S/he: Changing Sex and Changing Clothes

S/he: Changing Sex and Changing Clothes

S/he: Changing Sex and Changing Clothes

S/he: Changing Sex and Changing Clothes


Through an examination of the experience of transsexuals, this book enhances understanding of how gender can and does function in powerful, complex and subtle ways. The author, who has herself been surgically reassigned, has conducted extensive interviews with transsexuals from many walks of life. Her personal experiences, which inform this book, have given her an access to her subjects that others would likely be denied. While highlighting how the gender identity of transsexuals relates to hormonal and surgical changes in the body as well as to changes in dress, the book investigates the pressures and motivations to conform to expected gender roles, and the ways in which these are affected by social, educational, and professional status. Differences in the experiences of those who change from male to female and those who change from female to male are also examined.Sex reassignment has been the focus of considerable media attention recently, as increasing numbers of people feel able to talk frankly about their personal experiences with gender dysphoria. Strides with medical technology have given transsexuals new opportunities in their lives. This book provides unique insights into how these changes are seen by those people most affected them.


In October 1995, I wrote a letter to a friend, which contained a disturbing but accurate statement of how I viewed my life. When I reexamined this correspondence several weeks later, I was startled by what I had written and that it seemed true at its core. I complained: "After all I've been through with this sex-change thing, I yet hate being transsexual so much that I sometimes can barely stand to look in the mirror. On the bright side, I like being a woman enough that I tolerate my own self-hatred. Hatred is the right term."

Perhaps I was troubled more on this day than others, but perhaps not. the words convey an undertone that I have felt for many years, and readers may be well advised to hold that timbre in mind. I will strive to be objective and accurate as I relate observations, conversations, research, success, disappointment, hope, and despair, but I recognize that my contemplations are personal, even if based on much reading, inquiry, and analysis -- and there is my experience as a reluctant transsexual participant in the laboratory of everyday existence. the art of being a sex-changed woman is precarious, and I like to think that I am an innocent student buffeted by too many stouthearted teachers, well-meaning or otherwise, though admittedly the hand that inflicts the heaviest blow is often mine. While I accept my transsexualism as fact, I do not expect that I shall ever be dispassionate about it.

I am not an advocate of sex change procedures. I know that sex reassignment is necessary for some individuals with gender dysphoria in much the same way as a radical mastectomy is necessary for some individuals with breast cancer, but I hope that such treatment is undertaken only when no other effective prescription exists. the best recommendation, though pointless, is don't get cancer and don't be transsexual.

I am a male-to-female transsexual; I have spoken with over a hundred other transsexuals or "possible transsexuals" in the last five years, most in the last two. Some were male-to-female (MTF), some female-to-male (FTM). Sometimes we talked at great length, sometimes briefly. I have met individuals whom I considered well-educated, articulate, feminine, masculine, psychotic, depressed, homosexual, immature, narcissistic, exhibitionistic, flamboyant . . .

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