Mianne Bagger, who was profiled on "Primetime," is making history as the first transgendered athlete ever to play in a professional golf tournament. However, there are still challenges in her life: to rise in the rankings, to find sponsorships, to find love.
Bagger has agreed to answer questions from the ABCNEWS.com audience. Below are some of the questions we received, and her answers. The questions have been edited for length; Bagger's responses have not been edited.
Bagger encourages those with further questions to visit her web site, http://www.miannegolf.com.
Kirby Oblachinski of Columbia S.C., asks: "Mianne, do you have a manager or promoter? I would be interested in assisting you in finding sponsors."
At this time I don't have a manager as all that I have spoken to who manage sports people, have not been interested in taking me on as a client. I have been fortunate to have received a few e-mails for potential sponsorship as a result of the "Primetime" interview, so hopefully they may lead to something. I am interested in obtaining a manager so maybe it could be worth further discussion? Please feel free to e-mail me directly if you wish.
Henry Luciano of Norwalk, Conn., asks: "Do you believe if you start winning events, you will have no problem getting sponsorship?" He adds, 'Do you have a good teaching pro?"
I have little doubt that if I start winning events, even doing well in them, it will make it much easier obtaining sponsorship. I think the corporate world would be more at ease associating with me when I am a more accomplished tour player.
I actually have good teaching pros all around me but it can be difficult to get settled in to doing serious work on my swing (which I know is needed) when I have no 'base' as such. I have been travelling and living out of a suitcase for about 2 1/2 years now and am rarely in one place longer than a couple of weeks at the moment. It's not really conducive to being able to focus on and work on changes or improvement.
Sexual Preference/ Romantic Life
Christa from Sioux City, Iowa, writes: "Some friends and I were watching you on "Primetime" and felt sincere empathy for your story. We follow the LPGA regularly and are female collegiate athletes and love competition. We are practicing lesbians and found you extremely attractive. Which leads to the question, what is your sexual preference?"
Thank you for the compliments girls, but I do like guys. ;-)
Jessica J. from Weehawken, N.J., says: "You seem to be very focused on your golf career. Do you have that same drive and hope to someday find love and form a family? Do you consider it fundamental in order to find happiness?"
I guess my drive to find love and form a family is not so great as my golf, but then I also see them as being a little different. Because of my past being quite common knowledge where ever I am, I have not had much with boyfriends, let alone finding love. And for me that is something that comes before thinking of a family. I'm not sure if I ever will have a family, but I haven't discounted it either.
Happiness, I think, can be found in many ways and is largely something that is within someone. Not so much in what's around them. For the most part I am very happy, finding love would only add to that.
Sally, from Eddyville, Iowa, writes: "You look pretty good with Jay in the picture ... is he married? or did you ask?"
I think Jay is a passionate and wonderful man and it was a pleasure to meet him that week. ....and he is happily married. Actually all of the guys from "Primetime" were a great bunch. We had a fun week.
Stefanie Tountas of Melrose, Mass., asks: "With such an operation do you lose the ability to be sexually satisfied?"
For most of us, sexual response is actually increased after surgery (the surgical techniques are quite fantastic and yes I can, and do, orgasm). As much as sexual satisfaction is physical, it is also mental and emotional. Feeling complete and at ease with one self does absolute wonders for one's libido ... then you've just got to find someone to enjoy it with. ;-)
Amandeep Sidhu of Toronto, Ontario, asks: "Is it possible for transgender women to have children?"
The simple answer is no, transsexual women cannot bear children.
Samantha, in Brooklyn, N.Y., asks: "How long did your sex change operation take? It must have cost a fortune."
From memory, my operation took around 3 1/2 hours, I think? It didn't really cost a fortune, but when you don't have money, it sure seems like it. In Australia where I had surgery, private health insurance covers the hospital stay, and we have to pay surgeons fees and anesthetist. For the surgery now, I think it might cost around AUS$12,000 (around US$9-10,000). In contrast to that, in Denmark, public health service covers the fee and I think it's the same for the UK. In addition to basic surgical costs, there is also the cost of electrolysis/laser for removal of facial hair which also runs into thousands of dollars. From the impression I get though, I think all of this costs much more in the U.S.?
Parents and Support
Shannen of Wichita, Okla., writes: "The ladies of the European Tour were shown to be supportive, but a bit non committal. What's it like in the locker room. Are you friends with the other ladies? Who's your closest friend on the tour!"
I haven't actually seen the interview yet so I don't know how the girls came across in the interview but I have many friends on tour and most have been very supportive. I have friends from Australia, Denmark, England, Spain, Italy and Sweden ... and a few other countries. I don't have one particular close friend on tour. There are many competitive girls out there and I think most of them are over the fuss of me participating. They're out there to be the best players they can be and are very much focused on that. I'm just another player.
Catherine LaBrie of Columbia, Tenn., asks: "What kind of support has helped you in your life? Do you have family support or a circle of friends, or both?"
I am lucky to have both. I have a very supportive family who have been with me all the way and I have close friends that were invaluable to me when I was going through my treatment. It would make it extremely difficult to go through something like this without support which is what saddens me when I hear of some people that are abandoned by the family and friends. Because of something that we have no control over.
Challenges and Condemnations
Joel Anderson of Fairfax, Va., writes: "I am male. You and I have the xy chromosomes. What I want to know is this. Why should the women in LPGA play golf with you?"
The issue I guess, is just so much more complex than people first realize ... we live in a complex society. Firstly though, although I probably do have xy chromosomes (I haven't actually had it tested) it's quite a presumption. I could be xxy or xxxy for example. There are also women that are born female, with xy chromosomes. What would you consider them? There is also quite recent research on the 'SRY gene' which seems quite interesting.
Aside from that, when we start our treatment, one of the medications we take is to block testosterone which, apart from other things, is largely responsible for body/facial hair growth and obviously muscle and strength development in males. Not only for development, but also to maintain it. The effect of losing testosterone (which is medical fact) is one of gradually losing muscle mass, muscle tone and over all strength as a result ... and also body hair. Once we have surgery, our bodies no longer produce testosterone so the resulting effects are permanent and irreversible. The overall loss of strength that I have experienced is quite significant and as far as golf goes, I don't hit the ball as far as I used to be able to ... and I also can't get the back spin I used to.
I have read that some people think that we continue to take medication to keep our testosterone levels down, and all we have to do is stop medication and our strength will come back. This is not true. The only medication I take now is Oestrogen, that's all. If I was to stop taking that I would simply be left with no hormones (oestrogen or testosterone) and that's actually not very healthy. In fact, speaking for myself, my testosterone levels are lower than the average levels for women which is also not ideal. It has been recommended to me by my doctor that I take testosterone to get my levels to normal levels in the same way he prescribes it for other women. The thought of taking testosterone (to get my levels to normal female levels) to me though is a frightening prospect, and I don't feel comfortable taking it. Basically for fear of any masculinizing effects.
Andrew McDiarmid of Seattle, Wash., writes: "You have taken the completely unnecessary step of "changing" your body to resemble that of a woman's. But underneath all you have tried to hide, you are still a man. God knows this, and you know this. God loves you and has a plan for your life. Do you acknowledge this, and would you ever ask the Lord for forgiveness and guidance?"
I find yours one of the most difficult questions to answer because I feel that the only answer you will accept, is the one you want to hear. In light of that, it probably doesn't matter what answer I give you ... and I'm afraid I don't seem to believe in your god. All I know is what I feel ... and my god is one that represents acceptance and tolerance. I don't actually know what I need to be forgiven for ... for accepting, being and expressing 'my self'?
Correcting my body to match that of my mind and soul was absolutely necessary to me. A person is so much more than just the physical body. In fact, the physical body isn't really the person. It's merely a skin that surrounds that person, but they still need to fit together ....to be in sync. The person is who you see in someone's eyes when you speak to them. The person that you feel when you are with them. I would be happy to meet with you one day if it were ever possible. Not for you to merely judge me and condemn me, but to meet 'me'. Have a cup of coffee and talk with me, not to me. I would love to hear of your life and the things you believe and feel.
There is an incredible array of variation amongst the people in this world that just cannot be denied. Why can't everyone just live together without someone saying that everyone else has to live like them and believe in what they believe. I truly don't understand that. If one's life choices are doing no harm to anyone, should it really matter to anyone else how they live their life?
"J.J." Walthour from Hinesville, Ga., writes: "I am a 28-year old, African-American transsexual woman who is only 18 months into transitioning. I haven't told my family or friends yet, and I am having a difficult time beginning my "real-life" experience. I would certainly appreciate any words of comfort/advice you could offer me during this 'dark and difficult' period."
It is difficult for me to offer advice for how anyone should proceed with their own lives. I am surprised to hear that you are able to be 18 months through transitioning without anyone knowing about it. There should be rather obvious physical changes to your body that would be very hard to hide. Are you sure those around you don't suspect something?
You may be surprised, even relieved, if you were to approach them and tell them what you are going through as they may be afraid of confronting you. I don't know what your family and friends are like and only you would know how they might react. Listen to your inner self; how you feel. You won't be able to hide this forever and you will have to tell them at some time.
There are many websites that might be able to offer different insights and words of advice. Lynn's site offers a lot of help and information for example: www.lynnconway.com
Julie Bucholtz of Weston, Conn., writes: "I am about one year away from SRS (sexual reassignment surgery) having undergone 2.5 years of electrolysis, three major surgeries and two hair transplants. I calculated that when it is all finished I will have spent nearly $200,000 and the equivalent of one full year of my life in pain. However, given the reaction of men around me the results, as in your case, seem to have come out well... I am struggling with how to break the news to my family. Do you have any suggestions?"
I'm a little confused ... I'm guessing your family hasn't seen you for a while. Particularly after 'three major surgeries' and, as you say, men around you are noticing. If that's the case, your family could understandably be in for quite a shock. If I understand correctly, you're basically going to be turning up to your family as quite a different person from who they have know for many years. I'm sorry, but I don't know how you would break the news to your family.
Jeff of Gallipolis, Ohio, writes: "I have always concidered myself as a woman. I thought about a sex change but I was wondering what is hormone therapy is like?" He adds, "Was it difficult going out as a women the first time?"
This may not come as much help, but this is ultimately something only you can know the right answer to. For me, going through treatment wasn't one of a few 'options' I considered, it is something I have always felt within me. It became live or die for me -- it was that or quite simply stop living. When I came to that point, nothing else really mattered other than living my life the way it needed to be lived. Hormone therapy and 'coming out' for the first time would be what ever they happened to be. Something to take in my stride.
I guess the only way I could attempt to describe HRT [hormone replacement therapy] was that of going through puberty. That is basically what the body goes through ... and such a wonderful time of release and blossoming. Coming out to people around me was a very gradual thing and it wasn't so much, male one day, female the next. After telling people what was about to happen, I went through quite an androgynous stage which I'd like to think made it a little either for those around me.
Lynne Sobel of Gainesville, Fla., writes: "My 8-year-old son expresses the desire to wear a girls bathing suit each summer for the past 3 years. The rest of the year, ie, the school year, he doesn't mention this desire. This summer he has stated that he wishes he was a girl. My husband and I told him that boys don't wear girls clothes. His disappointment was great and I am concerned about his mental health. Since he has always been particular about the fabric that he wears, I'm wondering if this is an expression of a sensory need or if indeed this is a gender identity problem surfacing. How can I support him? Suicide concerns me -- he is very moody. Please, please, please answer me. I am very concerned and haven't found answers. He is in therapy and the therapist says that he is unsure of/too young to express his answers to what it all means to him."
I have thought and thought about your situation, and how to reply to you and I find it difficult to give a quick answer to. Only your child can really tell you what he is going through and what he is feeling, and possibly your instincts as a mother. For anyone dealing with transsexualism, the earlier we can get treatment, the easier and more successful our lives will become. Being able to live life through teenage and adolescent years is a crucial time of development for anyone.
To support him, reassure him that he can talk to you about anything ... to tell you how he is feeling -- what he is feeling. Try not to tell him what he feels is wrong ... to not tell him he's not supposed to feel a particular way. Maybe just listen to him while not being reactive to what he tells you. You and your husband are right, boys don't wear girls clothes ... but girls do.
You mention he is in therapy and with regard to that I recommend at least that he sees someone experienced in dealing with gender related issues. There are some doctors that may still consider this something 'treatable' through counselling and would possibly only prolong the treatment truly required. I am not so familiar with various organistions and clinicians in the U.S., so I will refer you to Lynn Conway's site, and also recommend you to contact her directly. Lynn's site has a wealth of information and the link I have provided will take you to a page dealing with 'early transition' with a number of documented successful people: http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/TS-IIa.html#anchor184279
Kay Finn of Madison, Wisc., writes: "I have a grandson who is 16, who is also a transgender. Is there anyone we can talk to about understanding what it's all about? She is very forward and has been all of "her" life. She has been dressing as a woman for the last year. She is also obsessed with makeup. Is that natural? I don't know if you have an advice for us but would appreciate any advice you could give."
There are many Web sites that offer extensive amounts of information that I could refer you to. I have links to some of them from my own Web site. If this is the way that your grandson/daughter wants to express herself, then it seems perfectly natural. How does she feel? Is she a pleasant person to be with? Does she seem happy? How does she want her life to turn out? If she is in fact dealing with transsexualism and is allowed to continue with life in the way that she needs, she will go through a normal adolescence and quite likely turn out to be an extraordinarily well balanced woman. She kind of sounds like a 16-year-old girl to me.
Joan Smith of Frederick, Md., writes: "I'm the mother of a son struggling with gender identification issues, which has thrown our family and friends into a time of great emotional difficulty. I am eager to speak with parents of transgender children in order to learn of their coping/acceptance mechanisms. Do you have any suggestions regarding this type of resource?"
Similar to a previous questions I answered, I'm not so familiar with some of the organizations in the U.S. and Lynn Conway's site would be a great place to start: www.lynnconway.com for further information and resources in the U.S. I do know of one Web site you could have a look at which provides information for parents and friends of gay, lesbian and trangendered people: www.pflag.org.
Larry of Greensburg, Pa., asks: "How much did you change the specs on your clubs? Softer shaft? Loft? Lie? static weight, swingweight?"
Well, compared to the clubs I used to use (which I still have actually) I now have lighter shafts and club head (lighter static weight) and I think the swing weight might also be a little lighter. Maybe by one or two swing weights? And the flex is of course softer. At the moment I have regular flex graphite shaft, but I'm actually thinking they might just be a bit too soft? Loft and Lie angle don't really change ... well, apart from the Lie angle due to softer shaft flex.
Tom Taylor from McPherson, Kan., writes: "When I play golf I can get easily frustrated when I botch shots, a common occurrence I'm afraid. The more frustrated I get the worse I tend to golf. How do you deal with frustration and stress when you are on the course?"
This is one of the main things that need to be learnt to have a hope of being successful in tournament golf. To play your best golf, you need to play each shot without tension and apprehension. Have fun on the course. I mean ... it's not like the world is going to end if you hit a ball in the water. Emotions of anger (and emotions in general) are largely under our control. We can simply decide not to be angry at something. Next time you're out playing, try it, just once. When you hit a bad shot, tell yourself it doesn't matter, and simply refuse to get upset. The thing is, being upset is not going to do anything to change the fact that you just hit a bad shot. Why not just forget about it and go ahead and play the next shot as best you can. And remember one key rule, to coin a phrase by Dr Bob Rotella (also the title of one of his books) "Golf is Not a Game of Perfect".
Jill Fairley from Arnold, Md., writes: "I am a trying my hardest to succeed at "learning" golf. Can you give me your top 3 pointers on what I should do to succeed?"
Be patient, focus on hitting the ball (towards the target) and have fun. If you're getting lessons, don't just book in for the odd one when you feel the need. Book in for a few over a couple of months or so. That way the pro can keep an eye on your progress so you don't stray too much. It can sometimes take a while to get the hang of this game and you know what, we are ALL always working on our game to find a way of playing it better. It never ends. I think that's why we love the game so much.
Personal History and Philosophy
Rodney Wells of Seattle, Wash., writes: "As a gay male living in the United States I am very aware of the challenges to obtain very basic rights in this country. If you are having success and are afforded success in other parts of the world, why would you even want to come to such a primitive country where even one of our own transgender women calls you a "fax"?"
Sadly, Rene Richards is not representative of so many thousands of women living very successful lives after treatment, yet she is always approached whenever an article is written about me. What Rene did so many years ago was ground breaking and she had a huge impact on the world and helped bring a stigmatized issue out in the open a little more. I am disappointed there is so much focus on someone who has openly regretted going through transition and doesn't seem very happy with the way her own life has turned out. There are so many wonderful people everywhere in this world, and they live in the US too. Change can happen everywhere.
Patricia Martin of Dania Beach, Fla., asks: "Are you going to try to have the rules changed for the LGPA in America to play here and do you find this kind of discrimination elsewhere in the world of golf?"
The same discrimination 'has' existed elsewhere in the world, but through my efforts I have helped influence change and the LPGA (as far as I know) is now the only tour left that I am barred from playing on. It's interesting actually. The rule as it stands doesn't actually prevent women not born female from playing ... it only prevents those of us that are open about our past!!
Norah from Ontario, Canada, writes: "You said you had it all planned out to take your life at such a young age, could you please share what/whom/ the turning point was that changed your mind? Was it a family member? or religious support or friend that helped you through such a difficult time in your life?"
The turning point was simply not being able to live life as a lie ... to live the way I was living. I knew what I needed to do and it took being deeply depressed and having suicidal thoughts to do something about it. The decision became quite easy when the other option was dying! My family and close friends were all a huge support for me when I when through my treatment.
Christina from Parma, Ohio, writes: "Do you think if our society didn't constantly put men and women into this gender dichotomy where they were defined as either being masculine and feminine (and never the two should fluidly mix in one person) and if you had been free to express, for lack of a better term, "femininity" as a child (like to wear dresses,etc), do you think you still would have opted for a sex change? Also, Did you grow up in a repressive home/were abused at all or did you have a better connection with either one of your parents?"
It's in interesting thought isn't it, and a very difficult one (or even impossible) to answer. The way I feel, I think I would always have opted for surgery. If we lived in a society without gender boundaries it would just have been easier to get treatment at a much earlier age. It is so hard to say though? I come from a society (Scandinavia) which is very open minded and liberal and my parents were not oppressive and are very open minded themselves. I was not abused and don't feel I had a better connection with either parent.
Tom Clemens of Minneapolis, Minn., asks: "When you are through golfing, what next?"
I like to live in the 'now', and at the moment I'm pursuing my golf. My future will unfold in what ever way is intended and I feel myself merely along for the ride for most of it. It's exciting to see how it might turn out.
Sarah Harper Scott of Augusta, Ga., asks: "Do you wish that no one knew you were transgendered? What made you decide to inform everyone about your sex reassignment surgery?"
In a way it would of course be nice if no one knew of my past. It would make so many other things in life so much easier. I get e-mails from many women who live lives in secrecy where nobody knows of their past ... none of their friends, boyfriends and husbands. There are so many more than people actually realize. I didn't actually 'inform' anyone of my condition, openness has always been a part of my life and was something that I just wasn't able to keep from people for very long. They would always find out from someone else if I didn't tell them. It has just grown with me and is merely a part of who I am.
Pam Saunders from Marshall, Wisc., asks: "Do you get tired of people focusing on the change instead of on you as a person?
There is still a lot of stigma attached to being transgendered which is sad and unnecessary. It makes our lives so much harder than they need to be. The focus on me because of my past does make my golf very difficult to pursue, but by the same token, I am pleased with the focus if I can do something to inform society a little better. To help shatter inappropriate and false stereotypes.