Transitioning early in life: Kylie's advice (and her mum's)

[* name and certain details changed to protect her privacy]

I was born in early May 1981, a healthy boy (except for an undescended testis that was surgically descended when I was 4), in Brisbane Australia. From my earliest memories I felt like I was in the wrong body--quite a cliché I guess, but that’s how it seemed to go. I usually dressed as a girl; most of the time and much preferred to have female friends to males. In fact I can only really remember having about 2 male friends during my entire childhood (until about 13). I kinda stopped dressing in girly clothes so much as I began to get older (around school age). I could feel the tension that the adults around me felt, when I did, so I guessed it was somehow bad. Although I didn’t know exactly why. Being in a small primary school I was never really vilified except for the occasional flippant comment about how girly I was, or something along those lines. I had a very good group of friends and we used to hang out and do, what I guess girls do; writing notes, playing with hoops and skipping rope. I still remain close to 2 of those girls today!!

It was as I grew up that my “difference” and feelings of being a girl began to make me feel strange. One of the turning points was one day, when I was very young (by this I mean pre 10). I woke up late one morning, I knew this by the sun’s position. When I inquired to my mother as to why, she gave me a vague non answer. I had breakfast and got dressed. My mother told me I was going to the Gold Coast (we lived in a small country town in South East Queensland) to see a doctor. I had suffered chronic migraine headaches (every night at that stage) since I was about 6, so I thought it was going to be something about that. We got there and I could read a bit of the doctors title on the door, and I asked “why do I need to see a psychiatrist?”, my mother told me it was a “psychologist” and that he would help me. I went in and did some tests, with shapes and block etc. (I had done that sort of test many times before). I was then sat down with the doctor facing me. I told me my mother had told him that I liked to dress up and that when I “felt the urge to go to the laundry and put mummy’s bra and panties on, I should sit back for a second, take a deep breath and relax, try and think about something else until the urge went away”, or something to that effect. I tuned out after he said the bra and panties thing, as I never had worn either (at that point). He then went on to describe a similar thing for my headache management. This was a major turning point for me, and I can’t remember “dressing up” again for years. I never stopped feeling like I was/should have been a girl. Around 6 or 7 once heard the term “sex change” on the radio as we drove into my grandparents’ driveway. I said “mummy, that’s what I want when I grow up”. I was promptly told to be quiet as grandma and granddad didn’t want to hear that. For some reason I have always vividly remembered this. Just another disapproval.I had a nice childhood I guess, not too gendered. Apart from this I can’t really remember many people being too intent on changing me. I would say that I had a fairly non-gendered rearing too. My father did try to teach me a few “typically manly” things like wood chopping (his hobby) and fixing things. I would generally wander off and play with something else. I did have a very strong maternal instinct when I was young. I got an artificial incubator and incubated and raised lots of different birds and generally had lots of animals.

I did turn to several religions as well, I remember praying rosaries Every day to the Virgin Mary that I would wake up the next morning with everything the same, but that I would be a girl. When the traditional prayers didn’t work, I branched out to everything from Shinto to paganism. Such an interest in religion was seen as quite strange for such a young child, but I guess I was just searching for some sort of explanation.It wasn’t until I reached high school that the real problems began. I was shipped off at the age of 12 to go to an all boy’s boarding school in the state capital, Brisbane. Although it was only one hour from home by car, it was a world away in freedom. I was to live in a dormitory with 30 boys, 4 to an area. This was quite an eye opener, as I had grown up with mainly girls and women. It didn’t take long for the others to realize there was something really different about me and the taunts to start. Daily I was confronted with horrible teasing, and every now and then someone would try and fight me. I never really backed away from physical violence and I usually “won” the fight, by giving a bloody nose or black eye. I was never really strong, but I guess I was overtaken by adrenalin. I also had quite a sharp tongue and would often “shut down” my main taunters with dry remarks and then they were laughed at. This often made them attack me worse. I was constantly being attacked about my feminine ways and because it was inescapable, e.g. I had to live with it after school as well; I thought of suicide a couple of time. Luckily I have a strong personality otherwise I would have probably taken that way out. One weekend I returned to the boarding house and found all my possessions moved and even my mattress turned up. I just began to cry and decided then I wasn’t going to take it. I walked out the unalarmed fire escape and ran away. I stayed at a friend’s house that I had known from when I was young who had moved out to Brisbane. I called my mother a day later and went home. I never went back to that school again. I was almost 16 years old.

I stayed in my home town and worked for my parents a bit. I had started going out to queer nightclubs in Brisbane almost every weekend. I made my girl friend get me make up as my father was very well known in the small town where my parents live. A friend of mine (who now identifies as a gay man) would put our going out (tight and androgynous) clothes on under sloppy over clothes. We would somehow scam a ride to Brisbane or at least to the last bus stop on the Brisbane line (which was a scary shopping center in the middle of nowhere) I would end up doing my hair and make up in the side mirrors of cars or public toilets. We would have usually smuggled a bottle of something from our parents and maybe had a joint. We would go to a seedy queer club that never asked for I.D., which was good ‘cause I was not even 16 and J. was 17. One day a tall glamorous woman walked up the stairs. The man talking to J. said that she “used to be a man” and I said, “no way”. He told me that she was a transsexual. I instantly knew that that’s what I was and I had to talk to her. I approached her in the toilets (I had only ever gone to male toilets at boarding school and only cause there were no women’s). I was sufficiently androgynous enough for this to be rarely questioned). I asked her how she got her boobs and when she had her “sex change”. She was very obliging and told me to call a gay and lesbian counseling line for help. Armed with this knowledge I called it as soon as I was alone. They told me about the Brisbane gender clinic, whom I called. The clinic advised me that since I was under 18 I would need my parents permission to start hormones, so I would have to bring them. That would be a problem. I felt since I quite often got very negative reactions (although never overtly) to my femininity in my childhood, that I would get a bad reaction. Nevertheless I resolved to tell my mother as soon as I thought it would be right. I did extra research when ever I could including looking on the net at such site as Tsroadmap and Anne Lawrence amongst others. I was very happy to find many successful “non fringe” post everything transsexual women everywhere. That sort of thing only strengthened my resolve and the case I was putting together, to come out.

Sometime soon after the initial calls, I asked my mother to help me put my hair in curlers so I could attend an all ages punk gig. I often attended things like that and was considered very “alternative” as I was I guess a gothy/punky type. As she helped me I was applying my makeup. My mother, obviously reviewing the scene said “do you have anything you want to tell me?”. I knew that this was the right time, if ever there was one. I told her everything that I had learnt from the various website and showed her some things, including Andrea’s pre and post ffs shots(this is when they were only just up). She was amazed and dumbfounded. She made a few remarks about my height and hand size and about how I’d never be a real woman. I retorted that her hands were just the same size as mine and my younger sister was the same height. I told her I needed her to give me permission for hormones and that I would need her to come with me to the doctors. She told me not to tell my father.

I had been living part time in Brisbane, at my (paternal) grandparents, doing a chef course. Over the next week she softened over the phone and said she’d come with me and that she would tell my father. Both relieved me!! So armed with this I made an appointment at the clinic and when the date came we went together. I was told I would need to see a Psychiatrist to get approval and then they would give me hormones. At first anti androgens, then after a month or two estrogens. So I got a referral and made an appointment with the Psychiatrist.

This time came around and I went to it alone. I decided I didn’t really want my mum there for it, and the referral stated I had my parents support. I dressed as femininely as I could with my limited wardrobe, with minimal stylish make up slacks and a nice black blouse. I can’t remember much from this appointment, except that the psych commented I wasn’t wearing lipstick. Being a feminist I was very taken back by this and told him that not all women wore bright red lipstick all the time and that I was wearing eye make up AND nude lipstick anyway. There seemed to be a friction between us, so after the session I resolved to never go back to such an archaic thinking person again. Luckily, he sent a letter the gender clinic stating that I was gender dysphoric and I was a good candidate for hormonal treatment. Not surprisingly he also called me “superficially flippant”. HA. I repeated to have problems with the new female psychiatrist I went to, she denied me letters at all until I was 21. That came around and she kept saying “next time you come I’ll give you your surgery letters”. That happened at least 4 times and finally I got my mother to come, she was paying after all. It was issued by mail the next week. I lost it in a house move and asked for a re-issue by mail. I was told I’d need to do another session to get it. This gives a general idea of how we can be used by professionals meant to “help” us!!

I went on hormones and started full time that day (I had already made most of my friends start referring to me as Kylie and her, but my official name change/document change wasn’t for another 6 months until I was 17). There was no real difference in my life. All my friends thought of me as a girl and the change to living full time was quite uneventful. My family had lingering problems with the name and pronouns, and with relatives I didn’t see much this would linger for a year or so. I used to get quite annoyed by this and often get angry. In hindsight I should have been a little more compassionate and giving a bit more leeway.

At 18 I fell in love with a man that I had known since I was 14 (he was 5 years older than me). He was one of the first friends to fully accept me as Kylie and one of the first to call me she, etc. I had moved back to my home town, where he still lived and we got to know each other very well and fell in love. He and I are still together today and I feel very lucky to have such a kind, caring and loving man in my life!! I was a textbook case when I came to sex, I never let any partners see or touch me on the front. My bf even forgets I’m trans (and did even when I was pre op).I underwent a rhinoplasty to repair some calcification when I was 17. In March 2004 I had breast implants that took my hormonally grown breasts from a small B cup to a full C. I have recently returned from Thailand after SRS with Dr Suporn Watanyusakul on Nov 3 2004--incidentally pretty much exactly 6 years after starting hormones and going fulltime. I also had forehead reconstruction whilst there, too. I passed well even before the initial rhinoplasty, but I would say that made the biggest impact on my “passing” ability, making me pretty much 100% “passable”. The forehead was mainly to remove the parts that bugged me.

I have lived in various states of stealth, from living in the suburbs with my boyfriend and having neighbors think we were engaged and thinking of children. I prefer to be how I am now, in a state of semi stealth. I don’t tell anyone unless I feel they are becoming a very close friend. I found it strange to go on hormones to stop living a lie (despite the fact that I never really acted “masculine” before), to being living the way I wanted, but fabricating a past for myself. I would certainly always tell romantic mates should my boyfriend and I break up. I feel the more young, passable and successful “transitioners” that are at least out for political reasons, the easier it get for each new one. I’m not saying to tell everyone, just when it will make a difference.

3 things I regret:

Not telling my parents earlier.
Not starting hormones earlier.
Not finishing high school.

3 things I’m happy with:

Starting young, so I didn’t need electrolysis or voice training.
My strength when dealing with professionals.
Being open-minded.

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Now Mum's

Here's my story:

From the time Kylie was little, I knew there was something "not quite right". Whenever I went to pick her up at kindergarten, she would be in the cubby house with all the girls playing tea parties and dressed up, more than the girls. I once mentioned this to the teacher, but was immediately reassured that a lot of boys played with dolls and dressed up with the girls. Her reassurance didn't comfort me because, Kylie would be dressed up in my clothes or her sisters, every minute she got. If I remember rightly, we occasionally discouraged it, but it was happening so often, we got used to it. Her Maternal Grandmother and both Grandfathers never got used to it. Once she started school, it appeared that it wasn't happening as often. In hindsight, I believe it was because the opportunity wasn't the same as at kindergarten. Except of course, when the school had a play or musical, then there was Kylie right up the front "dressed to the nines".

She went through different stages, namely getting very involved in religion right from an early age - everything including Buddhism, Krishna etc, she was a very bright child, and adventurous and was always passionate about something - she incubated and hand raised peacocks, quails, bred and showed roosters - the list goes on. There was always something, so we thought that her cross-dressing was just another phase. I still suspected that there was something "wrong" and I thought that she may be a cross-dresser or homosexual, it really didn't enter my mind that she was transgender. I mean, how many people know anything about trans-gendered people unless they have one in the family. About the age of 9-10 years the headmaster of the primary school suggested that I take her to a psychologist. He gave me the name etc and I made an appointment. I was very curious, because I thought that he might be able to give me some answers and that if Kylie wanted too, it might be a good opportunity to "open up". Both my husband and I took her along and met him for the first time and had a brief consultation with him. I expressed my concerns about the cross-dressing but also asked that her IQ be tested because she was showing "very special" tendencies. Anyway the only thing that came out of that consultation was that she had a very high IQ and that there was "something" wrong - but nothing specific. We never took her to another Psychologist! I have recently found out that Kylie has a different version of this visit.

Kylie was sent to a boy's boarding school because we live in the country and it is an Australian tradition, if you can afford it (and sometimes even if you can't), to send children at high school level to board at a private school. My husband, myself and our other two daughters all went to same sex boarding schools. Had we known about Kylie’s transgenderism we definitely would have sent her somewhere else. However, we didn't know and she went. She ran away in Grade 10. We were very distraught but then she "came out" and everything then made sense. I was still hoping that she was "just a confused cross-dresser or homosexual" a statement I confessed to a homosexual hairdresser at the time and he couldn't believe that he would ever hear a Mother say this.

Well since this, we have been through a lot together. The initial "coming out" and getting a wardrobe together, establishing some sort of style and seeing Kylie change from an awkward adolescent into a stunning young woman. Kylie’s paternal Grandmother was marvelous at this time. Kylie was always her favourite and she took Kylie shopping, much to everybody's surprise. I must admit I wasn't as supportive in the beginning as maybe I should have been but it was a very traumatic time. Even though I had always known that Kylie was "different", to actually come to terms with my only Son, whom I had great aspirations for, all of a sudden dressing and living as a woman, it was extremely difficult. To start calling her by a different name after 15 years of calling her something else was also very distressing for the whole family. Trying not to say "he", dealing with her personality change, the fear I had for her when she went out - it was, to say the least, a very traumatic time for everybody.

The biggest problem we had was the urgency that Kylie had for the change. I can understand that from her point of view that she wanted it yesterday, but we had to have time to deal with each step and we had many arguments about the speed that it all should happen. Anyway, now it is all over, well almost. Since Kylie’s initial transition and having some feminizing procedures, like breast implants, we have just returned from Thailand where she underwent the "big one". Now she can finally live a reasonably "normal" life.

My advice to young transgender M to F is, give your family time to get used to everything. Depending on the circumstances, tell them as early as you can - maybe they are waiting for you to explain why you are "not like the other boys". If you can, keep up your studies, because let's face it if you are a brilliant scientist or something, nobody cares what gender you are!! In fact they expect you to be "eccentric". Don't ever be ashamed - it is not your fault that you were born different. If you were born with a defect that is more acceptable then there wouldn't be the stigma that there is with transgenderism. It's not your fault that people are ignorant and afraid of anything different. My explanation to people is that if I had a child that was born with a heart defect (or something else) then I would do anything and spend any amount of money for them to live a normal life.Be thankful that you were born in this time. The opportunities for a transgender woman are so much better than they were even 10 years ago. Admittedly there is a long way to go! Get yourself educated, get out there and make a difference!

CARLA (Mother of Kylie)


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