On the Science of Changing Sex

Cognitive Dissonance and Vector Transform Miscalculations in Transgender Tensor Space

Posted in Autobiographical, Editorial by Kay Brown on June 2, 2017

Kay Brown 2010Tension said the Tensor
Tension said the Tensor
Tension Apprehension and Dissention have begun

I am turning 60 years old this week.  This means that it has been 42 years since I transitioned full-time the same week I turned 18, graduated from high school, and was informed that I was being kicked out.  Much has happened since then, both personally and within the transsexual and transgender communities.  In the vein of “ya either laugh or cry”, offered for your consideration are random dialogs and events over the decades.  The events were real, only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

In early ’75, I’m 17 years old, in my bedroom in my mother’s house, which looked like an unused spare bedroom, devoid of personal touches, always neat as a pin, ready for that unexpected guest to occupy it; my father is pleading with me not to be transsexual, “No one will hire you.  You will never have a career.  Just live as a man.  We will look the other way when you have boyfriends over.”

I think bitterly, but don’t voice my thought, “yeah… just like you and the rest of the family treat Uncle Charles!” (my father’s closeted gay brother, the one we were never allowed to meet or talk about).

My father then goes on, attempting to bargain with me, bribe me, “If you stay living as a man the rest of the time, I will pay for vacations where you can dress as a woman.”

I lost it! He was confusing me with a transvestite or a drag queen?  I actually yelled back, out loud, “I AM NOT A PART-TIME WOMAN!”


Kay Brown in college

I’m at a “Grooming Seminar” at the Stanford Gender Dysphoria Clinic in early ’76.  I had been living as a girl, attending a junior college, since the previous summer.  I attend in the hopes of getting my “letter” approving me for SRS.  It is the very first time that I’ve ever met any other “transsexuals”.  During a break, several transwomen, all much older, are crowded, towering, around and over me, making me very uncomfortable as they alternately comment on my looks, my age (just 18 years old), even my body, in an obviously lascivious and simultaneously jealous way.  One of them asks about my romantic life.  I mention that I’m dating some young men.  One asks,

“How is that possible?!?

“They ask me out, I say yes,” I shrug.

Both they and I are confused by the encounter.

In the summer of ’77, after two full years post full-time social transition and HRT, I agree to meet my father’s new fiancee, just she and I.  I had heard from one of my brothers that she was not very bright and only a few years older than I.  I’m sitting next to her dressed, much like she was, as a young woman, face lightly made up, with natural long hair in the bright warmth of the summer sun, in a public place so that I could leave in haste in case the interview became ugly, as so many with others of my family had in the past.  During our short encounter she attempted to reassure me that she was “OK” with me be “homosexual” and that she “knew all about it” because she had seen The Boys In The Band.

I looked at her for a moment with my mouth open in shock and silence!  I swallowed what I wanted to scream at her, “How clueless are you?  I’m transsexual, not a gay man!”

Once again, I’m at a “Grooming Seminar” in late ’77.  One of the events specially scheduled for this day is a make-over session in which a make-up expert has been brought in to demonstrate how to use make-up to allow one to pass.  She asks for a volunteer.  As the only ‘young transitioner’ in the audience, well-known to the others to wear almost no make-up beyond mascara and eye-liner, I was by general acclamation “volunteered” with much cat-calling and barely suppressed jealous jeering, as I was literally compelled toward the stands by gentle pushes and shoves.  As I join the make-up artist on the stage, this young woman does a serious double-take.  She looks at me, looks at her make-up selection, and despairs.  I later learn from her that she had been told to expect that she would have to cover heavy five-o-clock shadows and coarse ruddy complexions.  She examines my face, noting that I was as smooth skinned as she is without a trace of beard (I had never grown one, never needed electrolysis.)  She asks,

“You have such lovely complexion, what do you use to cleanse and moisturize?”

“Cold cream and rubbing alcohol.”  I answer honestly.  I could barely afford to eat, much less buy expensive skin creams!

“Really?” she asks incredulously, pausing to consider what to do, ” I don’t know what to do.  I don’t have the right make up for your face!”  Which brings more titters and cat-calls from the far older transwomen in the audience who are clearly enjoying her discomfiture, likely having anticipated this development.  I feel my face blush pink from embarrassment.  “Hold on, I know…” as she grabs her purse and pulls out her own personal travelling make-up kit.  Turns out, we have identical coloring.  She makes-up my face such that I look like a beauty magazine model.

ACLUAt a political gathering in the summer of 1982 of several dozen transsexuals, mostly ‘late transitioning’ transwomen and their wives, a woman asks my friend Joy,

“Where is your Significant Other?”

“I’m single.”

“Oh, then who did you come with?”

“My friend,” pointing at me. 

“I’m confused.  Then why are you here?  Most of us only came to support our SO’s,” having looked me over and decided that I wasn’t transsexual either.

“I’m a member of the ACLU committee.”

“Oh wait, you mean that YOU are TS?  OMG!  I’m sorry, I thought you were one of us.”  (meaning, one of the natal female wives and girlfriends)

At an FtM conference in late ’99, where I had been invited to give a talk on TransHistory, a very similar dialog occurs as a transman and his wife ask me,

“Where is your husband?”

“He’s at home.  He’s not interested in these sorts of events.”

“Ummm… then when are you planning to transition?” as he looks me over, obviously both admiring my trim figure in a cute feminine outfit while frowning in confusion and some disapproval.

“Transition?  I did that over twenty five years ago!”

“You’re MTF?  Wow!” as he gives me an even more admiring gaze, “Wow!”

Young transitioning, androphilic transwomen, being a small minority, get this all of the time.  We don’t look “transgender” and even other transfolk aren’t that familiar with us.

Late transitioning transwomen believe that there is only one type, so they tend to make invalid assumptions.  During a discussion at a local political meeting where all of the ‘late transitioning’ transwomen are huddled together discussing their military service, one snags me and asks,

“So when were you in the military?”

“What?  They don’t let TS folk in the military!”

“Of course not, I meant before the change…”

“They don’t let minors join either.”



On another day, it doesn’t matter when, and I’m having a discussion in my kitchen with a transwoman I invited over for coffee to discuss transactivism plans.  She makes a comment about one of my roommates, assuming that she is my girlfriend, wondering aloud if she will mind that she is there.

“What makes you think that she and I are an item?”

“Well, you live together.  And it’s obvious that you are affectionate with each other.”

“We have separate bedrooms.”


“We have separate bedrooms.  I’m not into women.  I’ve been dating men since I was a teenager.”

“But, if you are only into men, how come you’re hanging out with me?”

“Because I thought you were interesting as a person.  I wanted to talk about working together.  This isn’t a date!”

Serious misunderstandings between myself and late transitioning transwomen have happened repeatedly in my life.  It is understandable, if one knows that people tend to project their own motives and world view upon others as their working assumption until proven wrong.


Kay Brown with her adopted daughter Liz

I’m with my adopted daughter, Liz, at a large social gathering at the private home of a much older transwoman, literally a rocket scientist, that includes a fair number of late transitioning transwomen in Silicon Valley.  Everyone there is “cool” about transgender folk and I’ve been introduced, and thus ‘outed’ as being trans, before I even got there.  A middle-aged woman approaches me,

“Your daughter is so well-behaved and lovely and looks so much like you.”

“Yes, it’s amazing.  I guess we both just got lucky that way.”

“So where is her mother? Is she here, or is this your weekend to babysit?”

“I’m her mother.”

“Oh… oh yes, of course you are.  I meant her real mother.”

“If you mean her birth mother, I wouldn’t know, I’ve never met her.”


“I adopted Liz.  I’ve never met her birth parents.  And no, this isn’t my weekend to ‘babysit’.  I’m her mother!”

I wanted to scream at this woman who was so completely clueless on multiple levels.  First, she assumed that I was Liz’s sire, that her birth mother was my ex-wife.  I wanted to scream, “NO, I’m not her FATHER.  I’ve never even FUCKED a woman in my entire life!  Oh for fuck’s sake, I transitioned a decade before Liz was even born!”


Jeff and Kay saying their vows

I’m at a trendy wine bar in 2013 in Sacramento the evening after having spoken, by invitation, on a panel at a women’s conference earlier.  The conference organizer is drunk, loudly outs me to several other women, then tells me that she has dated transwomen before, making it very clear that she finds me attractive.  She and her friend stand on either side of me, penning me in as they proceed to hit on me, her friend taking my hand and suggestively stoking it for a moment, then puzzled, notes my wedding and engagement rings, soldered together as one, asks,

“What’s this?”

“My wedding ring.  I’m married.”

“You’re married?”

“Yes, I’m married.  His name is Jeff.  We have a daughter, Liz.”

“I thought you were transgender…”


Kay, Jeff, Liz, & Reese

I wave my hands, shaking my head, as I pull away to make a timely exit to walk back to the B&B for the night.  The next morning, I have a very serious talk to the conference organizer about her inappropriate behavior, explaining why it is not cool to out transwomen in public, nor to hit on them so aggressively, assuming that we are all sexually attracted to women.  She was shocked.  She sincerely thought that ALL transwomen were attracted to women.

Over forty years of embarrassing misunderstandings.  I sincerely hope that with greater visibility of transkids, they will experience far fewer of these…

Further Reading:

The Invisible Transsexual

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