Transitioning early in life: Kay's advice

Editor's note: The essay below was written by Candice Brown Elliott in March 2008. Later that year, Elliott began to attack a number of prominent transwomen as part of her assertion that she is a "homosexual transsexual." You can read about the whole sorry affair at Transgender Fringe Flare-ups. I'm leaving this in place for historical purposes.

Bio and Advice from Kay Brown:

Since self reporting is often treated as suspect, I will describe my early childhood with my mother’s own words to Dr. Fisk of the Stanford Gender Identity Clinic when I was 17, in 1975. She described me as “prissy”. From toddler onward she recognized that I was *very* different from my two brothers. My friends were girls. On my birthdays, my only guests were girls. I would walk the long way around even a shallow puddle. My mother said she could dress me in an outfit on Monday and on Friday I would still be clean. I avoided boy play, though I did engage in play with one of my brothers, especially if it was a quiet activity, like helping him fly his model airplanes. As I got older, around ten or so, I would play games with boys, even football, if girls were also included. (Our neighborhood had a number of tomboys.) Since I was a very obvious “sissy”, boys hazed and bullied me. Even the tomboys teased me. “You throw like a girl!” My mother also told Dr. Fisk that she had known “for years that he wanted to live as a girl, but I thought that was wrong”, meaning morally and religiously wrong. She had tried to discourage me from girls activities, like scolding me when I made a hand-sown dress for my farmer-sock monkey doll… taking away the dress and materials, threatening me with severe punishment if I should make another. My parents both strongly encouraged me to do boys activities, of which the only ones I willingly did were model airplane and rocket building, science experiments, and electronics. (I like to think of myself then as being the cute little girl, future scientist, in Contact.)

I was forced, unwillingly, to participate in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts… from which I was kicked out of when I was 13 by the Scout Master for being, “not Eagle Scout material”, said with an obvious homophobic sneer. I was encouraged to join another, smaller, less aggressively masculine troop. (Some of us even good naturedly used feminine versions of our names on camp-outs. Dennis became Denise, Patrick became Patty, I, since my old name was Michael, became Michelle.) I became the Senior Patrol Leader, as I was the most organized and emotionally mature member. Some of the boys were very heterosexual, like my brother who had joined my troop later, but several were also sissy, and probably grew up to be gay. Later, at age 15, I had a crush on a boy, Kevin, from another, more conventional troop, and joined his to be around him. He went to another high school, so this was the only way I could be sure to see him often. Strange, but I was elected as the Senior Patrol Leader of that troop too! I dropped out of that troop at 17, to accept an invitation to join a Camp Fire Girls group, after I had come out as transsexual.

During the summers when I was 13 and 14, I volunteered as a Water Safety Aid, sort of a ‘Jr. Life Guard’, to teach younger children to swim. I loved younger kids. I sought babysitting jobs when ever I could… finally landing a job as a nanny when I was 17. The family had, in the advertisement, sought “a girl, preferably a Junior or Senior”. I had thought that they meant a high school student. I was wrong, they had sought a female college student. But given my evident maturity and experience working with children, they gave me the position. I took care of two boys, full time (meaning working hours), aged ten and four. I confided to their mother that I was a tranny, and she helping me research the issue in her capacity as the head librarian for the town.

Although my mother actively scolded me whenever she found out about it, I often wore my girlfriends’ clothes when I was little. Starting when I was 12, I experimented with make-up, just as my friends did, but I did it only in secret. I devoured books and magazines meant for teenaged girls, on such subjects as hair, make-up, clothes… and of course, boys! I practiced my make-up skills on my girlfriends. I secretly bought girls clothes when I could afford them… outfits that were age appropriate, of course. When I was 16, my mother sent me to a therapist, instructing him to ‘fix me’. I mostly stone-walled him.

I came out to several friends when I was 15… and slowly told yet more until by the time I was 17, most of them knew about it. I also came out to several of my teachers… and the principle. They were a very big help to me as I transitioned. OK, so one teacher, who I hadn’t directly confided, was a jerk, hounding me out of his all female Individual Voice class with transphobic remarks, but the rest were great. I lost a few friends along the way, but actually made others by being open. I was accepted as a girl by a number of my friends… and their mothers!

I tried to get hormones from my pediatrician, but he stuttered, “You can do what ever you want with your life, but I won’t be a part of it!”

When my mother caught me at 17, dressed to go out in a cute mini-dress, she forced me to tell my Dad. He suggested that we should get professional help. Having long desired to go to the Stanford Clinic… I had in my possession, like a magic talisman, the address and phone number of the Clinic. My father, believing that they were going to ‘cure me’, got me into the program! My parents were quite upset when they learned that I was going to transition and have surgery. I pulled out of hiding my *real* wardrobe and threw away most of my old boy clothes. Although there were arguments about it, I lived as a girl part time my senior year, going out openly to shop and hang out with my friends. But I dressed as a boy for school. I left home right after HS graduation to go to college… where upon I lived as a girl full time from then on.

At age 18, I passed as easily as a girl, then as a boy. I was 5’8”, weighed 135 lbs. (Sadly, I fought weight gain, up and down, since then… right now I’m on the high side, again, sigh…) Except for a few ‘granny hairs’ on my chin, which I tweeze, I’ve never needed electrolysis. My physique, hands, and face were decidedly androgynous to feminine. I’ve been described as “cute”, but I wouldn’t say that I’m beautiful, though my husband often does, bless his heart! I’ve had several occasions where I was asked by TS folk what I was doing at a TS support group… obviously not being TS… Or where was my TS spouse? Oops! Now, after 33 years of HRT, I look like an average, still attractive, middle-aged woman. BTW, this doesn’t make me “better”, just blessedly lucky! (If you can call being TS “lucky”.)

I had my first sexual experience when I was 18 years old, with a 25 year old straight guy. Several girls had tried to convince me to have sex with them… but I always, politely and kindly, turned them down. When I had surgery at the age of 23, I had never had intercourse with a woman. I must confess that I was ‘boy crazy’ for a couple years, dating both boys I had previously known in high school and those I met in college, but soon settled down, finished a dual degree in Physics and Psychology, with a strong minor in Biology, while tutoring Astronomy. I was admitted to graduate school, in an applied science dept. but dropped out, as the lure of Silicon Valley’s high tech start-ups was calling to me… and in the middle of all that college stuff, I got surgery in Trinidad as soon as I could afford it, having worked my way through college and saving money at the same time, first as a secretary, later as an electronic assembler, technician, then an associate engineer. (OK, so I’m a science geek… but it pays well!)

Years spin by… I’m now a middle-aged, 50 year old, married woman with a grown (foster-adopted) daughter recently married herself. . I’m looking forward to being a doting grandmother someday. My husband and I live in a nice historic house that we are restoring. I am the CEO of a high tech Silicon Valley company, well known in my field, with a dozen technical articles, conference papers, a contributed chapter in a text book, and over 50 patents issued or pending. I spend my week-ends flying my private airplane. I have a very good life.

ADVICE:

Get a good education! Go for a dual major… get one degree for your career, and one for fun. Study as if your life depended on… it does! It will make all the difference in the world.

I think I did it right… transition between schools. I had wanted to do it between Jr. High and High School, but with my folks attitudes, it wasn’t going to happen… but going full time in the summer between high school and college was perfect. But avoid the dorms… I lived off campus in tiny apartments.

Make and keep friends. New friends are silver, but old friends are gold.

Confide, tell some adults in a position to help you… they just might. Only you can hold yourself back… no one else will.

Take control of your medical care ASAP. Find a friendly doc or free clinic. I used the free clinic on campus for a while, it was great, save for the male doc who asked quite honestly perplexed, “You mean that there is no place to do a pap smear?” Poor man!

Take singing lessons… and sing so as to sound like your favorite same gender-of-identity vocalist, providing your ranges overlap. I’ve got a fairly acceptable contralto voice. I can sing and sound very much like vocalists ranging from Joan Baez to Alannis Morsette. Try it, it works great for voice training, extending your range to a higher pitch for an MTF, and to a lower pitch for an FTM. It also helps train voice timbre to what you want it to be, all while having fun!


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.