An Article On The Sydney Star Observer.
We started a network for the guys in November 2001, and were surprised at how many people turned up. We now have 230 members across Australia, and a lot more who just use the website. FTM Australia (FTMA) is basically a support group for men with transsexualism, as well as female-to-male transgender guys, their partners, family, supporters and service providers.
I was assigned female at birth but it wasn’t until I was 13 or 14 years old that I experienced a very strong sense of dislocation. I was deeply depressed, but I honestly didn’t have words for any of it.
My friends now tell me I was constantly telling them through high school that I should have been born a boy. When I later told my friends I wanted to transition, one said, “Come to think of it, I have never thought of you as any particular gender,” and another said, “I wondered when you were going to do that.”
I would have been 23 or 24 years old when I found out it was possible to have treatment. Transitioning was a natural process. I wouldn’t call it exciting. “Exciting” implies that you are doing something outrageous, whereas this was just “relief at last”.
The surgery options for guys [FTM] are a bit limited, but it is not because there is no demand. One member recently put all his savings into surgery and has flown to Belgium where the best work is being done at the moment.
Testosterone affects the genitals to a degree that a surgeon can shape the flesh that is there. It is probably not what you would look at and think “wow”, but for our guys who, in a sense, have never had anything, to then have something that is sensate, erectile and still orgasmic is something to go “wow” about at the end of the day.
Genital reconstructive surgery is not one surgery, it is a series of surgeries, and there are a number of different options depending on what you want. If penetration of a partner is really important, you might go for phalloplasty. However, if orgasm and sensation are really important, then you are more likely to go for metoidioplasty.
With either of these procedures, vaginectomy, the removal of the vagina, is possible. There is a very high blood loss risk in the actual procedure itself, but for some the removal of the vagina is extremely important.
The legal system in Australia today is very affirming. One of our members “Kevin” and his wife “Jennifer” courageously pressed the Re Kevin case forward. This is now Federal legislation in Australia. It is no problem for men who have transitioned to correct their legal sex on their birth certificate. With that certificate the man can marry a woman who holds a female birth certificate. The question of marriage and same-sex couples somehow attaches itself to the Re Kevin case, which was an opposite-sex situation. But the question of marriage for same-sex couples is actually a separate issue entirely.
The most common misconceptions about men of a transsexual background is that you don’t know one, that they all want women as sexual partners, that they aren’t fathers, or that they are “trannies”.
The FTM community is huge. Everybody knows one and they are probably the last person you think is one. I live in Glebe, and I can go down the road for a coffee and see between two and four guys. I know who they are, they know who I am, but they don’t know each other.
There are people I know in media, in organised religion, in government, lawyers, doctors, allied health professionals, people I see on the street. You wouldn’t have a clue unless you were their boyfriend or girlfriend. Then you would have a right to know – otherwise the man you see is the man you get.
It is actually very difficult to classify our men into one group. The label “transgender” is very problematic because it implies you have changed your gender. For some men, they feel that they have been male since birth, so they are not “changing” anything. In their case, they are affirming their real sex, that’s male.
The men are all so different; there is a lad I’m thinking of in Perth at the moment who you would never know had not been on T [testosterone]. He’s just your average country boy, despite being assigned female at birth, and obviously has always just had very high levels of testosterone.
There are also transgender people who may have come through the lesbian route, who say, “Yes, I was a more masculine lesbian, and I identified as a woman, but I have always felt male, and now I want to be male.” People are who they say they are.
The overwhelming sense after people transition is that it was the right thing to do. I hear people say, “I have come home to myself,” or “I am now comfortable in my own skin.” It’s still a huge decision. You can’t take surgery and hormones back once you have had them. They will always have an effect on your body no matter what.
I have no kids, but I was married for eight years to a lovely man. I would love to meet another one some day. I have an extremely full life, I’m employed part-time, run several different Australia-wide networks and I have been writing a book for FTM Australia, Transitioning Female to Male in Australia, which will be published very soon.
As told to Cara Davis