'Everybody's Free (To Start Electrolysis)'

[Kim (not her real name) wrote the following in 1999, and I think it's just wonderful. --AJ]

A friend of mine and I were reflecting on life as TSs, and thought it was about time someone did the transgender desiderata thing again. To update the concept for the late '90's we thought we'd use Baz Luhrmann's recent hit, "Everyone's Free (to wear sunscreen)" to dispense some potted transition advice. Hope it raises a smile. And apologies to Julie S. who (I have no doubt) detests Baz with a passion.

Best wishes, Kim

Ladies and gentlemen of the transgender class of '99:

Start electrolysis.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, electrolysis would be it. The long-term benefits of electrolysis have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now....

Enjoy the passability your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the passability of your youth until it's faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as masculine as you imagine.

Don't worry about passing. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The times you really won't pass are apt to be moments that never crossed your worried mind, like running into a coach-load of Japanese schoolgirls at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Buy one thing every day that scares you.

Cleanse.

Don't be reckless with other people's insecurities. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Tone.

Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself and the rest of the members of your support group.

Remember the times you're truly accepted as a woman. Forget the times you're not. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old mini-skirts. Throw away your old photographs.

Moisturise.

Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life, once you've had surgery. The most interesting post-ops I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 10-year-post ops I know still don't, but many of these are admittedly still working behind the biscuit counter at the supermarket.

Get plenty of cotton wool.

Be kind to your boy-bits. You may miss orgasms when they're gone.

Maybe you'll have SRS, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have breast implants, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have horrendous complications and end up on life-support, or maybe you'll dance the funky chicken with your lesbian lover on your 75th anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or write a book about it either. Your choices are half-chance. So are everybody else's.

Enjoy your body. Put hormones into it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but in a smoky transgender club in the city.

Read the Standards of Care, even if you don't follow them. Do not read Internet newsgroups. They will only make you want to flame somebody.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they might accept you.

Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to out you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you before you transitioned and who still call you "Dave, no, Susan".

Live in San Francisco once, but leave before the new age stuff makes you see aliens. Live in LA once, but leave before your car is used in a robbery.

Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: support groups go bankrupt, clubs are too noisy, you might end up on Jerry Springer. And when you do, you'll fantasise that when you were young, support groups were free, clubs were great fun, and only beautiful TSs appeared on television.

Don't go on television.

Don't expect anyone in your family to support your actions. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you have wealthy parents. But don't expect to get any money from them.

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40, the only hair you'll have will be in your ears.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing a lipstick from the bottom of your bag, removing the fluff from it, painting over your ugly parts and hoping you don't meet anyone who used to know you.

But trust me on the electrolysis.


Would you like to make an anonymous contribution?

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