Reader Q&A: The Various Shades of Trans…Where Do I Fit?
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:
How to Date a Butch Girl (for Boys)
Celebrating Butch: A Powerful Photo Collection on Female Masculinity
The Pitfalls & Alternatives to Trying to Become “Real Men” and “Real Women” (this one’s by me :))
Hope that helps, take care!
Leah (LJ)March 10, 2015 at 9:24 PM
I really empathize a lot with many of the things in this particular post. I am gender fluid and was classified as a “tomboy” my whole childhood. I was blessed in that my parents encouraged my participation in sports and martial arts, my interest in cars and the outdoors, and never forced things like makeup on me. It never really occurred to me that there was anything different or wrong with the way I behaved and I was comfortable with myself.
Until puberty hit. Oh man…puberty. That was when I first experienced dysphoria. Up until then I had had a kids body, fairly gender neutral. I mean kids all pee out the south end (no matter it’s shape) and have flat chests, I felt just like everyone else. I have never had a problem seeing myself as physically female but I’ve never seen myself as *only* female. Most days I feel…neither. Some male, some female, mostly just me. It was tough to suddenly feel pigeon-holed as “female.”
L, you mentioned having encountered terms like “non-binary.” There are many more identities than cis or trans. You don’t have to feel entirely dysphoric or desire to transition to be non-binary. While nowhere near comprehensive, this site gives a quick rundown of some of the terms: http://nonbinary.org/wiki/Nonbinary_gender
AMarch 29, 2015 at 5:11 PM
I agree, I relate with a lot of this too. I never felt like I “was” a boy on the inside, even though I wanted to be a boy, and I never felt like a girl on the inside either. Which is a very troubling way to feel in a binary society. I’ve been struggling with gender for a very long time now, and I feel like I don’t really fit in anywhere. Which is what I guess these non-binary terms were created for: people like me who don’t really feel completely comfortable in either category. I kind of hoped that just finding a term for myself would make me feel better, but I don’t feel like any less of an outsider than I did before. Just having a label isn’t enough for me, I want to fit in in society, and not just in some minute subculture that most people don’t even know about. Obviously gender is not the only way of grouping people, and maybe I just need to find some other identity to be proud of that will give me more comfort. But I still worry that there is some fundamental difference between myself and almost everyone else that I will never be able to completely keep my mind off of. I just want peace of mind, but that quest is beginning to feel hopeless.