Hello. I'm new to this site and thought it would be helpful in trying to answer some questions about myself.
I am 16 years old and was born biologically female. I was born with a heart problem and was late in hitting puberty. I have depression and anxiety and speak with a therapist at school weekly.
Lately, I've been feeling that I didn't fit in the Male/Female gender binary and my sexuality is kinda strange as well, which got me to speak with my therapist about things. Though, she's only a school therapist, she's tried to help me with my sexuality and gender identity issues.
The two problems are constantly on my mind and I'm not sure how to tackle them so I can just free myself from this weight.
In elementary school I was pretty fairly feminine. My mom always loved the idea that of me being a cute girl and stuff like that and I liked the idea as well. Near the end of 5th grade was when I had a major surgery, which my therapist thinks might've stunted my understanding of my own sexuality, and I developed depression, though no one really knew I had it. As I entered middle school, I had completely changed from this happy, optimistic person into a shy, dark character. I was bullied quite often and had a hard time getting along with girls and found myself making friends with guys. I hadn't hit puberty until 4 years ago, near the end of 8th grade. Before I had hit puberty, I had this male persona, I guess. On the weekends, I would dress as boyish as possible and went by a male name for the day, though it was quite rare. This continued on until 9th grade. That was when I grew more insecure about my own body and the symptoms of depression became more visible. I stopped dressing as a male on the weekends and tried to become what society wanted me to be, a girl.
I'm currently in my Junior year of high school and I started reading about sexuality and genders after seeing things on tumblr. This triggered my memories of dressing as a boy and wanting to be a boy, and it also brought up the idea that I needed to figure out what my sexuality was. I'm pretty neutral when it comes to clothing choices and mannerisms, though I will have days where I feel more feminine and will wear dresses, skirts, and shorts. I do have times where I feel like wanting to dress like a boy, but I don't have boyish clothes, because I don't want kids at my school to make fun of me for it. I am still interested in boys, based on looks and personality, though I've never developed a very strong romantic interest/crush, and have never dated before. I still identify as a female, though it doesn't feel like a comfortable term anymore.
Posts: 1 | Registered: Apr 2014
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It sounds like you are confused, but there's no "just" about it. Being confused is almost always a step in the process of discovering something new about yourself, and while it's a term that's often used to dismiss someone's, especially a teenager's, personal development as unimportant - "They're just confused, they'll get over it and go back to being how they were before" - it's actually a useful and important part of life, so really, being confused is often a good thing.
Of course you needn't answer if you don't want to, but I'm curious as to what type of surgery you had? I'm just trying to understand your therapist's comment about it stunting your understanding of your sexuality.
It sounds like you're well aware that gender is far more complex than society gives it credit for, so it may well be that none of the traditional labels fit you right now. That's ok: you don't have to fit into a box. My suggestion, for now, would be to try not to worry about what "kind" of gender presentation you're going for, and just present however you feel like presenting on any given day. Happily, there's not too much social pressure against people assigned female dressing/grooming/acting "like a boy" (if only the same were true of the reverse). You may come to decide that you want to do more difficult things like changing your name or asking people to use male or gender neutral pronouns, and that certainly does present challenges - but for now, it sounds like it's more important to just work out what makes you feel comfortable.
Having depression and bullying thrown into the mix certainly makes everything ten times harder for you. I hope your therapist is able to help you with the depression - if not, you might want to seek out other help, from someone who's trained more specifically in dealing with depression. The school therapist could probably give recommendations.
I know it's easy to feel like doing anything different to how you and others normally act will make you an easy target for bullies all over again, and that might be true. But if you feel like you'll be happier and more comfortable that way, then you might well find that the pleasure of looking the way you want to look outweighs the hurt of some more stupid barbs. It's a risk, and only you can decide if it's a risk worth taking.
Ideally, I'd say the same thing about sexuality as I did about gender - rather than trying to decide What You Are, I think it might be simpler to go through life, pay attention to who you're attracted to, and then see if there are any patterns. That's not how I did it when I was at school, but you know, hindsight is 20:20 and all that.
Posts: 116 | From: UK | Registered: Apr 2014
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It can be really tough to sort out identity issues sometimes. One thing I'd encourage you to do is to be easy on yourself if you do feel uncertain about things; it's really common to have periods of time when certain aspects of your identity might be a little unclear, and there's no timetable that says you MUST be 100% certain about things by a certain point. It's totally fine to experiment some, whether that's with clothing, mannerisms, or the language you use for yourself, to see how different things feel.
It sounds like you have at least some support from your school therapist around this; is ongoing depression support part of your time with her as well? Dealing with depression can make pretty much everything harder, so I hope you can get help with that as well.
A few things that might be helpful to read: Q is for Questioning on the value of giving yourself space to be questioning & uncertain, when needed.
Genderqueer ID is a site that has a lot of great info on genderqueer/non-binary gender identities - this may or may not be personally helpful but they have a lot of resource links and you may find that reading up on gender and how various people think about it could be helpful. It sounds like you've connected with some folks online already but this might have some more resources to investigate.
Kate Bornstein has a book called My Gender Workbook that you may be able to buy or find in a library. There's a new, updated version out that I haven't yet read, but I found the original book to be extremely helpful. It's a mix between a book about gender and an exercise book with prompts and exercises that can help you think about your own gender identity. It's pretty great!
Posts: 1352 | From: San Francisco | Registered: Jan 2013
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