The Grass is Always Greener

Who has it easier, transsexual women or transsexual men? Is the grass greener on the other side of the fence? Let's take a look over the fence and see what we can see.

Transsexual women and transsexual men share a common experience of undergoing sex changes and being viewed by society as, let's just say, abnormal. But in many other ways, our experience is very different. The table below compares and contrasts the male-to-female and female-to-male experience. (Obviously we are looking at general tendencies; circumstances vary by individual of course.)

The first table below lists the categories in which trans women seem to get the better deal.

Category Male-to-female Female-to-male Notes
Surgery-overall Excellent Poor A big advantage for trans women
Surgery-cost $8,000 to $20,000 (vaginoplasty) $80,000 to $200,000 (phaloplasty) Going female-to-male costs ten times as much for surgery that constructs a phallus from skin grafts
Surgery-number of procedures 1 6 to 12  
Surgery-results Excellent; cosmetically indistinguishable from natural; sexually fully functional except for poor self-lubrication Poor; phallus never looks completely natural and is incapable of erection except with a pump As a result, many trans men have a simpler surgery that releases the clitoris but does not create a phallus; or they don't have bottom surgery at all
Most important surgery SRS to create a vagina; often extensive facial feminization surgery ($10,000 to $80,000) is a close second in priority, if not first, and is often done first Top surgery to remove the breasts  
Figuring out they are transsexual Easier because they know they are clearly not men Difficult because they think they are just butch dykes  
Economic resources for transition Many trans women transitioning as adults are well off from having worked as men Many trans men are poor because of working as women Young transitioners of either stripe are in poor shape financially
Most important validation Getting "Ma'am'd" on telephone (difficult for some); giving a blow job (incredibly easy) Peeing standing up  
Fitting into new gender role Trans women do well in the world because they have self-confidence they learned growing up as males; and because women generally accept trans women quite warmly Trans men must confront the aggressive, competitive male world, and they may not be well equipped to compete because they grew up as women  
Psychological adjustment Easier because they get good vaginas, typically have good skills they can still use, and are warmly accepted by women I'm not sure, but I imagine it's very tough because men place such high importance on their penises  


The table below lists the categories in which trans men seem to have it easier.

Category Male-to-female Female-to-male Notes
Hormones Hormones feminize the body remarkably well, but they don't affect the voice or facial hair Testoserone masculinizes the body very quickly, especially dropping the voice and growing facial hair For both trans women and men, hormones cause fat redistribution, but they do not affect the bone structure so bodies are never totally congruent with the new gender
Voice Hormones have no effect; voice training is difficult and tedious; surgical solutions are risky and unsatisfactory Voices drop when guys start taking testosterone; voices are very passable Because voice training is so difficult, many trans women live with very masculine voices, or unnatural falsetto voices
Facial hair Three painful years of laser treatment and electrolysis are needed to remove the beard Facial hair grows as soon as the guys start taking testosterone  
Hair on top Almost all trans women have to wear wigs for a while; some do for the rest of their lives; the natural hair of those who can wear it is usually thin and stringy; and we never learned to style it! No problem; they even develop male pattern baldness when they're on testosterone  
How well they pass Results range from very well to poorly; few pass perfectly Very well  
Transition entanglements Trans women transitioning as adults often have a wife and children; the process is anguishing for all and often ends in divorce I run into a lot of trans men who had lesbian relationships going into transition; their partners either got out or tried to support them. I don't know any trans men who had husbands and children when they transitioned, but I'm sure it happens. You women and men are highly dependent on their parents and risk a great deal if they come out
Life before transition Very hard because society vehemently frowns on men acting or dressing effeminately Easier because they can live as masculine women, often in the lesbian community, without severe societal disapproval  
Economic resources after transition Many trans women have severe difficulty finding employment, particularly if they are not entirely passable I'm not sure, but it is probably better because trans men are usually very passable, and because it is a man's world Because of prior socialization and experience, trans women don't completely lose male privilege and trans men don't automatically gain it
Dating after transition Difficult dating men because they freak out when they discover a woman is trans; I'm not so sure in regard to dating lesbians, but the situation doesn't seem a whole lot better Easier dating women because women are more understanding and tolerant than men; I don't know about dating gay men, but probably very difficult because gay men are really into penises  
How viewed by society Freaks and child molesters Invisible because they pass so well This one may be a toss-up

So who has an easier time of it, the guys or the gals? I'm on the fence about it. We've each got our advantages and disadvantages—just as, individually, we each have our strong points and weak points. I'll be in green pastures, it seems to me, when I can be grateful for my strengths, and grateful that I can overcome or at least tolerate my weaknesses; and as sympathetic and helpful as I can be to others. Most of all, I try to remember that I am a worthwhile and beautiful person. And so are you!

I'd love to hear your thoughts about these ideas—especially you trans guys, since I don't know you very well. Please send your comments to me at

—Lannie Rose, 11/11/2006