Am I in denial and too scared to come out to myself?
Q: Hi! Ever since I was little I’ve always been more drawn towards things that are considered “masculine”, including different names that were masculine too. Recently I started questioning whether I’m trans or not because I experience lots of dysphoria with my chest and hips and I even started binding (safely of course). However, whenever I think about using he/him or he/they pronouns I get uncomfortable/uneasy even though I couldn’t imagine living the rest of my life the way I do now as I often get upset when I’m referred to as a girl or anything more feminine. I’m not sure if I’m in denial and am stopping myself as a defence mechanism because I live in a very homophobic/transphobic country and I’d still get deadnamed/misgendered for a few more years while I live here. I’m also in a wonderful long-term relationship and even though my partner is extremely supportive and understanding, I’d feel guilty for “changing” my identity somehow. I’ve even got some name ideas, but I always tell myself that if I turn out to be trans, it would be better to stay in the closet and save myself the hassle. Even with all of this, I would love to be perceived as a guy and get top surgery and start T, but I know it wouldn’t be any time soon so I feel even more discouraged.
Sorry if this is all a bit of a ramble, but I’m really confused and am not sure if I just don’t like femininity or am trans and just really scared of coming out to myself and a few close people because of all these hurdles. I’d really appreciate some advice, thank you for this amazing blog!
K: I'm going to pass on something that helped me figure out I was trans, and it was that cis people don't tend to question or interrogate their gender this much. They don't agonize about it, they don't daydream about getting perceived as a different gender (or genderless), or getting surgery, or starting hormones, or if everyone could call them a different name or set of pronouns without any issues. For a long time, I knew I was trans, and what I thought was uncertainty was actually some sort of fear of taking up space, fear that I was faking it somehow (what if I realized I wasn't trans later and then would have to tell everyone "just kidding!"), and fear of having to deal with coming out and the possibility that people I loved would not support me. I also thought telling everyone to stop calling me my old name and to start using new pronouns and gender neutral language for me would be a hassle. And, I gotta say, overall that was less of a hassle than doing absolutely nothing about my dysphoria for years and spending hours a day obsessing over if I was really non-binary or not. I'm not going to lie, I still get misgendered by family and coworkers sometimes, I've lost friends, and I've had people say some pretty horrifically transphobic things to me. But, I do have plenty of people in my life who do see me as non-binary, and overall I'm a lot more comfortable and happy when I think about my gender now. As far as fear that I was faking it or mistaken somehow, I also got advice that it's okay to explore your gender. A lot of people change terminology or pronouns or names multiple times before figuring out what feels best. Other times, you do figure things out, but people change over time and our relationship(s) to our bodies and gender might change too. I also know some people who explored their gender or tried out new names or pronouns and later realized they're cis. That's fine too. Exploring your gender and trying out new things is an option available to everyone. I can't speak on what it would be like to come out where you live, and if it is better to wait or not, that's something for you to figure out. But I do want to touch on a few final things before I turn this over to S. You mentioned your partner being supportive and understanding, have you talked with them about the guilt you've mentioned over feeling like coming out means changing your identity? Are there things your partner can do to help reassure you? My last bit of advice is to do what is most comfortable for you. If you do come to the realization you're trans, this could mean coming out to everyone, coming out to only a few people or in certain contexts, or waiting until you're in a situation where things feel safer. I think we sometimes build coming out into a huge single event, when really it's a lot of tiny ones. The same with transitioning, there's lots of ways to transition. You can transition socially (names, pronouns, gendered language), and there is some variety even in medical transitioning (even with starting T, you could microdose, for example). So if you do decide to come out, or do decide to transition, there could be ways to pursue both in ways that feel safer. Overall, you're the person best positioned to know if you are trans, and the safest way to come out or transition.
S: So I'm very hesitant to tell anyone their gender or even that they are or are not trans or gender diverse, because all that is stuff you need to decide for yourself. That said, my immediate reaction to this question was "sure sounds trans to me!" I'm going to point out the specific reasons why. If you aren't actually trans, or if you experiment with one gender now and then shift back or to something else later, that's completely fine and normal! It just strikes me that you might be hoping to hear someone else's impression of your gender, which can really help if you're getting stuck in your own head about it, so I'm happy to provide mine.
"I experience lots of dysphoria with my chest and hips." Dysphoria just means a discomfort with some aspect of yourself, and gender dysphoria isn't the only type. Can you think about why you are uncomfortable and why the things that help do so? It may for reasons that aren't about gender, but if it is tied to your desire to look and feel more masculine, then it's a pretty strong indicator that you're not cis. Not all trans and gender diverse people experience gender-related dysphoria, but it by definition isn't really a thing that cis people get.
"I couldn’t imagine living the rest of my life the way I do now as I often get upset when I’m referred to as a girl or anything more feminine." This one seems pretty straightforward to me: if being described as these things bothers you, then you almost certainly aren't a girl.
"I would love to be perceived as a guy and get top surgery and start T." In addition to knowing what bothers you, you also know what would make you feel more comfortable. It all seems to revolve around feeling like and being treated as a different gender from the one you currently are being read as; that's a pretty clear indicator that you aren't that gender.
The reasons why you're hesitating also say a lot. None of them are reservations about how you feel or want to be perceived; they're primarily about what making the changes to live as your gender might do to your life. All of this is very reasonable! In reality, being trans can be really, really shitty. But that's because of an ignorant and transphobic society, not anything inherent to the nature of trans and gender diverse people. It makes sense to assess how different steps could impact your life, and to decide which ones to take based on the balance of comfort and safety that applies to your situation. Maybe you can't make a name or pronoun change at work without risking your job, or can't afford top surgery, or can't find a doctor to prescribe T, or whatever. But none of that makes you any less trans, even if it never changes. Your gender is who you are, and it sounds like you've got a decent handle on that (or will once you let yourself explore it a little).
Some of your concerns are very, very common among people who are questioning their gender, and I want to address them a little. If you're worried that you "don’t like femininity", take a look at how you feel about the things you don't like when other people do them. If the things that you associate with femininity bother you only when they're applied directly to you, then you're not against them or the people who do/are them, you just have a very reasonable dislike of being gendered incorrectly. You're not anti-women just because you may happen to be a man (or nonbinary or whatever) yourself!
Regarding your partner...well, I don't know anything about how they might react, but I suggest that you reframe your thought. You don't need to "feel guilty for “changing” my identity somehow" because that isn't what you'd be doing. Your identity is already part of you; you'd be expressing it, not changing it. A supportive partner would want you to do that, not deny a part of yourself that you need to explore. That isn't to say that they won't need information about gender and what you specifically want in order to support you properly, but you can work all that out by communicating with them. If you're not sure where they stand on trans and gender diverse people, we outlined some strategies for feeling that out in last week's post.
There's a lot more we could say here about what might come next for you, but much of it overlaps with some of what we've written about before; I'm going to link to those posts instead of repeating them:
So, to conclude: I can't for sure tell you your gender or whether or not you're trans, but I can tell you that the feelings you've described--what doesn't feel right, what does, and what you're concerned about--are pretty textbook Trans Thoughts. My advice to you is to let yourself explore them! You can do that without taking any external steps at all, or by asking your partner or trusted friends to try out different names and pronouns for you in safe spaces. Maybe you'll decide you're not trans (though I'd be a little surprised given how specifically gender-related your feelings are). Maybe you'll decide you know that you are trans and need to wait a while to act on that information (if you want to act at all, which not all trans and gender diverse people do). Maybe you'll make different life decisions based on what you conclude about yourself. That's all for Future You to work out, and you're welcome to write to us again if we can be helpful. For now, try to let go of the worries about what might happen and focus on who you are as a person.