In this week’s edition of the Ask a Gender Therapist Video Q&A Series I address…
“Discovering your true gender identity & not letting fear stop you!”
As always the transcript is below (shout out to Paul, my intern!). And be sure to send me your questions through the Contact Me page on this site.
Hi, welcome to Ask a Gender Therapist! This is a video series in which I answer your transgender questions from the point of view of a gender therapist. I am your host Dara Hoffman-Fox, and I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor in Colorado.
This week’s question is me taking a lot of the different messages I have received, and mushing them up into three different statements that I’m going to read to you. Once I read them to you, my guess is you are going to connect with this because I’d say 50% of the questions I get fall into this category. So let’s go ahead and get started with it.
How does someone know if being trans is a phase or not?
I think I am transgender but every time I think about it, I get really confused and suddenly I don’t know how to feel about anything. Is that normal?
I wish I was female; however I am kind of content to stay male. I am so terrified I don’t know what to do.
What we are going to do in this video is, first, I’m going to ask you a fairly simple question that you can ask yourself to see what direction you should go in next. The next thing I’m going to do is talk about the different feelings that come up that you can definitely expect to have. And lastly, I’m going to talk about what you can do about those feelings so you can continue to move forward to try to find your answers.
I’m very fond of using the whole idea of our life being a journey—and you can even call it a quest.
So let’s say that those of you who have this kind of thing on your mind are trying to figure out if you should start a quest. You are on a quest to find out your truth, your answers about yourself. So when I said I was going to ask you to ask yourself a simple question, this is what I meant. I want you to think about it in these terms when it comes to questions about your gender identity.
Think about “What was your assigned gender at birth?” So those of you who are new to this, what that means is, when you were born, the doctor looked and saw either a penis or a vagina and said you are either a boy or you are a girl. You were thus assigned a gender at birth.
So, think about what gender you were assigned at birth and more than likely you’ve been raised that gender. That comes with certain expectations and certain stereotypes. Think about, “How comfortable are you with your assigned gender at birth?”
So, for instance, let’s say on one side you have female and you are assigned female at birth. Think about whether or not you are comfortable with that. Are you completely comfortable with it? Are you may be feeling a little on the male side or even in the middle between male and female? Maybe you are all the way on the male side. Maybe you are nowhere on that spectrum.
So what that does is that answers the question for you. Depending on how far away your comfort level is with your assigned gender at birth means whether or not you want to take another step and find out some more answers for yourself.
There are people out there who are very comfortable with their gender they were assigned with at birth. It’s almost like, “Oh, that’s lucky. It turns out the doctor guessed what you are in terms of your gender and they were right.” But for a lot of people, that is not true and it takes some time to figure out the answers for yourself about that.
So now you are now aware of the fact that you need to start your quest to find out what is your true gender identity, if it is not your assigned gender at birth. So does this mean maybe that you are transgender? Sure. Maybe it does mean you’re transgender. Does it mean you are fine with the gender you were assigned at birth, but you are not okay with the expectations that have been put upon you or the stereotypes that have been put upon you because of that gender? That could also be true.
So what that means is next, it’s time to go on your quest to find out these answers.
What I want to mention right now is that you can expect certain feelings that come up as you go on this quest. That happens to any hero or main character in a movie. There’s always going to be certain emotions that come up.
In these messages that I read to you I heard words like confusion, and terrified, and doubt. So those are the three that I’m going to address right now. After I address these feelings we are going to get into how it is you can be able to examine these feelings one by one so those feelings don’t interrupt your quest to find your truth.
So let’s start with confusion.
Confusion is a mental chaos. There are also feelings of anxiety that usually come from that, and fear. But a lot of times, it’s that feeling of back and forth in your head, “I’m not sure if I’m this, I’m not sure if I’m that. How do I feel about this?” So that can be a pretty awful place to be in because it’s very stressful. So that’s one thing you can expect to come up.
The next thing we will talk about is doubt.
Doubt is something that is a combination of both mental—what you are thinking—and also things that you are feeling. So doubt can come from feeling confused then having a sinking feeling inside that you feel unsure. It’s actually, from what I have experienced and what I heard my clients have experienced, that can be a very sad and hopeless place to end up being. Because you might have gotten a certain extent where you might have gotten some answers for yourself and then something happens. And it knocks you off that path then you feel that doubt.
Again, it happens that so many characters and heroes in stories, where they are doing just fine, going along their quest and then something happens and knocks them off that path. That can be confusion, but that can be doubt.
And of course I saved the best for last, which is fear.
In the end, almost everything can be tracked back down to the fear. You may be getting closer to the truth of your answers and that’s, a lot of times, when your fear comes in at its strongest.
At its root fear is really, on a certain level, trying to protect you. We call that the ego. The ego doesn’t want you to go about making these changes about yourself and in your life because the ego feels safe where it is. It doesn’t want things to get messed up, it doesn’t want life to change. So that’s a difficult place to be in because part of you wants everything to stay the same.
But as you probably know, the more you try to repress your truth; it’s still going to mess with you, no matter what.
What’s important to recognize is that confusion, doubt, and fear are all going to come up. It’s very normal. In fact, it’s expected. It means you are actually getting closer to the truth the more these feelings come up. That can probably sound very frustrating because then it’s like, “How am I supposed to get to my truth if these feelings keep interfering?” That’s where we are going to go next.
How can you get to know these feelings? How can you examine them so you don’t have to repress them and also so they don’t block your ability to find your truth?
I’m going to call these the “magical elixirs.” So again, it’s like you are on a quest. You need to have different tools and you have different support so that you can get through this.
Let’s start with education.
In any sort of story or quest, a lot of times the person involved in it will take some time to study. They go to a big library or they go visit a wise person. They need to take time to gather information so they can feel like they understand better what’s going on. So when it comes to figuring out your gender identity, there are lots of ways you can find out more information and get education for yourself about this.
The more education and information you have, the more you will find out different options for yourself. You may think, “It’s either this or that, and I don’t think I’m that so therefore I can’t do anything.” It turns out there are a lot of different options for you.
We are so fortunate that we have the internet for this reason, meaning you can explore YouTube to find different videos of people who have gone through this. You can look at joining different discussion forums, you can look at joining different support groups, you can read blogs from people who are transgender or who are questioning their gender identity. You can find out so much information that is out there so you can learn more about “Who am I? Do I see myself in any of these people that I am hearing stories about?”
So education, not to sound too cliché, is going to be power for you. Think of it as a magical elixir to help you through this quest.
You can also read books, watch different movies, you can talk to other people who are transgender, or who are going through this experience. You might discover, for instance, “Oh, there’s such a thing as ‘agender’ or ‘genderfluid.’ I didn’t know that.” You might figure out that when it comes to masculine and feminine energy that just because you’re female doesn’t mean you have to have super high feminine energy. You can have a mixture of both. Just because you’re male doesn’t mean you have to be super masculine or super macho. That could be new information that could be helpful for you to figure out your truth.
Next we have “Finding who your support team is.”
In most adventure movies there’s this sort of phase, at the beginning, where people gather different helpers. Like “This is the person who is going to be good at data,” “This is the person who has the muscle,” and “This is the person who is wise and going to offer me advice.” So think about it as you are going to be building your own team that will help you with this.
How do you do that? One person could be a counselor that can be your wise person. I guess I am assuming that means I would be the wise person in that story. That’s kind of cool…
You can turn to other people who have already walked this path and turn to them for advice. You can find people in your life that may be there to provide your comic relief when you are really stressed out. People who you can turn to cry on when the emotions get to be too much.
So basically, forming your teams so you can go on this quest knowing that you are not on it alone.
Another magical elixir would be tapping into any creative outlets.
This is not necessarily for everybody, but for those of you that this sounds like a good idea, it means you would be journaling, you could be doing forms of art, you could be writing music, you could be singing music, you could be acting. These are all different ways in which you could get away from the part of you that is overanalyzing, worrying, and stressing. You take a step back and just do something creative to explore all these feelings.
A couple of examples could be that you could do some creative visualizations, where you close your eyes and really picture yourself, like, “What would I look and act like if I snapped my fingers and everything would be the way I want it to be?” Let yourself experience that for a while. That’s going to get you closer to your truth.
Now again, confusion, doubt, fear is all going to come up because it wants to interrupt you from getting to your truth. It’s okay, you can expect that to happen, but remember that in the end you are still trying to get closer to what your answers are. So doing creative visualization can be a really cool way of doing that.
You can even do that through creative writing, or art, or I have a lot of clients who do online role-playing or even playing in person doing different types of role-plays. That can be a really neat way to explore different sides of yourself as well.
Another example of a magical elixir is to do tests and experiments.
What are different ways that you can actually explore the different parts of your self, specifically your gender? To be able to test it out and see, “How did that feel? Did I like that?”
Now, being able to go out and do that in public is probably the scariest and is probably not necessary the safest, but if there are ways that you can do that, maybe in a small group or even with one other person, or you could just do it online. I have clients that have found chat rooms where they go in and they say, “I feel like I’m going to pick this name, I feel like I’m going to be this gender, and this is how I’m going to interact in this room. I wonder what that’s going to feel like?” That’s another way you can start exploring what that feels like and see how good it feels or if it doesn’t quite fit you or not.
So those are the different magical elixirs. Like I said, in the end it really is about finding out your truth and your answers. Remember there is going to be confusion, fear, and doubt that come up.
In the end, when you find your truth, a lot of times it means something is going to then change—something about you and, depending on what you already have going on in your life, it could affect relationships that you have in your life. It could affect your career, your school, your living situation; there is so much that can then change. That’s why your ego would prefer you just didn’t go there and you just stay the way you are.
But sometimes the truth has to win out. And in the end, it’s about finding out what that is and then taking it one step at a time to figure out what should I do next. And that is something we will have to talk about in another video because I have definitely taken up plenty of your time at this point.
So hopefully that can be a beginning place for a lot of you to start who have had this question.
And speaking of questions, if you have a question, please do send them to me at email@example.com. If you could put in the subject “Ask a Gender Therapist” that would be great.
And I wanted to remind you that I do have a website that I would love for you to visit and it is darahoffmanfox.com. This is a transgender education and resource website that I have just started. I merged my blog that I had over the past year into this website, so that is definitely still there for you to enjoy.
Thank you so much. I have really enjoyed getting all the different comments on the YouTube videos that I have created so please keep that up and I promise I will read them all and I am doing my best to answer them all as well.
So, best of luck to you and I will talk to you soon!