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Author Topic: am I rushing into things?
non-conformist
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this summer i had an epiphany and realized i'm transgender. at first i just kinda was questioning everything and was okay with that, but because I hate grey areas I immediately sought to label myself and stuck with bigender.

fast forward to now and i'm thousands of miles away from home for the first time at college and i've been using this newfound freedom (my family was super homophobic and transphobic) to tell everyone i meet "i'm trans!". since bigender isn't exactly a common term, i normally just let them assume i'm a pre-transition (despite all efforts i still get read as female 100% of the time) trans man, which isn't entirely untrue. I was getting people to refer to me using my last name and gender neutral pronouns, but then someone referred to me using my male name when i told them because they asked and it was the absolute best feeling i have ever had in my entire life. i'm not exaggerating at all. I've had some serious mental health issues for a while, including depression, and some person i barely knew uttering two syllables instantly made me happier than all of my meds and treatments combined, even happier then I can remember being ever. so when i went to this drop in event for trans youth a few days later i asked them to refer to me using my male name and male pronouns and the wonderful feeling continued every time they used them. and every time someone uses my birth name or female pronouns it's an awful, awful feeling.

as a result, i'm now suddenly thinking of transitioning. i have a bunch of appointments with different therapists/psychiatrists/doctors to discuss various issues, some trans, some not, and one of them is a doctor i was referred to specifically so i could talk about starting hormone therapy. as much as i would love to just suddenly start taking testosterone (my chest is HUGE and my voice is super high so passing without hormones is almost impossible for me) i'm worried i'm rushing into things.

if living the rest of my life as a man is what will make me happy, i have no problem taking the appropriate steps, even if it means dealing with the healthcare system, spending lots of money, dealing with transphobia, etc. i'm just not sure it is.

the thing is, i've never considered myself male until now. and the idea, quite frankly, seems weird. i mean, my male name (which is very male and not at all androgynous) and male pronouns feel completely right for me, and i can see myself visually as looking/dressing/behaving in masculine ways, but i'm not sure if i identify as a man.

i can't really remember being dysphoric as a kid, of course i can't really remember being a kid because childhood abuse/trauma has led to me suppressing/forgetting a lot of my early years. i do remember doing stereotypically feminine things like making sure everything in my room was pink, and enjoying them and doing them, as far as i can tell, not as a result of societal pressure. I also remember playing with lego, hotwheels, etc. I never really had friends for a variety of reasons. when i did hang out with people it was with guys, and we did things that i guess were masculine like having spitting contests, which i prided myself on winning. I stopped being friends with all two of my female friends when they hit puberty, either because they became super feminine and developed super feminine interests such as make-up and so on that i found boring and irrelevant, or because they started being attracted to boys and they way they expressed this attraction was (i don't know if this makes sense) very heterosexual, and even though i started being attracted to guys as well, i somehow knew that i wasn't attracted to them in the same way other girls were, and not just cause i was also attracted to girls.

i have memories of trying on a sports bra way back when my chest was flat just to see what it would feel like, and for no logical reason (it fit fine) it just felt weird and wrong so i took it off and said i'd never wear bras ever. i also remember just staring at my face in the mirror and wondering who the hell that person on the other side was, cause there was no way she was me. i started wearing baggy hoodies, not consciously to hide my body shape, but just cause they made me feel safe and i felt like i had something to hide, though i had no idea what.

but even if i can list off plently of times being a girl felt wrong, i can list a million more that it felt right. i don't ever remember feeling like i had the "wrong" body parts just so much as i felt indifferent. honestly, even now i don't care that i don't have a penis or do have breasts i just wish people didn't see me as female.

i guess it took me a while to realize that people even were seeing me as a girl. when i cut my hair super short (at some point in puberty i switched from being super feminine - i wanted to be a fashion designer - to being super masculine - i wanted to join the military) i sort of assumed that, as in disney movies, everyone would think i'm a boy. i remember meeting someone for the first time and having them use female pronouns in describing me to their friend before I'd even said my name and, i dunno, i guess i just felt disappointed or something? maybe i was expecting that they would see me as male, or maybe i just never realized gender was something people saw/cared about?

i know this post is super long, probably has typos, and may or may not make sense, but i'm just so confused. can gender be fluid, like sexuality? like, for a while i identified as bisexual (partly because i read on the internet that everyone is bisexual) and then as a lesbian, which i then changed to queer when i stopped denying that i was attracted to men, and then to bigender, and now to bisexaul trans man, and i'm fine with the idea that people's identities shift over the course of their lives, it's just that some of the changes taking hormones cause might be permanent. i feel like having to spend the rest of my life as a man would be just as limiting as spending the rest of my life as a woman, but i feel like i have a body that isn't really capable of being androgynous, furthermore, even when i felt like i was bigender i felt like i had two distinct male and female sides, not like i was in between or neither or both at the same time. like, i don't think i'm genderqueer or agender. to go back to names/pronouns, i'm alright with being referred to by my last name, but it's kinda male sounding. gender neutral pronouns, on the other hand, don't do much for me. i almost feel the same way about them tht i do about female ones. and to make things more complicated, my sexuality is tied up in this. i can only see myself romantically/sexually involved with guys as a guy, but i have absolutely no clue about girls. i thought i was a lesbian mainly because there's this (untrue) cultural idea, at least among my friends, that being a gay girl means "you're basically a dude", which meant that my hetero male friends accepted me as "one of the guys". so i think i may've been trying to express my gender identity through my sexual orientation. i'm attracted to girls, but i don't want to be a girl, but i don't to be in a heterosexual relationship with a girl as a man, but i obviously don't want to be in a relationship with a woman as a woman.

i guess i just don't want to make a permanent life altering decision if it's something i'll change my mind on. even though i'm only seventeen, every medical professional i've talked to says i'm old enough to transition without my parents' consent (which they would never give - a whole other issue) which i think is great, but should i really be transitioning to a gender i'm not sure i am? i'd be fine not taking hormones if only i could get people to see me as male, or at least not as female. i spent the literal last of my money buying undersized sports bras and spandex tank tops at walmart in the hopes that i could attempt binding and although it makes me look like i've lost thirty pounds, i still look female, at least to other people. and i think hormones are the only thing that would change my voice. but then it'd be changed forever! i don't know what gender i wanna be 50 years from now. i just know what gender i want to be today, which may not even be the gender i want to be next month. so what should i do? just keep thinking about it? ask people to use my male name and pronouns even though everyone except my trans friends, my women's studies professor and medical professionals view me as female? all i know is that i want people to switch from my birth name/pronouns to my chosen name/pronouns because it gives me so much joy and really it's such a small thing. but to the rest of the world, which is super reliant upon the gender binary/sexism/misogny/cissexism/etc you can't just fool around with gender. you have to choose one. i'm not in any way trying to say that bigender, trigender agender, etc. people don't exist or that they're identities are any less valid than binary-identified people, i'm just saying that i personally feel like not being cis is about all the stigma i can handle in my gender identity. like, even if my identity, could best be described as neither male nor female or both or something else entirely, i just don't feel like i have the personal strength to openly live an identity so invisible in mainstream society. i feel like being a trans man would be hard enough. so i feel like i have to choose between male and female and i know that right now i'm leaning towards male, but in the past i've leaned towards female so i'm just not sure if it would stupid or rash or whatever if i just started hormones. i know i can transition whenever and there's not some ticking clock, but i just can't handle the idea of continuing on as a female.

it makes me sooooo happy to be read as male in any capacity. like even when some guy yelled "faggot" at me the other day it made me happy because i assumed that this meant they were reading me as male, even if as an effeminate man, which i don't really care about anyways since i am queer and in someways effeminate. and on top of everything else, i'm worried that maybe what's driving my desire to transition is that i'm in love with this guy i've befriended at college, who's gay, and i don't think he'd like me that way even if he saw me as a gay man because he already know/accepts that i'm trans.so i don't even know what i'm trying to say anymore. argh, nothing makes sense. any advice? (and again, sorry about the length, i did not intend for this thing to become a mini-essay/autobiography)

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Heather
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I don't think it's rushing in to take the step to seek out qualified trans-friendly therapists here. None of this can move very fast due to medical protocols, and given how you're feeling so positively about the steps you're thinking about, and the steps you've already taken, it sounds to me like taking the next step to start talking to a therapist is just right. [Smile]

That's not any kind of permanent choice you're making there, and none of the steps you could take that really are are anything you could take quickly, anyway.

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Molias
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Hi, non-conformist, and welcome to the boards.

It sounds like you have a lot on your mind and I think it's a great idea to have appointments lined up to talk with folks about identity, hormone therapy, etc. I do bristle sometimes at the amount of medical gatekeeping trans folks have to go through, but it can be really helpful to talk to professionals about these issues. And like Heather said, I don't think taking these initial steps equates to rushing in at all.

You've said a lot here, but I want to pull out a few things and talk about them.

quote:
can gender be fluid, like sexuality?
Certainly for some folks it can be. There are some trans-identified people who have a very strong sense that their gender isn't the gender they were assigned at birth from a young age; their gender identity might be rock-solid for life (and of course many cisgender people feel like this as well).

To use myself as an example, here: I was assigned female at birth and never really gave a thought to my gender identity at all until I was about nineteen and read some gender theory books that a friend gave me. Growing up I was never super feminine but wasn't a huge tomboy either; I was pretty unexceptional in terms of my gender expression, for the most part.

I was really confused about my gender for a while; I was pretty squarely genderqueer-identified for a bit, then felt things tip over to the male side enough to begin medical transition, and now that I've been on that road for several years and find that pretty much everyone is reading me as a man, I am less male-identified than I was before; I don't really have a clear sense of what my gender identity is at the moment but it's some sort of flavor of genderqueer/not-very-manly trans dude sort of thing. And I can still tell that things are shifting a bit! I feel pretty comfortable having a fluid identity, although in my daily life I would guess that most strangers read me as a queer man as my mannerisms are pretty effeminate/expressive. While that's not entirely accurate I am ok with that being my Public Face.

quote:
i don't to be in a heterosexual relationship with a girl as a man, but i obviously don't want to be in a relationship with a woman as a woman.
Just because there are two differently-gendered people in a relationship, that definitely doesn't make it a heterosexual relationship by default. This may just be something you will get a sense of as you continue to date, but I really do think it's possible to work that out with a partner, as you're both aware of each other's identities and desires. If you feel comfortable talking about your gender and what sort of relationship dynamic you want with a potential partner, then that leaves room for the two of you to work out what it means for you to date each other.
It may be helpful here, for you, to also think about what it means, exactly, to date someone "as a man" or "as a woman." When I was first sorting out thoughts about my own gender, I was realizing something kind of similar - I was attracted to men (and had exclusively dated men up until that point) but realized that I didn't want to date or be sexual with them "as a woman" and it took me a while to really understand what I meant when I thought that. A lot of it came down to my discomfort with sexism and traditional gender roles in relationship dynamics, some of it was with making sure partners were respecting my body and not improperly gendering it during intimacy.

As you've said, your friends saying that being a lesbian is basically the same as being a man is entirely wrong. I can understand if being around that sentiment means it's gotten its hooks in you a bit, but I'd encourage you to pull those hooks out. =) The range of gender expression among lesbians is really wide, and while there are some trans men who spend some time in lesbian communities before they begin social/medical transition, that's not at all a universal experience.

quote:
so what should i do? just keep thinking about it? ask people to use my male name and pronouns even though everyone except my trans friends, my women's studies professor and medical professionals view me as female?
I have two thoughts on this: there's nothing that says you can't have people in some areas of your life adopt the language you want, even if you aren't quite ready to ask other people to do that. If you want to just ask professors and some friends to use your male name/pronouns, then that's fine! Not everyone who makes that change does it over every part of their life at once. So there's no reason to force yourself to

At the same time, though, you absolutely have the right to ask anyone you deal with on a regular basis to respect the name and pronouns that work best for you. It can be a huge challenge to have people get on board, but the only way to know will be to give it a try. And honestly, when I went through this process with my friends group, it was a real eye-opener in terms of seeing who really respected me and who made little to no effort to get language right.
It sounds like your family might be an entirely separate group here, since you seem pretty sure that they won't be supportive at all, but you may be able to get even your less gender-savvy friends on board. I very strongly feel that you have the right to ask anyone in your life to make those changes for you.
Certainly if you want any support around talking to folks around language changes and that sort of thing, it's something we can talk to you about. =)

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non-conformist
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thanks for your responses

heather, i think you're right that talking to a therapist is a good next step.

molias, it really makes me feel better knowing that there are other trans people who didn't realize they weren't cis from the moment they were born. i know it's stupid, but the narrative played over and over again in mainstream media is someone who felt like they were trapped in the wrong body since they were two, which is in no way the case for all trans people. while undoubtedly this may've been the experience for some, i never did, and i still don't feel "trapped". i don't actually have that much of a problem with my body, but with how others perceive it, and i actually felt bad about not hating myself for a while because according to the messages i had internalized "real" trans people should hate their bodies. i guess my apprehension with names/pronouns is somewhat similar. if i could, i'd have every person in the entire world call me by my male name and pronouns. but i feel bad even asking for form's from my doctor's office to change my preferred name, partly because i just changed it to my last name less than a week ago, but mostly because i feel like i don't "deserve" to have a male name or pronouns used as long as i get read as female. even though i'm doing all i can in attempting to bind, i guess i feel like i'm not trying hard enough or like there's something more i should be doing. i guess it's just guilt and shame. i feel like i'm asking a huge favor of people to use the right name and pronouns, like i'm making too big a deal of it or drawing unnecessary attention to myself, or that it's unreasonable to expect people to change their conception of gender to allow for a man to have visible breasts and a high pitched voice. i know i have every right to be called by my name and pronouns, and i know that feeling guilt and shame is internalized transphobia, but i still end up feeling bad. i don't have the greatest social skills to begin with and i always feel like i'm asking too much of people. i'm too scared even to correct my friends who still call me for my birth name even though i asked for my last name. this is basically the main reason i want to start hormones, is because i feel like if i had facial hair or a deep voice people would have to use a male name and pronouns. i'm just not good at talking to people, and i guess i'm just worried people won't want to continue on in their relationships with me (of whatever capacity), but i guess if that would be the case it's not that much of a beneficial relationship anyways. i suppose at some point i'll have to start standing up for my rights as a trans person, it just all seems so terrifying.

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Molias
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It's really unfortunate that the information about trans people in mainstream media - and, I'd argue, even a lot of LGBT media - focuses on one very particular narrative of self-discovery and coming out. As you say, that narrative often involves a sense of someone's gender from a young age and very strong body dysphoria/hatred. Some trans folks do feel like this! But really, many of them do not. I know a lot of trans people and I'd say that probably more than half of them don't identify with that common narrative. It can just be really hard to know that other ways of coming to understand your gender identity are valid, when there aren't a lot of examples of that happening.

Do you know if there are any queer centers, either at your college or elsewhere in your town, that have support/social groups for trans folks that might be helpful to attend? If you aren't sure, we could try to look some up if you want to give us your town or post code.

My thought is that it could be helpful to talk to other people who may have similar backgrounds to you - or something different, but still not necessarily adhering to the Dominant Trans Narrative. Also I have found that groups like this can be very helpful in giving support around asking other people in your life to be respectful in terms of using proper language, not asking terrible questions, etc.

I think your thoughts about not deserving to have the language you want used for you would be a great thing to bring up with a therapist, once you've found one that you click with. And talking with other trans people can help there too - I think if you see other people struggling with this it might be easier to say to them "hey, you totally deserve this" and maybe if you have those thoughts about other people enough, it'll be easier to have them about yourself? I know that it took me a while to really feel confident asserting my right to be called whatever I say is right, not what other people want to call me.

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non-conformist
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There are some queer/trans organizations in my area, and i've already joined a few of them. the aforementioned trans youth drop in thing runs on a weekly basis and while we basically just play board games, i find it incredibly validating to have them use my male name and pronouns. i've also attended a few events run by a feminist organization that used to be a women's centre, but they changed their name to something more vague be more trans inclusive. they referred me to a doctor who apparently specializes in hormone therapy for trans people. and then there's also a queer organization on my campus, and one of the guys who runs it happens to be trans. and i know it might sound silly, but just finding out that he was trans encouraged me because although i knew that people like me existed i had never actually met someone who told me they were trans, and i guess it just made me feel like trans people do actually exist and lead normal lives, and i am not alone, and also more hopeful that one day the world will see me as i see myself.

i talked to a counselor today and she really didn't give me any advice, but it was our first meeting so that's to be expected. she seemed to think my asking people to refer to me using a male name and pronouns was a huge step, and i guess i hadn't realized this before. i've been really caught up in how people are still reading me as female, and the fact that i can't afford to buy a binder or male clothes or pay for hormones or surgery when i finally get the chance to have them, and it was really depressing me because i felt like there were all these things i needed to buy in order to be read as male, and that if other people, namely complete strangers in public spaces who i would never see again, weren't viewing my identity the way i wanted them to then that identity must somehow be less real. but i guess she is right in the sense that making the decision to transition is in and of itself a step towards transitioning.

this week i have an appointment with a therapist and a social worker who specialize in trans issues and run this support group type thing for people who are thinking about transitioning. i do hope i'll meet some people more like me in terms of how they came to identify as trans. while i do feel incredibly lucky to have had the internet and to know that people like me exist, i sometimes feel like i am "less trans" because i didn't know sooner, or because i played with feminine toys as well as masculine toys, or because i don't particularly care whether or not i have a penis. i know there are other trans people who may've had similar experiences, but i do sometimes feel inferior, like i'm not "man enough".

but like i said, the various organizations i'm already in contact with are very supportive of me emotionally, even if just in the sense that they make a point of using the correct name/pronouns. and i got the medical/counseling services on campus to also use my preferred name. i still don't feel brave enough to ask most people, but i still try and ask them to at least use my last name whenever possible. i know that i, and all trans people, deserve to have the right name used regardless of our compliance with some arbitrary standard of masculinity/femininity, but despite how strongly i feel about this i have trouble finding the courage to tell other people. i even have a hard time speaking out when my friends misgender/name someone who is a public figure, for example when chelsea manning came out this summer i was really pissed about all the people who continued to use the wrong name and pronouns, but i was always too afraid to say anything even though i wouldn't have been defending myself. i know this is problematic, but in many ways my feelings of self-worth are tied up in how other people view me, which makes risking rejection so terrifying to me. i guess it's something i should bring up with a therapist.

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Molias
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I'm so glad to hear that you're in touch with some organizations and have had good experiences with them so far. Just having that space where people are being respectful of the language you want people to use for you will hopefully be helpful!

Just like I've known a lot of trans folks who don't fit the dominant narrative, many of the people I know have struggled with feeling "trans enough" or like they "deserved" to have other people respect their identity. I certainly had those feelings. It really is common, and I think that's where meeting and talking with other trans people might be a really positive thing for you. =)
I will tell you right now that you absolutely, without question, deserve to have your identity respected. It might take you a while to feel comfortable asserting that and asking people for what you need! But when you do ask, if other people don't respect it that's on them, not on you.

And honestly, I think some of the confidence in asserting yourself (and maybe even calling out your friends on things like being disrespectful of Chelsea Manning) is just something you'll develop in time. Transition is a big deal! It's a change that impacts almost all areas of your life, and sometimes it might be too draining for you to want to tackle every tough issue at once. But I think therapy can be a great tool for helping you feel braver asserting these things to people in your life, and feeling like you're entitled to that level of respect.

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non-conformist
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you're totally right that transition is a big deal. i honestly had no idea just how big of a change this was going to be. i guess i assumed that in the course of like, a week, i would just magically start getting read as male all the time. i'm trying to be less impatient. although it really, really bothers me every time i am misgendered and misread and perceived as this person that i am not, i suppose that in a way it's a good thing that transition takes time because there are so many things it impacts. and i do need the time to adjust, and to think about what i am transitioning to and how i want to express my gender identity, and what my identity even is. i feel like i have to be hypermasculine to ever get read as anything other than female, even if that isn't my identity. but i'm starting to be more accepting of the wide range of expressions of gender. having a support network really helps. i appreciate how when i tell my trans friends that my identity is more a vague "male-ish" than "100% man" that they don't try and force me to choose between two limited, binary options and are okay with the fact that i'm not really certain about who i am at this point. just having people who understand and support me is, i think, one of the most important aspects of my transition. even if the world at large doesn't see me as i want to be seen, they do, and it helps me a lot.
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Molias
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Being read by others as a man (or whatever gender you want to project) is a tricky thing, because it's not necessarily about you and how you're expressing your gender, but about how other people read that and pick up on cues, which is something you can't control. You can certainly do things that make you comfortable or that might push people's perceptions one way or another, but it could be that you go out one day feeling Super-Dudely and have most strangers say "hi ma'am" and another day you don't have the time or mental energy to do much to your appearance and everyone might call you "sir."

That's one reason I absolutely HATE the term "passing," both because it sets up the alternative as "failing" and because it's putting the burden on the trans person to manage the reactions of other people, which just isn't possible. Being in a place where you won't know how other people will perceive your gender can be scary and stressful, and I don't want to minimize that - I just want to point out that even if people are hurtful or clueless, that doesn't mean it's your fault for not doing gender properly. =)

I'm really glad to hear that you have friends who do get it and are supportive. That's fantastic.

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non-conformist
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i went to toronto over the weekend to buy a binder. it does its job, and it made me happy enough with my gender to finally shop in the men's section for clothes. but unless i'm wearing a super baggy shirt i feel like my chest still looks female, and no matter what my voice always seems to give me away. i'm trying to be happy with the fact that my appearance is the closest to how i want it to be that it has ever been, but sometimes i get so frustrated at having to wait and do all these things to one day appear male when my cis friends can do absolutely nothing at all and the world still sees them as they see themselves.

i agree that "passing" is an awful, awful term. i've always felt that the implication is that being seen as cis = pass and that being seen as trans = fail, which basically frames being trans as a failure, and i think that that's a horrible way to view gender, and to view myself. i don't want to consider who am as being lesser, inadequate or unacceptable, and it's not.

so i'm trying to place less emphasis on how others read me and just be happy with myself, but it's easier said than done. i guess i feel like i have to prove my identity to the world, that in order to expect people to use the correct name and pronouns i have to conform to the standard of "maleness" that they expect. i know that i shouldn't feel this way and that my identity isn't something i need to justify to anyone, but i guess i think that people would respect me more if i tried harder or something. i'm trying to educate people, but honestly i'm happy if people just don't stop associating with me as soon as i tell them i'm trans. i know that if i want people to respect my name and pronouns i myself have to ask for this respect, but i guess i still have the idea that it's reasonable for people to dislike me for being trans. maybe it's because i grew up in such a staunchly homophobic and transphobic environment. i guess i have to expect more of people if i want them to change.

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