Posts Tagged ‘femininity’

Question MarkIn these two letters, we look at the confusion around, and intersections of, sexual orientation and gender identity. Here we go:

A reader writes: “I’m dating a trans man now and it’s been amazing. I’m still slightly confused as I have always considered myself as a straight female and have always seen him as male, but at the same time I’ve accepted that for the moment he is still female and am willing to do stuff with him (obviously, haha).

“I know labels are not the best way to go about things, but I’m not sure of how else I can understand what I am feeling? I hope this doesn’t come across as naive or stupid. I’m just a little bit confused.”

It’s not uncommon for those who are dating trans people to become confused about their own sexual orientation. For you, it seems pretty straight-forward – you’re a straight woman dating a trans guy, so you’re a straight woman … because he’s a guy.

I would argue that he is not “still female.” I think what you mean is that he has not had any type of genital surgery. Maybe you even mean that he is not taking hormones. But if he’s living as a man, then he’s not female. And if you see him as male, then he’s not female to you, either.

Just because he has a different body type from what you might be used to doesn’t negate any of that. If you’ve been with several men in your life, you know that their body types vary widely, even though they all might have come closer to the particular prototype or representation that we have of a “standard” male body than your current lover’s body does. No matter. He’s a man, you’re a woman, and the label for that type of relationship in Western culture is “straight.” (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I’m a 16-year-old trans guy, and I came out to my mom two months ago, and my dad one month ago. They haven’t rejected me (I knew they wouldn’t), but they’re not on board with thinking of me as their son, and probably won’t be in the near future. My mom e-mailed a gender therapist recently, so I’m looking forward to my parents getting a ‘professional opinion,’ and so I can finally talk to someone who speaks my language.

“Some problems are: I don’t know how (or when) to come out to my siblings. My brother is 13, and looks up to my 18-year-old sister. My sister has treated me like less than a human being for my entire life, probably from deep jealousy that started when I was born, and I’m finally letting go of the belief that if I tried hard enough, she would show any emotion resembling love toward me. She’s leaving in the spring, and if I came out to her before that, she would probably out me to our school, and subsequently our town.

“My town has a population of 400, with less than thirty people in my high school and with two other students in my grade. I’ve lived here my whole life, and have despised it for just as long. I need to transition as soon as possible, and the only way I can think of to do that is to move to a big city, and since I’m a minor, I can’t just go and get an apartment and a job in Portland and start testosterone on my own.

“I feel guilty about wanting to ask my family if we can move, since I only have a year and a half of high school left. I also don’t want to put them through a lot of stress if I ended up coming out in this town, which is what I would need to do if I had to spend my senior year here.

“So, do you have any advice for getting my brother on my side, without him getting thrown into the middle of differing opinions within my family?

“How can I convince my parents that living this female lie is so debilitating that I can’t keep it up for even another year, and if I had to stay in this town, I would probably sink into a very deep, deep depression?

“And this isn’t as important, but I’ll ask it anyway: do you think me acting masculine on some days and effeminate on others would confuse them, or that they would have a harder time believing I’m male?”

First I would like to say that I have never known a family that picked up and moved because their teenage child asked them to. Maybe it’s my generation, but my parents would not have even paid attention to such a request. Your parents are probably settled, with jobs, a house, and a life where they are, so I can’t imagine them moving because you ask them to. Again, times might be different now or your family might be different. But I wouldn’t count on them moving. (more…)

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Question MarkBelow we have three letters with a common theme: a desire to medically transition, the inability to do so, and the problems that can create. Each is a little different, so I’m hoping that readers will have some thoughts about one or more of these situations.

A reader writes: “I’m writing because I went to my Kaiser trans specialist yesterday. She said that they now offer SRS and breast implants to trans women who work for certain companies. I replied that it was fine, and I’d happily take a genital reworking once my company was among the fold.

“However, to meet the requirements of WPATH, I would need (and want!) to live full-time for a year prior. To facilitate that, I asked, could I get electrolysis and/or facial changes that would enable me to live comfortably as a woman. She said that Kaiser won’t cover those procedures. My PCP added that she remembers when they didn’t offer ANY trans surgery.

“So I feel caught in a Catch-22. I can get bigger boobs, but not a chance to live comfortably in my skin, relatively free from harassment. And I should be grateful. Argh! I have a small income and no savings. What do you think? I just feel frustrated.”

It is frustrating, because some of the very basic procedures that trans people need – sometimes more than extensive surgery itself – are not considered medically necessary. Things such as electrolysis and facial surgery are considered “cosmetic,” although they can be the foundation of living socially in the gender that matches a person’s identity.

And social presentation can be just as important – and sometimes more so – than parts of our physical body that are generally private. How we are seen by others, and how others interact with us, can be essential to how we see ourselves.

In my opinion, the things that allow for appropriate and successful social adjustment in transition should be considered just as necessary as any larger medical procedures that trans people might need. However, my opinion has yet to be taken into consideration by the powers who make these decisions. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “So I’m FAAB (female assigned at birth), I was a tomboy for some but not all of my childhood, and now that I’m in high school, I came out as genderqueer to my family and some friends a few months ago.

“I have dysphoria about my breasts but mostly not about my genitals (though I’ve always hated periods so much that I just tried to ignore them), and the chest dysphoria is actually somewhat recent. I’ve gotten some people to call me by ‘they’ pronouns, but increasingly now I’m not so sure that I am actually trans.

“I’m so confused about this and I feel like I’m in a constant state of questioning. I know that sometimes I like to be feminine and sometimes I like to be masculine, and when I came out as genderqueer that helped explain to my family why I wanted a binder, but now I kind of miss who I was before I decided to use trans* labels for myself.

“Before, it was okay for me to be feminine because, after all, I was a ‘girl,’ and it was okay to be masculine because I’d always been a ‘tomboy,’ but now when I’m masculine my family always makes comments about my gender identity to me and I can’t be feminine for fear of them not taking my (current) identity seriously.

“I can’t even tell if I’m feeling icky because I don’t identify with the masculine and gender-neutral language I’ve told my parents to try using for me right now, or whether I feel icky because of the sarcastic tone of voice that always seems to go along with ‘they’ and ‘young man.’ I’m not comfortable with ANY gendered OR ungendered pronouns and stuff for me right now and I don’t know why not!

“Anyway, do you know any good way to really figure out what one’s gender identity is? If I want top surgery, does that definitively mean I’m not cis?”

It sounds to me as if you are going through a questioning period, and when people go through a questioning period, often nothing seems right. Even with the proliferation of labels that has come about recently in gender communities, there still aren’t enough to fit everyone.

You might be trans and you might not. It depends on how you define “trans” and “trans*” for yourself. There are many definitions out there now. There are people who would say that you are trans*, whether you use that label or not, simply because you don’t fit neatly into the binary gender system. But I am really opposed to putting anyone under an umbrella who does not want to be there.

I know some genderqueer people who also identify as trans or trans*, and I know others who do not. I know some who use a male pronoun, some who  use a female pronoun, some who use both interchangeably, and some who use a gender-neutral pronoun, such as “ze” or “they.” Sometimes you have to experiment to know what’s right for you, and sometimes that means going back to the people you came out to and telling them that you have changed your mind on one issue or another. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “How can a mother be sure her 23-year-old is transgender and not gender variant?

“I raised a daughter who was outgoing, confident, lots of friends, intelligent, accomplished, and seemingly happy. No complaints about being female, no engaging in ‘male’ activities – no signs other than some androgynous dress in high school.

“Then she goes to college. After one year I noticed she was moody and questioned her – she admitted finally that she thought she was male and didn’t want to talk about it. Stunning, but I tried to be supportive, the college was helpful, he’s had plenty of friends, and family members have been neutral to supportive. My son and I have always been, and remain close. I love him dearly.

“For three years I have had to initiate nearly every conversation about this, but Ben has always been very defensive about the topic of being transgender. A year ago (in spite of being in a supportive environment), he needed treatment due to feeling suicidal and homicidal. This concerned me greatly, and I wanted Ben to make sure he didn’t have psychological problems that needed resolution before starting T (depression and other mental illness runs in the family).

“Ben now says all is well and he has just started T. I realize he’s an adult, and it’s his life to live, but as his mother I’m concerned. For all I know, he didn’t tell his new therapist all that happened a year ago.

“He is still so feminine (in dress, mannerisms, interests, activities, etc), and he talks about being ‘queer’ and about gender-bender events he goes to, and he’s going through an exhibitionist stage where I find ‘steamy’ photos online of him posing in a combo of male and female items. He says he wants to start T to get a deeper voice and to pass as male, but then he runs around in heels and feminine attire, which is confusing to me.

“I know every transgender person has their own story, but this doesn’t even seem close to typical. Ben seems gender variant to me, or maybe rebellious to an extreme. It’s hard to get him to define things, since he gets defensive and doesn’t want to talk, and if I ask too many questions he says it ‘invalidates’ him.

“I’m not going to reject him either way, but I remember being confused and headstrong at 23, and worry that he could be making a mistake. Should I just sit by and let things play out, even though the results could be terrible?”

The answer to your first question – the first sentence in your letter – is that there is really no way for you to accurately tell, because both “gender variant” and “transgender” are socially created terms that have no medical or psychiatric backing, in the sense that there is no diagnosis or agreed-upon professional definition for either one of these terms, that I am aware of. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I’m curious if you or any of your readers have any experiences related to hallucinations of detransition – I’m hoping i am not alone in this.

“I’ve had two episodes where I look down at my hands as I’m driving and for an instant they seem much more muscular and sinewy than they actually are, and are covered with fur. It lasts a second or two, and I am able to keep control driving, but it startles me and horrifies me.

“My body looks normal when I can get a good look at it. My therapist tonight called it my ‘Incredible Hulk’ illusion, and that is a good name for it. It feels as horrifying, as if I were becoming the Incredible Hulk. I have no intentions of detransitioning – I am very happy with having a more feminine body, and everyone in my life has been accepting of my transition.

“My therapist suggested it was related to stress, of which I am under a lot with the end of the school year approaching and some melancholy anniversaries this month. She also suggested it’s the insecurity we (woman) feel around the question ‘Are we woman enough?’ I’m also wondering if its related to my progesterone intake (the ‘grumpy hormone’) and that it might be doing me more harm than good. Has anyone had this detransitioning hallucination?”

I have never had it myself, so I would be interested in seeing what readers have to say. However, for the first few years of my transition, I had dreams in which I looked in the mirror and saw that my hair was very long and styled like it used to be when I was living as a woman. In these dreams, I had forgotten to get a haircut.

It sounds silly, but these were pretty traumatic dreams, in that they woke me up immediately. I would wake up as if from a nightmare, and I would have to lie there and convince myself that it was just a dream and that my hair was really short.

I’m not a doctor, so I don’t know if these hallucinations are related to any hormones you might be taking, but I do know that the brain has multiple ways of tricking us. I also am aware that the brain will sometimes “see” what it thinks should be there. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I have questions, but have never had the strength or will to voice them and ask. I am, of course, a genetically born male, and most of the time I’m fine with that. But more often, in recent months, I’ve felt that it’s not right. I feel like there is a feminine side of me that is screaming to get out, like it’s trapped.

“But it’s not just a matter of acting more feminine. I don’t want to say it’s genetic, but that’s the best way to describe it. I used to chalk it up to just being a sensitive guy, because I am. I have more in common with more girls I know than I do with guys. But lately it feels like there is more to it than that.

“It’s an uncomfortableness with my own appearance as a man. But then that leaves me for a few days, then returns. It has gotten to the point where I’m confused about myself. Not sexually, though I know that has nothing to do with gender, but I am confused genderwise.

“But then at the same time, I’m scared. I don’t know if I’d be happy if I started to transition, but I do know I don’t feel right the way I am now, or I don’t think I do. I don’t know what the right choice is right now, and believe me I’m not asking you to tell me exactly what I should do, but I am asking for your guidance, and maybe asking someone who might have been in the same spot I am.

“I know that ultimately it is my decision and only me that knows what I should do. But I could use some help, even if it’s that I’m not looking at the right things or asking the right questions. If I’m not, the what are those things? Those questions?”

As you said, only you know what is right for you, and you might not know that right now. There is no hurry, so take a breath and realize that finding out what to do is a process.

You say that you want to hear from someone who might have been in the same spot that you are right now. I can honestly say that a great many trans people have been in the same spot that you are right now. So you’re not alone. (more…)

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