Basic TG/TS/IS Information
by Lynn Conway
Copyright @ 2000-2006, Lynn Conway.
All Rights Reserved.
Part Ia:
Gender Basics & Transgenderism (Continued)

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Part I: Gender Basics & Trangenderism

Part Ia: (TG continued)

Part II: Transsexualism (MtF)

Part III: Life as a Woman After TS Transition 

Part Ia - Contents:
In My Mother's Closet: Childhood dreams of womanhood
 Contrasting Transgender (TG) and Transsexual (TS) Transitions
 Rethinking discrimination and hate crimes against gay and transgender people.
 Sadly, transphobia is also often projected by gays, lesbians and feminists (and how that is changing now)
 The transgender kids who run away or are"thrown away".
 The transgender kids who are helped by their families.
 However, even those transgendered kids who are accepted by their families face many dangers right now.
 Efforts at extending full human rights protections to transgender people.
 Sketch of the differences in the situations of TG and TS people in different countries around the world.
 The powerful role the internet is now playing in helping transgender and transsexual people.
 Hopes for the future.

In My Mother's Closet: Childhood dreams of womanhood

"My mother's closest was both a sanctuary and a crystal ball, a place in which I escaped the world and a place where, through the scrim of my mother's clothes I envisioned my future self. In my mother's closet my senses came alive. The smells of perfume, shoe polish, wool, leather; the feel of satin, velvet, silk, chiffon - these things had the power to evoke dreams and fantasies....

And, although it was not forbidden, I always was afraid to enter it. Afraid of what? Being caught? More likely I feared finding something, some clue that would reveal the mysterious world I knew I would one day enter, the world of being a woman." - Eugenia Zukerman

Many people reading this page will assume that those words are the reminiscences of a trans woman. But they are not: They are the words of the prominent writer and TV arts commentator Eugenia Zukerman, and are taken from the back cover of her remarkable new book In My Mother's Closet: An Invitation to Remember.

In this wonderful book, Eugenia collects the childhood memories of forty-three women, centering on their powerful attraction to and fantasies about the world of womanhood as revealed by the secret things they found in their mother's closet. Many of the women describe almost magically powerful, sensual feelings while exploring and trying on the things they find there, amidst the warmth, the softness, the vivid colors and the sweet smells therein.

This book reveals for the first time how common these experiences are for little girls, as part of the ritual for becoming a woman.



In their mothers' closets were the secrets to the women they would become.

...For each of these women, opening the door to her mother's closet seemed to unlatch a floodgate of memories and musings that went far beyond clothing and possessions. There were tears and laughter during these interviews, along with insights, revelations, and loving resolutions. The resulting collection of memories taps into myths and rites of passage, and explores the sometimes joyful, sometimes painful intensity of the mother/daughter connection.

Eugenia Zukerman

From our understanding of transgenderism, we know that some little boys have the very same experiences, often even describing them the very same ways.
In the past, most people thought that only sexually perverted boys became obsessed with their mother's things, as if little girls never did such things. Now we learn that many if not most little girls experience the very same things, and no one is accusing them of sexual perversity!
Thus this book helps us see those little boys' experiences in their mother's closets not as sexual perversity, but as sensual longings and attractions to an adult identity that is compelling to them, just as it is to any little girl. This insight can be helpful to those who feel shame and embarrassment about doing such things when they were little, especially if they've been given stigmatizing labels by psychologists or called names by other people, just for doing what comes very naturally to little girls.
This is an important book about vision-quests for adult identity, and about the oft-secret rituals for attaining womanhood in our culture. I recommend it highly.
The sad thing, of course, is that boys who need to be girls don't have access to their mother's acceptance and reinforcement of their longings. Instead they must find their own way, without any adult help, and in secrecy, silence and fear. Such is the childhood past that many trans women bring with them into their transitional years.
ContrastingTransgender (TG) transitions and Transsexual (TS) transitions:
There are many different paths that MtF transgender people may travel on their way to becoming women.
Over the past few decades many transsexual women have undergone transsexual transition, including both a social change of gender and a surgical "sex change" of the genitalia, and have then gone on to live successful lives in their new gender. Many media stories about these cases have helped society gradually become more aware of, tolerant of and accepting of the notion of transsexual transition. Most states now have well-established procedures for changing public records of name and gender for those who complete a transsexual transition. Many employers now even have procedures in place to accommodate people going through transsexual transitions.
More recently, many transgender people who do not have intensely transsexual feelings, have begun to openly undergo transgender transition. Some are crossdressers finally overcome by TG feelings and the need to take on a female social identity. Others are drag queens who've long enjoyed participating in drag shows, but then who finally recognize the strength of their mixed-gender feelings. Most of these transitioners begin transition by taking modest doses of female hormones (enough to produce some degree of feminization) and by undergoing electrolysis to remove facial hair. When feminized to some degree, they shift their full-time social gender by dressing to some degree as women, modifying their voice and mannerisms to varying degrees, taking on a female name, and obtaining some forms of formal identification in the female gender. Thus they achieve varying degrees of social gender transition WITHOUT transsexual SRS surgery.
As transgender people have become more aware of the opportunities for social transition, the number of these TG transitions has risen dramatically. Many gender counselors now see far more transgender transitioners than transsexual transitioners, especially among their older clients. Acknowledgement of the validity of transgender transition in an important new trend, since there clearly are many more transgender people than transsexual people in the wider gender continuum.
Some TG transitioners migrate into a "transgender" social role instead of trying to pass as women. These transitioners may actually feel uncomfortable about becoming "fully female" in presentation and mannerisms, and they are especially uncomfortable about modifying their genitalia. They instead feel a need to take on a transgender or androgynous social role that better matches their mixed-gender identity. Such transitioners often remain visibly transgender and are comfortable in that identity, and their social lives outside work usually involve people in the transgender community. Many TG activists, support group moderators, speakers on TG issues, etc., are people having such openly transgender identities.
Other TG transitioners go much further towards becoming socially passable women (but without having SRS), and some are successful at reaching this goal. Some of them are even eventually successful in assimilating socially (though not sexually) as women.
As we think about this spectrum of possibilities, we can visualize that the "completion" of a TG transition is relative to the goals of the transitioner. "Completion" depends upon where one needs to get, in order to have "arrived". There are many possible end points.
It is now possible for some TG people to transition while employed in solid professional positions, by simply informing employers that they are "transitioning", without going into the details about whether it is a TG or TS transition. Most employers and co-workers simply assume that the person is undergoing TS transition, especially if the person works hard at becoming fully passable as a woman. They can then follow the well-worn path for TS transition, except that, although feminized by estrogen, they do not ever undergo SRS to transform themselves physically into women.
Such transitions can enable transgender people to find relief and a more comfortable place in society. And by not undergoing transsexual surgery, they can retain and enjoy their male genitalia, and have a sexual relationship with a partner of whatever sex or gender.
Of course the casual use of the term "transition" sometimes leads to confusion, even among TG and TS people themselves. For example, if someone says "I transitioned in 1991", we are left with the potentially embarrassing question of whether they are a transgender woman or a post-op transsexual woman - which can be quite a relevant question in social situations such as dating or matchmaking. However, if someone says "I'm transgender and transitioned in 1991", we are clear about their transgender status. Similarly, if someone says that "I'm transsexual and had SRS in 1991", we are clear about their post-op transsexual status. (A woman who is still in RLE (the “real life experience”) might clarify her status further by saying "I transitioned last year, and will have SRS in about a year").
To summarize: An MtF transgender person undergoes a social gender transition, in order to live as a transgender woman in their everyday outward social life. The MtF transsexual person undergoes not only a social gender transition but also a change of physical sex (by undergoing SRS), so that they can fully live and function as a woman in their intimate love-life too.
Sadly, many transitioned TG people are unnecessarily ashamed of their mixed-gender physical condition, and are often far more fearful of discovery than are post-op women. Many cover up their transgender status by saying that they are "transsexual". If their physical sex status is somehow discovered or disclosed, they often say they are "pre-op transsexuals" or "non-op transsexuals" as an explanation of their mixed-gender status.
Fortunately, many transitioned TG people now realize that a mixed-gender identity is an authentic identity, and that a person should not feel ashamed of being bi-gendered, intergendered or androgynous. More of these transitioners are coming out as "transgender" and are saying that they are comfortable that way. By being openly transgender, they are beginning to provide role models for others who hope to live as women but who do not want to "go all the way" and become women in genital terms.
Meantime, no TG person should ever be pressured into thinking that a gender transition automatically means eventually undergoing SRS. Such pressure comes from outdated bi-polar models of gender that allow for "no one in-between" male and female. Transgender people should not feel forced to say they are "pre-op", or "non-op", or that they have to misrepresent themselves as being "post-op". It really should be OK to say "I'm transgender", if that is one's authentic inner identity.
Similarly, those transsexual girls who need to undergo TS transition - who really do need to be girls physically as well as socially - should never be told that "they are buying into a stereotypical view of femininity" or that "they should be perfectly happy as she-males" and not undergo the "mutilating surgery" of SRS. Many people, including some in the gay, lesbian, feminist and even the TG communities will say awful things like that to young TS girls, out of a complete lack of understanding of the depth of those girls' transsexual feelings and of their need for full gender transition.
The bottom line is that all people should be free to undertake whatever gender modifications they must make, based on their own inner feelings - whether they need to become gender-variant, androgynous, undergo some degree of TG transition, or undergo a complete TS transition. They should be free to establish a gendered identity that is best for them, without undue pressure from others, and without society marginalizing them for living in that identity. They should also feel free to openly acknowledge their authentic gendered identity no matter where they fit into the gender spectrum, rather than being ashamed of it, hiding it or feeling pressured to misrepresent it.
Hopefully society will begin to recognize the validity and authenticity of the mixed-gender status of transgender people, and grant them their place in society without genital surgery, just as it's moved in that direction for transsexual women who've undergone complete TS transition including genital surgery.
Rethinking discrimination and hate crimes against gay and transgender people:
Because of the widespread misunderstanding and confusion about the difference between being gay vs being transgender, discrimination and hate crimes against transgender people are almost always incorrectly identified as being crimes against gay people. The vast majority of so-called "gay hate crimes" are mostly crimes against visibly gender-variant CD/DQ/TG/TS people, instead of against people who are simply known to be gay.
Discriminators and attackers themselves often believe that they are attacking "gays" when attacking the transgendered. Then too, some victims are simply feminine-looking men or masculine-looking women who are neither gay nor transgender. Furthermore, those gay men who are attacked are often young men who are small and effeminate, and who thus appear "stereotypically gay" (i.e., effeminate). What seems to trigger the rage and horrific attacks upon these young gay men is the appearance of femininity and vulnerability in a "male". A tragic example is Mathew Shepard, the small, strikingly beautiful, sensitive young gay man who was beaten and tortured to death in Wyoming in 1998.
Mathew Shepard
[December 1, 1976 - October 12, 1998]
In many cases, gay activists have exploited the "invisibility of transgenderism" by publicizing all attacks based on gender variance as being "anti-gay" hate crimes, while not clarifying the transgender, transsexual or otherwise physically gender-variant status of the victims.
For example, the widely publicized beating death of Pfc. Barry Winchell at an Army base in Tennessee was initially portrayed as a "gay hate crime," both by gay activist groups and the mainstream media. However, Winchell's lover was not another man -- Winchell had never dated men -- but was a very pretty young transgender woman named Calpernia Addams. Callie was a performer in a "drag show" at a nightclub that soldiers frequented. Barry and Callie met there, began dating, and then fell deeply in love. Barry, who was a regular guy and who loved pretty women, fully accepted Callie as a woman in spite of her TG transition status. He was then beaten to death by another soldier in a burst of homophobic violence over his relationship with Callie. After this tragic event, the gay media referred to Callie as a "gay man" rather than a transgender woman, and she was deliberately kept on the sidelines to avoid having her status revealed. This aspect of the story was finally revealed in an article by reporter David France entitled "An Inconvenient Woman" in the New York Times Magazine on Sunday May 28, 2000.
Later, in the summer of 2002, Callie underwent SRS to complete her TS transition and is now the woman she always wanted to be. In 2003 a movie entitled "Soldier's Girl" , premiered at the Sundance Movie Festival, told the story of her love affair with Barry Winchell and of the tragic end of that affair. Calpernia has written a book Mark 247 about her life experiences, and she is also evolving a wonderfully supportive website for TG/TS people.
Calpernia Addams speaks at a gay rights meeting,
a sketch of her late boyfriend Pfc. Barry Winchell behind her.
Sadly, transphobia is also often projected by gays, lesbians and feminists (and how that is changing now):
A long series of deliberate misidentifications by gay activists, as in Calpernia Addams' case, have led to tensions between gay activists and TG/TS people. The misidentifications have also caused further social isolation and invisibility of transgender people. Furthermore, many prominent gay men such as writer Jim Fouratt, and many prominent feminists such as Germaine Greer and Janice Raymond, are highly transphobic and have publicly worked against efforts to reduce discrimination against TG/TS people.
Fouratt is infamous among TG/TS people for his conflation of transgenderism and homosexuality, for equating gender transition to "anti-gay reparative therapy", and for writing that post-op transsexual women are really just "misguided gay men" who've undergone surgical mutilations.
Greer is notorious for her strident opposition to "sex changes" and for embedding transphobia into traditional "feminist theory". Her strange anger about the very existence of transsexual women is so profound that it prompted her (and thus other feminists) to engage in witch hunts to "out" and publicly defame post-op TS women during the 1980's and 90's (including physicist Rachel Padman at Cambridge University).
More about the widespread propagation of transphobia and intersexphobia
by the prominent feminist Germaine Greer:
By the late 1990's Germaine Greer became so bound up in her feminist theories about an almost mystical "female essentialism" (based somehow on "having XX genes") that she went even further and condemned all AIS intersex women as being "failed males", saying that they should go be males instead of living as women. She offers this preposterous idea by including AIS girls along with postoperative transsexual women in her new 1999 book, The Whole Woman, in a chapter with the derogatory title of 'Pantomime Dames'. In that chapter she concludes that women with AIS and other chromosomal variations are not really entitled to be considered as 'women' or regarded as 'female'. This book is standard reading in "women's studies" programs at major universities, and is indoctrinating a new generation of academic feminists into transphobia and intersexphobia.
Greer's cruelly unscientific condemnation of not only transsexual women but also AIS intersex women brought on considerable criticism from the scientific community, as in rebuttals by prominent researchers such as Prof. Milton Diamond, professor of anatomy and reproductive biology at the University of Hawaii. Here is portion of Prof. Diamond's response to Greer's book from the AIS Support Group (AISSG) website:
"Dear Professor Greer,
A portion of your current book "The Whole Woman" dealing with androgen insensitivity (AIS) has been brought to my attention. While you write with conviction, you unfortunately also write with ignorance of the condition other than what you might have picked up from some lay magazines. It is as if one were writing of Shakespeare having only read of his work from the daily comics. You have lost the heart of your subject.
In a peculiar way you claim to be writing from the vantage point of a feminist. While you might readily admit that feminists can differ in their views toward their own femininity or identification with their woman-ness (whatever that might mean) you deny that right to others and see it as some sort of charade. You see it as a weakness that other women accept AIS individuals (and male to female transsexuals) as bona fide women - - -
- - - But, and most significantly, you deny these individuals their psychological rights, needs and insights to follow their gender calling as women. You have some narrow view of what it is to be a woman and obviously only those that meet your stilted criteria seem to measure up. Would you deny infertile XX females that they are women? According to your definition they are incomplete females. Would you rant against women with mastectomies? According to your definition they are incomplete females.
AIS women are doing the best they can to follow their hearts and head in the face of a natural, although relatively rare, medical condition. It is a pity that you miss the forest for the trees when all you look at is an individual's chromosomes and gonads and ignore the most central part of a person which makes them human, their brain and mind.
Might I suggest you meet some AIS women and talk with them. It should prove as enlightening as going to a good Shakespearean play.
Milton Diamond, Ph.D.
Professor - - - "
Raymond (a professor at Univ. of Mass.) is widely known in lesbian feminist circles for her deeply transphobic book "The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male", a book which informed much of early feminist thinking about transsexual women. In it she condemns MtF "sex changes" as a "male conspiracy to create artificial women who will cater to male sexual fantasies". She then goes on to pillory transsexual women as tools of patriarchy for upholding stereotypes of women. A second printing of this highly transphobic book in 1994 has been adopted in feminist and women's studies courses in many large universities, and it too is now furthering the stigmatization of transsexual women among a new generation of "academic feminists" in U.S. universities.
The ongoing public rants of folks like Frank, Fouratt, Greer and Raymond have helped embed a knee-jerk type of transphobia into older-generation gay, lesbian and feminist culture, to the point where it's politically-correct in those circles to be "opposed to transgender and transsexual transitions" if one is a "well-informed" gay, lesbian and/or feminist person.
This stance is deeply confusing to young MtF transsexual girls who are often very liberated in their thinking (and thus quite 'feminist' in nature), and among whom there are many who are lesbian in their corrected gender. It will take years of outreach to TG/TS women from younger spokespersons in the gay, lesbian and feminist communities in order to counter the lingering effects of all this past stigmatization.
Along yet another axis, many other gay and lesbian thought leaders are trying to "normalize" the image of gay and lesbian people. Wanting gays to seem just like "everyone else", they want to eliminate old stereotypes that gays "look like transgender people". Unlike the gay activists who claimed that Calpernia Addams was a "gay man", these people don't want to claim "trans victims" as their own - nor do they want to be identified in any way with "trans people". This trend is increasingly stigmatizing transgender people within portions of the gay community, in a manner similar to the stigmatization of gays by heterosexual crossdressers. Miranda Stevens-Miller, a prominent trans-activist from Chicago, has written eloquently about how this trend further isolates and stigmatizes trans people:
Excerpt from "That lingering trans bias"
by Miranda Stevens-Miller
Windy City Times, Feb. 21, 2001
" . . .I was participating in a training session for members of the GLSEN speakers' bureau. The purpose was to practice presenting the video, "It's Elementary", to grade school faculties. This was the first time I had seen "It's Elementary". I found the film to be a moving experience both in the sensitive way that the teachers were able present gay issues to kids, and in the intelligent, open-minded manner that the kids reacted to the topic.
The one thing I found disturbing was the dismissal of all things related to gender. When the kids discussed their stereotypes of gays or lesbians, gender expression was one of the frequently mentioned concepts. Stereotypes like all gay people cross-dress, or all lesbians wear butch haircuts, were common. The viewer is left to infer these are just ridiculous stereotypes, that gay and lesbians are not like that at all. But by saying what the gay and lesbian community is not, it marginalized another portion of the community, the gender variant community, and left them even more stigmatized.
What would a young transgender boy or girl think if they are being told that it is OK to be gay or lesbian, but not OK to have cross-gender identity? Even if they are not being told that in so many words, because their identity is left out of the discussion, they may be even more confused and isolated in despair. Why does one need to marginalize gender-variant behavior in order to obtain self-acceptance of a gay identity? Why does one need to substitute internalized transphobia for internalized homophobia? - - -
As members of the broader LGBT community, we're sending out the wrong message to everyone from kids in elementary schools all the way to Congress. As long as the community has an "us and they" attitude when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, then - - - the world will feel that it is perfectly acceptable to discriminate against even the most respectable members of the transgender or gender variant community.
The first step is to stop defining yourself by what you're not. This goes both ways. If you are a gay man, it doesn't do any good to say "I'm gay, but at least I don't wear a dress." And if you are a cross-dresser, stop saying, "At least I'm not gay." We all have differences, but until we can look each other in the eye and recognize the common bonds of humanity, it is going to be very difficult to convince the non-gay, non-trans world that we all deserve the same respect and freedom from discrimination. - - - "
Thus we see that trans people are often a source of "embarrassment and discomfort" to gays and lesbians because we reinforce old stereotypes about them in the public's mind, stereotypes they have been trying hard to erase. Furthermore, many of their thought leaders have promoted outright transphobia in gay, lesbian and feminist circles. And yet, when we are victims of hate crimes, we are embraced and sometimes even claimed as "gays" by gay activists working to fill their coffers with donations. It seems that many older gays, lesbians and feminists have weirdly mixed-up feelings about trans people, and we'll have to wait for a new generation to take their place before real change takes place.
Fortunately, there are signs that some of these long-overdue changes are already underway. The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC) are currently leading the struggle for human rights for transgender people in the U.S., and are coordinating those efforts with gay-rights organizations. Several gay-rights groups such as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the Human Rights Campaign have finally begun articulating policies in support of TG/TS rights, and are providing much needed assistance towards ending discrimination against TG/TS people.
Furthermore, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) in San Francisco, a new leading force in efforts to insure full legal, employment, social and family rights for lesbian women, has also been working on a number of critically important legal cases involving the rights of transgender people. NCLR has brought together some really talented legal minds to work on these problems, and they are really beginning to make their mark.
This powerful support of trans people's legal rights by the pragmatic, socially-concerned attorneys at NCLR (who happen to mostly be lesbian) is the leading edge of a new wave of GLBT cooperation to solve real human rights problems in the real world - and stands in great contrast to the patronizing theorizing about and stigmatization of trans people in the past from transphobes like Fouratt, Greer and Raymond.
The transgender kids who run away or are"thrown away":
Even though great progress has been made over the past few decades in providing options for correcting TG and TS conditions, the possibilities for transition are mainly available to those who are socially, educationally and financially advantaged in some way.
In parallel with all the advances in medical technology, and in parallel with the tens of thousands of successful gender transitions, an incredible tragedy has unfolded in recent decades. Because of ignorance of gender conditions, thousands upon thousands of transgender and transsexual kids have been excommunicated by their families. Every year, many such kids are forced to run away from home or are literally "thrown away" onto the streets by their families. A high percentage of these kids are Hispanic or African-American, since those communities are even more hysterically homophobic than is the white community - and often mistakenly think that their trans kids are "flagrantly gay". Many trans kids, even some coming from middle-class families, are simply given one-way plane or bus tickets to Los Angeles or New York City and told to "never come home again".
Since these kids are not gay, they do not fit into and are not welcomed by the gay community. With little hope of obtaining proper ID's or getting normal employment in their target gender, they cannot even pay for counseling or basic health services, much less save enough money for a full gender transition. Most can only hope to obtain some emotional relief and body modification from estrogen therapy (buying hormones "on the street") and social transition, and then living life as so-called "trannies" or "she-males".
Many of these castaway and runaway kids end up in lives of prostitution, degradation and ever-present danger on the nighttime inner-city streets - in the same way that ostracized women who have no families or money or any means of employment have been treated for all of human history. The high visibility of these TG/TS prostitutes on inner city streets has given rise to the urban myth that all transgender and transsexual women are prostitutes. Their vulnerability has led to their often being the victims of harassment and hate crimes.
The idea of a "male" taking estrogen and then dressing as a woman and becoming a she-male prostitute seems like a descent into utter degradation to most people. Even many TG women, at least those who are employed and doing OK, look down their noses on the street girls - thinking that what those girls do is disgusting and that "they give all us TG women a bad name". However, if you try hard to visualize how the world looks through the eyes of the young unemployable TG/TS woman on the streets, you'll see that being a she-male prostitute isn't perceived by them as degradation at all.
For many young TG/TS girls, being able to seduce straight men into desiring them and paying for their sexual favors is a powerful affirmation of their attractiveness and femaleness and brings many psychic rewards. With the money they earn they can buy some nice clothes, buy more hormones, and make themselves even more attractive to men. It is not at all surprising that many street T-girls, having no proper ID's, unable to find normal employment, unable to find decent housing and unable to enter the usual straight dating scene, will often turn to prostitution. For more insight into this situation, see Kyle Scanlon's column on this topic. See also the recent Boston Globe article about transgender prostitution in Boston, to learn about why these young TG girls engage in prostitution, and the many health dangers they face as a result. Here's an excerpt from that article:
 ''Many [transgender] people seek validation from a sex partner. If he's the only one saying, `I see you as you are; you are a girl, you are a woman,' that is intensely important,'' said Grace Sterling Stowell, a transgender who is the executive director of the Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth. Tinoyia agreed: ''They made us feel whole like we wanted to feel.''
Only if you grasp the reality that these are girls who desperately want any kind of social acceptance they can find as girls - even if it only comes through sex work - can you understand how they feel and why they do what they do. Then you'll see them not as "perverted boys", but instead as "working girls" trying in the only way now available to them to survive and find a place in society.
Some of the more attractive of these "she-males" can rise above the streets by working as well-paid "call-girls", often advertising their "escort" services via the web. These women usually are well along on female hormone therapy, have completed a TG transition and live full-time as women. Many also have undergone various cosmetic surgeries such as breast enhancement, and some of them will have undergone facial feminization surgery (FFS). There is a vast web presence now of such T-girls and "she-males" all around the world. The clientele of these girls are mostly straight men, not gay men.
You can begin to visualize how pretty some of these girls are, and the kind of world they live in, by visiting she-male and T-girl "escort" sites such as Sun Moon and Stars Transsexual Top 100 and Shemales Amateurs around the WWWorld. (WARNING: Some of the material on those sites is highly pornographic). Although these girls have male genitalia, their bodies are otherwise those of very strikingly beautiful, sexy women. Many straight men are powerfully attracted to pretty she-males - at least while the girls are young, and before their looks start to decline under the long-term influence of testosterone combined with age.
Even if they don't have proper ID's and employment records, and thus can't get regular jobs, some of the prettier young transsexual she-males can earn enough money as call girls and escorts to pay for all the treatments and surgeries for complete TS transition. However, even for them it's a desperate race against time and hormonal masculinization as they struggle in a dangerous world to make enough money to correct their gender before they lose their looks and their sex appeal.
Sadly, it's a dangerous world out there for these girls. A few of these girls make it, but many don't - as in the case of Amanda Milan, a pretty young transgender "escort" who was viciously slashed to death on the streets of New York City while onlookers cheered-on her brutal male attacker.
The sidewalk memorial for Amanda Milan
The ongoing conflation of TG/TS people with "being gay" has kept the widespread prevalence of "street trannies" off society's radar screen. Worse yet, as AIDS has begun to sweep through this community in a distinct and separate epidemic from that in the gay community, the social confusions about street trannies has helped conceal a serious public health emergency and its countless tragedies (see article "A Plague Undetected" and also the article in the Boston Globe about this problem).
Public health officials have finally begun to take notice of these kids. In 1999, the American Public Health Association (APHA) issued a major public policy statement in efforts to alert the medical community to the problems of transgender youth. For more background on this situation, see the1999 IJT articles "HIV Risk Behaviors of Male-to-Female Transgenders in a Community-based Harm Reduction Program", and "HIV Prevention and Health Service Needs of the Transgender Community in San Francisco".
As these problems have become more visible, some cities such as San Francisco have also begun to provide young street trannies with free hormone therapy, help in obtaining ID's in the proper gender, employment counseling, and counseling on HIV and safe sex. (See for example, the website of the San Francisco Public Health Department's Transgender Clinic). These services are aimed at helping the kids minimize their reuse of hormone injection needles, avoid unprotected sex and reduce their reliance on prostitution. With this type of basic help while they are still young, these kids can live safer lives and improve their likelihood of being able to obtain employment and eventually complete successful TG or TS transitions.
The difficulties faced by street trannies are well-understood by many young trans kids, who hide their condition from their families to avoid being cast out onto the streets. However, these kids suffer too. They delay finding help for fear of being thrown out of the house, and often wait many years before attempting transition. By delaying starting on hormones, they often suffer extensive virilization under the effects of testosterone - effects that will be difficult, and in many cases impossible, to later reverse.
Hopefully, as society's understanding of these conditions and of the options for correcting them, more kids will be able to tell their parents about their gender condition and find help while they are still young.
The transgender kids who are helped by their families:
In some cases, families will accept and try to help a transgender child or teenager. As society becomes more informed about transgenderism and transsexualism, more and more families are learning about these conditions, and are not so prone to throw these TG/TS kids away. It is also becoming increasingly easier for families to find good counseling and medical help for kids who may need to transition. As a result it is now possible for many transgender teenagers, even those from families of modest means, to be able to transition - if they can get parental help. As we'll see in Part II, finding help and transitioning early in life can provide enormous advantages to intensely transgender and transsexual kids.
There is a wonderful book for teenage MtF TS's and their parents, Mom, I Need to Be a Girl, that tells the story of a teenager's gender transition with her mother's help. The book shows how Danielle's mother helped her find her way through the maze of difficulties that such teenagers face, especially in interfacing with schools and other authorities so as to ease her transition. Although this little book is now out of print, you can read the book on Lynn Conway's website at the following link:

 Mom, I Need to Be a Girl

Deutsch, English, Español, Français, Português

Danielle was very fortunate to have her mother's active help, and to then also obtain the help of administrators and teachers at her schools. Hopefully, more schools and other social institutions will become increasingly supportive of girls like Danielle during their gender transitions, and will help to prevent discrimination and harassment by others from hurting their chances for success. Danielle's story shows how this can be done, and is important reading for transgender teens and their families.
In Part-II: Transsexualism, we'll see that many other young TG/TS girls have been helped by their families and have benefited from being able to transition early in life. Even more stories of TS girls who were helped to transition early in their lives are found among the stories in Lynn's TS Successes webpage. All those stories should give hope to transgender teens and their families.
However, even those transgender kids who are accepted by their families face many dangers right now:
Although times have changed a lot, and much more information and help is available for transgender teens and their families, transition can be a very dangerous undertaking. The teen years are a time when many young males in the community, full of testosterone, have very violent tendencies as they cope with the challenges of trying to "prove themselves as men". Pairs and packs of aggressive young males are particularly prone to violence against transgender girls and women. This is especially true in the African American and Hispanic communities, where expressions of violence against "faggots" is especially common among young males trying to be "macho".
The terrible results of such violence are all too often in the news, as in the story of the murder of Gwen Araujo. Gwen was a 17 year old Hispanic teenager from Newark, California, who hoped to someday become a girl by having a sex change. She had lived as a girl for several years with her mother's full acceptance, and in time very likely could have achieved her dream. However, while attending a party in October 2002, several brutal, violent young men discovered her transgender status and immediately beat her and strangled her to death with a rope while other partygoers looked on. Her tragic murder shocked the liberal Bay Area, and brought home again the dangers that face many transgender teens. (Unfortunately, most news reports erroneously referred to Gwen as "Eddie" and "he" and "him", ignoring and negating her transgender identity as a girl).
Gwen Araujo with her niece Arianna.
The bottom line is: Young teens can transition with parental acceptance and help. However, they and their families need to be very cautious about whom they befriend, socialize with, and share information with. They must especially use great care to avoid risky encounters with pairs and packs of potentially violent, transphobic young males. In order to better envision the widespread problem of violence and hate-crimes against transgender people, please see Gwendolyn Anne Smith's website "Remembering Our Dead".
Efforts at extending full human rights protections to transgender people:
In the past few years, more and more communities in the United States have become aware of the discrimination and hate crimes against TG/TS people, and people are then surprised to learn that the anti-discrimination laws that apply to gay people do not provide equal protection for the transgendered.
In response, a number of cities and eight states plus the District of Columbia in the U.S. have extended their anti-discrimination protections to include transgender people. For a map of and list of jurisdictions that provide such protections, see the Transgender Law and Policy Institute website
One significant example of a change in legal protection was made in New York City on April 30, 2002, where Mayor Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law a bill that extends New York City's human rights protection to all gender-variant people, including crossdressers, drag queens, and transsexuals who have had or will soon have sex-change surgery. A New York Times editorial on May 1, 2002 said that "The new law, which passed the City Council 45 to 5, is an important step forward in fighting prejudice and in protecting the rights of some of society's most vulnerable citizens." For more background on the new law, see the Planet Out article "New York OKs transgender protections" . See also the NYAGRA website and the recent Transgender Law & Policy Institute Press Release for information on how activists worked for passage of this new law.
The year 2002 then became a watershed year for transgendered rights: Following New York City's passage of its new law, the cities of Dallas, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago then modified their codes to provide similar protections for transgendered people. The precedents set by these major cities affected policies in many other cities in the U.S. in subsequent years.
Sketch of the wide differences in the situations of TG and TS people in different countries around the world:
Lynn's webpages are written from the perspective of someone living and transitioning in the United States of America. However, transsexualism and transgenderism have always been "international": Girls from all around the world have always looked out beyond their own country's borders when trying to escape the gender traps they've found themselves in. Every country has always put a different spin on how it treats TG/TS people, and transitioners can often find special advantages in medical services or jobs or citizenship in some other country than their own. Lynn herself had to go outside the United States for her SRS back in 1968, at a time when those surgeries were seldom permitted here.
Every aspect of transition and post-transition life is affected by one's nationality and culture. Different countries have vastly different customs, social traditions, cultural taboos, legal rules, and bureaucratic regulations regarding TG/TS conditions and transitions. One's nationality thus has a huge effect on how difficult it is to complete a TG or TS transition, and the degree to which a transitioner is accepted by society and has opportunities for a fulfilling life after transition.
We can visualize the huge country-to-country variations in TG/TS life by even the most basic comparisons of the (i) ease of access to treatment, (ii) who pays for the treatments, (iii) social responses to the conditions, (iv) degree of recognition as women after transition, (v) legal status before/after transition, (vi) variations in the freedom to "start a new life", and (vii) access to employment before, during, and after transition. For a sketch of these comparisons, see Lynn's page about TG/TS life in different countries around the world:
For a sketch of country-to-country comparisons of TG/TS life in different countries around the world, see Lynn's page:
As we look around the world, we find that older, traditional, post-colonial, third-world, and medieval societies treat overtly TG/TS women much the same way they've always treated ANY disenfranchised women. In traditional/medieval societies, any young woman (whether TG, TS, or GG) without any supporting family or any means of financial support becomes a total social outcast. She then usually has few options  if she is to live: She can either become a prostitute, or work at the most menial of jobs, or become a beggar.
However, as we shift our view to the more advanced countries, we see increasingly better conditions for gender transitions without the women being ghettoized or ostracized in the process. In the most advanced countries, we see ever improving opportunities for employment and even for a normal life post-transition. Hopefully the many improvements now being made in the advanced countries will provide models for rapid improvements in the less-developed countries, especially under the influence of modern media and communications.
You can gain more insight into the great differences in TG/TS life from country-to-country by comparing details of the individual stories on Lynn's TS Women's Successes webpage, which includes women from countries all around the world .
The powerful role the internet is now playing in helping transgender and transsexual people:
The internet now plays a powerful role in the lives of transgender people all around the world. CD/TG/TS people of all types, ages and nationalities are able to meet via the internet, and locate others who have similar gender situations to their own, and find friends to share their experiences with. Years ago many people suffered in isolation and ignorance about their conditions. Often in shame and embarrassment they felt that "I must be the only one who feels this way". Nowadays the simple entry of the word "transgender" or "transsexual" into a search engine opens up a vast array of web-based information and support. In the process, a whole set of "virtual communities" has formed on the web for mutual support among transgender people.
The net is used by people from all across the TG spectrum. It is heavily used by crossdressers to shop for clothes, form clubs, arrange social events, and then post photos of their activities. It is also heavily used by intense TG and TS girls for learning about options for resolving their gender conditions, learning how to undertake TG or TS transitions, and learning details about all the treatments and surgeries that are involved.
The internet is opening the door to a more humane period in the treatment of gender conditions, especially as more young people begin to understand their situations and seek help early in life. There is a wide array of informational sites that these young folks can turn to for help, including many that are key resources heavily used by the TG/TS community. For examples of important informational websites, see those listed on Lynn's TS Women's Resources page and in her TG/TS/IS Links page .
Many TG/TS people post their stories and other information about themselves on the web. This has become the classic way for people to share stories with others and then begin to make new TG/TS friends. Many transitioners now "come out" to friends and family members by building a website. They can tell their story and provide links to informational references without having to go over every detail in person with each friend or family member. Most transitioners only come "virtually out" on the web, using a pseudonym or first-name only for web interactions. In this way they can preserve their privacy, yet be open about their stories and even include photos of themselves on their websites
Here are some examples of popular CD/TG/TS websites that give a window on this activity (see the visual icons below): is a very popular crossdressers' and transgender women's resource and shopping directory. Vicki Rene's "Prettiest of the Pretty" is a site that features many examples of crossdressers' photo taking, along with lots of links to the pages of TG and TS people. The extensive lists such as "Fiona's Fantasyland", Susana Marques TV/CD/TS/TG Directory, and the URNotAlone transgender directory contain links to thousands upon thousands of websites of TV/CDs and TG/TS women from all around the world. Although those sites primarily list crossdressers, they also include many transitioned TG's and she-males, and small number of post-op TS women too, and provide an important window on CD/TG/TS situations. You'll notice that the numbers of people in each general classification on these lists are roughly in proportion to their prevalence in the general population (for every few hundred CD's there will likely be about a dozen transitioned/transitioning TG women and about 2 or 3 post-op TS women).
Lorna Lynn's wonderful Midsummer Night's Dream website contains more detailed stories and photos of interesting TG and TS women. There are also many e-mail lists and bulletin boards, which help serve as informally organized support groups for many participants, and a good example of this is the TG/TS transition-support website BeginningLife.
Some popular sites that provide a window on the vast world of CD/TG/TS activity on the internet:
Shopping for CD's and lots of TG links:  
Photos and links to many CD's and TG/TS women:
Links to thousands of CD's, TG's, and TS women all around the world:
Links to websites and personals for thousands of TG people:
Photos and detailed stories of many TG/TS people
Links to thousands of CD's, TG's, and TS women all around the world:
Website of internet message boards and forums for TG/TS transitioners:
 Transgender legal information and advocacy:
Read Trans World News to keep up to date!
Listen to GenderTalk Internet Radio
For Interviews, News, Views, Wit & Wisdom
Advocacy and lobbying group for transgender rights:
And to keep up your sense of humor about all this T-stuff,
be sure to read T-Gina's comics!


Washington, D.C. Political lobbying group for trans rights:

As a result of all this web activity, we're seeing a rapid growth in TG community empowerment. The vast number of websites out there is encouraging more and more T-girls to not feel so alone, and to not feel so ashamed of their inner natures. The web is providing them with a way to start to explore their gender issues, find helpful information, and find friends to share experiences with.
By using the internet, the widely scattered TG community has increasingly found ways to join together and lobby for legislative changes, with dramatic results within the past several years - including influencing many major cities to adopt laws protecting the rights of TG/TS people.
In the process, the web is helping to put a more realistic face on the TG/TS condition, and is helping to counter old stereotypes. TG and TS people are finally beginning to seize some control of their own destinies. Perhaps most importantly, we are finally "finding our voice" and speaking out for ourselves. We're telling our stories in large numbers, instead of mostly hiding and always having others "speak for us". (Some good examples of "speaking out" and "being visible" are the many successfully transitioned TS women on Lynn's TS Successes Page).
Hopes for the future:
Gender is the most basic identifying characteristic of every human being. Being forced into narrow gender roles and highly constrained forms of gender expression causes great suffering in transgender people. Being forced to grow up in and live in an incorrectly gendered body and social role is an especially horrifying experience for transsexual children. These situations can lead to intense ongoing disorientation and angst, and can preclude finding any of life's deepest rewards such as the full enjoyment of lovemaking and the finding of a love mate. Fortunately, society (at least in the modern western world) is making it easier for transgender people to explore wider opportunities for gender expression, and many social, medical and surgical options are now available for diagnosing, treating, and correcting intense TG and TS conditions.
However, practical counseling and medical science and technology often lead while religious, political, legal and social institutions lag. Transgender kids are still being thrown away by their families. Transgender and transsexual people are often shamed and blamed for simply trying to correct their affliction, and our society tends to marginalize and stigmatize such persons even after they have socially transitioned or even after a complete physical gender correction has been made.
As time passes, science will gradually untangle the causes of transgenderism and transsexualism. It is likely that current evidence suggesting that gender identity is determined prenatally will become solidified by further research. At the same time, improvements in medical technology and the rapid spread of knowledge about treatment options via the internet will gradually enable even better corrections of TG/TS conditions than available today. With better understanding of all the options for treating TG/TS conditions, and as medical technology improves the outcomes, it is inevitable that society will have to shift to a more compassionate treatment of  transgender people, especially teenaged transsexual children. For more discussion of the issues of teenage transsexuals, see the Aug. 28, 1999 article entitled "Teen transsexuals: When do children have a right to decide their gender?"
Early diagnoses and early transitions would produce much better gender adjustments and corrections for MtF TG/TS children, since many effects of masculinization could be avoided for those children who must transition. There would also be more time for them to live a full life, to fully enjoy their new physicality, and to have a chance of finding a love mate. Hopefully, the time will come when transgender and transsexual children will have chances to learn about the many social and medical options early in life, and will be able seek counseling and medical help without fear of parental or social retribution. Hopefully more jurisdictions will also extend full human rights to all transgender people, so that they will have opportunities to find employment, housing, and access to public services just like any other citizen.

Continue to next Part:


Update of 6-05-06

[See this page where update replacements/insertions are shown in PINK]


[Lynn's home page:]