20 Years Made All the Difference for an Unknown Number of Transgender People - Including Me!

Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #102, Summer 2003.

by Catherine Lynn Andrews

The difference between those born in the mid-1940s and those born in the mid-1960s is an important one. Until recently, the existence of the older group was relatively unknown (to me anyway), as they were not vocal and just blended into the larger transgender community. The realization that this was a significant group came to me during a late evening discussion on Wednesday at the 2002 IFGE conference in Nashville. As I sat at a table in the bar enjoying the music of Donna Frost, a new acquaintance approached me. We had met earlier in the day and had spoken briefly at the social. "Can we chat for a moment?" she began, as she slipped into a chair across from me. "I have a feeling we have something more in common than crossdressing." She was elegant and well-mannered, with an easy feminine presence that seemed to come toher naturally. "Of course," I replied, mustering all the casual response I could as I concealed my concern that she was implying I appeared to be a deviant of some kind. "Let me tell you about myself," she began.
For the next 30 minutes she (I?ll call her Sheila) told me of being born in the mid-1940s and having realized she was different from the other boys in the mid-1950s. Sheila?s story wasn?t unlike mine and a hundred others I knew from my many years of association with this community. It was just after midnight when she said something that described me more exactly than I had ever thought possible. "You know," she said casually, "If I had been born in the mid-1960s, today, I would be married to a sensitive, well-educated professional man and living in a nice home somewhere in the suburbs of a major city.
I would be working in heels and playing golf from the red tees; I would be active in supporting my community as the volunteer chairwoman of some civic organization, and I would be dressed elegantly for the occasional formal evening out on the town."She was looking into the deepest recesses of my very soul! "Was I right in my assessment of you?" she asked. I just looked at her, smiled, and softly tapped the tip of my nose with my right index finger.

"Twenty years would have made all the difference!" I said, as I began to explain my personal situation. "Had I been born in the mid-1960s, I would have had access
to a tremendous amount of information on our community on the Internet in the 1990s that just wasn?t available to us. In the absence of this information, I incurred a commitment to a marriage and another to the raising of children. By the time information on sex reassignment surgery was available, I was morally bound by my personal commitments."

"Exactly!" exclaimed Sheila. "In the time before the Internet and IFGE, only the medical academics possessed information on transgendered people. It just wasn?t available to us as individuals."

"From what I?ve read," I continued, "the information they had was only anecdotal, and most of the conclusions they drew at the time were grossly inaccurate. I?ve always believed the reports indicating there are significantly more transgendered people in society today than there were
twenty years ago are wrong. I believe the numbers were proportionally the same, but a significant portion was forced by circumstances to forgo SRS due to age and commitments that had to be honored."

"I feel many of us have severe emotional problems today because of this very issue," she said. "There doesn?t seem to be a place for us in the community, so we just sit quietly among the others. You seem to be comfortable with this. How did you adjust and cope?"

From the tone of her question, it was obvious she had an answer, but wanted to hear from me before saying any more. "I?m who you see," I began. "I dress up as a guy most days in order to make a living and to support my personal commitments. I?ve had to make this compromise to ensure my emotional well-being, sacrificing time and effort to my commitments at the expense of my true gender. I am and always have beenfemale. I prefer the female role in a traditional male/female relationship and don?t
consider myself to be gay or bisexual in the true definition of either term."

"As do I!" Sheila agreed. "For me, a sexual relationship with a woman carries lesbian overtones that I find personally disturbing. I truly believe this should be studied by the professional community at some academic level." She continued by explaining her feelings on the subject; they were almost identical to mine.

Our conversation has obviously been recalled from memory, but I believe I?ve captured the essence of it, even if the quotes aren?t exact. The point is, I believe there exists a substantial number of us in the transgender community who had no access to information when we were younger; if we had, our lives would be very different.

I could be wrong, as I?ve never had this conversation with anyone other than Sheila and a few other friends. I would love to hear the opinions of others on this issue.

If twenty years would have made all the difference to you, please drop Catherine a line at:


And send a letter to the editor, as well!