Transition and education

School can be one of the worst parts of being TS. Whatever you do, please don't sacrifice your education!

Grades 1 through 12

Many of us catch a lot of abuse in school because we're different, usually starting around puberty. For me, this reached a peak in 6th grade. I'll spare you the details, but it was a pretty miserable year. Luckily, we moved that year, and I had a chance to reinvent myself. Unfortunately, like a big doofus I decided to "butch it up" instead of telling my parents how I really felt. Biggest mistake in my life. Soon, I got pretty good at doing boy mode, until I actually believed it myself. Many years later, it hit me like a ton of bricks that I'd built this entire persona that wasn't who I really was.

Please, please, please, find a way to complete your education. Even if you drop out or run away, at least get your GED. The more education you have, the more money you can make for transition, and the sooner you can get things done.

A good reason to take college prep classes

Julia writes:

The day in high school that I completed my last basic course requirement, and could take exclusively honors / advanced placement courses, was one of the best of my life. All of a sudden, I didn't have to deal with football morons - there wasn't a single one of them in the honors stream. Just like in 'workplace transition', the "M.D., Ph.D."s are the most accepting and tolerant - they don't even seem to notice; the honors kids are really open minded. Most of them grew up being treated badly for being smart and nerdy, and they are smart enough and objective enough to know that doing it to someone else doesn't make things better. I honestly believe that if you were going to transition in high school, your best bet would be to be an honor student. It isn't a bad idea, regardless; even if you can't transition right away, it will put you in a better position for your future. My own arrival in the honors stream was so ironic, because I wasn't that great a student, and I didn't have any kind of burning passion for academics. Although I scored pretty high on standardized tests, my grades the general stream ranged from Bs to Ds. In fact, in my last year in junior high, I missed so many days of school, that they tried to hold me back (junior high was *almost* too much). The only thing that got me to high school was my parents' unremitting support for me in meetings with the administration, and their unwillingness to just let me go. I wanted to do honors, and based on my standardized test scores, my parents support, and perhaps just throwing their arms up in the air, the administration let me do it. My arrival in the honors stream was so ironic, because the bullies pushed me into a position which liberated me from their abuse. AND having been liberated from their abuse, I did much better at school, and started making mostly As.

Extracurricular activities

The arts

I think it's a good idea to get involved in activities at school, especially things where kids will generally be a bit more open-minded:

  • performing arts like choir, drama, music, dance
  • visual arts
  • foreign language clubs
  • newspaper, yearbook, etc.

I recommend this because it can keep you from feeling as lonely and isolated, and it can really do a lot to boost your self-esteem. I played flute in band, and yes, I got called a band fag and all of that, but I also found everyone to be pretty cool overall. I think that those interested in artistic expression are often more tolerant, intelligent, and forgiving of idiosyncrasies than others.

Sports

I also swam competitively in high school and through college. It taught me a lot about discipline, setting goals, and achieving them. In fact, I think it was one of the most important parts of my life. I don't think my transition would have gone as well if I hadn't learned how to achieve goals in swimming. If only it hadn't built up my shoulders in the process! (luckily, that all went away in time.)

Julia adds:

I would also highly recommend extracurricular activities. I can honestly say that gymnastics is the best thing that ever happened to me. It is a sport dominated by women, most of whom don't pay too much attention to traditional gender constraints. Those girls tend to be very accepting of boys who have the same casual disregard for gender norms - and especially ones who really want to be equal members of their circle. Besides the obvious, being a member of a female dominated clique will also (surprisingly!) lessen the abusiveness of peers.  People are a lot less likely (although not totally unlikely :( ) to call you "faggot" if they see you surrounded by pretty, athletic girls every day in the hall. Actually, they'll be really nice to you, in the hopes you'll fix them up with one of your friends :).

Even if you can't transition, you'll find that having a social clique to belong to will help keep you more balanced, and make you feel less stressed out. Vicky, one of the other authors in this section observes that, "Living part of your twenties as a young woman is priceless, do what must be done to make it a reality.". I can say with impunity that growing up and going through your teens with a circle of girls your age is equally priceless. It's a period of time when your personality is forming, and the stage of your life to come is being set. My circle of friends from high school helped form the foundation of my identity, my attitudes, and my self esteem. Most every transsexual, following transition, says they feel as if a piece is missing. Often, that piece is at least in part the bonds people form with same-sex friends growing up. If you have been able to have some of those experiences, they will be irreplaceable and priceless to you. You'll feel less like you're throwing away your youth, and as an added bonus, when you are in a position to transition, your life experience with be much more like that of other women. You'll also be able to talk to people about your past.  I tell people all the time I grew up doing ballet and gymnastics; I even had a boyfriend who, when I told him I was a 'T', said that he had wondered (because my best friend had told him that a friend of hers had just told her that she was a T), but all the talk about gymnastics had convinced him it couldn't be me.

College or transition?

Because many TSs had such a hard time in school, they didn't go much or didn't try too hard. This can make it harder to get into college, but I hope you can find a way.

College can be the perfect place to transition. Tolerant for the most part, a lot of free time to do electrolysis etc. The biggest problem becomes money in most cases. It's the biggest dilemma for college-qualified TSs. If you can do both, great, but it's not easy without parental support.

College and high school students are in a difficult position sometimes. Often, you are dependent on your family for tuition and living expenses. Sometimes, that means you are reluctant to tell your parents your feelings, since there's a risk of being cut off. I cannot guess what your personal situation is, but many people in the same situation were pleasantly surprised by their family's reaction.Coming out is something you need to plan very carefully, and if you don't think you are ready to tell your parents yet, or if you think the response would be negative, you can at least take the following steps:

If possible, get a job that allows you to read and study while on the clock. I had friends who manned the anti-theft thing at the library or worked in the college bookstore. I had friends who lifeguarded at lap swims, worked at coffee shops, etc. and got a lot of reading done.

The good thing about getting a job in high school or college is that the money is sometimes yours to keep. Whatever you do, get going now! Don't wait till you're done with high school or college unless absolutely necessary. At least get electrolysis going, and possibly get on an androgen blocker. If there's any left over, save it for bigger expenses.

Skipping or postponing the college thing

If college isn't an option, you may find yourself in a low-paying hourly position. If you still live at home rent-free or have roommates, you might be able to cover transition costs, but you might have to bust your butt with a lot of overtime or a second job.

A second full-time job at 7 bucks an hour will yield over $15,000 in a year if you put it into savings until then. A part-time job would take about twice as long. Most people say doing two full-time jobs is a major butt-kicker. If you can swing it, cool, but you might need to opt for part-time on weekends or every other evening.

Postponing the transition thing

My friend Julia came out at 19 but held off transitioning until after college (this was also the decision made by Vicky, whose advice is later on this page). Julia is a brilliant engineer and currently doing graduate school at one of the finest medical research facilities in the world. Here's why Julia decided to wait:

I want to say is that the shortest distance between two points is not always a straight line, when it comes to transition. You know that I came out to my family and friends at 19 - I had made the decision, and was totally comfortable being open about it. You might ask why I didn't go full time then? It would have been perfect, right? You wouldn't be the only one; throughout my years as a late-teen / early-twenties tranny, I was constantly asked that question. Everyone said, "It would be so perfect; you could get to be a girl / young woman". In fact, even Ray Blanchard at the Clarke Institute said, "If you're so sure of this, then why haven't you gone full time?". And my response was, "Because I don't think I could pull it off". He replied, "You mean you don't think you could pass?" -- he looked at me examiningly for a couple of seconds, and then looked at the picture of me dressed I had sent as part of my patient-admission requirements, and then agreed - that he didn't think I could pass, either.

I am *so* glad I didn't transition when I made the decision to. I think one of the biggest clinchers in transitioning young (or specifically penniless) is this: you can get stuck part way. If you're gorgeous and pretty, then by all means do it; but what if you don't pass? What if you look like Fred Flintstone in drag? You go full time, and the world treats you like garbage. You don't want to (or can't) go back, but you can't go forward, either - because nobody wants to hire you. You end up looking like Fred Flintstone in drag for the rest of your life. I honestly don't think anyone would have accepted me for a job, or graduate school, looking the way I did. I think it would have been an unmitigated disaster.

Some really smart advice in my case came from two straight white males. The first from my father - he said, "You know your mother and I will love you no matter what you choose to do. If you decide that you really need this, though, that you need to have a sex change, and be a woman, then I suggest first that you forget about nursing school and all of the other things you want to do, and finish your engineering degree. If you're going to do something which deviates from the main stream like this, then you really need to think about making money a top priority".

The second piece of advice came from Ray Blanchard (believe it or not). He told me that I needed to learn to pass for a straight male, until I was in a position where I could transition. He told me to go to Eaton's (big department store in Toronto), buy a $20 silk neck-tie, a button-down collar shirt, and a pair of wool slacks. He told me to, "save it up; and let it all out only at appropriate times - because on the job is not an appropriate time". I did what he said, and what I learned to do was to make the necktie a cue that I was on stage. I didn't exactly act like a guy, or exactly like a girl; rather I acted as squeaky-clean-professional as I could manage. I think Ray Blanchard's advice was some of the best I've gotten, because that persona got me enough money, in three years of working, to pay off my college loans, buy a new car, pay for hormones, electrolysis, Dr. Ousterhout, SRS, labiaplasty, etc. It also got me to be the rising star of a small high tech company. Having been, by all appearances, an effeminate gay guy for most of my life, that was a very strange experience, and one which has changed me forever.

If I believed in getting all worked up about things which I cannot change, I would get really worked up about this. But at the same time, I did get to live as a girl at home. I got to have friends who related to me as a woman, I got to do ballet, I got to go dancing with boys at "Robert's Club Vogue" (gay bar in Kingston). And in the end, I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that I made the right decision. I got to transition on my 26th birthday, and that isn't such a disaster. If I had to give advice to someone who is where I was years ago, I would say, "If this is something you need to do, and you pass, then by all means do it. You're where we all wish we could have been. But if you don't pass, then consider turning yourself into career-person temporarily, and make money and passing a top priority. You'll be glad you did".

Send me your thoughts, links, and advice!

If you transitioned in your teens or twenties and have any advice you'd like to share, please contact me , and I'll give it a permanent (and anonymous) home.