First Person, from a Nineteen-Year-old Canadian …

A lot of people describe the time when they realized they were transgender as a sort of lightbulb moment, a defined point in time where everything about their life changed. I had a very different experience. I can’t say with certainty when exactly I ‘figured things out’, or even that I currently have figured everything out. As humans we are constantly undergoing change, but change is slow and takes time, and we often only realize its significance in hindsight.

As such there’s not much I feel I can say about how I came to realize I was transgender. I know that I never considered myself to be a girl, and in elementary school that was fine, since puberty hadn’t set in yet and the divisions between groups of people that start in junior high had just barely begun to form. I remember starting grade 7 and feeling the pressure to conform to the girls at the school, especially with being forced to use public change rooms for gym class. At first, I thought that maybe if I just tried to fit in, I would feel better. I got clothes that hugged my figure, I tried to hang out with only girls, and I felt terrible. It was truly the worst year in my life. It wasn’t that I simply didn’t like being girly, but it was that any time I felt I had to ‘be a girl’ (anything from hanging out with girls to simply being introduced as ‘she’), it felt like I was having to act as a completely different person, that I had to put on a façade and act differently, even though there was no real reason for this.

I couldn’t connect what others (and myself) could see when looking at me to really being me. When looking in the mirror, it was someone else’s body, somebody else’s figure and face. It wasn’t that I didn’t like how I looked, or that there were things I wanted to change, but that I couldn’t connect what I was seeing to actually being myself. When I would catch a glimpse of my reflection when walking past a window, it was someone else I was seeing. My mind couldn’t accept that there was any way that could be me.

I kept feeling worse and worse, and couldn’t see any reason to get up in the mornings or stay awake after eating supper. I felt like I was distancing myself from my own life in a desperate attempt to be able to continue it; intentionally detaching myself from the events of day-to-day life was the only way I could bear it. I didn’t have any real interests in anything, didn’t really feel like I was ‘feeling’ anything a lot of the time. I just ‘was’ – existing, but nothing more. By the end of that year, I knew that there was absolutely no way I would be able to continue like this. So, in the following years I tried to change things so that I could feel better.

The first thing I knew I had to change was the clothes – the tight ones that showed off the shape of my body were distressing me, so I started dressing in things that I could feel comfortable in, things I could just wear and go about life in rather than be thinking about constantly. So, I started phasing out the clothes I had thought would help but now hated (luckily I was also growing), and I started hanging out around people who I could genuinely laugh and have a good time with rather than those to whom I felt obligated, and things started looking up. I was beginning to feel better about myself, more comfortable. At some point around when I was 14, I stumbled across the idea of being transgender. Like I said, it wasn’t a lightbulb moment, but I gradually realized that this was the thing that best described who I was, and who I was most comfortable with being.

I told my parents that I knew I was transgender around the time I turned fifteen. I had told only one of my friends sometime prior to this, and it had taken a lot of thought before coming out to my parents. We’ve never been the type to share deep thoughts or bounce ideas off each other, and I’ve never really (and still haven’t) opened up to them about much. It didn’t go over very well, which deterred me from coming out to other people for fear of similar rejection. They felt that they ‘didn’t see it coming’, that there ‘weren’t any signs’ when I was little. I beg to differ, but memory is always skewed so that’s something we have to agree to disagree on. I do know that my favourite books growing up were about girls who disguised themselves as boys for various reasons, and that in every case ( I believe there were three such series I enjoyed), shortly after the main character had been ‘found out’ and resumed living as a girl I lost interest, preferring to reread the parts of the stories before this point rather than search out the rest of the series.

In the couple of years following coming out to my parents, I found myself stuck in a bad place. I wanted so badly to transition, but I was too scared/depressed/passive to actually go out and work towards it. I found myself avoiding any sort of social interactions – school situations, getting a job, any social interaction outside the people I already had met – that would require me to introduce myself, since I didn’t want to use my birth name but didn’t have enough confidence to use a new one because I didn’t feel that I ‘looked the part’. In a way it was like the conundrum of “need experience to get a job, need a job to get experience”, but with feeling the need to ‘pass’ in order to progress in life.

One reason I feel that this happened was from seeing and reading too many stories of other transgender people at various steps in their transitions. I would watch, and hope that the same would magically have happened to me when I woke up the next morning. Inevitably I would fall into a complete feeling of hopelessness when I realized how much more put together their lives were than mine – how much further ahead in their transitions they were, despite many of them being the same age as me or younger. This led to a lot of me observing my life passing me by passively, and at times things didn’t feel real. It was like I was watching someone else’s life unfolding and not living it myself.

Eventually I started to notice this unhealthy pattern and slowly began to work my way out of it. I came out in a couple of safe places: to the pride club at school, to a couple groups of very close friends. Each time was through typed words rather than in person, and each time was spur-of-the-moment. I may have thought about doing it for months or years, and started typing what I wanted to say multiple times, but when I finally did it was right then and there, words written in the span of 15 minutes or so and sent before I could think about it too much. This helped, and the encouragement I received and the knowledge that people would accept me for me even if I still didn’t think I ‘passed’ helped me to eventually figure out that my previous pattern of feeling completely hopeless due to not being ‘as far along’ as other people my age was detrimental to me, and that my life would be a waste if I continued like this any further.

Finally, I started working towards actively becoming a better version of me, a version I could be happy about. After finishing high school, I took a year off with my goal for it to be a year of “work and self-improvement”. At all three of the jobs I had, I introduced myself by my preferred name, Dylan. This required me to come out multiple times to higher-up people at these companies, largely due to tax/pay reasons where legal names are concerned, and I found everyone accepting, caring more about whether I could do the job at hand than my pronouns. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that many of my coworkers who couldn’t figure out my gender approached me in private to ask how to best address me. They usually started with something along the lines of “so this is an awkward question but…” which, while understandably awkward, was a huge relief and it was astonishing to me how many people honestly don’t mind and just want to make sure everyone is comfortable.

So I had the ‘work’ part down, now for the ‘self-improvement’. I finally talked to my doctor about being transgender and my wishes to start down the path to hormones and possibly surgery. While I’m currently stuck in waiting lines in order to be assessed (and while I often kick myself for not starting sooner with how long it’s taking) it’s a relief to be able to look forward to something that I genuinely believe is the best course of action in order for me to live the best life I possibly can. I also wanted (and still want) to improve my overall physical fitness, so I began going to the parkour gym in town more frequently, and I started training in martial arts. At both places I was up-front about being trans, and both were accepting and happy to know that I was happy (or at least on my way). Overall I would consider the year I took off to be a huge success; it made me more outgoing, I became more confident, and I began to improve myself and feel better about who I am in every way.

That brings me to now. I’m working towards finishing my first year of university as a theatre tech major. I want to find a job working backstage for theatre, or film, or a travelling show – any of those would be amazing. I’d also love to do stunt work, but I need to further my physical fitness in order to do so. I’ve started rock climbing, and sword fighting, and training in different styles of martial arts. I actively work towards doing things that make me feel happy and are fulfilling, and towards reducing or removing things that don’t. I still don’t have myself fully figured out; for example I have no clue what my sexuality is, but I don’t really care. I’ve accepted that I’ll figure it out at some point – or never – and it doesn’t bother me to not know.

There’s a quote I heard once and I try to live by it: “I still don’t like who I am, but when I look back on who I used to be I’m my favourite self I’ve been so far.” As long as the things I do and the steps I take lead me down a path where I can look back and say that this is better than I was, that this me is the best version to date, I will continue down that path. And if I can’t say that about myself, then I will look for what’s missing or what needs to be changed. It is so easy to get sucked into dark places, but “even darkness must pass”, and I truly believe that the darkness has passed for me. The world lies ahead, and I plan to live the best life possible in it.

Conforming to the trans narrative …

Another sad, misguided “born in the wrong body” narrative of a non-gender-conforming lesbian believing her “authentic self” is a gender-conforming man:

Another sad, misguided “born in the wrong body” narrative of a non-gender-conforming lesbian believing her “authentic self” is a gender-conforming man (full story and audio):

Friday January 13, 2017

‘I’m trapped in the wrong body’: NWHL’s Harrison Browne on becoming the man he is today

Harrison Browne, the first openly transgender hockey player, has struggled for most of his life to come to grips with his gender identity. For years, he lived in confusion and fear. It was a path that eventfully led him to the realization that he was trapped in the wrong body. And it wasn’t long before he felt like he had no choice but to confront this, and come out publicly as a transgender athlete.

Hear the story of Harrison’s long, hard-fought road to self-discovery, and how he ultimately became a beacon of hope for the transgender community.

Creepy clowns and transgenderism …

Beware the clowns: a lesson in moral panic

There are reports of clowns in the woods near South Carolina, though none have been photographed.

There are reports of clowns in the woods near South Carolina, though none have been photographed. (Fernando Vergara/AP)

Something strange is happening in South Carolina.
People are telling the media and police that they’ve seen sinister clowns near forest, offering children money and luring them into the woods.
The clown sightings have continued for days, but so far, there’s no photographic or physical evidence of any malicious clowns.
Despite the lack of hard evidence, media in the United States, Canada, and overseas are running with the story.

media clown story

Screen capture from Fox News in the Carolinas, and a story warning of sinister clowns (Screen capture from myfox8.com)

Stuart Poyntz, an Associate Professor in communications at Simon Fraser University, says the media may be contributing to a moral panic.

A moral panic is a way of telling stories in simple and straightforward ways that try to resolve larger problems. So in this case, children are under threat from an unknown. – Stuarty Poyntz, Simon Fraser University

Poyntz says the story, with its vague sense of reality, plays on people’s fears that some universal insidious force is trying to lure or corrupt children.
To Poyntz, there’s a fascinating resonance between the stock images of clowns used in media reports on the story, and a recent political debate in North and South Carolina. Recently, the Carolinas have hosted a debate over transgenderism and access to bathrooms, with bills proposed in each state to prevent people using the bathroom of their choice. A widely shared meme during those debates depicted a man wearing gawdy clothing, smeared makeup, and a wig. It warned of allowing this clown-like man near one’s children.

clown transgender

An image circulated online during political debates over bathroom access in North and South Carolina (Screencapture, Facebook.com)

Poyntz says the unproven existence of sinister clowns trying to lure children away, at a time when people are concerned gawdily dressed men will be in the bathroom with their daughters, is an example of how a moral panic can distract people from genuine and complicated issues.

The societal harms of moral panics are numerous. It does tend to focus our attention on the wrong kind of scapegoats that are meant to explain problems. It also tends to distract us from changes that are ongoing in the lives of those who we care about most. – Stuart Poyntz, Simon Fraser University

As for the media, he’d recommend at least trying to determine whether sinister clowns are actually in the woods of South Carolina before reporting on the story any further.
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http://www.cbc.ca/radio/the180/rethinking-jail-time-for-sex-assault-the-upside-of-opioids-and-a-defence-of-political-correctness-1.3744394/beware-the-clowns-a-lesson-in-moral-panic-1.3744921

Power sticks …

Among the non-pathological conditions that get medicalized and for which interventions are invented and applied is erectile “dysfunction.”  Erectile “dysfunction,” except in the case of injury, is a normal senescent result of aging, often accelerated by lifestyle choices and conditions, such as smoking and and drinking alcohol and diabetes.  Not all men feel their lives are over if they cannot continue to have a robust erection, but many do, and they know all about the little blue pill that, on television commercials, will make them joyfully bounce out of their bedrooms and into the world.  All is right, the ad implies, in your manly ability to conquer the world if you have a worthy erection before setting out.

I do not prescribe Viagra, or its brother Cialis.  If a man asks me for that prescription, I offer to refer him to a urologist, so he can be assessed for organic factors, if there is an underlying cause for his declining performance.

Previously I had tried to discuss with such men that waning penile prowess is natural, and that sexuality is broader than jackhammer penetration, that a couple can have satisfying intimacy in many ways that do not rely on penetration and that, in fact, navigating this can actually enhance intimacy.  Never once has this conversation been of interest to any man, so I gave up on this approach, realizing that for these men, erection is not about sexuality but about power.  I have maintained the informative part of my discussion with them that decreasing erectile function may be resulting from other health factors, and then I announce I will send them to a specialist, who will assess them.  I could do this assessment, but in the end, if all is normal, I will not given the prescription they seek, so I remove myself from the equation and send them on.  The referral option is also a test of sorts, to see how serious they are about their request as a health issue.  They usually agree to the referral, such is their want of the pill, but not without some griping for the ordeal they are reluctant to undergo, which is telling, I believe.

I am not professionally obligated to give patients what they want but I am professionally obligated to offer them access to what they want, if it is part of common medical practice.

Why do I not simply give the prescription?  Because there are already too many erections in the world, too many erections that are used to objectify women, too many as an endpoint to porn, too many that are in the service of rape in all its manifestations, and I have absolutely no way of knowing how any particular man will make use of his erections.  I refuse to risk abetting.

Though erections and abortions are not equivalent by any means, compare the ease of access to Viagra (everywhere, except from me, and often covered by drug plans) with the ease of access to abortions.

In Canada, it is thought we are legally and socially ahead on abortion access, but only in word:

Abortion has been legally unrestricted in Canada since 1988. Under the Canada Health Act, a federal piece of legislation that mandates how health care services should be provided for Canadian citizens, abortion is defined as a medically necessary procedure. This means it should be paid for by provincial health care, regardless of which province or territory a woman resides in, or whether she receives an abortion in a clinic or a hospital. Abortion, like any other necessary medical procedure, should be equally available to all women regardless of where they live in Canada.

However, this is not the case: provinces differ in many ways in regard to abortion. For example, some provinces have very few hospitals and clinics that provide abortions, or refuse to pay for abortions that take place outside a hospital.

It isn’t, in word, much different in the US, but the vigor with which various states obstruct a woman’s access to abortion can be astonishing:

Moments after the supreme court struck down a law threatening to close half the abortion clinics in Texas, a banner appeared outside the Austin headquarters of the lead plaintiff, Whole Woman’s Health. “We won!” the sign boasted in big block letters. “Our clinics stay open.”  Only this clinic did not.

Until two years ago, this building was an abortion clinic. Then a new law – one of the nation’s harshest – required all Texas abortion facilities to meet expensive, hospital-like building standards, compelling all providers to have patient admitting privileges with a nearby hospital. The clinic was unable to satisfy either regulation and forced to close in July 2014.

Monday saw the supreme court strike down these requirements as unconstitutional. The decision emphasized the lack of medical evidence showing that such laws make abortion, a simple outpatient procedure, safer.

But Amy Hagstrom-Miller, the Whole Woman’s Health CEO and founder, is not sure if the former clinic in Austin, which Whole Woman’s Health and local reproductive rights groups use as an office suite, can ever again serve as an abortion clinic.

Abortion providers in Canada and the US alike have and continue to risk their lives in their efforts to provide access to abortion for women.  There is no threat to the life of a provider who gives a prescription for Viagra.

Again, access to erectile “dysfunction” medications and to abortion are not equivalent issues, but it does make plain the underlying political reality:  that men view it as their right to decide about both a man’s erectile function and a woman’s ability to abort the result of his erectile function.  Erectile function is about power; abortion is about a woman’s autonomy to seek physical remedy for men’s power.  Until there is at least an equality of access to abortion, there should be restrictions, if not an outright ban, on access to erectile enhancing aids for men who are medicalizing their senescing sense of power.  At the very least, erectile “dysfunction” as it pertains to power should not be legitimized as a medical condition.

What does this have to do with transgenderism, the theme of this blog?  These issues are all the same: male power over women.  Most of the men who believe they are women do not undergo a penectomy.  Women do not have penises.  If these men truly believe they are women, why are they hanging onto, in all senses, their power sticks?

Second first person account …

This, from a lesbian:

I grew up when there weren’t choices for kids.  What was on your plate was what was for supper.  What time you were told was time for bed was when you went to bed.  You wore what was affordable from the Army and Navy.  You did your homework and you never ever caused problems at school that meant your parents would get dragged in to deal with the teachers about you.  You toed the line and you kept your nose clean.

That went for between kids, too.  The kids I was at school with kept other kids in line, in the ways that parents didn’t know about.  If you looked different or had weird shit in your lunch (me on both counts), the other kids would make fun of you and put you in your place.  You always knew where you stood in the kid hierarchy.  Sure, you could ignore them all you want, like I did, but that didn’t stop them from pulling crap on you.  They’d smile when the grown-ups were around then smash your face in the mud on the long walk home.

Parents back then didn’t have big honking SUVs to drive you to school and pick you up.  They also didn’t have the time.  You were expected to walk to school and home because your parents, at least mine, worked, goddamn it, and you had a job, too:  to get yourself to school, be at school, then get yourself home.  Don’t dawdle and don’t take short cuts through the fields because bad men lurked there for the sole purpose of capturing wayward kids.  It wasn’t made explicit what those bad men would do with wayward kids, but you could tell it wasn’t good.

I am old enough that when I was a girl the only choice was not whether you would get married and have kids but whether you would be a secretary or teacher or a nurse before you got married.  It was implied that an attractive, successful woman would not need a “career” before she got married, that becoming a secretary or whatever was a make-do option for those of us who were funny-looking or didn’t get knocked up before we graduated from high school.

I didn’t like boys, but I didn’t know what that meant.  I somehow did not consider that liking girls would conflict with getting married and having children.  It was just so imprinted in us that that was the way it was that there was no question.  I thought I would end up married, but in a vague way.  Like, it would just happen to me.  It wasn’t something I felt any urge to chase.

I was funny-looking enough that I was one of those “career” women.  No boy wanted to date me.  I was not offended.  I didn’t want to date any of the boys.  I wanted to learn things.  I decided I would rather be alone and independent and have more choices than being one of the three things women were allowed to do (four, if you count being married), even if it meant I didn’t fit in.  I had never fitted in, so it didn’t seem like a change from the status quo for me.

If “lesbian” was not said out loud when I was a kid, you can bet “transgender” wasn’t, either.  While there was teasing about effeminate boys and tomboy girls, no one ever got teased about being transgendered.  Maybe there wasn’t a bad word for it to use, like there was for gay or lesbian.  Kids aren’t always imaginative in their hate; they usually bring it from home.  If transgender had existed when I was a kid, would I have thought it was a choice?  That is one of those questions I find ridiculous, one of those hypotheticals that seem a waste of time, but one of the young’uns, as I call anyone more than ten years younger than me, asked me that, so I gave it some thought.  I thought a few things in response.  I thought that when I was a young’un myself, I never would have had the nerve, the impertinence!, to ask an elder such a personal thing.  I thought that why was this young’un wasting time asking me what I might have done, in an imaginary time of imaginary choices.  I thought that this young’un was less interested in my answer than in looking for help figuring this question out for herself.

I thought about what to say.

I said that I was always happy to be myself, even if I didn’t always know what that meant.  I said I had never spent time wondering what that meant, who I was, “finding myself.”  I said that I mostly thought about what interested me and followed that path, without wondering what box that put me in.  I said that I knew other people like to have boxes with labels set out for them to choose from, but for me that never was appealing, and I didn’t see the point, because there are never as many boxes as there are people, and why waste time in a box that isn’t yours.

I don’t think that is the answer she was looking for, but I hope somehow I told her that she can be herself without doing anything more than being herself, without it sounding like I was serving up a big fat platitude.  I wanted her to know she doesn’t need to change anything, she doesn’t need anyone’s permission, she doesn’t need to be like anyone else.

It seems to me the more “choices” we are given, the less we are being ourselves.

Bridget Jones for president …

Dear New Yorker

I have read every issue since I began a subscription in the summer of 2000, and almost every page of those issues (I usually skip the poems; I simply don’t seem to ‘get’ poems, like some people don’t have a math brain; I have a math brain but not a poem brain).  Most pieces are solid; I especially enjoy reading the reportage, as the subjects are often not what I would have sought on my own, and I frequently learn something that gives me perspective on other lives or handy factoids when making small talk with a stranger.  Sometimes the profiles are inspiring, occasionally they veer towards infotainment, often they are depressing (how are some people so bloody wealthy??).  

Shouts and Murmurs, however, has been hit and miss for me.  I attributed this track record to it being humour, or, at least, intended humour, for that, I believe, is the crux of the matter:  humour is personal.  As such, I’ve been willing to make allowances.  Until now.

I’ve been most irked by the Shouts and Murmurs pieces which hinge on a male author writing in the voice of what seems a ditzy womanIt is the particularly hi-lar-ious trope of Paul Rudnick (in the last year alone:  Ask Dr Jellowitz-Ressler; Melania’s Diary; Mr Everything; My Demands).  Why is this funny? because it is a man writing as a woman? a man writing as a ditzy woman? is it the ditzy woman herself? no, for when a woman writes as a ditzy woman (okay, I’m stuck for citing an example from Shouts and Murmurs, but I am considering performances like that of Mindy Kaling on The Office) we read it as a parody of a male view of women as ditzy, and we laugh at the limited male, not at the woman.  Is Mr Rudnick’s excellent humour too subtle for my ditzy woman brain?  Is that why it’s funny – the joke’s on me?  I don’t even know what else to hypothesize about Mr Rudnick and his comedic technique.  Maybe that is because my ditzy woman brain is out-played by his eloquence

I find no way to see the male-as-ditzy-woman modus operandi as anything but misogyny, and until now I have decided, in the sense of picking my battles, that it wasn’t worth objecting, because I extended to you, at best, the stance of no intended malice.

I do not recall any women published in Shouts and Mumurs (Mindy Kaling, Hallie Cantor, Patricia Marx, Cora Frazier, Lena Dunham, Jen Spyra, Jenny Allen …) writing as men.    Is that because they are too ditzy to imagine how to write hilariously in the caricatured gender-stereotyped voice of men?

And lest you think I am a ditzy women incapable of laughing at fine male humour, I will tell you that I laughed out loud and re-read Simon Rich’s piece on fooseball.

To be fair, there are women who write as ditzy women (eg Helen Fielding in her Bridget Jones series, Sophie Kinsella in her Shopaholic series), and it is not clear whether it is knowing parity or simply cashing in on the entertainment value of the ditzy woman.  After all, ditzy women are fun-loving girls, too brainless to threaten either men in their worldly ambitions or women in their calculations to catch those men (though they do seem to stumble, by the end of the story, into that “success”, but who can begrudge them when they are so gosh-darn hapless?).

What is different now, why I am writing to you now, is the result of your election.  We – yes, we, because your election has wide-ranging repercussions – must be vigilant to the base hatred that has been frothing from Trump and his supporters.  Maybe, rather than a competent woman, a ditzy woman running against him might have won more votes, but nonetheless her ditziness would have kept her from being considered a serious candidate and she would not have won, unless in a lovable, hapless, harmless way, and in which case she would have then bumbled her way into marriage to a worldly man who who have rescued her in the performance of her new job.  How is a woman to successfully run for such a powerful position, if her intelligence is intimidating and her ditziness rules her out as a serious contender?  Oh, that’s right! a woman is not supposed to run in the first place!  And there went your election.

None of us who know better can afford to be sloppy, even in our ‘humour’, about how we present our values, lest we be misread as endorsing the voices of hate.  There is no place for misogyny anywhere, including the New Yorker.

A safe guideline for humour, if you can’t decide whether to publish something, is to make fun at your own expense, not at that of an entire class of oppressed people. 

First person account …

I started this blog to promote honest discussion about transgenderism.  One young man wrote to me asking for help in sorting through his personal situation, and he has offered his words below to give us his perspective.  The words are his, from emails he sent me; the arrangement into themes is mine.  I post it with his permission.

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EARLIEST MEMORIES

I first realized I might be transgendered in the 6th grade. This is when I actively knew I was desiring to be a girl. A lot of these desires had to do with wearing female or feminine clothing. Though it was 6th grade when I first thought in my mind “I want to be a girl,” I was wearing feminine clothes far before that. I can remember as far back as preschool and kindergarten wearing my older sister’s dresses. In kindergarten, I used to put on my sister’s Disney princess dresses with my neighbor who was a boy too. We would also put red stickers on our nails so it looked like nail polish.  I never really thought it was that bad except for the part of wearing clothes that were not mine.  I did still cover my face if my sister came into her room while we were wearing the dresses but we would wear them around my mom.  I can remember having moments where I would have my sister let me wear her clothes as a “punishment.”  One time, probably in 4th grade, I was reading my summer reading book and she was trying to think of a punishment to make me read at least 20 pages that day.  Then I said I should have to wear all these clothes and I listed off stuff like a dress, high heels, etc.  She said okay.  But then I pushed it further and said I should have to walk around outside in them too.  I didn’t really think about it much . I didn’t do it very often.  Then in 6th grade I begin to do it very frequently.  I am now a sophomore in college and continue to do it when I get the chance though not as frequent as I did between 6th and 9th grade.  After 4th grade, this was done in secret, except for getting caught by my dad once in 7th grade and I didn’t really talk about it, I just said as little as I could. 

Wearing these clothes was probably the only feminine thing I really did.  I was a fairly typical boy growing up.  I liked most masculine things, including sports, which became really important to me, and now I am pursuing a career involved with training athletes.  I had pretty much all male friends growing up.  I can count on my hand how many female friends I had.  This wasn’t really by design or anything just the way it played out.

After a while, the idea of desiring to be a girl or woman kept popping up as I got older.  Wearing female clothes didn’t do anything to get rid of this.  Sometimes it would even make me feel worse because it exacerbated the thoughts that I don’t have a female body.  That is the main thing for me:  desiring a female body at times.  As I began to explore the internet forums and ask questions, I tried to figure out what to do about these thoughts, what they meant, etc.  This whole time I was very afraid someone would find out and I felt really bad about the thoughts I had. 

CULTURAL INFLUENCES – MAINSTREAM MEDIA

While I was growing up, I seemed to be drawn to people who were transgender and I always remembered who they were if I saw them on TV.  My sister watched a lot of America’s Next Top Model when I was in elementary school and that meant I had to watch it too.  Although I would complain about it, there were times when I was very interested in it and I wished I could be like Tyra Banks or Miss Jay.  Ever since then, when I see women on magazines, on TV, or even in real life, I get envious and wish I were like them.

CULTURAL INFLUENCES – PORN

When I began realizing the thoughts I had in 6th grade of “I want to be a woman” and I was starting to wear my sisters clothes, I began watching videos online of men kissing.  I can remember while I was wearing my sister’s clothes I would imagine a boy kissing and hugging me.  I would sometimes watch these videos while wearing feminine clothes and sometimes not.  I would also watch videos of women kissing and was aroused by these as well.  As I got older, I moved into watching full fledged pornography.  I mostly watched gay porn.  I would sometimes watch lesbian and sometimes transgender porn.  I never really watched straight porn. I still am mainly interested in the kissing though.

I have fantasized about a lot of the ideas and things that are talked about in transgender and gay groups about being the submissive one and being a very feminine person but I think this has been influenced by what I have read.  These sorts of thoughts and desires I don’t really show in my everyday life and I don’t think many people would suspect this unless they knew I have never had a girlfriend and when people hear that they usually get suspicious, but these thoughts continue in my life.  The more I hear about gay stories and transgender stories, the more I fantasize about all the aspects of them.  I have even fantasized about all the non-glamorous things that come with being a woman (such as wearing makeup everyday, different hygiene stuff like brushing hair or shaving; I have fantasized about being pregnant and having a child; I have fantasized about wearing feminine clothes permanently even though it may not be the most comfortable).  But after thinking about it later, I think I probably wouldn’t like some of these things whether they be for having a gay relationship or being a woman.

Obviously growing up, being gay wasn’t really accepted and wasn’t looking like a good option for me.  But what confused me most was that I never looked at a man in person and really desired them.  I never really feel in love or had a crush on any boy I knew or saw.  I did develop crushes for girls and saw them as attractive, but I never had any romantic relationship or even really desired one.

I think that I am not very accepting of these transgender or gay thoughts I have. This is probably a main reason I haven’t been able to figure out what I am and what it means. When I look at most of the gay or transgender culture, I don’t really identify with it because I don’t really feel the need to be so expressive.  I think I am at the very least bisexual, but I can’t imagine having a relationship with a man.  I can only imagine having a relationship with a women.  Sometimes it even makes me sick to my stomach to think about having a relationship with a man even if I were a woman.

As far as porn influencing my fantasies, I think that the fantasy of wanting to be a woman is original. Ultimately I think any fantasy, besides a basic one of desiring a man or woman, is influenced by society.  So I would say wanting to be a woman is an original fantasy for me because I hadn’t been exposed to outside things as much at that age.  I think most of everything else was definitely influenced by porn and whatever else I saw.  I think my attraction to homosexual relations (man and man or woman and woman) was partly societal as well.  Since most of the things I like have a lot to do with things that aren’t accepted by society or even myself, it is hard to know what I truly want and what has been influenced onto me.  I guess I will just have to take it slowly, and pursue my main aspirations in school, basketball, weightlifting, music, and comedy.

PRESSURES TO CONFORM

Growing up I did feel pressure to have relationships with girls and felt like an outcast because I wasn’t.  But over time I got over it, and realized there were more important things than worrying about what people thought and even just pursuing relationships at such a young age.  I did go to an all male private high school as well. I’m not sure how much that played into it all. I don’t think for me it did play into the way I acted.

As of the last year or so I have tried to have a relationship with women through different sites.  I have made some friends and tried my best but nothing really has come to fruition.  I have now decided to stop and focus on my school and other hobbies like basketball and weightlifting.  I always try to consider the other perspective and try things out so that’s why I think I went this route.

Though I don’t act feminine or show that I like feminine things a lot in person, I don’t feel afraid to like these things or anything and think I obviously do like some of it or I wouldn’t be thinking the way I do.  I am not really sure what it all means and how I will proceed to live my life, whether it be how I dress or how I pursue romantic relationships.  I do know that for some reason I really desire having the secondary sexual characteristics of a woman and I do sexually desire mostly men (even though it makes me feel sick to my stomach.  It is odd.).

EFFECTS ON RELATIONSHIPS

I think all these struggles have caused me to have different relationships with my family.  My friends, I don’t think it really was affected, other than the fact that I didn’t follow the stereotypical path of wanting to do all these things like prom.   I distanced myself from my older friends from my town before I went to a private high school because they basically ignored me after I tried to keep our friendships alive. I still distance myself from my friends now but will eventually catch up with them.

Growing up, my mom and sister were much greater influences on me than my dad was just because my mom and sister (mainly my mom) shared more with me.  My mom would tell me endless stories about her life and growing up, etc.  My dad never really did this.  Most of the things I know from his past are from my mom or me asking.  He mainly talked about things in the present or just joking around.  This may have contributed to whatever I feel now, wanting to be a woman.

But my relationships with my parents has gotten worse over the years. I still love them and they are very supportive and helpful, but sometimes I treat them badly.  I don’t really know why and I have tried to act better towards them and I always apologize, but for some reason it continues.  With my sister, we have grown distant as the years have gone on.  My family probably doesn’t really view these things as a big deal but I still feel bad and have tried to become better.

My parents have said things that have stuck with me regarding gender identity and sexuality.  One instance was when one of my parents saw me wearing my sister’s bra and underwear and didn’t jump for joy after seeing me like that.  Or them not being very accepting if I were homosexual or of someone who cross-dresses.  

However, they have tried to be supportive.  I was writing a sort of journal by emailing myself.  My therapist at school recommended writing stuff down that I thought about.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know my parents had access to this email account.  I don’t know exactly what they saw but they tried to talk to me about it.  I wouldn’t talk about it but they said they wanted to help and that they loved me no matter what.  I told them I was seeing someone at school and had an appointment with another therapist as well so they seemed okay.  They still wanted me to talk about it but eventually understood I didn’t really feel comfortable doing it. 

I do think I distanced myself from my parents to a certain extent but especially from my friends and sister.  I buried myself in basketball and training.  I was exercising constantly and when I wasn’t I was doing schoolwork, thinking about working out, or was researching new workouts.   After some of my friends essentially ditched me after I left for a private school, I figured, well, I just need to focus on my goals and if I make friends along the way then so be it.  Fortunately along the way I opened my eyes as I had to take a step back due to injuries.  I tried exploring other things (like music, doing pranks, different YouTube channels, different tv shows, different movies) and made some friends.  After exploring for 3 years I am back where I started, back to what I enjoy, most making a career through basketball and athletics, and still excited about what I want to do.  I am trying to regain what I’ve lost, the relationships that have been strained.  I am trying to take control of my actions (like not be mean to my family or friends).  I am trying to take control of my self-talk and what I deem right or wrong, be accepting towards the thoughts I have.  I am trying to accept myself and those that love me.  All I can do is do the best I can and see where it gets me.

Since I  have never been a popular person or had a lot of confidence, it may be that these desires to wear these clothes and be with men is because I will actually be seen as desirable and will be sought after, where as now I am not or haven’t really ever been the subject of girls’ crushes or love.  I have never been seen as the cool one and had people jumping to be my friend, male or female.  I have only known of five girls who have ever had crushes on me or liked me but far more who have rejected or not even cared about me.  It seems to coincide with me dressing up and having these different thoughts more frequently as I got older and saw that I was an outsider of sorts.  I think lack of self-confidence and self-hatred has pervaded all aspects of my life.

These internal struggles have caused me to waste a lot of my days just being depressed and not being productive.  I have still managed to be a good student and be involved in other things but I think I also could have been much greater if I hadn’t spent so much time struggling with these things.

SEEKING HELP

The online community can be crazy at times with all the differing opinions on all sides of the spectrum from all different groups of people.  There are people who think if you like feminine things you should change your gender, people who think you are mentally ill and have something severely wrong with you, and everything in between. This makes it very confusing and hard to sift through.  That’s why I kept trying to seek out people who aligned with my views and who were professionals who could try to help me.  I think that each person’s case is unique and you should take into account a person’s life including their relationships with family and friends, their childhood, their desires, their school, their hobbies, and their personality.  A lot of the people preaching to do drastic changes were doing it based on the fact of liking feminine things and I couldn’t get behind that because that was just too superficial to me.  Even if a majority of women were feminine, that still doesn’t mean feminine=woman or masculine=man.  There were other aspects where I just felt that people who have these thoughts weren’t challenged enough in their desires because I don’t think changing your body will solve your problems.  I think it may temporarily solve them but ultimately it feels like I would just be running away instead of confronting these thoughts.  I wanted to figure out why I had them and why I felt so bad about them.

As I looked at the community of people who went through with changing their body I saw a lot of what didn’t seem like me.  I saw a lot of people who cared a lot about things that weren’t important to me.  Though this may not represent all people who transition, this is just what I was exposed to.  I saw a lot of people who cared a lot about appearance and a lot about seeking validation through romantic relationships and even society as a whole.  While these are not bad things, they don’t align with what I believe in and have believed in my whole life.  I feel like I would be changing my whole personality.  I have seen people change the way they act with people after changing their body.  They justify it by saying they are finally acting the way they always wanted but I think I have always acted the way I wanted.  I don’t want to create a whole new personality because “that one may be my true one that has been suppressed.

A big reason that caused me to seek help was the thoughts got worse as I went away to college.  This could be because I was afraid that these new people would find out these things and would treat me badly.  Before college, I tried more feminine things to see if that’s all I needed.  I tried wearing makeup, shaving my legs and body hair, wearing a wig.  This helped a little and made me feel more like a woman but was too hard to keep up with and was hard to keep secret so I stopped.  When I would go for a period of not wearing my feminine clothes because I didn’t have access to them or would try to stop myself, I would have more homosexual thoughts.  Then after I was able to I get back to the more transgender thoughts. Then I would meld both.  At school I wasn’t able to wear feminine clothes so I would gravitate towards more homosexual things though I still had transgender thoughts.

I didn’t tell someone in person until last year, in my freshman year of high school, when I told my therapist of over 4 years.  This was very hard but felt good to get off my chest.  Before that I was telling my story to different forums on reddit.  I was getting a lot of replies but I was skeptical of doing anything drastic.  At times I really wanted to take whatever I needed to develop a more feminine body even after hearing how long it takes, the side effects, how it will change all your relationships, and all the other downsides.  Then there were times I thought that was idiotic and just because I change something doesn’t mean it will make it better.  I still enjoyed being a man and my body at times.  The process of changing your body isn’t as simple as just changing your body so I have to examine all the other factors into it. 

When I talked about it with my therapist, I didn’t really make much progress because I still just didn’t know what it all meant and what I should do.   Not that they should have told me to do something but I just wasn’t getting any questions that caused me to think about it in a different way or seeing how other aspects of my life relate to these thoughts I have.  Also, in other problems I have had in the past, they seemed to only treat them with medicine rather than discussion about what I was feeling and why.  I then tried the counseling center at my school which I still go to.  This is a little better but still a little too passive for me and doesn’t seem to help much. 

PRESSURE TO CHOOSE

Which brings up another problem I have which is the rush to make a decision.  Though I wish at times that I never had these thoughts or that I could figure out and solve my problems in a second, I realize these things take time and may take my whole lifetime.  People seem to be pressuring people into making their decision as early as possible because if they don’t, then they will go through puberty which will make it harder for them to appear like the desired gender.  This can cause problems because it can cause people to not properly consider all different options and carefully think it through.  I could have easily been coerced into this but luckily I was able to keep an open mind. 

There still are many questions regarding transgenderism as a whole.  It is a very confusing topic and very polarizing in our western society today.  I think that more critical research needs to be done in the psychological aspect and the physical aspect.  I think there should be more therapists trying to help people understand their thoughts rather than change their lifestyle based on whatever thoughts they have.  I hope we can eventually come to a conclusion on how to help people who share the thoughts I have.

LOOKING LIKE A WOMAN VERSUS BEING A WOMAN

When I first sought help online by telling part of my story and wondering if anyone knew what it all meant, I didn’t really understand their logic.  The majority were saying on my post and others that just because we had these thoughts we must be transgender because regular people don’t think like this.  There were some saying that this doesn’t mean you should change your gender but there is so many different voices.  Of course you want to focus on the ones telling you that your desires are true and you can achieve it.  When people post photos of their progress, it is all based on passing as a stereotypical woman.  But not all women would pass in this way so it seems like a flawed ideal to go off of because that would make these women something other than women.  They focus a lot on wearing feminine clothes, wearing makeup, having long hair, and liking feminine toys growing up.  These are the basis for evaluating if you are transgender for a male to female.  For the male to female side, they often talk about being catcalled, like it is a good thing and a sign that you are now a woman, despite the fact that most women hate the fact they get catcalled.  To me it seems that their idea of what a woman is is very backward since it wouldn’t even include all women.  I never really see talk or debate on their ideas of what a man or woman is.  They just go along with the idea that masculine is man and feminine is woman. It is hard to determine what a true woman or man is since their are woman and men who don’t have some of the secondary sex characteristics and don’t even have fully working sexual organs.  Since it is so confusing and there is so much debate, I could never really agree with the idea of going for one ideal and changing my whole life around a caricature of their idea of a woman.  One can never really know what it’s like to be the opposite of what they were born as because our bodies have been altered from before birth to change to a male or female.  I wish there was more confrontation in the ideas of what it is to be a man or woman because the changes you undergo are mostly permanent and will change your relationships with people and society forever.  The decision is not meant to be taken lightly and all possible explanations should be explored even if some of them are upsetting, because even more upsetting is the consequences that could arise if you make the wrong decision.

I just thought of a great comparison of how people think changing gender will solve their problems.  It is very similar to how people think once they are no longer virgins or once they meet the right person for a relationship that all their problems will be solved.  They think their life will be complete. Then once they lose their virginity or begin a relationship they realize they are still pretty much the same person.  If they haven’t been trying to better themselves intellectually, socially, or physically then they will be right were they started.