Notes on Gender Role Transition

By Anne Vitale Ph.D Editor.

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On Life and Death

By Pearl

Editor's Note: A copy of this letter recently came to my attention. I want to thank Pearl for granting me permission to repint it here.

A. Vitale



Pearl writes:

I wrote this letter to a girl who was asking for advice on which of several options to take in her life. She had listed suicide as a viable option. She later told me that the letter had convinced her to hang in there a little longer.

 

Date: Wed, 18 Dec 1996

Kathy, I've delayed a bit in responding to your note because it was hitting a bit close to home.

I, too, (as have most of us) spent way too much time considering suicide. I once had my brother remove all the weapons from the house because I had spent the previous night obsessing on getting and using one.

Only the thought of my wife and my 10 year old daughter coming upon my body stopped me. You might try it, but paint the mental picture as realistically as possible.

For example, imagine yourself after hanging yourself. Gravity has caused the blood to drain down to the bottom of the body. Your face and upper torso are the gray of a dreary overcast morning. The feet, legs hands and lower arms are red because that's where all the blood has collected.

Thinking about using a gun? A bullet has very interesting ballistic characteristics as it passes through human tissue. This depend some on the design of the bullet, but mostly it is due to the fact that human tissue is about 98% water. And a basic law of physics is that a liquid cannot be compressed. At some point, the container will explode.

You will have a small hole (less than 1/4 in.) in one side of the body. Let's assume it is the head - doesn't matter if in the mouth or on the temple. Go to the opposite side of the head. Almost half of the head will be gone. The brain tissue, blood, and fragments of skull will be literally splattered over a large area of the room. As an explosion occurs, the material in front of the explosion scatters in a fan formation.

Do you have any idea how hard blood is to get out of carpet and walls?

Too gruesome? They say poison is a woman's weapon. There you are in your most beautiful outfit - let's say on your bed. Guess what you're lying in? That's right, it's your urine and stool. Remember that without the autonomous nervous system keeping them tight, the sphincters relax. Your bladder and colon will empty.

How about the Roman way? Take a hot bath and open your veins. Now you've slipped silently into red sewer water. Your hair is a mess, and you have the same sphincter problem.

How about the freeway? There's lots of bridges, right? Rev the car up to 100 mph and ram right into one. Might work. Might not. You might just wind up wrapped around your steering wheel. The paramedics pull you out and revive you. Not what you wanted? Now figure this. The force of the impact broke your spinal column and ruptured various internal organs. Now you will have a long life lying very still (paralyzed) with lots of tubes and wires coming out of your body. No chance to live in body-heart harmony. Just years and years of silent, motionless life -- time to spent thinking about just how stupid you were to try it.

Now let's look at the other people involved. One of the things which drives us to thoughts of suicide is the reaction of others to us, right? What right do they have to put us through this hell? Revenge would be sweet, right?

The cop who takes the report has seen it before. But it's still hard to take. The sight of all that blood, the destroyed body always takes a toll. It's a wonderful way to ruin a day! What did he do to deserve this hell?

S/he gets grouchy, and chews on everyone the rest of the day. At home, the spouse and kids take the emotional hit from the grisly scene earlier in the day. They don't know what happened, only that Dad/Mom is hurting, reserved, grouchy. What did they do to deserve this hell?

Your lover/wife comes on the scene. She sees first hand the blood, the mess. A torrent of feelings rush over her. Disgust at the mess and smell. Horror at the scene of loss of life. Guilt believing she caused this or at least failed to prevent it. Anger because you just couldn't talk it out. What did she do to deserve this hell?

Your children comes on the scene. They, too, see everything and feel the same things as your wife. But they add on a couple more. Incredible sense of loss because they'll never see you again. Helplessness -- one who should be there to guide and help them is forever gone, and they're the ones to suffer from the lack of love and direction. And, of course, they're the ones who caused it. If only they had been better, if only they had listened, or obeyed more, or .... What did they do to deserve this life-long hell?

And you. You're off in blissful oblivion, right? You're hell is finished. Are you sure?

Maybe there is a God, or karma, or any number of things religious folks believe. Maybe your punishment is to simply hang around those who loved you the most. You see the pain, anger, hopelessness, guilt, frustration, etc. as they struggle in the hells in which you placed them. And you will be absolutely helpless. You cannot say, "I'm sorry."

What did you do to deserve this hell?

You killed yourself.

Please don't think I'm being harsh with you. This and more went through my mind that horrible night. It still flashes through on days when all I can think of is stepping in front of a bus.

Life as a transsexual can be a real bitch. But it's a lot better than the alternative.

Illegitimus non Carborundum. (Apologies to Fr. Gubbins, the poor man who desperately tried to teach me Latin!) Don't let the bastards wear you down. Talk to your brothers and sisters here and elsewhere. Soak in a hot tub. Go shopping. Read a good book. Go to a movie. Or deal with your reality. Do anything. But don't let them win.

Realize who and what you are. You are a transsexual. You have the body of one sex and the heart of another. You can empathize with just about anyone. I like to think when God created us, he took his qualities and divvied them up between the genders. Men, poor bastards, all too often can only focus on accomplishments and solving problems, never seeing the beauty in the world, never feeling. Women, poor bastards, all too often can only focus on the emotions, bounced hither and yon by two very powerful hormones. Neither of them, poor bastards, can truly appreciate the other.

You have done and will do more in your life than countless others. Even if you die tonight (of natural causes, please) and never get to fulfill your dream, you have looked deeper into yourself than 98+% of the other humans on this earth.

Draw on this beautiful gift. In your transition, keep the best of both worlds. In the words of the old song, "Make new friends, but keep the old -- one is silver, the other gold." The same holds true with us, dear. I've come to understand that being male is not all bad. Nor is being female. Life as a man has been difficult, but had it's good times. Life as a woman will be difficult in ways, and great in others. Draw on both!

Recently, when I went to confession, I asked why God had made me this way. The priest said, "Remember, you have a choice." Later, while praying, I realized he was right.

I can live as a woman. Or I can die as a man.

I know not what path others may take, but I CHOOSE TO LIVE!

Live in Peace!

Pearl