Ask Tara - part 2

Q. When do I know I'm ready for SRS?

What a question! I assume you're seeing a therapist experienced in gender identity? Because that's something you should be working on with him or her. Are you living fulltime? Are you prepared for orgasms to only be psychological? I'm not saying they can't be physical, but there's no guarantee they will be. Knowing you're ready for SRS is something you'll need to search deep within yourself, since it's a major change and irreversible.

Q: How to choose the right surgeon for SRS

Choosing the right surgeon is a combination of objectivity and intuition. Ask as many post-op women as you can who they went to and their level of satisfaction. If you can, look at some results personally. Every surgeon has patients who had complications or are dissatisfied, even the best. Don't rely on one bad experience or horror story you hear. Look at examples of different surgeon's results online.

SRS and cosmetic surgeons links

Q. Tissue atrophy, vaginal depth and skin grafts.

Any longterm estrogen use can cause atrophy of genital tissue. Keep track of any shrinkage. You can tell if your tissue is shrinking if it's painful when getting an erection. If your tissue has atrophied you may need skin grafts, besides the normal scrotal graft. To prevent shrinkage there are two things you can do: 1. Stimulate yourself (you know what I mean). 2. Back off your hormones and (if you're taking one) anti-testosterone drug. If you want an accurate opinion on whether you have enough tissue for adequate depth see a surgeon experienced in SRS.

Q: You've have a unique perspective in that you've experienced life as a male and a female. What differences have you noticed since your transition?

I first noticed that the world is kinder and gentler to women. From the obvious things, like having doors held open and people smiling more, to something that delighted me when I first transitioned. There's an unspoken camaraderie among women that says, even when talking to a woman you don't know, "I know you're safe and non-threatening and I can trust you." When dealing with a strange man a woman has to be on her guard and not as open.

I've experienced what most every woman has: being treated like a child by men and my ideas not taken seriously or not listened to. (Men take note. This is a major complaint of women!) The social hierarchy with white males on top became obvious.

Another thing I noticed was men don't understand how they take up, and intrude upon, other people's space. A woman is more aware of her immediate surroundings and more readily yields when someone approaches. Whereas a man tends to barge ahead and make people move around him. Women sit in a more contained manner. Men tend to spread themselves out when sitting and can intrude upon another's space. I've had men stand so close to me in line that I could feel their breath on the back of my neck! And women's restrooms are generally cleaner.

Q: Are male-to-female transsexuals women?

"Woman" and "female," often used synonymously, describe two different things, i.e. "woman" is gender and "female" is sex. Gender is how we present to society—as a man or woman, or somewhere in between. Sex is determined by chromosomes, anatomy and biology.

Since transsexual women have a deep, core identity as female in essence they are women who, through hormones and surgery, are aligning themselves with their internal gender identity. Some transsexual women don't pass well in public, but they are women and should be treated as such. Gender is what's between the ears, not between the legs.

Q: How have your family and friends accepted you?

My mother has known about me since I started dressing in her clothes and has always been supportive and accepting (I love you mom!). She would say, "I don't care how you're dressed." She actually encouraged me to transition by pointing out I needed to come to terms with myself when I was vacillating back and forth. We've become even closer since SRS.

My friends have been wonderfully accepting and supportive. Except for not hearing back from a longtime pal after I came out to him, I've lost no friends and gained others. Unfortunately, many of my sisters face discrimination, violence, loss of employment, family and friend rejection.