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Sex: Unknown  
Share Your Story
Set 4
Posted November 8, 2002
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Note: A number of the stories below refer to the NOVA program "Sex: Unknown," which re-aired on PBS on November 5, 2002.

My experience with transexualism is somewhat different from any other that I've known. I've searched the Internet and to date have found no others that share my situation.

Like many transexuals, my first feelings of being female occurred when I was approximately five years old. Having two sisters and sharing a bath with one of them as a child, I remember thinking I was misshapen "down there." Hearing the rhyme of "slugs and snails and puppy dog tails" always made me feel wrong somehow, and I always preferred to think of myself as "sugar and spice and everything nice."

Later on in my childhood I experienced crossdressing and would find ways to borrow my sister's clothes. My first experience with this occurred one day when it seemed all my underwear was in the laundry, and my mother gave me a pair of my sister's panties to wear. I thought I was in heaven! That was my introduction to wearing girls' and women's clothing. Crossdressing continued throughout my entire childhood and youth and always seemed to reaffirm my "girlness." Like many, I would go to sleep at night praying that I'd wake up as a girl. Because it would be an act of God, everyone in my family would have to accept it.

As a teen and young adult, I dated girls and had an outwardly normal-appearing heterosexual existence (with one sexual experimentation with a male friend involving mutual masturbation and fellatio). Of course, I'd return home from evenings out with girlfriends and friends and indulge myself in my passion for panties, bras, and other items associated with a woman's wardrobe. I was in complete denial that there was a problem here and that there was anything wrong with coming home after dropping off girlfriends and then putting on my sister's clothes, all the time hiding in my room behind locked doors in case anyone in the family should discover me wearing these things.

I guess as a teen I wasn't always careful enough. One day my mother opened the door to my room and without so much as a "How was your day?" asks, "Why do I keep finding her (my sister) underwear in your room?" When I failed to give a plausible answer in the appropriate amount of time her response was, "I'm beginning to wonder about you!" With that she slammed the door to my room and stomped off down the hall. So much for a mother's unconditional love, and "you can always talk to us (parents) about anything."

In my early 20s the onset of depression set in, and I was on the verge of suicide. I realized I'd been living a complete lie and became utterly despondent. The hardest thing I've ever done in my life was to tell my doctor the reasons for my depression. Shortly after that I was referred to a gender clinic, where I was "diagnosed" as transexual. No surprise there and so far nothing terribly different from the story of many transexuals.

In the early 1990s I had gender reassignment surgery and thought I was on my way to living a life as a happy woman. I lived fairly successfully as a woman for almost 10 years. These weren't exactly all happy years though, having dealt with discrimination and extended periods of unemployment.

Eventually I began to see something wrong with the way things were transpiring. As a pre-op transexual I did think of myself as being female, and I had no reservations whatsoever when it came time for surgery. A few years after surgery I began to think of myself less as being female and more as a post-op transexual. While other post-op transexuals I knew were finally able to put the questions of gender identity behind them for good, I found the questions of gender were arising for me all over again.

Once again depression set in and I began to gain a lot of weight and withdrew from society. I would hate having to go out to do even the simplest things like shopping for groceries. Because of the weight gain, I began to look less like a woman and more like a man in a dress. I'd hate it when mothers would stand between their children and me so their children wouldn't see me. Or maybe they thought I was some mentally unbalanced crazy person, and they were protecting their children from me. At any rate I began to hate it, hate myself, and hate the whole world.

Strangely, another turning point in my life happened while talking with a friend on the phone. She asked me about the makeup I was using, and I made some flip comment about how it really didn't help anyway because everyone could see I used to be a man. That's when the realization began to sink in that maybe the surgery, the transition and all of it was a huge mistake.

Shortly thereafter I began living as a male again, and I returned to the gender clinic in search of help once again. This time, though, I found the doctors seemed more interested in covering their behinds than in helping. I felt like I was helping them work through their guilt over a possible unnecessary surgery more than I was getting help for myself. All they could do was talk about the anger and rage that I must surely be feeling. This was not helpful at all, and this is probably where my faith in psychiatric medicine faded away like morning fog on a hot summer day.

After a year of living as a man once again, I was finally able to get them to prescribe injectible testosterone, and this is where things get interesting. Well, maybe you'll think so. Maybe not.

I've been doing these injections for approximately two years now, and I've noticed an interesting pattern emerge. Prior to the testosterone injections, I had no feelings of femininity left, I had completely lost the desire to wear women's clothing of any kind, and I actually agonized over the loss of my male genitalia, which for some strange reason seemed to represent to me whatever chance I had at a normal future.

Now another two years later, it seems as my testosterone levels get higher, the more I desire pretty, frilly feminine things all over again. When I was living female, I really could not have cared less about my wardrobe, and for the majority of the time that I was living female I lived in jeans and t-shirts. I almost never wore a bra. Now with normal(?) male testosterone levels in my system, I feel horrible if I can't wear one.

I have no real basis to associate the crossdressing with the presence of testosterone, but the timing does seem more than coincidental. Maybe testosterone is just like a poison to my system and it screws up the gender part of my brain. Who knows? I just know it's not fun when I have to look at myself in the mirror and ask, "What the hell are you?"

And currently today? My confusion reigns supreme once again. Sometimes I feel so despondent over not being born a woman. Other times I just get sick to my stomach at the thought of having to deal with this crap all my life. One might think that since I already had surgery and already have a "vagina" and breasts that it should be relatively easy to once again make the transition to living as a woman, but not so. I'm just so tired of all of it. I've just spent the last two years bulking up the mucsles, growing body hair again, and becoming more masculine appearing. To think of going through all that transition time again just makes me nauseous.

Besides, I personally don't believe anymore that having reconstructive surgery on my private bits can make me a woman (or a man, for that matter). To me after all this time, it's all just fantasy, smoke and mirrors, and none of it is real. I'm also convinced that I'd spend another four or five years doing female hormones instead of male ones, and that as the male hormones dissipate, I'd probably feel less like a woman again and more like a man in a dress.

Not surprising that I feel that if I have to deal with all this crap for the second 40 years of my life that I think often of just ending it. Most of the time I wonder why I don't just do it. I really feel like I'm useless to anybody the way I am anyway, and am doomed to a life of loneliness and solitude. Heterosexual women do seem to prefer relationships with men (that's not me), heterosexual men prefer relationships with women (that's not me), gay men prefer gay men (that's not me), and lesbians prefer other lesbians (and that's not me either). Not that I have much of an interest in a loving relationship with any man or lesbian anyway, because I don't.

I envy those transexuals that can leave the whole gender question behind them once they've had surgery almost as much as I envy the vast majority (male or female) that have never had to suffer through gender identity issues at all.

Anyway, I read the call on the NOVA Web site for the sharing of experiences. Here's mine.

I am a pre-op male-to-female transgender. I am very near the time for my gender reasssignment surgery. I am 50 and have known all my life that I am female. I've lived in fear, with shame, embarrassment, and secrecy since I was old enough to begin to understand gender, but especially after my experiences (that I will share with you below) in the early 70's.

Since age four (as far back as I can remember), I defined myself not as others did. The only indication that I may be intersexed is that my genitalia are tiny. How I've dreamed that they could just be gone. Between 1968 and 1972, my parents had me admitted and held in a mental institution. I became suicidal and anorexic, but only in response to losing all control over my own life during this incarceration. Conveniently, this allowed the physicians to diagnose depression, and shock therapy was administered a total of 82 times over this period. Behavioral modification programs were in place every day. Everything and everyone told me I was wrong to feel this way. I had to adapt my brain to fit my poorly equipped body and drugs such as Melaril and Thorazine were administered.

Eventually, I came to realize that I would never get out unless I gave them what they wanted. So I learned how not to feel. I had my switch thrown, and I spent the next 35 years being what I am not. I guess I am to be considered a lesbian transgender because I did marry a woman I loved and still do love. It was she who helped me to feel again. She who, slowly and patiently, helped to rebuild me. But I was so far into denial that any time those feelings came back, I was so ashamed that I would even close myself off to her. I was constantly afraid that I could be found out and have to go through the ridicule and deal with the hate (for me just being me seemed to generate that).

The hospital staff did their job well. And I believed as I was told. And I died.

Only when the last of my father's generation had actually died, and I knew the hospital was now a geriatric facility and could do me no harm, did I even allow myself to even think about this. I had to drive 14 hours each way to the funeral and that gave me the time to try to make sense of it all. By the time I arrived, I was a mess. I had cried and screamed most of the trip. The realization that those who I most trusted had truly subverted any chance at happiness that I could have was too much. Well, I looked appropriate for the funeral anyway. It's just that my heartfelt tears were for me.

I had also started a regimen of medication to help me stop smoking a few weeks earlier. I found out later that Zyban is an anti-depression agent as well as a drug used to help stop smoking (sold as Wellbutrin).

I suppose I would have to reluctantly give some credit to this pharmaceutical for helping me deal with it. But now came the hard part, the scary part—again seeking some psychotherapy. It took all the courage I could muster to reenter that cage of lions and again lose all control over my life. I waited until I was near suicide and was again filled with such self-loathing that I had learned so well, that I knew I would be dead soon if I did nothing (not really knowing at this point that I had been dead already for the past 35 years.)

Now, three years later, with the support of my family, I am very close to living as I want. I'm still afraid every day and have found that some fears are founded in reality, so I'm careful. But I am no longer ashamed. I am no longer such an unhappy soul. And I've begun to develop the strength to never be embarrassed for who I am again. The medical and psychological communities have helped me to overcome that which they did to me so many years ago.

As an epilogue I just want to note that to my knowledge, no one has ever been cured by changing the mind to fix the body. I cannot change who or what I am. As you can see, I've tried. Under extreme duress, I've tried.

My story is one of family suppression. Since I can remember my curiosity of living as a woman has always intrigued me. My father's words had always been "be a man, my son." I tried.

As a small child I always wanted to be with the girls, not in the sense most boys feel. My grandfather use to collect rags to sell, and he stored them in the basement of our three-decker house. I use to sneak down to the basement and dig through the bags of rags and find female clothing and hide it. When no one was around I'd take it out and wear it, fantasizing being a girl. This continued all the way through high school, my secret desire.

The pressure of family kept me from making my feelings known, and I joined the Navy and served my country. I met my first wife and had a child. But even through those years my feelings of being female were still strong as ever.

After 23 years of marriage my wife passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack, leaving me with a teenage girl to finish raising. I took my daughter under my wing and became mom and dad and started raising her forgetting about my desires. All these years passed and inside I was so miserable and couldn't figure out why. I grew up in a time where the word "transgender" was not spoken. Gay and lesbian were the only things I knew, and I didn't see myself as either.

I remarried, and my new wife kept saying to me that she saw someone else inside me trying to get out. She was very perceptive and saw the family control over my life. She could see the unhappiness in my eyes.

After our marriage, my daughter moved out on her own, and we moved out of the area, away from family and friends. She kept priming me to search for what was bottled up inside. In my research of what was bothering me, I got deeply involved with computers when the Internet was still in its infancy. One night I decided to search the Internet using my inner emotions and found out that there were thousands of people who felt the same way I did. These folks were females feeling masculine and males feeling feminine. They called themselves transgender. Wow! What a revelation. I started to visit chatrooms and do research in this area. I went to my wife and told her what I found out. Needless to say she wasn't pleased.

One thing I learned, and this is important to all transgender people that may read this, make sure you check the credentials of any therapist you want to go to concerning your issues. The first therapist I called said she treated transgender people. So I visited her one time, and it was quite an experience. This was the first time I ever talked to anyone about how I felt. She asked me if I liked men. I said no. She then told me I wasn't transgender because I didn't like men and so no way I could be female. She used the fact that her daughter was a lesbian, and she knew all about being transgender. She diagnosed me as having an obsessive compulsive disorder. I went home and did some more investigating, thinking that this was in fact the case. I read up on it online and didn't see any relationship to this disorder and how I felt.

I found the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care for transgender persons, though, and started my search all over again for a therapist. This time I asked if they knew of the Standards. When they said they were not familiar with the Standards, I just hung up by politely saying that if they weren't familiar with the Standards then they couldn't help me. After numerous calls I found a therapist. He was great. Together we started to examine my inner feelings.

Meanwhile at home as my true inner self came out my marriage started to end. This was a person I cherished. I went through the pain of losing someone in my life all over again, not from death but from finding myself. I don't know which one is worse.

My therapist was able to connect me with a doctor that handled transgender persons. I started on the road to being who I always was. The road is not one I recommend for the light at heart. It's a road of pain and suffering emotionally before you can be happy. I came out to my brother and sister and had the experience of total rejection from my brother, and in coming out to my sister, she made the comment that the family knew all along. She told me that my mother and father had taken me to specialists who had told them that I'd grow out of it and to keep pushing the male side and I'd do fine. I found out that as young as 2 I was cross-dressing and expressing my desire to be female, but growing up my family kept pushing me to be a man.

Today I live 100 percent female, have no more emotional problems, and love life for the first time. My sister after years of deliberation has accepted me (not to be confused with approval), and I now live my life with an FTM (Female-to-Male) who loves me for who I am. We live not advertising our lifestyle and are accepted in the community as a loving and caring couple. Only very close friends and family know of our lifestyle and we keep it that way to protect ourselves from harm by people who don't understand or are violent to our lifestyle.

We both live normal lives, and transgender is not a term we talk about openly. Only our physician knows about us from the outside, and families don't discuss the issue because they get embarrassed having us as part of their lives. Individual members of both families will discuss what it's like for us and we can only tell them that we are happy being who we are. The two of us have found each other and made a good life together. We have all the same problems every "straight" couple have, but we are strong and handle them with turmoil or fighting. We are truly one within the other, and our bond is stronger than most marriages.

I follow with interest each new revelation that society has probably been wrong in assuming that only two genders exist. One of the positive things is the disassociation of gender with sex.

While my "sex" (male) has always been clear, my "gender" has been equally unclear. From an early age (pre-school) I have identified more readily with females than with males. At no time in my life have I been comfortable with maleness. I never developed the interest in sports, nor did I become competitive.

The frustrations that have been associated with my gender dysphoria have been severe. In the past five or ten years I have come to know that I am not alone. I have also become comfortable with myself as a "gender: feminine" person.

There are many inequities in our society, but few as glaring as those that deal with sex and gender. I learned early that any actions by a male that could be considered feminine or effeminate are generally frowned upon. Coincidentally, actions by a female that are considered masculine are not necessarily discouraged. (I cannot speak from experience on this. It is merely an observation.)

In spite of society's policies regarding the equality of the sexes, it is still perceived that a male who would voluntarily take on the traits of a female is inferior. He is a "sissy" and is the object of consternation by most of his peers. A female who excels in sports may be considered a bit of a "tomboy" but is not ridiculed. In fact, she may be applauded as a kind of "hero."

I can only hope through continued education that the collective world society will become more tolerant of those who do not fit the conventional (and incorrect) idea of only two genders. The continuum of gender is a reality.

I am a 35-year-old disabled pre-op MTF (male-to-female) who grew up most of my life unhappy and suffering from depression. Since a young age I noticed that I had wanted to wear women's clothing (I frequently wore my sister's clothes). I did not get any sexual pleasure from it but rather felt it was the right thing. The feelings went away, came back, went away, and eventually got stronger over time.

I remember working at a hospital years ago and always loved this particular outfit that certain nurses wore. Since I worked in special services in the hosital, I had access to practically anything. I came across one of those outfits and took it home. I would wear it in my room and would feel so pretty. I never would tell anyone of what I was doing because I was very scared.

Growing up in school later on I never participated in any sports or wanted to be around other guys. I would keep to myself or not go to school altogether. Also, I normally had long hair, acted more feminine, and never ever wanted to hear anyone say I was macho, masculine, or manly, as I thought those descriptions where just "yucky."

I recently moved back to New York (I had lived in Connecticut for a few years) and one night was online and for some reason I started talking to a friend about something "weird." I said to her, "Have you ever heard of anyone who believed they were born the wrong sex?" She said yes and that I should look up the term gender dysphoria. So I did and much to my surprise felt I was reading an article about my life!!!

At first I felt suicidal and very hurt, but within a few days the depression started to disappear and my self-esteem went through the roof! I immediately wanted to know more info and decided to go to the library as well as read things online. I am now in counseling and am taking high doses of hormones and anti-androgens as I go down the road to something so wonderful I see as my second puberty. I look forward to my SRS down when I get my letter and can save the money needed for the procedure. I am so thankful that I am alive and have my life back!

I have a very special friend. Her name is Insa. Insa is intersex. She has a Web site about her/his experience as a hermaphrodite, so she is very open, and I fear not saying her/his name. Through knowing Insa I believe surgery should be held off until a person can decide whether or not they would like to live as male or female or non-gender-specific. Insa and I have traveled extensively together, and we spent much of our time discussing gender and the atrocities doctors are doing by assigning gender to intersex children. In this heterosexual society has anyone thought that perhaps the intersex might be comfortable as both sexes?

Insa is the sweetest, most nuturing person I know yet has the heavier brow, downturned nose, and strong jaw of a man. Do features make a man a man? Does a nurturing sweetness make a woman? Insa is both sexes in one body. This goes beyond features and character. Insa does have some of what we consider male attributes and some of what we consider female. If anyone asks me which gender Insa is I say both. Why do we have to decide to be male or female? This is a cultural-social issue that perhaps through awareness we can change.

I believe that hermaphrodites are magic. Insa is magic. I am a better person knowing Insa. Why not leave them with their magic and see what wonders appear? I know another person that is intersex and very happy that she was never altered. She has a great sex life and loves her/his enlarged clitoris. Let us instead make a new pronoun for non-gender-specific people.

I am writing about a possible case involving someone very close to me who, after watching this program, may be in this type of situation. I'm referring to my girlfriend of six years (off and on). She is a very beautiful woman (now 25 years old), but her body is not developed like a grown woman's. Intimacy has been out of the question during our entire relationship. In fact, there has been absolutely no intimacy at all, including no kissing on the mouth. Her breasts look very abnormal and underdeveloped (I now wonder if they were produced via hormones), and her hips barely appear to be shaped like a woman's hips would be shaped (for childbirth).

Speaking of which, she has said that children are not in her future at all. In fact, she doesn't even see marriage in her future. Currently at a mature age, her body has not developed at all since I met her at age 19. My concern is that due to some sort of physical problem (which I can't confirm, nor has she mentioned), she is sexually confused and, as a result, she can't (or won't) have a full relationship with anyone.

This program caught my attention because it reminded me of her. I may be totally wrong about it, but I want to discuss this with someone familiar with these cases so that I can better understand things. I would like to know how I can contact Dr. Anne Fausto-Sterling of Brown University so that I may discuss this possible "case" with her. Again, I may be totally wrong about it, but I'd really like Dr. Fausto-Sterling's professional opinion.

I'd appreciate any viable contact information.
Very grateful,
[Editor's note: Unfortunately, we cannot give out contact information, but you might try contacting her through Brown University.]

I was born a straight male, but I found that I loved wearing women's things, anything and almost everything. What started at the age of nine has been on going for 30 years, and I love every waking minute of it. I have often dreamed of having my own breasts bigger so I would not have to pad a bra as much, but I thought it best not think along these lines; people might think I want to change gender.

I don't want that. I just want bigger boobs so I don't have to pad. Sounds silly I know but hey, I always go with silly so I can have as much fun as I can in a single day.

I found that being who and what I am is no more hurtful than being "normal." I believe that when I dress as a woman I become that very character. I sometimes find myself staying in "drag" more than in "male" clothing. But that is when I am at home....

I am the Founding President of the American Association for Klinefelter Syndrome Info. & Support (AAKSIS). My husband and I are also the adoptive parents of an almost 35-year-old son whose genetic karyotype is 47,XXY. The "usual/normal" male karyotype is 46,XY, and the "usual/normal" female karyotype is 46,XX. Most doctors refer to an individual with the 47,XXY genetic chromsomal pattern (or a variation thereof) as having "Klinefelter syndrome."

Since 1994, I have been an "activist" in the 47,XXY community, and as a result of my "activism" I know personally many individuals whose genetic karyotype is 47,XXY (or a variation thereof). I also know many of the parents of these individuals. As a consequence of knowing so many XXY individuals and their family members, I feel that I have a great deal of "anecdotal info" to offer which strongly refutes Dr. Money's theory that "nurturing" a child to think of himself or herself as a male or a female can negate the "nature" of the gender identity with which one indentifies himself or herself.

If you or anyone else is interested in hearing my views on the "nature v. nurture" theory of gender indentification, please feel free to contact me at my e-mail address,, or at the AAKSIS toll-free "help-line" which is 1-888-466-5747.

The 47,XXY community would also be very grateful if you would consider doing a NOVA program concerning 47,XXY, especially including a great deal of "input" from the members of our community.
Roberta Rappaport

I am writing, after having seen this segment on Channel 11 tonight. The purpose of my writing is to confirm the evidence that seems to have been revealed. That is, that we are born with a distinctive gender, whether the body completely verifies that.

The story I would like to share pertains to a man that my boyfriend had as a client. My boyfriend is a probation and parole agent in the state of Wisconsin. This client was on probation and was still committing additional crimes. He did get sent to prison. His story was a sad one. He too had an attempted gender surgery done after birth at a hospital in Milwaukee. I think it was done in the 70's.

Part of his testimony was that he was very confused about his gender and that he felt like a man. He definitely exhibited hostile and aggressive behaviors. I can't help but think that this whole gender confusion might have greatly contributed to his criminal behaviors. Although there were indeed some confusing aspects to this case, it was clear that this man suffered greatly due to this problem. Some of his crimes were sexual in nature.

Prior to learning about this case, I had never really considered this situation. Now having heard about this and seeing your very informative expose on this issue, I am now even more convinced that we are indeed born female or male. We cannot change what we are born—almost the same statement made by the man now called David, formerly Brenda. Thank you for sharing such an interesting topic with the public. It definitely needs exposure.

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