I was exchanging emails with my friend Amanda who is a relatively new friend I met on Pink Essence. Amanda is a very sweet lady who is coming to terms with her gender identity later in life. This is not unusual for people in their 40's, 50's, 60's and even 70's or older. There just weren't any resources readily available to people of our age.
The few sources of medical research and psychological research suggested in the 1960's and 1970's that people such as me were extremely rare, so rare that the estimate of our population was around one in 33,000 (1:33000). In 1970, when I was 12 and went to the public library in Charlottesville, Virginia to read about people like me in books by Harry Benjamin, Robert Stoller and Richard Green, the principle authors of the time, Charlottesville, in 1970, had a population of about 30,000. I knew this because on the Interstate signs for the exits for Charlottesville, they posted the population at that time.
Can you imagine how alone I felt as a 12 year old? It was a terrible feeling and I continued to feel that sense of terminal uniqueness until about 1990 when I got a subscription to Compuserve and found live time chat called "CB channels". Compuserve was very expensive at the time. It cost over $6.00 USD an hour over the basic plan. It didn't take too long for someone who was dire in need to talk to people who were like me to run up a huge bill and this limited how often I could talk to another transsexual after weeding out the fetishists and people with various interests other than realizing their internal gender identity.
Just before that, I had taken a "mental health" day off from work and watched Geraldo Rivera's daytime talk show that afternoon. Marsha Botzner was on his show. She was (and is) the director of the Ingersoll Center and the next day, I called her in Seattle where she is located. She was the very first person like myself I had ever spoken to and that gave me a tiny glimmer of hope. She was extremely encouraging with me, but it wasn't until 1997 that I made the decision to begin taking baby steps to actively seek my own transition and stop living with the misery of living with my secret.
My dearest friend Christina and my wonderful beautiful wife Patty were my rock in beginning the painful process of coming to terms with myself and the world I live in. Although I had been helping other transgendered people, it wasn't until 5 years ago that I found the strength to seek therapy for my own gender dysphoria. I deeply appreciate what my therapist Dana has done to help me find my way on a difficult life journey. She had no experience with people such as me. I'm the only therapist around for about a 3 and a half hour drive who works with adult transgender people. She is a highly skilled therapist and had the courage and compassion to stretch herself in her own growth as a professional to help me. I could have easily skirted the standards of care in obtaining my hormones, but I followed the process that I ask others to follow. I believe in the WPATH Standards of Care and cannot exclude myself from following them.
Along the way, from time to time, I would run into someone who would tell me that because I hadn't already transitioned, gone on hormones and had my genital reassignment surgery, that I wasn't a transsexual and that I was something else, less than the person who made these observations and not worthy of being friends with this person. I was "otherized". I found this reaction to be very painful and it would often increase my sense of emotional isolation and being unacceptable. I know my sister Christina experienced a lot of the same treatment by some of the other transsexuals with who were we were acquainted online.
It saddened me greatly to learn that Amanda had formed a close friendship on a transgender social website with another person who identified herself as a transsexual. After being friends and with someone who Amanda considered a close friend for a while, the friend learned that Amanda has chosen to honor her spouse's wishes that she not begin hormonal reassignment therapy and to not appear publically in her authentic gender identity. Her friend was not supportive of her, instead she was quite incensed that Amanda has chosen to make a compromise to preserve the relationship of many, many years with her spouse. In fact, she was so upset with Amanda's decision that she decided to "unfriend" Amanda. Amanda, understandably, was quite hurt by her friend's shallow an insensitive attitude towards her.
Now I do not know who Amanda was referring to and I do not care to know her identity. I think that this person must be very insecure with her own identity to insist that every transsexual follow in lockstep and begin HRT and eventually (the sooner, the better?) have genital reassignment surgery. it really matters not a whit, in my opinion whether someone begins HRT or has the surgery to confirm they are, indeed, a transsexual. There are many among us, particularly those who are older and in committed relationships who choose to not make our gender identity not "all about me". We love our spouses and want to remain with them for the rest of our lives. So, we make compromises that we are able to live with. We try to find a middle road that our spouses can support as well as what brings us a level of congruency that allows us to live as comfortably as we can. It isn't the best of all possible worlds, but it is what works for us as individuals. Gladys Knight and the Pips got it right in their song, Leaving on That Midnight Train To Georgia- " I'd rather live with him in his world than without him in mine".
Relationship is about compromise. To be in an intimate relationships, we have to find a middle ground with our partner. It doesn't matter what that compromise is, as long as we can live with it. Having a transsexual identity has nothing to do with what we do about it. It's simply about the identity.
We transsexuals frequently resent being lumped into the "transgender" umbrella. To me this is understandable because we don't care for the thought that we are identified by the public as being many things we are not. However, that has never influenced my choice of my friends. They are my friends because of their character and not because of their identity. It is particularly distressing to me that some of us who identify as transsexual will choose to denigrate others who identify as transsexual because of the compromises they choose to make to preserve the most important relationships in our lives.
I'm so glad you are my friend Amanda!