Yesterday you had a life-changing insight and I know it scared the shit out of you. You are not losing your mind. Yes, you are a transsexual. In 2017 we mostly call ourselves transgender or trans for short. People who aren’t trans are called cis, short for cisgender. Trans and cis are chemical terms for opposite and next to. Don’t get hung up on the labels.
You’re probably wondering who the hell I am, why I addressed you as Heather, and why I’m writing to you. That is your name now; I am you in 2017. It is my deepest hope that you will listen to your heart and to me and set aside your fear. With effort, it is possible to live as a woman. You should as soon as possible. The process is called transition. You need to get from who you are to being Heather.
Let’s start with the basics. To keep it simple, you were born with a girl’s brain in a boy’s body. Yes, that dream we had when we were five where our head was swapped onto a girl’s body? Makes more sense now, doesn’t it?
Raised as a boy, your young, plastic brain took in a bunch of socialization cues for how you were supposed to behave. This explains the almost-persistent discomfort of feeling like you don’t fit in when you’re around most boys and why even though you know the rules of the game, you constantly get stomped.
I still hate some of your bullies. It might make you feel better to know that the worst of them are living lives of quiet suburban desperation and haven’t taken care of themselves physically. One has had a liver transplant because he burned it out with drugs and alcohol.
The good news about the bullies is they are almost done calling you pussy, faggot, queer, punching you in the shoulder, and shoving you roughly into lockers. Their abuse in high school will be more sophisticated, mostly annoying, and rarely physical, so the worst is almost past. But don’t waste your time thinking about them. Focus on you.
Transitioning as soon as you can will save you from the years I lived with guilt, confusion, shame, and emotional pain as deep as the ocean some days. It won’t solve other things that make your life hard, but it will free up significant mental and emotional space in your life.
Transition won’t be easy. From 1982’s vantage point, you already know queer people don’t have it easy. When I transitioned in 2016 things were easier, but it still wasn’t easy. Even so, I’d trade those thirty-four years in a heartbeat for your harder transition.
Failed relationships, opportunities missed, and feeling like I was the most confused person on earth filled many of those years. I lost so much time to wishing, pining, aching, dreaming, and imagining instead of doing. Take however long you think you’re going to live right now and add thirty-four to it. That’s where I’m at now, except instead I reduced my lifespan by thirty-four years. It’s sobering. Start transition today.
Here’s the plan: you lay the groundwork for transition over the next few years, and when you go to college you enroll as a young woman. This sidesteps trying to transition in high school and will deliver you into an environment where hardly anyone will know you used to live as a boy. You then try to live the rest of your life happily ever after.
Today, more kids like you are transitioning in grade school with the support of their families and friends. They’re very lucky. Your school and family in 1982 will not be as supportive.
Step one is stopping your male puberty and starting a female one. Start taking estrogen. Some trans girls need a testosterone blocker. I haven’t needed one so far. Hopefully you’re just as lucky. In any event, you need to monitor the levels of estrogen and testosterone in your blood and adjust dosages accordingly.
The estrogen will make you grow boobs, keep your skin soft, change your body odor, and mellow out your mood. Boobs are great, except when they’re getting in the way. They get in the way because they ache when growing and it’ll take you a few painful bumps to realize where they are in front of you.
You can safely take estrogen at full dose and experience all the physical changes with few people noticing. The 80’s are all about tight, preppy clothing or punk. Go punk. Wear big baggy, black t-shirts and if you want to get way ahead of a 90’s trend, wear an oversized flannel shirt on top. Under the t-shirt, wear a binder. It’s a compressive garment designed to squish down your boobs.
The hormones are important because if you wait, more of your beard will come in. Let me tell you, removing a beard through electrolysis is a long, painful, and very expensive proposition. Every facial hair you prevent from sprouting is one to five minutes of your life you won’t spend on a table with an electrical probe in your face.
We have lasers now that zap a whole bunch at once. They don’t work on light hairs. You have many light hairs. Depending on how much has come in, you might be able to get away with tweezing. You might not.
If you can get a prescription for estrogen, do. Try Planned Parenthood. They dispense it for birth control. If they won’t prescribe you, ask a cisgender female to buy it for you. You know a couple who might help.
Clothes are going to be the same. I didn’t buy my own women’s clothing for the first time until 1995, but your girlfriends will buy some for you. Focus on buying basic things from thrift stores at first to save your money. You need to get a feel for sizing and cut, and hormones will change the shape of your body and your style will change. Much of what you buy early on will need to be donated in a couple of years.
Yes, the frilly underthings are fun. They are also overpriced and wildly impractical. Save your money for something you simply can’t pass up. Lean towards cotton prints instead. Buy bras whose bands fit comfortably. Do not buy a bra that is too small, even if it makes your boobs look fantastic, otherwise you might almost pass out in a movie theater someday. Just saying.
You will need a purse and some makeup. Same drill. Find a girlfriend to help. Wash your face before you go to bed every night.
Shoes are going to be a pain to find due to the size of your foot. Thrift stores and Nordstrom, maybe?
Grow your hair out. It’s punk and you’ll be well-poised for the late 80’s when you don’t have to hide behind punk any more. Once your hair is longer and the hormones have done some magic, you will be happily amazed at what you look like in women’s clothes.
Get your ears pierced. Go nuts on jewelry. Silver looks good on you.
There’s a gender support group in Seattle. Find it and go. Talk to other people who are trans. Learn from them and teach what you have learned to others. Go as Heather to start building your confidence in being yourself. Women’s bathrooms are only scary if you feel like you don’t belong there. You belong there. Don’t be weird about it.
You need to be careful as a trans woman, but don’t live in fear. There are people who would hurt you just for being you. Be aware at all times.
When you turn eighteen, you can legally petition to change your name. You will have to go to court and stand up in the front of the courtroom and talk to the judge. It’s kinda scary, but you will look like Heather after three years of estrogen, so roll with it.
If you can, get your driver’s license as Heather. Enroll in college as Heather and get your student identification. Having at least one correct ID is super-important. You may or may not be able to change your driver’s license or birth certificate. Ask trans people who have transitioned if they have and how they did it.
Your friends and family will have a hard time with your transition. You’re lucky though, most of your best friends are still yet to come. Anyone who doesn’t stick with you through this is someone you don’t want to be around anyway. Listen to and support your girlfriends. They will be your lifeline when you need one.
Your job opportunities as a woman will be more limited than a man’s and the expectations are different. Welcome to another exciting part of womanhood. Instead, buy Microsoft stock when it goes public and keep buying until 1995. Sell some shares when you have transition expenses. Sell it all on December 31, 1999 and buy Apple. Sell Apple on May 29, 2015 and retire. Maybe move to New Zealand? The United States in 2017 is…weird.
Transitioning is hard, but it’s also easy in a way, and it’s really, really worth it. You’ll wonder how you ever lived as a boy.
Trust me on this, you.