Guest Blogger

Stuck in Transition

Filed By Guest Blogger | April 06, 2009 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: finance industry, LGBT families, marriage, medication, money, Monica Helms, srs, surgery, transgender, transitioning, transsexual

Editors' note: Monica F. Helms is the president of the Transgender American Veterans Association.

I'm sure that many of the readers have been in a situation where they needed to make a left turn at an intersection with a left-turn arrow that lasts so short that only two or three cars can get through at a time, and you sit fifteen cars back. The other lights last for over two minutes each, making it a long wait before you can "transition" to the direction you needed to go. Frustration sets in, especially if you're late for something. Many transsexuals can also get stuck in transition, waiting for their "trip" to be over. Is there such a thing as being stuck in transition?

First of all, in order to understand why a transsexual feels they get stuck in transition, you need to know the definition "transition." There isn't one. No real definition for transition can actually exist, because like a person's gender identity and gender expression, how they define "transition" or "transitioning" becomes as personal as wearing cotton or silk underwear... or none at all. Since each person gets to decide what transition means to them, then no definition or description would be wrong. What we see as "wrong" takes place when a person feels their definition of transition has to be the only one other people have to follow in order to be correct.

The nickel version of the word "transition" would be when a person changes from living as one sex to another. Surgery does not end that form of transition. Many post-op transsexuals will tell you that they never stop transitioning. The $2 version says that surgery defines the end of transition. So, to those people, pre-ops and non-ops are either not transitioning, or they have not finished. Others will even point out that a transsexual "transition" doesn't really exist, because life is an endless form of transition unto itself and transsexuals just took a more unique direction in life.

This means that for some, they cannot be stuck in something that to them doesn't exist, or that has no real beginning or end to it. Others do feel they have become stuck in transition, since they have not reached what they perceive as the end. Some reasons that cause this feeling would be financial, medical, personal or a spouse.


If I embraced the idea of myself being stuck in transition, then this would be the area I would fall under. Not everybody has a 401K to draw upon, tons of credit card balance, a six-figure salary or a house to sell or take a second mortgage on. Many have taken second and third jobs to afford surgery, but not everyone can physically or mentally handle living for one or two years under that situation. This, of course, would be affective if one doesn't have a lot of bills or child support to cut into their savings.

Personally, I had bills that my ex gave to me when we divorced and a court-order payroll deduction for child support. I gave my ex enough in child support to pay for surgery twice. But, because my two sons turned out to be wonderful men, I see that as money well spent.

However, my trusting nature caused me to help someone and they took advantage of me, making me lose all of my savings. I got "stuck in transition" because of that and not my sons.


I don't think many trans people have much of an issue when a person cannot have surgery because of medical reasons. Many reasons can keep a person from getting surgery, such as a heart condition, cancer, advanced diabetes, and HIV for an example. Smokers may get turned down, as well as anyone who might be overweight or who show an allergic reaction to anesthesia. Just because a person has the money doesn't get them a spot on the table. But not all surgeons have these strict requirements, so money does make it possible for people with medical issues.

In spite of all the medical reason that could prevent a person from going under the knife, I have heard some post-ops even give these transsexuals a hard time, calling them all kinds of names and saying they aren't real transsexuals. They forget that, "There for the grace of God go I."


Some people have very strong reasons for not getting surgery that has nothing to do with financial, marriage of medical reasons. A fear of surgery, needles or being cut by a scalpel will keep a person from finishing transition. For them, being non-op becomes the only way to live, even if they live full-time. We should respect their decision.

Under this, we also include job situations. If working in an industry that would make life miserable, then people may not get a chance to finish their transition. In hard economic times, just having a job is important to a person's well-being and the survival of themselves and their family. Some transsexuals bite the bullet to keep a roof over the heads of them and their family. "There's always next year."

My best friend is a truck driver, getting into the business after losing her job after 9/11. Getting a job did not come easy, but getting a Commercial Driver's License did. But unfortunately, the trucking industry is dominated by red necks and bigots. Those who fall into the LGBT community, women and liberal-thinking people are in the minority. Many transsexuals have completed transition in the trucking industry, but many have had to postpone it to the point of frustration. My best friend is one of them.

If a person owns their own business, then that could also make transition a difficult path to take, especially if their business depends on being very visible to their customers. Changing to another field of work does not happen very easily, in spite of what people like to think.

Marriage Issues

As strong as the other three, marriage issues can keep a person from finishing a transition. When a couple has been married for twenty, thirty or even forty years, they become one. Breaking them up would cause the other one to go into a deep depression. The trans person would hold off completing transition for the love for their partner, especially if that partner cannot see themselves in a same-sex relationship.

Another part of this I have seen recently is where the trans person promised their spouse twenty years ago that they would never take hormones or seek surgery based on their life situation at that time. But, time has a habit to changing things. Twenty years ago, the trans person had no idea what the future held for them. Now, a promise made back in the 1980s has come back to haunt both of them. For them, the future maybe a much harder road to travel, but I hope they make it through this.

Life does not treat everyone equally. The chance to complete a transition where surgery becomes the goal does not happen at a high percentage of time. Too many hurdles stand in the way of this journey. Those who can get it all need to understand that they happen to be the lucky ones. Life put them in the right place at the right time, but it could have been different. They need to thank their maker for their good fortune. Remember, life can turn on a dime... for anyone.

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Monica, thank you for writing this. I don't doubt that you speak the truth.

referring to people as 'post-ops' is objectifying, and offensive.

And pre-ops aren't? In the 30 years I have been involved in this community in various ways, no one has ever said that. Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Monica, I read what you have to say but in some regards I have to disagree. Now, if you want surgery you can get it unless there is some medical problem and I think that is the only way that would block you. I have seen people who were very poor with nothing and get surgery, it is because they wanted it. This doesn't mean that I feel you have to have surgery by no means. It is that part that comes up as excuses. If you want it you will find a way.

It is interesting to see that life does not offer such simplistic answers as, "If you want it you will find a way." If you wish to live in that Field of Dreams, then be my guest. Of course, this is all based on whether a person feels that getting surgery ends transition. It isn't the only thing in life that motivates people, including transsexuals. But, if you understood that, you wouldn't have made such a harsh statement about those who are not like you.

Please read the last paragraph again if you fail to understand that not everyone is as lucky as you are.

I have a question for you. What about those people who have a lot of money and can get surgery ten times over, but can't get for other reasons? What's their "excuse?"

I truly recognize that many (perhaps most) transsexuals feel that they need surgery to complete themselves.

On the other hand, I know that the "real" transition is complete when one begins to live outwardly as the person they feel they are inside. For all but a few people, whether one has had reassignment surgery is irrelevant.

I try to remind those who are thinking about transition that the surgery is the icing on the cake, not the meat and potatoes. If they are living the life that was once only a far-fetched dream, then they are enjoying their cake and eating it too.

I hope you find the sweetness of the frosting and are able to savor it when it's finally served.

Thank for your compassionate look at transition, Monica, and all the ways it can go, or not go.

As for the comment that "if you want it, you will find a way," I know trans women who want it but are living hand to mouth, sometimes employed, too often not. It doesn't matter how much they want surgery.

If someone is stuck in transition, it's because they choose to be stuck in transition. Undeniably there are reasons some make that choice, it is their choice nonetheless. There are surgeons who will operate on HIV positive TSs and though the choice of whether to have GRS is one's own, with very few exceptions most non-ops are non-ops simply because they choose to be, not because there are insurmountable obstacles.

I agree with Sheila...if one wants GRS, they will find a way to get it.

Yeah, right! You know soooooo much about people. Right.

Thanks for this post, Monica!

Nerissa Belcher | April 8, 2009 8:55 AM

I'm of two minds on this topic. On the one hand I agree with everything Monica wrote. OTOH I agree that most TSs who wish surgical transition can find a way to accomplish it.

I suggest a litmus test for the TSs who claim to want to transition surgically but who have not done so. The test starts the moment they go "full time." From that point till now what have they spent their money on?

Many TSs can honestly point out they have spent their funds on food, shelter and other basic and necessary expenses. These are the TSs for whom Monica's comments apply.

However, other TSs (if honest) might mention spening significant amounts on things like flying all over the USA, paying for hotels, etc. to be involved in activism. Or perhaps they spent significant sums of money on other hobbies or possessions. In which case these TSs have made the choice that other things are more important than surgically transitioning. This being a valid choice for them. But not a choice that justifies claiming GRS has been impossible for them to accomplish.

Thank you. You brought up something I missed. Yes, there are trans people who are compassionate and giving, caring more for the well being of others than themselves. And, there are those who are selfish, self-centered and care about no one but themselves. So, does this mean that in order to be considered a real transsexual, you are required to be selfish and self-centered? Sorry, but I'm not buying that.

Nerissa Belcher | April 8, 2009 11:58 AM

Some activists, trans and otherwise, claim they are helping others when what they generally are accomplishing is drawing attention to themselves.

As alluded to in my last reply I do not think there is anything wrong with a TS activist spending their money on attention seeking opportunities rather than GRS. This is a valid choice for a lifestyle. I'm sincere in saying this since most people devote a lot of time, money and energy to their ego gratification whether they are activist or not.

I do, however, wonder if the self-centered activists really believe their own line that they are helping others. How often, for example, have they provided job leads to TSs needing work? If their answer is "never" or "almost never" then they're in it for their egos whether willing to admit it or not.

Nerissa, You know soooooo much about people...too.

Looking for more ways to justify a non-op status?

... let me count the ways 1-199 (blah blah)

not once do I see on the list of excuses the one that should be at the head of the list which becomes the one that is never discussed.

... ready ?

Not getting surgery because I really don't want too and I have no problem with my current genitals.

We justify that by calling it a "neoclit" ... (transgriot)

or perhaps "after-market (insert “fake”) vaginas. They may look like the real thing, but . . ." referring to post operative women's genitals?

Looks like the examples I made in my previous comment and in my article have surfaced right here. Thank you all for making my point. I knew the rocks would be moved on this article, revealing the usual suspects. Stay tune for the next one.

"I knew the rocks would be moved on this article, revealing the usual suspects" .. Monica Helms

So you infer then that long term post operative women live under rocks, that we crawl out of the darkness to attack unsuspecting prey?

Seems to me like a victim statement .. oh sorry yes .. the transgender movement is all about being victims. The activism movement on the other hand is all about feeding ego's.

Wake up and smell the coffee. We ARE your peers dear .. We have way more, hands on, practical knowledge than you on this subject.

Reminds me of a microsoft simulator pilot whining that they cant fly the jet because they don't have the licence to do so. It's sooooooooo unfair!

I hate to spill your coffee, but you and I can never be peers. It's not meant as a good observation or a bad one. It's just an observation of reality. We are from totally different planets, and different realities on those planets.

The reality is, I will listen to and take criticism from non-trans people (including HRC people) long before I would listen to you or those with your mindset. That is because they are willing to listen and understand, as many here have already done so. You have no intention to listen, to show any compassion or to care about the viewpoints of others, unless they think like you. This is why you get the responses you get. There is no such thing as dialogue with you, which causes you to think that others are the ones being inflexable. Many time people tried to start a respectfull dialogue, and your people want to turn it into a blame fest. Others are always wrong, and you are always right. To bad, but you still are human, and all humans are flawed. You're just not willing to admit it. In other words, you are not willing to show your humanity.

How many times have we seen it?

Monica posts. Some agree, some disagree, some offer alternate perspectives. Anyone but anyone who disagrees with The World According to Monica is not met with discussion and debate, but insults and sarcasm.

Most telling of all is the title is "Stuck in Transition" and the comments reveal Monica does not consider those who actually transitioned many years ago, live women's lives complete with socialization with other women rather than trannys are her "peers" in any fashion.

Monica has spent the better part of a decade pissing off (and out and out attacking on a very personal fashion) potential allies within the ranks of post transitioned women so this should come as no real surprise to anyone.

Someone who states viewpoints that SRS makes faux women and surgical corrected genitals are like fake Rolex watches lacks credibility in any discussion of wanting or needing it.....just sayin'

OK folks, may I suggest that this exchange revert to comments about the substance/subject/content of the post, and step away from discussing other grievances you (plural) may have with each other. I would hate to see this valuable discussion turn into a personalized squabble. We need to accept the premise that there will be significant disagreement among us in this area, and that we should each concentrate on stating our own position as winningly as possible rather than picking apart others.

Father T
(whose idea of good jewelry is NOT this sheriff's badge)

Exactly what could possibly be more on point than someone who says they will NOT listen to those with actual experience on the subject and who actually pontificates from a position in direct opposition to the subject at hand?

Or are we not supposed to note the emperor has no clothes?

"We need to accept the premise that there will be significant disagreement among us in this area"

And exactly why Tony? The situation is you have someone guest blogging on transition issues who never actually finished transition and several women who DID finish transition taking exception to deliberate misrepresentations and a history on the part of the guest blogger of insulting SRS of those women. So why do "we" have to accept this when it would seem a no brainer?

That would be letting someone with a penis pontificate on lesbianism and silencing the actual lesbians........opps.

Yes Monica you are right in what you say and my response to that is that for years we have stood silent, watching and waiting to see where all this activism is going and to what extent it has helped our lives.

Why don't you tell us all what the activists such as yourself have accomplished eh? Please, make a list, show us all what EXACTLY your activism has accomplished for transpersons (not for the glb as a whole), but specifically for trans persons. I challenge you to make that list and post it here.

Here is my list of what activism has produced:


Violent Backlash

Public Scorn

Increased Employer Discriminatory Practices

Increased Heathcare Discriminatory Indifference

Increasing roll back of post op marriage rights in some states that once recognized the rights of post op transpersons as being a member of their target gender.

Public opinion that all transsexuals are inherently gay.

Public opinion that transsexualism is all about sex workers and transsexuals are mentally sick.


So, you charge that I and other post ops have a mindset that are not willing to listen to more of the same from trans activists ...well guilty as charged. You and yours blew it. You all started out with good intentions, of that I have no doubt, but then you took us all into the GLB ghetto, you sold out trans issues for a place at the table of the GLB.

You know, some of you transitioning gals reading this article should really be asking yourself where you want to be 10 years from now.

If you follow the dogma put forward by the trans activists you will be continually in transition, a protected species with a false sense of security that you're rights will be upheld, that you will be able to force employers to give you jobs, or stop them firing you, neither of which ENDA will guarentee and neither of which will guarentee your'e security or well being.

Do you really think that the men and women of this world are ever going to come to accept that a persons gender is not at least to a large part defined by their genitals?

Monica and others in this happy band of maybe_one_day_if_I_win_the_lottery - ops preach that genitals don't matter! They do so because it is CONVENIENT for them to do so. They do that because it is in their best interests to do so! Now it may be convenient for you to belive her on this, but the plain truth of it is that genitals DO matter to at very least 85% of the inhabitants of this planet! Ask the men on this forum .. ask them if they would date a post op. Ask the Lesbian women here if they would date a pre-op ? And now go out and ask everyone that walks into your local supermarket the same questions and see what their response is!..

All this "neoclit" business is BS for any self respecting transsexual woman. Either your'e planning to transition your sex to that of the opposite sex or your playing gender games, and lord knows there are plenty of gamers out on the net. All this feelgood gender equality crap is just that! .. There is no such thing in the real world. You will either make it because your you are in fact the sex you say you are, or you will live and die in the GLBT gender ghetto, never quite able to make the leap to womanhood ....

... stuck in transition.

My name is Leigh. Post op since 1985. Full time since 1978. I was born lower middle class to poor white folk, have created several companies over the years, have helped a pre op become post op, and never once gone to a gay pride event. I am currently married to a heterosexual man that raised several kids with his previous wife of 18 years....

and then of course there are the gender heros such as Helms, Sandeen and Roberts .. and of course we all know their qualifications .. right?

I generally tend to ignore the stuff posted here, but this one really needs a response. Why not simply acknowledge that one does not want surgery, that you really, really, really, really, really want to keep your penis, and that you are not, and never will be a transsexual? What is it with some that they have this seeming overwhelming compulsion to call themselves a transsexual, and to co-opt that experience when they are not?

I'm sorry, but it does not give one any increase in credibility, it does not make up for past attacks on post-ops, it does not, in fact, do anything good.

""Why don't you tell us all what the activists such as yourself have accomplished eh? Please, make a list, show us all what EXACTLY your activism has accomplished for transpersons (not for the glb as a whole), but specifically for trans persons. I challenge you to make that list and post it here."

Yep .. Still waiting on that list ..

Guess I shouldn't hold my breath huh..

Keri Renault | April 12, 2009 8:08 AM

I agree with the opinion that life is a continuous cycle of transition like the seasons of the year. However, your reasons for getting “stuck in transition” appear to prioritize (or validate) physical change as of primary importance to the journey of transsexual life. The destination of personal Nirvana in your example is seemingly defined as “THE BIG EVENT” of SRS.

This is where we part company.

Successful transition, from one phase of life to another should NEVER be defined by outward appearance. Transition is and always will be an inside job. It’s about getting things right on the inside first and foremost as priority #1. When we’ve reconciled life and arrive genuinely at peace with who we are then tangible, physical issues such as money, medicine, marriage or family relationships can take their rightful place as secondary drivers in life. The material “wants” or “needs” of surgery most certainly don’t define one as transgendered---or transsexual---anymore than body parts. The pathological qualifier of labeling—pre-op, post-op, non-op---is insidious, divisive, elitist and exclusionary. We’re each individuals on a personal journey, no singular path or expression is inherently better than another---EXCEPT to the individual in question.

Beauty will always be in the eye of the beholder.

What’s inside our hearts and heads is what counts first and foremost when it comes to happiness. When the attitude is right on the inside, everything on the outside takes its place in the landscape more appropriately as “window dressing”. The window itself remains of critical importance, allowing us to see clearly while letting the sunshine in. Get the inside job right and the road ahead will be a much straighter, truer path, far easier and certainly more enjoyable to follow---in spite of the inevitable stops & starts along the way.

I got back a little late but if you would have read the last part of my post it did say that there are some who don't want the surgery and that is OK too. I have also said and I believe this, that just because you have surgery that it doesn't stop there, the transition. I have also said that diversity in the trans community is huge. We all have different wants and needs. My way is NOT the only way it is my way. What I did say is that there are way too many excuses about "the surgery". I feel the only good one is medical. If you don't want the surgery good for you. I never said you had to had surgery.
I don't think I was very clear in my views. I only addressed the excuse part of surgery.

WOW, I'm a Pre-op Transsexual. I been transitioning for 18 months. I must say I find no support here when i do come here. I'm my own woman....... >sighs

The real question is why on earth you would expect to find any "support" as a presumably surgery tracked transsexual on a blog owned by a gay guy and overrun with transgender never never op bloggers?

"I find no support here when i do come here"

Sorta like saying each time I hit my elbow with a hammer, it hurts!

:5 days now .. still no list