Dear Captain Awkward,
First of all I’d like to say that I’m not even sure if this is a problem or if I’m just making problems up because clearly SOMETHING in my life has to be going wrong (I frequently second guess myself, but that’s a separate issue) but here goes anyway. I was born with a male body, but I’m not entirely sure that I was born with a male mind. It’s not always an issue, hell, a lot of the time I don’t even think about it, but when I do I realize that I may be happier if I were a girl. Part of me thinks that this may just be some sort of “grass is always greener” issue, and I’m suffering from the delusion of “well if this one thing were different all my problems would go away”, but I don’t really think it would solve everything, I think I just might be more comfortable in my own body that way.
I am currently 18 so I don’t know if this is just a body still changing I’ll settle in eventually thing blah blah blah HORMONES thing or not. I have talked briefly with my mother about it (she is an incredibly open minded woman, so this wasn’t TOO difficult, though there is still always going to be some sort of fear there) but the main thing I remember getting out of that is her wondering if I really should be female or if that is just the result of me growing up in such a liberal, open minded area and being receptive to the idea. I am certain that she would have no problem with me really being a girl if we knew for a fact that I should be, but that’s still not the answer I wanted from her (not that I know what I really did want). I guess what I’m asking is is there some way for me to figure this out? Am I just making extra problems for myself? Am I just looking for fantasy solutions to magically make me feel better (when in reality I would feel no different if it were the case)? Is it normal to be this on the fence about something like this? One last thing, I don’t feel extremely WRONG being male….. I just don’t feel entirely right, either.
Dear Dazed & Confused:
No one here can tell you if you really *should* be a woman, but I can tell you that this isn’t some kind of silly, manufactured problem and that the desire to become comfortable in your own body is an important and essential part of being human.
I also think it is normal to be on the fence. The societal pressures are so strong to PERFORM YOUR ASSIGNED GENDER that it takes a huge amount of courage, patience, and resources to transform yourself entirely or even go against the grain in small ways that feel good to you. You were very brave and smart to bring it up with your mom and I’m so glad she has your back.
I suspect your next steps are to find:
1) Therapy: Locate a caring therapist who has some kind of specialization in gender/trans issues, and, with the help of your cool mom, go see that person regularly and figure some things out. It may take a few tries to find the right person.
2) Community: Seek out a local LGBTQ group or center where you can meet other people who are exploring similar issues for themselves. You can see how it plays out on a continuum. Some people will fully transition: Present completely as the other gender, change their legal names, and possibly get surgery, etc. Some people will play around with dress and gender presentation until they find what’s comfortable for them. The people you meet will have recs for therapists, doctors, shoe stores, safety measures, safe spaces for you to experiment, and a million stories.
3) Play: I know a fair amount of trans people, and I can’t speak directly for them or their experiences, but I know they all played around with gender presentation and dress as a way to find out how to feel good in their bodies and good about themselves when they were early in the process of figuring this all out, and I remember the exhilaration and nervousness they described the first time they “passed” as the other gender. What would happen if you experimented with this? Bought/borrowed clothes? Created a wicked Pinterest for your alterego?
Commenters, I’d like to keep this discussion fairly focused and centered on the experiences of trans people, people who experiment regularly with gender presentation & dress, and people like the LW who are thinking about this question for themselves. The Captain Awkward Dot Com Rule of No Internet Diagnoses stands.
Some starting discussion questions for readers who have transitioned or questioned their gender identity:
- How/when did you first question your assigned gender and know that you should explore a change?
- What were some of the steps in the early stages of figuring it out that helped you or were particularly positive?
- Where did you go for information and support? (Websites, organizations, books?)
- Was there any kind of deciding moment where you knew for sure that you should transition (or not transition)?
- What’s one thing you learned from your own experiences that you wish you could help this LW understand?
If you blog and have already talked about this stuff on your own site, feel free to link with a short logline of what to expect rather than rehash the whole thing here. Link-heavy posts to tend to go to moderation but I’ll be on top of the queue today.
Letter Writer, I hope you can find something here that you can use and relate to.