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The need for Post Transition Support

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the suicide of Christine Daniels / Mike Penner (October 10, 1957 – November 27, 2009). To briefly summarize, Mike Penner was born a genetic male, and around the age of 48 transitioned to female (Christine) and wrote about her transition and life as a sportswriter for the L.A Times. Because of her high profile, there was a lot written about the story (NPR).  The transition included a painful divorce.  About a year later she started using her old name of Mike Penner in her/his byline signifying some return to the male gender, and then suicide. So we are left with a lot of questions about what went wrong.

The incident raises the question of aftercare for post-transition individuals.

My experience is that people come into therapy when they want to transition, and very often their focus is on physical and practical matters, such as hormones, Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS), voice, facial hair, etc.. People have been focused on ‘transitioning’ for so long in their own private thoughts and the process is so involved that very often the individual and perhaps their therapist are not as focused on what happens afterwords. The gender dysphoria has been such a problem in one’s life that ‘transitioning’ comes to be seen as the solution.

Many other problems emotional and otherwise are understandably not addressed because of the overwhelming nature of gender dysphoria, and so it can be something of a rude shock to find these issues emerge after transition.

There also can be some level of dissatisfaction with the outcome of transition, one’s presentation, and various maintenance functions that are needed to maintain the gender identity.

Relationships with family, co-workers and others may be challenging.  While the transgendered person has had a lot of time to think about their gender and transition, other people in their lives have had much less time.

For MTF (Male to Female) transitions, there’s the problem of suddenly experiencing sexism.  In addition one might be suddenly seen to the outside world as lesbian, if one’s sexual orientation is towards woman.  If someone has been living life from a place of male privilege, and never having been in a discriminated against group before, this can be a pretty big adjustment to make.

I can only imagine that Mike/Christine suffered from some of these problems.   What has your post-transition experience been like?  Did you seek any type of help specifically for post-transition issues?


Find out about Psychotherapy when dealing with Gender variance in yourself or someone close to you.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. One way to look at transition is to see it as a passage through which we travel as we become more our authentic selves…

    …For me, I am at the far end of this passage, where I am now seeing light again, and pretty things, and breathing fresh are: I am beginning to emerge from the most earth-shaking parts of transition as I “settle-into” live as a woman. I have always been a female person, but like every woman, I must *become*…

    …Of course, there is also the sense of transition as a lifelong journey, and I am coming into that space as I become increasingly assimilated into the culture of women, AS A WOMAN…

    I am socially, maritally, legally and (increasingly) biologically a woman.

    …Now I am considering things that were far-off in my early transition: what does the “end” of my transition look like? I don’t need specifics, but I need a little clarity around some things: social things, relationship things and body things. Socially I am in both the community of women and the community of trans folk – I love both and want remain a part of both – I need balance. In my marriage, how do we define “transgender marriage,” and what does it look like in practice? In my body, I am still pre-op and desperately want surgery but my spouse cannot deal with this and remain married: can I endure my body as-is (a Woman With A Penis)? How much longer?

    These are different issues than I faced early-on, five years ago when I began to gradually and gently move through androgyny to where I am now. I am *so blessed* to be myself, more myself, a woman, AND I didn’t need to tell others: they looked at me and came to the conclusion themselves.

    January 7, 2014

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