Thu. May 23rd, 2024

“You’ve got your mother in a whirl, cause she’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl” DAVID BOWIE
Having read the intro you have probably already figured out the story. The truth is I have never felt comfortable in the female body I was born with. It is hard to really put into words what this does to your mind over the years, but I have somehow managed to live with it. However, a catalog of events and a remarkable supportive and encouraging friend, gave me the courage to face my demons and FINALLY begin the process of liberating the REAL me.
When it came to writing this article I really had no idea what to focus on or what questions to ask of myself and that is where my friend Colette Nelson stepped in to rescue me. She is the one who encouraged me to ‘go for it’ and live the life I always desired to, so it seemed only fitting that she should ask me the questions you see before you.
I am hoping that those of you who know me will support me and those who don’t will understand me. What you are about to read is raw, unfiltered and real. That being said, I will pass the baton to Colette….
First, what is your real name? Why did you pick the name, LEIGH?

“My real name is Karen Penman. Never liked that name….even growing up! As to why I chose Leigh…well I originally wrote under the name Lee Newton – a derivative of the character David Bowie played in the movie ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’. I guess I identified with his character since he felt totally out of place in the world too. Then when I changed it back to my real last name I altered the spelling to ‘Leigh’ simply because I felt it looked better.”
When did you first realize that you weren’t a typical female?
“Interesting question and pretty difficult to nail down. When I pause to think about it though the reality of the situation is that even as a kid I felt more male than female and more of an ‘adult’ than a ‘child’. I didn’t hang out with girls since I didn’t have anything in common with them on any level – so that was a sign something was up! I mainly hung out with boys, played football, that kind of thing. I do recall asking an aunt of mine about sex change operations when I was about five years old – another sign!
Basically though, I was a loner. I didn’t fit in and didn’t really try to. In essence, from the time I could string thoughts together, I felt more male than female and pretty much conducted my life as much as I could to accommodate that feeling.”?
Did your parents treat you more like a boy or a girl growing up?
“I think my father treated me more like a son as my mother always reminded me that he always wanted a son (nice!). My mother treated me more like a sister or a friend giving me rules to live by such as ‘never trust anyone, never get married, and never have kids.’ Kind of inspiring thoughts to feed a child regardless of sex…lol!
Looking back I don’t think my mother knew what to make of me….”
Did you date men or women while in school?
“I wasn’t really a ‘dater’ at school. I simply did not fit in! I had a few boyfriends I guess but nothing serious till I was 16 (and he was 27 by the way!). I did have my fair share of girl crushes though but by the same token I had my walls littered with posters of the male pop idols of the time….crazy mixed up kid!”
Have you ever been married?
“Yes, in an effort to conform and in an act of sheer rebellion (his mother hated me!) I got married to a guy in the Air Force when I was 22. We lived together for about a year prior to actually marrying. The marriage was annulled due to ‘non consummation’. Yes….I did not have sex with the guy!
Those were what I fondly call my ‘music biz days’ and I was in the midst of an affair with a pop star who was in the charts at the time during my ‘marriage’. My husband knew about it, I made no secret of it. We all do things in our past that we are not proud of…these are my sins, laid bare for the world to see. Let’s just say I have done A LOT of growing up since those days.”
Do you want to have children?
“No, I am chronically and terminally allergic to children and have been known to run very quickly in the opposite direction should one approach me!”
When did you start taking male hormones? And why?
“I started taking hormones by prescription (Sustenon 250) back in the late 80’s. I was diagnosed with a gender disorder at a clinic in Charing Cross in London by an eminent gender specialist, Dr Russell Reid. I was involved in bodybuilding by that time so it had a nice side benefit. However, I only stayed on it for maybe four months (or less) at that time. The changes in my body were RAPID though and remained even when I went off it for about 6 years. I did start using Testosterone again though about three years ago, I am not about to deny that!”
Did you ever think about having a sex change before? Would you go through a total sex change operation?
“I have thought about having a sex change operation my entire thinking life and, truth be told (and I want everyone to know this…) I owe my current decision to finally ‘go for it’ to you. You gave me the courage and inspiration I needed to do it!”
What type of surgery are you willing to undergo to achieve your desired look?
“I am currently looking into having chest reconstruction surgery done. I envy those female bodybuilders with a completely flat chest. I fear surgery but I fear living only half a life more. I am not interested in having ‘bottom surgery’…penis envy is something I have never suffered from!”
Why did it take you so long to finally live as a man vs. a woman?
“This is going to sound pretty pathetic, but I was worried what other people would think. It already concerns me when it comes to my life at the gym. I have had my hair cut short and I have banished make up and I feel I am already attracting attention.
I guess I just needed someone on my side to help me…and shake me out of limbo land.”
Did you ever struggle from an eating disorder and do you think this had anything to do with your gender issues?
“Absolutely….I became anorexic when I was 13…right when puberty (and my period) started. I had managed to muddle through life pretty well up until then but between dealing with a period and the fact that my breasts were growing…I totally couldn’t handle it. Add to this the fact that at that time my mother and father were going through a divorce and as an only child I was left to look after a disabled mother…well you can imagine the mental havoc!

I was actually taken into a ‘mental hospital’ suffering from anorexia and a complete nervous breakdown when I was 17 and given one week to live if I carried on living my life that way.
The anorexia for me was all about retarding my development as a female, nothing to do with weight. The only tenuous connection was the fact that when my weight dropped my period stopped. I even went to the doctor and asked for a hysterectomy to ‘cure’ my anorexia…true!”
What do you hate most about being a woman?
“This is going to sound terrible, but being in a room with other women having ‘women’s conversations’. I have no frame of reference to input anything worthwhile. The subject matter never seems to be anything I can relate to. Also periods, make up, women’s clothes…lol…I am going to have an army after me at this rate!”
What do you like best about being a man?
“At this point in my transition, the simple things…not having to wear makeup, not worrying about sweating it off in the gym, washing my face with cold water after a workout…not having to shave (except when I have my ‘gym face’ on at this point), buying ‘guy stuff’ like men’s after shave, body lotion, hair gel, body wash (yes, I am an aspiring metro sexual!) And flirting with women…lol!”
How do you feel when people address you as SIR vs. Mam?
“I would say about 98% of the people I meet on the street already consider me ‘sir’ the exceptions were the ones who said ‘mam’. So this is not a big leap for me. I just feel more compatible with that form of address now.”
How will you handle changing rooms, public bathrooms, and other gender specific facts of life?
“Now that is something I am definitely going to feel awkward about. In some ways it would be easier moving to another State and starting over, but that is not an option as I am terminally in love with New York. This is definitely going to be, shall we say, interesting…”
What do you think is going to be the most difficult challenge of? living as a man when you are still technically a female?
“Believe it or not, once I get the chest reconstruction surgery I do not see any challenges. You have to bear in mind at this point that in my head I have always lived as a man and thought as a man so it is just a case of finally having a body that is almost congruent with those thoughts and behaviors. So I would say it will be liberating rather than challenging.”
Are you going to tell your family?
“That is what I am doing right now! Seriously I have no ‘family’ as such, just my father and at this point in his life I think it is better that he doesn’t know. There is no point.”
Do you plan on taking testosterone the rest of your life? What is your weekly dosage?
‘Since the ‘side effects’ are permanent at this point I see no reason to continue taking testosterone after my periods naturally cease without supplemental assistance. However, I may take a maintenance low dose of a long acting ester like Nebido, can’t say at this point. Right now my normal dose is about 125ml every 7 – 10 days.”
Do you still get a period?
“Very appropriate question at this point. I would have said NO but just the very week I decided to make this change I got some light spotting! A final rebellion of my female half? I have to admit I increased my testosterone and changed esters accordingly until this hiccup is over!”
If you pursue a relationship… how are you going to handle this with your partner?
“Hmmm…interesting question. To be totally honest I am not the relationship type. I always considered relationships to be like a fortress under siege…..the people on the inside wanting to get out and the people on the outside wanting to get in!
That being said, I do miss the physical side of a relationship (omg…now I really do sound like a guy!) but I think it would have to be a no strings attached arrangement, initially at least, and of course the person would have to be aware of my ‘situation’. However, I am sure a lot of women out there would agree with me when I say that you don’t need all the male anatomy on board to get the job done, lol!”
Where do you see yourself 5 years from making the decision to live as a man vs. a woman?
“Simply happier, more confident and FINALLY comfortable in my own skin!”
What goals have your set for yourself now that you are no longer living as a woman?
“At this stage my only goal is surgery. I am still the same person mentally as I have always been. I don’t need to set the goal of being happy…that happened the day I made the decision and walked the streets at night in New York as the ‘real me’. Aside from that I do want to get into fitness modeling in the transgender market, improve my physique and maybe make a real name for myself. I think I still have a latent hunger for fame…it is a Leo thing I am sure!”
You are a writer… is there a book in your future?
“That would be a long project but a distinct possibility. I actually have two books in my head that I want to get out there…it’s all about discipline…and having the financial resources to do so of course!”
What else do you want to share that might help others suffering from Gender Disorder?
“I can only encourage them to have the courage to step out and grasp the life they are supposed to lead to the best of their ability and resources. Life is short and you really don’t want to waste it by living in a body you feel uncomfortable with. After all, if it were an apartment in a bad building with intolerable neighbors you would not think twice about relocating to a better environment. Our body is the environment we have been given to live in during our stay here, with modern technology and – hopefully – a more liberated society we should be able to change the environment to our liking.
Apart from that anyone who wants to e mail me privately can do so at and they can also question me freely here on the RX forums. I am an open book as I think this interview has proved….”
Leigh Penman/Colette Nelson

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