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Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Long and Winding Road: After the Bell Goes Off

Many of us go through life sitting on the fence about transitioning for years        before we do it. We know who we are, we just aren't sure what we want and/ or need to do about it.

 As Bob Dylan wrote, "Some of us turn off the lights and we live in the moonlight shooting by. Some of us scare ourselves to death in the dark to be where the angels fly..." There are those of us who desperately know what they want, but are so filled with fear over what the implications of recognizing their transsexuality means and what is necessary to resolve the situation that they are paralyzed and live in a state of denial for many years, only to realize much later in life what they must do. Many among us call that "The bell rang or the bell went off". There are those of us for who the bell rang immediately when they realized their female identity and plunge ahead. For some of those people, they intuitively made the right choice. Then there are those who jump in only to find somewhere down the road that they made all the wrong decisions. So they took steps that are irreversible and live with painful regrets. This isn't to say they don't have a feminine identity, but for various reasons they conclude they made a terrible mistake and might not be transsexual.
Various studies indicate that the vast majority of us will never have GRS. The reasons are myriad. Some will never be able to come up with the money and will live in that in between state for the rest of their lives. Others simply have commitments that mean more to them than having GRS, though they dearly desire to be complete. Then there are those whose health is too poor to undergo these procedures, and there are as many reasons true transsexuals cannot fully transition as there are those who choose not to or are unable, too numerous to name here.
Years ago, in my internet searches about information that I could use to help myself, I came across an article written by an anonymous woman who has gone through transition and GRS. I'm not sure I agree with every single thing she said, but from my own personal experience and of the transgender people I've treated or met, I think that there is much wisdom in her article. It is quite lengthy. She makes the point that you either are a woman or you are not. That isn't the question though. The question is: Did your bell go off? I think that is an important insight. If your bell hasn't rung, she believes you should not transition and if it has gone off you will have no choice.
I remember vividly the day my bell rang. It wasn't, as the anonymous author notes, a joyous occasion. My life had been dedicated to not having to do this and I gave it one hell of a shot. I can look back at my football career. When I was 13 I went to preseason practices with the varsity and practiced with them until the J.V.'s started after school began. I got the living hell beat out of me until my freshman year when I lettered on the varsity team the first time, the only one in my class who played on the varsity team. From my sophmore year on, I started both ways on offense and defense. It was great cover for me, or so I pretended.
 Later, I would go on to rock climbing, caving, and I even rode a bull several times. That was nothing but sheer stupidity trying to deny who I am and live that man's life. I lived wrecklessly and honestly should have been killed on at least 5 occasions. I lost my first marriage over this when it didn't go away as I had hoped. I, like so many others thought getting married would make it all go away.
On the day my bell rang, I had been treating transsexuals for 13 years. My thinking was, if I can't do this myself, at least I can help others so they wouldn't suffer any longer as we so often do and live their lives authentically, if that was their right path. Seven years earlier, my dear friend Gianna Israel who is no longer with us wrote me a referral letter for HRT but I didn't use it at the time. I wanted to get on hormones, but the bell hadn't rung yet. I knew it would come, though.  I had returned to therapy and my transsexualism was the reason for my return. I needed to figure out where I was going with all this. Six months into therapy, my bell rang and it rang loudly. I gathered my courage and called the gynecologist I have been referring to since my first male to female patient. I had been referring to her for all of those thirteen years and she was one of the biggest supporters of the work I was doing. I took three days after deciding I wanted to go on HRT to screw up my courage and then I called her. I vividly remember blurting out to her "Melinda, I just can't do this any more, I need your help." She had no idea that I was a transsexual myself, but she is very compassionate and told me, of course she would help. Then I had to go home and tell the person I love more than anyone or anything, more than life itself, what I had decided to do and what I had done about it. Our lives together have never been the same. That is the point of the writer's book.  There will be losses and some will be very painful losses. Be darn sure you are a transsexual before you make the decision to transition . You may possibly lose everything you hold dear. If you are a transsexual, it will be extremely difficult to transition and extremely difficult emotionally not to transition. There seem to be no winners here, at least in the short term to mid term. Recently, I made the comment to Dana, my own therapist, that I was every wife's nightmare. She's heard me make this statement several times and this time she said, "No you aren't. {your wife} loves you and is staying with you. Don't you know any other couples that stay together?" Yes, I do. Besides myself, I know my friend Christina and her wife are successfully working this through, not that it is very easy. I also thought of Christen and Nikki off the top of my head during that session. So, we are not every wife's nightmare.
 I do see a lot of happier women who undertake this rite of passage and successfully transition, but it seems to take a long time to get there from what I can see. Those who do survive the losses and the transition generally tell me they have some improved sense of peace and sense of self as complete and a better quality of life but they always seem to have a bittersweet quality to their lives as well. Others I have known have not fared so well at all.
Here's the link; it's worth the time it take to read it. As I said, I don't agree with all of it, but I think most of it rings true. It's something everyone who is seriously contemplating should read and reflect upon.


  1. This is a wonderful blog. i knew i was a girl when i was 5 but wanted to be "normal" so ran from me for 35 years. Along the way i married, had 4 children, earned 2 degrees and became an author. Logically i shouldn't need to transition but i do. Thank you for writing your wonderful blog.

  2. Hi Sherri great piece. I am one of the lucky ones as well that has a wonderful supportive spouse. We have been married 25 years now and both still not just want to stay together but actually still love each other.Her comment was that she decided the she was in love with the person I am not the shell I was in.I realize this isn't the norm but it seems like I am starting to see more and more spouses who are at least willing to give it a try instead of heading straight to the lawyer.The link you give above is actually to the wiki page of the chat room I help moderate. If you or anyone reading this would care to drop in there is a link to the chat room at the upper left hand of the wiki page. We are a non sexual troll free zone to just get together with others and talk about our live our families and even transition at times

  3. Sorry I hit enter too quick may I post a link to your blog in our forum

  4. Deanna, Please do post your link here! The more resource available to readers, the better!
    Thanks so much for your kind comments too!

  5. Thank You Sherri for your post. It was thoughtfully written and gave rise to my own emotions and my own thoughts which brought me to the very same place at which you found yourself in. It was the inspiration for me to share my own story which I hope you might find some comfort in reading as well... Thank You!

    If it is of interest, you may read it at:

  6. Ok.... I remember that article... and like you, I didn't agree with everything, BUT, I agree with the bell ringing thoughts.... I remember the date, and the Christian Pastor that was talking on the radio when it went off for me.... I had never wanted to transition before that because I could not stand the thought of the losses I would sustain, but, it went off, and I started my transition.... My spouse has been VERY supportive, although it has completely changed our dynamic and our relationship.... She is my best friend and always will be!!!!

    I gave some thought to the "bittersweet life" that you refer to... I guess mine could be considered that, but in my mind, because I counted ALL as loss before transition, I don't feel as much of the bitter part of that equation, and instead, I am enjoying the sweet side of it all!!!!

    Thanx for your openness... You are truly special!!!

  7. I've had my bell rung - line drive to the face. Does that count?

    I remember reading that blog all the way through several years ago. It's a good article even if I don't agree with all of it. I see so many people who either jump into transition, or are talked out of it at the last minute, people who want to be women instead of need to be. This article is sort of a scared straight thing.

    I remember the bells in high school. The first bell would go off and all of a sudden things changed, and we had three minutes to make it to the next class that was a five minute journey. Those bells would raise stress levels, as does the TS bell.

    Back in 2008, at the lowest time in our marriage, my bell went off, but I may never be able to "transition fully". And what does it really mean to transition fully? To live my life, true to myself - to have figured out, to an extent that many people never do, who I am, and to learn to respect and love myself for who I am - is priceless.

    My good fortune has come at a price for my beautiful and gracious wife, but we are working through it. Maybe it's just because we are 60ish and practically dead, like the anonymous writer writes in her article, or maybe it's the respect that comes from knowing someone intimately for 40+ years, but it's good. And she is beginning to see the good, not just the loss.

    Thank you for your thought provoking blog, little sister.

  8. I wanted everyone to know that I fixed the link to the article so that you can read the whole thing without going through contortions to find the rest of it after chapter 1.

  9. I found myself shaving my body because the body hair was becoming increasingly repulsive and a desire to look as female as possible in the fall 2006, but purged and tried reverting back to being "the man" but I remember the bell ringing, "this isn't going away this time" Well I managed to live through it until the Summer of 2008 and the desire to shed the male facade was stronger then ever. At that time I didn't know by definition what a transsexual is, I just felt like I was the most alien and strangest of people until I began exploring the internet and discovering their was a whole world of misfit toys not unsimilar to me. The repulsiveness of my male facade came back like a locomotive this time, I took hormones and I began to feel like me, although I really wasn't sure who "me" was I just knew it wasn't who I had been. It was the beginning of the end of my marriage and I knew it, but I had to live in the truth now that I knew it.

    But for sure, if you're not a woman, don't even think of transition. This is no game and it comes with much pain received and inadvertantly given. However, I am glad I did. I am finally me.