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Transition

 

Preface to this Page:
I've received some criticism that this page it's overly positive.  I contend that being positive is better than being negative but concede that far too many mature transwomen transition expect to be able to pass as a woman.  Many are then seriously depressed when they fail to do this (even after extensive and irreversible surgery), whilst others are dangerously deluding themselves. 

Most Western (Caucasian) women transitioning after ther teens struggle to pass as female in daily life, and this becomes almost universal by age 40.  The march of Father Time is particularly brutal for transwomen, and it's vital that anyone considering transitioning takes a long and hard look at the problems they are going to face.

 

For male-to-female transsexuals (MTF) - transitioning is the period when you stop living your every-day life as man and begin living it as a woman.  It sounds short and easy - what more can be said?  Actually, a quick search of the Internet reveals that a lot of girls have a lot to say!  For example, Calpernia Addams: Calpernia Addams

"I did feel like I went through puberty at age 24.  Learning to wear a bra, makeup, date boys, all that - everything other girls learn at age 13.  And we're alone.  Most of the time society hates us - people think we're freaks or whatever - so you're doing all this alone.  And it can be really hard."

Robert Millar, now Phillippa YorkFor the vast majority of MTF's, transitioning is in fact an enormous challenge, and probably the most stressful time of their life.  The former professional cyclist Robert Millar - a married man with a son - is an example of the real-world problems that transitioners face.  Friends became suspicious when the then 40-year old was seen in pigtails with a suggestion of breasts under his top.  One said, "Every time we meet him he seems to have a bigger chest, but he won't talk about it".  Two years later he - now she - moved town and changed her name to Phillippa York, leaving friends, family and son behind.


Daria Jane records on social media (in particular her YouTube account) her 5 year journey from a
teenage boy to a young woman.  Whilst taking female hormones contributed significantly towards her
much changed physical appearance, she also had major and expensive feminisation surgery. [Romania]

A successful transition - even without "bottom surgery" - is a huge toward step towards mental health as gender starts to align and match with lifestyle, physical appearance. and sexual relations.  The term "Gender Euphoria" is sometimes use to describe a successfully transitioned women who delights in her new ability to wear women clothes, use makeup, have fancy nails, go pink, grow her hair, have a bling phone case, etc.  One newly transitioned transwoman recollects spending 40 minutes at a music festival queuing to use the female toilets whilst the men's were queue free - despite her increasing desperation they were the best minutes of her life. 

 

A New Name
One of the biggest considerations when transitioning is selecting a new name.  This will be 'set in stone' as you starting introducing yourself with it; ask embarrassed friends and family to call you this; change bank details and documents; and submit it to government bodies.


Emel Aydan, was born in 1951 as Erdoğan Kaşif. 'Emel' translates roughly to 'Desire' in English.  She probably chose this when transitioning to help her career as a singer, showgirl and actress.
Two widely differing approaches are common:
  1. Make it easy for family and acquaintances by selecting a feminised version of your commonly used name, e.g. Jack to Jackie, Charlie to Charlotte, Terry to Terri, George to Georgina, Bob to Bobbie, ... 
    or
  2. Emphasise your new female identity by selecting a common female name that has no relationship to your previous Christian name e.g. Liam to Emma, William to Ava, James to Sophia, Simon to Anne, ...

The first approach helps avoid the embarrassing situation of someone calling you by your new name but you not reacting.  A very possible scenario after a few glasses of wine late at night in the first few weeks after transition!  Also, retaining the same initials can help in the re-use of old documents, and it's credible to suggest that minor differences such as Tony vs Toni are just a typo error.

The second approach has the additional advantage that it aids stealth.  For example, someone searching for you on Google using the name is unlikely to get relevant hits.

A third option is to adopt an unusual or exotic name that you like, e.g. Caoimhe, Eibhleann, Naimh, Orlaith, ...  But the challenge then is getting people to remember how to spell and pronounce it!


Keela became involved in legal dispute and was out'ed as born male and still pre-SRS.  Documents such as her female driving licence then became problematic as she had submitted false information

Documents
A high priority task in every transwoman's transition is changing as much documentation and as many records as possible to reflect your new name and sex/gender - and as quickly as possible.  But be careful, if your documentation states that you are female then a female appearance helps a lot - whatever the law says.  For example, a transitioning transwoman changed her bank account to her new female identity but when she subsequently visited a branch to make a transaction the staff suspected that she was a man impersonating the account holder and blocked all access to her bank accounts.  It took weeks to resolve the issue.

I've included in a separate page here some information (mostly derived and updated from Adele's original and now off-line work) about how to change your name and documentation during the transition in the UK and Ireland.  However much of the information is became out of date in 2004 with passing of the Gender Recognition Act.  This established a Gender Recognition Panel which makes it immensely easier to get documents changed and re-issued to reflect a legally adopted female name and a change of sex, also the level of evidence and representation required has become less onerous and pre-SRS women are also often accepted. 

In the UK, if granted a full gender recognition certificate by the Gender Recognition Panel, it is now even possible for transsexuals to get a new birth certificate reflecting their gender.  In a UK context the next item that you should change is your passport, including as flattering a photo as you can get away with!  Armed with this it's then much easier to get other key documents and records quickly changed.


Transition is the start of the battle for passability.  Staycee (left) said "being only 5' 4" really made my transition much easier". Unfortunately many more transwomen are actually 6' tall and wear size 9 shoes like Tula (right), but lack her supermodel looks

When I married my partner in a church in Ireland, this was nearly a decade before the Marriage Act 2015 legalised what the press like to call "same-sex marriage".  Thankfully I was able to show the Priest my UK passport stated that my Sex was Female.  It would have delayed the marriage but I could have eventually have produced an acceptable Birth Certificate.  But if he had insisted on seeing my Baptism Certificate - well it has the wrong forenames on it and there was no way I could have got that changed.

If for some reason a document cannot be re-issued, it is now relatively easy to obtain or even produce for yourself a very authentic looking "corrected" version - and this is a risk some transwomen choose to take.  However the same march of technology also means that increasingly official records and archives (including Births, Deaths and Marriages) are readily available on both government computer systems and the internet, and even the most convincing "original" document may be only a few key strokes away from suddenly becoming suspicious.  Embedded digital signatures are also now used to prevent the manipulation of documents issued in an electronic format.

If you don't pass convincingly as a woman then the likelihood is that responsible staff/officials will check out even the most authentic looking documents that state that you are Female.  If there has been misrepresentation or forgery, this could lead to possible criminal charges.  

Pre-Transition Tips:

When passing as woman (pre- or post-transition), if the name, signature, address and [if present] photo are all okay, then it may be possible to laugh off as a silly mistake give-aways like "Sex: Male" on documents or in records.  But unfortunately confidence and convincing passability is essential when things get to this point.

In practice it's become essential to build-up a financial background and credit history in the years before you transition.   By far the easiest way of doing this is by selecting a female name, she will then become your fictional 'female' partner until you transition.

When choosing your female name, try to keep your initials and surname the same - "Allison Beverley Smith" is a much better name for an "Allan Brian Smith" to adopt than "Jane Helen Monroe" would be.  If you expect to eventually transition, avoid whenever possible using the prefix "Mr" or full forenames on documents, e.g. have "A B Smith" on your cheques rather than "Mr Allan Smith".  Avoid using a forename in your signature, so the credit card of "A B Smith" can then be used by either Allan or Allison.  If you have to give a photo with an application, use the most androgynous picture of yourself that you can find, ideally as unfocused (difficult with modern cameras!) as the issuer will let you get away with.  

It's now very hard in the EU and UK to open a new bank account without good supporting documents such as a utility bill and passport, which may not be available prior to your transition.  However banks will commonly issue a second credit card for a female partner at the same address  - in this instance use your female title (prefix) and prenom (first name), e.g. "Miss Allison Smith", and submit an en-femme photo, making it a very useful form of emergency ID.   Note: It also used to be possible to move an existing bank account to a joint account with a female partner based on a completed form with signatures, but this now (2018) seems to be impossible.

Finally, change over a utility bill into your new fictional female partner's name as soon as possible, this will become important proof of identify and residence as you kill off your old male identity and "go solo" with your new name after transition time.   
 

 


A transwoman doing her make-up.  Girls practice this from a young age and it can present an immense challenge to some transitioning women.  Of necessity, their make-up often rapidly improves.

Beginning to Pass as A Woman
Although my viewpoint offends some people, I suggest that for most MTF women an ability to pass consistently as a woman is essential if they are to enjoy a successful and happy post-transition (and post-SRS) life, with little or no regrets about their actions. 

If six months after transitioning you are still constantly getting strange stares when shopping, and your "friends" and even family obviously don't like going out in public with you, a very hard re-assessment is appropriate before proceeding further and undergoing irreversible actions such as surgery.  The often lambasted one-year real life test prior to SRS does have a very serious purpose.


19 year old Jamie-Michelle. Despite unflattering clothes and the padded bra, she's still passable

The challenges involved with transitioning are immense, just one small example is that girls practice their make-up from as young as age 2.  By age 16, most girls will have spent many hundreds of hours on this, a male-to-female transsexual transitioning as an adult will probably have only spent a tiny fraction of that time.  This presents an immense challenge, although most transwomen will have vastly improved their make-up a year after transition.


A few lucky boys look like a girl long before they transition.

But the good news is that you can stack the odds in your favour.  Just fifty years ago only a very small percentage of adult men could in truth live and pass convincingly as a woman; nowadays a transitioning MTF transsexual woman can improve her percentages considerably.  Some physical characteristics (height, hands, feet, ...) remain almost impossible to change, but the modern transsexual woman has an enormous battery of weapons that allow her to feminise many of her other characteristics.  For example, good quality silicone breast forms and mastectomy bras are available for as little as 200 ($300) which bestow on a clothed transwoman breasts whose appearance and movement are indistinguishable from a natal woman.


A still from a Norwegian TV documentary following a
transitioning young transwoman, showing her
being chatted up young men.  Obviously staged but relevant.

In general, my own advice is if that you can afford them and need them, then use them:- hormones, breast augmentation surgery, a 'nose job', facial feminisation surgery, hair transplants, electrolysis, skin peels, fat transfer, etc.  But a very serious proviso is to always seek good quality professional medical advice, care and treatment - you get what you pay for and skimping is a big mistake.  To the physical changes you can add valuable aids such as voice training, makeup coaching, deportment lessons, grooming tuition... even cookery lessons (really, mine were a great laugh!). 


Make-up presents an immense challenge to inexperienced transwoman.  Poorly padded bra's are easier to avoid with the advent of silicone inserts.

Assuming that physically you are reasonably feminine in appearance, then passing then often becomes all about the small things - things that are second nature for someone brought up as girl but entirely strange for a man - and things that Hollywood often has a field day over when a man impersonates a woman in a comedy. 

For example, personally I physically have too many "male" appearing characteristics for comfort - I'm quite tall (5ft 9in), have broad shoulders, large feet (size 8 UK), a thick neck, and a boyish waist.  I will for the rest of my life be slightly worried about people (particularly strangers) instinctively classifying as a man based upon a first impression of physical characteristics.  


Ala Chane after her transition.
Maximising my chances of being identified as a woman by a stranger meant counteracting my male characteristics by emphasising my female appearance, e.g.: staying slim (without starving myself!), a substantial bust (after breast augmentation), flattering clothes, a suitable hair style, a fair complexion requiring relatively light make-up, and an appropriately female (but not exaggerated) posture and manners.

 


Unfortunately learning how to pass is far less fun than this picture of three transwomen might indicate.

In Between Two Stools
My long second puberty - the period from when I first took hormones in May 1994 (age 29) until I started to live full time as woman in December 2000 (mid-30's) - was difficult and hard.  When still supposedly a "man" I worried about how people would take some of my oddly feminine characteristics.  For instance, questions I faced included:

  • How do I explain my shaved legs and plucked eyebrows?
  • How do I react to jokes about my "man boobs"
  • How do I react to comments about my pierced ears?
  • How long can I grow my hair?
  • What do I tell a doctor?

You have no choice - you love these!

Conversely, whilst as a woman (pre or post-transition) I faced problems like:

  • Did I have facial hair or a shaving rash visible?
  • How do I react to a groping or over-forward man?
  • How do I react to children and babies?
  • Passing a security check in the female queue
  • Sharing a changing room with other women
  • Being sent "free" drinks by an admirer

 

The fantasy of transition is different from reality.

The upsides were few and far between, but there were a few:

  • Express entry to night clubs and often free drinks
  • Constantly being handed free tickets to events, some of which were even worth attending

 

Learn Quickly
A man trying to "pass" as a woman faces a constant and often high-risk challenge and obstacle course.  It is one thing to dream about being a woman, to actually try to live as a woman is quite another.

It's a real "chicken or the egg" situation - you can't successfully pass as a woman until you've lived as a woman, but you can't successfully live as a woman until you can pass as a woman!  It's also very hard to go to work and be accepted there as a woman until "being a woman" - with all its many downsides as well as upsides - becomes at least second nature. 

Before I transitioned I always worked as a man and largely socialised as a man.  However there were increasing periods between age 21 and 33 when I also socialised as a woman - Toni, later Annie.

I found that it was much easier for people who had only met me as "Annie" to accept me as a woman (even if they knew that I was a transsexual) than people who previously known me as a man.  When I came out to my family it was obvious that while trying to be supportive they had problems adjusting, although the passage of time helped a lot and my mother was always generally supportive.

When I transitioned I was reasonably confident about my appearance and dress, but was also very aware that my instinctive reactions and manner might differ from those expected of a woman.  Initially, every time I appeared in public or had to interact with someone, I felt that I was still "acting" a female role.

However, when under pressure the human being is an amazingly quick learner.  As the months passed my instincts become automatically  'female'.  I still caused slight puzzlement occasionally, usually due to a strange ignorance, but it was getting rarer and more trivial. 

 

Surgery
Very few transitioning transwomen don't have some surgery.  By a large margin the first surgery sought by all transsexual women is breast augmentation - requests varying from slight augmentation in order to reach a natural looking B cup, to porn star G cup balloons.   

Facial feminisation surgery (FFS) is often the next priority.  Prior to about 1995 this really just meant a nose job (rhinoplasty), but progress since then has been extraordinary.  For transwomen with deep pockets, and willing to stand the pain, an acceptably female - even attractive - face is often only a large cheque away.  When you are trying to pass in public as a woman every day, a cute nose and feminine jaw line matters far than the contents of your panties.
 


Cadence Matthew spent a lot of money on FFS when she was 22.

Sex reassignment surgery (SRS) or Gender Confirmation Surgery (GCS) is, perhaps surprisingly, sometimes one of the last item on the surgery list.  There are several reasons for this, e.g.:

  • The cost and medical risks associated with the surgery

  • Even after transition, some transgender women still sexually enjoy having a penis

  • The woman's libido is so low that sexual intercourse is no longer desired

  • The financials gains from prostitution as a shemale


Elle Bradford was born a boy (probably named Jesse) in April 1992.  She transitioned as Elle age 15 and
documented her journey to womanhood on social media, in particular on YouTube, but ceased making updates in late 2017.  By this time, age 25, she had been taking female oestrogen hormones for ten years, and also had facial feminisation surgery, breast augmentation surgery, and gender confirmation surgery.  Her ability to pass as a woman in day-to-day life benefited immensely from her slight stature (just 5ft 3in, 160 cm tall), quite small feet (probably size 6 UK) and acceptably feminine voice.  

The Cost of Transition
Transitioning often has many serious non-monetary costs, e.g. the loss of life-long friends and the rejection by one or both parents.  But the financial cost is nevertheless often the most immediate disaster.


From the left, Rodrigo entering the Big Brother House age 23; as
Rebekah age 26 in a photo shoot shortly after she transitioned (with very obvious hair extensions!); and Rebekah age 34, after years on hormones and extensive surgery.

Rodrigo Lopes is one example.  Age 23 he stared in the 2009 UK edition of the TV reality show Big Brother.  A few years later she transitioned to Rebekah Shelton but found it very difficult to earn a living.  Allegedly she resorted to prostitution to fund her breast augmentation (2012), SRS (2014) and facial feminisation surgery (2015).  Although "sugar daddies" often took her on expensive holidays around the world, she apparently still struggled to make ends meet when back home   A report in 2019 claimed that she had "died unexpectedly" (implying suicide) was initially widely believed, thankfully Rebekah immediately refuted this on social media.

For me, transition had a devastating financial cost - my income dropped enormously.  In the year 2000 - just before my transition - I was working as a consultant on a tax-free salary of roughly 50,000/$75,000.  I then had two short terms jobs of ever decreasing wages, before hitting a low point when I briefly worked as a Teacher's Assistant for what would have been just 10,000/$10,000 in a full year.  There was then a slight improvement as I rebuilt my CV, and in 2004 I was delighted to accept a full-time job as a Sales Assistant at 22,000/$25,000 a year.  Thanks to several promotions this increased to 32,000/$40,000 (before tax) by 2010, although still less than half what I had been earning a decade earlier allowing for inflation. 


A quote from a young transwomen: "My sister was born with boobs and a vagina, I had buy mine."

Although my income collapsed, some outgoings increased massively during and after my transition.  Between December 2000 and July 2004 I spent 11,000 / $17,000 on doctors, hormones, laser hair removal, breast augmentation, orchiectomy (not SRS!) and a few other bits (blood tests, skin peel,  dermatology).  That excludes other associated costs such taking as days off work and travel expenses. Also the added financial cost of simply living as a woman was extraordinary.  By 2002 I was totally broke and to help identify potential savings I kept detailed records of all my expenditure.  I found that I was spending 200 / $240 a month on clothes, make-up, hairdresser, etc, and that really was an absolute minimum. 


In 1998 Carlos Roberto Paz Wells became at age 38 Veronica Paz Wells, an ex-husband and father of a daughter.  Many transsexuals only face their gender dysphoria when they hit middle age and transitioning is very difficult.

The term "cost" can have other meanings as well.  Almost all women instinctively make a huge investment in both time and money on their appearance (i.e. improving their beauty and attractiveness to men) because that's what society expects and that's how they've been brought up.  As a man I guess I used to spend about 20-30 minutes a day showering, shaving, dressing, etc.  When I first transitioned I had to get up (in England in January!) at 5:00 am so that I had two hours to get myself ready for work.  I'm considerably more efficient and practiced now (standard mascara and lipstick in a minute), but I still spend at least one hour a day on my grooming, and on top of that there's the gym, the dieting, the shaving, the Hair Salon ... while preparing for a big night out can dominate my life for days.  Personally I don't like some of these aspects of womanhood, although I know that many women enjoy their daily beauty routines.  However the constant worry over my appearance is something that I've had to learn to live with and cope with. 


Two sisters, born boys but both transitioned before reaching 20.

 

The March of Time
I mention elsewhere on this site that the passage of time works against the transsexual woman.  For older women in there is all to frequently a divergence between intention and hopes at transition, and the reality a few years afterwards.


Caitlyn Jenner had SRS age 65 and is shown age 67 before and after the help of a professional make-up artist.

Transgirls who begin hormones and transition as a teenager have a good chance of passing as female without any surgery; transwomen who transition in their 20's can often pass after some medical treatment;  whilst sadly those who transition in their 40's or later are rarely able to pass even after very extensive plastic surgery - Caitlyn Jenner being a high profile example - her facial feminisation surgery alone is reported to have cost cost $70,000.


Transitioning age 30 is often a case of being almost but not quite able to pass.

Transwomen in their late 20's and early 30's often face an agonising "if only" situation.  They can almost but not quite pass, if they had just started hormones a few years earlier ... .    When I transitioned, the first year was very very tough. 

But to a limited degree, time then actually starts to work in favour of the transitioned woman who sticks with it.  Actions, responses, motions, stories, even feelings, that start off requiring conscious thought eventually become automatic. with experience.  I'm also certain that the effects of many years of hormones and later an orchiectomy slowly worked on my mind and body in many subtle ways: fat thighs and cellulite, an inability to do simple DIY tasks, crying for days when a hamster died, ... a growing obsession with my nails.   Like many transwoman who have been transitioned a decade or more, looking at old pre-transition photo's is like looking at a stranger. 


Photo's of Erin's journey from a 18 year old boy to a 22 year-old pre-SRS woman.
After two years on hormones she had breast augmentation surgery

 

Transition is hard, very hard

Transition is not a brief event as is often assumed. My transition spanned over 10 years - from beginning to take (with interruptions) oestrogen hormones in May 1994 to having sex reassignment surgery (SRS) in October 2004.  I could shorten the period by using numerous alternative key dates, for example the first time tried to pass as womnan in public, the day I began living full time as a woman, the day I received a female passport, the day I had an orchiectomy, the day I recieved my Gender Recognition Certificate ... but none are really a better start or end point. 

But one key point in time  was undoubtedly early 2001 - when I began living and working full-time as woman.  It was a very tough period and I was far from comfortable with my new life.  A few years later I provided an article on my experience to an Austrialian newsletter, an extract:

...  Now that I was living day-in day-out as a woman - and about to start working as a woman - I found myself needing a much bigger collection of clothes, shoes, jewellery, bags, accessories, et al.  The et al including a pile of items such as such as shampoo, conditioners, setting lotions, body lotion, skin moisturizer, facial applications, cosmetics and facial makeup, nail varnish and perfumes.  And that's before we even get into other essential items such as a good hairdryer and a lady shaver. 

In a few weeks I had to spend what most women of my age would have done over several years.  Another problem was the sheer amount of time that I needed to spend every day on my workout, shower, 'toilet', make-up, hair, attire, touch-ups ... . I had done all this before and it had often been enjoyable and even fun.  But now that I needed to do this routine day after day, the novelty soon wore off and it all started to become a chore.  After New Year it was in to work.  I had done a "dry run" and knew that I needed to get up at 6:00 am in order to get ready and then commute in.  To play safe, I set my alarm for 5:00 am - and needed every extra minute.  As I got ready, I increasingly panicked about arriving at work as a professional businesswoman wearing a skirt suit, heals and makeup.  The bravest thing I've ever done was to walk into the company's lobby later that morning.

The next few months were an enormously stressful and worrying time, not helped by quickly realising that everyone knew that I was a transsexual woman.  I knew that I was not fitting in and it was no surprise when my contract was not extended after the initial three-month probation period.  I had made no friends and was became increasingly depressed - whilst trying hard not wonder if I had made a huge mistake by transitioning.  ...


19 - A very educational magazine for the transwoman!

A Girl's Education
I had been reading women's magazines for decades, but received some excellent advice in 1999 to read magazines intended for teenage girls.  These became very important in helping me develop a female sexual orientation and point of view.  I can certainly recommend teenage magazines for advice on shopping, fashion and popular culture, and for plenty of tips on sex and love for the inexperienced heterosexual girl.  My favourite magazine was 19, which is slightly more mature than Bliss or Sugar, but far more entertaining and enjoyable than the likes of Marie Claire or Cosmopolitan.


24-year old Morgan McCormack was pre-everything when friends encouraged her to enter the 2013 Autostraddle calendar shoot.  She became Miss April (USA)

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I strongly recommend that anyone considering full-time transition asks their friends and family to be totally honest about their ability to pass.  If they say it is "great" then test and verify it whilst trying to pass as woman, - shopping, in bar's, while travelling, sports events, meetings or conferences, during a weekend break, etc. - getting any stares, furtive glances or strange looks? A few hard bumps pre-transition will pay big dividends later.

 In the late 1990's I was very open with my [girl]friend about being trangender, indeed she had informed my mother about this.  Despite many problems we lived together for nearly three years, but when I asked for her help to improve my passability as a woman she had found it difficult to accept this.  When I started copying aspects of her dress and behaviour [half in fun but half seriously] she really disliked it.

I met my mother for the first time as Annie at an airport when she arrived for a visit.   At the time I intending to transition very shortly, although this was eventually deferred by two years.  Her initially flattering comments about my appearance and passability as a woman and her daughter started to became increasingly critical as the days passed - being polite, I learnt a lot! 

In 2000, a few months prior to my transition, I went on holiday to the USA intending to pass as a woman most of the time.  I really didn't expect any major problems so it was after it was a traumatic surprise to discover that my ability to pass as a woman in a night club did not translate to 24x7 full-time passability. 

Gabrielle Schaffer
A feminine physical appearance is - unavoidably - a very large step towards passing.  (Gabrielle Schaffer)

The trip showed that I had serious issues with my appearance and voice.  In addition I was simply not automatically thinking and behaving like a woman.  Without the immersive experiences of a female childhood and up-bringing, I was lacking essential instinctive traits and habits. 

 


The tall man on the left helps these two transwomen to pass.

My Experience Passing Physically
Since 2020 the term Sex-Reassignment Surgery (SRS) has largely been replaced by Gender Confirmation Surgery (GCS)  I have no strong feelings about either - SRS definitely didn't change my sex, as I'm still genetically XY and can't get pregnant baring a miracle.  However I'm unsure what gender GCS confirmed.  As a teenager I knew that I was a boy and fancied girls, but also envied girls.  After many difficult years I accepted that I needed to live as a woman - and to be successful this required hormones and surgery.

When I transitioned, people who knew my background often had an all too obvious furtive interest in my physical appearance - crutch, bust, skin, feet, hair ... - it was all being checked out.

After I transitioned, my "top" was actually the least worrying aspect of my appearance  As a teenager I had resorted to padding my bra with home-made foam inserts but 20 years later it was all much easier.  After years on hormones I had reasonable breast development (small B cup) whilst the advent of cheap silicone bra inserts (aka breast enhancers) meant that I could wear a C cup bra which was both appropriate for my build and very realistic in appearance.  When I needed to show some cleavage a "push-up", a Wonderbra worked well.   Nevertheless - and like the vast majority of transwomen - I ultimately had breast augmentation which just made life so much simpler.

Perhaps surprisingly, my "bottom" was only a bit more problematic.  I wore a tight elastic G-string (aka gaff) under my panties.  This pulled back my hormone shrunken penis and contained my similarly reduced testes.  The overall external appearance was quite acceptable, particularly after my orchiectomy when my penis became little more than a large clitoris.  It also allowed me to go to the toilet for a pee without the challenges of a tucking procedure, avoiding the painful UTI problems I often suffered from after tucking.


I had to make my own gaff's in the 1980's and 1990's.  Decades later the Internet is a awash with everything from basic and cheap gaffs (left) to sophisticated silicone vulva's (right) that can pass the examination of wondering hands and allow peeing.  
 

However I could still not pass nude as a woman, be it in a women's changing room or being attacked by a rapist (sadly many transwomen have been killed in such circumstances).  Having SRS/GCS was like moving from night to day in this regard.

A particularly bad problem during my early months after transition was beard growth and a beard rash.  I undoubtedly should have sought laser treatment for this before I transitioned, rather than after.  I also had a small nose reduction procedure (rhinoplasty) but otherwise have been quite comfortable with my facial appearance.


After Valentia transitioned  and had SRS, she never struggled to pass as a women, but also never went stealth.

But the biggest problem after transition was my voice.  Whilst not deep and husky, the pre-transition reality was that when answering a phone call I would  be 95 times out of 100 identified as a man.  I've worked hard to train my voice to a naturally sounding higher pitch and slowly noticed an increasing hesitancy from callers.  It took two years after my transition before I arrived at a feminine voice that I'm reasonably happy with - and which probably represents the limit of what I can achieve without vocal cord surgery.  On the brutal phone call test, I'm now identified as a woman about 4 times out of 5, and most of the other callers are uncertain.

Transitioning and passing successfully is hard hard hard ...  It's rather like sitting on large scales.  You start off with the male side the heavier and dominant, you keep adding weight to the female side but it doesn't seem to make much difference - the male side is still "heavier" and people still identify you sooner or later as a man.  12 months after transitioning, I was close to despair; I had been out'ed in three jobs, the last of which was a particularly bad experience.  I began to seriously wonder if I was doing the right thing


Emily De Salvo (formerly Stephano) failed to win a place at the prestigious Tito Schipa Conservatory as a male baritone. Following three years of vocal stretching exercises she succeeded at age 29 as a female soprano.  (Italy)

But if you keep adding weight to the female side of male-female scales, eventually adding just another a small feather will make that side the heavier and the balance suddenly swings to female.   It took nearly two years, thousands of hormone pills, two operations, three moves and four jobs for the scales to finally tip for me, but suddenly people were consistently identifying me as a woman.   In my latest job I was amazed to realise that I was comfortably "passing as a woman" [a truly horrid term] day after day in a largely female work environment.  The feathers falling on the scales of my passability were individually light, but cumulatively they had finally reached a critical weight: my beard was gone; my appearance was unremarkable; my voice was acceptable; and I could confidently chat about babies, boyfriends and women's problems.

Two year after transition, thanks to necessity and experience, I finally reached the point where I was confident that I would be perceived as a woman by a new acquaintance.  That made me start to dream about going "stealth", I hated the feeling of being constantly under examination by everyone (even family) as a transsexual woman.  My body, hair, appearance, manners, make-up, voice, movements ... I knew that they were all up for discussion when I was not about. 

 


Two transgirls in their 20's.  Youth and rigorous dieting aids passability immensely - but this is hard to maintain in to the 30's, 40's ... and can lead to bulimia.

Weight
One of the hardest battles I've fought since my transition is limiting my weight and waist line.  Between 1997 and 2000 I put on a stone (14lb, or over 6kg). The increase was perhaps partly age related, but one of the effects of oestrogen is to increase subcutaneous fat deposits - which inevitably means a gain in weight if counter-measures aren't taken.  Before my transition in late 2000 I made a determined effort to get my weight back down to 10st (140lb or 63kg) - acceptable for my height of 5 ft 9 in.  This meant (for example) switching from bottles of lager to a Perrier water with a dash of orange juice when on a night out.  I made the weight loss, but a constant challenge since then has been keeping it there. 

Although I'm far less rigorous than I used to be (my 6:00 am workout is ancient history), on weekdays I do alternate between a jog on my running machine and on-line fat burning sessions.  Saturday is my off day, but every Sunday morning I go swimming for an hour.  Minding what I eat is also important, although I'm now just habitually careful rather than rigorously dieting. 

Keeping my weight down will never be easy but ironically a very helpful factor is the much-maligned social pressure on women (from my husband, other women, the media, ...) to stay slim.  I know from bitter experience that I only need to slip for a few weeks and my weight will soar again. 

Gossip and Maintaining a Consistent Story
In my first two jobs post-transition only one or two people supposedly knew of my transsexuality when I started.  Optimistically I hoped that this information would remain confidential (as they had promised) - I was fooling myself.  A combination of marginal passability and staff gossiping was a disaster which led to me to leaving jobs in tears. 

One of my biggest problems I still have (like many transsexuals) is that some people know my background while others don't.  Having the two groups mixing invites a disaster, so when my darling husband arranged a surprise birthday party for me I nearly killed him!  It was the worst party of my life as it was the first time several relatives had met me as female, whilst several other guests were unaware of my past.

Another nightmare is that over many months I've often have had to make up things on the fly to tell people who don't know of my transsexuality (particularly my colleagues at work) which I've since forgotten, and thus I may contradict myself in another spur of the moment situation.  Lacking "Total Recall", there's always the chance of later being caught on one small point that someone thought strange or remarkable at the time and remembered.  A particular problem is bumping in to someone who remembers you - but you are struggling to remember them.  One or two minor gaffes can be laughed off or the other person made to doubt his/her memory, but eventually they may start to wonder what's going on. 

 

Memories


Three attractive young women in a night club in 2020.  Incidentally, they are all genetically XY and have had GRS. 

A significant problem as a transsexual woman is that you may eventually get caught out contradicting yourself on some small point.  That risk will always be there, but transwomen going deep stealth undoubtedly slightly adjust their childhood memories, e.g. recollections of their first "boyfriend" become totally ingrained in your memory after a while, and the responses and comments are automatic and very convincing. 

My transition memories include ... the Arab in the Night Club who simply wouldn't give up telling me how beautiful I was; the  disappearance of my bikini top at a pool party; the night when I started to walk home and a BMW stopped and give me a lift; my invite on a boat trip ...  and I include one here with some slight adjustments to protect the innocent!

Conversely, I came across on social media a very old photo of me snogging an acquaintance in a night club - and have absolutely no recollection of that!

 

If you have any questions, or perhaps just want to know more about me,
please feel free to email me.


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Copyright (c) 2012, Annie Richards

Last updated: 17 January, 2012