lynn that she was once physically a boy).
Many post-op women have difficulty finding a compassionate and understanding family doctor, and avoid needed medical care because of past humiliations by medical care-givers. This can be a great problem, especially in the months just following SRS. Over the long term it is extremely important to find quality medical and dental care, even though there is a risk of being outed by one's medical records or by scars from past surgeries. Every postop woman should make an extra effort to line up a good family doctor, no matter how difficult and embarrassing this effort might be. Remember, those difficulties pale besides the ones you might face in an emergency without having a doctor to help you who knows you.
Another problem is that some parts of the medical community are "gossip-ridden" and lax in securing medical records. If you are outed within a clinic or hospital setting, it is possible that the news will travel fast within that setting, and may also gossiped about among acquaintances of the practitioners. Basically, the idea of "privacy of medical records" is a fiction. Therefore, it's important to control any explicit mentioning of transsexualism in your medical records. For example, you could refer to the surgical construction of a neovagina rather than referring to SRS, and use similarly obscure but accurate nomenclature to refer to past treatments. You can also try to identify a sympathetic doctor, explain the situation to them, and seek their help to "shape" and "spin" your medical records so that your gender trajectory only revealed to those who really "need to know". All transsexual women should become informed about medical privacy issues. The Medical Privacy Project website is an excellent source of current information on this topic.
Many postop women have the same fear felt by all pre-ops, namely of getting in an accident and being taken unconscious or severly injured to a hospital emergency room - and then being unable to get medical care even if they have good medical insurance. Such women may be subjected to hostile and even sadistic treatment by doctors or nurses who somehow discover that they are postop women. Contact with the medical community during an emergency (other than primary TS caregivers and care in hospitals familiar with TS'ism) is one of the MOST feared of all contingencies by postop TS's.
In 1999, the American Public Health Association (APHA) released a public policy statement on transgenderism and transsexualism urging the medical community to become better informed on these issues and urging them to offer better, more humane and non-discriminatory treatment to TG and TS patients. Whether the medical community will pay any attention to this advice or take it seriously remains to be seen.
Meantime, for the forseeable future, if you ever require emergency hospital or medical care and are concerned about possible mistreatment, it would be wise to immediately call a close friend to your side to watch over you. Always carry a card indicating "who to notify" in case of an emergency or accident, to protect yourself if you cannot make the call. You should also try hard to avoid having medical personnel somehow accidentally discover that you are a postop woman, so as to avoid any chance of deliberate mistreatment.
Interactions with law enforcement:
Encounters with law enforcement personnel is another problematic area for postop women. Many officers working in the big cities get a very biased view of TG people from frequent encounters with "street trannies". Being in a "macho" line of work, and not understanding the gender conflicts facing these street kids, police officers often internalize terrible stereotypes about TG/TS people. As a result, there's been a long history of law enforcement harrassment against transgender people. Ordinary citizens who are TG or TS (and not street kids) have often gotten swept up in police actions and arrested and brutalized. Many police officers feel they can get away with this stuff, because TG/TS people seldom press charges for fear of outings or other troubles.
Therefore, many postop women greatly fear having brushes with the law or getting arrested on some minor offense. If they are then somehow "outed", they face being humiliated and brutalized by the police, and can even face such horrors as being placed temporarily in custody among male prisoners. For example, if someone doesn't pass well, there is a danger of being arrested if you stray into the wrong neighborhood and are mistaken as a she-male prostitute. In some of the large cities and many enlightened suburban areas the police are more sensitized about TG/TS issues and don't make many of these mistakes. However, in many other parts of the country the police think of TG/TS people as a "bunch of sex-perverts and HIV-positive prostitutes", and they'll be very cruel to any transtioners they encounter.
Thus a postop woman who is robbed, assualted or otherwise needs help from law-enforcement has to carefully gauge whether calling the police might lead to even more trouble. If she does seek police help, she should carefully conceal her TS status if at all possible. All too often TS women have unwisely blurted out to the police that they are TS, only to have the police harrass and humiliate them instead of helping them. If you at least marginally pass and have good ID as a female, it's probably best to never reveal your special past to police officers, and to otherwise avoid interactions with police officers. Remember, law enforcement personnel have ready access to all sorts of electronic information about citizens, and if they get curious about you they may be able to figure out your past. Why tempt fate by becoming overly visible to the police for any reason, especially if you live in conservative backwater areas of the country.
Decisions about religious affiliations:
Many postop women were affiliated with an organized religion before they transitioned, and many of these women have naturally strong spiritual feelings. Being a member of a religious congregation has long been a way to find social and spiritual support and solace during the trials of life. Just as anyone might do, many TG/TS people turn to religion during times of difficulty, in order to find such solace.
Unfortunately, religious discrimination against transgender and transsexual people is very widespread, and TG/TS people are often driven out of their congregations right at their time of greatest need for support - during transition. Even postoperative transsexual people who have fully transitioned and who are doing well in life often face this discrimination. Although the scriptures are silent on this matter, many religious groups simply assume that since transsexualism appears to involve "unusual sexual matters" it must be terribly sinful.
As a result, postop transsexual women are often excommunicated from their churches if their past is ever revealed. Otherwise, while in stealth, they often hear messages of hate and ridicule from the pulpit, and must suffer feelings of persecution and rejection in silence. When transsexual women hear friends in church parroting phrases such as "homosexuals and transsexuals are instruments of the devil", it leads to inner angst and pain that interferes with their confidence and their social assimilation. Each woman must look into her heart and ask herself if the spiritual and social benefits of attending such a church are worth the suffering she endures while listening to such preachings.
The Christian right, fundamentalist Christians, Southern Baptists, the Mormon Church, the Catholic Church, Orthodox Judaism, and the Islamic religion are all incredibly superstitious about and cruelly judgemental and patronizing towards gender minorities. These large organized religions are the primary social forces behind efforts to delegitimize and block human rights for TG and TS people. They are powerful forces, have lots of money and lobbying power, and have mind-control power over their obedient "true believers".
Such religions need fresh "enemies of god" to attack and demonize, in order to heighten their own sense of virtue and to frighten their flocks into submissive conformity. It doesn't matter whether the "enemies" are members of their religion or not - they attack them all the same. Of course it no longer makes sense for them to attack their old-time enemies such as infidels, heretics, witches and anarchists. It is also getting harder for them to attack more recent enemies such as "atheists and homosexuals", because these groups have now gained better legal protections.
Lacking other easy victims to target, many of these religions are now shifting their demonization attacks onto transgender and transsexual people. We've just become visible enough to draw their wrath, but we are small enough in number that it is difficult to fight back their large forces. We also often have difficulty publicly defending ourselves, even if we desperately wanted to, lest we be outed in the process. Therefore, we make easy targets for the bullying of these groups. They simply say whatever they want to about us in the name of "god", and no one dares come to our defense from within their closed circles.
For example, "born again" leaders of the Christian Right have begun lobbying courts and legislatures in the U.S. in efforts to "suppress transsexualism". Jay Sekulow, "Chief Justice" of the conservative American Center for Law and Justice (founded by Christian Coalition leader Pat Robertson), said of a recent anti-transsexual legal decision in Kansas: "this is the first shot across the bow in the war against the scourge known as transsexuality."
We must not underestimate such religious extremists' passion to whip up hatred against transsexual people, especially in conservative states such as Kansas. When religious thought-leaders such as Sekulow call for a "war on the scourge known as transsexuality", they reveal the depth of their superstitious reaction to modern medical treatments of the transsexual condition. They also reveal a willingness to demonize transsexual people to the point of encouraging physical violence against us, as in a "religious war".
The Roman Catholic Church is an even more powerful and sinister force that oppresses and demonizes TG/TS people all around the world. Here in the U.S., under the guise of the Thomas More Center for Law & Justice , the Catholic Church heavily lobbied the Kansas courts in the Gardiner case, as part of the Church's behind-the-scenes lobbying effort to have postoperative transsexual women legally redefined to be "males". [ Note that the Thomas More Center was founded by and receives large amounts of funding from Tom Monahan, the wealthy but intensely homophobic and transphobic founder of "Domino's Pizza", who plans to spend the rest of his life donating his fortune to Catholic causes.]

In 2000, after "years of study", the Vatican sent church leaders around the world a confidential document defining transsexualism as a "psychic disorder", saying that transsexual persons suffer from "mental pathologies", and concluding that "sex-change" procedures "do not change a person's gender". According to the Church, and without providing references to any credible scientific studies, "recent medical evidence suggested that in a majority of cases the procedure increases the likelihood of depression and psychic disturbance". The document instructs bishops never to alter the sex listed in parish baptismal records, and instructs that Catholics who have undergone "sex-change" procedures are not eligible to marry anyone of either gender, or be ordained to the priesthood, or enter religious life.
This document was sent "sub secretum" (under secrecy) to the papal representatives of the bishops in each country. When it became clear in 2002 that many bishops were still unaware of its existence, it was sent to the presidents of bishops' conferences as well. It was then further publicized in the Catholic News Service of the U. S. Conference of Bishops, in January 2003.
Through this ruling, the Roman Catholic Church now officially demonizes postop TS women, declaring them to be "psychically disordered men". This declaration has horrific implications for TG/TS women throughout the Catholic world, especially by cruelly worsening the situation in Latin America, where TG/TS woman already suffer from intense social discrimination.
It is incredible that the Church waited until the year 2000 to finally "rule on transsexualism", right at the time when science, medical technology and common sense observation of thousands of successful transitions now tell us that "gender transition really works" for those afflicted by transsexualism.
This "ruling" thus reminds us of so many earlier Church rulings that flew in the face of emerging scientific and technological knowledge. It reminds us of teachings that "comets are heralds of Heaven's wrath" rather than natural objects, of the ruling against Galileo's teachings that the earth went around the sun, of teachings that Benjamin Franklin's lightning rod technology was "interfering with God's issuance of his wrath", of theological opposition to innoculation, vaccination and the use of anesthetics, and of teachings that denied the natural evolution of mankind. [To learn more about the centuries of the Church's stubborn resistance to the advance of scientific and technological knowledge, see A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, by Andrew Dickson White, 1894].
It is all the more bizarre that the Catholic Church would mount such an impressive, almost obsessive attack against transsexual people right at the same time that it was ducking its responsibilities for decades of widespread sexual abuse of young children by depraved Catholic priests. Apparantly it is much easier for the Catholic hierarchy to see imaginary devils among harmless innocents outside the Church, than it is for them to see the many real devils lurking as pedophiles within it.
It is likely that this Catholic ruling will eventually go the way of those earlier rulings denying that the earth went around the sun and declaring the lightning rod to be an instrument of the devil. Just like them, it too will pass into the long, embarrassing history of medieval superstition.
Meantime, the emotional pain endured by transsexual women within such churches causes many of them to lose their faith altogether. Perhaps this is the best path for many, because remaining within a religious community that demonizes transsexual people can be very damaging to a transitioner's chances for a happy future life. Unfortunately, it can be extremely difficult for some people to leave orthodox religions such as Catholicism. After decades of indoctrination into Catholicism as "the only true religion", that belief may become so superstitiously internalized that it cannot be displaced, dooming the transitioner to lifelong angst.
Even though it can be a difficult thing to do, many postop women deliberately change their religious affiliation after transition, in order to enter more welcoming and inclusive spiritual communities. Although the major Protestant religions such as the Lutheran, Presbyterian and Methodist Churches do not ostracize transsexual people, they aren't particularly inclusive either, and it might be better to consider other alternatives.
For example, most congregations of the United Church of Christ (UCC), the Episcopal Church and the Unitarian Universalists are very inclusive and welcome GLBT people. Reform Judiasm is a progressive stream of Judaism that claims 2.5 million American followers (about half of the Jewish people in the US), is very inclusive in its practices, having ordained women since 1974 and openly gay and lesbian clergy since the 1990. In 2000, the movement officially condoned same-sex commitment ceremonies, and in 2003 admitted the first openly transgender rabbinical student to their seminary. Then too, the Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) were specifically formed to be a primary affirming ministry to gays and lesbians, and MCC is very welcoming to trans people. In addition, some eastern religions such as Buddism and Taoism are non-judgemental about sex and gender issues.
Everyone entering TS transition needs to be aware of potential difficulties in maintaining their current religious affiliation, and should seriously consider the options for new affiliations afterwards. Why remain among a congregation of hateful, mean-spirited, ignorant and judgemental "religious" people, when there are so many other wonderful spiritual communties where you would be welcomed? Just as you moved on from your incorrectly gendered past, you can move on to better spiritual pastures too. Becoming an active member of an inclusive, welcoming and friendly religious congregation can be a wonderful source of social and emotional support, and can greatly boost someone's chances at full assimilation after transition.
Legal issues after gender transition, especially regarding marriage:
Over the past four decades, postop TS women in the U.S. have quietly made steady progress in dealing with the legal system and governmental bureaucracies to gain new identification and officially establish their new identities in their new gender. Once a legal name change is obtained, they can get a new driver's license. Well-defined paths exist for doing these things in most states in the U.S. With a legal name change and proper documentation of a gender change, the woman can also get a new U.S. Passport in her corrected gender.
State by state various practical and legal procedures have quietly been put in place to enable transsexual women to get on with their lives in their new gender. Many states will issue new, corrected birth certificates to a postop TS women, although some states will only issue an "amended" birth certificate (revealing the woman's birth sex). However, there are three states that will NOT issue a new, corrected birth certificate, namely Idaho, Ohio and Tennessee.
Nevertheless, there has been steady progress over the past forty years. Year by year it's become easier for TS women to transition, obtain new identification, find employment, adjust to their new lives, find lovers, and eventually marry in many cases.
As a result, thousands of transsexual women have married men during these past four decades. In most states the lack of an updated birth certificate is not an obstacle to marriage, since a driver's license or passport works just as well as ID for marriage licenses. Those marriages have been no different from any other marriages between men and women. Some have turned out to be very happy ones, some are so-so, and some led to divorce. Marrying a man as a woman has always seemed to be a totally natural, wonderful thing for us postop TS women to do.
As the numbers of postop women has expanded over the decades, a handful of these women have gotten into legal snafus that exposed their situations, leading to court suits involving their transsexual status. The resulting court decisions are raising legal uncertainties about our status as women in many states. Most of the difficulties derive from the recent burst of religious-group lobbying against transsexual marriages.
Many religious groups have long opposed sex reassignment surgery for transsexuals, believing that it allows "homosexual men" to get away with seducing heterosexual men, thus leading unwitting men into terrible sin. Confused homophobic pressure from such groups has led to legal and bureaucratic decisions in several states (Texas, Kansas) declaring that a person's sex registered at birth cannot later be changed, no matter what surgical and medical procedures have been done, no matter what the person's gender identity is, and no matter what their current birth certificate says. Those decisions consider a person's sex to be determined by their genes (XX or XY), and that since those genes cannot be changed, then their sex cannot be changed. This flies in the face of long-standing scientific knowledge concerning the nature of gender identity and its independence from the genetic and genital sex, and also the fact that birth certificate sex records have never required confirmation by genetic testing.
In two important cases, the Littleton case in Texas and the Gardiner case in Kansas, post-operative transsexual women in those states had their pre-existing marriages invalidated, had themselves declared to be "males" by the courts in those religiously conservative states, and then being publicly humiliated by the media. Although cloaked in the guise of "moral issues", these legal challenges almost always arise when money is involved. A medical malpractice suit led to the Littleton decision, and a challenged inheritance led to the Gardiner decision. You can imagine the devastating impact of those rulings upon these innocent women's lives.
These same difficulties might also occur in Idaho, Ohio, and Tennessee if legal challenges of TS women's marriages were made there, because those states do not allow any modifications of birth certificates for postop transsexuals. Many transsexual women in such states get married to male partners anyway, and have long done so, by using U.S. Passports or driver's licenses or corrected birth certificates from other states, and by not revealing that they were once boys. However, those marriages may have marginal legal status in those states, and are in danger of later invalidation if a woman's past were ever to come out in legal disputes.
Christie Lee Littleton and her husband Jonathan.
This 7-marriage was invalidated by courts in Texas after Jonathan's tragic death.
The Kansas State Court of Appeals initially reversed the lower court's decision in J'Noel Gardiner's case. The Court cited a wide range of medical, scientific and social knowledge when reversing the lower court's ruling. The Court of Appeals declared that what mattered was the sex of the person at the time of marriage, not her sex at birth, and that her sex at the time of marriage must be determined by taking into account all relevant factors at that time. This decision was an important one, and the legal arguments raised may beneficially affect similar cases in other states.
However, the Kansas Supreme Court later ruled against J'Noel Gardiner, stating "that (Kansas) state laws do not recognize marriage between two people who were born the same sex." The 18-page decision declares that in Kansas "a post-operative male-to-female transsexual is not a woman" and that "the words `sex,' `male' and `female' in everyday understanding do not encompass transsexuals." (See N. Y. Times article of Mar. 16, '02, "Court Rejects Transsexual Widow's Estate Claim"). For a thoughtful discussion of this case, see the FindLaw Legal Commentary by Joanna Grossman. The U.S Supreme Court later declined to hear an appeal of this case, which is probably fortunate for any decision at that level could have overturned the long history of positive decisions in many other states in the U.S.
Given the still-remaining uncertainties about our legal status in a handful of U.S. states, TS women who are currently transitioning should make an effort to anticipate and minimize legal difficulties later in life. If possible, they should carefully update all possible documents regarding gender status once they are postop. This can be done by obtaining a corrected birth certificate (if their birth-state allows that), updating their name and gender in their social security file, getting an updated U.S. Passport as a female, and by considering the option of total stealth (if they are able to pass well enough to do that). They should also keep a close eye on legal decisions affecting their rights as postop women, and take steps to cope with and sidestep any changes in the laws.
Because of serious legal exposures over inheritance rights in a few states, such as exposed by the Gardiner decisions in Kansas, married transsexual women should BE ABSOLUTELY SURE that both they and their husbands have wills. There are many good reasons for this, including removing temptation from various family members who might otherwise try to legally invalidate the marriage for financial reasons if a husband passes away.

A further serious threat to trans marriage rights in the U.S. surfaced on April 16, 2004, when the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) issued a memorandum stating that the CIS "shall not recognize the marriage, or intended marriage, between two individuals where one or both of the parties claim to have changed their sex."  Immigration Daily reported on this new policy in an article entitled "The Status Of Transsexuals Under US Immigration Law".

The CIS exploited the fact that a handful of states do not recognize a legal change of sex, combined with DOMA's proscription against same-sex marriages, to exclude any immigrants who seeking entry visa's as a result of entering into a trans marriage. The new policy raised the awful specter of the federal government possibly going further and declaring trans marriages invalid for other purposes too. 

Almost immediately after the onset of this new policy, many loving couples who had planned the immigration of a spouse were caught up in the nightmare of being unable to marry and live together in the U.S.  For some insight into the many tragedies that unfolded as a result of the new policy, see the story of Donita Ganzon, whose husband Jiffy Javenella suddenly faced deportation as a result of the ruling:

Filipino Husband Denied U.S. Citizenship Because Wife Was Transsexual (more, more).


As these cases began to emerge, many legal appeals were filed. Finally, as reported in the article "BIA Upholds Validity Of Marriage Where One Spouse Is Transsexual", one of these appeals was successful and the new CIS policy was overturned:

 "On May 18, 2005, The Board of Immigration Appeals issued a precedential decision, Matter of Lovo, 23 I&N 746 (BIA 2005), overturning the Nebraska Service Center's denial of an I-130 visa petition where one of the spouses is [] transsexual. This decision reverses a recent policy set forth in a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services memorandum by William Yates dated April 14, 2004 . . . which stated that all marriage-based immigration petitions would be denied where one spouse "claimed to be transsexual." Significantly, the BIA has reaffirmed the longstanding rule that if a marriage is valid in the state in which it is entered into, it should be recognized for immigration purposes."

However, even with this reversal in that CIS policy, we must remain very vigilant.  The CIS that for a while prevented trans people from marrying (at least in immigration situations) was undertaken within a climate of ever-increasing political power by religious fundamentalists in the U.S.  Trans people should be aware that this current trend may lead to further bureaucratic attempts to preclude trans people from marrying or otherwise deny them proper legal status, and should follow any such developments closely.

For more on the topic of trans marriages, see the following excellent article "Transgender people and marriage: the importance of legal planning", by Shannon Minter. That article covers a variety of situations, including those in which one person in an existing marriage transitions and the couple stays together. Shannon strongly recommends in addition to both spouses having a last will and testament that they (i) also establish financial and medical powers of attorney in which each spouse designates either the other spouse or another trusted person to be his or her legal agent in the event of incapacitation; and that they (ii) also have a written "personal relationship" agreement in which they mutually acknowledge that one of the spouses has transitioned.
[ - - - TBD - - - issues regarding past marriage/divorce - - visitation rights to see children of prior marriages - - adoption of children as a woman - - - need for further protection under anti-discrimination laws and policies - - -
- - - see the TG Law project page - - -
- - - for more background on overall TG/TS legal issues, see the Transgender Law and Policy Institute webpage - - - ]

Continue on to next Sections:
PART III: Sections c,d,e
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