Guest Author: LWU

Today, on the MHB Message Boards, one of our regulars, LWU, posted an insightful piece about the mysteries of being a recently transitioned woman. I found it quite in keeping with my reputation as Helen ‘Pulls No Punches’ Boyd, and so it found its way to my blog.
LWU called her post “Dirty Little Secrets: Passing.”

The Short Version:
— Don’t transition if you don’t or can’t pass.

The Long Version:

Every few weeks I have a conversation with someone who wants advice about transitioning. Leaving aside the issue about the value of free advice, or my capabilities to say useful things in this regard, a recent conversation brought up a point that forced me to clarify and distill some thoughts.

A lot of the questions in these conversations revolve around material issues such as surgery, voice, etc. In this case, though, I had a very specific thought, which is that passing may well be the single most important issue in post-transition happiness. I know that I’m covering old ground, but that’s the miracle of the Web, that everything old is new again. And again. And again.
Here’s the deal. If you transition and don’t pass, for the rest of your life, on every day that you interact with the mundane world, people will treat you like a pariah, at best. Perhaps you don’t care what they think, or how they treat you, but it’s going to affect your ability to get a job, etc.
I’ve never met any vaguely normal person who absolutely had no concern about how others perceived them. You’re not one of them, otherwise you’d be a sociopath.
Happiness for a lot of people seems to be the ability to lead a life that maximizes happiness and minimizes hassle. If you don’t pass, you’re going to get hassled. It’s not fair, and it’s certainly not just, but like Microsoft in the software world, it *is* the dominant factor in most social environments. You can’t ignore it.
Passing has a lot of aspects, of which appearance is probably the most important, followed by behavior and then voice. A lot of MTFs don’t seem to understand what it takes to pass. A fat wallet isn’t enough. I’ve met a number of MTF folks in the last few years who’ve had very expensive facial surgery, implants, hair-removal, voice training, and you know what? They don’t pass. And after a few minutes in their company, other people treat them poorly, because they’re being perceived as weirdos (at a minimum) and perverts (at the worst).
Are there exceptions? Sure, and somebody wins every single lottery, but it’s not going to be you. In fact, if you’re not sure whether you can do it, you probably can’t, at least not until you’re sure.
In my case, I pass most of the time *except* on the phone with strangers (and friends, I suspect) when I *never* pass, and this after lots of voice and social-voice training and practice. And when people call me “sir” on the phone, it makes me feel bad, although I’d like to be able to shrug it off.
My advice was, and is: Do everything possible to avoid transitioning. Others have written this screed, I know, but it bears repeating, that many people aren’t going to pass, especially late-transitioners. At the very minimum you *must* find a psychologist who specializes in gender issues *and* who will let you speak with existing patients.
You *must* have a comprehensive physical to rule out organic issues. Maybe you don’t feel like a man because you have very low testosterone. Perhaps you have a pituitary or adrenal tumor or other endocrine problem. You. Don’t. Know. If you make a decision about transitioning without investigating all these possibilities you’re doing your family, friends, and self a huge disservice.
And there’s another rub: Many, if not all of these changes take money and time. Fair? No. Just as Helen is tired of having to repeat herself about her approach to feminism, I’m tired of talking about whether the binary gender system is fair, and whether certain aspects of semi-free-market economies are fair. They’re not, Ok? And it sucks. But you still have to live with it, like it or not. Why? Because if you won’t pay attention to the outside world, you’re literally insane. I’m going to talk about resources and whining in another inflammatory post, coming soon to a MHB forum near you.
Don’t do it. Don’t transition. Do anything and everything you can to work out some other solution. If you’re depressed a few days a month because you have to be a man, would you rather be depressed for a few weeks every month because no one will accept you as a woman?
I’m much happier now that I’ve transitioned, but I’m the exception in almost every respect. I got the Lucky Sperm Club neutral facial structure, neutral hand/foot size, and enough resources that counseling, electrolysis, and surgery did not represent an insurmountable burden. I have a spouse and friends who weren’t happy with me at first, but they didn’t actively interfere with my project and many of them helped and are helping me to learn to act like the person I want to be.
In addition, I work hard at passing every single day that I’m going to interact with The Man. Makeup, shoes, clothes, behaviors that match my age and apparent social background. I’m 43, so I selected a name that was statistically likely both in terms of frequency and social group. I work with financial institutions and MBAs, so I wear makeup and clothes suitable for that environment. I’m a nerd so I also present as a nerd by carrying the appropriate amount of geer (geek-gear). If I don’t, someone will kill me with sticks, or refuse to hire me, which actually has longer-term personal consequences.