Monday, November 21, 2016

Asking the Correct Question

Today's writing prompt was a post I found on an online forum, edited for clarity:

---

Seeing as I don't know how to start this, I'll just jump into my story. 

It all began about a year and a half ago, I had previously heard the term transgender and, being a naturally curious person, asked if perhaps the term applied to me. It was just a generic question until right around last Christmas, when the question returned and refused to go away until it was answered. 

Towards the end of winter break for my school, I was at my grandparent's house while my parents were on their anniversary trip. Because of the large amounts of time I could spend in private while there, I researched the whole topic of trans as best as I could. When I came to the conclusion that at the very least I was gender questioning, I couldn't bear keeping such a huge secret alone. After some consideration, I told a close friend. Thankfully, he was very supportive and is still helping me with finding the answers to my questions. 

Move onto spring of this year. I had already been debating about telling about my parents since I contacted my friend, and after a mental breakdown, brought about by a combination of bullying and the many questions of identity I had, I told my parents about my thoughts of possibly being trans. They took it very well, and decided to start scheduling me with a psychologist. 

After about six months of therapy and comments from my parents, I've realized that the question ("am I transgender?") had been assumed as being answered ("no"). While they haven't explicitly said it, I can tell that they don't want me to just claim a label and then confirm to it, in case the feelings were just a phase. 

After more research, I have come to the conclusion that I need to do something to at least get closer to determining who I am. The problem is that I know my parents won't help and will likely hinder any attempts I make of they find out. If anyone has advice as to how to move forward from here would be highly appreciated.

- Anonymous

---

First off - I wish you all the best of luck with everything!

I think I went through a similar experience to you when I first started pondering my own gender identity.  I had always dreamed about what it might be like to be female, but I knew from an early age that that wasn't the type of thing I could just talk about with others.  Picturing life as a woman was something that I thought about constantly growing up, but I did my best to bury it at the time because I wasn't sure how other people might react.

Age 21, back when the idea of anyone finding out I wanted to be a woman was my biggest fear.

Roughly fifteen years ago, when I was 21 years old and still living at home with my parents, a friend of mine mentioned to me that he was friends with someone who was transitioning from male to female.  My ears perked up - at that point in my life, I had never known that was an option or that there were other people like me.  I asked my friend to introduce the two of us with out specifically mentioning why I wanted to meet her.

I first met Zoe (not her real name) over lunch at a sushi restaurant.  I remember being awestruck at how she felt strongly enough about how she felt that she was able to own it.  At that point in time, the popular perception of transgender women was largely negative, and so she seemed really brave for being able to transition despite all of the social and financial hurdles that came along with it.  She didn't really seem to think of it as courageous, because in her eyes, there was no choice.  She was completely sure that there was no future for her trying to live out life as a male, so it was transition, or.. well, something worse.

On one hand, meeting and befriending another transwoman was a huge relief.  Zoe became my "big trans sister" and was an inspiration to me during a somewhat confusing time in my life.  But on the other, it only left me more confused, because while Zoe felt absolutely confident that she needed to live as a woman, I wasn't nearly as sure what I wanted.  I didn't feel gender dysphoria in the way that she described it - for me, it wasn't that I was necessarily unhappy as a male, it was more that I knew I'd be happier as a woman and spent a lot of time dreaming about if that were the case.

I didn't know if that qualified me as transgender or not.  Most of my daydreams involved stuff like being born female already, or having the superpower of being able to change shapes, or making a wish and waking up the next day in a woman's body.  That way, I wouldn't have to go through the terrifying process of admitting my deepest secret to everyone in my life - I'd be able to have what I wanted without any of the scary parts. Transitioning, at that point in my life, still felt completely out of the question to me.

One of my biggest challenges, in my eyes at the time, was how to approach coming out to my parents and brothers.  I grew up in a fairly devout Catholic family, and while it was a very loving and supportive environment, I wasn't at all confident that they would take it well.  They had taken me to a psychiatrist a few years prior after I flunked out of college - I tried to bring up my gender issues, but he was more interested in my schoolwork than my happiness.  He diagnosed me with Attention Deficit Disorder, wrote me a script for Ritalin, and sent me on my way.

Age 24, when I wasn't a giant fan of having my picture taken.

I didn't end up seeking therapy for my gender questions or coming out to my parents for another five years. In the grand scheme of things, waiting that long to do so is the only thing that I ended up regretting about my transition.  That thought is what's inspiring me to write all this out :)

So with all that said, here's some food for thought:
  • Should you choose to bring it up with your parents, don't think of it as "finding out my gender identity". That gives your parents wiggle room to argue that you might be going through a phase or that you're making it all up.  Instead, think of it as "trying to live my happiest life possible", because when you frame it like that, it makes it a lot more likely that you and your parents will approach the conversation from a mindset of listening to what you have to say, and a lot less likely that they'll try and hinder your progress.
  • While you obviously know your situation more than I do - can I ask how you're sure that your parents will try to hinder you?  In my case, I thought my parents' religious backgrounds would make them object to my transition on the grounds that it was a sin - as it turns out, my mom and dad regarded "love our children unconditionally" higher than "God hates queers and they're going to hell".  Hopefully your parents will too!
  • If your psychologist didn't help you, it's probably ok for you to tell your parents the truth, at least regarding therapy.  I think that having a safe, private space to talk with someone about this stuff is a really beneficial thing if you have access to it, and you won't always find the right therapist on the first try.  It might be worth it for you to research a specialist in your area with more of an expertise on gender-related issues, and to ask your parents how they'd feel about you seeing a new therapist of your choosing?
  • If your parents don't approve, then it's likely because they want you to be happy but think that transitioning will make you unhappy.  There are reasons to think that - transitioning is a very serious decision, and coming out transgender might expose you to discrimination that you otherwise wouldn't run into.  The answer to this is to make it clear that you don't plan to rush into anything, and that right now all you're looking for is help (from them and another therapist) so that you have confidence you're making all of the right decisions if/when you choose to make them.
  • It sounds to me like you have an awesome friend, so make sure you let him know you appreciate having someone you can be honest about some of this stuff with :)  I came out to my a few of my closest friends before I told my parents, and it helped me a lot - not only did I grow more confident with each person that I came out to that accepted me, but having a network of people that I knew had my back at least helped me feel like I wasn't all alone on this.  Do you have any other friends that you think you can trust with something like this?

29 years old, less than a year after going full-time as a female.

I hope this helps.  I'm assuming that you're still young, so the last piece of advice that I'd give to you is to remember that the goal is long-term happiness.  If it takes a long time and baby steps before you feel confident making any changes - no worries, all that means is that you're putting a lot of thought into things, and that's good!

Last but not least - I have a blog post here that I wrote back around the time I came out if you're into that sort of thing.  If your parents try and tell you that it's impossible to transition and be happy, feel free to point them to me as at least anecdotal proof that they're wrong :)

No comments:

Post a Comment