A Glimpse into the Life of a Transgender Woman
brought to you by Radio Smut
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Radio Smut got to sit down on April 1, 2017 with Catherine, a transgender woman, to discuss her journey. Before we get into the discussion, here’s a few facts about gender identity and sexual preference (which are not the same). Catherine explained gender identity best when she said it’s how you relate with your body. What you expect of your body. What clothes are comfortable. How you carry your body. How your body flows. How you behave with your wrist. How comfortable you are with what’s going on.
Catherine knew something wasn’t right, but never could put her finger on it. When she was 13, she thought she might be gay. She realized soon after that she wasn’t. She didn’t have anyone to talk to about it, “Because that’s just something you don’t talk to people about.” She was under the assumption that this was just a normal thing. That it was something that everyone dealt with. “Everybody’s eating, drinking, and very intensely thinking about their gender.” In regards to dysphoria she said that overall her outlook was more optimistic because living in ignorance was better. She didn’t have all the obstacles she faces as a trans woman. She was male, so she thought, “Hey I’ve got the easy card in life.”
Her epiphany happened when she was 18 years old. Before then, she knew something wasn’t right, Catherine discovered the word transgender and realized, “That’s what it is. Good!” It felt right. Catherine finally had a name for what she had been feeling. Before, when she was 13, she thought she might be gay. “No, I’m not, but something is happening.”
When Catherine started the transition process, she was going to West Virginia University. She started her journey by first talking to the University to see what services were offered. They didn’t have anything to help her, but were able to point her in the right direction. They directed her to Persad. Persad is an organization in Washington, Pennsylvania that seeks to improve the wellbeing of the LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS communities. At Persad, Catherine was able to get a psychological evaluation for free and, therefore, was able to start on her journey.
Catherine has started her hormone therapy. When trans women achieve their true gender identity, they actually go through a second puberty, so to speak. Those transitioning to male will grow facial hair and body hair. Those transitioning to female will grow breast tissue. Catherine waited until she had been on hormones for a few months before she made any fashion changes. By that time, her family and friends were aware of her intentions to transition to a woman.
Luckily, overall her family was supportive. Her father said he didn’t agree with her lifestyle, but that he would not abandon her and that he loved her. When she told her friends and family, her ex-girlfriend was the only one who wasn’t surprised. It was like the puzzle pieces finally fit together.
Catherine is interested in having gender affirmation surgery. This is also known as bottom surgery. One technique for male to female transitioning is to split the penis in half and using the nerves and tissue to create a vagina by internalizing the organ. There are only a couple physicians that are recommended to perform bottom surgery. Thailand is a better source for physicians to perform this delicate surgery, as well as the cost being slightly lower due to currency exchange rates between Thailand and the United States. Breast augmentation is a possibility, but not a likely choice. However, she does want to have some work done on her forehead to have the brow bone reduced because that is something that causes dysphoria for her.
West Virginia has the highest number of transgendered youth, yet there aren’t many, if any, doctors who will perform reassignment surgery or perform the necessary psychological evaluations. Catherine was not aware of any clinics in the state, and doesn’t know of any endocrinologists in Charleston that will do hormone therapy for gender transitioning. Catherine has to travel to Pennsylvania to see an endocrinologist to get her hormones. Catherine was not aware of any support groups or forums that she would consider trustworthy. She did know of one message group, but said that their idea of what it means to be trans is outdated, so she wouldn’t recommend it. As with most things, it’s best to do your research, and with the availability of the internet, there are resources out there to send you in the right direction.