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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have recently "come out" to my family for who I really am -- a transsexual. I have felt this way as long as I can remember. At 26, I could no longer hide myself and, after seeing a therapist, I have begun the process of changing my gender. Some members of my family support me. However, my father and grandparents are staunchly against this. They say they will not accept it because to do so would be to admit that God makes mistakes.

Abby, I am not a "mistake," and neither are others like me. I have had tests, and they confirm that this is genetic. In no way do I think that God makes mistakes. God made me this way, and I must deal with it in the way that makes me happiest. Since I have come out, I have been happier than I have ever been, and I plan to finish my transition over the next few years.

Every move I have made on this journey has been considerate of those around me, changing gradually rather than shocking them by completely altering my appearance overnight.

Could you please help me educate my family and others who know so little about what the transgendered community goes through? We struggle to lead normal lives and try to be productive in society. We are teachers, lawyers, doctors and office workers. As few as we are, we are not mistakes as my father claims. Still, we face prejudice on a daily

basis. We need our families to stand behind us as we make our way through this challenging journey. Please, Abby, help educate people to see that we are just like them. -- TRANSGENDERED IN CHICAGO

DEAR TRANSGENDERED: You are not a mistake. Followed to its logical conclusion, your father's attitude would make the entire medical profession unnecessary. Transsexualism is inborn. Children as young as 3 have insisted that their true gender is not their birth gender. I congratulate you for being honest about who you are, knowing it might be difficult for some people to understand. I also applaud those family members who support you.

The usual gender transition involves a period of psychotherapy to consider all of the ramifications, followed by hormonal therapy, and then living full-time in the new gender for at least a year before seeking sexual reassignment surgery.

This is not an easy process for the transsexual person, nor for the family. Parents often experience many of the same emotions that occur in the grief process -- shock, anger, denial, guilt, sadness, and finally acceptance. Learning to use the new name is difficult; new pronouns are even harder. All of this takes time and commitment, but is a necessary part of the process.

Loving parents who want their child to be happy must learn to be accepting. Many transsexuals live very successfully in their new gender, and claim they are truly happy for the first time in their lives. Many families are proud of their "new" sons and daughters and report their relationships have vastly improved since their child's transition.

I would urge any family in this situation to contact PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). They have many resources available for transgendered people and their families. Their mailing address is: PFLAG, 1726 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036 and the Web address is

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