Singer, songwriter, musician
Transitioned when young
I am not sure if you know me but I recently came across your TS Success stories website.
My e-mail address:
By the way, as a kid going through this there were almost no African-American TS examples. In my local support group I was the only one. I noticed you have one or two on your site and I applaud you for that.
I was born and grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the last of five children. My parents were depression era-children and as such saved a lot. I don't remember a lot about my parents during childhood other than they fought a lot yet stayed together.
My father worked as a repair man for the city and my mother worked as a secretary and also as an assembly line worker. Very working class for the most part yet we had a very nice house, one of the nicest in the neighborhood. I have three sisters and one brother, and as I said before, I'm the youngest. There are nine years between my next oldest sister and me. My siblings being much older were somewhat distant from me.
My early childhood was very difficult. I was beat up on an almost daily basis through elementary school. The reason? In kindergarten (which was on the grounds of the elementary school) I asserted that I was really a girl, and in 1st and 2nd grade when the beatings really started I caught hell because I joined school chorus and 'sang like a girl'.
My longings to be a girl go back to my earliest memories. My sisters tell me I used to call myself "showi" and prance about the house when I was two. I remember wearing my blanket like a dress when I was still very small, probably 3 or 4. I also remember going shopping with my mom and wishing I looked like the other girls with their moms. I guess I knew I was a girl from that time on. I certainly knew I was not boy. I had those feelings as far back as I can remember. If my sisters are correct I guess around two or three.
When I was very little, I expressed myself by getting into my sisters things and putting on little 'shows' as "showi". At first my parents thought it was cute then I quickly learned it wasn't. Fast forward several years to kindergarten. I naturally gravitated to playing with girls, I was told that, 'no you're a boy and you should be playing with other boys.' I was then forced into playing with the boys, yet remained an outcast among them. They would be loud and throw toys around when I'd rather be playing house or something quietly on the other side of the room.
Fast forward two more years to 2nd grade. I feel that by now I firmly knew who I was but couldn't understand how this could be, so I got into reading books, and music. In this case school chorus. I would pretend I was a girl in private, and at around 7 or 8, I would take items of clothing from one of my three sisters and played dress up when they were away. Being a latch-key kid of two hard working parents had some advantages, privacy was one of them.
I was now teased and beat up on an almost daily basis for 'singing like a girl' or 'acting like a girl or simply for being a 'nerd' or 'weirdo''. I was constantly being told by my dad, to 'be tough' to 'fight back', 'not be such a sissy' or 'stop acting like such a pantywaist' and "they will leave you alone". Basically I was being told that I was the problem and that if I didn't stop having to go to the principal's office he'd start taking the belt to me (which he did). My parents were from the old school of parenting and believed in hitting kids with belts and things. I tried to follow his instructions to no avail, but still got beat up, teased, and taunted. Because it was a lie, it was not genuine and if there is one thing kids can see through, it's a lie. So daily or weekly I was constantly being beaten or taunted. The principals said to me basically 'you must be the problem since it isn't happening to any other kids...' And not just in 2nd grade, but grades 2-8. Through these years I was having the "hell" beat out of me for who I was and so I learned to develop somewhat of an alter ego. I still am fading some of the physical scars from that childhood.
My teenage years:
As for my teens early on I was still that nerd, then a very angry and despondent kid. Luckily I learned about female hormones at 13 (being a biology nerd had some advantages) and at 15 found a way to get them illicitly from a doctor who would write prescriptions for anything. The dressing in girl's clothes that began earlier in life continued especially when I got a summer job. I did not really date. I was a bit of a loner compared to other teens my age.
I can count one boyfriend throughout high school and one 'girlfriend' (when I thought that having one would change who and what I was, that relationship lasted for 3 weeks until I told her about me). As far back as 6 grade I suspected that I wasn't really attracted to girls. This girl who lived across the street from me and we went to the same school played together with me a lot. People thought I 'liked her' as a girlfriend because that's what the world tells you you must like as they see you as a boy (had I been a girl we'd just have been close friends). She talked about boys with me once and like I told her the truth, that I wanted to be like her. She told her mom, and her mom was sympathetic and let me come over even more (it was a relief to her that I was not some boy after her daughter I guess) although she thought I was gay or slightly crazy but harmless. Nevertheless, we stayed friends through 8th grade and she was really the only friend I had in middle school.
In high school I had several friends. Most of them were the oddballs or 'alternative' kids. Art students and punks. My best friend was a girl who saved me when I was on the brink of suicide, by turning in the note I wrote her to the school principal. As for my boyfriend, I had my first boyfriend whom I met outside of school by going out as a girl (I had two friends Beth and Linda who let me change at their house and whose mom was cool with me) to under 21 alternative clubs and i eventually went to a gay club (underage). My boyfriend had also lied about his age (he was 17 at the time, I was 16) and we were both worried about getting caught, so he hooked me up with a good fake ID (you at that time had to be 21 to get into this club). He was bisexual or straight but questioning, and thought I was a girl until I opened my mouth, (I sounded quite different back then I guess). He was intrigued and we started talking. As bad as this was I can say proudly that I was never a man, the most I could be accused of being was a very angry, despondent boy; but that would only describe the outside image which was presented to those who didn't know me well, not who or what I really was.
Trying to transition:
At 15 I also told my sister when I was very depressed. This was as a result of my friend turning my suicide letter in to the school principal or another suicide attempt in which I downed a bunch of pills and got sick on the living room carpet (I don't remember which). My parents then reluctantly sent me to a "shrink" (because the school basically told them they had to) who knew nothing about gender issues. He told my parents I was attempting suicide for attention, despite the fact that I told him I was the wrong sex. I ended up only doing 3 sessions with this (Health Maintenance Organization) psychologist, until I convinced him that I was 'all better' and was no longer required to go to him. As I knew he was of little use to me, not willing to deal with the real issues involved. The good side of that was I told my sister what was going on at that time, and she did some calling around and referred me to the PERSAD center. They referred me to a group called Transpitt, which at the time I was still too young to join.
However, I was able to phone the support line and talked with the president who was also TS and a successful OB/GYN. So I now had someone to talk to who understood me. She is the one who helped me to see a real psychologist later on who made the proper diagnosis of gender dysphoria and got me on a legit hormone regimen.
I also learned a lot about hormones during my teens well before ever contacting Dr Kirk. At 15 I was taking estrogen in the form of Premarin, which I got a 'Dr. feel good' to write prescriptions for. I also started electrolysis at 17, at a local beauty academy. Unfortunately some of these students scarred me but it at least was a start and as a result of both of these i never had a lot of facial hair to remove. I also didn't have much in the way of body hair, possibly due to my genetic composition which contains Native American blood on both sides of my family.
While my parents were hard workers, and thrifty savers they were probably some of the least attentive parents around. They were only into television, and for the most part they ignored anything we kids did or said unless it was very negative. That is not to say that they didn't take us on trips or do activities with us but it was always on their terms. For instance when my dad realized I had no interest in ball games he lost interest in much of what I did.
Incidents at school:
My childhood and teens were an angry and depressing time, most of which I've blocked out and only know now because I kept a diary. I was angry at everything. I was angry at God for 'f-ing up". I was angry at my parents for not understanding me. I was angry at my dad, for beating me instead of helping me and making fun of me for not standing up to other kids' taunting. "Oh stop being such a panty waist." he so often said. He regrets that now. He's cried over it and is sincerely sorry he didn't do more. He knows I attempted suicide twice during my teens, including once after my mom threw all of my things out. He now accepts me and really wishes things could have been different, as such he has in recent years been very supportive of me. I too wish things had been different but he as become somewhat less stubborn and more open to new information with age. Back them I do not believe he could have come to the point he is now. Anyway as I said I was angry at just about anyone I couldn't trust (which was a large population of the school), which lead me to being a loner. I was angry at the school administration for allowing stuff like this to go on. School, from what I was taught was not supposed to be like this.
More than anything I was angry with myself, with my body and the changes it was starting to go through, which is why I started at sporadically taking estrogen at 15. It was not enough to fully develop until I got be 17 or 18, but it was enough to hold off further masculinization of my body. As such I have not really needed much, if any plastic surgery, implants, etc.
There was one really bad incident that happened in gym class at school, where a teacher named took a big rubbish can, dipped it in the swimming pool and filled it with water, and then dumped it on me and sent me to walk home in the middle of the February cold. Why? Because I would not get dressed to swim. I didn't really know how to swim anyway, and I didn't want them to see what was happening with my developing breasts.
My dad went up to the school after this incident and gave them hell, as a result I was put in this woman teacher's (who was a lesbian) gym class. She asked me why I wouldn't get dressed to swim and I told her I was afraid of the other kids seeing my breasts. She was like "what?", and I told her that i was developing breasts because I felt I was a girl, and she told me she understood my secrecy and luckily she told no one. She did send me to the school nurse, but that is as far as things went (I THANK GOD FOR THAT!). Anyway I didn't have to swim in her class.
Being discovered by my mom, and running away:
I had been a bit of a 'nerd' and learned a lot about anatomy in my pre-teens. My parents didn't talk about sex with me and the only way I could learn things was trips to the library where I read everything I could. I also saw a talk show with transsexuals around this time and they mentioned female hormones so I learned about them in the form of birth control pills. I also learned that if I didn't do something in my teens I'd fully develop into a man and that was out of the question. I didn't know a lot though and I think my first prescription for Premarin was for 1.25 mg which I had only taken twice a day, and then later the doctor wrote them for a stronger dosage. At this time, I became a cashier at a store and used my money to pay for hormones as well as other things.
However, my mom finally found my hormones and clothes. When I was 17 my mom was looking for a coat I had borrowed to go out (which I didn't think she'd miss). She found it and all my other clothes, and then ransacked my room and found my hormones as well. She threw the clothes out and flushed hormones down the toilet.
We didn't really talk about what was going on. We didn't really communicate at all in my family. We didn't have 'heart to heart' talks about deep subjects in my family. They were very much in denial. However, she did angrily question me whether I was gay or a transvestite (she didn't know the word transsexual). I said no, but that "I felt I needed to be a girl", and that was it. We didn't talk any more about it from that point on. My dad never accepted any of this during my teens. I don't even thing he accepted that anything out of the ordinary was going on. It is easy to be in denial when you've replaced your family with a never ending stream of TV sit-coms and ball games.
My doctor got busted shortly after my mom found my prescription. I don't know if she was responsible for him getting busted or not (he wrote prescriptions for narcotics for other people as well) but my dad was aware of him, because his office was across from a police station my dad sometimes worked in. Anyway when he got busted it devastated me. As a result I ran away from home at 17 to live with my boyfriend.
However I did love music and art in school. I taught myself guitar and joined the school orchestra (and band briefly). Art class was my other refuge. Art and Music both got me through high school I think.
After high school, I worked briefly as a cashier and in a factory that made notebooks, but when I started really developing breasts and dressing androgynously they fired me, and I became unemployed. Seeing no real future in an old rusting steel town with no college education, I kind of dropped out of the work-a-day world and into the club/rave scene. Along the way I learned that I could make the music that was being played at these clubs and rave and in 1994, not long out of high school, I got my first record deal!
Sheila Kirk and Wendi Miller helped me during my early efforts at transition. I also took some comfort in the fact that composer Wendy Carlos had transitioned and yet was still remembered for great music. I didn't have a lot of role models really. Caroline Cossey, Rene Richards and that's about it. I read books about others who transitioned. I didn't have an counselor early on. I was on my own. Most of my role models were not transgendered but other girls and women like my sisters, friends, people on TV, etc.
Getting a record deal and becoming more successful in my music gave me the nerve, confidence and money to really transition. When I started transition again I got a counselor and endocrinologist. My endocrinologist checked my hormone levels and saw that I did things safely. My counselor mostly helped me with issues to deal with how I would handle all the publicity and the reactions of the music industry. When I was ready, she wrote my SRS recommendation letter and I went to another who saw me for one week and then wrote my 2nd letter of recommendation.
Unlike some other transitioners, I didn't have any close friends who went through this when I did, so I was pretty much on my own. Actually I did have one, but halfway through transition he realized that he was not trans but a gay man.
When I was transitioning I was working as a DJ and Producer. I lived in Pittsburgh and then in Philadelphia. I seemed to 'pass' ok but my concern was that I didn't. I always felt that I was somehow an outcast, that people were staring at me and that made me nervous in situations like on the subway etc. I lost a few acquaintances (I can't really call them close friends) when they found out I was transitioning, but I made some new ones as well, and these are friends I still call friends today. My friends always knew I was 'weird' but that was sort of accepted in the scene I was in.
I formally told my family (again) in late 1997 of my intent to transition (only my brother was surprised but we were never that close), and the rest of my friends learned in early 1998. Then the world learned of my transition in June of that year.
The hardest part of my transition was transitioning before the media. I had no idea how hard that would be or how by going public my life is forever changed.
I also met the sweetest guy during this phase of my life, he lived in my neighborhood and worked at a store I shopped at and would hit on me whenever i was there. We began seeing each other, going out and I told him the truth about me early on to get it out of the way, and he said it was no big deal. He was very into Japanese animation and I later learned much of this genre involved gender changes or some form of transformation. He did say that he couldn't imagine me ever being anything other than the girl he was dating and so he was perhaps the first guy who I was with who never knew a different person and didn't treat me any different than other girls he had dated.
My immediate family is now very supportive. I don't have much contact with cousins, etc, but then again I never did. I will say this, I feel closer to my immediate family than I ever did growing up.
Sometime later I'd like to write about the difficulties that African-American trans girls have had with their families and community. But I'll do that later, and I could write a book about it.
My life after transition:
Since transitioning in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, I've lived in New York City, Tampa, and most recently London, UK, and I've recently moved back to the U.S.
I've been lucky to have a number of nice boyfriends. Even before SRS, I had a total of three boyfriends, two quite serious ones. Afterwards I've had four (though one was a carry over from before SRS) one (in London) serious enough to marry. We lived together, and I took care of his children from another marriage which he had part-time custody of.
I've tended to woodwork and be stealthy when dating. I didn't tell the guy above until about 6 months into our relationship, and he didn't really believe me. It was something he didn't focus on and pushed to the back of his mind.
At some point though I'm open about my past with boyfriends. It depends on how serious they are, and how likely they would be to come across it online. I feel that if a relationship is very serious then it only makes sense (in my case) to tell. I also feel that a guy who wouldn't want me after I tell him is not worth the trouble. I am young enough, and attractive enough to have any man I desire, therefore I only want the ones who desire me and don't let my past get in the way.
It feels wonderful to have completed my transition and to be free to really enjoy my new life. I would not trade it for anything in the world. It is like a great weight has been lifted off you.
I'm sure it has made me more liberated and creative in my work. I would not be singing and things if I had not transitioned. I probably wouldn't even be alive had I not done this. More on this later as well...
Becoming more open:
I feel it is important that those who are going through something similar now have someone that they can relate to. That is why I'm now becoming more open about my past.
Although some people in the music field reacted to my transition with derision (usually those lower than me in the field), others reacted very supportively (usually those at my level or above) and others had no reaction but just took it in stride.
This is music after all. Most of the public statements after my transition have been supportive, and I made the decision early on to only do interviews on this subject which would not be sensational in nature. I set the parameters of the questioning and demanded respect and as such I feel I got it. I also never questioned my femininity, so it was hard for anyone else to. This has given me the confidence to be more open about my transition, and being a role model for other young transitioners.
I also want to tell parents of other young transsexuals (especially trans girls) that the earlier your child can start transition the better. If they express that they are the wrong gender, do not beat them or otherwise hurt them, and yes it is a shock, but it has no bearing on how you raised them. You will not shame it, beat it or starve it out of them. The best that you can do to make their lives better is help them transition and protect them from an often very cold and cruel world who would do them harm. If I have one regret it is that my parents did not do this and I've had to be very strong not by choice but by necessity.
Looking forward to the future, I hope to reach people through my music and bring my unique perspective and message to the world through music, television, film. Whatever I choose to do, I know I can now.
More photos of Jordana
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