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 very much.

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 woman.

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 for me.

I began taking female hormones (under a physician's direction) to feminize my body. I will be undergoing gender reassignment surgery next year.

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.

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