Posts Tagged ‘trans women’

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 MarkHere are some short questions and short answers. I (and I’m sure the writers) would love to get reader input on any or all:

A reader writes: “When someone says they are a transsexual man, does that mean that they are a woman contemplating their sex identity or a man contemplating their sex identity? Pardon me if this was offensive, it was purely out of curiosity so I don’t mess up in the future.”

No offense taken. It’s a legitimate question. (Here’s a link to some vocabulary terms that might also help: Trans-lations.)

In most cases, when a person says that he is a transsexual man, what he means is that he has transitioned in some way from female to male. In other words, he was assigned female at birth, and now lives as a man. When someone says that she is a transsexual woman, she means that she was assigned male at birth and has transitioned in some way to female.

This is particularly confusing when the press refers to a “transgender man” when they actually mean a “trans woman,” and vice versa. I could go into a long diatribe about the whole “transgender” and language thing, but I won’t (because nobody wants to hear it again).

Suffice it to say that when people refer to themselves as a man or a woman and any form of “trans” is in front of that, they will generally mean that they are living in a sex and gender that were not assigned to them by the outside world at birth.

A reader writes: “I’ve always felt like I was male from being a young child, and now I feel ready to begin my journey. My question is: I understand there is no guarantee with hormones, but do people who are younger when they begin hormones see results sooner?”

Hmm. That depends on the person. I don’t think there is any research behind this. In my experience, it seems to me that people who are younger when they begin often have “better” results. By that, I mean that I have seen young people masculinize relatively quickly when compared to older people (but “quickly” is just a matter of a few months), and it seems to me that they generally get better facial hair and muscle tone. (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: “I am a gay man and have no doubts really about that. I was late in coming out after being married and having children. However, 15 months ago I started a relationship with a guy who I had met several years earlier and who also was previously married with children.

“After we had been dating for six or seven months, he started to talk about how he really liked dressing as a girl and felt he should have been born a girl. I did know he was always quite fem and liked fem things and that was part of my attraction to him.

“Well, now he is well into transition to her, including name change and hormone treatments, and is fully out to family and work. I have supported this transition because I loved/love him/her and know that it was making her happy and it was what she wanted.

“Now, though, I am having a real problem in my head as to how can it be that a gay guy is still fancying a girl. Is it an identity issue? What is going on in my mind? Can this relationship continue?

“We have talked about surgery and I have said I would not like her to have reassignment and she says that she doesn’t want it anyway. However, will that change in a year or two? Just struggling with where I am in this relationship.”

Once again, labels are hanging us up. Remember that “gay” is just a label for your sexual orientation – it is not your sexual orientation. You have the label “gay” because you have a particular type of body and gender identity and you are attracted to people with the same type of body and gender identity.

Your attraction to this person started out in this way. It’s possible that if you had met this person after she had already transitioned, you would not have been attracted to her. But that’s not the case. So you fell in love with a person who a gay man (you) might have fallen in love with, and now she has changed, but you are still in love with her.

In my opinion, that does not mean that you are no longer gay. It just means you are in love with a particular person, and this person no longer meets a specific set of criteria that a gay man might look for when choosing a partner. But you’ve already chosen a partner – this person – and you are in love with her, so those criteria no longer matter. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I am a mother of a son (daughter) who has decided to transition from male to female. He is two months on hormones and tells me he is doing it slowly with a doctor (sexual health specialist).

“I am accepting of his (her) decision, but find it very difficult since he/she is very moody and seems to not be sleeping and is very emotional. I am just worried health-wise about my adult child – how I can help and what to be concerned about. I will love my child forever. I just want to be a support, but I’m not sure if I know how to do that.

“I am just very worried about my child, who seems depressed more than usual. My family does not know because he has asked me not to say anything yet. I respect the decision. It makes it complicated for me because I have to use different pronouns and all at different times. So, as you may guess, I forget and use the wrong ones when talking to my adult child.

“Hormones, I am sure, are changing and moods will be affected, I guess. please pass along any assistance you may have for me.”

I would like to turn to my women readers for this one, because they may be able to explain much better than I can about the possible effects of estrogen with regard to mood and depression, as well as with regard to sleep (you say your daughter is not sleeping well, which could be the hormone, depression, or both). Certainly, this hormone can have a huge impact on mood, as can transition itself.

I appreciate you being so concerned and accepting. I also appreciate the work that goes into having to juggle pronouns depending on who you are with, so I hope that your daughter is forgiving of your slip-ups around her. But I recommend that you do your absolute best to get her pronouns right when you are with her (and when it is appropriate), as well as when you are referring to her (such as in the letter that you wrote to me).

I’m going to put forth some slightly educated thoughts here, and again, I hope my women readers will chime in, because I simply don’t have the personal experience to fully respond to your concerns. My thoughts are these:

> Estrogen can cause mood swings and depression, and the depression might lift as your daughter’s body becomes more familiar with the hormone. She should be encouraged to consult her doctor about the depression and sleeplessness, because her doctor can monitor the hormone to make sure that her levels are correct for her. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I am a 39-year-old gay male. Ever since high school, I have geared being more like a female. It was tough when I came out as being gay. I got teased and made fun of in school. My mother accepted me being gay.

“I have tried to be a full-time male, but just was not happy with it. I drank a lot as well. A year ago I decided to start the process of transitioning. I have already decided that I am not going to have the surgery to be a full female. In other words, I’m going to leave the below parts alone, although I want to grow breasts and desire to take some hormones to obtain more fem features.

“My problem is my mother. She accepts me being gay. Today we went shopping and some people referred to me as a female, which did not bother me at all. In the car while she was driving me home, she stated I make an ugly girl. I understand that given she is my birth mother this is hard for her. She knows I want to be more like a girl but does not realize what I am doing. I am totally happy with who I am and who I will become. Just not so sure of my mother?”

One thing that can be difficult for some trans people is having to come out twice – first as a gay man or lesbian, and later as transgender. The way some people see it is similar to the boy who cried, “Wolf!” – so you said you were gay, now you say you’re trans. What are you going to say next week?

What those people don’t realize is that it is not uncommon for trans people to come out as gay or lesbian before coming out as trans. Here are some reasons that could happen:

1. In some cases, trans people don’t have the information they need to determine what it is that they are feeling. The closest thing they can come up with is that maybe they are gay or lesbian. So they come out as gay or lesbian, thinking, “This must be how all gay men and lesbians feel. What else could it be?”

When they realize that this is not how gay men and lesbians feel, and that there is a word for what they are feeling and whole communities of people with similar experiences, things finally start to make sense, and they come out as trans. Once they have a name for what they are feeling, things come together relatively rapidly, and they are finally able to understand who they are. This might be the most common scenario for trans people who have come out of gay or lesbian communities. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “The child of a friend of ours is a 22-year-old trans girl who does not seem to fit the usual ‘trapped in the wrong body’ gender dysphoria profile. X suffered from extensive depression and anxiety through her teenage years, especially.

“In 2012, X came out as a trans girl, to the great surprise of the family and friends. She went to a psychiatrist and has been prescribed testosterone blockers and estrogen, which she has now been on for about 7 months. X has since become a very confident, outgoing and, we think, brave trans person. She loves being trans and I can easily see her becoming a powerful and even charismatic spokesperson for transgender people.

“Her mother, who is also a practicing psychologist and would accept X as trans if she thought that X was a girl trapped in a boy’s body since childhood, doesn’t accept the idea that X is genuine. Nor does X’s sister. X’s father split with X’s mum about four years ago but would not be hostile to X’s transition, either, but nobody can really believe it, as X was never a ‘girlie doll playing’ boy.

“X has also said she doesn’t want to have gender reassignment surgery, but she does want breasts. In fact, she has a pretty big thing about boobs generally, which I can’t help seeing as something of a male fantasy thing. She was also not gay, but as a trans girl says she is lesbian.

“I guess what I’d like your help on is whether you know of others like X with this particular profile? That is, where a genuinely trans person has no apparent history of gender dysphoria, but finds a positive solution as a trans individual?

“I’m concerned that she may well be expressing a type of mental illness that will eventually be damaging. The problem with this argument is her far brighter personal outcome. She may well be dead now from depression and anxiety about her identity in general but for the role and focus her new trans life has given her.”

It surprises me that her mother, a psychologist, is buying into the whole “woman trapped in a man’s body” scenario, which I believe was originally a media-created concept. There are definitely trans people who describe themselves in this way, but the majority do not, in my experience. I would say that this description is not typical, and that some people have used it as a description of themselves because they simply had no other language that made sense or that other people would understand.

So as far as your concern that she does not fit this “trapped” profile, I would say that most trans people don’t. You, her mother, and her other relatives should not worry about this or look to this as a reason why she might not be trans.

Here are some other myths that we can bust: (more…)

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