Calpernia Addams: What I Wish I Had Known About Transition When I Was Younger

Calpernia Addams <> notes in a thoughtful essay full of advice for young people considering a gender transition:

Transition is never perfect, never easy and never finished. But it does get better, it does easier and it does recede into the background as time goes by.

[…] Focus on your dream, visualize yourself as a beautiful, happy woman living in her own place, with her own car and a good job where she is so valued and essential due to her skills that they would have no problem accepting her past if it should ever come to light.

Much more excellent advice at the link below.

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22 Responses to “Calpernia Addams: What I Wish I Had Known About Transition When I Was Younger”

  1. Ariablue Says:

    The whole “transition is never finished” thing has always bothered me. First, it’s not true. In the sense that the person who says it feels that way, it may be their true feeling. But they cannot speak for everyone. You are also tapping in to several different things when you say “finished” and this equivocation creates a very negative image for people; they see their darkest fear in this statement regardless of what the writer may have meant.

    I hope these kinds of statements are not intentionally meant to poison the well for others, or to try to discourage people from transition. It is not a choice in the sense people think of the word, and if someone thinks it is I have to wonder where they are coming from.

    Telling people transition is never finished is sour grapes. It usually comes from people with a conservative background who can’t see past the social indoctrination they experienced as children. It uses words in our minds like “biological” and “gender”, and a host of things that a person in transition doesn’t need to worry about. In many ways, transition may never be finished for some people. But in the most important ways, the ones that count, it finishes every time.

    What never finished really means is that the author or speaker has not had resolution within their own life. No peace or balance, no catharsis. The writer may be as physically finished as humanly possible, but obviously there is more to it than that. The writer may not be finished with transition in their own mind on a subconscious level, but that does not mean there is no end. They just haven’t found if for themselves yet. This is a problem when people who haven’t completed transition speak for those who have.

    • Suzan Says:

      I can kind of see what Calpurnia means when she says transition is never complete.

      It is like Simone de Beauvoir saying, “One isn’t born a woman one becomes one.”

      Becoming is a life long process whether one is normborn or born trans.

      I am becoming an old woman, acknowledging the wisdom of my experiences, coping with the aches and pains of age.

      Gail Sheehy has written about passages and transitions.

      I have other friends who are long time post-SRS. 20-30-40 years. The first ten years or so are like elementary through high school. When I was pre-op I thought SRs would be an end point. It only ended having male parts.

      The first years were the hardest, the learning curve the steepest. We have to catch up on and fill in the gaps in our grasp of the social construct parts of gender as well as reach an awareness that we are not unique in this and so too does every woman. For that matter growth and transition also happens to men evenif the social construct demands they refuse to ponder it the way women do.

      Completion comes only with death.

  2. karen A Says:

    Focus on your dream, visualize yourself as a beautiful, happy woman

    For some of us conventional beauty (or even average attractiveness) is and was never realistically achievable and thinking otherwise is being disconnected from reality…

    The same is true for some female born women, but I think for those of us for which that is the case, not being at least of average attractiveness is harder to deal with.

    (And yes I’m not in great mood)

    where she is so valued and essential due to her skills that they would have no problem accepting her past if it should ever come to light.

    Today, professionally in many places (but not all), I think that is and can be the case… having hired people I know how much management worries about friction, lawsuits and people working effectively with each other.

    But on an interpersonal level, I’m in the camp of those who believe acceptance is different from being know as a female born woman most of the time …

    I’m getting old too … in my mid 50’s now, 12 years post transition and 11 post-op, and i am getting tired of dealing with a lot of things.

    – Karen

  3. SA-ET Says:

    I can understand how someone like Calpernia Addams can feel that transition is never finished. After all, she went from a preop showgirl (drag queen) to a post op showgirl (drag queen)…never leaving the GLB community in the process. She can’t make the jump. Thank God most of us do.

    • Suzan Says:

      Why? What is so great about being part of the dull gray straight world? Seriously?

      By the way I do not thank imaginary sky fairies.

      Too many of those touting their place in the straight world were straight CDs married to women and still married to them.

      I’d much rather run in the boho world of interesting people than in the straight world among boring conservative people.

      But on another level your snotty comment smacks of jealousy. I’d be willing to bet Calpernia is a lot better looking than you are.

  4. tinagrrl Says:

    I thought transition ended with SRS. Then I thought it ended with some “experience”. Then I thought it ended when my life “settled down”, when I felt secure in my skin, when I no longer worried about being “read”.

    Today I’m of the opinion that “transition”, and transitions, are an ongoing part of life.

    Part of my ongoing transition involves becoming an old woman. it involves understanding I’m invisible to an awful lot of people — just another old person.

    It’s also about understanding that many people find my independence somewhat disconcerting. That a 70 year old woman goes fishing alone surprises, even shocks, many people. That I still read also surprises some.

    Many folks still think I should sit in my rocking chair and tend to my knitting. That I do not puzzles them.

    Transition, of one sort or another ends only with death.

  5. Andrea Says:

    Regarding being beautiful. I don’t think I could achieve that, even if I marry a craniofacial surgeon who has a compulsive obsessive disorder.

    Being beautiful is not always an advantage, although it does help. It can attract to much attention and scrutiny. I just want to blend in and not be noticed.

    I did know about transition when I was young. I read my first article about it when I was about 11 or 12 at the start of the 80’s. If I could find it in a library in Northern Ireland, anyone could get it in the USA.

    The real problem is this. A kid has to known exactly what to look for and have figured out what the terms are, they need to research. I was searching for six months on occassional visits to the public library reference section, but found nothing. Then I saw the term transsexual in a tabloid newspapar in a story they were doing on a woman why were outing. I went back to the library with the term transsexual and started to find information from that point.

    Now with the internet, it is easier for a kid to find out information, if there parents don’t have a parental blocking system. All those programs block out anything to do with changing sex.

    My shrink had an issue with hormone treatment and would never allow a teenager to have hormones, due to her being a right wing religous nutjob.

    The number of clincians giving kids hormones is still to low, but it is slowly increasing. Kids getting hormones will be far better of than me and blend in a lot better. I wish them luck and hope they have a better time of it than I had.

  6. cassandraspeaks Says:

    I’ve heard that “transition is never finished” bullshit before and the first time i heard it I figured it as the bullshit that it surely is.
    So much depends on what your target is and so much depend on the reason you began and the motivation you had in the beginning. Knowing the public profile and narrative of the writer, the one thing she can never fully know is beyond her grasp and will forever be beyond it. Perhaps she knows that and that is why her transition continues.

  7. Suzan Says:

    SA-ET ah yes I knew I recalled you. You are also nasty regarding Andrea James and a friend of that nut job, Jennifer Usher.

    I also note you engage in ad hominem attacks on me from you blog.

    My big sin is not conforming to you right wing and conformist view of proper lady like behavior. You call me a homosexual transsexual when the proper term is lesbian.

  8. Susan Says:

    Oh, give me a friggin break, Suzan, I mean who really gives a fuck…it’s your blog. And, yes, Andrea James is pretty much in the same vein. Both are post op GLBT advocates that are, and never have been a role model to anyone but the same transgender I despise. I don’t engage in anything other that what I see as the truth. Further, you don’t know squat about me. If you want to censor your blog comments only to those who support your GLB centric, feminist-nobody-gives-a-damn position, knock yourself out. I don’t ban anyone from commenting on my blog, including crazy Just Jennifer Usher. I’m aware of who she is, what she stands for, where she’s been in the discussion, but I see no reason whatsoever to ban her point of view just because I have the power to do so and for the most part…no one pays any attention to her anyhow. As for Calpernia Addams, anyone who uses her as a role model for anything other than homosexual activism is an idiot.

  9. Susan Says:

    I also have to say that to say that those living in the straight world are across the board both boring and straight is about the most ignorant statement I’ve heard in twenty years. You really should get out more.

    • Suzan Says:

      I do… I work among boring straight people. Straight Christian Republicans are the most ignorant, boring fucks on the planet.

  10. Sara Law Says:

    Tinagrrl said:”Today I’m of the opinion that “transition”, and transitions, are an ongoing part of life.”

    I think the context of the word “transition” is important here. Calpernia Adams is talking about her transition TO female. In this context I believe, as do other posters here, that this transition should, can, and does end for most. Why? How can one live a FULL life when this tranistion is continually on-going and you are always looking at some ghost in the mirror (or in other poeple’s eyes)?

    I think this context is often confused with the transitions we make AS women (or men as the case may be). We will always be “transitioning” our ideas about what we need materially, in relationships (both emotionally and physically), from our careers, etc. However, these types of transitions are qualitatively different from a gender transition.

    The latter should end at some point, or, what is the point?

  11. Ariablue Says:

    The main problem I think is not so much that people have differing views on transition, but that some very public people have set themselves out to be THE AUTHORITY ON ALL THINGS TRANZZZZ… dun dun daahhhhh!

    Calpernia doesn’t know anything more about transition than anyone else does. The fact that she gives that kind of advice to new transitioners really bothers me. This insipid cult of personality that goes on in GLBT circles is creating an atmosphere of failure for people who just want to address their problems and move on.

    Telling people they are never done is practically constitutes a recruiting tool for the transgender crowd. Where else is a person to go if they have that drumming in their head?

  12. cassandraspeaks Says:

    I’ve met some atheist left wingers I would say that about. During the sixties Suzan like you I was as much a hippie chick as you could be in England. I went to a great deal of communist revolutionary meetings and rallies. I came to the conclusion that they were not going to get anywhere not because they were wrong but because the world they were living in was far removed from reality. Hating inequality, wanting freedom to think and act for youself as well as care for others is not the sole domain of the left.
    As for Calpernia and Andrea; the TS Roadmap is excellent, would that such information had been available in 1962 when I needed it. If someone’s target in transition is to be a transgender for the rest of their life that’s their choice and they are free to make it, model yourself on Calpernia be happy. But if you want to be a woman, choose Audrey Hepburn or someone, almost anyone else.
    I have nothing against either Calpernia or Andrea, but their TG public profile does not in my opinion make for a great role model.

  13. tinagrrl Says:

    “I have nothing against either Calpernia or Andrea, but their TG public profile does not in my opinion make for a great role model.”

    O.K. — I can understand that position — (here it comes) but — Does that mean the only acceptable role models are folks who are so stealth you do not know they exist?

    How does that help the pre-op who is negotiating her new life? How does that help someone newly post-op who is so frightened of being “read” (or, the thought of being “read”) that they end up virtual prisoners in their own home?

    We are all in a unique position — for us, success means disappearing. Granted, since the advent of the internet, long-term, stealth post-ops can post under pseudonyms. Still, the advice given by many long term post-ops really does not seem help “newbies” very much.

    Both TS Roadmap and Lynn Conway’s list of successful TS’s serve to bolster the spirits of both pre-ops and those newly post-op.

    Though I find their use of “transgender” to be somewhat questionable, it is a widely used term, easily understood — and, I guess you pick your fights where they will have the most impact.

    For some folks, seeing that “public profile”, actually gives them hope — many fear they will NEVER blend in, will never be able to move on, and become stealth – be it due to family, employment, or just a need to stay in the same place. It takes a while for folks like that blend in.

    At the same time — who wrote the rule saying you HAVE to be stealth? Some folks are not, and lead lives they find satisfying. Is it necessary to castigate them because their choices do not meet with your approval? I do not have to agree with them — but, as long as they leave me alone, why must I attack them?

    I find it interesting that a person hiding behind a false persona, a false name, uses her entire blog attacking Suzan. Not only that, she uses every variation of Suzan’s name in what appears to be a way to make it simple for anyone to out her. This sort of attack simply because someone does not agree with you, and does not want to be attacked on her own blog, goes well beyond being rude.

    Discussion is one thing — personal attacks are quite another.

    Neither attacks from TG folks nor those from post-ops are acceptable. Disagreements are no reason to misrepresent, lie about, invent, reasons to escalate an argument to the level of feud.

    Suzan and I lead very peaceful, prosaic, middle class lives. We are not involved with either LGBT, or TG groups. At the same time — we are two women living together as partners. That makes us lesbians — anything that affects the rights of LGBT people affects us. Those who complain about our support of LGBT causes seem to want us to go against our own self-interest — while supporting theirs.

    Does that really make any sense to anyone?

    I thought not.

  14. cassandraspeaks Says:

    I’m not sure I follow why “stealth” was introduced at this point, I don’t recall raising that particular point. However since you raised the point, that is an issue that is as much a personal choice as what colour you dye your hair (if you do). Individual circumstances will always dictate both what is both possible and desirable.

    A friend once described the TS Successes on Lynne’s pages as a list that amounted to “TS’s with jobs” It was a tongue in cheek aside but I know what she meant. There are a great many things in life that go towards making a person feel of some value and we all need to feel that we are actually worth something and not in terms of money; it’s a matter of self respect. Having a job especially in today’s economic climate is quite a feat!
    To take up the point made about young transitioners and role models would mean I am likely to be accused of trashing Calpernia or Andrea and I don’t intend to do that. Even if I felt like doing it what purpose would it serve. The highest profile TS when I began transition was April Ashley, I still admire her courage but she was never a role model. I chose different people. I just don’t believe that because someone shares a medical condition they are necessarily a good life coach.

  15. tinagrrl Says:

    “Cassandraspeaks”, I agree with every point you make.

    The reason I brought up “stealth” is that most “true transsexuals” are just that (stealth) — or, seem to think they are.

    Of course the fact of a shared medical condition does not make someone a good role model or life coach (by the way — did you see that Jason Blair, the ex N.Y.Times reporter, fired for plagiarism, has re-invented himself as a “life coach”?). I was simply stating that many “newbies” are looking for support — anywhere they can find it. Resources like Lynn’s and Andrea’s can be comforting.

    I know I used the internet an awful lot just before and after my SRS. I’d suffered so many losses, I was isolated — any connection to others was welcome.

    With maturation came the ability, and willingness, to be more selective. I learned to handle the post-op sexual predators, and realized (very quickly) that TG’s in the LGBT world were not looking out for me, were not concerned about my needs, and wanted to use me as window dressing for their movement.

    At that point I decided I’d rather be alone than make that bargain.

  16. cassandraspeaks Says:

    that TG’s in the LGBT world were not looking out for me, were not concerned about my needs, and wanted to use me as window dressing for their movement.

    Actually as true as that statement is. The reality is that it’s a lot worse than that. The TG activities and agenda is making life more painfull than it need be for a lot of people. Methods of dealing with TS children vary wildly around the globe and it is like living a lottery as to wether they get tortured into submission by Ken Zucker or treated like stable human beings and get puberty held at bay untill they are of that “age of consent”
    Kleinfelters, and 5alpha treated with total disregard for the child’s needs. Is it fair to blame that on TG activism, maybe maybe not but I blame TG activism for North Western and I certainly blame J Money for Closing Hopkins which affected gender clinics world wide. Both events can be blamed on TG activism and both laid at the feet of Charles Prince of darkness for transsexuals.
    I take your point about newbies needing comfort but I can tell you that what happened to the so called role models around in my day actually held me back it did not encourage me. Some transsexuals seeing the profile of the personalities that are around today may very well think “If that is what is going to happen to me, I don’t want anything like it” It’s how I felt back then. When I met my first “transsexual” live 3D face to face, I went home and cried because my dream was shattered. She was nothing like me. It could so easily have tipped me over the suicidal edge.
    Fortunately I did eventually meet the real thing, so I lived to tell the tale.

    • Suzan Says:

      Blaming TGs for Northwestern, Blanchard, Bailey, McHugh etc is like blaming black people for slavery.

      Basically these assholes are right wing Christo-Fascist bigots with an agenda that is far more akin to misogyny and fascism than to science or medicine and you are blaming people who are about as opperssed as a class as any one class can be for causing their own oppression.

      Now admittedly I am coming from an anarcho-left perspective but I do not blame people who are oppressed for the bigotry that oppresses them.

      For what it is worth I too had to meet quite a few sisters to meet someone like me. There were very few who were political who shared common interests. I have met far too many who are bigoted and narrow minded, who are untrustworthy back stabbers. The sort who rather oppress others than move up in life themselves, who are selfish in word and deed.

      I’m not semi-public so I can function as a counselor. I write to keep the history from disappearing and because I do have a point of view, one that does changes with exposure to books and thought regarding various arguments. I have learned the mistake of joining mobs whose thinking is not reflective of my own.

      It is vaguely a badge of honor to get trashed by certain people. If they are reflective of those embracing the HBS label then they are welcome to it and I shall stick with WBT.

  17. dyssonance Says:

    Some notes on the people in your last post.

    Paul McHugh is not a fascist. Nor, in point of fact, are the others. Blanchard and Bailey are both well known as atheists, as well.

    Bailey is indeed a eugenicist. That is, he has a particular idea of what constitutes an ideal human and seeks to make that happen. He keeps that fairly low key.

    McHugh works for the Catholic Church. His views are based in it and then cobbled together with rhetoric for defense. He’s very, very good at that, and should you ever have the opportunity to discuss things with him, be aware that he’s a rather slimy sort when it comes to women.

    Bailey is the the source of the concept that gay is inherent as he’s proved it, more than a few times. And he financed a great deal of that research recently by publishing a hypothesis — a theory — without evidence because he *knew* it would create controversy.

    IT was not peer reviewed was not subject to much scrutiny, and is, academically and professionally, of little value whatsoever.

    This is because the concepts on which it is reliant were literally turned upside down while he was preparing and writing it.

    Remember that the overwhelming majority of research and opinion in these areas prior to roughly 2001 was predicated on the notion that gender identity was formed.

    And within the last 10 years — about the time it usually takes for a major shift to occur — that paradigm was utterly reversed. By the very proof used in the first place.

    • Suzan Says:

      With McHugh I think the term is Christo-Fascist not simply Fascist. I use Christo-Fascist the way Chimpy’s Administration and others use Islamo-Fascism when neither actually fit since fascism is more a corporate-state alliance.

      The others have some very perverse ties to the same sort of break down an identity and rebuild it in the “correct” manner documented in Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine This is documented in Phyllis Burke’s Gender Shock:Exploding the Myths of Male and Female and in Dylan Scholinski’s The Last Time I Wore a Dress.

      Bailey is a wannabee “sex researcher”, a cultural artifact of the 1950s when “researchers” would immerse themselves in the “gay world” so they could write shocking reports exposing the secret world of “perverts” that lurks in every big city. A Year Among the Girls is one I remember that exposed the secret lives of the heterosexual transvestites.

      Mostly this crap panders to the bigots and is pseudoscience at best.

      McHugh is probably the most dangerous of the above motley cast of dubious characters. He is an extremist Catholic of the sort that have restricted women’s right to abortion and birth control, a sort of Catholic Ayatollah, He was the one who shut down the John’s Hopkins program, his machinations are documented in Deborah Rudacille’s The Riddle of Gender.

      I’m of the opinion gender as a term has way too many uses and that there is a serious need to come up with some alternative terms. This was obvious as early as the start of the second wave of kids with transsexualism in the early 1970s. We tried to use “core gender identity” (the sense of self as male or female) over simple gender. Even then we saw the problem of the idea of “gender identity” reinforcing the idea of rigid gender roles. Julia Serano uses “core sex identity” which I think is even better.

      When Tina and I came up with Women Born Transsexual it was a statement of our belief that transsexualism like normborn (Sophie Siedlberg’s term for cis-sexual) is innate. For what it is worth I think the same of transgenderism although I do not think they are necessarily related.

      I work in retail and I see the massive amount of gender role training kids are subjected to every day. This is why I find the Swiss Army Knife uses of “gender” really tends to confuse rather than clarify. I have often pointed out that gender is not sex nor should it be used to describe male or female but rather should be used in conjunction with masculinity and femininity.

      Part of why I am now able to talk more reasonably with some of the people labeled Trans Activists than I found possible some 10 years ago is that there has been a backing away from some of the more questionable “post-modern” positions and a greater embrace of things espoused by folks like Dr. Milton Diamond.

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