I’ve noticed that in the days leading up to (and during) shark week, I get overwhelmed by self-doubt and fear. And rather than find a way to combat these feelings, I wallow in them. I read negative articles about trans people, or transphobic blogs written by TERFs (you know the one). This month it was articles and blogs by other trans people about so-called “transtrenders”. I read enough to start to wonder, “Is that me?”
Even though I’ve struggled with vague, indescribable feelings of gender dysphoria for most of my life, I never seriously questioned my gender until this past year. I’m 36. I don’t ever recall saying I was a boy as a kid. I didn’t grow up feeling like I was trapped in the wrong body. I did always feel disconnected from my body, and didn’t like a single thing about having a female body or being a woman. Most straight cis women are like aliens to me, another species that speak a language I don’t understand.
I first encountered trans men in my early 20s in Vancouver. It seemed like all of a sudden tons of young people in the lesbian community decided to transition. At the time most of my friends were much older than me, and constantly lamented losing all the “beautiful butches”. They said it was a trend, that these people weren’t really trans, and why couldn’t they just be happy as masculine women? At the time I was young and naive and didn’t know any better, so I assumed they were right. And in so doing, I became transphobic. Or at least, I absorbed a lot of negative attitudes about trans people, especially trans men.
At some point around that time my roommate (let’s call her Sarah) started dating a trans guy (we’ll call him Daniel). Sarah really liked Daniel, and eventually he moved in with us. Sarah and I had a lot of the same friends, and most of them ostracized her for dating Daniel. He was early in his transition – he’d only been on T for awhile, and hadn’t yet had any surgeries. I remember thinking that he still looked like a woman, mostly, as did most of the trans guys in the community (probably because they were also early in their transitions). I also remember thinking that trans guys weren’t “real” men, whatever that means. I held on to those negative, transphobic beliefs for years. Now I’m ashamed I ever felt that way, but I think it’s important for me to admit it. I might have been protesting a little too much, if you know what I mean.
In any case, the lightbulb went on for me when I saw the viral posts about Aydian Dowling competing to be on the cover of Men’s Health. Here was a trans guy who looked like a “real” man. It forced me to think a lot about my misconceptions about trans people. And seeing images of him also conjured up some feelings I didn’t expect – namely, intense jealousy. I sat with those feelings for a while because they caused a lot of confusion. Then I started watching other transition videos, looking at pictures, reading articles about transgender people. And at some point, I googled the phrase “how do you know if you’re trans” and the first thing I read said something along the lines of, “if you’re asking yourself if you’re trans, you probably are.” Months later I finally admitted my feelings to my spouse. She was extremely supportive (and still is), even though she’s scared and sad and confused too.
That was a bit of a tangent, sorry. I guess my struggle right now is figuring out if I’m “really” trans, or am I, like those articles say, a “transtrender”? I have dysphoria, sure…but I never even thought I was a boy, or a man. Even now, I don’t think of myself as a man. I also don’t think of myself as a woman. The identity that probably fits me best right now is neutrois, but good luck coming out to people as neutrois. I can just imagine the blank stares. Do I only want to transition because I don’t like being female? Is that a sufficient reason? I’m so confused and I just feel like a fake, a phony, a fraud.
Sorry for the rant, guys…I’m just so anxious about my identity. All I can think about is what would happen if I transition. Would I be any happier? Or just more lost?