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Shanti's blog....Part 3...

4/10/2020 -- UGA, Boneshakers, “Mama”, and Boot Camp!!! (Part 1)

While finishing up at Gainesville College, I had decided to major in social work at the University of Georgia (UGA) and I had begun working at The Salvation Army Homeless Shelter in Gainesville, GA. It was an incredible learning experience and I lived there five days a week (in my own room). When I started attending UGA, I would get up early, get everyone up who was staying there, make breakfast for everyone, and get them all out by 8am. I then drove the 45 minutes to UGA, went to class, and got back to open the shelter at 4:30pm. It was a pretty hectic time and that lasted a couple of quarters before I decided that I just wanted to be a college student! I was now 33 years old and had been working at least part-time since I was 13 years old! I wanted a break! I took a student loan, found an apartment to share with two guys (remember, I was still seen as a “guy” by society), and, for the next 10 months or so, I was just a student...albeit one who was intent upon partying as much as possible!

Eventually, I had to get a job as the loan money was about gone. There was a convenience store on Baldwin Street (adjacent to campus) and I got a job there. Now, during this time, I was taking a lot of psychology classes along with the social work classes and there was usually something about trans people in every textbook! I was soaking up as much info as I could...still wishing I’d die, but as a much better informed person! :-) I was also beginning to have suicidal thoughts as it was getting harder and harder to look in the mirror each day. I’d shave in the morning and there would still be a shadow on my face. My chest, arms, and legs looked like a shag carpet and (in my mind), my nose was as big as Jimmy Durante’s! All in all, this was not a good time. My mind was constantly thinking, “How can I die without actually committing suicide?” God wasn’t answering my nightly prayer to not wake up in the morning and I don’t think I could have drunk any additional alcohol and still function at all. was a vicious cycle.

One day at work, I was there with the manager (ironically, also named Steve) and on this particular afternoon, the most effeminate male I had ever seen sashayed (yes, really!) into the store, got an OJ, spoke with Steve complaining about a late night and hangover, gave me a quick glance, and sashayed out. I asked Steve who this person was and he said, “Oh. That’s Anastacia.” “Excuse me?”, I responded. He replied, “Anastacia is one of the drag queens at Boneshakers. They do a show every Monday night.” Well...this bit of info took me aback! I had never met a drag queen or been to a drag show. In fact, I had never been in a gay bar at this point!

As fate would have it (or as Hare Krsna devotees say, “By Krsna’s arrangement...”), Anastacia (I found out that Kristopher was the given name) started working at that convenience store about two weeks later. One day, we were talking and I asked about the drag show. She (I always refer to her in the feminine) told me about it and invited me to come to one of the shows. She then said something that changed my life. She said that she was planning on transitioning to female and wanted surgery. You know those scenes in movies where the camera focuses on a person’s face, but everything around them is moving? That’s exactly how I felt when she said that. I immediately got up my nerve and said, “I need to tell you something. I’m transsexual. I’ve been in denial for 12 years and I can’t keep living like this. I haven’t been dressed in 12 years. I don’t know how to do makeup. I don’t have any female clothes. I don’t know anything and I need help. Will you please help me?” Honestly, I couldn’t believe that I had actually said all of that out loud! She eyed me up and down and said, “If I help you, you have to promise me that you will, in turn, help someone else. Do you promise me?” “Absolutely! I swear I will!”, I almost yelled at her! She replied, “In that case, I am your Mama and you are my daughter….and you WILL call me Mama!” She was ten years younger than me. I called her “Mama” from that day on. Let the learning begin....

4/11/2020: UGA, Boneshakers. “Mama”, and Boot Camp!!! (Part 2)

Now, it was around the same time that I met “Mama” that I was doing an internship at a non-profit agency in Athens. Soon I met three people who became very important to my transition. I met Kristen (K) at that non-profit. She worked as a grant writer. One day we got to talking and she asked me what I wanted to do once I graduated college. I told her that I was thinking about becoming a therapist to work with transgender people. She thought that was interesting and asked me why. I told her, “Because I’m trans.” We became friends and she said that she had a couple of friends that she wanted to introduce me to...Chandra and Nathan. K introduced me this way, “This is Stefanie. She’s transsexual and is going to begin transitioning soon.” Chandra and Nathan didn’t bat an eye. From day one, it was always, Stef, she, her, etc. Please understand that I didn’t look anything like I do now. No hormones. No electrolysis. Nothing...yet they accepted me as Stef from the get go. That was HUGE to someone just starting out. I hope that over the years I’ve properly conveyed how much that meant to me. I meant everything!

Above: My dear friends, Chandra and Nathan.

One day at work, Mama said, “Why don’t you come over to the house and I’ll do your hair and makeup? Let’s see how you look.” I was extremely excited, yet quite nervous. What if I was too ugly to pass? I actually tried to get out of it by saying that I didn’t have any women’s clothing. Mama would have none of that! “Just bring the most androgynous outfit you have.” So, that evening, I went to the house that Mama was sharing with a few friends. I was really nervous. I had short hair at the time and had no idea what to expect. Mama introduced me to everyone. A friend named Becca was there. I immediately thought, “She’s a doll-baby.” Just as cute as could be. I liked her immediately. Mama began on my makeup. Seeing my shadow (even though I shaved right before coming over), she said that I would probably need to use Dermablend to start with. That would cover the shadow. She did her best...not letting me see anything...then she got a wig and put that on me. When I finally looked in the mirror, I was speechless. I’m not saying I looked great because she only had so much to work with, but I thought, “Holy shit! With hormones, electrolysis, and a nose job...this might just be possible.” Becca and everyone there was very complimentary and I felt pretty damn great!!! Then Mama put on this flawless gown and said, “Ok. Let’s go to Joe’s.” I felt the blood rush to my feet. Joe? Who the hell is Joe? I don’t know him and I really didn’t think that I was ready to go out in public. After all, it had been 12 years! I think the last time I had gone out dressed en femme was to see Frankie Goes To Hollywood! Mama insisted, “Come on. It will be great!”

Above: My beautiful "Mama", Anastacia Romanoff.

So we left to go to Joe’s. Joe’s turned out to be Jittery Joe’s, the VERY popular Athens coffee shop. I was mortified...beyond scared. Shaking. Mama made me get out and go in with her. It turns out that she was promoting that night’s drag show at Boneshakers! You know how, right before and right after high noon your shadow is directly next to you when you look at it? Well, that’s how I was with Mama….RIGHT BEHIND HER! My head was down and I wasn’t looking at anyone. The next couple of minutes seemed like an eternity!! Finally, she was done and we got back in the car. I think I was having heart palpitations! Mama said, “Ok. Let’s introduce you to the girls.” We drove the couple of blocks over to Boneshakers. It wasn’t open yet, but all the performers would get there early and have drinks at the bar. When Mama opened the door and the queens saw me with her, you could have heard a pin drop. The looks I saw said, “Who the fuck is this bitch and what the hell does she think she’s doing here?!” Mama said, “Girls. This is my new daughter, Stefanie. She’s transsexual and is planning on fully transitioning. She needs our help. Well...once they found out that I wasn’t planning on performing, but was asking for assistance, the mood changed immediately! I was greeted like long lost kin! Since all of the queens consider themselves sisters, I now had a bunch of new aunts!!! They took me under their wings, protected me, and taught me. There was Sasha, Jacqueline Dominique Bouvier, CheriLyn, Pebbles, Miss Leslie, Terry Carrington, Anastasia Armani, Liz Perry, and Miss Kelly Brooks. They were the queens who did an amazing drag show every Monday night. It became imperative to not have an early morning class on Tuesdays!!! There was also TJ the DJ, Paul, who MC’d the drag shows, Jay (who would play a MAJOR role a little later), and Boneshakers awesome bartender, Kerry. He and I hit it off immediately. We both loved music and he always had some cool stuff that he’d play before the place opened. I would always get in early with Mama so, while they would get ready for the show, I’d hang out with Kerry. Great guy!

Above: Miss Kelly Brooks and Sasha with Terry Carrington (in boy drab) photobombing before it had a name! :-)

Above: Taking a bow after another great Boneshaker's drag show (from L) Kelly Brooks, "Mama", Auntie Jacqueline Dominique Bouvier, and Sasha.

Above: My Auntie Jacqueline was absolutely mesmerizing when she performed!

Above: (From L): Sasha, Kelly Brooks, and "Mama"

Above: Terry Carrington as "Belle, the bitch from hell"! Hysterical!!

Above: Liz Perry and Cherilynn

I was sharing an apartment with two guys (Jason and Dusty). They were cool with the whole trans thing and came to Boneshakers for the show every Monday. It was THE place to be in Athens whether you were gay or straight! Anyway, after the show, we would always have people over and we’d party until 3 or 4 in the morning. Like I said….imperative to not have an early class on Tuesday! When I say that I was “raised by drag queens” I mean it. Let me give you an example. It might have been the second or third time that I had gone to Boneshakers dressed as Stefanie. After the show, we all went back to our apartment. I had to pee. In my inebriated state, I failed to close the door all the way. I still had a penis, so I was peeing the way I had for 35 years. My Auntie Jacqueline happened to walk down the hall and saw me. She screamed, “STEFANIE SCHUMACHER!!!!!” I was so startled I peed on the wall!!! “YOU ARE A WOMAN! YOU SIT YOUR ASS DOWN ON THAT TOILET!!! DON’T YOU EVER LET ME SEE YOU STANDING TO PEE AGAIN!!!!!!” That was the last time I ever stood to pee...except for right after surgery when I had the catheter in me. This was my “tranny boot camp”. If Mama or any of my aunts saw me doing something unfeminine or using mannerisms that weren’t feminine enough or not walking properly or not trying to soften my voice a bit, they would call me out!!! They were amazing and I will forever be indebted to them all.

Above: Auntie Jacqueline Dominique Bouvier

Above: Miss Kelly Brooks

Above: Miss Pebbles

Above: Everyone's favorite bartender, Kerry!

Above: A fairly early pic of me from 1995.

There are many, many Athens stories to tell, but those will have to wait for the book. I’ll try to wrap up my Athens years next time….

4/12/2020: UGA, Boneshakers. “Mama”, and Boot Camp!!! (Part 3)

There are several stories that I do want to share with you that occurred during my Boneshakers time. Shortly after I met “Mama”, I knew that I had to tell my parents what was going on. I explained how I had tried for 12 years to ignore it (my transsexuality) to the best of my abilities, but that it was always there and, if I didn’t at least try to transition, I didn’t think that I’d be around much longer...and I really didn’t want that to happen. My mother was an amazing woman who truly understood the meaning of unconditional love. She told me that she and my dad were there for me and would love me no matter what. Dad was still pretty silent about the whole trans thing, but he did nod in agreement.

For clarity, please know that Anastacia will always be referred to as “Mama” and my birth mother will always be referred to as Mom or Ma. I brought “Mama” home to meet my folks and that went really well. I then invited Mom to come to Boneshakers so that she could see me as Stefanie, meet all the amazing people who were helping me, and see a great drag show (her first). Atlanta drag legend Lily White was going to be the guest star, so I thought that would be a great first show for my mom. Mom drove down to Athens from Gainesville and came to the apartment. She met my roommates and then “Mama” said that it was time to get ready. “Mama” didn’t let me do my own makeup for months after I met her. She always said that no daughter of hers would go out looking less than the best they could look! So we got dressed. She was always very careful to do my makeup as naturally as possible. When Mom finally saw me, she said that I looked beautiful, which meant everything to me! “Mama”, of course, looked flawless! :-)

Above: My mom with Ms. Lily White

We all went to Boneshakers, which was only a few miles away, and got there early, so Mama and the other girls could get ready and my mom could get situated. I introduced her to the other queens and to Kerry and everyone was super nice to her and said very nice things about me which was very sweet and made Mom happy.

I warned Mom that drag shows in general and Lily White, in particular, were quite “off-color”. Mom said for me not to worry. She was ready for anything. Mom was 65 years old when she saw her first, and only, drag show. The show was stellar! Lily White was her usual raunchy, hilarious self and all the queens put on a great show. Mom really seemed to enjoy herself. Of course, at one point, Ms. Lily White, had to interact with Mom and she had a blast!!! The two of them really seemed to hit it off! We left shortly after the show was over and Mom spent the night at the apartment. It was a great first mother-daughter night out.

Above: DJ Paul introducing the performers

Another time, shortly after I had started my transition and, yes, even though this was before hormones and electrolysis, it WAS the beginning of my transition. Anyway, one day I had to take my car to get a leaky radiator fixed and our mechanic was in Gainesville. After the car was finished, I decided to get a slice of pizza at the late, great Monkey Barrel. They had awesome food and the best local entertainment around Gainesville, GA! I sat myself in a booth (it was only 4pm, so the place wasn’t busy yet) and was looking over the menu. I heard the waitress’ voice say, “May I take your order?” I looked up to see Celi! We had not seen each other in over 4 years. I immediately jumped up and we hugged. She looked always! We couldn’t really talk as she was working, but I asked her what time she got off. I waited in The Monkey Barrel until 9pm when Celi got off work. We decided to go to the lounge at the Holiday Inn, so we could catch up. We talked and talked and talked and the next thing we knew, the lounge was closing. It was 1am. She told me that she was renting a room from a friend and that he was out of town. She asked me if I wanted to come over. Of course, the answer was YES! I followed her over to the house and we sat down on the couch. I’m not gonna lie. The spark was still there. We both knew it. We had only dated for 9 months over 4 years earlier, but we had discussed marriage. Unfortunately, the reality is that I was incredibly miserable and drinking a LOT. I pretty much did everything that I could to push Celi away. We had discussed my being trans. She had this awesome silk sleep shirt that I used to wear. It was the only female that I wore, but I loved it! When she had finally had enough of me (and who could blame her), we parted amicably, but she did mention that there could never be a future for us because, ultimately, I was trans and she was not into women. She left that night and went back to drinking and being miserable….alone. Ok. Back to the couch with Celi….Yes. We made out. I remember it to this day. We decided to retire to the bedroom and I took off my t-shirt. Celi made an audible gasp! I asked her what was wrong. She said, “Your chest hair. It’s gone!” I responded, “ doesn’t really go with a low cut gown.” It was at that point that we knew we had a problem. You see, I wasn’t the man that she fell in love with. I wasn’t a man at all. We could have tried to force the relationship. After all, we do love each other. However, in the long run, we both know that it wouldn’t work. We decided to just be best friends with a unique history. We’re still BFF’s to this day and, yes, I will always love her. :-)

We need something lighthearted after that heavy story. Let me tell you about a very memorable night. The bar at Boneshakers was “L” shaped with the bottom of the L (if you were looking down on it) pointing towards the stage and dance floor. I was sitting with Sasha at the corner of the L. Me on the bigger side and her on the smaller side. We were talking about something when this very attractive girl in a halter top hopped up onto the bar to place her drink order with Kerry. This, of course, really pushed her boobs to the forefront. I was in the middle of a sentence when this happened. I stopped cold in mid-sentence. Sasha said, “What’s wrong, Stef?” Motioning to the young girl I said, “I want those tits...and I want those tits!” LOL! Somehow, I got the nerve to go up and introduce myself to her. Her name was Karen. She was a UGA student and was just out with some friends for the night. I told her about myself and what my ultimate plans were and how attractive I found her and her boobs to be. I also told her that I was attracted to women. She found this fascinating! I introduced her to some of the queens and we had a really fun night of flirting. I remember dancing with her. At one point, she caught me looking at her friend and she gently took my chin in her hand and guided my view to her bosom. “Hey! I thought you wanted these.”, she said. I never saw her again after that night, but I will NEVER forget what a fun night of dancing and flirting we had. Fortunately, I have a pic!

Above: Auntie Jacqueline with my one night flirt, Karen

I’ve still got a couple of more Athens stories to tell, so I’ll save those for next time.

4/13/2020: UGA, Boneshakers. “Mama”, and Boot Camp!!! (Part 4)

So many things happened to me while I was in Athens that, again, they could probably fill another entire book! There are a few more tales that I want to share with you here. I had previously mentioned that I spent a lot of time at the Hare Krishna temple in Atlanta back in 1987 and ‘88. I learned a lot about the Vedic culture and the very first lesson you’re taught is that you’re not this body. You're a spirit soul. Well, when I was going through my boot camp in Athens, this weighed heavily on my mind. After all, fully transitioning (for me) meant that it would, ultimately, end with surgery. If that’s not identifying with the body then I don’t know what is! During my temple days and for a time afterwards, I had been very close with a married couple who lived in Marietta, Mathureswari prabhu and Babeshwari mataji. He was as knowledgeable about the Vedic culture as anyone I had ever met and they used to invite me over to their house where we’d talk about Krsna and Vedic philosophy. One day, while I was sitting in the apartment in Athens and drinking, which was most days, actually, I decided to call Mathureswari and tell him what was going on. I completely expected him to rip me a new one and talk about how Maya had me convinced that I was this body and what a fallen fool I was being. Instead, he said something that completely blew my mind and cleared the path for me to continue with my transition. He said, “If you’re doing this just so that you can have another material body so that you can enjoy sense gratification, then it’s a waste of time. However, if you’re doing to rid yourself of the conflict that you have in your mind so that you can focus on what’s really important, Krsna, then it’s absolutely the right thing to do.” I sat there stunned for quite some time. His words would play a big part in my AND later.

It wasn’t all rosy and gay (pun intended) during my Boneshaker days. Mama, for all the help and guidance she gave me, could be a serious bitch who was sometimes downright mean. One Saturday, after a very late Friday at Boneshakers, we were beginning to mill about the apartment (Mama was living there now, too) sometime around noon. I had not not showered or shaved yet and I came out of my bedroom in a t-shirt and sweatpants. I said that I would go out to check the mail. As I headed for the front door, Mama (who was sitting on the couch) said, “My Gawd! I can’t believe that I have such a butch daughter.” I went out to the mailbox, got the mail, returned, and went straight to my room. I sat on my bed completely destroyed. Any progress that I thought I had made went right down the drain. How could she have said that to me?! If she, the person who was supposedly teaching and guiding me didn’t think that I could pass as female, how the hell was I supposed to??!! After some time, I went to the kitchen to get some breakfast and I took a knife along with my cereal back to my room. I don’t remember if I ate or not, but I do remember that I had a big bottle of booze in my room and I drank until I passed out. I awoke in the evening trying to remember if the events of the morning had really happened or if I had dreamed them. When I realized that they had, indeed, happened, I sat on the edge of my bed and put the knife to my right wrist. It was over.

Above: Though I'm forever grateful to "Mama" for all she did for me, she hurt me very badly, too.

I sat on that bed with that knife to my wrist ALL NIGHT LONG. I cried and cried and just stared at my wrist. In the Vedic philosophy there is no such thing as eternal damnation. Krsna (God) will not turn his back on you no matter what you do. We keep getting more chances (reincarnation) to finally come to the conclusion that we truly are part and parcel, eternal servants of the Supreme. However, it does mention that if a human takes his or her own life, they give up the right to a body for whatever amount of time is determined by Yamaraja, the lord of death. You become a ghost and it’s supposed to be a very hellish existence because you have all of the sense desires (i.e. you want to touch, taste, feel, etc.), but you have no body to perceive these desires. This is the only thing that kept me from pulling that knife across my wrist. The next morning, I walked out to the living room, showed Mama the knife and the mark on my wrist (that lasted for three days) and said, “If you don’t think I can do this and pass, then tell me now. Otherwise, please don’t ever say anything like that again. I can’t take it!” Of course, she apologized, but it wouldn’t be the only time that she hurt me. The pros of knowing Mama definitely outweighed the cons, but when she hurt me, it really hurt.

Now then, let’s get back to something a bit cheerier. I mentioned Jay, who was one of the Boneshakers regulars. One night, towards the end of my “boot camp”, I was sitting at the bar with Jay bitching and moaning about how I needed to get hormones, but I didn’t even know where to begin. Jay, never looking up from his drink, said, “Go see Dr. Jaume.” Who’s Dr. Jaume?”, I asked. Thus started a very frustrating back and forth. “Just go see Dr. Jaume.” “Who the hell is Dr. Jaume?” After a few minutes of this I finally got him to tell me that his mom worked for Jaume and that he thought Jaume had experience working with trans people.

Ok. So I had the name of a doctor, but you can’t just waltz into a doctor’s office and say, “Give me hormones.” I learned that the hard way when I was 19. During this time, my mom went into the hospital for hip replacement surgery. She had a tough time recovering and was in the hospital for almost 2 weeks. On the day that my dad and I went to take her home, all the nurses and staff were coming in to say good-bye to her. If you ever met my mom, you know that she never met a stranger and everyone loved her. :-) As we were getting ready to leave, Dr. Janice Hughes, a psychologist, dropped by to wish Mom well. Any time a patient has a tough recovery, they’ll send in a psychologist just to make sure no depression is setting in. Mom introduced Dad and then me. Dr. Hughes said, “Oh. You’re Steve.” From her tone I knew that Mom had told her about me. “Is there anything I can do for you?” I replied (in somewhat of a demanding voice), “Yes. You can tell me the name of someone who has experience working with trans people!” Her response left me speechless. “Well, I worked for 3 years at the Galveston sex reassignment clinic. Does that count? Call my office and make an appointment.” There have not been many times in this life when I’ve been speechless, but that sure was one of them. She smiled, said another good-bye to Mom, and was out the door.

I made an appointment with her and, believe me, after the horrible experience when I was 19, I had my shit together for this meeting. I had studied SO MUCH about gender dysphoria and I was more than ready. Usually, it takes regular meetings over two or three months for a psychologist to determine if someone is truly gender dysphoric. I had one one hour session and, at the end of it, she said, “Ok. What is it that I can do to help?”. It turned out that she and Dr. Jaume worked out of the same medical building in Gainesville, GA two floors apart from each other. They didn’t know each other, but when I told her that I wanted to start hormones and had been given the name of Dr. Jaume, she said that she would call him and get back to me. I drove home and, right after I got home, the phone rang. It was Dr. Hughes. She said, “Call Dr. Jaume and make an appointment. You’re starting hormone treatment.” What the heck are the odds of finding both a psychologist AND a doctor who could give me what I so desperately wanted and needed in a small town like Gainesville, GA? Talk about Krsna’s arrangement! :-)

Next time: How I became a walking biology experiment!

Now would be a good time to say that, if you're transgender and going through a really hard time, please don't get to the point that I did. There are SO MANY more resources today than there were 25 years ago. If you're trans and you're feeling like life's not worth it, PLEASE reach out for help. The folks at Trans Lifeline are trained to help our community. You know the statistics. Don't become part of them. Peace, health, and love to you all!!!

Today, I wrap up the Athens days.

Above: My last UGA student ID. I always tell people to look into the eyes of a pre-transitioned transgender person. Even if the person is smiling, the eyes are so sad!

4/14/2020: Leaving Athens plus Hormones, electrolysis, and changes...Oh my!!

Before I met Dr. Hughes, I have to go back a bit and tell you about leaving Athens. My “boot camp” lasted about 9 months. Mama and the queens taught me SO much! When Mama finally decided to let me do my own makeup, it was a gradual process. She would do one of my eyes and I would have to do the other and make it match. If it didn’t get the Anastacia Romanoff stamp of approval, I would have to wash it off and start over. Eventually, I was able to do my entire face. Mama always said, “If you look in the mirror and are not 100% happy with what you see...take it ALL off and start over. If, on the other hand, you look in the mirror and LIKE what you see, then fuck the rest of the world!” :-) That was my Mama.

Things were getting crazier and crazier in Athens. Mama moved in with her boyfriend. I had a nasty fight (verbal) with my roommate Dusty. My other roommate, Jason, was involved in a new relationship and was just over the whole drag thing. You see, there’s a LOT of drama that comes with drag queens. I mean a LOT! After nine months, it really got to be too much. I was so ready to start hormones and get on with my transition. I knew that my time in Athens was about to end. The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back was when Mama asked to borrow my car one night to go to Boneshakers. I wasn’t going out that night for whatever reason. I didn’t think twice about it. That quarter I was doing my big internship and it involved driving to a lot of rural counties south of Athens and helping people sign up for utility assistance. I had all of the paperwork from several weeks worth of doing this in my backpack in my car. Mama didn’t lock my car that night and my backpack was stolen. All of that work was gone. I went into a deep depression, sure that I would fail this internship. After a very serious weekend of drinking, crying, yelling at Mama, and being terrified about telling my professor, I knew I had to get out of there. I managed to redo some of the paperwork for my internship and squeaked by with a “C” for the class. I had one Spanish class left to get my Bachelor of Social Work degree. I found out that I could take it at Gainesville College and be able to get my degree from UGA. That’s all I needed to know. I rented a U-Haul, packed all my things while everyone was out of the apartment, and left without saying good-bye. I was as close to a nervous breakdown as I’ve ever been. I went home to my folks’ place to get my head together. I never did take that last Spanish 201 class, but I did get my BSW from UGA, but that’s yet another story!

After a week or so of decompressing, I went to see Dr. Jaume. Since he had already spoken to Dr. Hughes about me, I just had to get a physical examination and bloodwork done to make sure I was healthy enough to start hormones and to get a hormonal baseline that he could monitor. Somehow, despite all the years of drinking and smoking and doing other illicit substances, I passed my physical and was ready to go. I liked Dr. Jaume immediately. He was born in Spain, but had been in the U.S. for many years and spoke without a trace of an accent. We seemed to hit it off and, when the time came, he asked me if I wanted to do oral doses or take injections. Everything I read and everyone I spoke to said that injections would give you faster results, so that was a no-brainer! We started with 25 ml of estrogen. Dr. Jaume asked me if I wanted to come into his office each week or do the shots myself. I asked him to show me how. They showed me how to get the needle right into the muscle in the hip. Now, I always thought that it was cruelly ironic that the more it stung and burned, the better you had done it because that meant that you got it right in the muscle! Krsna truly has a wicked sense of humor!

It didn’t take long for the “hormone fairy” to start working her magic. I had spoken to several people who told me about very serious mood swings that they experienced. Some people went through periods of depression. I actually know one person who was so determined to do hormones that she had an orchiectomy so that the mood swings would stop! Me? Well now, my body knew what it had been missing this whole life and it absorbed the estrogen like a sponge! No side effects. No mood swings. Nothing negative whatsoever! I did weekly shots of 25ml for about a month. I would see Dr. Hughes once a month for an hour session and I would see Dr. Jaume to get blood work done and levels checked. After a month, Dr. Jaume said, “Do you want to up it to 50ml?” Of course!!!!!! The changes started happening soon enough. My breasts got very sensitive. I could see my hips getting curvier and even the shape of my face changing! After another month we upped the dose to 75ml and then, finally 100ml per week! I had a timeline in place. I truly believe that anyone who wants to transition needs to come up with a realistic timeline.

For me, it was to start hormones and give them about four months to go to work on me. Then, I would start the painful process of electrolysis. One year after starting hormones, I planned on legally changing my name so I could start what’s known as “the real life test” (RLT). That’s when you have all of your documents (social security card, bank accounts, driver’s license, etc.) changed to your new, legal name and begin working and living 24 hours a day as your true self. I started hormones in January of 1996. I started electrolysis in April of ‘96. I went to my first Southern Comfort Transgender Conference in September of ‘96. Ok. FULL STOP!!! Mama had told me of this magical place where trans people could go, meet other trans people, attend lectures on subjects related to us, meet surgeons and discuss with them what we wanted to have done, and just be ourselves for a week or long weekend. It sounded like heaven. Mama was already gone by the time the conference came around, but I went. I didn’t know anybody and was a bit overwhelmed by it all!

Above: This is Kathleen the night we met at SCC '96. She was (and still is!) absolutely stunning!

Above: K and me at a dinner outing during '96.

There were over 200 trans people there encompassing most of the transgender spectrum. I met cross-dressers for the first time. I met transmen for the first time. I met people who would become a huge part of my life. I met Terry Murphy, Sabrina Marcus, Heather Ramsey, and I met the amazing Kathleen. She was so beautiful and petite. Honestly, I thought she was a GG (genetic girl, now known as cisgender, but I hate that term!) who was there with a transperson as their date! I even asked her that. She rolled her eyes, which I later came to know meant, “Girl….please.” She said, “No. I’m trans.” I swear to you my response was, “No fucking way!” We were so different in so many ways, but something about our friendship clicked immediately and it continues to this day. She’s the best! This began a very long association with SCTC that continues to this day. I met Dr. Pierre Brassard, who was Dr. Menard’s protege and partner. Suffice it to say that it was a life-changing experience. My SCTC guessed it….another book! :-)

Ok. I’ll resume now….I had my name legally changed in December of ‘96. I had been working for a convenience store chain called Country Cupboard as an assistant manager for 1.5 years. They knew what was going on with me. They were even supportive. They had 57 stores all over Northeast GA and I discussed with the district manager how I would simply transfer to a different store and start as Stefanie. They were on board with my plan. Everything was going perfectly! As I mentioned earlier, I never took that Spanish 201 class that I needed for my BSW. I felt bad about that, but I was so absorbed with my transition that it became my obsession. I mention this because I got a call from the district manager that they wanted to see me at the corporate office. I knew that a human resources position had opened and they knew of my background in social work. I figured that they were going to offer me that position. I told the DM that I would come in as Stefanie so that they could see there wouldn’t be anything weird or outrageous about it. In fact, those going through the RLT try to draw as little attention to themselves as possible!

I went for the appointment and, after waiting for a little while in the lobby, the district manager came out and took me into a room. Waiting in there was one of their corporate lawyers. I will never, ever forget the words that he said, “We have decided that having someone like you in our employ will be detrimental to business.” The lawyer handed me a two week severance check and that was that. I honestly felt as if I had been hit in the head with a 2x4. I was stunned. I couldn’t even speak. I drove home in a fog. When I got home, my parents were anxiously waiting for me to tell them about the new job I had gotten. Instead, I told them that I had gotten fired. I had my name legally changed and now I was going to have to go out as Stefanie to find a new job. What the hell was I going to do?! I sunk into a depression the likes of which I had never known.

Next time….Ok, God. Let’s make a deal.

Today I'm finishing up my "back story" of what lead up to my being in Montreal for surgery. We'll head back to the Great White North next time when it will be March 27, 1998!

4/15/2020 -- Things got bad….REAL bad in January of 1997!

I got fired in January of 1997. It caught me completely by surprise. I checked with everyone and every bureau I could think of to see if there was anything I could do to fight it on the basis of discrimination. There wasn’t. In the state of Georgia, anyone can be fired for any reason and, except in extremely rare cases, you’re screwed. So, after I exhausted all of these avenues, I applied for unemployment. I DID qualify for that, at least. You had to put in at least two applications a week to receive your unemployment check. I was so depressed that I rarely got out of bed. On Friday, I’d force myself to get up, take a shower, get dressed, and go to two places and put in applications. Of course, on each application it would have that line that reads, “Why did you leave your last job?” I didn’t think that putting “I got fired for being trans.” was a good idea, so I would just put, “I’ll discuss in person.” Then there was the whole sex thing. In Georgia in 1997, you could not get the sex marker changed on your driver’s license until you brought the department of motor vehicles a signed affidavit from your surgeon stating that you, indeed, had had gender confirmation surgery, so for one year I had a licence that read Stefanie Schumacher, male. Yeah...that sucked. Except for Fridays, when I would force myself to put in a couple of applications, I spent most of my time in bed. I felt completely defeated. When I hear people talk about being “clinically depressed”, I get it. I had no desire to do anything.

This went on for a while and I had 10 weeks of unemployment left and it was clear that nothing was going to happen the way things were going. One Friday night, I was lying in bed and I thought about my situation and tried to come up with a plan. What I decided to do gave me a very strange calmness. I decided that, starting on Monday, I would go down GA 400 to the first town past Dawsonville. I had to get out of the Gainesville area and Dawsonville was too close, too. There were just too many people who knew me in this area from playing in bands and just from living there since I was 8! So, the next city was Cumming, GA. I told myself that I would put in at least 5 applications a day for the remaining 10 weeks that I had left on unemployment. That would total up to 250 applications. If, at the end of putting in 250 applications no one had hired me, I would kill myself. I was at complete peace with this. There was no way that I was going to go back. I knew that I couldn’t live as Shu (my nickname) anymore. If I could not pass enough as Stefanie to be hired to do my real life test, then I just couldn’t make it. I was cool with that. I was actually resigned to it.

The next Monday I put in my 5 applications. I did the same on Tuesday. Wednesday morning, I got a call from the very first place I applied...K-Mart. They asked me to come in for an interview. I met with the store manager, who was a fairly young guy (late 20’s) and I filled him in on everything about me….how I needed to do my RLT and then I’d be going for surgery. I turned out that he had a degree in psychology from the University of Tennessee. He had not met a transperson before, but he at least had book knowledge. He said, “I really don’t care about any of this. Just do a good job for me.” and shook my hand. I started work there as a cashier on St. Patrick’s Day, 1997.

Let me talk about the “real life test” and why it is so very, very important. There are some trans folks who can pass very easily, but they’re few and far between. It’s especially difficult for the male to females. Why? Well, once the guys start doing testosterone, the changes are VERY dramatic! They grow facial hair and body hair, their voices lower, and quite a few will develop male pattern baldness. I dare say that most of you have met transmen and just didn’t know it. As for transwomen, well, a lot of us are bigger than genetic women (I just can’t bring myself to type cys!). Our voices tend to be lower. A lot of us have large hands. Some of us have pronounced Adam’s apples. The list goes on and on. In my case, I’m 6 feet tall. I had a pretty big nose and I have a large frame. Let’s put it this way; when I was losing weight to get ready for surgery, at one point I dropped just below 170 and I looked like a skeleton. I mean I looked really ill. The point is that I’m not a petite little thing. Never was. I had been on hormones for a little over one year and doing electrolysis for almost one year. The changes were great, but I knew I was getting “clocked” every day. Getting clocked is when someone knows your trans. Sometimes you just get “that look”. Sometimes, you hear snickering or laughing and sometimes it can get ugly if you happen to run into an asshole or a group of assholes.

You either learn how to deal with it and grow a thicker skin or you’ll never make it! It’s a helluva lot better to find out BEFORE you have surgery! The only people I’ve ever met who regretted having surgery all took shortcuts! They either by-passed the RLT, or they weren’t under the care of a psychologist while they did RLT, or they forged paperwork to get their surgeries. Let me tell you something….RLT is HARD! It’s supposed to be hard. I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it. Kathleen was in Rochester and I remember calling her when I was about six months into my RLT. I was crying and saying that I just couldn’t take it anymore! I was tired of seeing people point at me or laugh or whatever it was. And you know...when this stuff happens, you tend to get over-sensitive, which just makes matters worse! So here I am calling my friend to get some kind words of love and support and what did she do? She verbally ripped me a new asshole!!!! LOL! I will never forget it! She let me go on and on bitching and moaning and then, when I was finished, she came back with, “You stupid bitch! Did you think this was going to be easy? Stop your stupid crying, go wash you face, and finish this!” She said it with such intensity that I stopped my crying immediately! :-)

After that, it was a little easier…...until…..

I had been working for 9 months at K-Mart and, for the most part, everything went smoothly. I prefer being open about myself (as if you all couldn’t tell!) and had no issues. I had been promoted twice: first to cashier supervisor and then to small appliance manager. I enjoyed most of the people that I worked with and was grateful for the job. One day around Christmas, I got called into the manager’s office. The assistant store manager was there, too. He told me that one of the female employees had complained about my using the women’s restroom even though there were doors on all of the stalls and I would go in, do my business, wash my hands, and leave. They actually went over the store manager’s head to the corporate office and corporate then checked with the legal department. It was decided that, until I had my surgery, I could no longer use the women’s restroom in my store. I broke down in tears. “But I CAN’T use the men’s room. I just CAN’T!!!” My store manager said that he didn’t want that either and gave me an option. Until my RLT was over and I could go for my surgery, which was now scheduled for March 23, 1998, every day that I worked, I came in carrying a green bag. It looked like a bowling ball bag. Inside that bag was a plastic urinal. Next to the employee break room was a janitor’s closet. If I had to pee during work hours, I had to use that urinal in the janitor’s closet, which had no lock on the door. I had to stand with my foot propped up against it. If I had to defecate, I had to find my immediate manager, tell her, clock out, then drive down to the other end of the shopping center where there was a McDonald’s. I would then walk into McDonald’s and use the women’s restroom. I did this for almost 3 months. Why did I put up with such humiliation? Because I was 3 months away from surgery and NOTHING and NO ONE was going to stop me. Looking back, I get quite upset if I think about this too much. It was very, very humiliating. So you see, the whole bathroom issue is nothing new and it’s still a bunch of bullshit!!

Suffice it to say that I completed my real life test and on March 19th, 1998, Celi, K, and I boarded a Delta plane to head up to Montreal, which is where this story actually began! I’ll pick up where I left off in Montreal next time. :-)

Up next: Adventures in dilation!!! and "Will I ever smell again?"

So we head back to Montreal to pick up the story. When last we left our intrepid heroine (me), she had nearly scared herself to death upon her first visit to the restroom! I know that I mentioned "Adventures in dilation, but a LOT happened that weekend! It's now been four days since I had my three surgeries. Did anyone get the number of that Mack truck!?

Friday, March 27, 1998 -- Today we go back to the residence!!!! Yea!! Although the nurses were very nice and the food was good (very good, at times) at the clinic, it certainly can’t compare to the residence and the staff there. They’re so great! We got back around 1:30pm and met the new girls who had gotten in yesterday. Veronica -- Total fish from Chicago (originally from Ecuador) in her early 20’s. Frances was in her 50’s and from Boston. She came with her wife. They were going to try to stay together. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t as I can attest. The third girl, Natasha, was from Philadelphia and in her 20’s. I was taken aback! She could be Mama’s sister! Sooooo similar in her mannerisms and looks! Actually, if any of you know of or have seen Candace Cayne...Natasha could be her twin! She and Veronica have bonded like Mary Ellen a I did. It’s cool to see. Everyone got along really well.

Above: The "new girls" (from L): Frances, Natasha, and Veronica

Above: These two were a hoot together!

Above: Veronica with a post-ops best friend...her donut! :-)

Rene, Mary Ellen, and I are SORE!!!! We want these stents out!!! Here’s a quick lesson in what happens during surgery and I’ll describe this as delicately as possible: Once the things that need to be removed are removed, the remaining skin is used to make the vaginal wall since it is the most sensitive skin on the body (scrotal and penile). It’s sewn together and checked to make sure there are no leaks. Then, cotton gauze about 7 or 8 inches long is rolled until it’s a good 3 inches or so in diameter. Then it’s put into the sewn skin/vaginal wall and everything gets inserted into the cavity that they create during surgery. The gauze is to keep the skin pushed against the sides of the cavity so that it will graft there. Dr. Menard sews the stent into you. There are two sets of stitches that go through the labia and across the stent. Of course, a body’s natural reaction to having a foreign substance in it is to try to eject it, so there’s constant pressure on the stitches and it burns more and more as the swelling goes down! It hurts! Ok. Here endeth the surgery lesson.

K called and asked if I would mind if she didn’t come out to the residence today. No worries! I’m glad that she’s seeing Montreal. I can tell she loves it here. There could be a move in her future!

Saturday -- March 28, 1998 -- I feel like hell! I only slept for about an hour and a half. My nose is still fully stuffed and it’s causing a bit of a headache. Oh! When they took the gauze out yesterday, before I left the clinic, it was like that magic trick where the magician keeps pulling more and more ribbon out of his mouth except it was gauze coming out of my nose! How the hell did they get that much up there???!!! I am in a lot of pain! I can’t smell or taste anything! I was told that I could take 3 to 4 baths a day. I found that odd until I took the first one. For some reason, the minute the stent and the stitches went into the water, the pain was gone! It was magic!!! I totally get women who want to give birth under water! :-) The nurses would have to make me get out of the tub. The instant the stent and stitches hit air, the pain and burning returned! At least I got some relief. I would have stayed wrinkled like a prune had it been up to me! Oh well, the stent comes out on Monday. Trust me, it can’t get here soon enough!

K came over this afternoon. The plan was to order pizza and watch movies. Veronica and Natasha rented six movies and Raphael had actually made homemade pizza for us..even a vegetarian pizza just for me. As I walked past the kitchen I said, “Wow! That smells good!”, then I stopped in my tracks and yelled, “I CAN SMELL!!!!” :-) It’s the little victories that mean so much. We ordered a couple of extra pizzas from Pizza Hut (just in case!) and got settled in. We watched “School Ties” first. All of the other girls were drooling over Brendan Fraser and Matt Damon. We ate, and then watched “Sleepless In Seattle”. You know that ending scene when Tom Hanks and his movie son finally meet Meg Ryan at the top of the Empire State Building? Now, you must remember that 3 of us have just had our testicles removed and had just restarted hormones. Veronica and Natasha have been off of their hormones for one month. All of our bodies are in hormonal upheaval!!! Suffice it to say that by the end of the movie, all of us were sharing Kleenex tissues and were sobbing fools. K, the only gg (genetic girl) in the room, looked around in disbelief and called us “pathetic”, with a smile on her face.

Above: The living room of the residency.

Above: The other side of the living room. You can just see a bit of the dining room in the right rear of the pic and the kitchen was immediately to the right.

After the movies, we went to my room to talk and say good-bye. She was leaving tomorrow. Again, I didn’t have the words to express my love and feelings for her. She thanked ME for letting her experience the whole thing with me. She said some extremely nice things about me that choked me up. It doesn’t take much these days to do that!! Anyway, she bought me a St. Augustine medallion at the Basilica de Notre Dame. It’s so perfect! St. Augustine is the patron saint of travelers who leads one to their destiny. That’s what this entire experience is, after all, my destiny. We hugged several times, told each other how much we loved each other, and then she was gone. Kathleen left last Sunday (the 22nd). Celi left on Thursday, the 26th and K will leave tomorrow, the 29th. I have the best friends in the world and I’ll never be able to let them know how much it meant to me for them to be here with me. I love them with all my heart and soul!

Next time….Adventures in dilating….REALLY!

My time in Montreal is quickly coming to an end, but first I had to learn the ins and outs (yeah...pun intended) of dilating! :-)

Sunday, March 29, 1998 -- Today was a quiet day...except for the audible expressions of pain we made trying to get up and sit down. Let me try to explain this to you. Seriously, my body had been pretty severely ravaged less than one week ago. Mary Ellen, my roommate, did not have a nose job, but did have breast augmentation to go along with the gender confirmation surgery. Dr. Menard prefers putting the implants under the pectoral muscle. The downside is that you don’t get quite the cleavage as if the implants are on top of the pecs, but they’re MUCH better protected (Note: As of 4/17/2020 I have the same implants. They came with a 10 year warranty and I’ve got 22 years on them, so Dr. Menard knows what he’s doing!). Now then, imagine putting something under your pectorals that will stretch them out MUCH farther than they had originally been. You just don’t realize how much you use your pectoral muscles until they are under such duress! The pain was a white hot sensation that would completely take my breath away. It made getting up from a lying or seated position one of the most difficult tasks that I’ve ever attempted. We still had the stents sewn into us, too, which were driving us crazy with the freakin’ burning pain as the stent was constantly pushing against the stitches!

The nurses would not let us stay in one place for more than an hour or so. They insisted that we get up and move around.’s how it would go: We’d be upstairs lying in comfortable as we could be. A nurse would come and say that it’s time to get up. Try getting out of bed without using your arms at all because the slightest movement of the arms would pull on the pecs, which would cause the white hot burning. Lots of rolling back and forth, grunting, cursing, laughing (at how ridiculous we looked), and, finally, VICTORY as we would make it to our feet! We’d grab our donuts and go downstairs to where there were two recliners. We’d toss our donuts into the recliners and then comment about how low the freakin’ recliners were. Normally, you could just plop down on the donut and be done with it, but let’s remember what we just had done between our legs, so that plan was right out! :-) I kid you not when I say that it could take 5 to 10 minutes for us to finally figure out how to get into those recliners. We would work up a sweat! Finally, with a loud, “Shit!!!” we’d make it onto the donuts. Just about the time that we would get our heartbeats and breathing back to normal and just begin to relax...inevitably...a nurse would come and say that it was time to get up!! Are you kidding me?! This went on all day yesterday and today. It was painful and exhausting.

Above: You wouldn't think that it would be SO hard just to sit down and get up from these recliners. You would be wrong! LOL!

Veronica and Natasha were anxious to get to the clinic. Mary Ellen and I teased them about their upcoming enemas. Really, it’s not a big deal, but it’s a slow day, you know? :-) They left around 4pm and Rene, Mary Ellen, and I had the place to ourselves. We had a quiet dinner and went to be fairly early. All that getting up and down is exhausting! Sometime in the middle of the night, Mary Ellen started moaning in pain. This turned into her yelling for me to get a nurse. She was screaming in pain! I was scared to death! It turned out that her catheter had, somehow, become blocked and her bladder was over-full! They got me out of the room and called Dr. Menard. He doesn’t live far away and he got there quickly. There was no way to unblock the catheter, so he made the decision to take her stent out early so that he could remove the catheter. It was really scary! I had no idea what was going on and this 18 year Air Force veteran was in tears screaming in pain. It all happened so quickly! Thank goodness everything was ok and we were able to get some rest.

Above: My bed in the residence room I shared with Mary Ellen.

Monday -- March 30, 1998 -- Dr. Menard came by first thing this morning. First, to check on Mary Ellen (she was doing fine), and then to get the stents out of me and Rene. He did Rene first. She had a room to herself down the hall. Then, he came to me. He had that same smile that I saw as he squeezed my foot as I went under anesthesia to have my surgeries. It’s a very comforting smile. He said, “I’m sure you’re ready to get this out, huh?” OH YES!!!! With a couple of quick snips, the sutures were out and then he carefully removed the stent. He said, “Now go and have you one and only period.” I went to the bathroom and any blood that had been backed up in me came out. It was kind of freaky, but there was no pain. I used the bidet to clean myself and then it was time to learn how to do what would become the main activity that I would perform over the next month…..dilation! Before you go for surgery, they tell you to buy a set of stents. There are five of them from small to quite large. Starting now, I would have to dilate five times a day. This was extremely important in the healing process and it kept everything open and healthy. Again, when a body has an open wound, it’s reaction is to close it and that is NOT what you want to have happen after surgery! A session of dilation would last about an hour. Then you had to clean everything. Then you had about an hour or so before you did the whole thing over again. It really becomes your life!

One very cool thing did happen after my first dilation session. Every girl that came to Montreal brought a pair of tights. No one told us’s just something instinctively that we knew to do. This is something that only other post-op MTF’s will understand, but that moment when I saw myself in the mirror...wearing tights….and it was just smooth….well, it made everything worth it. I won’t lie, I had tears in my eyes. I had made it. The little monster was gone and my body now matched my brain. I will never be able to put this feeling into words. As I said, it’s something special I share with my trans sisters.

Mary Ellen and I would dilate together. Well….we TRIED to dilate together. Let me explain. When you got ready to dilate, you used a lot of lubricant on the stents before insertion. Have you ever been around someone and, for no apparent reason, you just start giggling? You can’t help it, right? Well, here we are Tuesday morning starting to dilate and we got hit with a serious case of the giggles. Oh...who am I kidding? We were laughing hysterically...and then it happened. The laughter caused contractions and those stents were all lubed up! Both of us shot our stents out of us in a fit of laughter, which made us fall into convulsions of laughter!!! OMG! It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen! These two stents shot across the bedroom! The nurses heard and came in. They were none too pleased at the two cackling hens they came in on. We cleaned the stents and got back to work. We agreed that we wouldn’t say anything. I even put a t-shirt over my eyes. It didn’t matter. Both of us could not get the sight of those two stents shooting out of us and flying across the room. Of course, we both started laughing again and, of course, the stents went flying again. That was the last time Mary Ellen and I dilated together. The nurses made us dilate in separate rooms from that point on. Oh God! It was hysterical!!!!! LOL!

Next time: Time to say, “Good-bye!” finishes my Montreal story. Of course, lots has happened in the 22 years since surgery and I'll be continuing. LOTS more to tell!!

Wednesday & Thursday, April 1st and 2nd, 1998 -- The remainder of my stay was spent healing, dilating, and getting ready to fly home. On Wednesday, Rene and I took a cab to go to the bank and exchange some money so we could do a little shopping. Really, we just wanted to get out of the house for awhile! When we got to the bank, there was a long que and standing in one place was definitely not our favorite thing to do. After some time, it kind of felt like you were riding a bicycle with no seat...if you catch my drift! I was looking around at all of the people, customers and employees alike, and NOBODY was smiling. I found this really odd. When we finally got up to the teller, I had to ask what was up with that. She said, “You try having seven months of winter and see if YOU smile!” Fair enough! :-)

We would tire quite easily, but at least we were mobile! I still had two black eyes from my nose job and I still hurt all over, but I was ready to go home. Not much to tell about the rest of the stay. We were all leaving on Thursday. I knew that I would, in all probability never have contact with Rene again. I sure did hope that Mary Ellen and I would keep in touch. She’s just awesome and I wish her every happiness. To have the full support of ALL of her children is phenomenal. She hopes to meet a man, fall in love, and get married. She and I both believe in total honesty when it comes to relationships. Before I would ever agree to date someone, they would have to know everything about me. No sword of Damocles hanging over my head, thank you very much! Mary Ellen felt the same way. Not all trans people feel this way. Personally, and I’m only speaking for myself, I think this is a mistake. This is how trans people get killed. I firmly believe that the person you’re with has the right to know. Besides, why would you want to be with someone who doesn’t want to accept you as you are. Do you really want to start a relationship hiding something like this? Let me give you an example of how far a transwoman will go to hide the truth.