The Real Life Test

A True Story
© by Rebecca Anne Allison, M.D.


Chapter One: 1993
Chapter Two: November 30-December 16
Chapter Three: December 17-January 1
Chapter Four: January 1994
Chapter Five: February 1994
Chapter Six: March 1994
Chapter Seven: April 1994
  Chapter Eight: May 1994
Chapter Nine: June 1994
Chapter Ten: July 1994
Chapter Eleven: August 1994
Chapter Twelve: September 1994
Chapter Thirteen: October 1994
Chapter Fourteen: November 1994


We humans choose certain characteristics by which we define ourselves. The earliest and most basic definition is "man" or "woman"; "boy baby" or "girl baby".

The distinction is established at birth, and nurseries are furnished in pink or blue. The basis for the distinction is our external appearance. Our genitalia determine the life we will be expected to lead. All humankind is divided distinctly into one of the two groups.

Except when it's not.

The lines of sexual distinction can be blurred. A few persons who have physical characteristics of both sexes are called "intersexed" or "hermaphrodites". Their bodies are neither fully male nor fully female. Many degrees of physical ambiguity exist. To conform to society's demands, such persons are assigned to one gender or the other, usually according to where lies the greatest chance for surgical success.

Even more difficult to understand are those persons whose ambiguity is not visible. Research suggests that once in approximately every ten thousand persons, major imbalances occur in fetal sex hormone levels. It is proposed that the absence of testosterone in this genetic male fetus is not profound enough to prevent masculinization of the genitalia, but something in the fetal brain is affected at a critical developmental stage. The child grows and matures unremarkably as a male, to all external appearances. But the thought patterns and behavioral instincts are those of a female.

Such persons live their childhood in frustration, knowing something is wrong but often unable to reach an understanding of exactly what it is. The knowledge is present from earliest memory. There is no identifiable environmental influence to produce it. The child can confide in no one, fearful of the consequences of being discovered. Society equates any gender ambiguity with homosexuality, and although the child often has no homosexual feelings, his confusion grows.

Finally, whether from logical reasoning, or reading of someone else's experiences, the child or young adult realizes the truth. This conflict has does not relate to behavior, "lifestyle", or preference of sexual partner. It is rather a conflict involving one's core identity. The oldest definition is still the clearest: "a woman trapped in a man's body." One medical term is gender dysphoria, but it is better known as transsexualism.

In my late forties, I am many things. I am a physician... both a caregiver and a trained technical specialist. I am a teacher and a scholar. I am a Christian. I am a parent and a friend. I am an avid traveler, a good cook, a fair golfer, a mediocre musician. I am learning to be a writer.

I am one in ten thousand: a transsexual person. This is the story of my journey to completion.


I was born December 21, 1946, in Greenwood, Mississippi. My parents were in their late thirties and had been hoping for a child for over ten years. So my earliest memories are of much love and affection.

We had an unremarkable lower middle-class life in the 1950s. Dad drove a delivery truck and Mother was a nurse. My father was a kind and gentle person but very quiet and reserved. I never felt I got to know him well before he died of lung cancer when I was 20. My major attachment, by far, was to my mother. She was the head nurse in the Emergency Room for years, then became Director of Nursing Service for the entire hospital. From her I learned to love the healing and caregiving professions. I owe her my choice of a life's work.

I should mention here that some persons will read my history and believe my early childhood conditioned my transsexualism. I do not believe this at all. Many men with whom I have talked had similar family circumstances, and never had any gender identity conflict. It took much more than a strong maternal influence to give me a female identity.

From preschool years I always identified with my female playmates and envied them intensely. Of course, I also disliked being called a sissy, so even at age five I kept my desires to myself. I remember an incident in second grade. Our elementary school had separate play areas for boys and girls, to protect the girls from the rough play of the boys. One day Mack, one of the most aggressive boys, decided to tease the girls. He went over to their play area and jumped on their merry-go-round. The teacher caught him at once and took him inside. Right away, the rumor began: "Teacher is going to make Mack wear a dress." When I heard it, I thought, "If only I had thought of that." I would have dearly loved wearing the dress! However, Mack only had to stay after school. Foiled again...

In elementary school I was one of the smallest boys in my grade, and not very athletic. I was often the last one chosen for teams. Besides, I broke one of boyhood's universal rules: I cried. When I missed the ball and it hit me in the face; when a bigger boy pushed me away as I tried to follow with his group; when the taunts of "sissy" and "cry baby" cut to my heart, I cried. And as everyone knows, boys don't cry.

I compensated by making straight "A" grades throughout my scholastic career. Of course, academic excellence was something else a boy in a small Southern town didn't try to achieve. But even then, I knew there was no point in trying to be like the other boys. I couldn't do it. Every night, I would close my prayers: "God, please let me wake up tomorrow and be a girl." Later I just prayed, "Let me dream all night as a girl." I had better success with that one.

When Mother began working the 3 to 11 shift at the hospital, and Dad worked until 6, I had plenty after-school time to explore Mother's closet. I think she must have known (how could I have possibly put everything back in its place?) but she never said anything. It must have been a comical sight -- Mother was very buxom and I really had to work to stuff her bra. This fact proved significant later when I started taking hormones: my genetic background produced quick results. At any rate, I did a lot of crossdressing prior to puberty.

I was a late developer, about 14 at onset of puberty, but when I developed a romantic attraction to girls, I suppressed my desire to be one. Now, of course, I realize I never had a typical male sex drive. My affection was always more of an emotional bond. Through high school and college, my gender conflict was deep in my subconscious, only to appear when I would read a newspaper article or see a movie advertisement about someone "changing sex". But by my last year in college, I was again acutely aware of my discomfort as a man. What a dilemma -- I was already in love with the girl I would eventually marry.

I entered medical school and rented a small apartment. For the first time, I had the opportunity to accumulate a small feminine wardrobe. It was a time of androgynous hair styles -- long for boys and short for girls. Even at that immature stage I could look reasonably passable with a casual dress and minimal makeup. Although I was nearly six feet tall, I was very thin and had small hands and feet, and feminine mannerisms were instinctive for me.

Soon after entering medical school, I found my way to the library. I hoped I would finally learn the truth about my feelings. What little I had previously heard made me strongly suspect I was transsexual. To my surprise, I read otherwise. In the late 1960s, the only two books I could find were The Transsexual Phenomenon by Benjamin and Sex and Gender by Stoller. This literature said in essence, "anyone who has had a sexual experience as a man cannot be transsexual." In retrospect, of course, I know this is not true. Many transsexuals deny their nature for years and try to live a "normal" male life. But as a freshman medical student, I was conditioned to believe what I read in the texts. So, since I had had a sexual experience, I was not transsexual. What was I? Definitely not your average male chauvinist medical student. By deduction, I reasoned I must be a transvestite. I was never comfortable with that label, but it did offer me the chance for a "normal" life. In fact, I talked myself into believing I could conquer transvestism. Foolishly, I determined never to tell my fianceé about my feminine side. Marriage would be the cure for me!

So we married in 1969 and our only child, a son, was born in 1973. My feminine self proved a little difficult to "cure". In fact, it proved absolutely impossible. Secretly I would practice makeup skills. Opportunities for feminine moments were extremely limited; for years they were confined to out of town medical meetings which I would extend for a day or two. I would buy a full outfit early in the week and wear it in the hotel room. Before returning home I would "purge" everything in the hotel garbage can. During a fifteen year period I must have purged ten times or more. It must have been four or five years into my marriage when I finally admitted to myself, "this is never, ever, going away."

I experienced extreme guilt and anguish over a situation I obviously could not control. As a serious Christian, I had doubts about my relationship with God. Time after time I prayed for deliverance from my dilemma. Never did it come. Finally, over a period of many years, I came to an assurance of God's direction in my life. I realized my femininity is an integral part of my being, and I do not have to pray for deliverance from it. God has his purposes in this for me, and he has revealed them to me in his time.

However, though my assurance of God's acceptance made it possible for me to accept myself, I knew I could never share my secret with my spouse. I knew her well enough to know her response would be total rejection. So I resigned myself to a lifetime of rare opportunities to be the person I knew myself to be. I thought I would die an unhappy old man and take my secret to the grave with me. I didn't realize the dramatic intensification I would experience over time with my gender dysphoria, which would make it impossible to continue to conceal.

As I became more secure in my identity, I chose my name. I had been "Rebecca" in my mind for several years. It's such a beautiful, feminine, timeless - even Biblical - name, with positive connotations from persons in my past. I chose "Allison" for a surname because it's just a little bit suggestive of my birth surname, but different enough to avoid calling attention to my family.

The most interesting story concerns my middle name, "Anne". I remember Mother once telling me what she would have named me if I had been female. (I often wondered why she brought up the subject. How much did she know?) Mother's name was Mabel, which was a common girl's name in her generation. She told me, "If you had been a girl, I would have named you Mabel Anne."

For once, possibly the only time in my life, I was briefly thankful I hadn't been born a girl. I couldn't handle "Mabel". But "Anne" is lovely and I chose it to honor my mother's memory.

By 1991, the year our son left for college, my drive toward femininity became unbearable. Although I had never met another transgendered person, I knew I had to become more involved with experiencing some of life from the viewpoint of a woman.

I had a meeting in southern California. As usual, I planned ahead and scheduled an extra couple of days for "Rebecca time". I did some shopping prior to leaving, but most would wait until I was in California. On the way from the airport to my hotel, I stopped at an adult bookstore. I found such places distasteful, but I didn't know any other place to find gender publications. What I found changed my life forever.

I found two publications. One was a well-assembled, thick journal with color photography and a professional appearance. "The TV-TS Tapestry-- The journal for persons interested in crossdressing and transsexualism." WHAT WAS THIS? I had never imagined such an organized community. I bought every issue I could locate.

The other publication was just a simple tabloid, but it contained an advertisement: "Makeover and photo sessions." This sounded promising so I called for an appointment.

The cosmetologist proved to be someone rather famous for his work with transgendered persons. I was as nervous as could be when I knocked on his door, but within a few minutes I was relaxed, at ease, and well on my way to beautiful. When he finished the makeover and turned my chair around to face the mirror, I gasped out loud. "I can look like this?" I knew in that instant I would go much, much farther with my gender modification.

The photographs confirmed the miracle he worked. I studied them and began learning about makeup techniques.

I was impressed!

When I returned home from California, I took steps to "come out" into the gender community. I joined national organizations such as IFGE, the International Foundation for Gender Education, which publishes Tapestry; and Tri-Ess, the Society for the Second Self (still imagining myself a crossdresser; Tri-Ess is for crossdressers only). Soon I had corresponded with numerous persons like myself...persons who understood, who knew about my femininity and accepted me anyway. I met a wonderful friend in my hometown, "Lee Frances", a widower who had crossdressed for years and now in "her" 70's was living in a female role full time. It was refreshing to talk to someone who understood so well.

In early 1992, I realized I could not conceal my dilemma from my spouse any longer. I had to tell her the whole truth. Unfortunately, her response was as negative as I could have imagined: "I may be able to forgive this, if you will never do it again." And who could blame her? I feared the worst was yet to come. Our marital situation grew progressively colder.

By the fall of 1992 I was determined to participate more in the gender community. I attended Holiday en Femme, the national Tri-Ess convention, in Atlanta. During those three days I experienced more peace and happiness than ever before. I made friends who still correspond with me closely. I found I could interact in society as Rebecca with poise and confidence. I left the safety of the motel and shopped and dined in the "real world". It was so encouraging.

But it was also disturbing. As I sat in the seminars and visited with the Tri-Ess members, I could not escape the thought: "There is still something different about me. I am not interested in the same things these people discuss. I want much more than just dressing up for a few hours once a month." During the course of the meeting I found two other persons who shared these same feelings. As I talked with them, the realization struck:

"I was right from the beginning -- from childhood. It's just as I first thought, I am transsexual."

So on returning from Atlanta, I began to order all the literature on transsexualism. Now I knew for certain that "functioning as a man" did not indicate I wasn't transsexual at all. A great many of us live for years -- decades -- trying to claim a masculinity we never really had. I found opportunities to correspond and talk in person with numerous transsexual persons, some postoperative. It was as though my life story had been copied a dozen times over. I had everything in common with them, and much less in common with the crossdresser. When viewed from this perspective, all the strange events of my life made sense. Now I was certain of the truth.

I contacted the Montgomery Institute in Atlanta, a support and therapy group for persons with transsexualism, and made an appointment for an interview in February 1993. I came away convinced even more of my gender dysphoria, but wanting to work to contain it within the framework of my marriage.

It was a vain attempt. My spouse continued to be completely opposed to any degree of transgendered behavior on my part. When I told her I was going to Philadelphia for the IFGE convention, she was furious. But I had to go -- I had to pursue my dream of giving Becky some sort of a life of her own.

These four days were even better than Holiday en Femme. I met more new friends than I could have imagined. I attended the transsexual issues seminars and spoke with many persons who had already had surgery.

Two in particular became very special to me. On the first night of the convention, a slender, attractive woman of around age 50 came up to me. "Hello, Rebecca," she greeted me. I looked in her eyes and was aware of a love and concern -- a bonding -- so hard for me to describe. But it was very real. She was with another woman, shorter but also attractive... so very normal looking, I wondered what they were doing at the convention! They explained that they had already had their sex reassignment surgery, but wanted to attend the meeting to be of help to someone else.

"We just knew it was time for us to give back something to the community which was so kind to us. At this meeting we could meet others who are beginning the same road we have traveled. Perhaps we could give them encouragement and advice. When we saw you, we knew you were such a person."

I was overwhelmed. They had spotted me in a crowd and sought me out to love and help me. Nobody ever did that for me as a man! Tears flowed as I told them my life story and they nodded in understanding. I learned about their transitions; they had both been able to keep their jobs as pilots and inspectors with major airlines. So it might not be necessary to give up everything with transition!

The entire meeting strongly confirmed what I already knew: I am indeed a woman with a feminine gender identity. My genetic sex is male, and always will be, but my identity, my persona, is that of a woman. And I determined to admit it, accept it, and order my life accordingly.

When I returned home on Sunday, March 21, 1993, I found the resentment and anger were too much for my spouse to contain. I had begun unpacking my bags when I heard her car pull into the garage. In a moment she opened the door.

"Hello," I said over my shoulder. There was no response.

In a moment she called to me from the hall. "Bring me my walking shoes."

"Excuse me?" I didn't understand.

"Bring me my walking shoes! I'm going for a walk, and I am not coming in there with all your crap."

So, of course, I brought her the walking shoes.

As she walked away I thought to myself, "My life is 'crap' to her. I have failed to reach any kind of understanding or compromise." At that moment I saw two directions for my life to take. I could unpack, wait for her to return, apologize as usual, and continue this frustrating, stressful experience.
Or, I could behave completely out of character and take the greatest risk of my life, knowing it would result in my life changing completely.

It took less than a minute for me to choose the risk.

I went to a local motel, and rented an apartment the next day. As I moved my few belongings, I knew I had reached a major turning point in my life. The future belonged to Becky. I would direct my efforts toward making my new life a reality.

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