A letter to Maddie's parents answering their question, "Am I Happy?" and letter from her dad.

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Gender Identity Disorder (GID) Case Study: an Autobiography of a Transsexual Psychology Graduate Student

Transsexual Letter to Parents

Once I told my parents about my transsexuality, our telephone conversations became an even more difficult experience for me. Every time I called my mom would ask, "are you happy?" I just couldn't answer her. It's such a deceptively simple question. Over time I made one realization after another. Every day I've learned new things about me. And one night, I really felt I had an answer to this simple question. I stayed up all night trying to write my parents a letter. I had to find a way to focus and express my feelings. I don't know if I suceeded, but this is most of what I wrote that night.

Am I Happy?

Hi Mom and Dad,

Maybe you don't know this, but I think about things we say after we get off the phone. When we leave on bad terms, it bothers me. And, although being overwhelmed by grad school is one reason I don't call often, another reason is that it almost always turns out negatively. Our last conversation was wonderful, but I still think about our other conversations. One question you keeping asking me is, "does transitioning make you happy?" The question is impossibly difficult for me to answer. It's hard for me to answer because I feel that no matter what my answer is, it's going to hurt you. Over and over again it seems like you take issues in my life personally; the more I reveal how bad things were in childhood, the more you seem to feel you did something wrong. I usually just try to say nothing or leave things vague. But that just seems to make you feel like there's no reason behind what I'm doing. I have no idea how to begin expressing something like this to you. Do you know how much of my behavior in your presence is catered to how I feel you'll respond? But that is a never-ending absurdity, so I'm going to try to be completely honest about expressing this to you. Please don't feel guilty about anything because I don't, and haven't ever, blamed you for anything.

The other reason I have trouble answering "am I happy" is because my emotions are very difficult for me to grapple with. It's only been in the last two or three years that I've really regained my ability to feel anything. You mentioned having seen my web site [www.genderweb.org/~katherine/] so I won't go on and on telling you about the past. I feel kind of bad that I didn't screen my posted autobiography for anything that might offend you. But since I'm trying to say things honestly now, that's probably the best autobiography of mine you could read. Instead of focusing on the past, I feel I should try to describe my present.

I guess maybe you look at my transition and think there must be one concrete thing about it that makes me happy. But there just isn't one concrete thing. There really are no things. I don't care much about clothes or makeup or styling my hair or any of the other 'zillion possible concrete things I could probably do better. It's why I get so frustrated when you focus on these things. This isn't about concrete things; it's about abstract feelings.

I spent my childhood in pain, and my adolescence in a desperate attempt not to feel pain. Now I can feel pain. I can feel sadness. But I can also feel happiness. I like myself more today than any other time in my life.

I can relate to people in a positive way unlike ever before. I feel a part of other people's lives. I care about people and I'm passionate about life in a way that's so profoundly different from the way I've lived my life until now. I have more self-confidence today than ever before.

I can even deal with conflict in a fundamentally better way. I'm more assertive today than ever before. I can express my feelings in ways I never would or could have before. My advisor and I are in a big conflict now. Even though I haven't completely stopped being passive-aggressive, I've directly confronted her about many aspects of our conflict. I'm not staying in this bad relationship. And that's a big accomplishment for me; I never was able to leave the pharmacy job despite how horribly I was treated. Day after day I was yelled at for anything imaginable and I still couldn't quit that job. I had "friendship" after "friendship" which was really people taking advantage of me. I finally like myself and that empowers me to stop other people from mistreating me.

It's hard for me to bring my feelings into focus. Perhaps the answer is that transitioning does not make me happy. Transitioning is what makes it possible for me to find happiness. And I'm still searching and I'm still growing.

I wish you could see me living life everyday. I'm so much more alive than I ever was before. I feel a lot better about myself as I watch myself growing through another adolescence. I truly feel I'm growing into a self-confident, well-balanced, and competent young woman.

And when I think about everything I'm trying to bring into focus for you, I can honestly say that I am happy with making the decision to transition. I am very happy that you are so supportive of me even when you can't understand what I can't say. I love you very much!


A Letter from my Dad!

Dear Maddie (or do you prefer Madeline?),

I wanted to drop you a short note to tell you how we enjoyed our visit with you last weekend. It's always nice to see you, but it was exceptionally nice to see you happy. I don't believe I have ever seen you smile as much before, and this, of course, makes me happy. You looked totally comfortable in your new identity, proud of the work you are doing now and your future plans, and also in a loving relationship with someone who is understanding of your situation.

By the way, although we did not spend very much time together, it was evident that Lisa is a very smart, intelligent, kind and thoughtful woman who also enjoys your companionship and loves you for who you really are. It was obvious that the two of you share much love and understanding for each other. The two of you seem to be such good, true friends with so many similar traits that I hope your relationship continues to flourish throughout time.

I also wanted to tell you that I am not only glad that you are finally happy with who you are, but that I am also proud of all you have done in the past and present and the courage you are now exhibiting. The changes you are making and planning for the future are difficult for me to imagine. However, I know they are right for you. I only wish the entire process didn't have to take so long.

I don't know how good a job I've done expressing my feelings in this letter. The essence of what I have been trying to say is that I am proud of who you are and proud to be your father and that you will always have my love and understanding.


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