DEAR ABBY: I have a medical condition known as gender identity disorder -- more commonly called transsexualism. I have prayed every night ever since I was a young boy that God would turn me into a girl. During my teens and into adulthood, I learned to live with the constant pain of pretending to be a man when, really, all I wanted was to live my life as a woman. However, earlier this year I began the gradual process to transition from male to female.
After years of therapy for depression, ingesting dozens of different medications for a variety of misdiagnosed ailments, hospitalization for post-traumatic stress disorder, and daily thoughts of suicide, I made the decision to reveal my lifelong secret to my siblings, some friends and professional colleagues. Generally, the reaction has been supportive.
It is now time to tell my adult children and parents that I intend to live the rest of my life as a woman. How to tell them, and what to tell them, is causing me great distress. Any advice you can offer would be appreciated. -- "LILY" IN THE VALLEY
DEAR "LILY": Tell them exactly what you have told me. Explain that this is not a whim, but the actualization of something you have felt since you were a child. Tell them that making this choice has been so difficult that it has cost you years of depression, ineffective medications, hospitalization and repeated thoughts of suicide.
Your parents and children are bound to be shocked, so be prepared for it. Answer their questions and concerns honestly. An excellent way to deal with this would be to have the discussion in the presence of your psychotherapist.
It would also be a good idea to have on hand some literature on the subject of transsexualism. One book that's recommended by the International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE) is "True Selves" by Mildred L. Brown and Chloe Ann Rounsley. It can be ordered from the IFGE by calling (781) 899-2212. Or, visit the Web site at ifge.org. P-FLAG has a support group for parents of transgendered people, aptly called "TransParents." The Web address for P-FLAG is www.pflag.org.
DEAR ABBY: Veterans and their families might be interested to know about a new Web site: www.govbenefits.gov. It's government-sponsored, and organizes 500 federal and state benefit programs, targeting citizens into one single site. Veterans can log on, answer a few anonymous questions and find out which benefits they may be eligible to receive. It's also a helpful site for case workers, relatives or caregivers.
I answered the questions for my grandfather, a World War II veteran from 1941-'45, and discovered 21 benefit programs for which he might be eligible. -- KEITH NELSON, WASHINGTON, D.C.
DEAR KEITH: Bless you for sharing this information with my readers. Upon further investigation, I learned that www.govbenefits.gov was created by the U.S. Department of Labor, with contributions by 10 federal agencies and several states. (There is at least one benefit in every state.) Hosted by firstgov.gov, which just celebrated its fourth anniversary, the site also includes a Spanish language version: www.govbenefits.gov/es. Bravo!
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