Dealing with others reactions to Sex Change
Great article on how and why others cope with transgenderism. Not all the surgery and law change in the world will make as much difference as just choosing to be comfortable with yourself. ~ norrie
It's either (sex) change -- or die
Sunday, April 29, 2007
While Mike Penner has been a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Times for 23 years, his average story doesn't produce more than a half-million hits on the Times' Web site. Then again, his typical story doesn't alert readers that, after a brief vacation, he will return to the beat as Christine Daniels.
On the eve of that furlough, Penner is a transitioning transsexual. In a Thursday column, he confessed he has fought the conviction that his brain is "wired female" for most of his 49 years, at a severe toll to his happiness and mental health.
"When you reach the point when one gender causes heartache and unbearable discomfort, and the other brings more joy and fulfillment that you ever imagined possible," Penner writes, "it shouldn't take two tons of bricks to fall in order to know what to do. It didn't with me. With me, all it took was 1.99 tons."
Someone who has passed this way before has one last brick to throw his way: "I hope he's at peace with himself," Anne said. "Actually, it's quite a joyful process. The pain is in the reaction of other people, for whom it's a profoundly confusing thing.
"The most profound thing I can say is that you will always be a mirror for other people's insecurity."
I've known Anne for almost 20 years . . . which means I never knew the guy who played football, got married, fathered a son and began a career in journalism. I only know the accomplished, eloquent, generous woman he became.
We haven't talked about her change in years. "The whole topic bores me," Anne said. "Been there, done that. I have no idea what goes on now in the sex-change community. I wish the people well, but I never wanted to be known as anything other than the female I am."
She still doesn't; "Anne" is not her real name. But I called Friday to get a better sense of what's ahead for Christine Daniels. Anne said it depends. On Christine's strength. Her appearance. Her peace of mind.
Anne was considerably younger when she went to see Dr. Stanley Biber, who performed 4,500 sex-change operations between 1969 and 2003. Like Penner, she fought the inevitable for years, contemplated suicide, searched for the pill that would have "made me content with that male body. I would have saved money, aggravation, grief, pain. But it doesn't work that way.
"I didn't 'become.' I just changed my body to match my mind," Anne said. And for the vast majority of men and women, she concedes, that's a tough pill to swallow: "They don't question their gender identity. They don't understand what it's like to wake up every day and, from your earliest memory, know that you're in the wrong body.
"It's either change or die. You have no choice. If you don't have the problem, you can't comprehend the need for the solution. You can only accept it. It's a lot like faith."
The superficial -- her appearance -- will be a significant factor in Christine Daniels' future, Anne said: "The hormones take years to work. If you're walking around looking like a man in a dress, you're going to have a hard time winning acceptance. Life isn't fair sometimes. People react to what they see."
And they react poorly to things they don't understand. That's where the mirror comes in. "If a person is insecure about life or sexuality, they're unable to understand this terrible dilemma," Anne said.
"But that's their problem. I feel blessed I was able to make the transition. Everyone has crosses to bear; I just had something a little more unusual to conquer. I think he's going to find that if you're comfortable with yourself, other people will be comfortable with you. But that applies to any person."
Steve Duin: 503-221-8597; 1320 S.W. Broadway, Portland, OR 97201 firstname.lastname@example.org http://blog.oregonlive.com/steveduin