Jul 252011

ColleenColleen sits across from me in a vinyl booth in a funky burrito restaurant. She is a self proclaimed hippy chick, with red hair and a multitude of freckles. She confesses that she put on makeup special for today and I’m amused because I did too. We’re also both vegetarians, both tattooed, both love sex, and both deeply spiritual. More than that, we each have 5 children. What’s different? Well, Colleen is currently a college student and I am not. Oh, and Colleen was born into a male body.

When I asked her about her gender, Colleen said, “I’m just a girl… I’m female.” While she says that binary gender (boy OR girl) is “bullshit,” she also tells me that she knew at 3 years old that she was a girl. Unfortunately, Colleen “come(s) from a place where they will beat you and hang you on the fence to die if you’re different.” So Colleen set out to do all of the really masculine things to disguise herself. She got married right out of high school, rode bulls, had guns, went big game hunting, fishing, had children, and was in the Army for 20 years.

Then a few years ago, after struggles with alcoholism and some gender experimentation and cross-dressing, Colleen realized that she couldn’t pretend to be a boy anymore. Her girlfriend at that time decided she couldn’t deal with losing her boyfriend like that, so they split. Colleen points out, “gender and sexuality are so not the same thing.” Because Colleen was attracted to women before her transition, she still is (although there’s that one boy). She’s a lesbian into natural hippy chicks. I flashed her my armpits.

But what does a gender transition look like, I want to know. Colleen introduced me to the “Standards of Care” – the directives that most of the medical community follow for transition from one gender to the other. Here is how Colleen explained it to me:

  1. A diagnosis of “Gender Dysphoria,” meaning that the birth gender doesn’t fit the person’s feeling of gender
  2. Intensive therapy with someone who specializes in gender issues
  3. Spend at least 1 year living as the gender you are becoming (RLE, or real life experience)
  4. Get a letter from your therapist recommending medical treatment
  5. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  6. Gender reassignment surgery

ColleenColleen has progressed through the first 5 steps. Surgery is problematic for a few reasons, but mostly it’s extremely expensive and not widely available. This does mean that Colleen still has a penis and as she says, “I use my cock cuz I have one.” I was kind of surprised to discover that most trans folk still have original plumbing because I would not have guessed from outward appearances. Gender really is about what’s inside and how you present to the world.

For Colleen, taking hormone has been a blessing. She finds herself in better health than she has ever been in before, as though the her body now has the right chemical balance for the first time. Hormones have also started her breasts growing. She jokes that looking at them will make them grow. Later, I had her flash me in the restroom. The rest of the effects of hormones are similar to going through puberty. Colleen says, “I love what is happening to my body now.” She even likes the monthly hormonal cycles and bemoans not cramping or bleeding. (But she hates that she still has to shave facial hair – sometimes twice a day. Removing facial hair is a cosmetic change.)

Hormones have even changed Colleen’s sexual turn ons, although she says it’s, “not just the hormones, it’s the headspace. Sex depends on what’s going on emotionally.”  and “sex is very emotional for me.” She’s experimenting with what is successful sexually now. She reports that it works about 90% of the time. I’m still kind of hung up on the chicks with dicks phenomenon, but then Colleen says, “I have never been really genitally focused sexually. I mean obviously, that’s where a lot happens (but) my whole body is an erogenous zone.” Oh yeah, that’s how I feel too.

So I want to know how Colleen’s family is responding to her transition. She has two small daughters who are 4 and 6 years old. How do you tell small children that Daddy is now Mommy? Well, in typical small child fashion, they work it out for themselves. Colleen is open to her children’s preferences as far as a title, but admits that it’s awkward to be called Daddy in the Ladies Room. The girls have taken to calling her DaddyMommy and more and more often just Mommy as they perceive that it makes her happy. They are dealing with the changes with great equanimity.

Not so Colleen’s father. She says, “My dad is John Wayne.” He believes that men don’t express emotion. He’s deeply in denial and has gone to great lengths to avoid talking about Colleen’s transition. About a year and a half ago, Colleen sent her dad a letter explaining what was going on. After 2 months without a response, she started to fear that she was losing her dad. She had a bit of a breakdown, but finally called her father. They spoke for 45 minutes about cheerful things they had in common, but nothing real. Finally Colleen asked about the letter, which he admitted he had read but believed Colleen had “crawled back into the bottle or was on something.” At this point Colleen had been sober for about about a year and was really angered by his response. She said, “Fuck you! I was sober then and I’m sober now. And this isn’t changing. This is for real.” He got off the phone pretty quick, but they can still talk as long as Colleen doesn’t mention anything about the sex-change. It’s a tricky situation to be in.

ColleenThe only other discrimination Colleen has run into was getting beaten up during Gay Pride, after leaving a gay bar. As she points out, someone was going to get beaten, it might as well have been her. Still, it’s a shitty situation that would leave anyone feeling bad and she speaks of it with more calm than I could muster.

She tells me that it’s important to “be proud of your true self” and explains that she just has a birth defect – she should have been born female and wasn’t. I think she’s very brave and amazing. She has a charming way of maintaining a steely spine while looking at the positives in life. I want to help other people like her. I ask what she would tell people who are considering a transition. She says, “Fucking go for it because you have a chance to be happy for the first time. But! Get a hold of your issues and work on them. A sad boy will be a sad woman.”

  • AMY

    This is an amazing interview and I am so proud of Colleen. She is one of the most amazing women of today.

  • Dana P.

    I love you, Colleen!!! <3

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for your story, Colleen.  It is as beautiful as you are.

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  • surrender

    its a dude , cool

  • Nemesis

    You All do realise that everything this freak has told you is a total fabrication and bears no resemblance to the truth of his history. This is a male cross dresser deviant nothing more and nothing less. Transsexuals do not have the history this MAN does, period.

  • Just Jennifer

    Exactly. This pervert spent TWENTY years serving as a man, in the Army. If he had known at the age of three that he was really a girl, they would have eaten him alive before he got out of boot camp. You can’t hide who, and what, you really are like that. I was far more often than not viewed as a “defective male” by people I dealt with before my transition. The military specializes in destroying people like that. This guy was a crossdresser, and now as he gets older, he is doing what a lot of crossdressers do, and taking his hobby full time. In at least on interview, he has stated that he has NO desire to give up his, uh, manhood…so to speak.

    Sorry, but this fawning “interview” is really disgusting….

  • Just Jennifer

    You really have got to be kidding…. This pervert is disgusting. Proud? Of a pervert that has no respect for women, and is all too willing to force his penis on them? Wow! You have no idea what a woman is, now do you?

  • Just Jennifer

    Yes, it is pretty damn ugly…

  • http://WholeSexLife.com Evoe Thorne

    Hate and name-calling have no place on this website. We believe that gender is very personal and no one has the right to discriminate on gender based on physiology. Take your agenda somewhere else.

  • http://WholeSexLife.com Evoe Thorne

    Just Jennifer,
    You are making a lot of assumptions. This kind of hate-speech is not tolerated on this website. You are welcome to talk about your own experiences, but not to attack others.

  • http://WholeSexLife.com Evoe Thorne


  • http://WholeSexLife.com Evoe Thorne

    Again, these comments are inappropriate. Having a penis does not make you a pervert, disrespectful of women, or male. Take your hate somewhere else.

  • http://WholeSexLife.com Evoe Thorne

    And… blacklisted.

  • Cam Combs

    Wow, who opened the flood gates and pointed the haters in this direction? Nemesis, Just Jennifer, Surrender… you, and people like you, have a very sad narrow view of gender and the world. Gender is a whole lot more than what you have between your legs, but you are clearly as ignorant as a block of wood about any of that.

    People who are secure in their identities, who are coming from a place of self-knowledge and wisdom, do not need to attack others in order to feel good about themselves. If you come in here to attack Colleen or this website the way Nemesis, Just Jennifer, Surrender have, you might as well tattoo ‘ignorant insecure hater’ on your forehead.. you won’t be sayin’ anything different in your comment.

  • AlaskaOne

    Well, if you don’t believe that there are some out there who have “a different style of life” sorry. I have a few friends in a few different states AND countries who have all had a similar instance of “being born in the wrong body”. I don’t understand it because I don’t have that happening to me, but of all those friends of mine who have gone and suffered to come into their “correct body”, I love them. I love them more, actually.

    They’re no longer ashamed of who they are, they are no longer “dark and dreary”, they’re comfortable with who they are and, in a few few cases, STRONGER as a person in a way I’d never seen them in the past.

    Hate will NOT change how some feel. Belittling will NOT change what they do. THEY will make themselves stronger than ANY of us because they took the step to become REAL.

    I take my hat off to my friends and all who have moved to be themselves.

    As Steve Jobs, founder of Apple once said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life”. They’re not. NOW they are living THEIR lives in THEIR bodies.

  • Michele

    It can’t be easy to throw it all out there, “Thanks for sharing your story.” I think it will help others. How can anyone use the word “pervert”. In no way was there anything that suggested she was a pervert or sick in any way. I guess we will always have nasty people in this world and we have to ignore them or just feel sorry for them. They don’t understand it’s none of our business if someone doesn’t feel right in the skin they were born in and it’s sad they don’t have an open mind and an open heart. If I was interviewing, I would have so many questions! I have a few friends that are now women and I have really enjoyed the new found friendship (it’s old, but kind of new in a way!). Blessings and good luck in all your adventures. A friend in the ‘burbs!

  • D Rose Shines

    COURAGEOUS Colleen!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mandy.liora Mandy Liora

    Simply because your experience differences from her experience does not make it illegitimate or perverted. If you continue to think this way, you are no different from those who oppose alternate lifestyles out of ignorance and fear.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mandy.liora Mandy Liora

    Incorrect. There are many in-the-closet homosexuals who live as heterosexuals for most of their life for various reasons, be it fear, denial or need. Who’s to say this individual is any different? Certainly not you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mandy.liora Mandy Liora

    Clearly you have no idea what a women is, either…or a human for that matter. Labelling this individual as a pervert is quite hateful and ignorant of you. Force his penis on them? Just where exactly do you get this idea? I see nothing anywhere at all that even suggests that. Take it easy on the fabrications, the republican party is doing enough of that for everyone right now. I too am proud of this person.

  • Aisling the Bard

    I happen to be married to a transgendered woman, MtF, and I myself, who am a ciswoman, don’t feel at all like a “woman” any more than I feel like a “man”, but have a tendency, if asked if I am male or female, a woman or a man, to simply say, “yes”. And since I am myself gender-neutral, have four wonderful children from a heterosexual marriage (but he was a jackass), have been with my wife for sixteen years, and have been in my life as girly a girl as one can be, a gender-neutral lesbian, and a gentleman named Paddy O’Phurniture, I totally agree with your statement that gender is a social construct. I yam what I yam. For now. Sometime it may be different.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mandy.liora Mandy Liora

    You clearly have some issues of your own that you need to deal with. I’d suggest you return to your closet and think about it for a while. Perhaps you can come back enlightened and worth our time.

  • Aisling the Bard

    I would like to make a request of the moderators to remove the hateful comments and bigotry from these comments. Thank you.

  • Seattle Over 30

    I am so incredibly proud of this woman doing what so few are able to do. Thank you for standing up tall and proud!
    Male ≠ A specific gender
    Female ≠ A specific gender
    Male/Female ≠ A specific gender
    Gender is NOT defined by anatomy.
    Folks, there is an ENTIRE spectrum of gender.

    BTW…here’s a secret: Gender is a social construct; we are not born with a gender. We are born with anatomy, society imposes gender labels for comfort and convenience. Perhaps it’s time we all stretch our comfort zones.

  • welltemperedwriter

    Your remark says far more about you than it does about Colleen.

  • Nef

    Great story. Thanks for opening yourself up Collen and sharing with the world. Thank you for writing on this subject Evoë.

  • http://WholeSexLife.com Evoe Thorne

    We thought long and hard about simply removing these comments. While we find them triggering and reprehensible, we decided that it is best to let them remain. There is a lot of hate in the world. I think that we are showing here that hate will not be tolerated. We want other potential haters to see how we deal with that kind of poison. Any future hate-fueled remarks will be removed and the posters blacklisted.

    I know it’s hard to read the horrible comments, but it’s been educational to me. I didn’t know that there were people in the world who really thought like that. It’s so alien to how I think.

    If you feel that these comments are causing more harm than good here, please email me. We want to create an environment that feels safe.

  • Johdar

    Evoe, I’m sorry you had your bubble popped when it comes to people being hateful and hurtful. Yes, they exist and no, the couldn’t give a fig less about what you think. They only see different and want to ridicule it and cause it harm.

    In some ways I used to be like that. I was homophobic and really didn’t want anything to do with gays, let alone anyone who is transgendered. I am so lucky that I have seen that people are people and are not defined strictly by their gender.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1026402623 Cathy Brennan
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1026402623 Cathy Brennan

    He seems kind of gross http://pretendbian.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/colleen-brenna-francis/ – I dunno many ppl who admit they read “young adult” novels in an okstupid ad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1026402623 Cathy Brennan

    Yes. He is a man.

  • Marie-France Lesage

    A very selfish, narcissistic man who forces the sight of his male genitals on the school-age swim-team girls using the locker room at Evergreen College. People need to STOP idolizing these fetishistic cretins and start holding them to the same standards of decency that every adult should be required to follow, i.e. DO NOT wave your dick in a child’s face. Pretty simple stuff, really.

  • Marie-France Lesage

    Some people need to be attacked. This dude is one of them. He is beyond the pale in his bad behavior, i.e. sitting naked and spread-eagle exposing his male genitals to unsuspecting women and girls who enter the women’s sauna or women’s locker rooms at Evergreen State College.