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HammerClock3To be “clocked” or “read”, in the transgender vernacular, means to have someone (general public) treat us as if we are our pre-transition gender.  In my case that means someone addresses me as ‘Sir’ or refers to me as ‘he’ or ‘him’ or would treat me as a guy, etc.  We start out fearing this and doing everything to avoid this ever happening.  Some transsexuals will never pass (to pass is to be ‘automatically’ assumed to be the gender as which you are presenting).  Others change remarkably and have no problems.  Of course this is the hardest when we start our transition.

The local society and environment has a lot to do with this as well.  This can range from open acceptance, to very dangerous – look at the recent hate crimes and murders of transgenders and transsexuals, especially out east and in Texas.  In a couple cases, the police and rescue personal would not treat the transgender victims resulting in their death.  I am lucky, Hawaii is very open and accepting and most likely is the reason it took over half a year before I experienced being clocked in public.

It happened today at the local wholesale buyers club.  They have employees that hand out samples of different foods. One of them addressed me nicely with “Sir would you like to try…”.  Well I looked at him – he seemed to be friendly – and asked if I wanted a sample, so I took one and said thanks.  Then he offered to help if I needed to find something, saying he saw me looking around, but he again used ‘Sir’.  Sort of bugged that he did it twice – not really sure if he was pulling something or making a point and I’m also upset that I didn’t correct him!

To be fair, I was dressed a bit more androgynous today.  Usually I wear jeans with a tank top or straps sometimes with an open shirt over it.  But today I wore jeans and a shirt, which did sort of hide my, ummm, assets ….

On our way out the lady checking the cart at the door made mention of a 2 broom/dust pan set we purchased saying “ah, his and her’s”, then quickly changed that to “inside and outside” which to me meant she ‘read’ me, accidentally made that innocent comment (would have been awkward but better if she stopped there and not ‘corrected’ her statement) but in correcting, it made me know for sure she clocked me and was trying to politely cover her tracks. I’ll give her high marks for trying.  As my partner pointed out, she could very well have corrected her statement because she noticed we were a lesbian couple.

Now to be balanced, earlier today someone did call me “ma’am”.

Of course I had spent plenty of time thinking about how I would feel if I got ‘clocked’.  I think that is just part of the process of transitioning.  It is sort of amazing that I’ve gone almost six months before this happened.

Mentally I share the same philosophy as the ‘old hats’ (post-transition): this is my life, not theirs, what they think or say is their own issue.  But when it happens – feelings are still hurt, it smarts.  This had the effect of calling into question any and all of the progress of my transition so far (putting it in the classification of ‘probable progress’).  Was everyone just being nice to me all this time?  Was I really starting to be able to ‘pass’ as a woman?

Now, I’m not that naive that I think I’m passing everywhere I go. I know I’m a long way from being able to do that. I do think however, that I’m somewhere on the road to that. This is the first time being ‘clocked’ as well. One spends time and worry about being clocked and one also prepares themselves for it. I hear from the ‘old hats’ that even after 20 years some of them will get clocked occasionally.

And really, it does not matter – I am finally becoming the real me – becoming congruent. So this is expected and one is to be tough and to be true to ones self, etc, etc, etc. But – it still stings and hurts.

Why does this hurt, especially when one has confidence?  Why do things like this force us to re-evaluate everything?  It puts back into question everything we so painfully and carefully worked out before – again! And precisely ‘why’ does it matter?   These are important and difficult questions.

We are social beings.  As much as this is a personal voyage, it is tied up with others that surround me – known and unknown people and agents of society.  As much as society effects each of us, we in turn ‘are’ society.  It becomes difficult when we are outside societal norms, especially something as foundational as gender.  It is both a “Why can’t they see?” and “What am I not doing right?”.

It matters to me precisely because there is both an internal and external component to living.  I have come to profoundly understand who I am and transition is an extreme step to realize or actualize that.  As much as this is an internal transition, it also is surrounded by society.  I think we all have a need to be accepted – maybe just to affirm the real person – maybe just to be comfortable in our life.

Why can’t people just see who I am …..

With aloha,


Restroom issues – revisited

port-a-pottyWell, there was one woman at work that was on vacation when the original restroom issue was addressed and just now came back to work.  In my  previous post, I mentioned that there was a different woman that originally was ok with my usage of the restroom but then suddenly changed her mind and asked management to change the restroom to a unisex with a lock.  That resulted in management not only refusing (it would have been against the law actually) but they hand delivered (and posted) a pamphlet from Lambda Legal regarding a transsexual’s rights.  Well we had speculated that since these two were women were good friends  – that this was the reason for her ‘turn-about’.

Sure enough, the first day the ‘vacation lady’ came back, she talked to one of the woman in my department in the hallway – apparently trying to get all the other women behind her efforts to not have me use the woman’s restroom. She started by saying how ‘uncomfortable’ she was knowing I might be there.  My friend stopped her and pointed out the ‘LAW’ and the Lambda Legal brief on the bulletin board. Then ‘vacation lady’ said “well, I’m going to talk to management then” !!

So she went up to management and told him that she was uncomfortable with me using the woman’s restroom and that they should do something ‘special’ for me. He told her that was against the law, they are not allowed to single out trans-anything for special treatment. He also told her that it was within the law to make all employees ‘comfortable’ with restroom usage and that he could rent a port-a-potty ‘FOR HER’ to use out in the parking lot if she wished. She declined  …..

Glad I have this kind of support,


Using the Woman’s Restroom

Of course a major issue for a transsexual is which restroom to use and when to start or switch to using it.  For me this issue ranked up there along with ‘pass-ability’ in my decision as to when to start living full time as a woman (starting my RLE – real life experience).  And this is an especially important issue to be addressed and solved at the workplace where we spend most of our day!

There comes a point where we have progressed in our transition (hormone treatment) that we can no longer effectively hide our ‘blossoming’ changes and it becomes harder and more difficult to continue using the restroom we had been using but at the same time we are not passable enough to use the restroom of our target gender.  What a conundrum!

Let me explain my situation first, as this is a bit unique.  A number of events all came together to make this a bit easier for me than what one would normally expect.  As they say, your mileage will vary, but some of what transpired here may be of use to others that are transitioning…

I’m just starting my 4th month on HRT and my body has changed beyond where I can effectively ‘hide’ it.  The best way to describe the situation at work is to say I am in a department that is somewhat out of place in the building where we are located – meaning we are a bit isolated.  I had come out to everyone in my department about 1/2 year ago – but not to others in the building as there is little interaction.    That all changed, as recently we had an all building ‘sensitivity’ training during which I was asked to explain the difference between gender and birth sex, gender presentation and sexual orientation (this was planned….).  This of course effectively ‘outed’ me and of course that is what I wanted and was the perfect setting (sexual harassment and workplace violence training – with our top lawyers giving the training).

At this same time my name change and gender change documents came through (see “Getting Legal“).  I am now officially named and have a gender of female in my state, my drivers license, social security and at my employment and my bank.

All of these events came together: progressing to a point where I needed to present as a woman full time, fully out to everyone in my department and to everyone in the building, the decision to start my RLE and all my documentation is changed – name and gender.

What was left to resolve was the restroom issue!  I was counseled to find a way to manage this independently as our HR is on another island.  So a couple of the women from my department went around and talked to each women in the building individually, specifically regarding the restroom.  I had talked to the different managers at our site to make sure this was ok.  I would then go around and say hi to each person and make sure they were ok.  All was well ….  This was about 2 or 3 weeks ago.

Then last week, one of the women, who is there only part time and usually during the morning when I’m not there, went to one of the managers and requested that the upstairs woman’s restroom be converted to ‘unisex’ with a lock.  Last Thursday was the first chance I had to say hi to her and she politely told me she requested this and gave me the following reasons:

– if we didn’t know you ‘from before’ …..

– you (meaning I) might feel uncomfortable if a woman in the next stall is having a period ….

– during public events outside people might be uncomfortable

For one, I’m an elder person – I know/have seen/been there – and how ‘dare’ she speak for me and what I might be uncomfortable with.  As far as outside woman using our facilities, I am 100 % presenting now and using public restrooms where ever I am.  As for knowing ‘who I am before’ – exactly when do you ‘not know’ and it becomes ok?  And finally as for converting that restroom to a ‘unisex’ with a lock – not only is that an inconvenience to others here, but in one way it’s sort of a slap on my face – a denial of who I am.  Furthermore, my documentation now states I’m female, I have started my RLE and it would be even stranger if I were to use the men’s room at this point!

Well, independently and unknown to me, the managers she went to, consulted with their higher authorities and came up with a brochure from Lambda Legal regarding a transsexual’s restroom rights and not only posted it on the main bulletin board but hand delivered a copy to this woman!

Now, my recommendation based on all this, is not to handle this internally, no matter what the situation is with your HR.  But to ask/demand that HR put out something official stating their policies.  Now, I do admit, I work for the state and there are policies that cover this and protect me – so you need to find that out for where you work first.  But after that – this is HR’s job, not mine or yours.  I am very grateful to the women who stood up for me, that fought for me and for the managers for taking action when they needed to.


I’ll close with a cute story and an explanation of the accompanying image.   Back a few weeks ago when I first started my RLE we went down to the federal building to change my social security name and gender.  We parked in their garage and took the elevator up.  When we got out my partner asked if I had to use the restroom – not expecting what she was up to I said yes.  Then before I knew what was happened, she grabbed my hand and yanked me into the woman’s restroom which I had not noticed that we were standing in front of!  This was my first use of a public woman’s restroom…  It gets better:  we are using the stalls next to each other and she moves her foot over to touch mine – under the partition.  We played footsie in the woman’s bathroom stalls !  The she asks if I have my cell phone camera and states it would be great to have a picture of this.  It gets worse:  just as I take the picture, there is a sound as if someone else entered the restroom – then my phone decides it wants to use the ‘flash’ – ack !  So now I’m facing the situation where this is the first time in a public woman’s restroom, someone else might have just come in there, and I just took a ‘flash’ picture —- in the restroom.   Geeeesh.  Well, no one else was in there except us (must have been some building kind of noise) and here is the picture to prove it !

With much aloha,


The ‘Girl’ Card

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vector-card-girl8A lot of people going through transition will at some point experience what has been called “getting the ‘girl’ card” (MtF).  This is that magic moment when the friends around you (usually women) display some sort of public acknowledgement and acceptance of you as a woman.   This happens more than just once of course, but it’s that first time that is very special and memorable.

This happened in a big way for me today:  we had an all hands meeting where the lawyers from UH came to give us training in sexual harassment and work place violence.  About half a year ago I had requested they include something about transsexualism and was asked to write a couple of slides (Click this tab to see those slides).  But because this training was to address problems in the workplace they decided keep the focus to the current issues.

Just before we started, the presenter that I had been in correspondence with, recognized me and we had a huge hug!  She then quickly showed me that she did incorporate some points from my slides into her presentation.  About 1/4 of the way through the training, she purposefully asked the ‘audience’ if anyone knew the difference between birth sex and gender and what gender presentation and expression meant.  She told me later she had asked that just so I could answer!  Wow!

All the women from my department (plus a few others) sat all around me (they did that on purpose – they knew I had submitted those slides for this presentation).  So after I had answered her questions – suddenly there were 4 or 5 people all patting me (on my back, my arms) – just absolutely awesome.  What support and caring – not just for patting me but for purposefully sitting all around me.  Afterwords, the presenter mentioned the awesome support she witnessed by those around me.

Then later in the training, the woman behind me was picking something off my back (a hair or something).  When I turned around and smiled and thanked her – the other woman next to her said “oh, we were just snapping your bra” (this was in the crowded training room)!!  Both are woman I work closely with (one is my ‘sister’ that helps me with womanly issues that I face while transitioning).  Afterwords, I told another woman that I work closely with about the bra snapping and she said “oh, turn around let me see” – and then ‘she’ snapped my bra too!!

That – is what I call being given ‘the girl card’ …..

And:  the ‘alpha’ male in our group came up to me and politely asked which personal pronouns I would prefer and that he would try hard and please forgive any lapse he might make.

Plus:  the overall manager in charge of everyone on this site came up to me just before this meeting and asked what name I should now be called.

Ecstatically in tears,


Working on the ‘Inside’

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reflectingOne of the things my psychologist had commented on about me was that I was ‘working’ on the inside first and that now I was coming to the point where I was ready to work on the outside. I have seen a few (very few) others that were like me in this regard.

My partner and I were just talking about my situation.  I explained that my memory of school, where innocent questions were met with brutal force (Catholic school nuns), was a really huge event that modified me greatly – and that this was not a single event but 8 years of school.  That affects people in different ways: some take it that something is wrong with them, others just blindly give in, some fight it and are constantly in trouble, or there is me – I saw and recognized the ‘game’, how to play it and what the rules were.

I also knew that to survive, I not only had to play this game but that I had to keep ‘me’, my true beliefs and my being, private.  Anything that was being told or taught, I had to be sure to critically analyze and make sure it fit in with ‘my’ views or the world – eg. it had to make simple sense.  Life in an ultra conservative northern town in the 1950’s did not allow for even the possibility of a transsexual existence – let alone gay or lesbian. These concepts were not even known – at least to the general public of that time. Somebody that was strange or different (in just about any way) was simply queer – that term was not a gay term then – it just meant different – but the stigma was horrendous. The effect for me was like the school:  play the game but understand your own truth.

However, what was my ‘truth’?  There was nothing in that society or environment that even hinted at a self-identity that did not match ones birth sex – or anything that was transgender or gay/lesbian. Those things were censored from all news outlets – remember back then all channels were local, even TV when that finally came – same with the libraries. I was different, I fit in with the girls but I sure looked like a boy. So in my wee little mind the ‘game’ I learned in school applied to this situation worked its way like this: I was a boy but I had these ‘extra’ capabilities that allowed me to feel, understand (and be understood) and be part of the girls – actually part of both sexes.

This had the effect of layering on all these masculine traits and habits (testosterone did its share…) as I ‘played’ the game of being a boy/man. But inside I carried all my feminine traits, buried, but like school, these were kept inside as my own ‘truth’.  They were not labeled as such – because I did not have exposure to the full truth – to me they were just these added abilities/feelings/senses that no other boy seemed to have.

So, coming full circle, here I am:  these layers are peeling off and we are discussing internal and external transitions. I’m about 3 weeks away from starting HRT and reading/pondering these autobiographies of post transitioned women who are now dealing with being a woman internally – thinking, feeling, responding to the environment as a female.

Where am I?  Well, of course only time and transition will tell, but especially within the last year, I can tell when I did something ‘male-ish’.  Usually at the moment it’s happening I can tell.  I have told my partner and my psychologist a lot of times that I was definitely a women (I say I was very Si today or I had a Sifan day).  I don’t say that much any more because the majority of the time I am now coming from my womanhood.

I do agree with my psychologist (her statement above that I started out working from my internals).  From my childhood I learned to be appropriate and to that extent when I’m presenting as a male – I use those mannerisms.  I really enjoy when I am presenting as a woman, as for me it is natural and I can just allow myself to be ….. free.

Some of this understanding came from Second Life – a virtual world where as my avatar I can immerse in a world (and a society) fully as a woman.  Once I found a voice modulator that would change my masculine voice to a feminine one – it really opened my eyes!  Suddenly, there was my full range of expression, the giggles, the highs and lows, the intonation that was hidden in the male voice.  It was ‘me’, it was the me that I knew was there, it was freeing.

THAT is what transitioning means for me – allowing the real me, my truth, to come out, to be seen and heard. Allowing me to interact with the world (and vice versa) the way I want to, to express my ideas and thoughts and feelings with the full impact how internally I try to, but becomes so buried in the masculine persona as to be muted and unnoticed. It’s like living inside a box, voice muted, plain features, muted expressions, on and on.

Since I have come out to the people I work with, I’m more able to be myself.  However,  because I’m pre-HRT and still presenting as a male in public, I’m careful to stay within those bounds.  But I do push the boundaries slowly and within what I believe is their comfort levels.  For example, I carry a purse and wear a bracelet.   Each month before I actually transition at work (about 6 months from now), I plan to ‘up the ante’ – still presenting as a male.  For example, getting my ears pierced, shaving legs and arms, wear more androgynous clothes, changing style of flippers/sandals, etc.

All of this allows me to be more of myself and allows me to shed more and more of the male persona that I had built up over my lifetime.

Working on the inside …….

Coming out at work – part 1

imagesThis is how I came out at work:

This is the first part of how I came out at work.  I work in a department that is somewhat isolated from the rest of the people in this building.  This post covers how I came out to my department.  Another blog will detail how I came out to the rest of the building and to institution where I work.

First things first – a disclaimer:  so far I consider myself very fortunate in that everyone has accepted my transsexuality and transition remarkably well with full support.  They are correcting each other and defending me.  Even the persons that I thought would have the most difficulty have taken me under their protective wings so to speak.  I would definitely ‘not’ consider this a normal or usual situation – your mileage ‘will’ vary.

Another disclaimer:  I am involved in outreach programs for the public and run our programs in virtual worlds (Second Life, Metropolis, InWorldz, etc.).  My avatar in all those worlds is female and I use my Sifan name.  Everyone at work knows this.  This plus my ‘normal’ disposition probably allowed everyone to ‘connect-the-dots’ long before I came out.  At the very least, everyone could accept my situation right away.

For now, I have only come out to the department that I work in.  I chose to do this now, before hormone treatment, hair removal, voice lessons, etc. so that this would be a gradual change for them.  I work for the University, with their attendant rules regarding fairness inclusive of transgender issues.  I will still be working here as I transition and beyond.  More than likely so will the rest of the people in this department.

Up until hormonal changes become obvious, I intend to make small changes in my appearance every couple of weeks or so, both as a reminder of what is coming but also to acclimate everyone.  I started wearing bracelets, then I started carrying an over the shoulder bag and now changed that to a purse.  I will get my ears pierced, then change from studs to rings.  My hair is starting to grow out (what a mess) but soon I’ll have my first styling.  I already am growing my finger nails and am keeping them about medium and buffed (I do not think I will wear polish).  I am also signing anything non-official as ‘Sifan’ (email, notes, etc.).

I prepared a one page letter (attached below) where I introduce and put my transition in perspective.

Coming out to people

In most cases I came out individually, one on one.  This gave each person the opportunity to ask questions that might have been embarrassing if someone else where present.  It also allowed me to deal with each personality separately and tailor each session as well as respond and go with their individual ‘flow’.

The best way to start, is to come out to someone you believe is an ally.  There is a woman at work that I am close to.  I would describe our relationship and conversations as between girl friends.  We have both been very supportive of each other.  She was ‘excited’ when I told her!  She stated: “don’t be surprised if some of us knew this before you did”.  We now consider ourselves sisters.  She has been helping me in so many ways and is someone I can go to for ‘feminine’ type questions and advice.  The purse I bought, the laser hair removal clinic, where I bought my first wig – are all influenced directly by her.

The person I considered the toughest also went very well, although the circumstances of that day(s) were anything but ideal.  It turned out well, but perhaps there is a lesson to be learned ….  It’s important to try to choose the right environment and conditions – but sometimes things just happen and you have to go with the flow.  We were about to have a departmental meeting and he came in early.  He was the last person I was coming out to and asked him if he could stay after the meeting so that we could talk.  Well, of course this raised a number of concerns with him (did he do something wrong? was I ok? etc.).  I didn’t want to cause addition stress, but suddenly I was in a situation where not telling him would cause greater concern.  Unfortunately, we only had 10 minutes of conversation before others started to arrive.  The lesson here is two-fold:  don’t say anything until the time is right and do not feel pressured into saying anything.

A few days later I was up where he worked and we were able to have a long conversation.  His up-bringing was very conservative as well as his current situation.  He did however, have exposure to a transsexual teenager in his neighborhood.  By the way, over 70% of the people I have come out to, know of a transsexual – some within their families, others as neighbors or friends.  I’m not sure if this is a sign of the times or perhaps where I live.

Later that day, I had to diagnose some equipment.  He came up, moved heavy things around for me, setup a table and generally was like a big brother.  I think being open and honest, willing to listen and to gently explain your situation makes all the difference.  Of course he had the disposition to listen and learn as well.

Today, most everyone corrects the other if they use the wrong pronoun or my old name.  They have told me that if anyone outside the department says anything they will give them a piece of their mind!  Everyone is inclusive, supportive and protective of their Si!  I am so grateful and amazed.

HR has been informed and later will hold sensitivity training at our site (in fact I was asked to prepare a couple of slide for them).  Before then I will continue to come out to others outside of my department that I work with or am friends with.

Having ‘The-Talk’

Well, there is no such thing as a standard ‘The-Talk’!  Every person is different; everyone is going to respond differently according to their own life’s story.  You first have to spend time assessing the person you are about to come out to – prepare for what they might bring up.  And always be ready for about turns and surprises!

There are some ‘standard’ concepts that I either bring up each time or have in my ‘satchel’ in case I need them.  I try to cover the items in the letter (but I do not have the letter out, nor have I given it to them yet).  You do not want to seem as if you are reading a prepared statement!  This totally has to go with the flow and exchange between the two of you.

In addition to items covered in the letter, I will explain the ‘scales’ and their independence:  natal sex, gender, sexual orientation.  For simplicity I keep it to only these three.  Most people have assumptions that these are connected in some way so upfront I attempt to explain each scale has nothing to do with the others.  I usually give examples to show that none of these scales are ‘polar’.  For example, XXY and XYY (intersexed) would be in the middle somewhere on the natal sex scale  Androgynous, transgender, transsexual and neutrois somewhere in-between on the gender scale.  And heterosexual, bisexual, gay and lesbian as examples of the orientation scale.  Once again I point out that these scales are independent: I am a natal male with a female gender and a sexual orientation to females, so I consider myself a lesbian (let them wrap their heads around that for a while)!  But again – what I say and when I say it depends on who I’m talking to and the flow of the conversation.

I also talk about my youth and some early memories of how I was different and coped with my situation.  I talk a bit about this being pre-natal, having to do with hormones and timing of fetal development somewhere about the 6th week in utero, with the mind developing different from the body (gender vs natal sex).  I might also introduce the concept of a body map.  The same map that explains how an amputee can still feel their severed limb.  That in this body map is also the minds concept of gender and who we are and how this explains the disphoria of having extra body parts that are not ‘supposed’ to be there or the uncomfortableness of missing body parts that ‘are’ supposed to be there (including – like the amputee – being able to feel their presence)!  I usually point out examples of people who denied who they were and how that can be excruciating and usually results in this coming back with a vengeance.

I also talk about my partner and how we are doing – being honest and hinting at the issues as well as the progress – being realistic helps them see that this is not a fad or a wish or a choice, but rather coming to terms with and accepting who you truly are.

I finish with realistic expectations of what they could expect as time and the transition progresses, telling them my hopes and wishes for their acceptance, patience and indulgence.

A main point here – this is not a lecture, nor a one-way conversation.  What is said and when it is said is strictly dependent on the ‘flow’ of the conversation and the individual involved.  This is a conversation ….

Suggestions on creating a letter

There are so many ways to create a letter explaining your transition.  For me the benefit was to cover all the issues and details in case I missed anything in our one to one conversation.  Note, this letter ‘always’ was given out personally, face to face.  I did not email or mail this off to anyone without having a conversation first.  It was not meant to ‘stand-a-lone’ – but only to cover all the bases plus leave something for the other person that they can refer back to and refresh their memory of what just happened.  I’m sure you have been in a strange situation, where even though everything was explained to you – afterwards you are trying to put all the pieces together to make sense of what happened.  My intention was for this letter to bridge that type of situation.

It needs to be personable – you need to have ‘you’, your heart, show through.  They need to see what they know as you, to be present in your letter.  This ties the strange (to them) and unusual content to the real you and makes it easier for them to see and connect with.  It’s good to start out with something about yourself before you actually lay it on the line …  Talk about how long this has taken and the struggles you have had plus the professional help you are receiving.

The people around me are all in academia so it was important for me to talk about current medical and scientific perspectives.  I confronted some common misconceptions by stating this was not a choice, this is something we are born with attempt to cope with all our lives.  Show that you have done your homework and put in the effort;  talk about how you came to this conclusion.

Try to connect this to something they already know about you.  In my case, I’m in charge of our outreach programs in virtual worlds.  I have a female avatar that they all know about and have seen.  They also know my management style: I’m nurturing, listen intently and negotiate.

Finally, state your expectations of  your transition and what you hope from them.  Finish by offering to talk with them and offer references to material.

Coming out letter:

Aloha !

This is a difficult (and scary) thing for me to share. I want to take a moment to explain to you some of the changes you may have already noticed in me. Because these changes will now start to accelerate, I think this is a good time to let you know the rest of the story. This is a huge change in my life. You probably already could guess or perhaps already knew, so here goes:

It has taken a long time – a life time – to get here, to a place where I understand who I am and now to be and live as myself. It’s the end of a quest and the start of a journey.

Today I feel as if I’m standing on a threshold, one that will take a lot of courage, forethought and aplomb to cross. This is not a threshold as in a door but rather a slender gendarme blocking the route on a sheer arête with thousand foot precipices on both side. It requires gentle, well thought out, yet decisive moves to negotiate and climb around it.

I am a transsexual woman; my gender is female and my birth sex is male (this is the official medical definition and its in my medical record).

This is not a choice, nor is it a lifestyle or even a preference. It took many years, with professional help, to find who I am and to finally merge all of my life’s descriptiveness, talents, sensitivities and general outlook on life into a deep understanding of self. As that phase progressed, it was my maleness that started to fall away, like layers of an onion. Rather than becoming a woman, I realized I am a woman.

As Sifan in a virtual online world (an avatar), I was able to see and experience who I am. Virtual worlds allowed me to be immersed, just like a paraplegic is able to dance, surf, climb and enjoy a life they could only imagine. My body does not allow me to express myself, to emote, to show my body language or to feel the way I ‘should’. An over used metaphor is to imagine that you wake up tomorrow morning with the opposite body sex than you are now – however, ‘you’ (your being) remains the same. ‘You’ have to put on an act all your life to be able to fit into society and its expectations. I know what I am and I want that to come through.

Medical science now recognizes transgender/transsexualism as a pre-natal condition – occurring around the sixth week in-utero. In other words this is one of many expressions of being human – has been forever. In ancient societies transgender/transsexuals were the shamans and priestess: we were seen as being able to understand and bridge genders and society – magic and power. The 2012 DSM (medical standards) removed ‘disorder’ from transgender/transsexualism. The problem is not who we are but instead it has to do with how we handle and respond to society (and critically, how society responds to us) when visually we are a particular sex but internally we are the opposite gender.

Transition is a slow process. Getting to this point in my life was even slower. It’s a one way street. It’s very serious, its critical, painful and part of the journey is not pretty. I have done a lot of research, talked to doctors, psychologists and professionals plus other transsexuals that are both pre-op and post-op. It is a tricky gendarme and sheer arête indeed. I now have a realistic visualization of myself post transition. I also realistically visualize each step and maneuver along the way – some are definitely not pretty. “I” do not change – what changes is my body, my effectiveness in communicating and expressing myself and my comfort (comfort is a difficult word here – it is so much more) in being the real me. This will bring me congruence and consistency: embodiment. If you have had the experience of interacting with me as Sifan (virtual or real world) – then you already know what this difference is.

As part of this transition, I will be officially changing my name to Sifan or Si for short.

I wish for your patience, indulgence and understanding.

It is hard to remember all the things I would like to tell you and to be sure I covered everything. That is why I wrote this short note. I hope you find this helpful and informative. As you can imagine, this is very difficult to write and send. If you are curious and would like to know more, please, I would love to discuss this. I have a lot of resources I can point you to as well as articles I have written.

With kindness and Aloha,