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Transitioning early in life: Melody's journey
Melody on Journeys
I am not one I feel who was particularly designed for travel or to undergo arduous and difficult journeys. However, to continue my existence as a Human being I have undergone a number of journeys the most notable travel journey was going around the world in 2001 and 2002. However, I have undergone more significant journey which is the story of how me, myself came to be here through introspection I give a taste of this journey.
An Introduction to Melody's personal gender journey
A Stranger in a Strange Land
Most of us are born either as a boy or a girl, we grow up in our communities, make friends develop ourselves our talents, abilities form relationships without ever questioning why we are who we are. What however if that all feels wrong, like you have been put in the wrong body and hence exist in the wrong universe. I am writing as someone who from an early age found everything was wrong and felt wrong, like being in 'purgatory'. This is the situation I felt myself to be in, every day and every experience seemed foreign, like despite being educated like every one else nothing made sense, like you had act and copy those around you to try and exist and nothing was natural and everything strained. No I am not talking about this in a literal sense where someone has been strangely abandoned in a foreign country. However, I am saying this as a metaphor.
I found myself from an early age living this kind of experience, and I hope to write this now to put some of these feelings to rest as I no longer would like to be haunted by them. Well this is the experience as being born a transsexual. I know of many others much savvier and wonderful who have written about this better than myself, but hey this one here is my journey.
The Outcast on the Journey
This I have found puts you in many areas as an outcast. First of all in the present, where you may face discrimination from those who find out and place obstacles in your life as they feel that you are a 'freak' or 'what you are doing is 'unnatural' and despise you. Second in the past where trying to live one's life your efforts to be 'normal' i.e. a boy in a boy's body lead to some to subconsciously suspect that there is something wrong with you there exists a weakness that can be exploited and bullying seems to be the outcome of this.
Others' comments on this from growing up at school
Here are some other people's unthinking comments and ways that I was treated whilst being me when I was growing up, when I was just trying to do what I could and trying to do what they wanted.
'You can't run, you run like a girl, why can't you run like everyone else!' - Gym teacher at my male only private school. So I felt humiliated at sports, and hurt and dreaded any activity that involved running.
'You throw like a girl' - Gym teacher at my male only private school. A definite no for the summer games activity of cricket.
Whilst trying to learn how to march on the parade ground for CCF (Combined Cadet Force), a induction to the armed forces for the officer class, which I detested its bullying attitude to its recruits. After many weeks and months of trying to teach me how to march I could not fathom out how to move my arms and shoulders in time to my hips and legs. Since I had always walked leading with my hips I always moved my arms independently of them. So I could not time the two together and move my right arm / shoulder with my left leg, i.e. lead with shoulders. So I had weeks and weeks of press-ups and other enforce punishment, but I just could not get it. I could not move like guy. Especially so, since my small frame did not permit me to lead with my shoulders, it was very upsetting. One sergeant decided to stop punishing me one afternoon and took me aside and spent time getting me to perform this right, to which I thank him very much.
My thoughts and on these, was: Why aren't I normal and just do the things that come easily and naturally to other people (boys)? I hated the constant ritualised punishments and put downs from my peers and authority figures. I felt removed from society I did not fit and often lacked the ability to have these characteristics needed to fit into the totally male world I was growing up in. However, I did have my heroines at school, which provided some reassurance to my ideal, these were my two female French language teachers from the third fourth and fifth years.
Well I would like to give my response to both these and why I am not an outcast but just me being myself, which leaves me like every one else out there.
An Outcast's place on the Journey
To the first point in the present after transition my reaction to being labelled an outcast is as follows. I have faith in research done in Holland over recent years which shows that the brain is born sexed, i.e. a brain can either be a male brain or a female brain. Also despite the best efforts of our culture that a child born with a body of one sex does not necessarily have to have its brain of the same sex. So what happens after this? In my case I found myself in 'purgatory' where I knew there was something wrong but I wish someone would say what. After many years and a courageous search I found the solution, and I stopped resisting what society had told was blatantly 'unnatural' and decided to leap the gender fence. This a number of dogmatic people, such as Evangelical Christians and other bigoted people leaves one as a 'freak' and despise those like me. AlI I can say to this is that for the first time I feel natural, the 'man-made' aspects of my physical self such as my surgically created vagina, my face and skull, which have been reshaped by other surgery, my hormonally re-contoured body and more intense senses have helped re-address what I consider put my physical self that feels wonderfully right and positive. My body in recent years has become and continues to become the reason why I feel comfortable with myself, no longer a foreign alien but a true citizen of the human race, well if not to the bigots, than to me anyway; letting me function how I wanted to function. Well I hope the story I give here of my journey can allay those fears and stop those people putting obstacles in our path and stop those saying that we are outcasts.
The second and for myself the more historic and painful reason I and believe others in this position were deemed to be an outcasts is as follows. That I was growing up as unwitting transsexual and despite the best will in the world that that body and mind refused to match. In a society where such things can not be questioned as one grows up I was very upset and confused by this. As humans we are members of the animal kingdom, although many would try to deny this, we prize in others qualities that are prized in many other species. By this I mean that as a male the most prized of which is the 'Alpha' male. If like myself your programming is anything but this and, the pre-ordained order life can become a very scary place to exist. Particularly if you find yourself in a male only environment as I was when I grew up in school from the ages of eight to nineteen years old. I felt myself to not belong to this environment but not sure why at first, with some of my interests based around preening myself and making myself feel more attractive - well I had to try anyway. This I found to my cost led the alpha type males spotting vulnerabilities of someone who did not belong. I found that I desperately wanted to cover this up as I knew that from experience would lead to myself becoming cannon fodder for their appetites for destruction. This had severely adverse results on someone as delicate and sensitive as me. All I could do was weather the storm the best I could and try not to let them see the harm that they were doing. The result of these years weathered away at me and my self esteem until none was left. This set up a chain that led to years of depression and self destructive behaviour that damaged also those around me as the pain of my treatment at the hands of those males became too much to bear. I can only apologise to those people as they were the ones closest to me. The result before transition that I did what was expected of me and I resisted so hard the forces of the misalignment of my body and mind I became an outcast. As an outcast I found out to my cost that I had been placed in 'purgatory' without anyone asking my permission.
A New Journey begins, as the wrong one ends
Well this is the story of a journey that is not without hope or redemption where after the end of the pain of the journey when darkness had extinguished the jaded light of the traveller. That light was reborn and relit to guide the way to a new start to a difficult journey, the seeds of which were laid as the ashes of the jaded worn out traveller were put to rest in 2001 Mark Julian Jackson rest in peace.
A false dawn but the spark of an ideal was lit
This metaphor I would like to say is about the time when things came to a head where the will to live a lie was no more, resistance to my very essence had ended. After a false dawn in 1998 where I had discovered the internet and the realisation that what seemed an insurmountable of gender transition had been possible by others and they had crossed the great divide and whose lives were both possible and positive. At that moment I found my confused gender feelings, which had been distorted by years of unwanted testosterone had an outlet. There were crossing points available that made passing possible, one was that I discovered the work of a wonderful man Dr Douglas Osterhout of San Francisco, California. His work meant that the male features of my face and skull could be made feminine and female. The results of those brave souls who had shared their experience were truly a work of marvel. They had been transformed all to what looked like delightfully feminine attractive females. To this I felt nothing but joy and one day I dreamt that the same could be done with my harsh masculine features. If only dreams came true.
However, this pursuit of a dream was conjured up out of much unhappiness and depression. I had been absent from my BSc. studies in Retail Management for more than three months, my pursuit of a dream had meant that I had become a virtual recluse. Unfortunately this was the third time that my absence from my studies for significant periods had become a feature of my university life. So I decided despite crushing and severe depression this would not hamper my attempt to succeed at my degree studies. So I took the help of the University Counselling service, my sincerest and heartfelt thanks to Vivienne and Jenny, who helped me refocus where possible on my academic life despite the large grey cloud of depression that dogged almost my every move. I give them heart felt thanks for helping me learn to find my voice, and not just speak very limited utterances, which were I felt expected of me. I survived despite having no self esteem and only one friend on my course another outsider and foreigner, Adam a very attractive magnetic young man from Poland, who we shared much including politics cars (cars had become my secret boy disguise), alcohol and most importantly the warmth of friendship.
On Playing with colour
Despite yet still being far too terrified to come out at this time I did feel I could start to experiment with aspects of my appearance, so from the start of the year I began to grow my hair. Also p laying with my hair was one of the things I
loved to do, usually I had a different colour added at least every three weeks, every thing from the lightest blonde to the darkest brown, as well as all shades of red. I loved the experience of being pampered at the hairdresser's, and seeing the result afterwards I felt like I was being treated like a girl, it made me happy. I wanted to grow my hair into a bob, like my heroines on television, particularly Kathryn Janeway and B'elanna Torres from Star-Trek Voyager, however my hair grows very slowly, so it was going to be a long process.
2001 An odyssey of Journeys
Wow what a year this was to be. This was my final year at University, I graduated, and it was a greater struggle than those before, a year of highs and lows. A year where I travelled after my degree to the US and down the West Coast, to the Canadian Rockies, Hawaii, Fiji and New Zealand and the most important Journey of all to me from Male to Female.
2001 - Some background (well not necessarily part of the journey)
This year had an unfortunate and very difficult beginning, with a great many difficulties that I was in the midst of facing up to. Unfortunately my degree studies were not going too well as had been the pattern in previous years. However, something inside me meant that I did not want to give up. So before Christmas with the help of my counsellor I made contact with the Mental Health Development Officer a wonderful lady called Joy. She helped me prioritise my studies, and helped me negotiate with my University department and extend and reprioritise the deadlines of my assignments, a big thank you Joy. Unfortunately these had been slipping as I found myself as I struggled with depression, poor self esteem and poor motivation.
The second difficulty was that in my own mind the resistance I had put up previously to transitioning was rapidly crumbling. I remember being at home that Christmas and after being at a pub with my father, I was desperate after that night out and a few alcoholic drinks that sitting in my parents lounge that I was desperate to come out to them, there and then. I had perceived my parents though to be very conservative, and did not think they would not be able to cope with the news. The result was that I was filled with shame at whom and what I was. The result is that I wanted to get back to my house in my university town as soon as possible after Christmas.
A very mixed night
The third difficulty I had was a very strained relationship with one of my housemates a very attractive and seductive girl, who I prefer not to name. She was the first person I confided in the previous year that I was bi-sexual and was to coming to terms with this. The relationship had become so strained that I had volunteered to move out late that year and move into University Halls of Residence. She had a boyfriend and I should have felt more ashamed that I thought I had feelings for her, and she had troubles growing up of her own. So New Year's Eve was the birthday party that night in my own house of one of my other housemates 21 st birthday. Being almost a complete introvert meant that parties were something that I was most uncomfortable with. However, I wanted to be more normal so that night I did my best to join in I invited two people I knew, one called Pete I really fancied. Well that night there was cannabis freely available and I had two or three joints and was also quite drunk. I admitted two things that night.
Opening Pandora's box
The first thing I admitted was not about her but me and was that I was talking to a girl who I did not know and had not met before, she said that she did not really like men very much. At the time I was far too obsessed with my own feelings to probably take the hint. Well I said instead what my very core had felt but had not said once in my entire life. This was that I did not like men also and I wish I wasn't one, well nothing more was really said as I remember. That was a huge milestone uttering the thing that could not be said and must be kept secret at all costs, and I had done it for the very first time.
A very bad thing happened
The second thing that I admitted that night was about the girl who I will not name. This was that I had feelings for her (well I love all women); well I don't think I have ever had such a negative and hostile experience in my life. I retreated to my room and managed to sleep. However, when I woke up I don't think I have ever felt so depressed in my life. I managed to get my courage together and looked through the yellow pages to find the number of The Samaritans. Unfortunately, I did not have the courage to phone them up. Later that day I could not bear being conscious so I took an overdose of sleeping tablets, within a few minutes Pete had turned up to give both this girl and myself a lift in his two-seater Lotus Seven type sports car. When I came downstairs I had the most awful and disgusted look I have *Ever* received from anyone in my life. Well I went for a ride in the car pretended to pick myself up and got into the swing of a brisk over-enthusiastic drive; although I was very drowsy. I made my excuses and went upstairs and tried to rest, and couldn't instead I played a song that seems to have a profound meaning when I feel very depressed, Pearl Jam's Yellow Ledbetter. I have since read the sleeve-notes on the Lost Dogs album and it is a song about nothing (seems reminiscent of a lot of my life really).
Yellow Ledbetter Lyrics - A great song to cry to and is very very haunting
Time passes, she leaves the house leaving a note on my door saying we can never see each other again. I then get more down and depressed. I take some advice text her to say I am sorry. She moves back. She drops out of uni and leaves the house blaming me. I feel guilty and upset and give her a give her a quite large cash sum to ease my conscience; well its all I could think of. I never really got over it, but time is the great healer.
The news leaks out
Well, once the genie was out of the bottle it up any more I just * had * to become a woman. The greatest of stress had been lifted from my shoulders, now it comes to telling people, that would mean * everyone * eventually.
The first person that I told was the girl, yes the one I spilled my heart out to. Surprisingly, peace had been declared, for the time being and she was supportive, she even smiled at me. She also queried why anyone would want to become a woman. However, I did confess that I was really looking forward to having sex as a woman, although I knew from my research I would not be able to self lubricate, and this worried me somewhat. She just smiled and said you could always go to the bathroom and add some KY jelly. I felt reassured because surprisingly this was the one major hang up that I had about post-operative sex. Another hurdle out of the way I felt happy. I was going to be a woman and I can have sex normally without any potential damaging admissions from me, and feel confident in my sexual identity as woman. This was good because I felt that I had almost no sexual identity as a male.
Coming out slowly and painfully
So then what next, I had barely enough strength to cope with life, nevermind Uni, or transitioning, so I sat on it some more and kept quiet. Well this added more to the stress I felt. The next stage was that this girl said it was time to tell someone else, so I planned to tell my other female housemate Emily. However, I did not have the strength yet to tell her face. So I planned to write her a letter. This was very difficult and is not something that is in anyway easy to explain. So I did this I think I even chose my best pink / lilac gel pen.
An Interlude on the joy of the pink accent
I like writing in pink or lilac and whilst studying highlighting text in pink. I liked having pink, and other pastel coloured files, folders and paper. I really did like using little feminine accents like this in my final year at Uni, a lovely little bit of reassurance for the female trapped inside.
Back to the plot
Well I soon found out when I went to tell Emily she was with said girl and when I handed over the letter, they laughed and said she had told Emily already. I wished I had known, then I would not have spent so much time in anguish :o/. So what happened the sky did not fall in, I was not told that I was as sick and had better re-think this *now*, and the world did not come to an end.....*Phew* :oD. It was a similar experience with my other housemate Keith, this was perhaps an even harder one for me, as I was more afraid of male attitudes to what I was doing, much more than female attitudes to this. His reaction was little more than 'fine, whatever, it doesn't matter to me'.
For a time this girl took me under her wing, something that I remain eternally thankful. It was the time of the year for the end of first semester exams. Because I was struggling to focus on my academic work we agreed to study together in the library and to stick to a study timetable. I felt very needy, exposed and vulnerable, so we went together to the library, definitely one of my favourite places to be at uni. One of the things I was playing with at this time was my choice of name I decided I wanted to keep my surname as my family and its heritage is very important to me. I also wanted to respect where possible my parents choice of middle name, and so I chose to shorten [my middle name to its female equivalent], although I did consider Juliette and Gillian. For the most important choice of name, my first name or given name, this was harder. To try and stick close to [my male name] was difficult, and left me with a choice of something along the lines of [similar sounding female names]. I did not feel keen on any of these choices, but I loved the name Melody, it has a lovely lyrical, rhythmical quality when it is read. Also I had found [a transsexual woman's personal] website hugely encouraging and she had become one of my heroines. So there it was: Melody [__ __], a new woman is born. I spent a lot of time in the library practicing in between studying writing my new signature, in my best pink and lilac gel pens. I did not like my old signature as it was just a line with bumps on it, so I changed to something more legible, more rounded and curvier, in short something much more feminine, more me.
The next stage was to tell my University counsellor Vivienne, who I had been seeing since my first year of uni, since early 1998. I felt that with her counselling sessions I was living a lie, since there was no way I felt I have revealed something that I felt before was so dark, dirty, sinful, against nature and implausible. So until then I had been going along to the counselling sessions every week, usually Mondays at 9:00am. So the question often asked in these sessions was 'Why are you here?' more often than not I had no answer. I was just only living a half life, and not knowing in which direction to turn next. So after at least one week; I decided this was it, this was the day I was going to tell her. I felt as with many situations since that, by telling them I was risking losing everything that I had gained from that relationship and being even more alone in a very lonely world. This was very scary since she had been my only form of support in the past three years. Ok this time there were high stakes and for my own sake I could not afford to lose. So I went along, that morning I did my usual routine in getting ready I spent my usual two hours getting washed, shaved, carefully picking out the least masculine clothes I could find, as with all mornings. I knew this was going to be a landmark day, either for good or bad. I just prayed it was not going to be for bad, as then and now I cannot cope well with bad news, I did not have the coping resources, I am a delicate soul. So I went along waited in reception. I always had a huge amount of anxiety waiting there, I do not know why. I guess I lived with my family's values that seeking this kind of help was a shameful thing.
I went into the appointment, I was sooo scared. I just sat there saying over and over, 'There is something I have got to tell you.' However, I was stumbling over my words so bad. I just sat there, and said over and over, 'I am sorry I can't', I was just so terrified of losing this one valuable source of support, of being labelled as a freak, mentally ill. I was stuck in this paralysed state until about between five and ten minutes before the end of the session I came out with it. I cannot remember my exact choice of words but I think must have at least said 'I feel like a woman.....I think I am transsexual.....I feel very ashamed that I have not mentioned this before'. She said to me, and this is something that I do remember 'Is that all I thought it was something serious, like you have killed someone'. That was a statement that shocked me, because this is something that I am in no way capable of. I just sat there and I could breathe again. She asked me if I had a female name and I told her 'Melody'. I felt proud, very guilty, but definitely proud. The next question was, 'So in the next session do you want to call you __ or Melody. I was somewhat taken aback by this as I did not expect acceptance so readily. This was because I always saw my counsellor, because she was someone who was older than me as an authority figure, someone who was part of the establishment. I answered her question with it would be nice if you called me Melody, but please call me what you think is most appropriate. Once again I was happy.
In the sessions that followed my counsellor gave me the contact details of the UK's main support group for transitioning transsexuals - The Gender Trust. I had previously seen their website, and had read the content. However, with being given this small piece of information I felt enough validation to join as a member and purchased a number of publications. The gender trust although I am not an activist is a very valuable organisation, through which I have met some of my best friends, and even my partner of the last year K__.
The rest of the final year at Uni
This was still very stressful. This was the time when I came closest to, maybe experienced total breakdown. I had to endure my housemate leaving university, my role in taking blame for that. Also I had two stays as an in patient in the University medical centre, during the exam period and near Easter. I think in all of this I did a lot of growing up, however I was still very immature, and to some extent have remained so. This year was not all bad though. The very kind Joy of the Mental Health Officer for the university's disabilities service worked with me often tirelessly to get me through my University work, right until the final exams, helping me through what seemed to be many neurotic episodes. Once again thank you Joy.
I started to buy items for my new female wardrobe, at first very nervously from the Argos Additions catalogue, including some size 10 shoes. Also shoes, boots and sandals from 9 to 11, http://www.tallgirls.co.uk/ , very expensive but well made footwear. I bought my first perfume from my local Boots store. Something I remember well I went up to the assistant perfume counter and asked for her recommendations. Her first recommendation was Flower by Kenzo www.kenzo.com , as soon as I sampled I immediately fell in love with it. I did try other scents but that was it my mind was made up, and I purchased it. I left a happy but very nervous customer. It has since remained my favourite scent, despite trying many others. I purchased online a pair of silicone mastectomy breast-forms. These were a large C cup, which still remains my favoured and ideal size for my body, and bras to wear them in, including a favourite lace lilac set from the Argos Additions catalogue. This made me feel wonderfully feminine and the feeling of having a more complete body, a very happy and satisfied feeling. Something that is very reassuring fore someone who seldom glimpsed any form of the feeling of real happiness. I would go so far to say that this happiness made me feel more comfortable with myself, bringing about more self confidence and less of the overwhelming self criticism that dominated my thinking.
To give an update, today I have spent the day travelling back from southern Spain, where we had a week's vacation with my partner's father. On Monday I am starting a new position with [a well-known company]. At present I am studying a further bachelor's degree in psychology, which has enabled me to broaden my knowledge of gender issues. Last November I celebrated my thirtieth birthday, and have since settled in a new town with my new partner. To update the timeline after returning from travelling around the world in February 2002. I had GRS in November 2002 with Mr Philip Thomas in Brighton, UK, and FFS with Mr Brian Musgrove in April last year. Later this year I am planning breast augmentation later this year in my home town, and some more FFS next year with Dr. Ousterhout in San Francisco.
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.