Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Transsexual Women's Successes: Links and Photos by Lynn Conway

Approximately 30,000 to 40,000 postoperative transsexual women live in the United States, and many thousands more are now in the process of gender transition here. These numbers are much larger than commonly assumed by the public because a veil of invisibility hides the true nature and extent of the transsexual condition. Especially hidden are large numbers of highly successful women who have fully transitioned. The reason is that most successful women live in "stealth mode" or are "woodworked". They leave their pasts behind and hide in plain sight in order to avoid social stigmatization and get on with their new lives. Their personal successes insure that they assimilate and blend right into society.

The social invisibility of successful women who have undergone gender corrections supports the notion that male-to-female transsexualism is extremely rare. However, intense transsexualism is not all that uncommon. Recent calculations indicate that the condition occurs in about 1 out of every 250 to 500 children born as boys, and that about 1 in every 2500 males in the U.S. has already undergone surgical sex reassignment*. Transsexualism is thus more than twice as prevalent as multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy or cleft lip/palate conditions.

 The invisibility of these successes supports notions that gender transitions often have rather sad outcomes. At present, the media only spotlights transsexual people on two occasions, namely when "someone well-known changes sex" and when someone is a victim of discrimination, harassment or attack. Media stories about someone's "sex change" are never followed-up to find out what happened years later. Instead stories always focus on pre-transition life and struggles during transition and never on their life afterwards. This lack of balance in exposure shapes society's notion that transition leads to social marginalization or worse, because we "never hear about them again". Only stories of occasional social failures and victims of harassment and attacks remain visible longer term.

 Lacking successful role models, and confronted with deliberately staged, stereotypically-prurient images of "transsexuals" from media like the Jerry Springer Show, young trans girls are often terrified to tell anyone about their condition. Constantly reminded of the violence and discrimination that trans people face, but unaware that large numbers of successful women get beyond such difficulties, many young transsexual girls can't see any way out of their awful predicament. Social stigmatization of transsexualism leads many young people to internalize a lot of undeserved shame, embarrassment and guilt about their condition. As a result, young transsexual girls often waste precious years before they seek help, and many never find a way to correct their gender condition.

 Recently the veil of invisibility has been lifting, as many post-operative women all around the world have begun creating websites to help others. Some of these women are quietly "out" within the TS community. Others share their stories by being "virtually out" (VO) only via the web (while otherwise remaining woodworked or in stealth). We are very fortunate to finally be able to learn about their lives, as they become listed on webpages such as this one. Lynn hopes that more and more successful women will quietly come out, and feel comfortable sharing their stories this way via the web.

 The women listed on these pages are a very diverse group. They are of many different nationalities, races and ethnicities. They come from a wide range of social classes and family backgrounds. They transitioned at many different ages. Some have been postop a long time, others transitioned more recently. Some have been "out" for many years, others are still living stealthily.
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