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Gianna Israel Gender Library

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Transgenders Receive $95 Million

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Abusing Your Inner Child

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Dealing with Isolation

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Gender Birthdays

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Balance

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Primary Feelings

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Names

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Why Bother Coming Out?

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Embarrassment & Shame

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First Time Experiences

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Gender Mirrors

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When Hope is Lost

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Managing Fear

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Stealth or Storm?

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Tired

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Special Focus

Gianna Israel Gender Library

First Time Experiences

First time experiences are typically more important than most people realize. First time out of the closet. First trip to the department store. First time disclosing to a friend or family member. First time making love after genital reassignment surgery. Without a doubt, transgender men and women often become very adept at mastering first time experiences. Its because we have so many.

I remember my first time out of the closet years ago. Those were difficult days. I had been living in San Diego in the early 80's. I knew nothing about transsexuals, crossdressing or gender issues. Crossing into Mexico, I went to a pharmacia and asked to purchase female hormones. The clerk said I was too young to be buying hormones, and gave me the name of a physician to contact. At the physician's office I nervously sat looking about. I envisioned myself becoming institutionalized in Mexico, and fled. It took several months for me to go back again and ask a physician for hormones. Since then I've had hundreds of first time experiences as a transgender woman.

Are you still in the closet? Never been outdoors as your new self? On my first occasion I was pitifully frightened. I laugh now, but wasn't then. I remember believing all my neighbors were watching me. They were because I acted all nervous and scared. I made it to the end of the block. Then, ran home as quickly as I could. It took several weeks to get up the courage to try doing it again. The second time I made it 4 blocks away to a friend's house. Can you imagine how relieved I was to be escorted back home by my friend? My suggestion for first timers. Take it slow. Be safe. Go out with a companion. It helps considerably to have an escort on those first several walks outdoors. If you believe people are watching you, they very well might. Even if you feel afraid, go ahead and walk out that front door as if it were just an ordinary thing.

Is it your first time trying and buying opposite-gendered clothes? My suggestion catalog order the first few items. Its the easy way out. You can try new clothing on in the privacy of your own home. In fact, invite a friend over for a second opinion. Naturally, good clothing is expensive, therefore do a little research before investing in a wardrobe. Look at your body type, and then look and see what others are wearing? Are there any wardrobe combinations which look good on similarly shaped people that would possibly look good on you? The first time I went out and tried on clothing, I bought my first women's suit at Neiman Marcus. Buy the best you can afford and make sure it can be alterated. Over the years your body size may change, particularly if you intend to take hormones, and you don't wish to be stuck with something that can't be changed for fit.

I remember the first time I saw a counseling client in session alone. It was quite exciting because it was something I had always wanted to do. It was also a little frightening because I was new. It helped tremendously to have an experienced therapist available to me in the next door office. Over the years I've had plenty of first-time appointments with new clients. Most come alone. I consider new clients to be pretty brave, particularly since many have never talked with a therapist before. Is it your first time visiting a therapist? I suggest you call around. Talk to therapists by telephone. Anticipate spending 10-15 minutes talking on the phone with each one. It definitely pays to shop around. Always ask about their experience dealing with gender and/or sexual minorities. Tell the individual your needs. Then, ask how they can help your situation. Be honest about what you are looking to achieve. Give the therapist time to explain his or her process to you. Regardless of what guidelines or standards exist, each therapist generally has their own way of doing business.

The preceding suggestions also apply to doctors, electrologists, hair stylists--anyone who provides a service. Shop around. Negotiate and renegotiate services and relationships to fit your needs. Do not assume just because you found a gender specializing provider or merchant, you have found the best. Each provider or merchant has his or her own style and approach. It helps tremendously to ask other transgender men and women what their experiences have been. Don't just ask for one or two opinions, ask around three or four times. Just as if you were shopping for a new car, consider that you are making an investment. The majority of products and services transgender consumers seek are expensive and often irreversible. You want the very best you can afford.

I remember my first time visit to a support group. I went along with a friend in the role as a co-facilitator. I already was practicing as a community counselor, so I was probably one of the more informed persons in the group. Still the same, like any first-timer, I found it useful to sit quietly and observe the dynamics of the group. I listened to conversation and learned what type of issues people were dealing with in the group. I knew from experience nobody likes a first-time visitor who portrays him or herself as an instant expert. Listening can be invaluable, particularly if you have a lot of first time questions or just found a new transgender Internet resource. When visiting, go ahead and introduce yourself. Then, as I did, before asking questions, sit and listen for awhile. This will give you some idea what type of issues people are comfortable talking about. Sometimes it can be extremely helpful to ask an experienced group member if you can speak to them privately, this can be particularly useful if you have questions which you feel uncomfortable talking about in public.

On the Internet, when you visit a chat room or newsgroup, ask if there is a FAQ file. FAQ stands for Frequently Asked Questions. A FAQ file usually has easy-to-read answers to basic questions. Reading the FAQ file will give you a chance to learn new information without interrupting people who are already discussing day-to-day conversations. Once you have a comfortable feeling for a group, chat room or newsgroup, you can then began participating in conversation.

Are you ready for your first full-time day on the job in your new presentation? That is an extremely important day for many transgender men and women. You should already have plenty experiencing being out in the world in your new role. You should have a support system of friends, a therapist, and others you can call for advise. And, I've always encouraged male-to-female clients to have already completed the vast majority of their electrolysis if at all possible. In fact, if possible, regardless of transition direction, you may want to have already started hormones. Doing so will help your presentation. Female-to-male transsexuals, however, are advised to remember their voice will change. Generally starting hormones 1-3 months before going full-time at work will provide a grace period where changes are observable but not overwhelmingly obvious.

On your first day, you can anticipate people who are aware of your transgender identity are going to be naturally very curious. Allow for questions, however, also keep in mind your first priority is to not allow this personal issue to detract from your work performance. You can anticipate that the more preparation you placed into this important first day, the more people are going to appreciate your efforts. I have heard hundreds of positive first-day experiences from clients who put forethought into this special day. Occasionally, a client will come see me directly after their first day at work. They sigh, sink casually into my couch, and state how proud they feel of themselves. They have every right to feel proud. Anyone who works so hard to become who they are has the right to feel that.

The funniest first-time experience I remember as a therapist, was receiving an emergency telephone call from a client. She had a date. Not just any date! The first-time love-making experience was waiting for her in the next room. "Gianna, what should I do?" Funny, I didn't remember her mentioning she had considered trying that yet. She hadn't even mentioned interest in anyone. I told my client to start out slow, use plenty of lubricant and protection, and ask her partner to allow her to do all the work until she was comfortable. The following week she was glowing, as she told about her first time experience. I was glad to hear she had kept up her dilation, and had practiced masturbating prior to seeking out a date. These things had contributed significantly to her being able to relax and experience pleasure.


GENDER ARTICLES. This educational column authored by Gianna E. Israel is regularly featured on the 3rd Monday of each month in Tg-Forum, the Internet's most up-to-date, weekly Transgender Magazine <http://www.tgforum.com/>. Several weeks later each article is forwarded to Usenet and AOL <Keyword TCF>. Each column has been written to inspire contemplation and dialogue. Columns may be reprinted in any medium insofar as each article, its introduction, and the author's contact information remains unaltered.

GIANNA E. ISRAEL provides nationwide telephone consultation, individual & relationship counseling, evaluations and referrals. She is principal author of the Transgender Care (Temple University / in press 1997). She also writes Transgender Tapestry's "Ask Gianna" column; is an AEGIS board member and HBIGDA member.She can be contacted at (415) 558-8058, at P.O. Box 424447 San Francisco, CA 94142, or via e-mail at Gianna@counselsuite.com.


Copyright © 2001 by Diane Wilson. All rights reserved.