Personal Stories: Mike

My name is Mike*
and my father left us when I was 10. Shortly after my mother left for Australia to pursue her dream. All that's left was my sister, my maid and me in Hong Kong.

I was 13 and I had to be tougher and stronger
perhaps that's how it all started, me being a tomboy and feeling I had to take on the male role in the family.

I went to see a psychiatrist when I was 18 
the first session was two hours long, and after two hours she asked me, "So why do you want to become female?" What a good start, ha! I think she didn't read my profile, all the information was there and she got it all wrong. I love telling this story.

When I was at university I realised what was missing in my life
I went to a private gender specialist in London. He started me on HRT (hormone replacement therapy) after two sessions. The whole process took 3-4 months, it's quicker when you go private. A year later I went to Dr Charles Garramone for top surgery. I saved up for a year for that, which cost me about $15,000 at the time.

I didn't know if it was the right thing to do.. starting so early. But it was the best bet for me, if I wanted to pursue my career and do what I want in life. I wouldn't know if I had more of an advantage.. there may have been, as in being able to blend into society. If you already know what you want, just get it done. I always say if you don't get things done in 3 seconds, you're never gonna get it done. That's my personality, I like to get things done quick.

I used my university tuition fee to pay for my surgery
That year I slept on someone's couch and I worked part-time as a fitness trainer at a gym. That's how I saved up. I'm quite lucky in that sense because I had access to the funds.

I'm not close to my family
We haven't lived together since I was 13. I went to university in England when I was 18, then when I came back to Hong Kong I rented my own place. I've always been independent.

I didn't tell my family until I got married
They didn't know a thing. When they would ask what happened to my voice, I'd just say I have a very bad cold.

My grandparents and mother came to my wedding in July 2013 and they still called me by my old name. I understand it takes time for them to adapt. But they were surprisingly very supportive of me.. They're not traditional parents. My parents studied in the UK so perhaps that's why they were open about this. My grandparents studied overseas, too. They were rebels in China. My grandfather was jailed for 10 years for going against Mao at the time, so he's really open about all this.

I wanted to have my surgery before I started working
because I know once I enter the workforce I have to build a reputation for myself. The industry is small in both Singapore and Hong Kong and you don't want people talking about you. I didn't think too much, I knew what I wanted, went ahead and did it.

I felt amazing after the surgery. It felt like my life was pretty much complete.
I was covered in drains for the first two weeks, and it took me a couple months to recover. But I went to the beach topless after the first month already. After awhile the excitement wore out and I wanted more.. I feel like I need to pursue more surgery-wise to feel complete, so now I'm thinking what's next for me... be it fitness or more surgeries.

I never actually told my friends about my surgery
but I think they all knew. They all came to my wedding so that's how I knew they were supportive. I never discussed this with them because I think it's my own business. It's not like they wouldn't understand, but I just didn't feel the need to. We're still close friends, we still hang out, nothing has changed. For those who don't accept me, just let it go, you know..

The toughest part of my transition is getting my shots every two weeks
For the very first few shots, I think I spend 2-3 days in bed afterwards. It's quite painful for me.. I don't know if you guys have the same experience, I know everyone reacts quite differently. It's been a few years now and it's better although I still get a fever after my shot sometimes. I react to it quite badly. That's one of the worst things for me in my transition journey, not so much family or friendship issues...

The best thing about being on HRT is I got much bigger.
I gained about 20-30 pounds, and my body fat reduced significantly which was great.

The biggest change after transitioning was how differently I'm treated by the ladies and the guys. It's interesting to see how female colleagues treat me now. They were less reluctant to approach me when I was "female".. If I get close to them, they'll think I want something from them. Whereas my male colleagues are a lot closer to me now, they share inside jokes about girls and stuff, more physical touch and willing to share their world with you. I'm still trying to adapt to that.

The T has always been the minority in LGBT. We're the minority of the minority.
There are a lot of LGBT events in the banking industry. I go every month and I find it difficult to define myself. I hang with the gay guys I don't feel right.. I hang with the lesbians I don't feel right.. I feel alone in the group and I hope this can be improved in the future.

The thing I have to explain the most is why I didn't go through NS (National Service). I've built up an archive of good stories to tell. My favourite right now is I left Singapore when I was one, and they had a system change within the government so they lost all my records and never called me back. They had a major system change in the '90s where they converted all paper records to electronic. People seem to buy that explanation so I just go along with it.

My wife and I are applying to migrate to Australia, but our marriage isn't recognised there because I cannot change my birth certificate. So I've got to stay in Singapore a little longer.

*names have been changed to protect the individual's privacy

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