A Letter to Mom
October 17th, 2005
This is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but it's something that I must. There have been a number of very positive changes to my life over the last year or so that I have to discuss (these changes) with you. I have a medical condition that I have been working to correct called Gender Dysphoria. This is otherwise referred to as being transsexual or TS.
I know that this will come as a huge shock, but I have to tell you, as there is no turning back for me now. This is not a whim, a fantasy, or a psychological disorder, but a medical condition that I have lived with for too long. I can't begin to imagine what you must be thinking as you read this, but you should not be sad for me. Firstly, as of July 7th, 2005, my legal name was changed to Stephanie Phyllis Craxford. Yes, really. Second, I am now living full time as a woman and I needed to be the one to tell you about this, not someone else, and I didnâ€™t want you to find out by accident. Third, physical changes have occurred and will continue to occur and be more obvious over time. And fourth, I have really suffered not to be myself in all aspects of my life.
I am seeing a well-respected, experienced gender therapist and have been for a while and have been under the care of a wonderful doctor who is monitoring my day to day condition. If things go as planned I will have surgery within the next 12 to 18 months, and G****** and I have already begun to get things in order for that eventuality.
I'm following an internationally recognized set of standards for having gender reassignment surgery, which is the only treatment for this condition. The standards are a series of regulations and hoops I have to jump through, and it's designed to weed out anyone who is not a good candidate for surgery and to make sure that the person is able to live and function in their new role. These standards require me to live full-time as a woman, including at my job, prior to surgery. So in line with that I came out at work with this revelation and they have been nothing short of fantastic in their support for me. They even went as far as holding sensitivity and harassment training for all my fellow workers.
I've always known I was somehow gender-different, ever since I was very small. It's just the way I am, and I make no apologies for being this way. I cannot change this fact about me any more than I can change the fact that I have blue eyes and am right handed. I like who I am, and I know I am a better person for being this way.
The biggest problem with transsexuality is not transsexuality itself, it's the misinformation and misconceptions out there and the attitudes that are driven by that. Gender Dysphoria is a medical condition and is not a psychological disorder. It is also not a disease, it is not cross-dressing or a fetish or a perversion of any kind, and it has nothing to do with being Gay, I am not Gay, and never will be. Transsexuality is about the reality of who I am, not what you see on Jerry Springer, and it's nothing anyone did to me, or the result of life experiences. This condition has existed throughout human history, and exists in every culture in the world without exception.
So, why am I this way? It has to do with how the brain is structured, and I've been this way since before I was born. Research on Male-to-Female transsexual brains has shown physical structures in the brain that are the same as natural females, and measurably different than normal males.
Although being TS is not a choice, what I can do about it is. I could:
Kill myself. I am a fairly stable individual, and have never seriously considered this option. Many people have tried, and sadly some have succeeded.
Live in misery and be depressed all my life. Been there, done that, no thanks. A happy Stephanie is worth so much more than a miserable Philip, especially to me and the ones I care about. Or
Transition to life as a woman and find peace with who I am. This is the option I have chosen, not that this is really a matter of choice.
Transition is the only medically recognized treatment for GID. No true transsexual has yet been persuaded, bullied, drugged, analyzed, shamed, ridiculed, or electrically shocked into acceptance of his or her physique. No therapeutic approaches have ever improved this condition, and transition is the only treatment. So, as I mentioned before, I am now living as a woman, and I have done so for some time now both at work and socially in everything I do, without any problems.
On August 8th after a weeks holiday, I returned to work as "Stephanie". My name is no longer "Philip", so please do not use that name anymore. I know it will take some getting used to but be sure to use female pronouns where appropriate. We'll take that a day at a time for the moment. I really known how difficult this will be to get used to, both for you and any one you choose to tell about this. Others here are, and although mistakes are made, I just gently remind people.
I'm very open and honest about this and I am perfectly willing to answer any questions you might have about this, within reason of course. Feel free to ask. It's taken me 53 years to get to this point in my life, and this level of understanding and self-acceptance, so I don't expect everyone to understand or be comfortable with it immediately. Gender is so deeply ingrained into our existence that it's difficult for anyone who isn't transsexual to get the concept. That's also what makes it important for me, and tens of thousands like me, to make this adjustment. Any effort you may make to understand and be accepting will be greatly appreciated.
So far 99% of everyone who now knows of my transition is supportive, including G******'s mom, all her brothers and their wives and children, and all of our friends. J*** himself has been the only exception. Most important of all though is the way G****** has stood by my side and supported me with her love and commitment. To put your mind somewhat at ease, G****** and I are not separating, or getting divorced. We are staying together as although the relationship between us has changed somewhat, we still love each other very much. J******* and S****** are OK with this to a certain degree. While they don't understand the whole issue, to her I'm still her dad, and she will always be my most precious daughter. I have agreed to continue to dress as her dad when she and S****** visit, as they did on Thanks Giving, and I will continue to do that until she is more comfortable with Stephanie.
I really don't know what else to say except that I am at ease with who and what I am and the direction I'm going, and I no longer suffer as I used to. I have a good quality of life, surrounded by caring friends and family, and I feel completing this process can only have a positive impact on me and on all aspects of my life. I know that this is going to be so hard for you Mom but I want you to know that I have not changed me. I'm still the same person I've always been, it's just that I am now your daughter. Just remember that no matter what I still love you, and will always love you. I am still the same person inside and I hope our relationship is changed only for the better.
Another letter was provided by Hypatia, a member of Susan's and it was one that was addressed to her sisters:
You're my close family and it's important to share what's going on in my life with you, in all its joy and pain. So instead of holding back any longer, it's time to come out with this.
My life-changing condition goes back to my early childhood but was not understood, and it has taken me many years to face up to it and deal with it. I have been diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, also called gender dysphoria or transsexualism. This means "People who were assigned a gender, usually at birth and based on their genitals, but who feel that this is a false or incomplete description of themselves." At birth I was assigned to the male gender, but it has never felt appropriate for me and has caused me considerable discomfort all through my life. As a transsexual, I identify as a woman and need to live openly as a woman in order to enjoy a happy, healthy, well-adjusted life.
In my very earliest memories from preschool onward, I knew I belonged among the girls and felt unable to belong to the world of boys. However, I never felt free to express this openly and received heavy pressure to masculinize as I grew up. My gender dysphoria was viewed as so shameful and unacceptable by everyone, I felt I had no choice but to suppress it for my own safetyâ€”I was frequently harassed, bullied, and beaten up at school for not being masculine enough. I got in the habit of denying it even to myself, and repeatedly forced myself to forget about it every time the desire to identify as a woman came up throughout my life.
Ultimately, gender identity cannot be changed or suppressed, and the desire to transition to womanhood kept coming up stronger and stronger over the years. Finally it became clear that my denial was seriously damaging me inside and I could no longer lie to myself. I had held off from acknowledging my gender identity for as long as I could until it became too strong to deny any longer. Two and a half years ago I admitted it to myself, came out to [wife] and Mom, and began to deal with it responsibly.
Under the professional care of a gender therapist and an endocrinologist, last year I began hormone replacement therapy which has been a great help in relieving the pain of my existence. It has brought me many benefits, the most important of which is that I now feel whole, an integral being for the first time, no longer divided against myself.
I am gradually preparing for full transition into womanhood. The closet is very harmful to people. Shame and fear should not rule a person's life. My transsexualism is nothing to be ashamed of, it's a natural variation of human beings and has been known in all cultures around the world throughout history. In many cultures other than our own, it was regarded as a special gift or a sacred calling. Research has shown that the brains of transsexual women like me share essential structures with those of genetic women like you, differing from those of men. This is something that's important to share with you, my family, in hopes of finding understanding, acceptance, and support.
I invite you to learn more on the subject and would like to refer you to reliable sources of information. My new name is [name], and my new e-mail address is [address]. Please feel free to ask me any questions you like.