Ask a Gender Therapist: Am I Transgender Because of Childhood Events?
In this week’s edition of the Ask a Gender Therapist Video Q&A Series I address…
Am I Transgender Because of Childhood Events?
Trying to figure out whether or not you are transgender is already hard enough. Experiencing difficult events in your childhood can make it even more confusing. Here are my ideas as to how you can get closer to your true answer.
Hey, welcome to Ask a Gender Therapist. This is a video series where I answer your transgender questions from the perspective of a gender therapist. My name is Dara Hoffman-Fox, I’m a licensed professional counselor in Colorado and I’m the host of this series. Hopefully you can hear me over the normal sounds of a coffee house. 🙂
This week’s question has to do with when someone is trying to figure out whether or not they are transgender and some of the doubts that come up. This one is a very specific one that I have heard quite often, so here goes. Basically…
Did such and such event from my childhood cause me to be transgender?
Another way I have heard that phrased is also, “Am I really transgender or did such and such from my childhood cause this to happen?” And I don’t hear this only from people who are wondering if they are transgender, I also hear it from my younger clients or readers parents, and they wonder if they have done something to cause somebody to be transgender.
So, the first thing that I want to mention is that, of course, this is just going to be my opinion. So, by all means, what my second point will be is that you should, if at all possible, get into counseling to explore the answer to this question. Because if there is something in your past, in your childhood, that is so significant that you are wondering if it caused you to be transgender, then the first thing I want to put out there is this is definitely worth exploring further. You don’t want to rush this and you want to make sure that you, in the end, you know what your right answer is. And what your truth is.
What I am going to do is do my best to answer this question in general, to give you a few things to think about, then you can go out and explore a little bit more what your specific answers are.
The first thing I want you to think about is why have you asked yourself this question? For one thing, I know some people are able to go with the theory of “It doesn’t matter what caused me to be transgender. Now I just need to figure out what to do about it.” So if you are the kind of person where that answer would fit well with you and you are okay with that, then I would say go with that. And then you’re able to move forward.
Not everybody’s like that. I also know there’s a lot of people who like to analyze all the different answers, all the different possibilities, and making sure that in the end, they are going to make the decision that is based on all the facts being looked at. And it is important for them to be able to look at these events from childhood and make sure that that didn’t somehow cause their transgender feelings.
The other thing I want to put out there is that, in my opinion, a trauma from childhood or even a significant event from childhood doesn’t cause someone to be transgender but it can definitely cause gender confusion. It can cause sexual orientation confusion. Depending on what the event is it could cause all sorts of confusion about yourself. If you have had some trauma or significant event in your past that altered your life in a big way it’s very normal to have confusion in general about who you are as a person. And of course that would include gender confusion.
Going back to the question of why you have asked yourself this question, once again, what you really need to think about is, in the end are you really hoping the answer is not that you’re transgender?
You can probably understand that because in today’s society, even though it is getting better, if it turns out that you are transgender, especially to the point where you are so uncomfortable with your assigned gender at birth you need to transition to the “opposite” gender, it’s going to take a lot. It’s going to take time, money, effort. It might affect your relationships, your career, there is so much that can change because of that. In the end, if there is a huge hesitation to want to actually admit or recognize that you are transgender, then that will come up as one of the things that you are going to analyze and look at through this.
But don’t forget that in and of itself, being transgender is not wrong. That’s one of the things when someone enters into reparative therapy, which is when the therapy is created to actually assist the person in either reversing the effects of being transgender or finding a way to just repress it so that you are not actually going to acknowledge these feelings.
In reparative therapy a lot of times they do have you look at your childhood and they find things to blame it on. It could be having a certain type of mother or certain type of father, certain types of abuse you experienced, even something as simple as something your mom ate while she was pregnant or a certain type of medication she took.
In reparative therapy, a lot of times they try to use that angle, which is why I want to caution you to not use that angle with yourself where in the end being transgender is something to be ashamed of or that you feel like its wrong. If that’s at the root of it, and I know for a lot of you that may be true because of certain beliefs you may have been taught or maybe even the way our society treats you, that’s going to be something you need to look at first. If there is an internalized transphobia that you have towards yourself, that’s going to have to be worked through as well.
I know, it sounds like there are so many layers and complications here! That’s why I want you to go and see a counselor if all this is sounding familiar to you.
The reason I am having you ask yourself these questions is because you need to get to the root of why you are asking yourself this question. That way you can then figure out, “I now know why I am asking this question and I still want to go ahead and move forward with exploring this. I want to see if this is true or not.”
Then what you need to do is explore this event or if there is more than one event, your entire childhood, to see what’s going on with that. Do you still have healing that you need to do from that? Do you still have to reconcile with yourself that event and how it actually affected you as a person? Being able to explore that is going to be really essential for you to get your answers, to clear up your gender confusion or any other confusion you have about yourself.
If this is something that you can control, such as you know what it is that you need to explore, what it is that you need to heal from, I really do strongly encourage you to do that. Because it’s not only going to help you with gender confusion, but with all sorts of other issues as well.
This doesn’t mean you have to pause any sort of exploration you want to do with your gender identity. In fact, I encourage you to do both at the same time, if you can explore those traumas that you went through, those events that you went through that you were wondering about at the same time as you explore your gender confusion.
You can watch a video that I recently made about how to work through your fears about your gender and to be able to get to the truth of that. You should still go ahead and do those sorts of things and be able to kind of go back and forth between “Here’s how I feel as I explore my gender identity, here’s what’s making sense to me, here’s what feels comfortable to me,” and “Ok, I’m going to look at this traumatic event from my childhood and see where does that come into play.”
So you need to be able to do both at the same time. They are not going to be able to be look at in an isolated container. If you have a good counselor you can work through these things with, it can help you to be able to balance the two at the same time.
In the end, I know that when it comes down to it, you just want to be right. You want to know for sure. “If I’m transgender I want to be right about this because I don’t want to have to go through the whole transition process and it turns out I am wrong.” It’s a fear I know a lot of people have because there are examples of people who begin to transition or they transition and then they regret it. The percentage of people who do that is very small, but because there is a percentage that’s why, as far as I know, most everybody wants to spend the appropriate amount of time to look at this, for themselves, to make sure that this is the right answer.
This is especially true if you have layers of trauma from your childhood that you have to work through. Then I do encourage you to take the time to explore that; explore both the trauma and your gender identity questions at the same time.
One thing I hear people say is they wonder if their gender confusion is a way to help them escape from their trauma. Maybe as a kid they used cross-dressing as a way to escape and even as an adult they wonder if that is so. It can get really messy and confusing at a certain point. You don’t know what came first, the chicken or the egg.
That’s the indication that you need to step back and, hopefully with somebody’s help, be able to work through that trauma and see if indeed, where does that come from and if it turns out you already had feelings of being transgender or gender confusion when you were young and it just so happens that by coincidence the trauma exacerbated it. Then you would know that that is your answer.
So you have a lot of questions you need to have answered for yourself. The only way you can be able to do that is to explore that.
Another thing to keep in mind is that when certain traumas happen in childhood, you can really become detached from yourself, you can become detached from connection with your body, and with your psyche. Therefore there is a possibility that you don’t know quite what’s going on with yourself. There could be a lot of confusion, like I said, in general besides even gender confusion.
So working with someone to try to reconnect with yourself, to attach more to yourself and what your feelings and thoughts are, that could take a lot of work. But the closer you can get to that, the more you will be able to get closer to your true answers about your gender identity.
In summary, I just want to make sure you know that this is a great question and it’s really important that you are asking it because you’re taking this very seriously. And in the end you probably do need to work through your trauma or your significant childhood event, no matter what. It will help no matter what. In the end, hopefully it will help you get to the bottom of your gender identity questions as well as many other questions about yourself.
I do have a video I made about how to find a gender therapist in your area. If you can find one that would be great because you already know they are going to be aware of what it is like to talk to somebody about trauma as well as gender issues. I will put a link in the YouTube notes so you can see that video. I also mentioned I will put the video that you can watch to help you to continue exploring you gender identity while you are working through your traumas.
I know a lot of you have written to me asking for specific advice about this question but just remember there is no way I can answer that for you, especially just with a few email exchanges back and forth. It is so important to me that you find your answer for this. There’s no way I can tell you what your answer is, but I really do want you to find your answers. So please, find a counselor who you can talk to about this. Or if you’re really good at working through things on your own, find a work book, use journaling, find a close friend you can talk to about this so you can get to your answers.
Once again, thank you so much for everybody who has been writing in your questions about transgender issues. If you have a question, I am going to encourage you to go to my website which is DaraHoffmanFox.com/contact.
And in the meantime I appreciate everybody who has been ‘liking’ my videos. Actually, one of my videos surpassed the 10,000 views mark a couple of weeks ago, which was awesome! I was really surprised by that because, who knew that so many people were interested in this? But I know and you know now, too. So I’m going to keep doing this.
Thanks again for your support and just remember I am here to help. Please take care and I will catch you in the next video. Bye!