#493: I’m tired of being trans.

Dear Captain and Crew,

I am transgender, FtM, or at least that’s what I came out as several years ago. Since then, I have become increasingly isolated due to work, debt, and extremely debilitating mental illness. I’m doing my best to sort those things out (moving to a place where friends are, looking for a new therapist), but I don’t really know anyone who gets the trans stuff – I always have to be the teacher. So it’s hard for me to talk about my confusion, and my very pronounced internalized transphobia. 

I feel like a monster. Like even without all the mental illness, debt, and isolation, there is no way anyone could ever love me, because I’m trans. My family has been pretty good (and by good I mean awful) about reinforcing that trope.

I’ve spent a lot of time alone the last few years, and now, I’m not even sure if I am trans. Or maybe it’s just that the social cost of being trans outweighs the benefits of feeling more comfortable in my body. Does it matter what your gender is when you never leave the house? The impact of looking for housing while trans, applying for social assistance while trans… even just using public washrooms – I feel like it’s worn me down so much. So I can’t tell anymore if I’m not trans (and was wrong before…?) or if I just am so damn tired of how it feels to be trans in this world. 

I don’t know how to stop hating myself, and how to stop thinking of myself as unlovable when everything in this world seems to tell me that my name and my body and any discrepancies between them make me a freak who can’t function in the system. How can I imagine a future for myself? 

So I guess my question is – how can I tell what my gender is, when 99% of how I think of my gender and how I perform it, is centered around other people – around my safety and ability to navigate the world? How can I know what’s truly there underneath? (And does it even really matter?) And do you have any recommendations for dealing with internalized transphobia? I’m trying to read positive, feminist FtM stuff, but it mostly just makes me angry, because I don’t understand how they can all seem so happy. 

Thank you,

Dear Trans?Tired,

Hey there, it’s Lt. Trans aka A. Raymond Johnson. I did something terrible and changed your name without permission, which isn’t cool since as trans people, we have to deal with being misgendered and misnamed all the time, so I apologize for that. But I needed to right away confirm and validate your feelings of being tired of being trans. That isht is indeed exhausting. And you seem to be in a particularly bad run of it right now.

I wore the HELL out of this record as a kid. This explains some things.
I wore the HELL out of this record as a kid. This explains some things.

I totally get feeling like a monster. It’s hard not to feel like a total weirdo freak when you’re pretty much the only trans person in a room, in a store, on a bus, in town, and then you turn on the TV or internet and there are a million stupid jokes where being trans is the punchline or the ‘surprise!’ or just general ick oozing from the voices of people, or perhaps the worst, trying to smile politely while they shake their head with pity. Excuse me for a moment, FUCK THEM. Damn, I want to punch their stupid faces through the screen, and I’m not someone who goes around punching things, but this is the emotional reaction that gets triggered in my body and I find it’s better to acknowledge it then pretend it’s not happening. If I note it’s there, I can do something constructive about it.

It sounds like you have a lot of feelings you want to do something about as well. A lot of things going down in your life right now are conspiring to make you feel even more badly about yourself – mental illness, debt, isolation. No matter how introverted any of us are, ultimately humans are social creatures and if we are left alone too long inside of ourselves, we will engage in bad decision-making, plain and simple, because our lizard brain just takes over. These decisions seem like a good idea at the time, and they are often designed to keep us safe at first, but ultimately they begin to erode our basic and complex functioning (as well as joy, pleasure, love, etc., that usually goes out the window first, then the ability to properly shower enough times per week or have a proper conversation with a stranger go by the wayside as well).

The truth is, you do have a gender when you’re alone in your house, but it’s possible you just don’t have to do anything *about* it.  It just is, you’re just you. It’s only becomes an “issue” when you go outside of the house. This is a common theme with many transgender and gender non-conforming folks, though to be honest, many trans people feel uncomfortable in their bodies even when they are alone in their own house, and ultimately, this is what pushes them to take medical and physical actions to change their body. This is true for me – it wasn’t so much that I felt like SUCH a guy in my head, it was more that I knew my internal gender and sense of self would feel more comfortable housed in a guy’s body. Or at least a transguy’s body: technically my body is a bit of a mix of biology and hormones (who isn’t?), I’m not exactly standard male or female (again, who isn’t? there’s so much variety in both of these categories, the line we draw is pretty arbitrary), but most of my ‘mixed’ biological gender parts are happening either inside my body cavity or between my legs, which are places 99.9% of the world isn’t seeing. (Even going to the bathroom, I mostly just straight up use the stall for privacy, though I have acquired the slight of hand trick needed to pee standing up at a urinal, which comes in handy on many occasions.) But, I also have a hairy chest, a beard, a receding hairline, all prominent markers that read me to the world as male, which takes a huge load of worry and thought off my mind when moving through the world, as well as never needing to take the time and energy to correct pronouns or names, since that was legally changed. Removing the weight of these things certainly helped with my depression and anxiety being triggered – I’m still prone to it, and other things in life can effect it, but it’s nice to not have the daily minor traumas of being trans constantly provoking my brain.

Some trans people do not medically transition, for a variety of reasons, including money, job opportunities, family, but those reasons are shared by people who DO want to medically transition but aren’t able to right this moment, they aspire for things in their life to change so that they can too. There are trans people that have access to the resources that do not want to change their outward body. They feel perfectly fine and happy IDing as the gender of their brain and heart while existing within the body they were given. They may pack/stuff/bind, dress a certain way, get particular hairstyles that provide gender markers to help them feel more at home in the world (or more safe), but they may also have a different way of moving in the world and different coping strategies then trans people. Maybe they have a partner and a close group of friends who get it and call them by the right name and pronoun, and that’s enough for them, they don’t mind moving through the world being misgendered or misnamed by strangers (or at least they can tolerate it as a trade-off, or create a secret spy story in their head to make it a game that doesn’t personally effect them). I know many gender non-conforming (GNC) folks and we have some common threads in our story, but everyone makes the best choices for themselves when they can.

The point is, it’s kinda complicated because there’s not one way to be trans or gnc, it’s not so simple as the whole boring “born in the wrong body” narrative that is actually kinda hurtful anyway because who wants to be told their body is WRONG? Geez. That just adds to the whole monster feelings we’ve already discussed.  But, I will say, if you have been having so many sustained thoughts about being trans, and have even come out about it to family and friends, then you probably aren’t ‘wrong’ about it. How it’s going to play out might be different than you initially planned or expected, and that’s ok. You also have a lot on your plate right now and don’t underestimate how much energy that requires, even if you weren’t trans. It’s totally ok to take a little trans vacation if you need it, I promise your gender will be there when you get back.

I’m not mad about that argyle sweater vest. Looking dapper, Gonzo!

Finally, I think it’s great to find a therapist, there have been times in my life where that has saved me completely, but I also highly, highly encourage you to find a trans support group, even if you have to drive 100 miles to a meeting, just go once or twice a year. There really is something rejuvenating about being in a room of people who have all been through some similar isht and who you don’t have to teach anything too. I transitioned over 10 years ago, but last month I went to a support group because I’m still relatively new to town and wanted to meet my community and new friends, and I wasn’t expected to personally get too much out of the meeting, but when I was done, I felt SO GOOD. Sharing knowing laughs as well as hearing the hard stories of others reminded me that I’m not alone, I’m not a freak or a monster, or that at least I’m the good kind, like Grover . I mean, Grover didn’t hang out with the monsters but could go find other monsters at times he needed it. But Gonzo spent most of his whole life never ever seeing anyone that looked like him and that had to take an emotional toll. Damn, poor Gonzo. But you still find people (or rats) to love, you still find people (or rats) to love you, you make a life worth living and learn all the lessons, but it is not always an easy or fair life. We find ways to laugh and enjoy ourselves anyway.

Trans people often get so many negative messaging that they overcompensate by being all positive and happy, especially once they transition, but the reality is, I still have to face being alone, being an other, being radically different from most folks around me, but it’s a lot easier to deal with that when I’m not scared to go to the bathroom or dealing with jerkbrain depression/anxiety or having to stand in line for government assistance (I’ve been there too, that isht is demoralizing and I feel for you.) Find some sarcastic bastard trans friends who make you laugh. There has to be one or two out there in this whole wide internet. Take care of your basic needs. Build up an emotional wall with your non-affirming family. Find people who get it and talk to them – therapist, trans and gnc people, especially. The internalized transphobia will always be there, but it starts becoming less dense, less scary, more just random thoughts you can be momentarily shocked at, then let them float by. Or you just project it onto people making stupid trans jokes on TV and fantasize about punching them through the screens.

I would love to hear from other trans and gnc folks in the comments, especially sharing coping strategies and tips for when we’re tired of being trans!

169 thoughts on “#493: I’m tired of being trans.

  1. Not trans, but this line got me:

    “Does it matter what your gender is when you never leave the house? ”

    So a long time ago, Stephen Fry went through a long and public phase of celibacy (before he came out, as I remember it). He was being an activist against some anti-gay legislation, and a journalist asked him “what do you care? you’re not sleeping with anyone”. Fry replied “Yes but I reserve the right to chose who I am not sleeping with!”

    So, I think you reserve the right to chose what gender you are, or even none, even when you never leave the house.


    I don’t think you are a monster. People who deliberately make other people suffer are monsters; suffering does not make you one.

    And since I am not at all qualified to be responding, I’ll stop here. Please look after yourself.

    1. I’m reminded of a friend who says there are so many Jewish atheists because Yahweh is the only god worth not believing in.

      1. In a predominantly trinitarian culture, a Jew is already two-thirds atheist.

  2. “[T]here is no way anyone could ever love me, because I’m trans.”

    You clearly didn’t attend the wedding I did last weekend. A new spouse, friends, family, clergy: there was lots of love, in every sense of the word. It does happen.

  3. Hi LW,

    I really relate to a lot of things you said! Being as out of the ordinary as we are is kind of a like being on-call 24/7/365 for a low-prestige, low-paying job that no one else has ever heard of.

    I’m a gender-nonconforming person, who has only recently been coming out to people about that. I have a partner, who is my best friend, and then, for other unrelated reasons, I currently have zero other friends. My family of origin mostly consists of Darth Vaders, but I did come out to 1 cousin … who never responded. I’m not seeing a therapist. I’m unemployed (nowadays, I say “retired”, just to avoid killing the conversation).

    If it helps, I don’t really know *how* to characterize my gender identity. I have (internal, psychological) parts (that is, personas) that are girls or women, parts that are boys or men, but most of my parts, afaict, are something I have no words for. I almost want to say I’m “just a human being”, but for ecopsychology reasons, that doesn’t seem quite right either. No one but me seems at all interested in these fine distinctions.

    I *am* going to local PFLAG meetings, and last month, I met another gnc person! Just talking to someone else who *knows what I’m talking about!* was huge!!

    I don’t know if any of this is helpful.

      1. Per Lester R. Brown: “Ecopsychologists believe there is an emotional bond between human beings and the natural environment out of which they evolve”. I personally feel like I’m not just 1 person, but a person who is embedded in their local habitat. Whenever I have to supply a photo of myself, it’s always taken outside, & includes trees, flowers, sometimes water, rocks. Because they are all part of what matters most to me, so we’re part of each other.

        Given my Darth Vader family of origin, it probably makes sense that I often feel closer to trees and critters than I do to human beings, whom I don’t feel like I understand nearly as well.

        The “parts”/”personas” thing comes from Internal Family Systems therapy, which I’ve read about, and have been doing solo. The founder of the model, Richard C. Schwartz, has this to say in his book about it:

        “IFS [Internal Family Systems] represents a new synthesis of 2 paradigms. One of these is called the multiplicity of the mind–the idea that we all contain many different beings. The other is known as systems thinking. […] by viewing intrapsychic process as a system, the IFS model allows therapists to relate to every level of human system–intrapsychic, familial, community, cultural, societal–with the same concepts and methods. These concepts and methods are ecologically sensitive, in that they focus on understanding and respecting the network of relationships among the members of human systems at any level. This ecological approach allows people to minimize the distress to their systems as they change and to make informed decisions regarding the value and timing of change attempts” (IFS, p. 9).

        1. Huh. I am not sure, for me, that being in a bond with nature means that I am still not a human being, but I can see how it might for you. Because you identify with more than just the chunk of it that is your body, which is all that’s normally identified as human. You’re more like a human-in-context? Do you feel differently in yourself as you move through different spaces, or are you more connected to a particular place and/or time?

          I do not have the theoretical background to comment on internal family systems very coherently. I mean, it seems neat! and I am very glad it’s working for you. I don’t know how to get into it, though; systems is a thing I can grapple with when it’s dealing with meatspace people and organizations, and I can appreciate the model of a person as having all kinds of different personas in themselves, who have relationships with each other, but I get stuck somewhere trying to figure out how to transfer meatspace systems to brainspace systems.

          OTOH, as I sit with it a bit I can see that if, for instance, someone were feeling fragmented or pulled in many directions, this might be a valuable approach.

          Thank you!

          1. Your phrase “a human-in-context” is an excellent way of expressing things! I do feel differently when I’m in different places, but I also feel like I “bring” a little bit of my local context/habitat with me wherever I go.

            Apparently IFS is a treatment modality you can do on yourself, but of course, you can also do it with a therapist’s help (assuming you can find a therapist who uses that approach). I’ve had years and years of therapy/counseling, and psychology is a huge interest of mine, so I feel fairly confident trying it out solo, while keeping the book handy. The stuff I’ve been doing is similar to “active imagination”, if you’re familiar with that.

            According to Richard Schwartz, it seems like my entire family of origin could enormously benefit from family-systems-therapy, to change their Darth Vader dynamics, but thankfully, their stuff is no longer my problem.

            Thanks for your interest!

    1. I almost want to say I’m “just a human being”

      My stance is that I’m a me. It took me a very, very long time to realise that for some other people, gender is important, not just the body they happen to have been born in. One time I compared notes with a trans (f->m) friend, and our stories were pretty much similar… up to the point where my conclusion to the gender confusion was ‘I’m a me, gender doesn’t matter’ while his was ‘I’m male, I was born in the wrong body’.

      (Also, LW: not having found someone who loves you as you are and with your baggage does not mean that you are unlovable. That’s just depression talking.)

      1. I’m hoping to not be disrespectful, but sometimes I’m not sure. I used to have a friend, we we’re closish while she transited from male to female, I was the first person to visit her after her first operation. Then she moved, we lost touch, and I get a vague sense that she’s not friendly inclined towards me. But maybe it’s just how we’re both not very good at staying in touch.

        Be that as it may, I’ve had nothing but acceptance for her identification as well as the way she handled it. Sometimes I run into other friends we have in common who express complete mystification at the whole concept. I’ve been using the”wrong body” as an example, as a starting point as in -“If YOU woke up tomorrow in a woman’s body,how would that feel? Do you think it’s be strange to want to do something about it?” and I have gotten some Aha!-reactions to that.

        So my question is, am I doing the wrong thing, is that an oversimplification that should best be avoided?

        If this is sidetracking the post, please feel free to remove the comment.

        1. (me==cis)

          I think that “wrong body” is a huge oversimplification, and also that sometimes you have to start with oversimplifications. So if it takes an oversimplification to get someone to stop being an overt asshole to your friend, okay.

          But I also think that it should only be the beginning of the conversation, because I think that everyone, especially clueless cis people, should learn more about gender, and can use the existence of trans people as a sparking point. By this, I do not mean that trans people should be the educators. And I do not mean that a specific trans person should be the Example Trans Person.

          I mean that cis people, talking amongst ourselves, can educate each other about gender and what we know of it. We can listen to trans people and then educate each other about it so trans people can stop having to lecture us all the damn time.

          When I am talking to cis people who have some amount of transphobia, I try for the following in order of priority:

          0. Help the person chill enough that they aren’t going to be physically abusive.
          1. Help the person chill enough that they aren’t going to be verbally abusive.
          2. Help the person get to “their bits is their business and not my business” to reduce invasive questions.
          3. Help the person accept instruction on names and which of the two binary pronouns to use (it seems that using other pronouns is much more difficult for people).
          4. Only then do I really start talking about gender theory and all that. Before this I will use whatever metaphor is useful.
          5. Somewhere around here seems to be the conversations about pronouns other than he and she.
          6. Help them truly accept, deep down, that trans people (and other GNC people) are fundamentally normal and okay. It can be a challenge to deeply held notions of how the world works. A person can feel that challenge and know that it’s theirs and keep it to themselves, while treating others with due respect and care.

          Steps 0-3 are what I think of as harm reduction, and it is okay to use defective metaphors and all that, if it works to get active oppression of trans people to a more tolerable level. But wherever possible it is good to go on to step 4, because I think cis people can benefit from grappling with gender and what it means and how it’s constructed and the way it’s confining us.

          I do not claim to always do everything right, I was stuck on step 5 for a long time myself. I’ve never actually dealt with anyone who needed step 0, and I had to use some delicacy about step 1. I’ve gone through to step 4 with family and am working on step 6 with a dear friend.

          1. Thank you. Harm reduction is a real thing and has value in and of it self, but, yes, I need to expand at least my own understanding further

          2. I think that “wrong body” is a huge oversimplification, and also that sometimes you have to start with oversimplifications.

            That’s perfect, thank you.

        2. (I’m a transmasculine/genderqueer person) Ultimately, I feel that this is a question for your friend, not for a blog post. That is, it should be avoided or repeated based on how your friend feels about this explanation. There’s a lot of diversity in the trans communities about how or if folks try to explain their identities to cis people and try to justify their gendered lives in a cissexist world. So, your friend might find born-in-the-wrong-body to be a useful and/or accurate explanation, and y’all are just bad at staying in touch.

          On the other hand, she might think (like I do) that the born-in-the-wrong-body trope is not just an oversimplification but a cissexist affront to her lived experience. She might say, “it’s not a man’s body and never was, it’s my body, which makes it a woman’s body, because I am a woman.” In that case, by explaining her life in a way she does not agree with and claiming authority that is not yours, you have used your (cis) voice to silence her (trans) one. I’m sure you agree this would be a problem on your end.

          I would say the only way to know if your behavior was problematic is to ask your friend if she was bothered about it, because hers is the perspective we can’t know here. Standard Captain advice: Use Your Words. Ultimately, if you want to reconnect with her, you should give her as much agency as possible (or as much as she wants) in regard to her gender and explanations about it. Trans folks already lose a lot of the agency around their genders–don’t take away more. Once (if) you reconnect, this will mean asking questions like, “how would you like me to deal with our mutual friends who don’t get the whole being trans thing?” and “what do you want me to do if someone misgenders you [refers to you with the wrong pronouns] in my presence?” and then following the instructions as best you can (or being realistic if you really can’t.) Don’t expect the subject to come up by itself.

          As a side-note, this may sound weird but try to give her room to have negative feelings. Read http://binarysubverter.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/trans-101/ and think about her forgetting these things, or needing to forget them to get by. Trans folks experience a lot of social pressure to be “nice” and “civil” whenever cis people respond to our trans-ness in any way that is not assault, and trans women experience the same (well, different but similar) be-assertive-and-get-shit-for-it b.s. that cis women do. So, if she experiences negative feelings, it may be harder than usual for her to express them. This is another thing that varies widely in trans communities, though; I, for example, am generally not meek about my gender and will express anger if I experience it.

          Suggested reading: http://tranarchism.com/2010/11/26/not-your-moms-trans-101/

          1. Thank you. http://tranarchism.com/2010/11/26/not-your-moms-trans-101/ is a fantastic read! As well as replies to comments. Really educational.

            I sent out a tentative message to get in touch, but I’m beginning to accept the fact that everybody may not need me to be their friend, and that’s al right as well. I’m still not going to just sit back and not respond when these derogatory comments come up regarding old friend’s and general trans-ness. This read was educational in the best way

  4. A+ reply, Lt. Johnson.

    I don’t really have much of substance to add, but I wanted to chime in as another trans guy on the other side of the medical/legal transition rainbow and say that I’ve been there too. It’s a hard slog, and it totally sucks, but the fact that it is wearing you down and making you question is a marker not of how wrong you are, but of how fucked up the world is. We’re told that as trans people, we’re broken, or if we’re not already, the world will break us. It doesn’t have to be that way, and it sounds like you have some good ideas on how to make things better for yourself. I concur with the suggestion to find a trans support group, and to find other trans folks on the internet, if not in person, who are also pissed off, frustrated, and can empathize with what you’re going through.

    1. I was going to suggest finding a virtual group of trans friends as well. I can imagine how having to actually go out into the world and look for a support group could feel overwhelming when there are all kinds of things conspiring to make it hard to do that (jerkbrain issues, geographical isolation, financial constraints, etc.), and then adding on top of that the pressure and worry about how you’re presenting would only make it that much harder. But making friends online with other trans people (and maybe also trans allies, who don’t need to be educated or corrected all of the time) would avoid those practical hurdles and would probably still help a lot.

      Good luck, LW. We’re in your corner, rooting for you.

  5. Hey there OP,

    Wow. I wish I could help you. FWIW I admire and respect you mightily both for coming out and for living as transgender, and I think you’re awesome, just as you are (and however you choose to represent yourself to the world).

    I would just like to let you know that not everybody considers you a monster or a freak for being who you are. I certainly don’t (though I imagine the word of one person is worth little enough compared to the crap your family have put you through).

    As to how you can tell what your gender is… I’ll be watching this thread for a few days looking for pointers myself, because I have no idea. Speaking purely for myself, my gender seems fluid: on some days I delight in feminine trappings and behaviour, on others I feel quite the opposite. At all times I feel pretty alien, and I’ve taken to labelling myself as genderqueer/genderfluid, for want of better words (and only among understanding friends.. I can’t imagine sharing this stuff with family, even the thought of that exhausts me). All I can suggest is that you do what feels right for you on any given day and that you surround yourself with understanding people if you can find them.

    Goddammit I want to hug you. I shall settle for jedi-style internet hugs, insufficient as they are, and sending you lots of love. ❤

  6. LW, this is some hard stuff. I am not well-versed in trans issues; I have some trans friends and a trans doctor, but I’m all kinds of cis and all of my partners have been cis.

    I want you to know, though, that you are so wonderful, just as you are, even with all your suffering, and all the bullshit you get from all the clueless cis people around you. You are lovable, your body, your shape, your mind and heart. You are beautiful and strong.

    I also want you to know that you are perfectly normal and fine. Your gender is totally fine, whatever it is, even if it changes every day, even if it is exactly the same every moment your whole life. Some people, gender is in their bones, and some people, gender is a coat they put on when they leave the house.

    Your body is also just fine, as it is, because it’s yours. You can do what you want with it, and you can change it if you like, and it will still be perfectly fine and beautiful.

    I mean, I hope this all doesn’t sound patronizing. It might. Who am I to talk, right? But you’re completely normal, you know? You’re struggling with this hard thing and the people around you are being jerks to you. They’re serving you harshflake salad and even going to the grocery store reminds you that this society would prefer to take a shit on you. It’s hard to struggle on through that, and it’s completely normal to be like “fuck this shit”. Depression is a reasonable reaction here.

    From what I can see, being trans is also totally normal. Not everyone is trans, of course, but it is a normal and natural part of human variation. Our gender norms are artificial and constrictive, so obviously some people aren’t going to get on very well with them. It’s difficult and painful to swim against the current of oblivious and hostile waters, but it’s completely reasonable for that to suck.

    Shit is so hard for you, I hear that, but you are not the problem here. It is unfair and it’s bullshit that you’re paying the price, but you — you are golden.

  7. Feel free to disregard this if it is off-topic, but I have a somewhat related question that I’ve been sitting on for about a year now, and I feel like this might be a good opportunity to ask for advice.

    I have a cousin who is trans. I have not seen her since before she began her transition, and she did not come out to me. I found out through our grandparents, who are understanding and supportive and convey other news about her life to me occasionally (such as how her job is going). She seems to be doing well, but I do not have her contact information, nor does she use Facebook. I’d really like to reconnect with her, especially since I worry that she might feel a lot of what the LW feels. But I’d have to ask my grandparents, and I’m not sure if she’d find that invasive, even if I want to reach out to offer my support and love.

    What does the community here think? I know no one can read her mind and tell me if she’d welcome hearing from me, but if I do decide to contact her, how do I reach out/let her know that she has an ally with me without overstepping boundaries and making her feel outed? I really want to be her friend, and it makes me super sad to think of her being lonely and me being right here but not doing anything about it. I could use another friend anyway, and I’m interested in actually getting to know her again, since I’m not close with any of my extended family and I remember her being into scifi and all kinds of cool stuff when we were younger. I don’t just want to reach out as an ego stroke! I genuinely want to reconnect and support her. Any thoughts would be super appreciated.

    1. I see no reason you can’t say to your grandparents “can you pass my email/number/contact info to [cousin] for me? I’ve been thinking of [cousin] lately and would love to reconnect”.

      And if they’ll pass on that message, [cousin] can contact you if [cousin] so desires.

      1. my one concern with this suggestion is that if I was the trans-cousin, I might be wondering if the reaching-out cousin knew about my transition or not, where if they wrote me a letter directly, simply addressing me by my proper name, the mystery would be taken out of it and I’d feel more at ease responding, knowing that they know and I didn’t have to talk them through it.

    2. Nymerias, this is a sweet impulse, and I think you should get her *mailing* address from your (awesomely supportive!) grandparents. You don’t know that she’s lonely, but if you guys have a good history family doesn’t need a set-in-stone reason to reach out.

      Script: “I always love your updates about (cousin), would you share her mailing address with me? I want to send a card.” If that’s over the line, they can always pass the mail on for you.

      Then I’d send a card or a post-card to the effect of. “Dear Cousin, Grandma & Grampa mentioned that you were doing well the other day, and it made me realize that we haven’t talked in forever. I’d really love to catch up with you sometime – maybe buy you lunch? Here’s my contact info, please get in touch if you have a minute. Love, Your Name.” Make sure you use correct name/pronouns etc.

      That’s what you want, right? To talk to your cousin again. You can send a message of love and wanting to connect without being all “YO, I ACCEPT THAT YOU’RE A LADY NOW.”

    3. I think the intrusion, if there is one, is on the part of your grandparents who spread the word — if that was done against her wishes.

      I would think that the way to go would be to ask your grandparents to see if she’d be up for reconnecting, and making sure they have your preferred contact information to pass on. The family grapevine communicates that you know about her transition and are fine — but also that you’re not going to get all up in her face about it.

      Also, remember that she may not be up for seeing you, or for much more than casual contact, even if you are supportive. There’s a lot more to her than the fact of her transition — or whether she’s into cool things — and she may not want to deal with being your Cool Trans Cousin.

    4. I don’t have any advice to add, but I was in a similar position to you a few years ago, except I probably had less reason than you to reconnect with my cousin (we didn’t really have any relationship before her transition as she’d left the country when I was very young, plus there was a lot of silent family drama surrounding the whole thing). I did contact her, with some trepidation, and it turned out really well — we hung out, it was fun, and we still keep in touch (in fact she’s coming to visit my city in a couple of weeks, and would be staying with me if we had more space).

      It’s really important to keep in mind that it’s for her to decide whether she wants more contact, since any negative consequences would affect her way more than they would affect you. So I would reach out, but not be too attached to the idea that she’s going to want to respond — because maybe she won’t, and it won’t necessarily have anything to do with you. That said, I don’t think there’s anything inherently invasive about saying “hey, would you like to hang out?” — you’re giving her the choice, and the answer may well be yes. Good luck!

      (Also, hopefully you have the option to signal that you are aware of and cool with her transition by addressing her by her proper name — I couldn’t do that since my cousin hadn’t changed her name, so congratulated her on her transition. Which was kind of awkward, tbh, because I did feel like I was being all “YO, I AM SO COOL WITH YOUR BEING A LADY”, but it was important to signal in the circumstances. (See: silent family drama!))

  8. LW, I’m sending you all of the good feels. As a trans person of the non-binary variety, I really sympathize with what you’re feeling. There’s a lot of ways in which your life would be easier if you just let the world decide your gender for you in the way your parents/doctor did when you born. And sometimes in the face of all of the stress of people’s reactions to you, or just navigating the world in general, it can seem like simply accepting the gender you were assigned at birth might just be easier and less painful. But I guess that leaves you with the question of: what was it that made you realize in the first place that you were trans? More specifically, you’ve clearly at some point felt that accurately expressing your gender identity *was* worth all the trouble it may sometimes be, and it may help to remind yourself of that. It may be more difficult to see the importance that your transition once held for you now that you’re in the (messy and frustrating) process of it. Part of that, I imagine, comes from the fact that your gender identity is being better fulfilled than it used to be, and you may be lacking the pang of wrongness you once had that provided you with the motivation to transition in the first place. But it’s probably not something you want back, and you should make sure you consider that in sorting out how you feel now.

    And yes, I absolutely second the idea of trying to find a trans support group, or even trans-riented/trans-friendly social group/events. Meeting people who don’t see you as a monster/weirdo/anomaly that they don’t know what to think or feel about, and for whom simply respecting your stated identity without comment or question is the most natural thing in the world is very important. You should do what you can to find people who can provide you with the kind of validation you seem to be lacking; it will help more than you can imagine.

    <3<3<3 *jedi hugs* <3<3<3

    1. Oh LW, I just want to give you a big huge hug.

      I’m another non-binary trans person and I know what it feels like to resent your identity because it makes it so much more difficult to navigate the world. I have nineteen years of (mostly) identifying as my assigned gender that keeps reminding me how easy it was back when I just went along with what the world/society/my parents wanted; and it’s hard. It is SO hard.

      It helps to have people around who get it, who get me and who see me and who will refer to me by the correct name and pronouns and to whom I can complain when people fuck up those very things. Having a therapist who is trans and LGBTQ friendly is paramount. It’s one of the big things that has helped me figure out how to come out to my family and how to be OK if they don’t accept me and my gender. I’m still working on it and it’s not easy, but having people around helps and I’m working on being more OK with myself when I’m depressed and anxious and resentful.

      If you ever need to talk or vent, feel free to send me an ask on my tumblr. My handle is theleakypen.

  9. I am trans. Sometimes it feels like you are alone in the world and no one understands. Sometimes the trans support groups aren’t safe places and you feel like even the other trans people don’t understand.

    But you aren’t alone. I think about other people who have a difficult time dealing with the world. There are many people who struggle with this. Undocumented immigrants who are afraid of being discovered and deported and struggle with English. Their struggle is not the same as yours or mine but there are many similarities. People with autism who have trouble meeting friends and finding a job because of the way others see them. There are people with physical disabilities who struggle to do things like go to the store that most of us take for granted. When you start to truly listen to others you will find that many people have deep struggles, even people who appear to have it all together.

    I am fortunate to have a large social network, mostly as a result of my gregarious partner. I am also getting older, to middle age territory, and one of the things I’ve noticed more is that friends, family and acquaintances are starting to pass away. Sometimes it’s cancer, sometimes it’s a heart attack, sometimes it is a drug overdose or even a murder.

    Life is precious and each day is precious. Even the days you struggle with who you are is precious. You don’t know how many days you have. In the end, when we die, our gender doesn’t matter, we’ll be dead. Life is an amazing thing. What do you enjoy about life?

    I know this is rambling. What helps me — Take a step back. Focus on others. Do something good for somebody. Cultivate your inner compassion. And your cynicism. And your sense of humor. Step outside your comfort zone.

  10. Hey there, LW, another trans person here. I’m also Fish to Mish.

    Sometimes? It’s exhausting. It just is. There’s all these things I have to worry about and all this money I had to spend and all these doctors I had to go to to get to the point where I get to live my life in a way most of the other people in my life take for granted. And on top of that, I keep that all quiet because of my fear of reprisal from a prejudiced culture. The cost of being trans is high, and even more so when you are coping with mental illness and financial issues and I so want to affirm that what you’re feeling isn’t abnormal or weird.

    It sounds to me like you need to have some sort of support system that gets the trans thing. Online, in-person, therapist, whatever. Lift some of that burden of being the teacher from your shoulders. It helps so much, I swear. You may have to try a couple places to find your people—and that sucks, I know—but someone who has your back? Worth it.

    This is how I cope with that exhaustion. Telling myself that it’s ok to be tired of dealing with this shit and hanging out wth people who’ve got my back. And also? Accepting their love. I don’t always think that I am lovable, but there are people who love me, and I have to trust them.

    On another point, in terms of figuring out my gender absent society? I still have no clue and I’ve been physicially transitioned for 6.5 years now. I’ve taken an approach of looking at my options and choosing the things I wanted to do because they felt right. For me, that was changing my body with surgery and hormones—I wasn’t 100% sure this was the right thing when I started, but I became sure along the way. Then I did do some things (changing my name, changing my documentation) that made my life safer and easier, that in a vacuum I might not have chosen to do. I’m happy where I am now, but I still am not sure exactly how I want to define myself. And that’s OK too.

    1. “Fish”

      You belong to a discriminated group, yet you use a term that is degratory towards another discriminated group. Not cool.

      @ LW:
      I agree with the Lieutenant, join a supportgroup.

      1. I may be mistaken, but I read that in its context as “Eff-ish” (i.e. kinda, sorta feminine), contrasted with “Em-ish” (i.e. kinda, sorta masculine).

      2. I echo those interpretations above, it’s more about not identifying as either “female” and “male”. If it was meant to be “fish”, then what would “mish” even mean?

        1. Michigan. the phrase indicates transformation into an entirely different state of being.

      3. My intention was to describe my life as going from being femaleish assigned/identified to maleish idenitified/assigned. Some hyphens probably would have helped.

        However, for my own edification, which group is identified with “Fish” (or “Mish”). I assume we aren’t talking about the aquatic vertebrate…

        1. It was assumed you were calling women “fish”. I guess because of the adolescent association of female genitalia and seafood? It’s pretty deep down in the slang definition list, I didn’t make the connection for a minute and had to google it just to make sure it was right.

          1. I will say, pre-transition I did have that word slung at me in a neighborhood gay bar. Which was not so awesome. So it may be that some people have heard it more than you might expect.

  11. I’m a white, middle-class, cisgenger woman. Despite being so ordinary, I’m completely unique and have never, in my long life, fit in anywhere. I’ve learned to cope with it. My plan is to become a sex therapist eventually, when I can afford to go back to school, so I’ve read a little about transgender and other nonconforming gender issues. I know one MtF and one FtM. None of that tells me exactly what you’ve been going through, but if you don’t mind, I have a few comments and guesses to make.

    First, you don’t mention if you’ve been taking any hormones or other medication. You may need to check in with your prescribing physician and make sure your sadness and despair aren’t related to dosage issues or a good medication fit. Not that your problems right now aren’t valid right out of the box, but you don’t need anything adding to them. Get checked if you can possibly manage it.

    Being different from all the people around you and trying to just live in society as we know it is like carrying a huge barbell around over your head all day long. The fact that you decided to pick it up doesn’t make it any better. I’m guessing that you probably felt a pretty strong need at one time to allow yourself to consider being transgender with yourself and with those around you, so it’s probably a valid decision. Therapy would help, if you can find a therapist who is capable of working with you in an open-minded and empathic way. They’re out there; don’t give up too easily, because talking honestly and privately and getting to the bottom of this will really help, even though the whole subject is exhausting to contemplate for you at this time.

    My feeling for you from your letter is that you’re very lovable. I don’t know you, but the way you express yourself and the way you think about things seem very attractive. It’s hard being lonely and feeling unlovable at the same time. I would like to second the suggestion that you find other people who are transgender to hang out with so you don’t feel like such a “monster.” You’re not a monster. I’ve known some, and you don’t qualify.

    1. Queermo here.

      Not feeling like you fit in and actually not fitting in because of your sexuality/gender queering are very different things. I have been on both sides — I used to be a sweet little white girl that liked boys, now I am a cynical white femmey homoqueer. I didn’t fit in when I was a kid because I was kinda nerdy. I don’t fit in now because I am “wrong” — I present myself in the “wrong” way, I love the “wrong” gender. I’ve lost out on work and social connections because of my queerness. It’s one thing not fitting in because you don’t click with the people around you: it’s another thing entirely not to fit because the people around you refuse to accept your identity.

      Your heart is in the right place, but this is one of those places where you need to sit down and listen instead of chiming in.

      1. Thanks, I was trying to come up with a way to address this remark too. There’s a difference between feeling like you don’t belong in the world vs. being constantly told/insinuated/argued that you don’t belong.

        1. I am very fat and legally blind; believe me, I understand how it feels to be unwelcome wherever you go, apparently even here.. My understanding was that comments were open to anyone who wanted to help and had insights to share. My mistake.

          1. This is how you started off your first comment: “I’m a white, middle-class, cisgenger woman. Despite being so ordinary, I’m completely unique and have never, in my long life, fit in anywhere.” So it was a bit misleading introduction to those of us reading, as to how you were drawing from your life experience, and for me personally, it was pretty frustrating to have a cis person insinuate they’d had the same experience as me. I’m sorry our responses were harsh, but I hope you can see where we were coming from based on what you told us initially. If you want to work with trans people as a therapist, I hope you can take this as an opportunity to understand how trans people will hear and react to certain words and ways of addressing us.

          2. “I would love to hear from other trans and gnc folks in the comments, especially sharing coping strategies and tips for when we’re tired of being trans!”


            Intersectionality is a thing, and it’s an important thing, but my being autistic and queer and trans does not make me not white. My experience being part of oppressed groups does not cancel out my privileges. Neither does yours. The very first insight that you chose to share is one that trans people hear a lot and is often used as a silencing technique: we’re all just PEOPLE. This gets peoples hackles up because the unspoken rest of that sentence is, “so your preferences and identity don’t matter and I will treat you as your assigned gender because it’s easier and more comfortable for me.” Well intended or not, it isn’t helpful.

      2. My response to this debate this morning seems to have been caught in the spam filters, so this is just a quick one to say thank you for this comment (I’m trans* and had the same response you did). It needed to be said and I thought you said it kindly.

    2. This exchange has been bothering me. My gut instinct from the start was that Yuplisnin had not said what Emmych et al. had heard. But several people seemed to have heard the same thing, and as I share Yuplisnin’s privilege on this issue I wasn’t sure I could trust gut instinct and I didn’t want to go off half-cocked, so I kept quiet. But after careful reflection, I’m still not right with this, so I’m going to re-open this discussion.

      Forgive me that this is a bit ‘splainy, but I think there has been a failure to differentiate between sympathy and empathy. The way I use the terms, at least, empathy is the fellow-feeling of people who have had a common experience, while sympathy is the ability to recognize and care about the experiences – the pain – of people whose experiences you have not shared. Its process is intellectual more than emotional, though it can produce genuine feelings of sympathetic pain or sadness.

      Empathy is certainly the gold-standard in terms of relating to another person’s pain. But that does not mean sympathy is necessarily worthless, a sham, or insulting. Being able to see and care about the pain of people who are not like you in some significant respect is a good thing. (It is, among other things, what enlists allies to a cause from outside the cause’s involuntary constituents – the classic example being privileged white abolitionists — and what led Joe Biden to describe transgender discrimination as the civil rights issue of our time).

      To my mind, at least, sympathy only becomes ugly when the person feeling it fails to recognize that it is not empathy, or the significance of the distinction. Then it is presumptuous. It assumes that the other person’s experience is knowable from the outside, that it can be reduced to patterns and themes – patterns and themes that are important from the perspective of intersectionality, but that do not come anywhere near to representing the experience.

      I think that what Yuplisnin was attempting to express in her first paragraph was a measure of sympathy. Not in the patronizing “oh, you poor dear, let me pat you on the head” sense or the “I’ve been there, I’ve got this all figured out, let me bestow on you my great wisdom” sense, but in the sense of “I know I am privileged on this issue. I know that I don’t know exactly what you’ve gone through, because I haven’t dealt with this pain. But I’ve known pain, too, so I see yours, and in case anything that I have learned in the course of my pain might be helpful to you, I would like to offer it up. Do with it what you will.” I actually thought she was very thoughtful and careful about trying to acknowledge the limitations of her experience – owning her privilege, saying “if you don’t mind,” and admitting all she has are guesses – which is inherently an acknowledgement that she does not know.

      Yet it seems to me that her comments were received as if she had purported to offer empathy. As if she had said, “I know just how you feel!” rather than simply identifying a few of the bases from which she was extrapolating. I get the impression from the comments that people do that all too often – in a glib effort to “relate,” they claim a kinship they don’t really have. And yeah – that is always annoying and insulting, and if someone does that they deserve to be called out.

      But like I said, I don’t think Yuplisnin did that. I think that, being sensitive to that phenomenon, you read it from between the lines when it wasn’t actually there (being familiar with Yuplisnin’s comments over time, I really am pretty sure it wasn’t). I know you did it in good faith, but I still think you were incorrect about it being there. And I have to say, Ali, that I REALLY thought you crossed the line in terms of putting words in her mouth and then scolding her for them by “paraphrasing” her comment as “We’re all just people!” much less “so your preferences and identity don’t matter and I will treat you as your assigned gender because it’s easier and more comfortable to me.” Don’t you encounter enough actual jerks, without making straw men?

      Finally, I also think that Emmych took things too far by telling Yuplisnin that her place, as a cis white female, was just to sit down and listen and not chime in. Not because that’s never true – definitely, there are lots of times when a person-of-privilege on a particular issue should be shutting up and listening, rather than chiming in. For example, if Yuplisnin had been cruising the internet and found a trans/gnc forum or blog and happened across this very same question, and injected herself into a discussion that was identical to the one that was happening here, she might have deserved a “hey, this is not your place, it’s great if you want to listen and learn, but this is a place for us to be heard.” However, although I am sure those fora exist, the LW wrote to Captain Awkward, who to the best of my knowledge is a cis white woman, yes? And furthermore, the LW wrote to “Captain and Crew,” whom the LW knew were not all exclusively trans/gnc. Which means a) the LW thought that the input of a cis white female would be valuable – that advice informed by sympathy would be valuable, as well as advice informed by empathy – and b) that Yuplisnin had pretty much been invited to chime in. So before you told her to sit down and shut up, I think you should have made bloody sure that she deserved it — that it was on the basis of something she explicitly said, not something you read between the lines but maybe wasn’t actually there.

      Sorry, Yuplisnin, that it took me a while to say this. I expect you’ve been feeling hung-out-to-dry. But I needed to be thoughtful about this.

      1. Thank you so much for this. I know perfectly well I don’t know what it’s like to live with the pain and problems of the LW and people who do know what it’s like. I couldn’t figure out where people got the idea that I was saying what they thought I was saying. I was absolutely heartbroken and devastated and after thinking it over, decided to take my unwelcome self away from here. I really, really appreciate this closure. You got what I meant. And I understand that people who are raw from the unkindness of people who seem just like me are set by default to a position of defense. I don’t know what it’s like to be transgender, but I know how it feels to assume that everybody unlike you is going to be unkind and dismissive. I’m old, so I’ve had an opportunity to make peace with that aspect of life, but not everybody else has had that chance. Wow. I never thought I’d come here again for anything. Again, thanks, @alphakitty! You really did me good today.

        1. We told you where we got our “ideas” – in your choice and presentation of language. But instead you’re just choosing to believe we’ve “default[ed] to a position of defense”?

          You said you wanted to learn about trans issues and hope to be a sex therapist. It might be helpful to not get heartbroken and devastated when someone tells you you said something hurtful. It might be more helpful to stay and listen and try to figure it out.

      2. Hey; I wanna address your comments here and also clarify things a little for Yuplisnin.

        It doesn’t really matter whether Yuplisnin was trying to be empathetic or sympathetic. She said some really problematic things (namely, classifying herself as “ordinary”, making the rest of us…what exactly?), and came off as patronizing because of it. When people in an oppressed group are talking to each other, it’s really frustrating when a privileged person comes in and is all, “oh hey yeah I feel like this too sometimes!”, and then proceeds to say pretty ignorant things (see: “choosing” to pick up the trans* barbel, as though gender is a choice; making assumptions and suggestions about medications — isn’t offering diagnoses against the rules here?; telling the LW what would help, as though she understands how to fix this EXACT situation, etc). It makes me, personally, feel unsafe and agitated. Sometimes peeps just want to sit around and talk to folks who understand. Sometimes it means other people who don’t understand but share the space have to step back.

        Secondly, to Yuplisnin specifically: please understand that I’m not trying to invalidate your experiences. I believe you do understand what it’s like to be an outcast, and I think you have some really noble goals in mind. What I am asking you to do, though, is to check your privilege, and to realize that, sometimes, it’s better to offer a “wow, that really sucks. I’m sorry to hear you feel that way. I hope you’re doing okay” instead of offering up your whole opinion. You can avoid accidentally saying shitty things this way.

        Finally, to AlphaKitty; your comment that GSM people are too sensitive about the issue to see what Yuplisnin “really meant” sounds scary similar to people saying rape victims are too close to the issue of rape to discuss it, or women and females are too sensitive around the issue of birth control to be rational about it. You say you didn’t pick up on the problematic elements? Of course you didn’t — you’re privileged here! It’s okay that you didn’t see what a lot of us non-cis folks saw. But then proceeding talk over us and tell us we’re all overreacting (or rather, going too far and reading between the lines) is SUUUUUUPER insulting and condescending. You gotta check your privilege, too, because some of what you’re saying here is straight up not okay for a privileged person to say. Like, staking a claim to this comment thread and saying that y’all can say whatever you want because you’re here, too? Not okay. You don’t own and graciously allow trans* people to use this space, you SHARE it with us. Like I said: sometimes you have to take a step back and listen. CA took a step back here and let someone else who is trans* handle this one, which I think was a smart and compassionate move. She may have had opinions and thoughts about this letter, but thought that it was probably better for someone else to field this.

        So, yeah, AlphaKitty, I think I was totally within bounds to tell Yuplisnin to back off here. I think you need to back off, too. You’re entitled to your opinion, but I think there are enough vulnerable folks here that it’d be better if you kept it to yourself or aired it elsewhere.

        1. Wow. I didn’t realize this was your blog, that you get to muzzle (or show to the door) anyone whose comments you take exception to!

          I continue to think you’ve made some ill-founded assumptions about what is going on in other people’s heads, and that you are paraphrasing unfairly to make easier targets.

          (I do agree about the picking up the barbell thing, and did all along — not that I imagine you feel the slightest interest in my opinion on that point). But on some of the other stuff, it feels like you’ve coopted legitimate concerns and language and applied it too liberally. (E.g., Yuplisnin was not diagnosing, she was addressing the mental health aspect of the situation (identified by the LW), which is definitely not taboo here).

          Just because someone you disagree with is on the other side of the privilege boundary from you doesn’t mean you can dismiss everything you disagree with as a product of their privilege. Privilege and perspectives should be part of a respectful dialogue — privilege should not be the magic silencing word you throw at people to put them on the defensive and negate anything they say that you don’t like. (A privilege problem would be me saying “gee, I don’t see why that would be a bad thing for X to say;” this is “I have read and re-read her words and the meaning you are ascribing to her words just isn’t there.”)

          Finally, I did NOT stake a claim to this comment thread and act like trans folks are guests whose presence I am somehow indulging. (Where do you FIND this stuff? Do you have special glasses that enable you to see secret meanings?) Lots and lots of trans/gnc folks (maybe including you!) hang out here all the time! A bunch of the commenters in this thread are regulars. They (you?) are just as much a part of the site as I am! I agree that it was great that Captain Awkward thought “hey, I know someone who could do a better job of this than I could,” and that she was right! And that RaymondJ was right to specifically solicit trans experiences. You are the one who seems to have decided that you own this thread and have the right to disinvite people whose advice the LW asked for.

          If the rule was gonna be “cis commenters go home, you can not possibly have anything to offer this LW, and we will smack you if you try,” that should’ve been explicit.

          Lest this become a slangfest, however, consider me silenced on this topic.

          1. Okay, WOW, now who’s assuming things? Where did I explicitly say that certain people aren’t allowed to comment any more? Because I’m pretty sure I never said that. Also, holy shit, what’s with the angry rudeness? I feel like I’ve been pretty calm thus far, so, like… wow.

            Also, this is gonna be a hell of long response. I apologize in advance.

            Let’s start with your fourth paragraph:
            “Just because someone you disagree with is on the other side of the privilege boundary from you doesn’t mean you can dismiss everything you disagree with as a product of their privilege.”

            I’m pretty sure I never did that??? I mean, I accept that maybe my meaning may have been skewed (typing on a phone is kind of irritating so I am more likely to hit “post” without checking and double checking that my meaning is clear!), but let me clarify anyway: never said that. I did say that, hey, when you are in a position of privilege, sometimes the best thing to do, the thing that will help THE MOST, is not saying anything. Because, hey, you know, when you have privilege, you sometimes miss things and accidentally say something gross, which (and you admit you agree with me!) happened here. I have done this before! I am speaking from experience on both sides of this! I have decided to keep my mouth shut about things because of my privilege before, because I don’t trust that I won’t accidentally say something hurtful. All I’ve asked here is, in this specific context, cisgendered people be conscious of that. The language Yuplisnin used was extremely othering. My agendered buddy, who just read over this entire discussion (offering me their point of view in between each comment so as not to be swayed by mine), also found her language to be problematic and othering. That is what I was trying to point out. That is why I said maybe she should have listened instead of chiming in. They also thought that Yuplisnin was trying to compare her situation to being a GNC person, and found that to be really frustrating.

            By the way, them thinking this was TOTALLY UNPROMPTED. I read the comment aloud to them and asked “so do you find anything wrong with this comment or am I seeing things?”, and they said “yeah! This is messed up because [reasons Emmych already outlined]”. Is this enough proof that maybe, because of our experiences as GNC peeps, we see something that you might not?

            “(A privilege problem would be me saying “gee, I don’t see why that would be a bad thing for X to say;” this is “I have read and re-read her words and the meaning you are ascribing to her words just isn’t there.”)”
            Again: YOU ALSO HAVE CISGENDER PRIVILEGE. It makes sense that you wouldn’t see the same thing. Other people have read and re-read her words and HAVE seen the same thing I’ve seen. After your initial comments, I did go back and double check, and I STILL saw the same thing (and actually caught more!). You are making a “privilege problem” by refusing to hear the words of people who actually are affected by her statements, when you’re not. That should be a pretty clear cue to stop. I mean, how would you feel if a man popped in on a conversation between women and said “oh well hey I think you women are missing the point of this comment and you should take a step back from all your feelings and really read this because hey I don’t see the thing that is upsetting you!!” That would be pretty frustrating, right?

            “Finally, I did NOT stake a claim to this comment thread and act like trans folks are guests whose presence I am somehow indulging.”
            A comment from your last post:
            ” For example, if Yuplisnin had been cruising the internet and found a trans/gnc forum or blog and happened across this very same question, and injected herself into a discussion that was identical to the one that was happening here, she might have deserved a “hey, this is not your place, it’s great if you want to listen and learn, but this is a place for us to be heard.” However, although I am sure those fora exist, the LW wrote to Captain Awkward, who to the best of my knowledge is a cis white woman, yes?”
            To me, this sounds like you’re saying that, because this space is run by a cisgendered person, the many trans* people in this thread don’t get to tell people “hey not cool please stop”, and cis people get to chime in and say whatever the hell they like. I find it strange, since this SPECIFIC thread is actually a letter from a trans* person, answered by a trans* person, who then asked for fellow trans* and GNC peeps to respond… not cis people. And I quote:
            “I would love to hear from other trans and gnc folks in the comments, especially sharing coping strategies and tips for when we’re tired of being trans!”
            So, actually, this IS the kind of thread you described (a trans*/gnc discussion where cis people are invited primarily to listen and learn).

            “You are the one who seems to have decided that you own this thread and have the right to disinvite people whose advice the LW asked for.”
            You wanna copy/paste the place where I said that? Because, wow, holy shit, I NEVER SAID THAT. For someone who accuses people of putting words into others mouths, you are sure putting a lot of words in mine!

            “If the rule was gonna be “cis commenters go home, you can not possibly have anything to offer this LW, and we will smack you if you try,” that should’ve been explicit.”
            If you take the time to re-read my first comment, you’ll see that it was a pretty calm and respectful call-out. A little ticked off sounding (understandably so, in my mind), but still pretty nice. I’m not feeling so calm and nice now; you’ll have to excuse me for that.

            Also, like, hey: you seem pretty concerned with making sure Yuplisnin is feeling okay since we were so “harsh” — what about the feelings of the people who read her comments and were hurt by them? Because I felt pretty gross after reading her initial comment, and that’s why I said something. Do my feelings matter here? And you seem very quick to assume that I’m just throwing a shit fit and crying privilege to shut up people who disagree with me. Even if that were true, and not a ridiculous assumption on your part: maybe you should think about why I might react that way! Could it be because, hey, MAYBE I READ A THING THAT WAS UPSETTING? Unheard of!

            But yeah. I’m also chill with this being done with. This all I really want to say on it; I don’t have the energy to discuss this further.

          2. why is it my job to know any commenters history of commenting and therefore what their general tone is? why is it my job to infer a million different meanings to their words in order to reply? we’re not correcting people’s lives here, we’re correcting their language and how to express and communicate with people. that is simply what happened. yuplisnin said things that weren’t cool. we told yuplisnin that. that’s all. nothing about intent or value as a person, simply about word choice and meaning and context and history.

            instead of listening to what we said, which made you uncomfortable, you decided to explain to us what we SHOULD have understood as the meaning. ok, so, this infers that our initial reaction was wrong. all of us who commented saying the original comment made us feel shitty. we should not be allowed to point out flaws in the language that made us feel shitty, and how feeling shitty completely erases any intention of meaning to us as listeners….is this helping explain why we’re also not so excited to read your comments about how we got it wrong? you seem to think there is one objective meaning to words, but that’s not true. you seem to think that because YOU didn’t understand the context or meaning of word placement and choice that it isn’t there and we simply ‘read between the lines’. if someone tells you that your words made them feel bad, why is it so hard to believe them? yes, things will be uncomfortable for a minute, but jumping in to elaborate the intent of the speaker (who has not apologized or owned up to anything, but instead only replied to your comment defending them) is pretty much rubbing salt into the initial wounds.

        2. Emmych, I’m trans* and I for one am really grateful for the comment you posted in response to Yuplisnin’s above which had bothered me for the same reasons but which I felt too vulnerable (on this topic) to address myself.

          Maybe I’m wrong (I do’nt presume to speak for anyone) but I feel some of the disagreement may be coming from the issue of tone on the internet. When you said, ‘Your heart is in the right place, but this is one of those places where you need to sit down and listen instead of chiming in’, I felt that was kindly and gently meant and acknowledged the good intentions of Yuplisnin, and had hoped for the sort of response that I’ve seen the Captain and others give in these comment spaces when called out on something, i.e. a quick, ‘sorry, didn’t mean to offend, thanks for explaining’. Instead it seems to have been interpreted (and paraphrased) as an aggressive smackdown by both Yuplisnin and Alpha Kitty. To me, and how I read your comment, Yuplisnin’s response about being unwelcome felt disproportionate and a bit of a derail, which also got my hackles up (although again I canceled my response, because I was anxious about the fallout).

          None of this is about criticizing Yuplisnin or telling her she’s a bad person or unwelcome. It’s about highlighting and correcting a problematic view that hurts trans* people.

          Anyway, I just wanted to say I thought your comment was kindly meant and phrased, and also to say thank you for making it.

          1. “To me, and how I read your comment, Yuplisnin’s response about being unwelcome felt disproportionate and a bit of a derail, which also got my hackles up (although again I canceled my response, because I was anxious about the fallout). ”

            Agreed. I am an avid reader of this blog. I check for updates daily, and read every post. I frequently consider commenting and then do not. Sometimes because I think that my lack of direct experience in the set of circumstances a particular LW is describing mean I should just listen. And sometimes because the comment I want to leave is regarding my experience as a trans* person and my experiences at various feminist, and queer or queer-positive sites has taught me that talking about my experiences as a trans person is an excellent way to get dragged into a conversation just like this one.

            To be clear, it is not my experiences with vehement, openly, and avowedly transphobic folks that has made me hesitant to talk about being trans, even tangentally, in spaces that are not expressly transcentric. It is experiences like this one, with folks who hold themselves out as reasonable and progressive people, who otherwise are or seem to be feminist, queer or pro-queer, sex-positive, etc., who simply will not accept and hear a trans* person saying (rather politely) “no, you’ve got it wrong, and your comments are othering.” Trans people are not shutting down an open conversation and excluding cis people here. A couple of cis commenters are derailing a conversation among trans folks about being trans. Specifically, about how exhausting it is to be openly trans in the world. This conversation, rather than focusing on helping the LW, has become an excellent example of why it is so exhausting simply to have a conversation about being trans, even when you’re not encountering the excellent examples others have offered of how the medical industry and other systems oppress trans people.

            The fact that both of the cis participants in this thread are frequent commenters here actually makes it worse, because I can see how this could easily play out like other blogs I’ve stopped being willing to participate in (and where I used to, but no longer, see some of the trans and transpositive posters who’ve commented on this thread). If this issue is not resolved in a way that takes the needs of trans commenters into account, you will likely continue to participate in this blog actively and over time the trans readership will slip away. Periodically people may say things I have seen on those other message boards and blogs, bemoaning the lack of participation of trans voices and wishing for the opportunity to be educated, but this kind of thing is why we have largely left those sites. No one here seems to have originally assumed bad faith on yuplisnin’s part, I certainly didn’t. But alphakitty, your replies have made it pretty hard to assume any kind of good intentions on your part.

          2. But alphakitty, your replies have made it pretty hard to assume any kind of good intentions on your part.

            The irony is, I’ve actually kind of got it. I’ve kept thinking, and see where I went wrong. I came back to acknowledge the legitimacy of what the others said. Not every paraphrasing of what I said, but in terms of the critique of what I actually did say, and whether I should have been saying it in the first place. But this kind of judgmental crap really killed the mood.

          3. “I was going to maybe think about admitting you were right, but now you’ve really done it….”

            It’s not irony, Alphakitty, because suspect class didn’t wreck anything. It’s not like they slammed the oven door of judgment on the delicate soufflé of apology. If you were wrong, then your ability to see your own mistakes depends on nobody but yourself.

          4. “The irony is, I’ve actually kind of got it. I’ve kept thinking, and see where I went wrong. I came back to acknowledge the legitimacy of what the others said. Not every paraphrasing of what I said, but in terms of the critique of what I actually did say, and whether I should have been saying it in the first place. But this kind of judgmental crap really killed the mood. ”

            So you came back to apologize, but then I was mean about you being mean, and now you’re not going to?

          5. No, I’m still acknowledging I was wrong — but you determination to think the worst of me on very little data makes me not inclined to go on at length.

            You’ve never gone to apologize to someone and had them be so rude when you got there that the words would not come out?

          6. I’m not being dishonest. I’m being harsh. (And for someone who gets super upset about any implied bad faith, you sure do love to call people liars.)

            You said that you’d been slowly thinking this through, and had almost figured out where you when wrong, and a mood of reconciliation was nigh, and then suspect class had gone and messed it up by saying critical things about your intentions. You absolutely did retract an apology – or, like, a kind-of-apology – because suspect class just made one unkind comment too many, mister! Little did you know that when you opened up the reply window to insult my honor you were about to earn yourself a goodwill timeout!

            If you aren’t trying to make suspect class feel bad about ruining your gracious and open-hearted return to the thread, then what are you doing?

          7. I mean – this post is about something that doesn’t exactly translate; the LW can get help to the extent that their specific situation is recognized. This isn’t an exclusive space, and this specific thread is open to everyone to comment, but it’s not right to engage in a debate over whether or not trans people are kind or constructive or measured enough in their attempts to draw specific attention to this problem. It’s not just a derail. It’s a bad bargain.

          8. The actual real irony is, AlphaKitty didn’t get it at all. See, you don’t get to absolve yourself of guilt if someone gets mad at you for doing something shitty. You still need to apologize for doing the shitty things, since people other than those you’re having a dialogue with may have been affected by what you did. The scary thing here is that, unless my memory is faulty, AlphaKitty has moderator privileges/is a guest poster here sometimes. That makes this space feel decidedly unsafe! I know The Captain is having a pretty rough time of it right now, but this is hella upsetting and I’d really like to see some kind of statement on her part.

            Like, hey, AlphaKitty? I actually am not such a small person that, when the time comes to apologize and I’m apologizing to people who are mad at me that I retract my apology, because that is a shitty fucking thing to do. Think about that one, maybe, before you start raging again.

            And, hey, Manatee: you’re welcome. I figured some folks would feel this way, and this isn’t yet a topic I’m too exhausted around or triggered by to talk about. I hope you’re okay. *jedi hugs*

          9. I wasn’t rude. You seem to be more concerned with not being able to dictate the tone of this conversation than about letting this be a space for the person who wrote the original letter, or for folks who share the LW’s experiences to talk about those experiences. This isn’t your conversation to run. That’s clearly uncomfortable for you to hear, particularly when put bluntly. But you’re not entitled to sugarcoating, or even the level of consideration you’ve been shown by the folks in this conversation. People here are trying to explain things calmly, I suspect, out of a desire to protect the type of discourse that happens in this space. That’s important to me, too, which is why I’m explaining the impact that behavior like yours has on spaces like this. I’m not trying to hurt your feelings, but it’s also not my problem if your feelings are hurt by people telling you the truth.

      3. Stop telling trans people reading stuff into your comments and yuplisnin’s comments that they are paranoid and mean. “Completely unique,” kind of does strongly imply that everyone is unusual in their own way.

        Also maybe go back and read the original response, the one that included stuff like, “Your heart is in the right place.” I mean, yuplisnin equated that very mild criticism with transphobic exclusion in her very next comment.

        This isn’t a post about feelings of isolation. It’s a post about how being trans makes you isolated. Just the logistical process of transition involves a whole lot of exhausting work – locating doctors, locating better doctors, locating community, arranging transition at work, coming out to e.g. your landlady – and every step exposes you to discrimination and exclusion.

        It’s really likely that at least a few of your medical providers will be clueless or actively hateful, or that you’ll slam into some policy or law that will cost you a job or a big chunk of money. Or maybe your roommates will just freeze you out until the thought of going into your own living room makes you sick.

        And it’s especially difficult because these problems are part of moving forward: in order to protect your mental health and build the life you want, you have to make yourself extremely vulnerable. “Have humiliating (out-of-pocket) discussion with Dr. Dickhead” is a form of self-care. It’s a particularly toxic double bind. Transition can be difficult all by itself; it’s an enormous life change, and it can be enormously stressful.

        I’m not trans either, but it sounded like the OP felt worn out and lonely in that context – and humiliated and depressed because of a sense of weakness. So reading this as, “I don’t feel like I fit in!” is not helpful and kind of cruel. It’s not a feeling of exclusion. It’s a response to exclusion. I know the OP opened the floor to the Awkwardeers, and I commented myself, but I think it’s important to understand why, “I’ve learned to cope with it,” didn’t seem helpful.

        1. Hello, readers, I must apologize. I was behind on reading & moderating comments in this particular thread figuring that between alphakitty (who kindly usually cleans out the spam filter) & raymondj, we had it covered, so I missed this exchange until this morning.

          I do not know why it felt necessary to defend commenters against RaymondJ, who is the “owner” of the thread as far as I am concerned, but alphakitty has sent me an email apologizing and resigning from the blog as a contributor and a commenter, and I’ve accepted that resignation. There was some definite cis-splaining and general badness going on here and I am deeply sorry and embarrassed for not catching it or correcting it sooner.

          I would like to close this sub-thread (anything stemming from Yuplisnin’s original comment and the resulting exchange) while leaving the overall thread open for discussion.

          It’s a good time to reference Karnythia’s legendary post about how to be a good ally. Navigating social justice conversations can be awkward, because hey, marginalisation and oppression are awkward, but Karnythia gives a great, concise guidebook for those who are willing.

          Posters were correct to call out Yuplisnin’s comment, and were actually pretty polite and constructive in doing so. “Your heart is in the right place, but this is one of those places where you need to sit down and listen instead of chiming in” is about as gentle a correction as possible, and someone who tells you this (even if they do it less gently) is actually giving you a gift.

          Again, I am sorry.

          P.S. I get that many of you really value Alphakitty’s contributions in general around the blog and like her (as do I). If you want to email me any kind words, I will pass them on to her and I know that she will appreciate them. However, a cascade of “We’ll miss you, alphakitty!” comments in this thread will only further derail the topic and marginalize the trans* commenters who were hurt by her error, and I can’t have it. When I say “Let’s close this subthread” I mean “Let’s close this subthread.” Please respect that and do not reply to this comment or any other stemming from Yuplisnin’s original comment. Thank you.

      4. I’ve tried to stay out of it, I really have. I even e-mailed CA a few days ago about my icky feelings regarding the comment above, hoping she’d step in. To those who’s toes I’m probably stepping on as I write this: I’m really sorry. I know you don’t need me to help you.

        For me it’s not so much about her first comment, as her second one. It’s one thing to unknowingly cross someone elses boundaries or upset someone, but when you’re told ”hey, this isn’t cool”, you should accept it. And like the others have said, a quick ”thanks for educating me” is never wrong. It’s not cool to act like grumpy thirdgrader when you don’t get the response you wanted. I quote: ” I understand how it feels to be unwelcome wherever you go, apparently even here. ” That reads all woe is me. To me and some of the other commenters, I’m pretty sure. I’m sorry she got her feelings hurt but her feelings aren’t the focus of this thread. The same goes for your feelings, and mine for that matter. I read your comment below;  I came back to acknowledge the legitimacy of what the others said. Not every paraphrasing of what I said, but in terms of the critique of what I actually did say, and whether I should have been saying it in the first place. But this kind of judgmental crap really killed the mood.”

        That’s like the promise of an apology, but not following through. Saying ”I owe you an apology” isn’t the same as making one, you know? I know what it’s like to be critized online, it’s not a happy feeling. I just happened to step on some toes online on another blog this weekend. It happens. But if you know you’re in the wrong, you should suck it up and just apologize. Because the feelings of others matter more in this thread. The angrier some of the commenters (piny1, suspectclass etc) get, the more the need for an apology stands out. You hurt them and you acknowledge it, but because they hurt you back, you’re withholding it?!

        Like it or not, you are one of the most well known and respected commenters on this community. Your comments are among those I value the most around here. You’ve got some screening comments-covert action going with CA that sets you above others. Your words carry more weight than mine. To put it in another term, you’ve got tenure. A number of the commenters in this thread are here it for the first time or close to it. When you critize them, it’s very easy to read that as ”this is the ways things are done here, take it or leave it”. Where I think we as a community should be happy to welcome newcomers, especially in this thread where I for one am being educated all over the place. (Thanks for that!)

        When you defend Yuplisnin you vouch for her. I’ve also read her comments before and generally agree with her. That doesn’t mean that she’s not in the wrong here. Even CA get’s it wrong sometimes. And frankly, it shouldn’t matter if she’s written a hundred wonderful comments, because in this case, she hurt the feelings of several others. Just like you did.

        After the Zimmermann ruling, a lot of POC were understandably upset and afraid. I was reading some outraged comments in another community I’m a part of. Low and behold, who should join the discussion but white people talking about their hurt feelings. ”Not all white people are like him, not all white people are racist. I’m white and I have two black friends.” Well-meaning or not, that’s not the time or place to do it. The same goes for this thread. You and she are acting the same way as those white people with hurt, white feelings. It’s not the time or place for you to critize. Trying to put yourself in the same shoes as trans people or POC is wrong, plain and simple. It’s insulting.

        That’s not to say you don’t have the right to have feelings or opinions. But the world is your oyster. We are not the minority here and we should respect those who are and take them at their word. If they’re hurt, they have a good reason to be.

        /with love and hope you don’t snatch my proverbial head off

  12. My friend Everett wrote this book Bumbling Into Body Hair. It doesn’t solve any of this stuff of course, but it is a good read and at least will bump up inhospitably against that feeling of being alone.

    1. I recommend reading Kate Bornstein’s book My Gender Workbook. You don’t have to have gender as part of your identity, or fit into one of the two culturally constructed genders. You can be a gender outlaw, as she puts it. I’m sorry you’re having a tough time, LW, but I hope you get the support you need here and in the outside world!

  13. Okay, I have no personal experience in this area, but I had to comment because of the AWESOME album cover you included in your post. Wonderful memory for me…my friends gave me that album for my 13th birthday, knowing what a huge Sesame Street fan I was in spite of trying to be a super-cool teen. So I figure if you like “Grover Sings the Blues,” you must be pretty excellent. Thinking of you and wishing you the best. 🙂

  14. LW, I should have also said earlier, of course you are not a monster. Trans* people are not monsters.

    You are absolutely lovable and valuable.

  15. I can’t offer a trans perspective, LW, but I do know from being exhausted and overworked and isolated and clinically as well as situationally depressed. And one of the nasty tricks I’ve noticed depressive thoughts play is that they tend to go after the things I value most in an effort to get me to stop caring about anything. The questions you’re asking about whether it’s worth even trying to be the person you see when you can see yourself as a person, instead of the unlovable, worthless waste of resources your thoughts want to convince you that you are, strike me as very familiar in that regard. For what it’s worth, I think that’s a sign that as hard as the fight is, this is a very important aspect of yourself to hold on to while you’re trying to make it through all the other stuff.

  16. I meant to mention earlier that a friend of mine wrote a lovely book about a depressed, disconnected teenager who is able to connect with a transgendered FtM man. It doesn’t address your problems, but it’s a very sweet, short read and it’s not all smiles and rainbows. If you’re looking for something that might be a feel-good semi-escape, it’s by Catherine Ryan Hyde and it’s called, Jumpstart the World. I’ve included the Amazon.com URL for it so you can take a look. http://www.amazon.com/Jumpstart-the-World-ebook/dp/B003F3PKBI/ref=sr_1_18?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1373416596&sr=1-18&keywords=catherine+ryan+hyde

  17. As a bit of an odd duck I strongly identified with Gonzo as a child, and still do. Have you ever seen Muppets from Space? We learn at the beginning of the movie that Gonzo feels isolated, despite his community of friends, because there is no one like him. But (SPOILER ALERT) in the end he finds the other beings who look like him–they’ve been looking for him his entire life and are so happy to find him and welcome him back into the fold. Cue dance party set to “We are Family.” It’s a powerful thing to meet other people who are like you and support groups can offer a good opportunity for that–if you were to come to the group that I run, which is TBQLG but not trans-specific, we would be so happy to welcome a new person and fervently hope that we can offer you a place that feels safe and homey.

    This movie is also the source of my favorite line, “How should I know? I’m just a sandwich.”

    You are a wonderful, worthwhile, loveable being. And you too (LW and all the rest of you of all genders) can look dapper in an argyle sweater vest.

  18. The love of my life is a trans man. Being trans does not make anyone a monster; folks who are nasty to other people who are different from them often act like monsters, though. So, it’s been said above, but my point is, it’s not you that’s messed up, it’s the world. Which I realize doesn’t make it any easier to live in the messed-up world, but at least know that being trans in no way makes you unlovable or unworthy as a partner.

  19. I am not a trans* person, so I know what I can offer here is limited, LW. I just wanted to tell you, about the feeling an non-functioning freak no can love thing… one of my sib’s partner is trans*. That person is… just a part of our family. Fun, funny, got an interesting career, kind, smart, good taste in TV, someone you want to get assigned to sit with at a wedding dinner table. Excellent thrifter.

    Their body is… I mean, I know they have an identity that has a physical manifestation with a somewhat more complex trajectory of self-discovery than, say, mine, cis-lady’s. But I really don’t dwell on that for the same reason I don’t think about my other sib’s hetereo-cis-spouse’s identity and its .external physical manifestation. And that would be because they perform some gender/sex things with their bodies with my siblings. And you know. I don’t really need to know those kinds of specifics about people who are my opposite-sex-gender-cis siblings. Generalities, sure. But you know, after that, family. I’d prefer not to know too much, thanks, unless necessary for some reason, of which there aren’t a whole lot.

    People occasionally have the appalling presumption to ask me things about trans* partner’s body that I can’t answer because I don’t know. Whether or not they are “freakish*” is irrelevant, and more to the point, none of my damn business anyway.
    The point of all that is, the partners of both sibs are beloved and welcome in my home any time. That is true because they are good people and my sibs love them. I am lucky to have them both.

    I feel really badly that things are so hard for you right now, and hope you find more support soon.

    *no such thing, in my book, I don’t know how they feel about their bodies in this way.

    1. thanks, Brooks! while I understand all of the “you’re not a monster” by supportive commenters, part of why I decided to reference Grover was another way of reclaiming the monster narrative too.

      1. I highly recommend Catherynne M. Valente’s Orphan’s Tales books for reclaiming monster identities, especially for persons of the female persuasion.

        1. Yes! And SJ Tucker has a whole album of delightful songs that go with the stories. Which can be listened to for free on her website.

  20. As a trans person, I enthusiastically co-sign the suggestion to find other trans folks. Queer spaces, if they exist where you are, LW, can also be good (though not all LGBQ folks understand trans issues). Similarly, reading books by, for, and about trans people can also be helpful in the feeling-less-alone department.

    Really, though, I just wanted to link to this Trans 101 that I (and all my trans friends I’ve shown it to) found extremely validating: http://binarysubverter.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/trans-101/. It’s a trans 101 for trans people, so it’s basically a list of good things that can be frighteningly easy to forget in this cissexist & transphobic world.

  21. I had substantial general dysphoria over the years, starting when I was a child and peaking in my late teens or early 20s, and I did decide that the costs of pursuing a more male appearance/persona/body weren’t going to be worth the benefits. This obviously isn’t the case for a lot of people, for whom the psychological costs of not pursuing that are quite high, but for me it was. If you decide that, you’re not selling yourself (or anyone else) out and you’re still deserving of love and support from your friends and family. And that doesn’t have to be a permanent decision: you can change your mind later. It’s not necessarily crucial to know whether you’re trans now and going to be trans forever. Even if you’re not now, it doesn’t mean you were wrong before – maybe you’re just feeling something different, and maybe you’ll feel something different later, and that could be ok. I think with some of these issues, because there’s so much hostility from the external world, it can feel necessary to be very certain about exactly who we are and to know that if we claim an identity, that’s who we’ll be forever. But that’s a lot of pressure. Gender stuff can be fluid for some people, and that’s ok. Also, if you don’t want to talk about gender-related issues with other people, you have no obligation to answer their questions or correct their errors. That sounds exhausting and it’s not really any of their business unless you say it is.

  22. LW,
    You are absolutely 100% deserving of love, respect, and proper language-usage from others, no matter what your identity is. I think it can be harder as trans people when it’s still acceptable in many circles for “trans person” to be synonymous with “punchline/sexual deceiver/all-around super-gross individual” as Lt. Trans mentioned. It’s really hard to escape the general soup of hate and disgust for trans* and other gender-variant folks that is oozing around everywhere.

    But hey, I don’t believe that at all. I don’t know you, but I don’t think you’re a joke, or gross, or unworthy of respect. If I knew your chosen name I’d use it right here to say “hey [name], I’m sorry things are feeling so rough for you right now. Being trans doesn’t make you unlovable, and anyone who says so (maybe including you, at the moment) just can’t see how great we are.”

    I realize you said above that a lot of stories from trans folks who’ve found some happiness just make you angry, and I apologize if this does too. But I think it’s important to say that there are people, plenty of wonderful people, who will love trans folks with their whole hearts, and be sweet and accepting and treat us like the fantastic people we are. I know trans folks (including myself!) with loving families, rad friends, and sweet and sexy partners. My life isn’t perfect, and I struggle with mental health issues and finding my place in a wider trans community that doesn’t quite seem to have a space for me sometimes, but it’s not my gender identity that’s the issue there. My identity is just fine, even if it confuses me sometimes.

    And yours is too. You aren’t a monster, LW, not at all.

    Although – I have to admit that I find a lot of monsters to be pretty rad, and I wouldn’t mind being a big sweet furry monster myself.

  23. I have 0 expertise in trans issues, but my contribution to this conversation: Gonzo may have been friends with rats (Rizzo), but it was chicken (Camilla) who was doing most of the lovin’.

  24. Thank you so much for this post. I haven’t mentioned it here before (pretty much all my previous posts have identified me as female, because that’s the body I was born with) but I’m also a FtM trans, though I haven’t had the money to start on the process of changing my body. I struggle with the identity all the time, because while I don’t have any family to look down on me for it, all my friends and their families know me as a girl…and a pretty girly one. I like sewing, stuffed animals, knitting, Disney stuff, animals, pink and purple, cooking, and a lot of other ‘girly’ stuff…especially clothes. I adore victorian or medieval style clothes, particularly the dresses, even on me. However, the thing is…when it comes to sexuality, or just everyday situations, I hate seeing myself as female. I have always been disgusted with my own body, even from childhood (being raised in a very heavily religious area for most of my childhood where I was constantly told that, being a girl, I was worthless unless I was having children and staying in the kitchen. I knew even as a kid I never wanted to be a mother, so that was out, so I threw myself into cooking for a long time) though I found I never had a problem with other girl’s bodies. In fact, my first crush was on a girl, though I’ve found I’m primarily attracted to males, if anyone at all, since I’m pretty uninterested in sex as it goes. Most of the time when I daydream (or even regular dreams), I’m a guy in my dreams, and I prefer to play one online in various games and roleplay situations. The first (and to date, only) time I slept with someone, I was very drunk (I would have said no if I was sober, but I still don’t want to say he raped me because he was pretty drunk too and I think I was the one who suggested it in the first place), and I started sobbing uncontrollably partway through. I’m sure he thinks it was the pain, considering the rather astonishing amount of blood I lost, and I’m sure that was part of it, but what horrified me the most then and for a long time after, and still now sometimes, is that my first time was as a girl, in a body that I find disgusting, and that’s something I can never change or take back.

    A lot of the time, I wonder if I’m even trans at all. Everyone knows me as a girl, since I haven’t told anyone, and though I do try to keep my chest flattened and dress at least androgynously, I’m still pretty easy to peg as a AFAB, just by facial features and voice. Even keeping my hair short hasn’t helped. I’ve been to afraid to tell anyone, including my roommate (the guy I slept with, who I’ve been having a lot of problems with I won’t go into) and though everyone knows I plan to change my name as soon as I can afford to, I haven’t told anyone what I plan to change it to. (So far I’m thinking Kiva for the first name…it’s the name of one of the male supervisors from when I was at CCC, and it could pass for male or female, so people won’t be weird about it…I had a female friend named Ryan as a kid, but I don’t think I’m brave enough to go for something so masculine, since I know my friends will question me on it) and a lot of the time, since I’m uninterested in sex or dating, I wonder if it’s even something worth bothering with. What’s the point of changing my sexual features when I don’t even care about sex? But, at the same time, it’s more than just sexual…it’s my personal identity, and that gives me problems too, largely because of the aforementioned passions. If I like things that are considered girly, and don’t care about sex, then wouldn’t it just be more convenient to stay a girl?

    Other than the monthly Battle Royale that takes place in my guts as Mother Nature punishes me for not reproducing, that bitch.

    It’s something I struggle with all the time, but when it’s at it’s worst I often have that little something that reminds me WHY I want to do it…from someone calling me ‘dude’ or ‘guy’ on one of the MMO’s I play giving me that little giddy rush, or aforementioned monthly suck reminding me of one of the many reasons I want certain organs ripped out with pliers, or just how I get treated by friends because of the fact that I’m female…I know that the last one is something I need to work on and won’t be fixed by being male, because their asshattery really needs to stop regardless of gender…but that’s not the point. The point is, something always comes up that reminds me of why it’s not about the physical traits ONLY, but about my personal identity, and I remember why I’m a guy, even if sometimes it hurts like hell to be one when no one else sees it.

    Am I scared? Yeah. I’m scared that my co-workers and friends may abandon me or disapprove of who I am if I tell them. I’m afraid that they may try to talk me out of it, to tell me it’s a phase or it’s just one of those weird mental tics I have because of my untreated mental problems, or that I even may end up jobless and alone on the street again. I’m afraid that my ex boyfriend may use that as an excuse as to why I dumped him, and convince himself that he can change me and try his little psychology tricks on me. I’m not afraid of them working, because he’s a moron, but it’d be an annoyance I just don’t need. I’m afraid the roommate I slept with will be grossed out and kick me out, or worse, try to physically reinforce the ‘fact’ that I am female. I’m afraid of a lot of things…but one thing I always remind myself of when I’m in a situation that scares me, or worried about the future is…even if that happens, so what? I can survive it. I’ve survived worse. Others have survived even worse than me. I can live through it, and come out stronger on the other side. It may be hard, it may never get easier, but it’s okay because you can live through it, and it’ll make you stronger.

    That’s my little mantra, at least. I look at things in the sense that; if others have survived it, then so can I. I’m not dead, and sitting here crying will accomplish nothing. A good cry can make you feel better sometimes, but at the end of the day someone’s got to feed the cat and go to work and get things done.

    1. Hey faetouched, I just want to remind/reassure you that you can absolutely be a trans* guy who loves girly things. You can even be a trans* guy who likes dressing up in female drag! I’m FAAB and genderqueer, and often when I wear skirts I think of myself as a guy in a skirt. (Everyone else may see a woman in a skirt, but I know the truth and that’s what matters to me.) If other guys can wear skirts, why can’t I?

      I know a trans* guy who’s been really dedicating himself recently to handicrafts and cooking and other stereotypically feminine things, because they’re important to him and he wants to refute the idea that transitioning means he has to give them up. And there are butch trans* women out there too.

      Just be you, whoever “you” is. If “male” is your label of choice, you absolutely have just as much right as any cis guy to decide what “male” means to you.

        1. Thirding this. I’m genderqueer myself and I find myself counselling a lot of trans people, and one of the first trans people I ever counselled was FtM and worried because he liked “girly” things. And I said, that is absolutely fine, you like whatever you like; I’ve got a friend who is a gay cis male and likes pretty dresses, silk scarves and jewellery. There’s no One True Way to be male. Or female. Or whatever the exact heck I am. 🙂

        2. Also a genderqueer FAAB person that normally likes to look androgynous or masculine as hell, but sometimes you just wanna look cute in a skirt or dress because skirts and dresses are amazing (especially in spring). But man, I hate peoples’ reactions to me in a dress because no, I’m actually not a feminine woman because I’m 1. not feminine and more importantly 2. not a woman. So I don’t wear dresses as often as I’d like because of social dysphoria.

      1. I know a transman who says he felt pressured to be super masculine before transitioning, in order to be taken seriously as a man… after transitioning, he felt more comfortable and secure about himself, to the point where he could acknowledge that maybe he wasn’t that much of a “man’s man”, but actually likes a lot of traditionally feminine stuff.

        I wonder how common that is?

    2. Hey, just wanted to say, don’t think of yourself as any less masculine because you like things that are “girly”–because all those things we’ve decided are “for girls” and “for boys” are bullshit social constructs. There is nothing inherent’y feminine about the color pink, no genetic programming of the Y chromosome that makes it burn to the touch, no evolutionary advantage that requires all females to love it. It’s all made up.

      I’m not trans, but I’m more comfortable thinking of myself as masculine in many ways–I’m a girl, but a girl Dude. But I still love “girly” stuff as much as “manly” stuff. Now, this is a bit of a tangent, but I’m a brony–a huge fan of My Little Pony–and when I became active in the brony community, which is largely male…it was an amazing thing. I’ve never been more comfortable in my own skin, because I’m completely one of the guys there, and nobody judges anybody on what they like or thinks it makes them any more masculine or feminine or straight or bi or whatever. It’s just stuff you enjoy!. These guys aren’t any less masculine for carrying around a pink pony plushie…and neither am I.

      I brought this up because it may help you to reframe the things you love as masculine. Plushies? Manly as hell! Cooking? Totally macho! I like to joke with my friends, “There’s nothing more manly than ponies!” because for us, it is true, even if manly means something totally different for us than it does for anybody else. Just because someone instituted a bullshit social control system hundreds of years ago telling everyone that sewing is just for ladies and that ladies MUST sew, doesn’t mean all girls must love to sew and all guys can’t.

      1. “There’s nothing more manly than ponies!”

        This is one of my favorite examples of how gender is cultural and therefore subject to change over time. In the 19th century, when cavalry were elite fighters, horses (ponies to a lesser extent) were manly. With the rise of the internal combustion engine, hypermasculinity moved away from horses in favor of sports cars, motorcycles, fighter planes, etc.; the last holdout for equestrian masculinity was Western dramas, which started going out of fashion in the mid-1960s. In the meantime, the rise of “pony books” inspired by “Black Beauty,” along with their eventual film adaptations, helped feminize an interest in horses and ponies, which, unlike internal combustion engines, have feelings.

    3. What Rose Fox said. Also, in Finnish “kiva” means “fun” or “nice”, so it sounds like an awesome name!

      1. I didn’t know that, I just knew one of the dudes at CCC was named that and I thought it was a cool, gender-neutral name. 😀

    4. If it helps to have another personal anecdote here, I’m a trans guy (well, I’m an “it’s complicated” but this is close enough) who LOVES the following: knitting, baking, cute animals, bright colors, sparkly nail polish. It’s taken me a while to really get that I still like a lot of the same things I always did, and that it’s ok!

      One way I describe my sense of self is that my mix of hormone therapy/surgical alterations have made me a lot happier about the body I have and how I present myself to the world, but it’s still a bit of a “man-suit” that feels like drag or an inexact representation of my nebulous and changing Real True Gender. However, it feels a LOT nicer than “woman-suit” ever did. I may not really know what it is to feel “like a man” but male pronouns and a ridiculous beard feel GREAT.

      Your experience and identity are your own; if someone else tries to tell you that you aren’t “really” trans or a guy because of some list of reasons they pull out and read from, that’s a great sign that that person is full of shit.

    5. I’m sorry all of this has to be so complicated. I wish it weren’t. It shouldn’t be.

      BTW, if you have insurance or you can afford the self-pay, you can take birth control pills continuously (that is, no with placebos) and never have to deal with a period again. Perfectly safe. If you already knew about this, of course, ignore me.

      Kiva is a really cool name. 🙂

      1. 8D Thanks! I thought about the pills, but it might interact with anti-anxiety stuff and other things I take at night to try and make me sleep (if I don’t take something that basically knocks me out, I probably won’t sleep at all, meaning I’ll either end up exhausted in the morning, or worse, I’ll have a night terror episode and wake up exhausted, scared, confused and possibly physically hurt, so the meds are pretty necessary) and I tend to skip my periods for several months at a time anyway, which is probably a bad sign but I haven’t been to a doctor recently due to costs, so…yeah.

        One thing that also worries me sometimes about being trans…basically, I don’t want to look much different than I am now. I want to lose the chest and, y’know, get the defining male anatomy downstairs, but otherwise as far as physical appearance goes I really don’t want to change much. I like how I look now, besides the obvious gender identifiers. As far as my face, build and general look, not counting those…I’m not sure how I’d feel about that changing. I’ve seen some people who went through it and they looked like a totally different person afterward. I’m not sure how I could handle that…I’ve got enough problems going on upstairs, looking in the mirror to see a complete stranger probably wouldn’t help much. Any advice on that front?

        1. It’s possible to start on a very very low dose of hormones, I know some friends how have done this, one who just wanted to take the transition slow and make sure he felt comfortable with the changes in his body, then he upped his dose; another who just wanted enough hormones to stop his cycle and has stayed on low dose for years. I was nervous about bodily changes too, I wasn’t totally sure how I’d feel about looking so much like a man, but once it started happening, I felt excited and more comfortable, not less. but I’ve known transguys who started, didn’t like the changes, and went off hormones, decided they felt most comfortable as a non-medically transitioning guy. I also know transguys who just got chest surgery and not hormones, or who got chest surgery first and then waited several years before deciding to go on testosterone. None of this is advice, per se, just wanted to validate what you were thinking and let you know that it’s quite possible to start with a low dose to see how you’ll react, don’t feel pressured to medically transition in any certain way, there are many trans people who have found medical caregivers who will support their choices and will back them up on the hormone front.

  25. LW, I just want to reassure you that you are not unloveable, that there really are people out there who will love you regardless of whether you are trans or cis or anything else. If your family don’t get this, then that is a flaw in them, not in you.

    Just for an example, I am madly in love with my wife, who is trans. My first love, back when I was in high school and college, is… well, definitely gender non-conforming, although I don’t know what word she’d use now. There’s been a trans guy or two in between I’ve been awfully fond of, too.

    Not everyone is so overwhemingly transphobic that they can’t love a trans person. Some people have even already been educated or are willing to go educate themselves. I hope you can find some cis people who aren’t completely horrible and/or clueless, and some trans people as well, to be friends, lovers, and family with.

  26. An awesome photographer, who is trans himself, has some bodies of work that you might want to look at: http://triburgo.com. (Coincidentally, his portfolio “Transportraits” was just featured on Slate) He is an amazing photographer and a fantastic person, and his work may speak to your experience and struggle.

    1. Aieeee! Those are darned awesome. And I love this from the artist’s statement:

      I would like to confront this idea by drawing a comparison between photographic portraiture and the perception of gender as an unchanging truth.

    2. Another cool photo project by a trans artist that actually directly explores the energy of feeling like a monster but in a very sweet and tender way is Elija Montogmery’s work here: http://madebyelija.tumblr.com/post/50095741760/i-am-a-monster-2013-part-of-my-body-of-work-for

      Also, OP, I’d love to share a song with you that I find a lot of power and reassurance in, Coyote Grace’s “Guy Named Joe” which is based on band member Joe Steven’s transition process:

  27. “So I guess my question is – how can I tell what my gender is, when 99% of how I think of my gender and how I perform it, is centered around other people – around my safety and ability to navigate the world? ”

    I wanted to focus on this a bit, if I may. Growing up, I thought for a long time I was trans* (FtM) because I didn’t *fit* the cultural messages I was being given by society. We get a lot of junk heaped up on us from the time we’re very young about what being female (or male) *means*. I strongly felt all that stuff just wasn’t me, so I defaulted to assuming I was meant to be male.

    Two things there…gender is (partially) a social construct. But social constructs are also very real, and we can’t hand wave them away. I heard a lot of ‘Well, so you’re a girl who doesn’t like dresses! So what? That doesn’t mean you have to be a guy.”

    Which…okay, yeah, that’s actually true. And part of the reason I defaulted to ‘guy mode’ was because I was still hung up on thinking of gender as binary. I didn’t feel like a girl, so guy was the only other option. But actually there are lots and lots of options in-between, and others that are somewhere outside the binary completely.

    So I’ve fully accepted now that yes, girls can be interested in everything and anything, and there is no marker for *being* a girl. BUT…I still don’t feel like one. And that’s okay!! Gender is social and biological and chemical and things we don’t even understand and often can’t even articulate. Acknowledging that part of your feelings about gender were given to you is a great first step. Even so, they’re still YOUR feelings now, no matter where they came from, so you still have to do the work of making your way through them and deciding what bits to keep. And the truth is that you may work through all the stuff you’re carrying about gender and STILL feel like you don’t match the one you were born with (or maybe you won’t.)

    And this is where I agree with everyone else about finding a support group for trans* and NGC individuals. They can help you sort out all those messy emotions and help you deal with the feeling that you might possibly be something other than FTM trans. Or maybe you are, and if so, they can help with finding resources for housing and jobs to make that part easier. Either way, you’ll be with a group where if you say “I can’t quite explain, but this body/these pronouns/this name/this life just doesn’t *feel* right”, heads will nod all around the room and you’ll know you’re really, really not alone.

    These days I identify as agendered. I’m not a girl, I’m not a guy, I’m not both. It’s not a statement of “Oh, gender doesn’t apply to me, I’m above all that” because again, this stuff is powerful and big and we can’t really turn our backs on it. Gender DOES apply to me, and being agendered is how it applies, if that’s makes sense.

    1. Can I ask how you decided on the agendered label? I’m currently in the middle of the “Well, I’m certainly NOT a woman, I don’t think I’m ftm, so what the hell do I say?” that you describe, and I’m at a loss for how to sort out my identity further. Like, I’m comfortable with the idea of being nonbinary, but some people seem to feel strongly that they are a third gender or agender and I just feel meh about everything? I guess what I’m asking for is a more personal concept of agender (vs nonbinary but gendered?), if you’re comfortable giving it.

      1. I’ve been trying to figure this out myself. I look very masculine but don’t really feel either masculine or feminine; I suppose I’m less unmasculine than I am unfeminine, but I don’t see unfeminine and masculine as synonymous. I tend to shrug off binary-derived labels as archaic and irrelevant. If we put things in strict binary terms, I’m a cis-male heterosexual, and I don’t particularly disagree with any of that, but it seems like a gross oversimplification. I answer to binary labels but don’t truly identify with them. I am who I am, and people who get to know me figure that out, but the language isn’t really there yet to describe me succinctly.

        1. For me, I currently ID as genderqueer, but I’m not sure if it’s the right fit. The problem is, I read descriptions of what genderqueer and agender mean (with a grain of salt) and go “YES” to both when I’m in a good mood and “WHATEVER” to both when I’m not.

        2. Hey Mark, just wanted to raise a question mark over calling binary-derived labels archaic and irrelevant. It’s a bit of a sweeping statement and rather different to saying that they’re simply inappropriate for you. What I worry about is that it feels dismissive of people who are binary, especially binary trans people who already have to fight pretty damn hard for their identity to be recognized by others as it is.

          1. Yeah, I could have been clearer. My point was that I personally don’t get worked up over gender labels as applied to me; I’ve been known to chuckle at getting misgendered, though that hasn’t happened in many years. (Scenario: someone with a ponytail, addressed as “Miss,” turns around to reveal a beard.) That said, I understand that some people, including at least one friend of mine, strongly identify as one gender and get deeply upset when they’re misgendered. Truth be told, and I may catch some heat for this, since I don’t see the world through a binary model, I don’t really see anyone, cis or trans, as truly binary; as I see it, they’re simply further along a continuum than some others, and I effectively apply a reconstruction filter to anyone who presents with a binary gender identity until I can figure out more about them. In practice, all that means is that when someone says, “I’m a man” or “I’m a woman,” I simply don’t jump to any serious conclusions about what they mean by that beyond the fairly narrow matter of how they identify.

      2. Er, I can try. Some of this stuff is so hard to explain clearly. In the past, we didn’t even have the language for it. Now the language is there, but only in some circles…if I were to say agendered, non-binary, or gender queer around most people, I’m going to get a blank stare. But even in places where the language exists, the concepts behind them are often vague, and they’re anything but static. My concept of what agendered means is very likely to be vastly different from the agendered person standing beside me.

        So everything I’m about to say isn’t meant to be taken as a definition or how an agendered person *should* feel. It’s just how *this* agendered person feels.

        I talked earlier about the social side of gender, but I was actually lucky enough to grow up with an incredibly supportive mother. I think it was really obvious very young that I was ‘different’, so from a young age I was told over and over ‘whoever you are, you’re okay.’ If I was gay, fine. If I was trans*, fine. She never pushed me to fit a mold…if I didn’t want to wear dresses, she’d buy me jeans. If I didn’t want dolls, she’d buy me action figures. I was never made to feel like ‘less’ of a ‘girl’ for these things.

        So why, then, did I still not feel like a ‘girl’, even though I knew full well the label didn’t carry any restrictions or expectations (at least within my own family?) I was (and remain) a very self-confident person, so it wasn’t like I was terribly concerned about what people outside the family might think.

        And here’s where the language falters, because even for a cis-gendered person…what does it mean to ‘feel’ male? I’m positive they don’t walk around all day thinking “I’m a guy, doing my guy things.”

        And I suppose that’s the difference, because I DO think about gender. Like it or not, supportive mother or not, gender has meaning to me. It’s not something I can articulate, and it is anything nearly so simple as “girls can’t wear blue or be doctors or play video games.” It’s something much deeper than that, but all of that may still be mixed up in there somewhere, because we don’t always get to control how our mind sorts and groups things. A lot of the stuff is nowhere near the conscious level, and that makes it all the more insidious because you THINK you’ve risen above it, and your lizard brain is still yammering away that x = x and can’t ever equal y.

        You don’t think about gender if your gender fits. For me, my gender didn’t fit when I was a ‘girl’, but it didn’t fit any more easily when I was a ‘boy’. Gender simply does not ‘speak’ to me on any level. I don’t dress as a male or a female…I dress so I’m comfortable (and usually look like a slob.) I have very short hair in a ‘male’ style because it’s easiest to style. I’m distressed by my breasts, but only because I HATE wearing a bra (and I’m well endowed enough that’s it obvious if I’m not.) I’ll answer to any pronoun, and people do interchangeably call me he/she depending on how much of my body they see.

        I feel…null. I don’t feel I’ve risen about gender so much as I have such a strong lack of interest or concern that it doesn’t apply. A lot of this may be tied into my sexuality. I’m asexual, very strongly so, and so I also feel like a neuter. Of course many agendered individuals aren’t asexual, and I don’t think that makes them any less agendered. But I think never having experienced gender in a relationship, and never having the need to worry about all the various baggage that comes along with it, has influenced these feelings.

        I knew I was agendered long before I had the word for it. I guess the best way to explain (and it’s not a very good way) is that if I woke tomorrow in a robot’s body, stripped of all gender characteristics both primary and secondary, and people called me ‘it’ for the rest of my life…I’d be perfectly happy. That to *me* is the difference between feeling gender queer/fluid or bi-gendered and feeling agendered. Gender still speaks to people who are fluid or bi-gendered…it just changes what its saying, or it says many things at once. For me, there’s just silence.

        Aaaand I’ll stop there before I muddle things any further!

        1. I think you’ve done more than try here. This was incredibly eloquent, and as Manatee said above, also beautiful. Thank you for sharing such a powerful, important thing.

        2. THANK. That was really eloquent and helpful. I like the part about being a robot, it’s definitely something I can relate to. I guess I feel like my settings vacillate between robot and nonbinary, so it’s fluid but not in the more usual male to female way. I’m trying to cut out my intense perfectionism and maximizing here, so maybe I’ll just let these thoughts simmer for a while longer.

        3. this is almost exactly how I feel, except although I am currently asexual (for complicated medical reasons), I haven’t been asexual for most of my life. even so, even in all those relationships, even with some really good hetero sex–I never liked having it pointed out to me that I was female. I desperately want a breast reduction; not necessarily to get them removed entirely, but it would be nice if they weren’t so damn obvious (and such a pain in the ass to work around). I’d really love to be perceived as not obviously any particular gender, if that makes sense.

          I tell people that my gender is “decline to state.”

      3. For me, agender is the word I learned to use once I found out that other people have strong feelings about their gender. I can look at the ways growing up under the “girl” label affected me, but I don’t feel female in the affirmative way women generally describe it, nor do I feel affirmatively male or any other gender. I dislike having gender roles applied to my body, sexuality, or relationships, although as a sexworker I am willing to play a part for pay. (Forgive the alliteration.) It frustrates me that I can’t have the parts of my body be just hard or soft or squishy or curvy or muscley or whatever, they have to come with so many goddamn assumptions.

        I’m also not a huge fan of having my chest touched, but I only get really dysphoric lately while menstruating. Oh, and there’s a double annoyance when people are sexist to me. “First, no, I am not a woman; second, WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU, SEXIST ASSHAT?!!1” only with less capslock in real life because of shyness and lady-training, ugh.

        Also I struggle with “you are making this up for attention and are secretly just a failure as a woman.” Thanks, poopheart. 😛

        1. Yessss with the “you are making this up for attention and are secretly just a failure as a woman” because wow my jerkbrain likes to tell me that on bad days.

          Of course, I’ve become pretty adept at telling my jerkbrain “no, the reason I sucked at being a woman was because I’M NOT ONE and pretending something for that long is impossible and really shitty”.

    2. I was thinking while on the treadmill (trying to hit a 13 min mile today hollow laugh)… It’s a lot easier to perform a gendered self when what we are performing aligns fairly well with what other people expect to see. Whether or not this is a good thing or a bad thing, it means it takes fewer front and center resources, if you see what I mean.

      Lacking that work already done for them is enough reason to be worn out, for LW. With everything else on top… oy. Yes, that’s a whole lot to be tired about.

  28. LW, it’s okay to fight society’s stupid expectations about gender, and it’s okay to work hard so that people will see you the way you see yourself or so that you feel comfortable in your own body. That doesn’t make you a monster – it makes you someone with a lot of willpower standing up for something important to them. I have nothing but respect for you for standing up for yourself.

    But it’s also okay to go with the flow. Conforming to societal expectations does not make you a bad person, nor does it mean you’re “not really trans”. I am a gender-neutral person with a female body, but most days I just don’t feel like dealing with all the crap people pile on you when you’re not cisgendered. I use female pronouns and my (feminine) birth name because if people want to think I’m a girl based on how I’m shaped… I don’t give a fuck. My gender identity goes in the category of Things I Don’t Care What People Think About, along with stuff like my religion, medical history, and how often I poop. This is a very personal decision and you may decide how people perceive your gender IS important to you. Or maybe it’s only important for close friends, or only when you’re feeling sad, or certain things are important for you to feel comfortable with yourself whether or not other people see.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that what other people think doesn’t change who you are. You can be whoever you are and you can be it publicly or privately or even in total secret, and it’s still 100% you. And whoever that person that you are is, there are other people out there who can love that person.

  29. Hey LW,

    I’m FAAB and genderqueer, and I’ve found a tremendous community of trans* folks on Twitter. Just follow the hashtags to find us: #trans, #gender, #genderqueer, #girlslikeus, #boyslikeus, #folkslikeus. Particularly recommended: @supermattachine, @andyeyeballs, @mxjustinvbond, @quailitea, @janetmock, @rozkaveney, and trans* news sites like @TransAdvocate and @TransNewsDaily. In-person community is wonderful if you can find it, but there’s a particular sort of reassurance that comes from opening Janetter and finding that Roz has written a new sonnet and Prezzey has found a reform synagogue where they can wear men’s tallit and Matthew is sewing doll clothes. We get to share our everyday lives, and by doing that, we realize and remember and reassure ourselves that we’re normal ordinary people. Because we are.

    You can absolutely love and be loved while trans*. I’m profoundly fortunate to have two queer partners who love me regardless of what sex or gender I am on a given day. It’s rotten that your family are being awful, but they don’t get to decide who you are or whether you’re worthy of love. You are who you decide you are, and you are worthy of love because everyone is.

    As for knowing whether you’re “really trans”, that’s your call. But lots of us feel our identities shift over time, and that’s totally fine! I’m no less genderqueer on my “I feel female and feminine” days than I am on my “I feel male and dapper” days. I’m also no less genderqueer at work, where I’m not really out, than I am at home. Being trans* in a cis world is absolutely exhausting and depressing sometimes, and it’s okay to take breaks from that, whether that means staying home so that there’s no one around to judge you or dressing to pass as something you’re not.

    You are you, and you are a splendid you. I’m so sorry you’re having a hard time. You’re not alone, and I’m sending you great big Jedi hugs from over here.

  30. Trans/genderqueer/non-binary person here, and this post feels very timely for me because holy Muppet space aliens, Batman, am I tired of it. I’ve wrestled with internalized transphobia, narratives of transgender identity as rigidly binary and medical, questions of whether I’m trans* enough. (For what? I don’t know! EVERYTHING.) I just started a new job and had to write an awkward email to my manager about pronouns because no amount of hinting, dressing pointedly in masculine clothing, talking about Pride events and being a public educator about queer issues, or flat-out saying I’m trans* and it’s okay to ask about it would induce any of my coworkers to broach the subject. (I’ve also now been told by two people in this workplace that I “should have said something sooner” to which I nod and smile and don’t point out that IT’S NOT THAT EASY DANGIT.)

    I’ve been too broke to even see a therapist who knows anything about gender issues – God willing, I’ll be able to soon – and I don’t know if I want to “transition” physically or legally because I’m only marginally more a man than a woman and there’s only a few physical things I care about. I saw therapists before who didn’t know and while it helped with some things – rage, social anxiety that prevented me from basic necessary tasks, some confusion – it was really frustrating too because I spent more time educating them than working on my problems. I hate public bathrooms. Boy, do I ever hate public bathrooms. I’m single and while I’m largely okay with this, I would like to have a partner in the long term, and I can’t shake the nagging worry that between my natural tendency to hermitude and my complicated gender situation I’ll never find one. I’m sick of people assuming they know what it means for me to be trans* when I don’t even know what it means myself, and I wish I had a queer Team Me to understand what I live with every day but I don’t even know how to find one even though I live in one of the queerest regions I know of. (I do have family support, though they don’t all get it – in that respect I have been very fortunate.) I’m sick of the gender binary. I’m sick of the T in LGBT being silent. I’m sick of having to think about all of these things.

    *breathes* Sorry. I guess that’s not very helpful to anyone but me. I guess I meant to say, LW, that you’re not alone – and thanks for asking your question, because I needed to know that I’m not either. *secret hand signal of gender-whatever solidarity*

  31. Hello, LW.

    You are wonderful. You are a beautiful, courageous person who is so, so worthy of love and respect. You may not feel like it now, because society keeps telling you you’re not, but you are. You’re so courageous to be alive today and out as trans. I’m stealth myself.

    I’m also a trans man. When coming to face my gender, I had to deal with a large amount of internalized misogyny thanks to the messages I was force-fed by society (thankfully, never my family. Rarely, anyway). For a long time, I wondered if my disgust and discomfort with my own body was due to gender issues or internalized misogyny. I always told myself, ‘ok, if you DO try to transition, what happens if you’re not any happier? What happens if you are just some freak girl who thinks she’s a guy because she can’t deal with society?’

    Sometimes, on my bad days, those things still haunt me.

    The thing is, I love a lot of stereotypically ‘feminine’ things. I’ve got a pair of large squishables on my bed, a platypus and a manatee. I love baking. I love knitting. Adorable tiny animals? I am cooing like a five year old. Again, the messages from society kept telling me that I can’t be a man AND love these things.

    Sometimes, FtM society would tell me that I’m a horrible man too. That hurt a lot more than society in general. Trans men, I find, feel more pressure than cis men to be ULTRA SUPER MASCULINE or else we’re not ~*REALLY*~ men, but just women playing at it. It hurts a lot.

    Here’s the thing though: I don’t feel like a woman, so therefore I’m not. I’m just a feminine man and I’m ok with that. I’m more than ok. I’m at peace with it. I hope you find peace too. I still have doubts. I’m due to start hormones very soon (I’m asking my therapist for my letter tomorrow) and it terrifies me. ‘What if I feel worse, what if I don’t feel right still, what if I have to go back on my word and start telling everyone ‘WHOOPS FALSE ALARM I’M A WOMAN AFTER ALL’

    Gender isn’t a straight line though. It can have twists and turns and that is OK. My dysphoria has always gone up and down. Sometimes I’m fine with breasts and sometimes I want to take a knife and carve them out here and now. Maybe you’re not a trans man, but are genderqueer. Maybe you’re not genderqueer, but agender or bigender, or some other gender identity that holds meaning to you and only you. Maybe you are You and that’s fine. That’s beautiful on its own. You can also be a feminine trans man. Your gender can even shift from time to time. Maybe you identified as a man once but don’t any more. That’s all fine. There aren’t rules to gender after all. Society lied.

    Society is wrong. You are not a monster. You are not a horrible person for having doubts. That’s extremely normal. I can’t tell you the feelings will stop. From what I can tell, they won’t. Society has also told us that it expects a clear linear story from trans* people. Things like, ‘Oh, I always knew from a very young age that something was different about me…’

    Life doesn’t work like a narrative though. Don’t worry if yours doesn’t fit.

    Letting go of What Society Expects has helped me so much. I feel free to be Me, whoever that happens to be.

    There are things that can help. Find a support group, like others have said. Sharing stories helps. If you can’t find a real life group (or, if you’re like me and find talking to people absolutely TERRIFYING), find an online group. Finding small joys, like being correctly gendered like Faetouched said, helps so much. Friends—-cis or trans—-who get you are so important. It’s so important to find someone who is willing to research trans issues on their own. I’m very blessed; most of my friends are writers who have written trans* characters or have transgender people in their families.

    Pets helped me too. I don’t have to measure up to any standards with my pets except for cleaning out a cage, providing food, and cleaning out a poop box. There’s something liberating in that. Plus, good for hugs.

    It won’t be easy. But finding that peace makes it so, so worth it.

    I wish you all the best and Jedi hugs if you want them.

  32. I’m GQ/androgyne (and FAAB). Mostly not out apart from how I dress. Just want to say that the brain weasels that (sometimes) come with being trans* are horrible. I sometimes get a barrage of thoughts that intrusively ask things like ‘am I really trans?’, ‘am I just doing this to be cool?’, ‘special?’, ‘to shake off my lack of privilege as female?’, ‘to distract myself from xyz’ and then if my brain goes into ‘maybe i’m not trans’ mode I wonder ‘are you just copping out because being trans a hard and lonely road?’

    Some trans people have a lot of certainty, and I am happy for them, but I don’t happen to have that. I’ve seen a few other people write from that perspective online, but not many. I know I don’t like to because it seems to invalidate an identity which is already precarious, to turn me into an imposter, and if other trans people won’t accept me, well then I may as well crawl onto the midden heap and die a lonely death of aloneness.

    So yeah, I just wanted to write this so you know you’re not the only person out there who is/identifies as trans who has this sort of uncertainty. But maybe it’s ok for us to be uncertain, or to feel different ways at different times, or to be legit trans but not always in hate with our bodies. And if at some point you find that you’re not trans, then hey, that’s ok too.

    Something that helped me was reading definitions of ‘transgender’ as being an umbrella term simply for not feeling that your gender matches your assigned sex, rather than being a prescriptive term for a particular way of presenting or feeling.

    Good luck to you.

  33. Hi! I’m genderqueer, and I have a lot of the same (though less intense) feelings about myself. I’m always the educator, people usually don’t understand how I’m presenting and give me weird looks, choosing a bathroom is frustrating – especially so depending on how I’m presenting that day. IT IS EXHAUSTING AND NEVER ENDING. Mainly, I deal with it by finding safe havens. A group of friends I have come out to that react well to “hey, you just fucked up and called me a girl.” or who even catch each other fucking up (hopefully someday we’ll get to the point where they don’t need reminders). A place I know that has individual-room bathrooms without gendered designations that I can duck into to relieve myself. Queer spaces where people won’t presume and won’t blink at my presentation. Spaces where I can be alone that aren’t accessed by routes that would have gawkers or indeed much of anyone to see me. These little spaces of tranquility give me time to get my shoulders down from around my ears before I head back out into an aggressively gender-policing world that is just fucking exhausting.

    Also, when I was questioning my gender, I asked myself a lot two major questions: “Would I be genderqueer if misogyny weren’t so virulent in my culture? (i.e. would I be comfortable identifying as a woman if “woman” didn’t carry so much baggage)” and “Should my safety factor into my decision about my gender identity?”

    For me personally, the answers were: “I don’t live in that world, so ultimately this question’s answer is unknowable and irrelevant” and “No, but it should factor into my decision making about how I live my life as genderqueer.”

    Your answers may differ. I just wanted to put in another voice saying: it is okay to make decisions based on the life and circumstances that you have now, rather than some ultimate “truth” of who you are sans context which may not even exist. It is okay to change those decisions later if they are no longer working for you. It is scary to exist in a state of uncertainty, but it can also be okay. You do not need to decide right now, if you aren’t comfortable. It is okay to make a “for-now” decision if you are more comfortable with that.

    People can be such assholes around gender identity. It is 100% not okay, and unfortunately 100% predictable. Take care of yourself. You’re not alone. If you ever want someone to talk to, I’d be happy to give you my email address.

  34. On the subject of being trans ‘enough’, a friend and I were talking recently about this very thing. There is so much anti-trans sentiment, and just clueless comments like ‘you’ll change your mind’ and ‘how do you really know?’ or ‘you just think that because you don’t fit definitions X Y or Z’, that people often want to go against that as much as possible by being very very sure. Most of the focus is on people who ‘always knew’ they were meant to be the other gender–very clear cases. It’s sort of like when gay rights first became a thing, a lot of people felt they had to ‘prove’ this wasn’t the case. More and more, people are accepting that sexuality can be a continuum as well as changing over time. If Sara dates Lucy for a year, then dates Daniel, doesn’t mean she was a ‘fake’ lesbian, or that ‘it was a phase’. Maybe she’s bi, or maybe she was more into girls for awhile, but now is digging the dudes. (Though lots of people still have trouble with that concept, I think.)

    My friend put forth this is the same for gender identity. He is male-bodied and uses male pronouns, but says in a perfect world, he would have been born female. Sometimes he feels more this way than others. I am…well, in that same perfect world, I wouldn’t have a gender. I don’t like female pronouns, I don’t like being identified with ‘female’ words. But I have a female body, and generally more ‘stereotypically’ feminine traits than masculine (in some ways). So I feel as though, it is just so much *easier* to go along with ‘female’ than try to get people to acknowledge me as gender-neutral. It’s almost impossible to explain to people, too–female bodied, ok with looking female (except I can’t deal with having long hair for some reason)–what is the difference? I can’t properly articulate it. I wouldn’t claim to be trans based on this, I would feel like I was co-opting the term. But, I do think it’s more of a continuum for a lot of people than just a Yes/No thing.

  35. Hi LW,
    I just wanted to share some links with you that you might respond to – first is Eli VandenBerg’s artwork – he is ftm, and documented some of the feelings in his “Body in Process” series – http://elivandenberg.com/

    I also thought I’d share this video – it’s from 2012, in which a transman proposed to his girlfriend at the White House Pride reception. I thought you might find it hopeful: http://feministing.com/2012/06/19/watch-scout-who-is-transgender-propose-at-the-white-house/

    Jedi hugs.

  36. I’m also a trans* person, and I have a couple thoughts about this.

    1) You don’t have to educate anybody if you don’t want to. For people you knew “before” you can just tell them you’re a guy and you want them to refer to as [your new name] and with male pronouns. “I’m not comfortable talking about that” & “That isn’t your business” are perfectly acceptable answers to any further questions.

    2) I tried going to a trans* support group a few times and actually hated it. Definitely give it a shot, but don’t feel like you have to go if you don’t find it helpful, and don’t feel like you have to make friends there.

  37. Hi, LW.

    I’m cis-female, so I have absolutely 0% advice for you. What I can say is that I’m sorry that everything sucks right now. I’m sorry that other people suck. You are okay. Things being tough and things making you question what’s going on in your head doesn’t mean you’re not okay. You deserve love and respect.

    If you live somewhere in Ohio, I’d love to get a drink of your choice with you (alcohol, coffee, soda, milkshake.) I’m pretty darn geeky and more than a tad bit nerdy, and could always use a new friend. I’m not interested in learning anything except for maybe what your favorite movie is. (I love Pan’s Labyrinth, The Craft, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead, and I watch The Hogfather every yule season.)

    1. Signed and seconded. I’d love to have some magic words or some insight, but this is not my area of expertise. So instead, have all the Jedi hugs you want, and know that there are people rooting for you– even if we’re all far away or a little bit anonymous. It sucks that you feel weird right now, and that people/culture is making you so tired. I wish you the best in untangling it all, and, like clodia, would love to chat, e-mail, or maybe even hang out (I’m awkward, you’re awkward, let’s not pressure ourselves) if you’re in the LA area.

      1. I have been known to say that I may be awkward, but I’m adorably awkward. OWN THE AWKWARDNESS.

  38. Hi LW,

    I’m another trans man and I wrote a blog post you might like: http://yetanotherlefty.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/making-the-best-choices-we-can-make-with-what-we-have/

    The jist of it is that I have NO IDEA whether I would “be a man” outside of my present circumstances. Just like everyone else, trans, cis or otherwise, I am a product of my social and personal background. There is no question of whether or not you are “really trans” or “really a man” – only what you want to do. What will make you feel comfortable?
    If a particular name, pronoun, style of clothing, item of clothing, hormone treatment or surgery makes you feel comfortable then get that. If something doesn’t feel comfortable, change it. Even if something used to be comfortable, if it isn’t comfortable any more you can change it.

    I’ve been friends with trans women who felt most comfortable living as men, trans men who live full time as women, nonbinary people with all kinds of pronoun preferences, people whose gender changes day to day and several people who transitioned and then detransitioned later when the changes that had made them comfortable no longer felt comfortable. These are all valid ways to be. If you want to just stop correcting people on your pronoun for a while to see how it feels, do that.
    Whatever makes you feel safest and most comfortable living your life, do that (or work towards it, I know lots of these things cost money). I am a man because I cannot comfortably live my life without my male name, “he” pronouns, testosterone, short hair, bound chest and men’s clothes. Without all of those, I can’t feel comfortable. Other men can live comfortably with some other combination, even with “she” pronouns. Whatever works for you and whatever gender label makes you comfortable is right for you. Whether that’s “woman”, “genderless”, “genderfluid”, something else or maybe “man”.

    Also: People will love you. I couldn’t get a partner pre-transition because my dysphoria was paralysing me. I’ve had 6 partners since and currently have two wonderful partners and three more people who’ve asked me out.

  39. I just want to add that sometimes, people do identify as trans* and then later, they stop identifying that way. And that’s okay, too. Like twomoogles said, gender and gender identity are a continuum, not a binary, and not set in stone.

    I say this as someone who, when I was younger, seriously considered transitioning (FtM). In the end I decided against it largely because it just wasn’t a matter of urgency for me. I had a close friend who did transition, MtF; he even went so far as to begin hormone treatments. After some years of that, he changed his mind and went back to living as a man.

  40. The comments about how you don’t have to be trans enough or transition in any particular way are all true, but I’d go further. You seem really depressed and worn out.

    So I’d make the job smaller.

    I would actively resist any internal referendum on gender identity. I would try not to get stuck thinking deep thoughts about whether I’m doing the right thing in the right way. You feel stuck – your feelings are going to be stagnant and helpless feelings. Right now, it’s just an excuse for your jerk brain to schedule a serious talk about how you are a stupid worthless failure. Then it starts in on how you wouldn’t need a jerk brain if you weren’t such a loser, it knows you’re a loser because only losers feel worse when their jerk brains attack them.

    Like the OP said, your gender will be there when you get back: whatever you delay or skip over, whatever decision you make or change later, you will be okay. Your life will turn out okay; your mistakes will repair themselves. (Trust me.) More than that…this is all your life. You aren’t quitting or leaving anything undone. There isn’t a meaningful distinction between taking a break and moving forward: all of this is part of the process of maturing and finding peace.

    You should focus on regaining your energy and breaking your isolation, on finding support. Don’t think about this as a step in your journey, as something that will enhance your progress or prepare you for the future. Think about it as something you need to do to protect yourself right now and always. Find someone to talk to because you are lonely. Find help because you are alone.

    Your self-care is not a prerequisite for your transition. It’s something you need.

  41. Hi LW!
    As a GNC ( I prefer genderfluid) type person I wanted to give some of my own insights. My friends all know and respect my gender identity. My mum to a small extent knows about it. Personally, I haven’t had the energy to really talk to her about it and then slowly work my way up to talking to my dad about it. Legally, the government recognises me as a female. Physically, mentally, and emotionally most of the time I don’t FEEL like one. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I feel male. Sometimes I feel androgynous. Most of the time I don’t feel like I have a gender. However it’s not strong enough for me to say agender. Plus it doesn’t feel right to me like genderfluid does.

    I fully realised this a year ago. I’m STILL coming to terms with it. Every application I fill out kills me to have to mark “female” as my gender. So unless I’m actually actively talking gender, I tend to not think about it. I have no plans on changing my physical appearance…well not hormonally or surgically. Exercise is up in the air and always a possibility for changing my body.

    My advice: take care of yourself first. Your mental health should be one of the highest priorities for you. Right up there with basic needs (food, water, shelter). If you feel you need it, find yourself a distraction. Personally, escapism is the best thing for me. I read a LOT of books. I play a LOT of video games. Because for a while I can forget about everything I am going through and be someone else. Or get out a bunch of anger, aggression, and frustration by beating the crap out of people who aren’t real and are just bits of programming. It focuses me. And while I’m doing the escapism, my brain is left to deal with it’s shit that it needs to subconsciously that it can’t do when I’m focusing on it. I also sometimes write about things going on in my life and publish it online to get feedback. I’ve gotten a bit of positive feedback. Not always where I expect it from but it still happens. Make friends who are trans or GNC. Find people you can talk to about your feelings with. Even if it’s online. I’d say a good portion of my friends online are GNC or trans. 2 of the people I talk to the most are MtF and they are the most lovely girls. I’ve found the similar theme with us all is support. We all feel like we need someone there in our corner. And once we get at least one person there, it’s soothing. Kind of like a balm. Makes you feel less alone (or for me at least it does).

    Don’t let the loneliness eat you up.

  42. Me too. After almost a decade of transition struggle I can not imagine living the rest of my life this way. My life seems a lot worse now more than ever. Time to move on and possibly transition back? I don’t know. This sucks.

  43. Am cis* so won’t give you a ton of advice. I will just tell you that, because of the type of feminism I am involved in I have a lot of activist friends that fall all over the gender and sex identity map. They’re amazing. They’re survivors. They’re hilarious, and full of rage, and they do brilliant things every day and they struggle all the time with the impossibly heavy weight of gendered and cissexist demands placed on them, and I’m pretty sure each and every single one of them has expressed some element of what you’ve just written about at some point in the time I have known them. They are beautiful, hilarious, brilliant trailblazers. Their kids and kin will, someday, benefit from living in a world partially of their making – one that recognises and values people of all genders and none, one that is moving toward a more open and descriptive, rather than prescriptive, approach to gender and sex (and sexuality, when it comes to it). More importantly, so will they. The seeds of that world are already germinating, and you probably know that from experience, but it’s like little tiny outposts sometimes in a sea of total sh*t. Sometimes you lose touch and have a mayday-mayday situation. Sometimes you’re in a dead zone.

    If you don’t have a community – find one. If there isn’t one – there is, it might just not exist physically where you are. You can make a community. The Internet is probably the best starting place if you’re in shitsville. People will welcome you with open arms and you will find people who are like you and people who aren’t and people who you like and people who you don’t, but perhaps most importantly you’ll find people who won’t monster you because you’re on a journey, or you’re not like them, or because you have ambiguous and sometimes overwhelmingly negative feelings about your identity and how that interacts with everything outside your corporeal and mental/emotional self. Those people, by the way, will probably have undergone struggles that you can bond over, even if they differ between individuals. Solidarity is everything.

    I know it’s not the identical to struggling with society’s gender problems, but I find (as a queer cis* lesbian living in shitsville) that when I am isolated and alone and away from my Chosen Queer Family life is a lot shittier and things I don’t really think to have anything to do directly with my sexuality or gender or queerness have a much stronger negative impact on me than when I can reconnect with them and share in the us-ness and the protective layer of I don’t know what that binds us together and makes us mutually stronger. They’re my people. Find your people. Whoever they are, they’re out there, and they’re waiting for you.

    Good luck and happy hunting.

  44. Hello, LW.

    Not a trans person, only sorta know one trans person, so I don’t have much to offer specific to that aspect of what you’re going through — it would be really presumptuous for me even to try, especially when you’ve gotten a lot of great insights from people who actually can empathize, not just try (probably in vain) to intellectually sympathize.

    I just wanted to suggest that you prioritize your mental health care, along with your efforts to sort out what feels right to you genderwise. When I read your letter, I heard someone who has been severely beaten down — by society’s rejection of people who don’t fit in neat little gender-boxes, by self-doubt, by your family’s lack of support. I heard self-hatred, doubt of your own lovability, a sense of hopelessness.

    Undertandably, you have mentally associated these things with your trans status — both your uncertainty about who you are meant to be, and your conviction that whoever that turns out to be, it’s not going to go over well with the world at large. (Though I hope the other posters are helping you believe that love and friendships are possible — good to know, right?).

    Yet you also refer to “extremely debilitating mental illness.” And it made me wonder, what if a lot of what you’re feeling is only partially caused by your trans-issues, and the rest is biochemical? Like, maybe the trans-identity stresses catalyzed your mental health issues, or exacerbated them, but a good part of the beast on your back is more (or at least equally) a function of depression or anxiety or agoraphobia or whatever your mental health diagnosis is? Mental health issues are quite capable of taking an insecurity (especially something that goes to your sense of identity, or makes you feel like a freak) that would otherwise be manageable and making it feel unbearable.

    Depression and anxiety can both make you feel like “everybody-hates-me, I will never find love” — even if you have no gender issues to deal with. Agoraphobia can make a person feel hopelessly disconnected and doomed to loneliness. Things-that-make-you-feel-like-crap about yourself and your prospects for happiness don’t stay in their neat little boxes, either. Instead, they feed on one another and gang up with Jerkbrain against you.

    So. You say you’re looking for a therapist. And I can understand that it is really, really important to find a therapist who is supportive of your trans-related issues — you’re so bruised, you can’t afford to open yourself up to a therapist who is going to treat you with disdain. So yeah — take your time with that, in terms of screening. Get references from LGBT folks. But seriously consider making sure your Team You includes someone with prescribing privileges, ok? Because it could be that biochemically-based mental health issues have taken on a life of their own, and that if you wrestled those under control with the help of medication you would find your gender-issues less despair-inducing.

    Best of luck to you in sorting this out. Try to think of yourself as “complicated” and “interesting,” not “screwed up,” ok?

  45. Nothing new to add that the other wonderful and encouraging commenters have not already covered — I just came here for a much-needed dose of sanity on this topic. Major trigger warning: Don’t go anywhere near Slate.com until the current article about preferred gender pronouns (and the noxious comments accompanying it) have slipped down the home page into oblivion.

  46. *jedi hugs*

    I’m so sorry, dude. I get it. Being a GSM (gender/sexual minority, for those curious) is tiring as shit. Trans* folks get a fuck tonne of flak from inside the queer community, too, and it sucks. It really, really sucks.

    I think you should take the time to really think about what makes you an awesome human being. Are you a good listener? Are you nice? Do you smell nice? Can you armpit fart your national anthem? Figure out these things and hold them close. Remind yourself of your awesome the next time some asshole calls you “ma’am”, a family member calls you the wrong name, something happens that makes you think “this is happening because I’m trans”.

    Because, see, lemme let you in on a little secret: the people who can’t put their own perceptions aside and respect your gender, even if it makes them uncomfortable? They are being assholes. There are people out there who are not assholes, who will love and respect you and not give a damn that you’re trans.

    Maybe think about moving to a larger city, or somewhere with a bigger queer community. The more fish there are in the sea, the higher chance you have of catching a few good ones! Even if the only trans folks you meet are a lot younger/older, or you only meet up with them once a month — get somebody who you can relax with, and who you don’t constantly have to be on alert for shitty things around. Having that kind of company is really relaxing and lovely.

    Best of luck, man. I hope things improve for you.

  47. Hey LW,

    I’m trans, been on the big T since I was 21 and into my 40s now. Advice – I have some, but you don’t have to take it.

    1. Get thee to a low income/sliding scale mental health clinic. Deal with the depression and the jerkbrain ruling your life, you can sort out your gender or not gendery bits after you get things in general a little less scary. It will still be there and you can think more clearly about it when you get back to you.

    I go to one in my city for completely un trans related issues and I have a great doctor and a great therapist and meds that work and no one treats me like a monster or a freak – and I pay nothing for it. And I’m in the middle of a deep south red state living in the House of Evil Bees with my Darth Vader parents who use the wrong name and gender and I’m still coping and feeling the helps. (Schizophrenia really sucks balls, but I will get back to my own home eventually.) They are really out there and you really can get help.

    2. If you are on/have been on T, find yourself a sliding scale/low income physical health clinic and get someone to test your levels and your liver function. If your levels are low, you will feel like shit on toast. Lethargic, confused, depressed. Then get a script and get to the pharmacy and get it in you – maybe even get them to give you a shot there. It’s very important if you are on T to maintain your levels – it makes a huge difference in your outlook and how you feel about yourself, not just how much body hair you gain and head hair you lose. It’s very unlikely you’re the only trans person they have ever seen – and they should treat you with respect.

    The times that I most doubted myself? The times my hormone levels were fucked up because I was too poor to afford T or not taking it properly. A shot, a nap, a shower and some food and suddenly I felt a lot more human. If you are not on T or never have been – I’m not saying jump on the bandwagon – particularly if you are unsure – but if you are or were – it can make a HUGE difference in how you feel about yourself.

    Having said that – it’s ok to doubt, too. It’s ok to like things that are not considered “really male” by western (American) culture. I sew. I cook. I *hate* a dirty house. I have no interest in being Suzy Homemaker, but I can show that bitch up with my mad skillz. In fact I was way better at all of that then my wife was.

    That’s right, I said wife. I was married to a real live cis gendered heterosexual woman. We are divorced, but it wasn’t because of trans anything, we just grew apart over the years. We were together a decade. You are NOT unlovable. You are NOT destined to be alone. You are NOT a monster in a bad way, and you can totally be a monster in a Muppety fun way if that makes you happy. Since gender is kind of a whatever thing to me – who knows, I might get gay married to another man next time now that that is possible in more and more places in the US. I am open to the possibilities because I’m way more interested in people than I am their plumbing. You might have a clear preference – but you don’t have to if you don’t feel it – and it’s ok. It doesn’t take you off the market or make you destined to be forever alone.

    3. You are not obligated to educate everyone you meet, or disclose your transness. Get your ID fixed (if you haven’t already) and stop talking about it for a while. More and more states are making it easier for trans people to get proper ID without surgeries – you can get a passport without surgery now. Then it’s no one’s business other than who you choose to tell.

    I come from a state where no matter how much surgery I have they will NOT do anything about my birth certificate, but I have all my major ID – DL, CU account, insurance, boat papers ( I live on a boat, cheaper than a house or apartment and I own it) etc in male gender. And I’ve had zero surgery and have big tits – but I still take my shirt of at the beach because I can. Some men suffer from “the heartbreak of gynecomastia” – there is no one way to be a man or look like one – a withering “really?” can shut down a lot of bullshit in a heartbeat.

    My general rule is – if I’m not sleeping with you or seeing you for medical issues related to my being trans, you don’t need to know. I control that information and it saves me a lot of stress and anxiety. It’s ok to be private about that. It makes applying for housing (when I needed to) and SNAP and jobs a whole lot easier. If you get a shitty clerk at a public service like Social Security – ask for someone else.’

    4. It’s ok not to be all into the perky trans stuff. Really. In fact, it’s ok not to be into trans activism at all and just be a dude, or a guy or a person who is perceived as a guy. It’s totally cool to be into that too – but if you are feeling so much isolation and disconnect, maybe this is not the time to be all activisty.

    Let yourself have some time off while you get your jerkbrain off your back and remember how to be you. Find a cheap hobby or interest. Join a group of people who do something you think is cool. The SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), LARP (Live Action Role Play) or a Steampunk group or gaming or car enthusiasts or cyclists or underwater basketweavers. Teach yourself a new language. Join a bowling league. Do the NaNoWriMo. Join a writers group at the library. Get into some kind of fandom – whatever it is that gets your interest going and makes you feel connected rather than disconnected from humanity.

    Most of all, remember that you feel alone, but there are others out here who get it. Who understand and accept you as you are and want you to feel good about whoever you are. You are not destined for sadness. I know your jerkbrain is being an ass, but you are NOT your jerkbrain pirates – and you can find ways to wrest back control of your ship and sail on into adventure.

    Be well.

  48. Hello, LW! I am also trans and FTM. (Also Grover has totally been my favorite since I first learned to read The Monster At The End Of This Book.)

    Outside of work, my friends know I am male, and I use male pronouns online, but I haven’t transitioned at work, so I spend a large chunk of my day cross-dressing, answering to Birthname and female pronouns, and generally feeling awkward and out of place. I know I am fortunate to have a wonderful wife and some friends both online and off, but there are plenty of times when I feel awkward and lonely and like a fuzzy blue monster in an ill-fitting person suit.

    Sometimes I think it would be easier just to tell people I’m a woman and stop correcting everyone, but that ends up grating on me more than the alternative. That’s “how I know” – the alternative, the idea of just being a woman is even harder than being a guy in a skirt, for me.

    I don’t have any awesome advice, but I will tell you that some people will love you despite the fact that you’re a monster, and some people will think monsters make the best friends, and some people won’t actually notice that you’re blue and furry. I hope you find those people.

  49. On the topic of reclaiming the monster narrative, I bring you Medusa, by Heather Dale.

    Hang in there and keep on being awesome. Also, on the topic of de-internalized-transphobizing yourself, have you looked at genderfork.com? I speak from personal experience; nothing helps like looking at picture after picture of trans* person of all stripes and thinking, “You are beautiful, so are you, so are you.”

  50. I’ve been thinking about this question all night.

    LW, I have some advice for you that came as a revelation to me in the shower this morning, which I really needed to hear and which I think you might, too: stop trying to fucking maximize everything.

    So I’m a habitual maximizer. My particular combination of neurology and brain weasels makes me prone to wanting to get The Best Option out of all the options, to the point of choice paralysis. Picking a new gadget? I will learn ALL THE THINGS about that kind of gadget until I am the most educated consumer ever and can accurately choose the best one. Picking a meal at a restaurant? I will read every single description, ask questions about unmentioned ingredients, do whatever I can to get the best possible food. Trying to work out what my gender is? I will read all the trans lit and psychology and memoirs and whatever else I have to do to find the BEST GENDER.

    Except it doesn’t work like that, you know? What is the best gadget is not objective, because what I need it for is different than what someone else needs it for. What is the best food is not objective, because we all have different tastes, allergies, and whims. What is the best gender is not objective. I guess there are people out there who do have a best gender and identify with it strongly. But for me, and maybe for you, LW, there are a few options that would all be fine. I don’t even have to pick one. I can pick, like, three if I want to. There is no upper or lower limit here. This is maybe not a thing I can maximize. So stressing about my gender identity–“what if I’m wrong,” “what if X would be BETTER,” “what if I tried X and it was worse and then I was a failure because I got my own gender wrong and who does that???”–is not a helpful thing to stress about.

    I mean, I could be learning everything there is to know about cameras and picking one of those out, instead.

    1. Thanks so much for this, I recognise myself in that description and I found the way you put it very helpful!

      1. I think the wanting to maximize my choices is a subset of perfectionsim, which I meant to include in that comment and forgot to do entirely. I was very much the academically gifted/perfectionist child–can’t do anything unless I’ll do it perfectly the first try, leads to the cycle of anxiety about failure and refusal to try, so I self-limit, so then I get scared to try things. It’s easier to catch myself trying to do this as an adult and go, “WHOA wait, brain weasels, chill out. This is not a thing that has to be perfect to be functional.”

  51. I wish this would be the past we’re looking back at and thinking “Wow, imagine how backwards we used to be, to be so hung up on what gender a person identified with!” Because that’s really what it is. And THEN you’d all be the Rosa Parks’ of breaking another ridiculous line drawn arbitrarily in the sand.

    I’m sorry it has to be so hard. I hope you find your people who embraces you for who you ARE.

  52. LW,

    I wanted to say something specifically about your family’s lack of support, since I haven’t seen much said about that. I’m a ciswoman, so my experiences have been very different, but my parents and extended family have repeatedly attacked me for my life choices, to the point of getting my kids taken away from me. I’ve spoken to many other people who’ve had similar disfunctional relationships with their parents.
    I don’t think anyone ever fully stops wanting teir parents to love and accept them, and this drives us to go back and try again, and again and again, and…

    If your parents are just that toxic, one of the best things you can do is start the long process of acceptig they can never be the family you wan and need, and walking away. YOu can find other people to be a family of choice, even people who can be PARENTS of choice, but first you need to let go of the toxic relationships with your family-of-birth.

    Wishing you the best

  53. Transman here and – well, I feel you. A lot.

    Being trans can be rough, there’s no two ways around it. I also belong to a family of transphobic Darth Vaders and until I escaped – to a city far away, a city where transitioning was possible, a city where they couldn’t visit and I could immerse myself heavily in the local queer culture – I wibbled about if I was really trans. I worried a lot if I was just “performing” it and a lot of the feelings were painful and I felt unloveable and worthless.

    Sometimes I still do, not going to lie. But I have really supportive friends who are like a new family and I’m out and transitioning, four years out of escaping that hell hole. And I can, when I am grocery shopping with friends, say, apropos of nothing, “Damn, I hate transphobic internal narratives,” and be able to have a conversation about it.

    That said, having a therapist has done wonders for me. I’m terrible at therapy (I’m inconsistent, I’m non-compliant if I think they’re being stupid or not taking me seriously, I’ve got some pretty serious hang ups about medications), but I try to consistently go. It can help. You’re also allowed to switch therapists. You’re allowed to make your own choices in therapy, especially if it’s not helping you or if it is hurting you.

    I also am going to repeat advice given above: find other trans people. When I lived in a rural part of the country, that consisted of a guy or two who was willing to hang out and talk about things with me (both of whom told me to get the hell out of Dodge because it would have been a terrible place to transition). But it was a huge weight off my shoulders to just get those words out in the open. Now that I’m in a major metro area, I get a choice of meet ups and support groups and that’s pretty cool. It’s a stress relief to just see other people like myself and that might help.

    You don’t have to do Trans 101. I don’t. Even before hormones, before passing was ever a thing, I would just go, “MaleName,” and if they misgendered me, say, “No, it’s he.” I don’t go into Trans 101. I just don’t have the energy for it. Maybe someday it would happen.

    Lastly, and you can take this with a giant grain of salt because I do try to seek geographic solutions to deep-seated emotional problems, maybe take a look at moving, and not just across town. Having the opportunity to re-invent myself as a trans man made a major difference for me and not just because I was away from Darth Vader family. It wasn’t my old babysitter and Sunday school teacher and old Mr Harold down the street who grew up with me as GirlName. It was strangers and that opened up a new world. (Also if you live in an area with a depressed economy/low access to hormones or therapy/terrible support, this could be an opportunity to go somewhere that has a better job market/health care access/a trans community.)

    You can take or leave my advice, but these are the things that helped me a lot. I still have that internal dialogue of Monsterdom, for sure, but I am getting slowly better at it.

    1. I’d like to second Chase on moving to a new city, if it’s an option for you. I’m FAAB and agender; after the Brom and I move away I’m changing my physical presentation and legally changing my name — my birth surname is also used as a gender-neutral first name, and most of my friends already address me by it — and it will be much easier for me to do this around people who don’t already have me in the mental slot of “the Acorn’s mom”.

      I’d also like to give the Brom a nod; we’ve been together 17 years, and we’ve both changed a lot. It took me 31 years and a wreck of a first marriage to find him, but there are people in the world who will love you for you. I wish you every bit of luck you need to find them.

  54. I am late to the party but I want to say SOLIDARITY. I hope that things change for you, even if only little by little.

    I wrote this thing (http://disruptingdinnerparties.wordpress.com/2013/03/19/please-dont-call-me-maam/) about the days where I’m not all “Ohmigod, so happy to be meeeee!” Maybe it’ll strike a chord with you. Most days I’m pretty ok with my body. Some days I’m not. I give myself permission for both.

    Good luck, and there are a lot of people rooting for you, me included.

  55. Great Big Jedi Hugs for the depression, shitty family, and debt (just when you think you’re out, it keeps pulling you back in).

    I don’t have advice about all the haters, and day-to-day crap you shouldn’t have to deal with.
    I want to address the never gonna be loved issue.

    I really, really, really, love gender-queerness in people. It has been a quality I as a feminine bi cis-female am not only attracted to, but at an essential level is necessary for me in a partner.

    I like women with very heavy doses of tomboy, and guys who are gentle and pretty.
    I dated a MtF woman before and at the start of her transition, and it was very much a “yeah, that totally fits” reaction for me. The femininity in her was a lot of what I found so sexy about her.
    My two long-term girlfriends were both very masculine in how they acted and presented to the world and it made me squishy in the heart and crotch.
    Mr Corps is very gentle and pretty and people have assumed he is gay, because stereotypes.

    Whatever gender you want to identify as right now, the people who are going to love you, will love you. Because if you put yourself out there as yourself, people will be attracted to you. And a pronoun change won’t change that you are someone they want to kiss, talk, laugh, and have sexytimes with.

  56. LW, I’m not trans and have nothing really constructive to offer. Only love and support. I hope you’re reading all these messages of support from the Awkward people and I wish you the very very best with everything. *HUGS*

  57. I’m a trans guy, and my experience echos what several other men of trans experience/f-to-m transitioners said earlier. The absolutely least helpful thing for me, when it came to making any decisions related to transitioning, was to think about big-picture questions like “what am I, really?” “am I a real man?” and “what is gender anyway?”. Those were unanswerable, and left me paralyzed with indecision. What was most helpful was to lay out my options; make my best guesses as to which of them would make me happiest with the least negative consequences, and cautiously try it out, with the knowledge that it was okay to stop or make different decisions at any point in the future.

    I totally empathize with being tired of being trans. It’s horribly exhausting and I don’t even want to think about the time, energy, and money I’ve had to spend just to get by with some semblance of okayness that cis people take for granted. But, It’s also helpful for me to remember that that is not much different than any number of people who deal with chronic physical or mental health conditions. I’m definitely a path of least resistance kind of guy, and that really helps to mitigate some of the ongoing day-to-day effort. For instance, I haven’t changed my name legally yet or the sex marker on my IDs, though I could. It’s just not an issue for me often enough to make the hassle feel worthwhile. When the time comes that that hassle-to-benefit ratio changes, then I’ll do it. But, I think it’s easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of things one is ‘supposed to’ do to be trans in ways that only make it more exhausting.

    Also, ditto to what everyone said about it not being your job to educate everyone. Setting good boundaries about what I will and won’t talk about with whom has been an energy lifesaver for me. Most people are polite enough that when you say vague things like “I have some medical stuff going on” or “It’s kind of personal” or “I wouldn’t want to bore you with the details” they won’t ask followup questions. For people that I’m close enough with that I do want to talk about the details of my gender feelings or body configuration, I make it clear that reciprocation is required. And hearing the things that ‘normal’, able-bodied, cis people have to say about their genders and bodies has helped, just a little bit, to make me feel less like a monster.

  58. I joined an online support group when I started dating a transperson because I really wanted to understand him. The group was kind and funny and reassuring, and I even made an almost local-ish friend there who I keep up with on facebook. It was very helpful to me as a cisgender female to be able to ask questions, and talk freely about stuff without having to be constantly bothering my boyfriend.


    Our eventual breakup had to do with so many issues, but none of them were because of gender. I only say this because you said you’re worried that nobody will ever love you. Not true, there are tons of people who don’t concern themselves with how the package is wrapped when it comes to loving someone.

    I agree with everyone it’s not your job to educate everyone. You get to choose who you share with and what questions you will answer, and to who, and when.

    Truly, you are not a monster.

  59. trans here, FTM. I’m dealing with pretty rough PTSD, anxiety, depression, and dysphoria.
    You’re not a monster. Dear lord, T?T, you are not a monster.
    I’m on hormones, have top scheduled for less than a year, and I question myself every day right now, because of how tired i am. Being trans is draining. work is draining, especially when you’re trans- not to mention if it’s a particularly rough day for your dysphoria. Mental illness is absolutely exhausting, and when your brain doesn’t work how you want, dealing with bills and life is just plain horrid. I know ❤ not to the extent you do, because we all fight different battles, but you are not alone. Absolutely not alone, I promise. The sheer number of posters replying to this will hopefully help show you that.
    Also, good on you for being proactive. So many people just curl up and hide when things get hard, but you're moving to be near friends and finding a therapist. Like everyone has said, it's not your job to educate anyone. Educating is tiring. Find yourself a group- Transmen Worldwide on facebook is a starter, from there you can find other groups. Depending on your age you'll find some of the questions and posts irritating, but all these groups are are tools to connect you. At least, that's what I try to remember whenever someone keeps asking for the hundredth time if they will grow facial hair on T.

    On the never being loved? I thought that. Grew up in rural Wisconsin. Not the best area for a gender-nonconforming person to be in, but surprisingly most of the people I knew there have just kinda gone "okay, you're a dude, that's not a shock". Moving to DC was the best thing I could have ever done, though. My girlfriend goes to a liberal arts college in Northern Mass, and visiting there is really good, too. You'll be loved, and I'm sure there are people in your life right now who love you in a non-romantic way (though that's not the same).
    There are a lot of good people out there who seem to consider themselves lucky to be dating someone who is GQ or trans or genderneutral. I've posted it on my OKCupid account and still get messaged by people nonstop. But more importantly, my girlfriend of eight months (who found me on OKC before I posted that information on my profile), loves me because I'm me. not because what's between my legs or what's getting cut off my chest, but because I KNOW what it's like to be a woman, and I haven't forgotten it yet. Even when I'm dysphoric, she sees me as a man- her man. You're not going to be alone, especially not if you stay as proactive as you seem to be.

    Take care of you first, and love will fall in place when you're ready. At least, that's what it seems to be in my life.

    Oh, and I've taken to listing things- in my head, on paper, whatever. What am I dealing with. what can I handle right now. What can I not fix. What can be fixed by someone else. Where can I get resources. Who can I talk to about X, Y, Z. I've found that with my mental struggles, lists and concrete game plans can really be useful. Just a thought

    hang in there, brother.

  60. I don’t think I can respond to this properly because it just cut so deep.

    This – exactly this – is why it took me a decade to actually seek gender reassignment. And in that time, I’ve wavered loads about my gender – primarily because I thought no one would ever love me or even like me if I were trans, and also everything would be harder. And given that, at the time, no one really liked me anyway and everything was already really hard, this did not sound like an appealing prospect.

    I ignored my gender for years. And then I met a beautiful transgender woman and we started dating. Someday, when we have the money, we are getting married. And the way she moved through the world with relative ease, post-transition, and the complete support she gave me made it possible for me to transition.

    I cannot recommend enough connecting with other trans folk.

    And remember, there is No Such Thing as “Not Trans Enough”.

  61. I’m super late to this party but I just want to say thanks for posting this, because it is also *exactly* how I feel. (Well maybe not down to the minute details. But still.) I’m so damn tired and I know it’s so easy to capitulate to the idea that you’re an unlovable freak. And maybe this will help me deal with those emotions, as well as the LW.

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