Friday, July 17, 2015

The Road Not Taken

By Paula Gaikowski

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, 
And sorry I could not travel both ― Robert Frost

In 49 B.C., Caesar was confronted with a major decision. Should he surrender or should he march southward and engage Pompey? A crucial geographical point figured in his decision. A stream marked the boundary between Gaul and Italy, the Rubicon. To cross it with an army was a breach of Roman law—an act of open rebellion. Once he crossed, there would be no turning back. It became an irrevocable decision.

Caesar approached the stream; after some hesitation, he issued the command, “Advance!” When on the southern side, he shouted, “The die is now cast.” Those words have echoed across more than 20 centuries; they have become an adage for a decision that once made cannot be overturned without serious consequence and in some cases, not at all.

Dr D’s office is pleasant and welcoming; a comfortable chair awaits his client, and a window looks out over the streets of Boston. It is bright and cheery and reflects how I felt that morning. It was a cool spring morning.

I was dressed in a new Talbot’s tweed skirt and LL Bean black cotton sweater. Like any girl I love wearing a new outfit and as I shuffled thru the streets of Boston among the crowd of commuters, I was just another woman on her way to an appointment. Being able to do just that had always been a dream of mine before I came to see Dr D.

I have been seeing Dr D for about four years and as I look back, I am amazed at how far I have come. In 2009, I was emerging from the darkness of yet another crossdressing purge. But as any transgender person knows, purging doesn’t work. My need for feminine expression had returned with a vengeance. I had tried to solve the problem by myself for 50 years. I tried reading all the books and websites, wrote countless emails to peers and posted on all the forums.

Finding an objective and informed person you can discuss, share and solve your issues with was a key ingredient in my journey. In my case, this was Dr D. I’ve grown a lot over the last four years. I no longer see being transgender as a problem to be solved. I am not doing anything wrong. I’ve cast off society’s condemnation of being transgender and realized that I am a good person and that part of my personality and character involves being transgender. Attributes I see missing in many men, such as nurturing, kindness, compassion and cooperation are parts of my personality that I believe come from my feminine side.

I had reached a plateau of sorts. In the last four years I had moved forward in haphazard intervals. I lost weight, had laser hair removal, shaved my legs, shaped my brows and built a wardrobe. I made friends as a woman and traveled as Paula when on business. I ate in restaurants, went to concerts, had makeovers and shopped for evening gowns.

That morning, as I poured out my feelings to Dr D seeking validation for the incessant belief that I am in fact deep down a woman, that this relentless desire to be female and the need be perceived as a feminine being is not some type of self-delusional parody, he reassured and comforted me and perhaps sensing my angst, suggested, “Maybe it’s time you considered hormone therapy.”

Wow, the room fell silent, the heating vent hummed gently and traffic rumbled by out the on the street.

What unnerved me was how fast I nodded affirmatively and mouthed the word, “Yes!”

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is one of the watersheds of the transgender journey. I started asking myself how had I arrived at this point? It was hard to believe that the 10-year-old boy who didn’t play baseball after school, but instead ran home to raid his sister’s closet was now at that point.

This was something that other people did, you know, the real transsexuals. Didn’t I say just a few years ago that I was just a crossdresser? Was I deceiving myself back then or was I fooling myself now?

It was a record-breaking winter for Boston, cold and over six feet of snow. And to use a metaphor, it would also be a stormy one for me. I wasted no time calling the endocrinologist. It took a while getting things coordinated between my therapist and his staff, but I finally received a call at work one day from his office. I quickly found refuge in a conference room and a young woman asked, “Why exactly do you need to see Dr S?”

“Oh, gosh,” I thought, “I hope these walls at work are sound proof.”

Carefully and slowly the words came out “I am transgender.” There it was three simple words. It was cathartic, liberating and invigorating to say and hear.

She responded nonchalantly and professionally, “Oh, of course, I see you are being referred by Dr D.”

Her voice hesitated slightly as she inquired, “You are male-to-female?”

Her question took me by surprise and the words just kind of hung out there. I took a deep breath, swallowed and it felt astonishing as the words rolled off my tongue, “Yes male-to-female, female.” I said female twice just to hear it again. I then I repeated to myself I am “to female, going to female.”

The Berlin Wall just fell.

I would have two appointments with Dr S over the course of two months. The Boston weather would reschedule them more than once.

For practical reasons, I would go to both appointments in androgynous boy mode, wearing ladies jeans and top, I wanted to send a message.

At the first appointment, I met a young woman, who was a medical student. Dr S who teaches at Boston University Medical School, is leading a movement to include transgender health in medical school curriculums. It was enjoyable to share my narrative with this future doctor, knowing I was helping my transgender sisters down the road.

Dr S came and asked me a few questions about why I wanted to start HRT. He then outlined the results I could expect from HRT and the risks involved with it. His words on what to expect, “Murphy’s Law!” he began, “My 19-year-old patients looking for breast development are impatient and get little growth or redistribution of body fat.”

“My older married patients, who want to minimize the physical effects of HRT are sometimes surprised by their breast development.”

Most if not all of his patients, he added, are happy to be on HRT once they start. He outlined the dangers of increased cancer risks and the need to stop HRT when I get into my mid to late 60s because of the increased risk of stroke.

He asked that I participate in a study of transgender persons and that if my medical information could be used in that study. I was happy to comply knowing I was helping my sisters.

He wrote up orders for blood work at the lab on my way out.

I closed by showing him some photo’s of Paula, “Wow,” he said, “I think HRT would work well work you!”

The second time I met with Dr S, I also met another group of medical students. They too were inquiring and enthusiastic. I offered to answer any questions they had for a transgender person.

One young woman asked, “Why do you want to use feminizing hormones?”

I thought for a moment and while doing so, looked down at my arm which was waxed smooth and hairless and remembered how disgusted I felt when look at my hairy arms or body.

“How would you feel if one morning you woke up and your arms had male hair?”

She looked down at her arms for a second and then cringed, “I see what you mean.”

My blood work came back very good. Dr S cleared me for take-off and recommended a starting dosage of 1mg of Estradiol and 100mg of Spironolactone. The ball was over the net and in my court. It hit me right between the eyes!

I didn’t want to go into HRT without bringing my wife in on this decision. She typically wants to know very little about my transgender issues and keeps an out-of-sight, out-of-mind philosophy about it all.

I presented it this way: that both my doctors felt a low dosage HRT would benefit my anxiety and overall well-being. She was surprisingly accepting. Her only concern was me developing large breasts. She also added that if I decided to become a woman, she couldn’t and wouldn’t stay married to me. She would always love me, but this was something she could not deal with.

I had a woman who loved me so much, a family, friends, and a career. It was clear what I had. Where would this lead me? What would be the ramifications? It took me only a day to make my decision.

I decided not to pursue HRT. I felt guilty as if I let the woman in me down. Going on a low-dose regimen of HRT was not for me. I’d rather continue expressing my femininity without HRT because a low-dose regimen did not get me what I want in womanhood and puts so much of what I value at risk. But I realized that all women make difficult decisions. Putting one’s self behind the needs of your family is perhaps one of the most feminine acts I could make.

Dr S has left the opportunity open for me to pursue HRT if and when I want. I am glad I went through the process of getting approved for HRT. Having the approval of the medical community has validated and corroborated what I have felt since childhood. Having that option readily available has given me a certain peace and satisfaction.

Rivers start as a trickle and grow as they move through the landscape. Rivers provide life to people, agriculture, drinking water, transportation and energy. My river has grown deep and wide; to change its course now would be complicated; people have become dependent on it.

Oh, if I were at the trickle stage now, living in a post-Caitlyn Jenner world. If I were 20-years-old, there would be a transgender flag in my dorm room and I would set a different course.

However, everybody has that turning point ― a flash or a second, when you know you are about to make a choice that will chart the course for your life’s journey. Choose wrong and there may not be anything left to choose. That’s the conundrum, perhaps, what appears to be the incorrect decision may in actuality be the only way you can complete the journey with self-respect and the confidence of knowing you made the right choice.

Source: MyHabit
Wearing Nick by Nicholas

Halloween in Provincetown, circa 1960
Halloween in Provincetown, circa 1960


  1. Life is all about choices, Stana. I'm glad to see you chose to allow your blog spot to be used by others who make sense, too.

    Good on you!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment I appreciate the input I hope it helps many of our sisters

  2. Paula

    Thank you for sharing this very intimate look into your life, your thinking and your analysis with a perfectly wonderful piece of polished prose. With all of us we need to assess and evaluate our own situations and work to achieve a workable balance. We all have desires that must be viewed through the prism of our regular existance and the obligations that we have to others in our lives.

    I like the "Rubicon" analogy. It is always nice to equate current situations to great moments in world history. I like the Rubicon analogy more than the idea of facing the difficulty of trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube.

    HRT is a major step in both affirming and achieving a confirmation of femininity. It is interesting that the doctor would discontinue it at a certain age due to his concern with balancing the positive aspects of HRT with the potential negative aspects such as increased risk of stroke.


    1. Pat your replies are always so well thought out and they've addressed several parts of my article it took me several weeks to write this and yes the part about the Rubicon was delivered but I do like the analogy of the toothpaste to also thank you again for commenting looking forward to the future Paula

  3. Well written Paula. I always enjoy your posts here. Thanks for sharing. Two years ago i Had to make the same decision and it was a very tough one given my life long desires. It is also great to know that if things do change I can change and start again on my way. Have a fantastic day!

    1. Lisa is someone who is going through the same decision process I'm glad to hear that you appreciated my article as we know there's no correct way to be transgender and we all struggle with many difficult decisions thank you for your comment and your support Paula

  4. Well thought out - Enjoyed reading. Don't live a life that will only have regrets or wishes when you look back. "It is never too late to be what you might have been." George Eliot


    1. Rhonda I read your articles all the time and do appreciate them you have been a role model for me of sorts as for my future my options are always open and I still will continue to express myself as a woman whenever possible thank you Rhonda Paula

  5. It is easy to get self-obsessed about one's crossdressing and transgenderism, constantly thinking about what one wants and how one feels and what the arc of one's life could be and could have been and the trade-offs in terms of job and family and friends and home.

    But turning the telescope around is more important: if I follow a course, how will it affect my spouse and children and siblings and parents and wider family and friends, and those who I've built a relationship with? Making choices based on those wider personal circumstances is important.

    1. Thanks for your comment and yes turning the telescope on oneself is something that many of us have to do my decision was made with her incorrect or correct weighing many different principles thank you for taking the time to reply Paul

  6. He outlined the dangers of increased cancer risks and the need to stop HRT when I get into my mid to late 60s because of the increased risk of stroke. Re this comment I started a low dose of HRT when I was well past mid sixties and any older readers should not be put off by the Dr's advice. I am under the care of the leading UK specialists and age is not a barrier.

    I am in a similar position to Paula in that it would be too cruel to my wife of 47 years if I transitioned. However, she does come out with me for which I am so greatful.

    Regards Jae

  7. Sally StoneJuly 17, 2015

    Your essay was wonderful and enlightening. Deciding how far we should pursue our transgender nature is such a personal endeavor. It was so nice to hear the perspectives leading you to your choice. It reminds us that we should never be compelled to go any farther than we decide personally: what is right for us. The other important thing your comments reminded me of was the fact that choosing not to do HRT shouldn't diminish any of us as a woman. It's still about how we feel inside that defines us.



    1. Sally that is so correct just because I'm not on HRT doesn't make me less of a woman or a transgendered woman I plan on being as much of a woman as I can and expressing myself as much as possible and many things that I do thank you Paula

  8. Dear Paula,

    Thank You for sharing your beautifully written essay. It was very interesting to read. I always find your articles to be very well-written and interesting.

    Dear Stana,

    Thank You for your continuing sharing of Paula's articles, as well as other repeating contributors.



  9. Thank Paula for a wonderfully written article (and Stana for the continued work on this platform that makes it possible for Paula and others to be able to share their thoughts).

    I have read every blog published on Femulate over the last few years now - and I can honestly say this is perhaps the most thought provoking and enjoyable of those.

    I wish you (and those close to you) all the best as you continue on your journey

    Mivhelle xx

  10. HRT is nothing to fear. I have been on M2F HRT for almost 4 years and I feel much better with the HRT. Before I went on HRT I was depressed and suicidal. My wife has even stated she likes me much better with my being on HRT.

    I have retained my masculine name John and male gender designation, which I do not plan to change. For work and church I wear lipstick and eye makeup, and I have D cup breasts. And yet I have a basso profundo voice. It's a hoot to look a lot like a genetic woman and yet have the deepest voice in a choir while men with traditional masculine appearances have higher voices.

  11. Paula, It was like reading my own life, except that I am still to conclude my decision. I sincerely appreciate your decision, particularly putting the Family before your predicament. We stand my you.

  12. Paula, another excellent article! I started HRT 8 years ago when I was 55, and I really wished I had started earlier. I now enjoy very smooth skin and rarely have to shave my legs, but I started too late to get any significant breast development or curvy hips and derriere. I wish you the best on your journey!

  13. Thank you Paula, as a wide and deep River contemplating changes (how ever so slight). I appreciate another who lets the woman with in take a more compassionate role in those in their lives other then that which sometimes is just widow dressing for the soul! I'm in good company!

  14. Thank you so much for this article. You can't know how it has touched me, you don't know me, no one knows me, the real me. I have been on this road for 56 years (started at about 11) and I come to that fork in the road over and over and turn back each time afraid to go forward. Then purge and swear it is over, then something clicks and I move forward again. But you put this so perfectly, not taking the road to HRT and beyond I have made a choice. The choice is to express my feminine side as I always have, quietly and behind the closet door. When dressed I am a woman. I am complete in my mind and at ease. Now if I could come to terms with the self loathing that seems to be a part of this. I refuse to go into the darkness that gripped me ten years ago as I stopped at the fork in the road. Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for putting into words what I feel, my wife and family mean so much to me and taking the final step would be devastating to them, I can't do that to them. (now if I could figure out the captcha code thing, it drives me NUTS, grin)