Gender Spectrum: Reflections of a Transgendered Woman in the Isles

Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #103, Fall 2003.

by Li Anne W. Taft

Giving All the Right Answers

When body features, voice, and personal history don?t quite match, curious others often want to know more than transgendered men and women are willing to tell.

?This is Hina from the bank loan department. Does a William E. Taft live there?? I nearly dropped the phone?it?s been six years since anyone used my old ?male? name. Since I enjoyed a friendly relationship with people at my local bank, I was determined to keep news of my gender change from them to defend against possible stink eye and whispers. ?No, why do you ask?? I responded. ?Well,? Hina continued, ?we have a William Taft on your customer record with your social security number.? Without hesitation, I informed her, ?There is no William Taft here? we?re separated. I got that man out of my life.? ?Oh, I?m so sorry?we?ll change your records,? Hina said apologetically. Hanging up, I felt a bit devilish, but glad I had been open about my past without being ?too? revealing.
The longer I live in my corrected female gender ?one which I was not born into?the more I find interactions with non-transgendered others unique and interesting. The true challenge is to appreciate that the comfort and knowledge I hold for myself often clash with the views and feelings others have of me. Questions often arise as to how my narrow hips, strong arms, feminine face, and soft voice match up with my personal history and life as a woman. I?ve slowly learned to respond in witty ways when others want to know more than I and most other transgendered men and women would be willing to tell.

This time it wasn?t my broad shoulders or feet ?too big for a woman? that drew attention. Rather, it was the empty spaces on my patient questionnaire that caused Lana the mammogram nurse to inquire, ?When did you have your last period?? My heart pounded. My doctor, who recommended this yearly exam, had failed to warn me about this part. Struggling with my desire to be truthful without revealing my transsexual condition, I said softly, ?I?ve never menstruated.? ?I?m sorry, dear,? Lana responded, gently touching my arm. Then she drew back, perplexed. ?Are you Mahu, then??

I knew I had to explain further and not let my own silence define me. ?No. I think of myself as a woman who was born male,? I stated with pride. ?The only monthly cycle I have is an emotional one.? I chuckled.
Lana blinked at my full breasts. ?So, are they real? Implants could burst in the X-ray machine?s pancake press.? Feeling flushed, I explained that they were indeed real; prescribed hormones over several years had induced natural breast growth.

Upon viewing the X-ray, Lana declared, ?I?m amazed. You have the breasts of a teenage girl!? Having both grown more comfortable, we laughed together.

Visiting recently with a new friend, Liko, at her Aloha Tower shop, the mood grew somber as we talked of her recent separation from her husband. Wanting to console and connect with her, I shared that I was divorced. She must have sensed that I was hiding something?I had, after all, avoided the use of gender-specific pronouns. A verbal ballet ensued. ?Are you still friends with your husband?? ?Yes, I see my ex occasionally.? She probed further: ?Does he live close?? ?Yes, about two miles away,? I dodged. Realizing that I could help her deal with her own changes only if I became more open about mine, I said, ?Actually, Cathy and I have rebuilt our friendship.? Liko?s face lit up with new knowledge, ?You said Cathy? You mean your husband had a sex change??

Stunned and on the verge of laughter, I was tempted to allow her misunderstanding to validate my womanhood?but an inner voice warned me not to give misleading or partial information. Nervously, I explained that it was I who was the husband in my marriage and later had changed genders. I was pleasantly surprised when she stated she was okay with that. Her acceptance strengthened my resolve to always accept myself first and not put my fears on others.

I continue to be tactful and discreet when sharing news of my gender change. I?ve found much common ground with non-transgendered individuals as to the changes we all go through in life. Feeling the need to balance my right to privacy with the desire of others to know more about me isn?t such a big issue any more. And I continue to find new and clever ways to address the curiosity of others.




A website that approaches gender transition in a positive manner. Gender Happy is geared toward helping transgendered men and women create successful and happy lives.

Li Anne Taft has been a resident of Hawaii since 1993. She resides in Honolulu, where she lectures at area colleges on transgender transsexual social and legal issues.

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