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Ask Dr. GenderFixIt (Tapestry No. 108) (2005)

Ask Dr. GenderFixIt (Tapestry No. 108) (2005)

©2005, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Denny, Dallas. (2006, Summer). Ask Dr. GenderFixIt. Transgender Tapestry, 108, pp. 48-52.





Dear Dr. GenderFixIt

My birthday falls on Halloween. This year, as a lark, I dressed as a woman— stockings, high heels, bra, slinky dress, long red wig, makeup, the whole nine yards. I was a knockout! My best friends didn’t recognize me!


Problem was, one night wasn’t enough. After three or four days of me being Jessica Rabbit, my friends started wondering what was up with me. And I was wondering what was going on with me, too!


I started sneaking out of the house at night so my friends wouldn’t know I was still dressing up. The first time, I just went to the post office to mail a letter. The second time, I went into a convenience store to buy cigarettes, even though I don’t smoke. The third time, I went into a gay bar, which was a novel experience, since I’m straight.


At the bar, I met a male-to-female transsexual. I knew then and there that was what I wanted to do. Change my sex, I mean. I couldn’t wait to get started.


She told me the name of a surgeon, and I called him. He told me he wouldn’t do the operation until I had lived as a woman for a year. What’s up with that? How can I be a woman until I have the operation that makes me a woman?


Wanting Surgery Now!
Carmen Gettit

Dr. GenderFixIt’s diagnosis: you have a severe case of pink fog. That will be $100, please. Next!

Pink fog is the condition in which you find yourself when you get into a euphoric state just after you start crossdressing or find yourself at a new level in your gender journey. You’re so pumped up you can think of nothing else. Everything chafes you. You want to tell the world, you want to kick it up a notch, you want to never take off the clothes.

The problem with the pink fog is that like most mists, it tends to dissipate when the sun hits it. It’s impossible to maintain such a high state of excitement. Eventually, you calm down and cool off. Eventually, the other aspects of your life come back into focus and reclaim your attention.

When you re-establish balance in your life, you can take a realistic look at yourself and make sensible plans for your future. But making big changes while you’re in the pink fog is almost certain to have disastrous results.

Let’s be real here. Most males can maintain a high level of enthusiasm about almost anything for a year or two. After that, their exuberance fades. A guy tears up the golf course for two years, and then his clubs gather dust in the closet. He spends a fortune on electric trains, which take over his basement, and they wind up rusting in the basement. The motorcycle he just had to have sits moldering away in the shed behind the house. His closet is full of reminders of past enthusiasms: fishing tackle, dusty baseball gloves, that custom-made bowling ball.

Believe it or not, your excitement at crossdressing may diminish with time. Now, imagine if that were to happen, but while you were fog-bound, you had gone out and bought yourself a brand new vagina. You certainly couldn’t park that in the closet, now could you?

If you’ve not figured out where this advice column is going, you’re not as bright as your good doctor suspects you are. Right! Now you know the reason for the surgeon’s requirement that you live as a woman for a year before he will do genital surgery. It protects you, and, ultimately, him, from the consequences of a rash decision, diminishing the chance that you will dust off and load one of those reminders of a past hobby with buckshot and come after him.

This wait of one year, known as the Real Life Experience,” is one of the criteria of the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care. Another requirement is that you provide two letters written by therapists who attest that you have a clue about what you are doing. Right now, dear Carmen, you are without one!

If, six months or a year from now, you feel much the same way, then you might want to think about taking some steps to feminize your body. For now, I suggest you continue to carefully enjoy your crossdressing adventures.

You old coot! Is that really your picture?



You got me! I’m busted. No, that’s not my picture. It is, however, a photo of my real-life paternal great-grandfather.

Help! I’m male-to-female, a year post-op, and I’m having a problem with intercourse. Luckily, I have sufficient depth, and the equipment seems to function properly, but I have a problem with hair. What was once outside is now on the inside, and I don’t mean to gross you out, but it makes for tangles and the occasional hairball. Is there any way to get rid of this unwanted hair?


Needing Nair

Ten years ago, SRS surgeons were aware of this problem, but didn’t take in seriously. At the HBIGDA conference in 1992, one joked from the stage in a plenary session that his patients were so grateful to have vaginas that they didn’t mind the hair. Most transsexuals with problems like yours tended to keep it to themselves.

In the mid-1990s, the American Educational Gender Information Service published in their journal a letter from a transsexual woman in their journal, Chrysalis. She complained about your very problem. A few months later, AEGIS issued a medical advisory bulletin, discussing the problem. Immediately, surgeons in the U.S. began suggesting to their potential patients that they have their penile and scrotal hair removed by electrolysis during the Real Life Experience, so they would be cleared by the surgery date.

Female electrologists (and most electrologists are female), tend to regularly get calls from kinky men asking for hair removal around their genitals. This is apparently a form of exhibitionism. Most electrologists just say no. (One electrologist told Dr. GenderFixIt she once told a man to come on in, hooked him up, and zapped him with the largest voltage her machine was capable of producing. He paid her, put on his pants, and left, and his calls stopped. Another fantasy had come face-to-face with reality!)

After the release of the AEGIS advisory, electrologists were aware there was a difference between thrill-seeking men and male-to-female transsexuals, and many began to provide the treatment. Today, it’s relatively easy to find an electrologist who is willing to clear you “down under.”

It’s possible to treat the hair post-operatively, but it will be difficult for the electrologist to get to some of it, and it’s likely to be even more painful than usual. I should think that a few sessions should at least help. Good luck, if you try it!

I’m into guys (I’m an FTM), but I’m not having much luck with gay men. I’m suitably beary, and have some luck picking up guys, but despite my pelt, as soon as the pants come off and they see I’m without you-know-what, they tend to remember they are urgently needed elsewhere. What should I do?


Dickless in Seattle

First, let me say you have one hell of a way of coming out to your f**k buddies! “Here it is! Not quite what you expected, but deal with it!” Dr. GenderFixIt submits that almost any man in that situation would remember he has to do brain surgery across town in fifteen minutes.

Your partners are taken aback. Even those who might be willing to experiment are going to bug out when they find your genitals aren’t what the rest of your body is advertising.

For many gay men, it’s all about penises. For this reason, gay FTMs are often dismissed as potential sexual partners— but there are those who like trannies, and those who might not prefer them, but who are willing to experiment or accommodate. I should think you would save yourself time and trouble if you were to make your tricks aware of your situation up front, before you get them home and shock and awe them.

You might be surprised how many guys might say yes if you begin to introduce the topic during your initial negotiations rather than keeping it a secret until the, ahem, ball drops.

Dear Doc:


You’re got to help me! It’s my voice. It just doesn’t work. I’ve read all the books and watched all the videos, given a fortune to the speech therapist, and practiced, practiced, practiced, but I’m not at Carnegie Hall— nor does my voice work. It gets me clocked every time I open my mouth. Should I have voice surgery?



Your good doctor has noticed something curious with regard to MTF voices— often, they don’t change at all. Would you be surprised to learn I have a theory about this? No? Somehow I knew you wouldn’t. Do you want to hear it? Probably not, but here it is anyway.

I’ve come to believe many MTFs have a psychological inhibition against speaking in a feminine manner. Paradoxically, something inside them stops them from speaking in the way they so desperately want. They won’t and can’t allow their voices outside the comfortable box in which they have been speaking since their voice broke when they were like twelve years old.

As unlikely as it may sound, I think they’re afraid of producing a voice outside the masculine norm.

Most men carefully monitor their voices and behavior over their entire lives, making sure they don’t more or sound in any way that might be interpreted as homosexual. Eventually, they pay little or no conscious attention to their speech, but they are still monitoring themselves, making sure there is no deviation from their manly voices.

When, in their forties or fifties, they change gender roles, they often have difficulty breaking out of their vocal comfort zone. The books and tapes, the voice lessons— none of it works, because they won’t let it.

There’s a famous— perhaps I should say infamous, as it’s notorious for its utter lack of production values— videotape called “Melanie Speaks.” Several speech therapists have told Doc GenderFixIt in confidence they believe some of Melanie’s suggested techniques could damage the voice— but the part of the tape I found most interesting and instructive was her suggestion that her students allow themselves to speak in silly cartoonish voices. She illustrates with Mel Blanc voices: Warner Brothers cartoon characters Daffy Duck and Agent K-9 From Outer Space and the like, sounding ridiculous and funny. This is the very thing that so inwardly horrifies many MTF people.

I’ve tried to get some of these trapped-in-the-voice-box women to venture outside their familiar territory, but with no luck. “I don’t want to sound silly,” they say. Or gay, I think.

There’s more to achieving a feminine voice than merely raising the pitch, of course. Men and women’s voices and speech differ in any number of ways: phrasing, level of inflection, choice of words, subject matter, you name it. Most of these characteristics don’t depend upon physiology and are entirely amenable to chance— but only if one allows oneself out of the voice box. Hmmm. The voice box. I like that.

But that’s just my theory. Perhaps there’s another reason why so many MTFs can’t achieve a feminine voice. Or, and let’s just imagine this, perhaps their basses and baritones and tenors are merely natural MTF voices. Perhaps they just have the voices MTFs naturally have. Perhaps they should be proud of the voices they have and stop trying to achieve voices their inner selves are telling them aren’t right for them. Just a thought.

Dr. GenderFixIt believes no one whose inner self prevents them from speaking more femininely should have voice surgery. First, that inner barrier will still be there, stopping you from speaking in a feminine manner, no matter what pitch the otolaryngologist (now there’s a word!) leaves you with. Second, voice surgery is problematic. Many surgeries voices are hoarse or weak, and many are practically impossible to listen to. Think Minnie Mouse.

Let yourself out of the “voice box.” Find your natural voice, unencumbered by inner constraints. Consider surgery only if that natural voice is not to your liking.

Electrolysis. Gotta love it, gotta hate it.


After two years of twice-weekly sessions, my bank account is more than $10k lighter. Most of the work has been done on my face and neck. I got laid off from my job two months ago (I suspect because the bosses got wind of my impending transition) and haven’t been able to afford my sessions. Now my beard is back, as black and heavy as it ever was. Have I wasted money enough to buy a Harley-Davidson?


Deborah Hairy

I’m afraid you have. Only a Sportster though, not one of the big panheads.

Dr. G. has a theory about electrolysis (didn’t you just know I would?) It’s this: some electrologists kill hair, some don’t. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell which type is getting your $95 a hour. You’ll find out only when you run out of money and stop treatment.

The reason for this: even if the hair root is undamaged after it’s treated, the hair is gone and won’t grow back for six to eight weeks. If you’re having regular ineffective electrolysis, this tweezing will give you a smooth face and you’ll think you’re being cleared. You’ll know the awful truth only when you take a treatment holiday.

The trannie grapevine will usually point you to the effective electrologists. I suggest that for referrals, you look for transwomen with smooth, natural-appearing complexions; most will wear little or no makeup, as they don’t need it to achieve a credibly feminine appearance. Ask them for the name of their zapper. I’d be surprised if a pattern doesn’t emerge.

You’ll almost certainly come across women who will brag about their faces, but you’ll see they don’t look quite right. Those will be the unfortunates who, like you, think they’re being cleared, but aren’t. This isn’t surprising— they’ve paid a fortune for electrolysis or laser hair removal and have a vested interest in it working. They can achieve an astounding level of denial.

Women born women don’t have hairless faces; their skin is covered with fine, blonde vellus hairs, giving their cheeks a downy appearance. This fine down is a sign of womanhood. Shaving and waxing remove the down; only electrolysis and laser hair removal will leave it. That’s why it’s important to get rid of dark beard hair only. A face without dark hair and with thin vellus hair makes for a naturally feminine presentation. A face scraped clean with a razor and smothered with Derma-Blend doesn’t.

Your good doctor knows many transsexual women who have transitioned without completing (and in some cases without even starting) electrolysis. Many are unfortunates who found their transition schedule wrecked by a year or more of ineffective hair removal. Doctor G. suggests that as distasteful as you might find it, you modify your schedule so you’ll transition with a clear face.

Why? Well, the point of the transsexual process is (or should be) for you to have a better life. The trans women I know who have transitioned without being cleared tend to find life difficult.

How so? Well, consider. First, they must shave and paint before going out the door for any reason. It’s ultimately wearying to have to spend an hour shaving and making up in order to pick up ciggies at the 7-11; this once-pleasant activity can eventually become an ordeal. Second, heavy makeup attracts scrutiny in public and increases the probability of getting read. This translates to increased risk or harassment, anti-trans violence, and difficulty in getting dates and employment.

When one has transitioned with facial hair, it’s difficult to continue with electrolysis. First, who can afford it on a woman’s salary? Second, when is one to be treated? Electrolysis requires that hair be long enough to grasp with tweezers. This takes a minimum of three days. When will someone living full-time find the time to cloister herself long enough to grow a face full of hair– and how will she get to the electrologist with Don Johnson stubble?

Transition thus becomes a not-so-tender trap, and quality of life can spiral downward, culminating in increased risk of depression, suicide, and the necessity of doing distasteful things in order to keep food on the table—all because of a few (well, a few tens of thousand) hair follicles. I’ve met many such unfortunate folk. Many become angry, embittered people, the result of bad experiences in their new life. Curiously, the folks I know who have had electrolysis just don’t seem to wind up in this predicament! But then again, if they go a couple of days without aggressive grooming, they don’t look like Grizzly Adams.

This is a lot of karma to lay on bad electrolysis, but the Doc calls ’em as he sees ’em.

What about laser hair removal, you may ask? I’ve yet to see someone with a clear face as a result of laser. Perhaps I’ve just not been in the right place at the right time. Perhaps they’re really out there. Same as the ET grays. I rather doubt it. It may be possible to get a jump on electrolysis with laser treatment, but laser won’t work on everyone, or on all hairs in anyone, and I rather think the light-damaged follicles eventually regenerate anyway, especially if they are under the influence of testosterone.

How many hours of electrolysis should it take to get rid of a male beard? Good question; glad you asked. The long answer is no one really knows. Only one paper to date has been published with date on facial clearing in transsexuals. From those data, it would seem 50 hours of “flash” electrolysis (thermolysis) should certainly make a huge difference, and 100-200 hours should clear all but the worst-case face. The number of hours will vary, depending on the number and nature of hairs on the face, the speed of the electrolysis, and the kill rate.

Dr. GenderFixIt suggests those undergoing electrolysis take a treatment holiday every 20-25 hours to asses the effectiveness of their treatment. If there’s no significant change, it may be time to find another electrologist.

One more thing— your good genderfixit doctor has noticed that when MTFs are on feminizing dosages of hormones, electrolysis seems more effective. Estrogens will not, of course, get rid of your beard, but you may find it changes in texture and grows more slowly. When follicles are damaged and T is present, it’s as if the hormone is urging them to stop being a sissy and get on with making hair. On estrogen, they seem less likely to recover. This is only another one of my theories, but I think it’s a good one.

And oh, yes, one more thing yet again. Your doctor believes, based on his extensive observation (you can see from my photo how effective my own electrolysis was) that hair treated during the initial stages of growth— it’s called anagen— is more likely to be permanently killed than if treated at any other time.

Hair cells have a growth cycle; new hair is produced (anagen), matures (telogen), and eventually falls out and the cycle repeats. When an electrologist jumps around on the face, treating a hair here and a hair there, most of the hairs will be in the telogen phase. When an electrologist concentrates on a discrete portion of the face, however, effectiveness may be higher. On first treatment most of the hair will of course be in the telogen phase, but if she keeps the space clear in subsequent treatments, most of their hair will be in the anagen phase and consequently will have a greater probability of being killed. Each treatment will result in a progressively larger hairless area— which will no longer require shaving! It is in this way the transsexual women I have known have acquired beardless faces.

This leads to an idea. If one had her face cleared by, say, laser treatment, and began electrolysis on the hairs as they began to re-emerge, the effectiveness of the electrolysis (and of course the number of dollars required) might be reduced substantially. This would, of course, expedite transition.

Your doctor has visited transsexual women in their hospital rooms following surgery. It’s a disquieting sight to see newly-vaginated, bearded ladies in post-op recovery— and most are, in act, bearded. It makes me wonder why so many transsexual women spend so much money for something that will make so little difference in their lives (after all, who will see it?) while avoiding something that can make a huge difference in the way they are perceived in public, and hence a big difference in their quality of life. Are they all victims of bad electrolysis, or is there a more fundamental process at work?

Until next time, my bearded darlings!