There’s a classic TV commercial for hair-dyeing (as they used to call it back then) with the tagline “Does she or doesn’t she: only her hair dresser knows for sure.” In the male-to-female trans world, the tagline could be: “only her electrologist knows for sure.”
Hair removal is certainly one of the most stressful parts of transitioning. I still remember the name of Lina’s electrologist in North Carolina – Dana. I also wondered how she felt about falling into the trans world of hair removal, as she had become a favorite in the community.
Linda DeFruscio found herself in the same situation in the Boston area, and she’s written a book that shares lovely transition stories of some of her clients. It also includes FAQs and more. “Transgender Profiles: Time for a Change” is sure to inspire anyone fearing those first steps, and is also a good primer for friends and family members. While everyone’s story is different, there are, as always, universal themes. Most of the tales are written in third person and a few in first person, along with the sharing of some transition letters. There’s even a father/son to mother/daughter story. All are told very much through the eyes of the person transitioning, so I can’t say that the spouses’ stories are heard, but of course it’s important to understand both sides.
One thing I really appreciated, along with the personal insight, is that Linda, in a brief paragraph at the end of most of the profiles, shares an overview of their treatment and the cost. Very helpful for people to see what goes into fighting facial, arm, etc., hair.
A personal aside: One of our friends noticed Lina’s smooth legs early on and said to me, rather horrified, Does W shave his LEGS???? And my immediate answer was, “Yeah, it’s a cyclist thing,” which in fact it is IF you’re a competitive (or wannabe) racer. Which Lina was not. But my friend didn’t know, so there. (To the few people who commented on Lina’s getting-longer-by-the-month hair, I’d say, “Yeah, it’s a Euro thing,” and since she is in fact Dutch, they seemed to accept that lame excuse as well!. All in all, I hated all the lying, but that’s a whole other story!)
I appreciated seeing a bit of Linda’s story as well, how she kind of fell into the transgender community. She knew people connected to Tapestry Magazine, which was an early “cross-dressing” magazine in the Boston area, and she ended up writing for them about hair removal and skin care. The magazine was affiliated with the International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE), formed in 1990. I was quite aware of the group because as a newspaper writer in the Boston area in the 1990s, stories about the association and its support group would pop up from time to time. (Little did I know then….) It seems they no longer exist, but I can’t tell for sure. But for its time, the group was crucial for gender-questioning people.
And while indeed times have changed, and more and more people are transitioning earlier or have chosen to live non-binary lives, I’m sure there are and will continue to be a number of middle-aged folks (like many in Linda’s book) who finally find the courage and acceptance to transition after being held back by decades of fear, life circumstances, etc. Linda has all the empathy in the world for them, which shines through in these stories. They’re lucky to have her as a friend.