Real life test/experience issues and how to cope with them

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The purpose of Real life test/experience (RLT/RLE) is to ensure that the person who is traveling this path is prepared, capable and able to function and live permanently in their preferred gender. It is recommended you read the entry on Real life experience first. There is some controversy over the word "test," which is why some use the word "experience." "Test" implies that this is a temporary period of time. (And it is temporary in terms of being evaluated for GRS. After you get your two surgery letters, it's over.) But there should be no change in how you live your life pre-surgery vs. post-surgery. This leads some people to say that it's only a test if you stop and don't go forward; otherwise it's your real life.

The issues faced during this period by female to male and male to female transsexuals can be daunting and in some cases life threatening. Depending on the individual these issues can be a minor or a major barrier to transition. In order to ensure that this is your real life and not just a test, this article is intended to bring forward some of the issues you may have to deal with and provide some suggestions on how to deal with them.

Contents

Dealing with health care providers

The experience of dealing with health care providers can be either positive or negative, depending on the degree of transphobia exhibited and the rigidity of the procedures used by them. Negative experiences can range all the way from annoying and inconvenient to life-threatening. There are transgender people who have died because of problems interacting with the health care system. (For the story of Robert Eads see Southern Comfort. See also Tyra Hunter.)

If you have found a gender therapist they will most likely be able to provide you with a list of resources and/or referrals to trans friendly medical providers. If none are available it is still possible to find a medical provider that is willing to learn about your issues but they will require education which the patient will be called on to, in part, provide. It helps to be prepared with handouts, lists of websites and book titles for the provider's reference once it has been established that they are willing to learn. Remember that these are service providers whom the patient hires and pays for. It is important that the patient not accept substandard care or treatment and that they leave the inadequate service provider with a clear explanation why they have proven themselves to be unacceptable.

One of the more egregious forms of unfair discrimination that trans people have to face is their specific exclusion from the protections under the law as delineated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This section is for issues of how you are treated by clinics and hospitals, insurance providers, and emergency medical technicians. (Some issues: trans-friendly/hostile hospitals and clinics, issues in the waiting room, cross-gender treatment and prescriptions)


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Help and how-to

In general the skills learned when cross dressing in public also apply to RLE. Living full-time may, however, require taking these skills to a new level. It is one thing to get ready to out for the evening. It is another to get ready to go to work every day. You will now be expected to encounter people in every condition from formal to casual, and will have to figure out what to do in new situations.

In this section, we will look at how to do various things related to RLE, from daily maintenance activities to etiquette. We will also look at some other skills that may help you in daily life, such as voice training and methods of feminization or masculinazion.

Maintenance

This section is for how to deal with the daily hassles of a new gender. (Some issues: makeup, hair care, “It’s Thursday, and I haven’t got a thing to wear.”, wardrobe, laundry)

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Etiquette

This section is for how to behave in various social situations. (Some issues: meeting/greeting people, doors, hats)

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Many of the gender differences in greeting customs have their origin in ancient dominance rituals. They tend to revolve around symbolic assertion of dominance, equality, or submission. Of this category are the archaic bows and curtseys. Because of these origins, much of greeting etiquette is about men asserting dominance over women. Therefore, feminists will want to exercise discretion in adopting any of these practices. Additionally, many of these customs are being forgotten by the general public and can be safely ignored. The customs as state here represent common behavior from the mid to late 20th century.

When on the street, a gentleman will tip his hat to a lady. The lady will give a slight bow of the head; curtseying is no longer done. Men are not expected to tip their hats to each other, but women will nod to one another. Caps are not hats and are not tipped. Rather a gentleman will give a brief salute when wearing a cap. When a gentleman and a lady are walking together, the gentleman is supposed to be on the side closed to the street and lady farthest from it.

A gentleman is expected to hold the door for a lady. When entering a house, a gentleman will remove his hat or cap as a sign of respect to the head of the household. It is not necessary to do this when entering public buildings. Women are never expected to remove or tip their hats with only a few exceptions. As a common courtesy, both men and women are expected to remove their hats when riding in an elevator or seated in a theater.

When meeting indoors or outdoors in close proximity, men are expected to shake hands with each other. For women this is optional. While in the past a woman was expected to use a limp handshake, today a good firm grip is the proper thing. When a man is introduced to someone while seated, he is expected to stand up, go to that person, and shake hands. Customarily, a woman in the same situation would remain seated, the other person would move toward her, and they would shake hands while she remains in her chair. An alternative custom for women has been to omit the handshake altogether.

As can be seen in these customs there is a tendency toward token deference to and protection of women by men while at the same time they are designed to maintain control in male hands. So most feminists will violate many of these rules intentionally. There has also been movement toward reinterpreting the power dynamics of some of them. For example refraining from shaking someone's hand can be interpreted as a symbol of superiority as much as it can as a symbol of unworthiness.

Voice training

Much of the mechanincs of training your voice can be found in: Voice.


That being said, there are certain differences between the male and female voice and manner of speech.


For FTM's their vocal timbre/resonance will naturally deepen and become more resonant with the masculinizing effects of testosterone as the vocal folds lengthen and thicken. Their voice may break uncontrollably as they go through male puberty.


Males and females have different styles of speech that provide cues to the gender of the speaker regardless of the timbre of their voice.


Men generally use direct statements and colloquialisms to communicate. Vulgar references and explitives are more prevelant in male speech patterns as well, especially in all male casual settings like drinks and sports.


For MTF's the voice does not change with the feminizing effects of estrogens. This requires the trans woman to constantly remember to elevate their pitch and reduce resonance by using a "head voice" while speaking. This takes constant practice though it does become easier with time. But it is easy to slip back to your old voice or resonance without realizing it.


It is not necessary to speak in a falsetto. Speaking this way can strain and tire the larynx and excessively speaking this way can cause vocal injuries. It is usually only necessary to raise the timbre of the voice about a half an octave. Speaking in a "head voice" and utilizing feminine patterns of speech provide many of the gender cues.


Women tend to concentrate on thoughts and feelings and speak in more complete sentences. Additionally women may speak in a more passive voice; "The ice cream was eaten by the girls." (passive) "The girls ate ice cream." (active)


Perfecting an appropriate voice for the trans person takes constant practice. Also, observing CIS gendered individuals can provide much insight into learning proper speaking techniques.

Feminization

This section is for Facial Feminization Surgery and other issues. Note: This section does not deal with GRS because that does not occur until after RLE. It will only include medical interventions that can occur during RLE. It may include some discussion of HRT and breast enhancement.

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Masculinization

This section is for issues surrounding medical masculinization. Note: This section does not deal with GRS because that does not occur until after RLE. It will only include medical interventions that can occur during RLE. It may include some discussion of HRT and radical mastectomy.

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Activities

Some activities have gendered variations. Topics will include things like learning to lead or follow when dancing, swinging a golf club without whacking your breasts, etc.

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Passing (or not)

This is section is on how to do a better job of passing and how to cope when you don't pass. It should include a discussion of going "stealth."

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Acceptance (or not)

This section is for a discussion about how we are treated by others. It should include both their accidental and intentional slipups.

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Disclosures

If you are intending to transition “in place” there will be a point near the beginning of RLE when you will need to disclose your intensions to the people you have regular contact with. Prominent among these people will be family and friends, especially romantic partners. You will also need to inform people at your work or school in addition to your church and other organizations. Also after you become full-time there may be instances where some people need to be informed about your prior gender.

These disclosures are similar to Coming out of the closet, although that term usually applies to disclosures that occur before transition. In the following we discuss coping with telling other people about your gender identity or your past, present, or future transition. It includes a discussion of who to tell, when to tell them, and how to tell them.

Family and friends

This section is on avoiding to old saying 'you always hurt the one you love' and what to do when you can't avoid it.

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Romance

This section is to discuss stealth vs. disclosure in romantic relationships. Some people 'kiss and tell.' Some are into 'show and tell.' This section will include a discussion of when to do these things and when not to.

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Transitioning at work/school

This section is about dealing with the Human Resource Department and other work issues. It should include a discussion of sexual harassment.

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Church and organizations

This section is about dealing with the other organizations you belong to. Included is a discussion of religion.

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Changing your name

This section is on how to emotionally survive the name change process and what to do if things go bad. (Include discussion of use name vs. legal name change) For the mechanics of changing your name, see Changing legal name.

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Traveling

This section is on dealing with the Transportation Safety Administration and other issues when your appearance does not match your ID or the gender on your ID looks inconsistent.

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Hate crimes

This section is on avoiding and recovering from hate crimes. It should include basic safety procedures, how to deal with law enforcement, and getting help for the psychological trauma.

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Gendered spaces

There are places that are segregated by gender throughout the world. The most likely places gender restrictions are encountered are restrooms, athletic facilities and changing rooms in stores. Other gender restricted places may be encountered, such as special religious spaces.

There are two different types of spaces to be dealt with. The easier is when the environment allows some semblance of solitude and privacy. The greater challenge is when the space involves a degree of unavoidably visible nudity. The latter is not limited to gendered spaces as in the case of naturist clubs or clothing optional beaches.

Washrooms

When out and about dressed in the appropriate gender the call of nature will definitely raise its head. When it does, panic can set in if one is not prepared to use the washroom. Often, fear of the fact that a person will need to face this eventuality can severely restrict otherwise desired activities. The fear of being "made" when out in public can be quite daunting but, depending on where you live, being discovered in such a place as the washroom can often be quite catastrophic.

Using a gender segregated bathroom is not always easy. "Women’s" and "men’s" bathrooms cause people to use stereotypes about who a "woman" and who a "man" is. Because of this, many people have stereotypical ideas about who will be sharing the bathroom with them. When they encounter someone who doesn’t fit the stereotype, they sometimes get upset, confused, angry, or afraid. Thus, being prepared to deal with some kind of reaction from others if gender presentation does not perfectly fit the existing stereotypes is a key. And it's really helpful to know how to respond to stares, comments and questions when they occur. Please remember, however, that some people who ask if you’re in the "right" bathroom don’t intend harm or mean any offense. They are just confused. Other people are certainly trying to harass. Sometimes, it is hard to tell the difference between the two.

There are some key differences between male and female washrooms and the way one behaves in each keeping in mind what is and isn't acceptable/normal behavior.

The men's room

While time is softening the male attitude towards how men conduct themselves in the public washroom there are still unwritten guidelines that govern the way they behave when reliving themselves that FtMs should be aware of. Of course the big difference between the male and female washroom is the fixtures available in each. Inside you can normally expect to find urinals and private stalls enclosing a toilet. Of course not knowing what lies behind the entrance to the washroom adds to the anxiety unless you have a male friend to accompany you who knows the layout. Until you are comfortable and able to stand at the urinal to pee| there is always the privacy of the toilet where the possibility of discovery is remote.

Generally speaking male activities in the wash room are restricted to those required to relieve themselves. Except when males go in with friends there is little conversation/socialization other than a nod of the head in passing or a short comment such as "how's it going," or something similar. This is different from the female washroom where females often take the time to socialize, gossip comment on each others fashions, ask to borrow things etc. Women have no problem with hanging out in the washroom where as in many places it would seem strange to say the least if a male should do it. There are several humorous sites on the web that cover washroom etiquette as when in the "Gents". Generally men get in and get out as quickly as possible; however, with the slow decline of homophobia the practice is diminishing.

The women's room

Unlike the male washroom, generally speaking, the female washroom is a very social place and it is also often seen as a place of safety and refuge. Women will stand and chat with complete strangers, ask for advice and opinions, ask for help, and ask to borrow things such as make up and feminine hygiene products.

The way that women's washrooms are designed makes them a social place. Often women have to line up and of course while lined up conversation often turns to the very fact that women have to line up amongst other things. Additionally one needs to remember that women often spend more time in front of the mirror after using the facilities than would a man as there's make-up and hair to freshen and cloths to adjust. Women are not afraid to ask for help with a zipper, strap or clasp, and in an emergency, they are not afraid to ask for feminine products.

A male-to-female must be prepared for this and be confident in who they are and be confident in their actions. A good defense is to go in with a natal female (it is common for two girls to go to the washroom together) who will be able to run interference so-to-speak.

Relevant forum links:

  • A guide from the Transgendered Law Center about using public washrooms

Changing rooms at gyms and swimming pools

This section is on dealing with using a changing room at a gym or pool.

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Changing rooms at department stores

The changing rooms at department stores have a common quality in gender. Most will only allow a few items of clothing. Some will give a tag with a number on it that indicates the number of items taken in.

Men's changing room are usually like the men's room. Not much talking, just change. Possibly going out with the selected item to view either in a mirror of for opinion from an acquaintance (wife, girlfriend). Rarely will you see a father and son selecting clothes.

Women's changing rooms are also much like the ladies room. More chatter, sometimes going in groups. Usually much more trying on of different items or mix and match. If there is a same gender acquaintance, they may come into the changing stall also. Often will you see a mother and daughter come in and select clothing.

In both rooms, rarely will anyone come out of the stall in their underwear in the room. It is unseemly.

See also

External Links

Discuss


This page was originally authored by members of Susan's Place Wiki Staff.

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