Christina Goldman recently took to Facebook to tell her story of struggling with Gender Identity Disorder (GID) for 37 years before undergoing gender reassignment surgery in Thailand several months ago.
Goldman was born Christopher Goldman, a boy, but as long as she can remember, she's felt inherently female. "I realized that I was uncomfortable in my body when I was 3 years old, or as early as my first conception...I didn't like being around little boys. I wanted to be friends with little girls who at the time accepted me as their friend because there wasn't exactly the segregation at that point. I didn't like running off in the woods. I preferred to stay around my mom. I didn't want to get hurt, didn't like rough play and just preferred to play with my sister and little girls I had met at school," she said.
New research finds that 1 in 27,000 people have GID in the United States. "There's believed to be a genetic component to it. Five times more boys are diagnosed with it than girls.
"My thinking of that is that it is more socially acceptable for a girl to be thought of as a tomboy rather than for a boy to be a sissy," Dr. Helen Bayne, a Myrtle Beach therapist said.
Bayne has worked with patients with GID and said it's not something one can be diagnosed with overnight.
Goldman spent most of her adolescent years and life as a teenager struggling with the disorder. "There was no internet. I knew I couldn't go to my peditrician and say I'm a woman trapped inside of a man's body, help me out," she said.
Her journey leading up to her sex change surgery took 11 years. "If there was anything I could've done to get rid of this I would have done it. The first time I went to a therapist I said I didn't want to be a transsexual. I don't want help becoming one. I want to not be one. And she said unfortunately there's nothing we can do to help you," she added.
Goldman underwent hormone therapy, lived as a woman for several years and had facial restructuring surgery (where literally every bone is broken in one's face in order to be reconstructed to resemble that of the other sex). She was cleared by an out-of-state doctor for gender reassignment surgery in Thailand.
Experts estimate 500 to 750 Americans undergo the surgery each year, with hundreds more, like Goldman, seeking the procedure abroad. The surgery alters one's physical appearance and the function of their existing sexual characteristics to resemble that of the other self.
However, fear of losing friends, family or even a job are just a few reasons people with GID choose not to transition. LiveScience.com reports transgendered people are committing suicide at an alarming rate, over 40%. "Stress is the number one killer of Americans. Talk about stress when you have an internal dialect that systemic to your being and you can't even express yourself. I dug myself into this hole. I'm 37 into being something with a paper trail and friends. It wasn't like the easiest thing to turn off. Not for me to turn off, but to turn off people's perceptions of me," Goldman said.
But she took the plunge. Goldman disappeared from Myrtle Beach for several months. She led her family and all but a handful of friends to believe she was on the West Coast, when she was really in Thailand to undergo gender reassignment surgery. "I worried. Can I be alone? Can I lose everybody? Yeah, I got to the point where I decided I can't live this life anymore. I never thought I would have transitioned in Myrtle Beach. That was the last thing I wanted to do. But I said I've got to do it and I've got to do it now," Goldman said.
Several weeks into her Thailand trip, she started throwing hints out on Facebook to her 'network.' "I'm throwing hints that I'm changing and evolving and trying to make myself sound strange so people can start disassociating themselves from me if they wanted to, except for the people who work for me, they really don't have a choice," Goldman laughed.
Her friends and members of the community started to catch on and then the bombshell that went viral. "I prepared a statement, literally two minutes before surgery to let the world know that I am a transsexual and I'm having surgery. I had my laptop in the surgical suite. I said the performance is in two minute and I hit send on the statement basically saying I don't expect to be the honored guest at any BBQs when I get home, but I'm a transsexual. I've been this way my whole life. My purpose for being in Thailand is to undergo gender reassignment surgery, with some breasts added. I apologized in general if anyone felt any deception. I told everyone they didn't have to worry about me running up to them in the shopping mall and embracing them in public. If they want to disassociate themselves with me there are no hard feelings and I'd probably do the same thing myself is the shoe was on the other foot," she said.
It was more than four days after Goldman's successful, but painful surgery, that she checked her email and Facebook page. Little did she know, the buzz about her 'Asian Voyage' had gone viral in Myrtle Beach. Everyone was talking about it. People had even tipped off us here at NewsChannel 15.
"I m worried it's going to be 'you're a freak or a faggot or whatever,' so I'm kind of prepping for all of that. But no, it was all positive," Goldman said. The traditionally conservative South embraced Goldman's decision bravery for being honest about it. "I'm thinking this is the calm before the storm, when will I receive the hate stuff? And nothing. That's not to say that there wasn't dissent or people who disagree with this because I'm sure a lot of those people were following the herd of initial people, it's socially acceptable now to put congratulations, so I'm going to put that too. The initial people were accepting and I can't thank them enough for that," she said.
Support in any form, even social media, plays a huge part for someone transitioning. "Best case scenario is that it's always important that you have other people who you can talk to who have been through the exact same thing you're going through," Dr. Bayne said. Social media has helped thousands of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the state connect.
"Just knowing that you're not the only person who has this condition and is feeling this way and that there is support out there for you and others like you, The internet and Facebook and social media groups are vital for that," Veronica Walters with the Palmetto Transgender Association said.
More than 117,000 members of the LGBT community live in South Carolina. The PTA helps them connect with other groups. "We all work together to achieve a common goal of equality for everyone because that's the ultimate goal of everyone in the LGBT community covered by nondiscrimination and under workplace rules and under housing," Walters said.
Goldman encourages finding a support group if you feel like you have Gender Identity Disorder. "If you truly are a transsexual you don't want to be suffering from another axis one diagnosis like borderline personality disorder or depression because this is a serious thing to do. There's no going back," she said.
Goldman is happy to be moving forward. She says one never stops transitioning. "A lot of things women take for granted I never learned. The way you interact with people, things that are appropriate, things that aren't| those are learned behaviors. That is the nurture side of development. My mom taught me the eyelash trick of heating up the eyelash curler. I can't believe I didn't think about that. Here I am and I thought the eyelash curler was the most ridiculous instrument in the world until I realized there's a reason it's metal. I burnt the hell out of my eyeball," she laughed.
Goldman hopes to continue evolving socially as a female. When I asked her where she sees herself in 10 years, she replied, "Married to some very wealthy plastic surgeon? Just kidding! I haven't really thought that far ahead."