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Author Topic: How much experimentation without guidance?
goodtimes
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Less than a month ago, over four years of informal sexuality and gender questioning finally initiated my very first attempts at seriously exploring alternatives to "straight male." One late April evening, "gay male" was rapidly discarded as an option after a consensual but very frightening sexual experience elevated my anxiety to the point of shivering. Around the same time I began putting more thought into transsexualism, and since then I've felt perfectly comfortable with nearly every aspect of it.

I've always desired the freedom to live a more feminine personality, and I'm fortunate enough to find myself under ideal conditions to transition publicly without the hassle of switching to a stealthy new life. Thinking of myself as a soon-to-be girl has made me happier and more carefree than I can remember ever having been. Past years found me in therapy for depression and a chronic anxiety, but it's *gone*.

So far I've done little things like wearing my long hair down at work, changing my body language, and attempting to alter my voice a bit. Coworker reactions indicate that the changes have been noticed, but not necessarily made a huge impact. As previously stated, these people as well as local family/friends are not expected to have any difficulty accepting this. This is great news for me, but here comes the question:

How much longer can I maintain this TS experimentation in public, and how much further can I take it before I'm likely to get myself into trouble for not yet having sought out the assistance of a trained psychologist?

I'm hesitant to sit down with someone just yet because in the past I've found that I need a *lot* of confidence about my feelings before I'm able to speak about them. I want to immerse myself in the lifestyle a little more first, but the ts person I've taken up contact with online is urging me strongly to start sessions first. eep!

Background: 20 years old, returning to college in the fall, working half-time.

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Heather
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I think it's important to point out that just like there is no one lifestyle for those of us who are homosexual, there isn't a "lifestyle" for those whoa are transgendered/transsexual.

So, what the "lifestyle" is is whatever YOUR lifestyle is or you want it to be. Make sense?

Gender identity, for everyone, really, is largely a construct. So, any of us gets to have whatever gender ID feels most comfortable with, and that always takes time to sort out, and always develops fluidly over the corse of our lives. If you don't want or feel you need counseling right now, you don't need to have it. TG/TS isn't a psychological illness which *requires* any sort of treatment. However, while people who are TG/TS may find that issues with that can be at the root of depression, and addressing that can help, it rarely, if ever, is a cure-all, so I wouldn't suggest ditching any therapy/medication you have for those conditions until you speak to your current therapist about that.

Here are some links you may find helpful:

- http://www.transgendercare.com/default.asp
- http://www.transhistory.org/history/index.html
- http://www.tgguide.com/


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goodtimes
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Hmm, I'm not sure if I worded the question quite correctly. I'll try to address each of the points you made.

First of all, I agree fully with the notion that gender must absolutely not be a thin line. I'm being careful because I know that the direction I'm headed will change me enough to draw attention. "Lifestyle" wasn't meant to define a specific set of behaviors--just distinguish my past from my present.

I don't consider ts/tg to be a negative condition by any means, and I'm not expecting this to be a cure-all. Psychologically, I had been feeling reasonably OK before this, so there were no therapy or medication adjustments. I'm currently involved in neither of the two, but am considering speaking with someone who has experience with transsexual issues.

It would be nice if society could allow me to casually transition to whichever persona I desire, but imho, it defintely won't. My question was asking whether people think I'll meet unexpected dilemas which would have been anticipated by a therapist who knows more about transitioning than I do.

I've never watched anyone do this, and although I'm happy to be breaking the socially-appointed limits of both genders, I don't want to end up cornered one day thinking, "Oh s&@#, how could I have not seen this coming?"

If/when I show up at work in women's shoes, pants, and blouse, there are sure to be responses my inexperience won't know how to deal with.


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kythryne
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Transitioning from one gender to another (or to an inbetween point, in the case of those who choose to live as genderqueer or some other variety non-binary gender) tends to be a pretty unique process, with different people experiencing radically different things as they go through it.

There's a really excellent book called "True Selves True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism For Families, Friends, Coworkers and Helping Professionals", by Mildred Brown and Chloe Ann Rounsley, which I recommend very highly to anyone who has questions about transgender issues. It's certainly not a how-to guide, but it does point out a lot of the common issues that could come up, and presents good ways to deal them.

If you can get your hands on a copy, you'll probably find it quite useful. Most libraries have it, and a lot of big bookstores tend to stock it too.

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goodtimes
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Thank you very much, Kythryne :-) I picked the book up at the library and have begun reading it. So far, I think it's fantastic! One thing I noticed in searching was that "True Selves" is not duplicated in the book title. T'was easy to find though--second library carried it.

One big thing I've noticed is that the book speaks of transsexuals as deeply distressed people who feel trapped inside their bodies. This matches what I'd heard before, but it certainly doesn't apply to me. If left no choice, I'm sure I could lead a successful life filled with enough happiness to keep it worthwhile. Despite this, however, I believe that if you could draw a precise line down the fields of male and female, I'd place myself well within the female half.

Perhaps this is an indication that society has become more flexible about gender roles since the book was written in 1996, but it concerns me a bit. Is it actually a sign that I'm happy enough as I am? Am I going to make things worse for myself by breaking away from the role I was raised in?


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Heather
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I think it's worth looking at the fact that gender identity really ISN'T binary. In other words, drawing a big red line somwehere to make male and female halves may be a big part of WHY so many people have dysmorphia: because much of culture tries to create and enforce a precise fence when it often just isn't there in terms of gender roles, behaviour, appearance and identity.

(And when that's done, what is "masculine" and what is "feminine" are things which are totally arbitrary, unless you're talking about biological gender, and even then, some of it is a bit iffy.)

And no one appearance, for instance, naturally dictates certain behaviours. For example, look at something like butch/femme. I'm seen, usually, as a femme woman, because I have long hair, because I wear boots with heels, because I often dress in a certain style, yet sometimes it's seen as a conflict, or as confusing, because I'm also an amateur boxer, a building handyperson, because I speak forcefully and my voice is very deep, because of assertive sexual behaviours, etc.

So, often even what any given person thinks "woman" means is often based on artificial construct, cultural roles, and their own ideas.


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goodtimes
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Miz Scarlet, I can't help but feel that you're accusing me of fueling society's binary outlook on gender : (. I agree with every word you say about the importance of not categorizing people, and already know that I'll be fairly in between.

I _do_ believe, however, that I personally would eventually like to change my first name. I don't want to be barbie, but I do want to a girl. Perhaps I'll fall into the region people call tomboy?

I want to be treated the way girls are treated when first met by a new person--not the way a boy *can* be treated after months or years of social exchange have established a customized gender persona.

My mannerisms have already solicited a welcomed and rather nonstandard style of discourse with coworkers, but it's still not what I want. I don't know how else to put it into words... It just doesn't feel right to know that when people initially see me, they are subconsciously aware that, "this person must have a penis."


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Heather
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Honey, I'd hardly hold one person responsible for that.

And binary gender norms and constructs are likely going to be around a good long time no matter what we do, if not always. So, no, I'm really not.

But I do think that you're making some assumptions about what life is like as any sort of women. There is no one given way every woman is treated when they meet new people. There isn't even any one way women who present a certain way (in terms of how "feminine" they do or don't appear) are treated. It's all over the map.

I'd say we're not even safe saying that just based on being biologically female, you're looking at different treatment than those who are not. For instance, I have biologically female friends who are treated with less of the conventions you might expect than some MTF or drag queen friends I have.

So, I suppose what I'm just saying to you is that it's important to keep your expectations in check. Because I've known plenty of bio-women (especially very butch lesbians, as an example) who, when people intially see or meet them are clearly being met with the attitude of "this person must have a penis."

I don't think we can say with confidence that ANY form of identity or presentation isn't to some degree about how we want others to see us or treat us. But I think it's worth evaluating how MUCH of our identity is about that, especially since it's something we really can't control, and especially when a given identity involves a lot of sacrifices or heavy emotional or physical risks.

Make sense?


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goodtimes
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I understand your point about keeping expectations in check, but telling the world that I'm male just doesn't feel right. I also can't ignore the fact that being feminine makes me soo much happier.

On the other hand, concerns about emotional and physical hardships are definitely playing a role in my thought process. hmmmmm

I think maybe it's time for me to set an appointment with that psychologist. And yet, I still don't know if I'll be able to explain why I'm leaning toward transsexualism.

Any thoughts on whether I ought to try out feminine clothing at work before I speak with her?

Still reading that book, by the way. Several times it has suddenly reminded me of events in my childhood which definitely weren't too standard for a boy.


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logic_grrl
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I think that part of what people have been saying is that there isn't a single, fixed point in transitioning when you are obliged to see a psych.

In fact, there's no requirement that a psych has to be involved at all unless you want to get hormones or have surgery.

So really the question is if (and when) you feel you'd like to have guidance from a psych, support group, or whoever.

For example, do you feel ready to try feminine clothing at work right now now, or would you rather talk it through with someone first?

And there isn't a single, fixed point when everyone's reactions to you will change overnight (if they do at all). Unexpected dilemmas may crop up at any point.

For example, some people will freak out (or not) just as much about someone presenting as a feminine boy as they will about the same person ID-ing as a trans woman.

And they may interpret (or misinterpret) your gender presentation in a variety of ways - for example, some people may see wearing a blouse and women's pants as being a feminine guy or a cross-dresser; the big shift for them may only come if and when you directly state that you identify as a woman.


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goodtimes
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I suppose I don't really need assistance with the semi-cross-dressing at work (although I realize now that it'll be difficult to obtain such clothing). Clothes have never been important to me. I've always leaned toward ones which are comfortable and won't attract too much attention; gender-specific styles have never mattered.

What I think I *will* seek to discuss in therapy is all the questioning I've done this weekend in wake of my gung-ho attitude from the previous week. I don't know whether it's a full switch involving name/hormones/srs that I want, or just to let go of all gender-specific inhibitions and behave as I please.

I'm full of doubt about everything now, but how many little boys play with jewlery boxes and personally decide on being a custom-designed "ballerina-witch" for halloween? Did all those raised eyebrows steer me away from my 'true self' years ago?

All this frustration has been cropping up on the weekend when I can't express myself in public. Parents know nothing. I'm beginning to realize that it might be best to distract myself until each Monday when I can let loose and explore my gender without toiling in endless mental loops around questions which can't be answered by theories.

Gurrrrrr I'm so frustrated!


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kythryne
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Yargle. That's what I get for trying to post at work with people distracting me every five minutes. There is, indeed, only one "True Selves" in the title of the book.

One thing to keep in mind, in addition to everything Miz S. had to say, is that while many transpeople do feel most comfortable at one extreme of the gender spectrum, there are others who find they fall somewhere in the middle, or just to one side of "female" or "male" or who bounce happily around the spectrum without feeling any real need to pick one point and stay there. It's very much up to the person in question, just as it is for anyone who fits comfortably in their biological gender.

My partner, for instance, did the high femme thing for a bit when she first started transitioning, but these days, she's rarely seen in anything but jeans, tshirts, and sneakers, and I can't remember the last time she put on makeup. I know a couple of genderqueer people who identify as mostly male but routinely wear glitter and bright pink clothing, and I have a friend who's a big burly guy with a beard and a ponytale who occasionally wears brightly flowered dresses out in public. And on the other hand, there are the people who only feel comfortable if they're presenting themselves as stereotypically female or male as possible -- that can happen for any number of reasons, from it just being what feels comfortable to them to feeling uncomfortable or scared that someone will "see through" them and know that they're a transsexual unless they go to extremes in their presentation.

Bottom line? Take things one day at a time, and do what feels right for YOU.


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goodtimes
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> Take things one day at a time

I know that's supposed to be a means of sifting through an overwhelming mess of decisions, but it's the exact opposite for me. I feel compelled to accomplish a month's worth of transition in a day, but I don't know which direction I'm headed. You could compare me nicely to a plane with no steering and lots of impatient people on board.

I'm eagerly awaiting my newly-made therapy appointment in ~20 days. Hopefully that'll help me to get a better understanding of what I want. Now more than ever, I think it's critical that the therapist be completely neutral. It may take only fifty minutes of hinting to push me in one direction, or away from the issue altogether. Or do I feel more strongly about this than I consciously know?

Feeling free to "bounce happily around the spectrum" sounds just like me, but there's a nagging voice inside which says I want to do it from a female home base. There are so many variables involved in this it's unbelievable! Despite the fantastically accepting environment I find myself in, figuring this out is a huge confuzzling puzzle.

For others who are picking up the aforementioned book, I have this to say: The first ~50 pages speak only of trans people who have felt trapped since early childhood. This is not the case for me, and I was getting nervous until later on when it reaffirmed the existence of confused people who don't necessarily feel that a huge terrible error was made in matching their minds to their bodies.

I just feel happier as a girl =)


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Heather
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I think though, that what Kyth was saying, and what I was trying to explain too, is that there IS a huge spectrum just in being female: biologically, per how you identify or both.

In other words, what you see or experience as what is "female" can be vastly different from what bio-women like Kyth, logic or myself do, and just as vastly different than what Kyth's TG partner Amy does... or it may be very similar. There really isn't a clear "female home base."


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goodtimes
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*sigh* everywhere I look, things and people are attempting to confuse me =( I don't understand which part of my statement(s) you think is misguided....

I just want to be an undefined girl in my mind, and a quirky girl in the mind of everyone else.


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Heather
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I assure you that no one here is "attempting to confuse" you. If anything, quite the opposite: giving people relevant things to think about with a given issue is an attempt to help them find clarity.

None of us has any investment in what you do for yourself or how you identify at all.


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goodtimes
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Don't worry, I know... Although it feels that each question I encounter is there to complicate my issue, I still understand that after thinking it through, I'm a bit stronger than before. That book is doing it at a rapid pace. Several times now I've had to pause reading for a few hours because I found myself hyperventilating. One crime description was particularly distressing yesterday =\

Thank you for all your posts =) I've felt safe enough to continue experimenting at work and home. I've even begun wearing a little silver ring which I know has caught the attention of several people. Perhaps it'll start forcing them to reevaluate their perceptions before I have the courage to say anything. I'll have to keep thinking this through, and keep my eyes open for topics which would benefit from forum input.

~ Quirky Girl =)


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MNtomboy
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Ok, I firmly don't believe in 'girl' or 'guy' clothes, but dressing in what most of society belives as 'guy' clothes (I'm a girl) makes me super happy. When I walk into stores, I don't say "ok I'm going to buy some boy clothes now" it's more like, "ok, I'm going to buy whatever I like and is comfortable to me" I actually get the urge to rip down the signs that say "Mens" and "Womens". I think everyone should act/do/and dress however they feel is right or whatever they like. Once a guy wore a dress to school and me and my friends clapped him, because he wasn't conforming to what people think guys should and shouldn't wear.

Anyway I just want to say good luck with whatever you do, and it's awesome that you're not afraid to be yourself! To be a guy that does and acts 'femme' is really cool, but I get what you're saying about rather being totally yourself from a girl-base. (Or however you worded it.) I'm happy acting like a guy, but being a girl. Then again I'm 15 and I feel really stupid for being on this thread when everyone else is much older and smarter!


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John316
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I was sort of like that too. I was told to look into what may of made me feel this way. Hold off on experimenting for now and look down the road of how you got to feeling this way and when it started. You may find the answer is a painfull one.

My pain came from my brain trying to protect it self when I was very young and someone hurt me.

That was what was causing me to feel safe in the feelings of being girl like.

Looking into childhood would be a good idea

------------------
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I trust Him, I'll tell you why! :o)


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skrawl
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hey goodtimes and others,
i'm jamie, genderqueer FTM extraordinaire. i wanted to let you know about a couple of mailing lists i thought you might find useful... both can be found at the following web address: http://groups.queernet.org/cgi-bin/mj_wwwusr?user=&passw=&func=lists-long
one of them (which i manage) is called "TGTS-Youth". it's a discussion list for young people under 26 who are transgendered, transexual, gender-bending or questioning their gender identity.
the other which i think you might like is an all-ages list for genderqueers which is called "Sphere". the list-owner also has a website at http://leaves.wineberry.net/dani/sphere/sphere.html which is definitely worth a look.

therapy: i've seen a number of therapists on and off for a few years and while they were always somewhat helpful they have not been the primary way that i have been able to figure out my gender identity, and yes, they do like to push and question you sometimes (some more than others.) i don't think it's necessary to see one. in terms of transitioning gradually without disturbing people too much, being FTM is easier, i think. it's awesome that you've been able to experiment without getting a lot of negative reactions. in addition to online resources, there are also support groups (i go to a genderqueer group which really kicks ass) in some areas -- it really helps just to be around people who know you're transgender, i think. that way, you don't have to hide either how you identify yourself or your other-gendered past. i'm a person who loves to tell stories and if i have to pretend that my life earlier than a certain date -- or certain aspects of my current life -- don't exist... it's a deadening feeling.

also, thanks for info on "true selves" -- i've been avoiding it for just that reason, i was under the impression that it's all about trapped-in-the-wrong-body dyed-in-the-wool folks. meh.

talk to you again soon, i hope,
-jamie the pirate


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skrawl
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p.s. i so totally get what you mean about going about your genderfucking (my word) from a "female home base"! one of the main reasons i want to transition physically is so that i can act/dress all femmy and be perceived as "femme boy" and not "confused girl" or worse, "normal/fem girl." yeaa...
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logic_grrl
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quote:
Feeling free to "bounce happily around the spectrum" sounds just like me, but there's a nagging voice inside which says I want to do it from a female home base.

I think those two things are completely compatible .

The distinction between "gender identity" and "gender expression" can be useful here. "Gender identity" is whether you ID as male or female (or both, neither, etc.). "Gender expression" is how you manifest and present yourself (as "masculine", "feminine", "androgynous", "depends what day of the week it is", etc.). And there's no rule that says that someone who IDs as male has to be masculine, or that someone who IDs as female has to be feminine.

Goodtimes, it sounds like what you're saying is that you identify as female, but that doesn't mean you necessarily want to be conventionally "feminine".

Which is cool, and something that plenty of people feel .

But it's one of the many possible reasons why people might not always recognize your "home base", and it's useful to be braced for that.

I'm a non-TG female, and I still get people assuming that I'm a boy on a fairly regular basis.


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KCallahan
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I wish I had been around more and that I'd seen this earlier, as this echoes exactly what I went through.

I am TG, MTF, and I agree with the gender binary, but only because it applies to me. I'm all female. I may have male anatomy, but I do not think I'm "kinda female" or "inbetween" or "male in the feminine spectrum." None of those apply to the way I see myself. Regardless of my sex, I am female. Any male stereotypes I fill are merely just proof that girls can do anything guys can do. They are not proof that I'm just a feminine guy.

Does this mean that I see anything "wrong" with the idea of a non-binary gender? Uhm, I suppose not. I just do not understand it. I am not one to apply wrong to anything I do not understand. I'd be a hypocrit if I did. However, since it is outside of my very binary experience, I could not begin to imagine what it would mean to be without a gender in the binary paradigm.

As for counseling, I just got out of a three month, biweekly regimen of sessions. It was very helpful in dealing with the fact I cannot transition anytime soon due to my current job. Probably not for the next eight years. Being absolutely certain my gender is female, my counselor decided to rather focus on how to help me deal with the frustration (and this is what reminded me of myself in your posts) of being treated like a male when I want to be treated right off the bat as female, especially since that won't be physically changed for quite some time.

Counseling is definitely a good step. I suggest you read "Draped in Blue". I've spoken with the author. Now, since I am also 20, the second half of the book won't apply to you (this individual transitioned in her forties), but the first half of the book (her first 20 years on earth) will probably sound VERY familiar to you, as it sounded very familiar to me.

Also, don't be surprised if as a "straight male" you realize you're actually a "gay female." I am, and TG folk, as it was said to me on this very site, are as likely to be homosexual as individuals with the correct sex for their gender.

Hope I helped.


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'rin
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just wanted to point out another cool book/resource "my gender workbook" by kate bornstein (although i may have mispelled her last name). definately supports a non=binary way of looking at gender. also if i remember correctly it lists lots of other books and online resources for tg/genderqueer people. she has aonther book that's mostly autobiographical which is also a good read.
edited to agree that gender identity and gender expression are two seperate things....my gender identity is female, same as my sex, but my gender expression is often quite masculine. (i generally state it as i'm a girl...not a girlygirl)

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who is rin?

[This message has been edited by 'rin (edited 06-18-2004).]


Posts: 219 | From: lost in yonkers | Registered: Nov 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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