Respecting Choice: Genital Surgery as an Option, (15 June 1995) Houston, TX

Speech Text

[1] Thank you, Lisa. Those are two very hard acts to follow, especially since I was substituted in here just yesterday. I don’t have a very nice set of prepared remarks. And because I do feel very fondly toward all of you, I will not sing.

[2] If there was a piano or a flute, I might play music. I’m not a bad musician, but I’m a terrible vocalist.

[3] I think this topic was interesting. And I guess one thing that I mentioned to Lisa when she asked if I could do it is I have been a crossdresser and I have been a non-op and a pre-op and a post-op. So in a panel talking about crossdressing, non-ops, and post-ops, I’ve been in each of those categories and I’m glad to, very briefly, share my feelings with all of you in that regard.

[4] For quite a while, I was a crossdresser; and I really felt very much the same feelings that Jane Ellen Fairfax described so eloquently. I said, “Well, I know that there is a female soul inside me and I’m either going to keep it repressed,” which I did for a very long time, “or I’m going to let it shine.” Every time I did let it shine when I was out in the real world, I felt like I was like the luckiest girl in the U.S.A., very much like Jane Ellen said. And I think that that’s a wonderful feeling. The only place I would disagree with Jane is that I DO encourage people to crossdress. I think it’s good for everybody’s soul. When I meet straight people and we start talking together, if they’re a woman I encourage them to crossdress as a man. If they’re a man, I encourage them to crossdress as a woman.

[5] Basically, clothes are kind of like the way we paint our soul on our canvas; singing is another way, and dancing is yet another. So I do encourage people to express their soul because I do believe that there’s both a feminine and a masculine, and many other sides, to our souls inside each of us. We only live once and so why not let the inside shine?

[6] Every crossdresser does have to make certain compromises almost by definition, because a crossdresser is basically a part time gender explorer, you know. And you do make certain compromises and I made the same ones really that Jane Ellen had mentioned. I said, “Well, I’m definitely not going to crossdress at work.” Or I thought she said 3 miles. I probably would have said within 10 miles of my office. Because I was worried, as a person that was financially supporting our family, of doing anything that would jeopardize my income. And I for sure was not going to appear on television locally, nationally or probably even closed circuit. Because once again, a crossdresser often does feel a great deal of fear because of the compromises which are inherent to cross dressing.

[7] That’s one of the reasons why in my activism side I do really try to break down gender boundaries. It’s really stupid that we have to feel fear just to be able to express part of our soul. I think it’s wonderful that the crossdressing community is linking up with us because crossdressing is fine. It’s great. I think everybody should try it, but nobody should have to be afraid that they’ll lose their job, or they’ll lose their livelihood because of crossdressing. That’s a totally unnecessary fear.

[8] After a certain amount of time of crossdressing, though, I became more and more curious about going further in the gender exploration. In particular, I really was very curious what it would be like to have real breasts. Okay. So the hormonal ability to develop breasts was very attractive to me.

[9] Two other things got me interested in the non-op approach. One was that when I found that it would stop the course of further hair loss, that seemed to be a beneficial aspect of hormones; I was approaching 40 and I thought it would be a lot harder to be a crossdresser, because I’d have to wear a wig and all this stuff. So, I said I didn’t really want to lose my hair. It just seemed an easy way to retain some more youth and vitality. That seemed to me to be a reason to start on hormones.

[10] As far as sexuality goes, my partner and I had very much adapted to a lesbian mode of sexuality, so I did not feel that hormones would interfere with our sex life. In fact, I can say, after having been a non-op on hormones for several years, it did not interfere with our sex life. I, for one, had just as good orgasms after I was on hormones as I did before.

[11] Finally, when I went to an endocrinologist, I read everything on hormones and I think certainly Sheila Kirk’s book is the classic in that field to read. I perceived from reading all of that that if you had regular medical tests, there really weren’t any real risks associated with hormones, if you were on a modest dosage. So, I went through all the regular medical tests. I got on the hormones. Finally, the doctors said that I had slightly elevated cholesterol and that the hormones would probably bring down my cholesterol level which, he said, would be a net good. They did bring down my cholesterol level to a female sort of range instead of where it was in the male range. So, at least so far, – and I will knock on wood – being a non-op just on hormones did not have any adverse health consequences. It allowed me to live my female side; to express that on a full-time basis. I completely agree with Phyllis that if you have sex reassignment, or sex confirmation or gender confirmation, whatever you want to call it, you can do that by hormones. Okay. It is totally absurd to have a person’s sexual status depend on what nobody ever sees between their legs.

[12] I went full time as a non-op. I had no immediate intention to become operative. I decided to live that life for a while, and I worked on my job. And lo and behold, I found out as, I guess, FDR said the biggest thing about fear is fear itself. I found out that I was still able to support my family as a full-time transgenderist, or non-op or whatever you want to call it, and that really worked out quite fine.

[13] After doing that for some amount of time, I guess a year or two, I began to realize that there were really two things that led me to become all the way, to become operative. One was the amount of hormones that I was taking. Even though it was regularly monitored by a doctor, it was nevertheless a little bit worrisome to me, because I felt that the amount that I was taking was more than I would have to take if I was post-op. Okay. Because it’s necessary, at least for my reading, to have both one anti-hormone that suppresses your androgen, and one Premarin type of hormone that promotes your female hormones.

[14] I had some small amount of concern that the anti-androgen might not be all that healthy, necessarily. Secondly, I got to the frame of mind of saying, “well, it’s clear that genitals don’t matter, because I was living as a woman with a penis, and it really wasn’t causing any difference.

[15] Now, some people say, “if genitals don’t matter, why do you have SRS?” But to me, you could just as easily take the other conclusion and say if genitals DON’T matter, why not have SRS? I remember one phrase that a reporter asked me at one time, “Well, aren’t you going to regret swapping your penis for a vagina?” And the thought that came to my mind was, “you know, half of the people in the world have a vagina and I have not seen any of them jumping off cliffs because of it.” So I could not possibly understand what there would be to really be regretting.

[16] Now, my partner and I had been living in extremely close quarters, for some 15 years, and it didn’t seem to me that her vagina was anything terrible or awful. I mean, quite the contrary, I loved it, and worship it, I want to tell you. And so I’d said to myself finally, “well, I’ve had a penis for all these years. I do not want to have any more kids, because we had four kids. It’s not my body that makes me who I am, it’s my soul that makes me who I am.” Just as people are free to pierce their bodies, or tattoo their bodies, or build up their bodies with muscles, or make them bigger by eating, or change their hair color, or what have you, why can’t I change my genitals? And I realized that, of course, I could. I went to a psychologist and I explained to her the whole thing, straight up, just as I explained it to you. And she said, “Well, it seems to me that makes perfect sense. And you’re adapted. You understand what’s going on.” I talked with everybody in my family, and they really said, “Well, people already see you as a woman, more or less, so no one is really going to know you have had this surgery.”

[17] In fact, when I did have the surgery, virtually nobody really did know that I had the surgery because the people that you meet in day-to-day life are going to expect you look like a woman. You smell like a woman, you pee like a woman, so nobody really knew. I just went away for two or three weeks, and I came back and I don’t think anybody even knew that there was any difference.

[18] But I felt a difference in myself. I loved my postoperative body. I can say that quite honestly. When you get out of bed and look in the mirror, or you get out of the bathtub and rub yourself down, and lay on your bed, my partner and I love exploring each other’s bodies, femme to femme.

[19] I went to Dr. Shrang only after extremely careful research because I’m really not a reckless person and I wanted to make sure that I had the lowest possible risk of anything going wrong. I spent about a year researching doctors. I went to the Harry Benjamin conference, saw each of the doctors give their own slide shows. I used my own kind of legal investigative skills to check things out. I finally became pretty convinced that by going to the wrong doctor, there was a high risk of something going wrong. And going to a right doctor, there was a very low risk of anything going wrong. And, you know, that’s just like anything else in life. You go to the wrong lawyer, you’re probably going to get screwed. You might get lucky, but you’ll probably get messed up. And you go to the right lawyer, you probably come out okay.

[20] So, I came out fine. Okay. And I’ve now lived as a crossdresser, as a non-op, pre-op and post-op. Each of them were great experiences. If I had, for some terrible reason, died at the end of any one of those facets, and before the next one, I would have said, “I’m so happy I did the facet I did. I’m so happy I experienced crossdressing and didn’t just die without ever being a crossdresser. I’m so happy that I had a chance to be a transgenderist. And now I’m so, so happy that I’ve had a change to transform my body from a male type to a female type.”

[21] My final message is: follow your soul. Follow your heart. Don’t let other people unduly persuade you, and just do good things. Don’t hurt other people, and love yourself and you’ll be fine.