How To Turn Your Boyfriend into Your Girlfriend
This paper is going to outline how to take your average, run of the mill, XY chromosome, genetic male and turn him into a shemale — a non-operational transsexual woman! Let me start by saying that this is by no means a joke or something to be done to someone against their will. Rather it is a brief how to guide, composed in an academic format, designed to give a realistic look at the process of gender modification. Given the brevity of this paper, I have chosen to limit my scope of focus to the male to female (MTF) transsexual.
When people hear the words “sex change” they often conjure up gruesome images of men having their penises chopped off Lorraine Bobbitt style. I would like to get this nasty misconception out of the way right now. Gender Identity Disorder (GID) is a serious social phenomena currently classified as a medical and psychological issue. Nothing that resembles what Lorraine Bobbitt did to her husband happens during genital reassignment surgery (GRS).
GRS has been available for almost 40 years. The surgery has yet to be perfected. Dr. Shelia Kirk, founder of the Transgender Surgical and Medical Center, says: “Currently there is no formal training program in Trans-surgery; informal mentoring and exchange with other surgeons is the method that is used by all who work in this surgical discipline.” 1 Clearly GRS is still in its infancy. Does GRS make a MTF transsexual a “real woman”? Does the decision to forgo GRS make a MTF transsexual any less of a woman? The verdict is still out on that one. Sexperts and gender experts will speak of a spectrum of gender differences but in my experience, the average layperson tends to identify gender with what is inside your panties.
There are many different reasons to forgo GRS. It is painful, lessens the genital sensitivity, and is extraordinarily costly. Pat Califia in her book Sex Changes tells us: “It is my impression that fewer and fewer MTFs are seeking genital surgery. … They know about the urinary tract infections, poor healing, numbness, lack of lubrication, [lack of] flexibility, and inorgasmia that often accompany vaginoplasty.”
I AM CONFUSED! *** MENTAL HEALTH ***
There are many things to consider when beginning the process of gender modification. The first and foremost is the mental health and well-being of the transgendered person. Transgenderism is confusing stuff. Often transgendered people know from a very young age that they are not really the gender that everyone insists upon. Often they are very confused and distraught because of the social paradigms protecting the dual binary gender structure. As young children they experiment with different gender roles, often being scolded for their gender inappropriate behavior.
Madeline H. Wyndzen of genderpsychology.org puts it this way:
It feels like everything should have been so obvious when I look back. But everything was so confusing as I grew up. It’s like, one day I was absent and everybody else was taught the crucial aspects of being a boy or girl. I would lie in bed at night practicing and rehearsing how to be a boy. One day in middle school, after being pushed around again, a principal tried to teach me to ‘stop crying’ and ‘be a man.’ Bullies, teachers, and others taught me the same thing: there was something terribly wrong with my feelings. I tried so hard to purge from myself every expression of emotion. Really I only needed to be taught one lesson; we do not need to learn to be ourselves, we just are ourselves. 3
If we could all learn that important lesson of just being ourselves life would be much simpler. Often in life we may feel moved to see a mental health professional. The MTF transsexual is up against countless social obstacles in her transition. Family, friends, significant others, employers, and DMV personnel will all have questions. Many will have opinions, tears, guilt trips, and political agendas to add to the confusion of a transitioning person. Most of the people mean well but have a very hard time accepting the transgenderism of their loved one. There are thousands of therapists who specialize in gender issues. Gay and lesbian centers are excellent resources for connecting to a gender aware therapist in your area.
When it comes to maintaining the mental health of MTF transsexuals we must look at the Harry Benjamin Standards Of Care (SOC), as they are the standards used to treat the transgendered. “Psychotherapy is Not an Absolute Requirement … Not every adult gender patient requires psychotherapy in order to proceed with hormone therapy, the real life experience, hormones, or surgery.” 4 It is a common misconception that six months of psychotherapy is required but “One letter from a mental health professional … written to the physician who will be responsible for the patient’s medical treatment, is sufficient for instituting hormone therapy or for a referral for breast surgery.” 5
CLOTHING, HAIR REMOVAL, MAKE UP AND PROSTETICS!
Often the MTF will have experimented with cross-dressing. Before any sort of hormone therapy should begin the MTF should most definitely spend time dressed as a woman. Begin by mastering feminine mannerisms as early on as possible. In New York City you will find Miss Vera’s Finishing School For Boys Who Want To Be Girls. On Miss Vera’s website you will discover that classes are available for cross dressers and their significant others. Miss Vera instructs techniques in make up, maid training, even ballet! Her school is world-renowned and is the first institution of its kind-offering drop in classes in feminization, weekend intensives, and a yearlong program designed to completely transform. 6
You may be wondering what order to take the steps in this transformation. It depends on what the MTF’s particular needs are. If he is even a little hairier than your average woman, hair removal will be your first stop. It may be tempting to shave him. Shaving can be fun but it is also time consuming and very messy! To maintain a constant state of hairlessness is necessary. I mean, how many women do you know who have excessive chest hair? According to Vittorio and Lehrer in their article Laser Hair Removal, “Several different types of hair lasers are currently available. … Many hair removal lasers categorize patients according to their ability to burn or tan in response to sun exposure.” 7 It is a combination of dark hair and light skin that is ultimately the best for removal of hair via laser surgery. I have heard from patients that it can be very painful. And as Vittorio and Lehrer point out: “patients should not expect or be guaranteed permanent hair removal. A realistic expectation is a 50 to 70% reduction in hair density over the course of multiple treatments.” 8 This is a statement that the AMA requires. I know many people who have had permanent results with laser hair removal.
Once the MTF is as hairless as that poor cat your neighbor’s kid shaved, you can go ahead and paint her hairless face with make up. Well quite frankly you can make up the face of your MTF transsexual well before laser surgery has been done. Be sure she has a close shave and resist the temptation to use your make up on her. Men require much more dramatic make up than women. Even though your man is a woman she still has the complexion of a man. Kevyn Aucoin’s Making Faces is an excellent reference for learning make up techniques. If you live in a major metropolitan city you can also hire a professional make up artist for private consultations. When learning about the specific needs of feminizing via make up please be patient. It often takes a very long time, it can be frustrating, and in the beginning may look pretty funny! Make up is one of the fun elements of gender bending so just keep playing with it. Luckily, it washes off!
Lets talk about clothing. Often it is difficult to purchase clothing in very large women’s sizes. It is important to have a certain sense of style and to shop carefully. Reverend Mac tells me “ Some of the most important aspects of a MTF’s wardrobe’s are undergarments. Stockings, restrictive underwear, corsets, and garments that accentuate your womanly characteristics are of the utmost importance when dressing as a woman.” 9 Style of clothing is a personal preference and it may take a bit of body analysis to discover the womanly aspects of each individual MTF. The best places to purchase clothing for a MTF are in large metropolitan cities. “Shops for big and tall women and thrift stores yield the best results when shopping for a 6’4” drag queen.” 10 Wigs, breast forms, and shoes are very important. Where on earth do you find pumps in a size 15? In addition to the obvious answer: the Internet, Hollywood Blvd. is a Mecca of shoe stores catering to FTMs. They have pumps, stilettos, and platforms through size 16!
Wigs are necessary. It can often take years for hair to grow into a long feminine style. Wigs can be very expensive but you indeed get what you pay for. My advice is don’t skimp on the wigs! In shopping for wigs you will immediately discover that there are two distinct types – human hair and synthetic. According to World Of Wigs:
choosing between a human hair wig and a synthetic wig is more of personal preference. … A person looking for a wig that is easy to maintain and less expensive would choose a synthetic wig…a person looking for a wig they plan on wearing everyday and that they can curl themselves would choose a human hair wig. … Keep in mind that just because human hair wigs cost more it does not mean they are the ‘better’ wig to buy. Many times a high quality synthetic wig looks more realistic than a low quality human hair wig. 11
Body contouring for the MTF is most important to assimilate. Corsets, breast forms, and curve enhancing prosthetics can be purchased online and in retail stores. Never, and I repeat never, purchase a corset off the rack. Always have it custom made to the specifications of the individual. Everyone’s body is different and corset training can have very serious health implications if the fit is not proper. Dark Garden Corsets says “A well made corset will support your ribs and hips comfortably and will very gradually reduce the actual size of your natural waist. Corset training means frequent corset wearing. … But this progress will not last without maintenance, … your waist will not stay smaller without the corset.” 12
Classic Curves is an online boutique that specializes in undergarments designed to create the illusion of a feminine form. They sell breast forms in triangle and teardrop shapes as well as padded prosthetics “that give you the proper butt and hip proportions of a sexy woman.” They even have a device “ingeniously designed to take the loose side and chest tissue you have now … to temporarily create what appears to be absolutely real cleavage!” 13
Make up, clothing, hair removal, prosthetics – these are the easy things. Once you have made a fantastic woman out of your man it is time to consider how to go about making it permanent. Hormone therapy, plastic surgery, and changing identification to reflect her new gender can now be addressed.
Before I begin with the rudimentary elements of hormonal therapy I feel the need to address the issue of safety. In all of my research I have uncovered the standard side effects, as you will when researching any western medicine. Hormones mess with the body’s systems in very dramatic ways. The liver seems to be the organ that takes most of the abuse. Studies have been found linking hormonal usages to a variety of problems including Alzheimer’s Disease, osteoporosis, weight gain, hypertension, hypothyroidism, phlebitis, pituitary changes, changes in vision, infertility, gall bladder disease, kidney stones, skin rashes, mood swings, etc. Altering the body’s hormonal balance can really screw things up if not done with care. It is of the utmost importance that you find a physician who is experienced and skilled in hormone therapy for MTFs. Safety seems to come from a combination of moving at a slow and steady pace and through medical supervision. Expect the physical changes to occur gradually over a period of about two years. Don’t rush it. Safety First!
Most of us know that testosterone is the hormone that makes a male manly. When dealing with transgendered hormone therapy take care to balance the hormone level with a combination of drugs. Sheila Kirk, MD states that: “an end point … is to attain the genetic female blood levels of this male hormone.” 14
Estrogen, the hormone most often thought of as female, is available in various forms. Never exceed recommended dosages with the ‘more is better philosophy’. It is not. The dangers of hormonal therapy are widely published as with any prescription drug regimen in the states. Phlebitis, a life threatening inflammation of the veins, seems to be the greatest threat with hormonal therapy. Taking higher doses than recommended increases the risk of phlebitis and once developed will most likely mandate the cessation of estrogen.
Kirk points out that another adverse side effect of hormonal therapy is that “the ability to initiate and sustain an erection is greatly diminished. … you can’t expect to perform ‘like a man’ if you are taking chemical substances that in essence are performing a chemical castration.” 15 Impotence also occurs and it is recommended that sperm is banked if the MTF is ever considering having children.
The heath benefits of taking hormones include what would appear to be a lowered risk of heart attacks and “production and activity of nitric oxide, … an antioxidant.” 16 The skin becomes very soft and supple with the use of estrogen. “If the patient has had electrolysis for facial hair, the skin there will be quite velvety.” 17 Oh, and there is breast growth too!
Within a year breasts should grow to be approximately the same size of the biological women in the family. If, after 18 months, the breast growth is not significant enough (for gender comfort) the MTF may choose to have augmentation as per the SOC. Progesterone aids greatly in breast growth but is not used as often in feminizing regimens because it can cause major mood swings, depression, acne and a host of other complications.
A combination of an anti-androgen, a drug that blocks testosterone, with estrogen is a Dr. Sheila Kirk’s choice for an “ideal regimen.” Using anti-androgens can allow for a lower dose of estrogen reducing potential complications. Kirk believes: “it is wise to use the estrogen alone for a time before introducing the anti-androgen.” 18
Estrogen is available in many forms: injectable, topical, oral, slow release implant, transdermal patch, and naturally occurring (in herbs and natural foods) for all the hippie MTFs. Kirk makes it clear that there is no set way to go about hormonal therapy. Everyone’s body is different and all doctors have drug preferences. “Some physicians use injectable estrogen to supplement the oral estrogen regime. Some use oral medication alone. Others will use an injectable long-acting anti-androgen added to the estrogen, which lasts approximately a month. Some doctors prefer only an oral anti-androgen added to the estrogen. What is most important is that your physician be knowledgeable and adaptable enough to change regimen and dosages as necessary.” 19
As per the SOC a real life test or experience where the MTF lives full time as a woman is recommended. “Since changing one’s gender presentation has immediate profound personal and social consequences, the decision to do so should be preceded by an awareness of what the familial, vocational, interpersonal, educational, economic, and legal consequences are likely to be.” 20 Gender modification being what it is there are exceptions to this.
Prior to this time of the real life experience the MTF will need to have secured a legal, and gender appropriate, name. Name changes are pretty simple in most counties. You pay a fee, run a legal advertisement in a local publication, talk to the judge, and poof new name! If the many explanations, family conversations, and scenes in the workplace were as easy as changing a name maybe we would all change our gender from time to time!
As the MTF transitions into a new and socially mystifying gender much turmoil will occur. Family and friends will try and ‘talk you out of it.’ If gender modification is in your heart why would anyone try and talk you out of it? People get very caught up in the social construct of gender. People who love a MTF will do everything they can to keep him the man they know and love. Grief is a natural process that should be expected and embraced. Life is not stagnant, it is fluid. Everything changes. I hope that my words here have helped give you a closer look at Gender Identity Disorder and the transition of a Male to Female transsexual.
1. Sheila Kirk MD. Feminizing Hormonal Therapy for the Transgendered. Pittsburg:
Together Lifeworks 1999, (page 11).
2. Pat Califia Sex Changes – The Politics of Transgenderism. San Francisco: Cleis 1997, (page 207 – 208).
3. Madeline H. Wyndzen Gender Psychology. 1 August 2005.
http://www.genderpsychology.org/ (Page 1).
6. Veronica Vera Miss Vera’s Finishing School for Boys Who Want To Be Girls. 10
August 2005. http://www.missvera.com/.
7. Carmela Vittorio, C.a; Michael Lehrer, S.a Laser Hair Removal. Vol: 19, Issue: 1, 2003 pp. 131-136. Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc. ISSN: 0736-6825, (pg 2).
8. Ibid, 3
9. Reverend Mac Personal Interview. 5 September 2005.
11. World of Wigs. 1 September 2005. http://www.worldofwigs.com/wig_faq.php#Q5
12. Autumn Carey-Adamme Dark Garden Corsets. 10 August 2005.
13. Espy Lopez Classic Curves International. 1 September 2005. http://www.clcrv.com/
14. Sheila Kirk MD. Feminizing Hormonal Therapy (page 79).
15. Ibid, 51
16. Ibid, 61
17. Ibid, 38
18. Ibid, 68
19. Ibid, 69
20. Madeline H. Wyndzen Gender Psychology