Transgender: what you don't know
MY VIEW: By Elaine Rose
published on the editorial page of the San Jose Mercury News, 10/23/2002
A BEAUTIFUL young woman named Lida Araujo is beaten and strangled. We
may never know the true motive, but at least part of the problem is
ignorance about the facts of transgendered life.
In our society, transgenderism is treated as a dirty little secret. It
is not discussed in schools, churches or the media. We transgendered
people are a small population, and it would perhaps be appropriate for
society to ignore us -- except that a lack of understanding too often
leads to violence.
I am a transsexual woman, like Lida Araujo. I was born with male
genitalia, but I live my life full time as a woman. I consider myself
to be fully and truly a woman. I would like to offer a glimpse of my
own transgendered journey, as a small step in teaching the community a
little bit about transgenderism. My story cannot be called ``typical''
-- transgendered lives are as varied as the lives of any other group
of people. But my story is not that unusual either.
I did not always think I was a girl. I had a normal boy's upbringing.
I got a good college education, built a successful career in the
computer industry, and eventually got married. On the surface my life
seemed to be going great. But underneath, it wasn't. I was deeply,
clinically depressed, and I drank heavily. Neither I, nor my marriage
counselor, had a clue why. Not even Prozac could help me.
When my marriage crumbled after five years, something triggered in me,
and I began crossdressing. I had always had a fascination with women's
clothes and especially lingerie, but it hadn't really occurred to me
to wear them myself. Now I began to, and I discovered I enjoyed it
For about 10 years I was a crossdresser (or ``transvestite,'' a term
that is deemed somewhat pejorative in the community), that is, a man
who enjoys dressing in women's clothes.
I dressed secretly, or ``in the closet,'' sharing my activity with no
friends or acquaintances. Eventually, I got good enough at my clothes,
hair and makeup that I could venture out in public without causing
much of a scene.
Eventually, through the Internet, I began to hook up with other
transgendered people and meet them at clubs where ``trannies'' or
``t-girls'' hang out. One evening, I met a beautiful blonde, probably
the sexiest woman I had ever met in my life. I was amazed to find out
that she was a transsexual woman. She had lived her entire life as a
man, and had only recently ``transitioned'' to living full time as a
We became friends, and she taught me the facts of transsexual life. I
spent about nine months in denial, soul-searching, experimenting and
therapy, and I came to the realization that I too was a woman in my
heart. (One reason community education is vital is so that
transgendered individuals have a chance to figure out what is wrong
with their lives much earlier on.)
Last New Year's Day, I began living full time as a woman. My lifelong
depression was cured. I stopped drinking. I began making friends. I
found a renewed spirituality. I am even thinking about becoming a
mother. My life began working correctly, joyfully. It was a miracle
I began taking female hormones (under a physician's direction) to
feminize my body. I will be undergoing gender reassignment surgery
This transgender stuff may seem far out to you, but it is more common
than you probably think. Thousands of gender reassignment surgeries
are performed every year at more than a dozen hospitals around the
world. Transsexual men and women work and play in society all around
you. You probably don't know most of them, because they are just
regular men and women.
There is nothing scary about us. If you do notice us, all we ask is
the same respect that you give any other human being.
Elaine Rose is a high-tech engineer in Silicon Valley.