Welcome to the first installment of READER Q&A on the darahoffmanfox.com | Transgender Education & Resources website!
This will be a regularly featured segment in which I share with you conversations I’ve had with readers (as well as watchers of my YouTube series ASK A GENDER THERAPIST) in which they ask questions and I do my best to answer them.
I’ll admit I have been highly inspired by the late Matt Kailey, who answered questions for his readers on his blog, Tranifesto.com, from 2009-2014. Although I will never be able to fill the huge gap left in the wake of my colleague’s death I do hope to help in some way in the coming days!
So, onto the question (which has been edited for brevity), with my answer following…
The Various Shades of Trans…Where Do I Fit?
A couple months ago, I came across the term “non-binary” for the first time…and the descriptions of it reminded me a lot of how I thought about myself growing up, with a couple important differences.
I definitely remember describing myself as “a girl on the outside,” feeling like I related better to boys, but never really feeling like I WAS a boy, even on the inside. That was the part that seemed to sound a lot like the way non-binary people described their experiences.
The big difference for me was that my parents just explained to me that, if the understanding I had in my head of “girl” didn’t include me, I just needed to change the picture in my head of “girl” until it did fit…That made sense to me and, thus, ever since then, while I’ve still felt somewhat out of place in groups of women, I haven’t ever felt like I *wasn’t* a woman; I’ve just felt like I was a woman in a different way.
(My dad) was especially insistent that boys liked girls who looked and carried themselves in a certain way–unfortunately a way that couldn’t be much more different from how I feel most myself.
It’s something I wrestle with even now. On the one hand, I’ve only ever had romantic interest in men, but on the other, it often seems like men aren’t romantically interested in women who feel more comfortable in masculine roles. I’m not sure how to reconcile my desire to attract a man with my desire to express myself on the much more stereotypically masculine side of “woman.”
I feel like I’m able to relate to feeling like my assigned sex doesn’t really fit, which probably makes it easier for me to relate to people who are transgender than it is for some other people, but it seems like there’s an important difference (between myself and those who transition) that I’m missing that I’d really like to understand. Is that something you’d be willing to help me do?
Your question is awesome, I love these sorts of discussions!
Firstly, on a personal level, I very much get where you are coming from when it comes to how you feel about your own concept of gender. I grew up much more on the “tomboy” end of things, or at least until I felt like I needed to “feminize” myself more so I could be more accepted (I was raised in the 80’s and on army posts, so yeahhhh…).
In fact it wasn’t until this year that I learned about the terms you mentioned, and feel comfortable identifying as “non-binary” and “gender fluid.”
There are varying levels of discomfort, when it comes to gender identity. I made a video you might want to watch that helps explain it: How Do I Know If I’m Transgender?
To answer your question, the disconnect between some people’s assigned gender at birth (based solely on genitalia) and their true gender is so painful that the only relief is to transition socially, medically, or both. Socially meaning going by the right pronoun, a name that suits their gender, etc. Medically meaning hormones and surgeries. Some people feel enough relief by transitioning just socially, others need certain medical aspects as well.
It’s a shame you have to feel like you have to “tone down” a side of yourself to be able to find a good partner. I hope the work I’m doing is helping to move our society forward, not only for those who are medically transgender, but for all of us out there who are tired of having to conform or fit a stereotype that, for us, doesn’t fit.
Here are a few more resources I think you will find of use:
The Pitfalls & Alternatives to Trying to Become “Real Men” and “Real Women” (this one’s by me :))
Hope that helps, take care!