Am I rushing into being trans?
Updated: Mar 13
Q: Objectively the answer would be yes- I started coming out to people as early as two weeks after I realized that I (maybe?) had dysphoria. I believe I’m a trans guy. As a kid I liked a pretty even mix of masculine and feminine things. As I got older I always wore clothes that my mom picked out for me, and wore makeup because people complimented it. Femininity was kind of a mixture of a dress-up game and a security blanket to me, never anything super innate. Anyway. I got a haircut and recently started trying to dive into the deep end of living as a dude, but the pace I went at is really scary! I don’t like being she’d or ma’am’d, and I’m not a fan of they either, but when I hear someone refer to me as “he” in a conversation it’s really weird. It feels like they’re talking about some other guy, who’s probably a whole lot better at being a guy than I am. What’s even weirder is that I refer to MYSELF as a guy with no problem! The real question I guess is this: Should I have waited longer? Is the pronoun thing something that happens to everyone? It makes me feel fake for not thinking of it of “how it was supposed to be all along” from the get-go.
S: I disagree that the answer would objectively be yes, because there simply is no "objective" or single answer to this question. In fact, my immediate response to any variation of it is something like "no, as long as you're doing things because you want to and not because of external pressures, you're fine." Of course, that also means that neither I nor anybody who isn't you can decide any of this for you, but that's sort of the point.
I'm actually going to ignore all the parts of your letter where you talk about what you liked as a kid, how you felt about what you were told to wear, etc. That's for two reasons. First, it's super common for trans and gender diverse people to be unsure if we're "trans enough" or if our feelings about our own genders are valid because those feelings don't map to the media narrative of What A Trans Person Looks Like; to me, it sounds a bit like you're trying to fit yourself into that story, which you really don't need to force if it doesn't match you. The second reason is that it literally doesn't change the answer to your question. You could have fully identified as a girl up until yesterday and I'd still tell you that the only thing that matters is what feels right to you now. There are so, so many different ways in which trans and gender diverse people experience gender throughout our lives, and none is any more or less valid than another.
So what actually is relevant is how you feel now. I encourage you to forget about the pace of the changes you're making; that's not really the point here. (One could point out that for many trans and gender diverse people, something that seems very quick from the outside or even to ourselves may actually have been a long time coming. When I realized I was trans, I went quite quickly through steps like pronouns and name change and hormones; a lot of that was because so much what I was already feeling, and had been for years, suddenly clicked into place. The only new thing was connecting all the pieces with the realization that I wasn't a woman, and acting on that realization made sense to do immediately because that fact made sense of a lot of things that weren't at all new.) So the first bit of practical advice I have is to stop worrying about what pace you "should" be going at, since that simply isn't a thing (we wrote about this in more depth when answering a similar question a while ago).
What is very much a thing is that adopting new language for yourself can absolutely feel weird, even if it's what you do want to go by. (It took me a long time to stop mispronouning and misnaming myself in my head, and it still happens occasionally--over a quarter century of habit is difficult to break.) The question for you is whether it feels weird because it's new and you're not used to hearing it, or whether the words themselves aren't right for you. Disentangling that may just take some time, so you can get used to things and figure out how you feel when they're not so new. (That's about where I am with ey/em pronouns--they really clicked when I first learned about them, but hearing them applied to me is new enough that it feels odd. But it's a different and better sort of odd than the vague discomfort that I feel when called they/them. Gender is a magical journey.) The same idea goes for "being a guy." It's new, and new things feel weird! And that's apart from whether the whole concept even makes sense. Does thinking of yourself as a guy feel good? Congratulations! You are one, at least sometimes, and whatever you're doing counts as being one whether or not it matches anybody else's version.
My final bit of advice is that it's completely okay, and not at all unusual, to experiment. If you want to try something like pronouns or a haircut or anything else, go for it! If it feels bad or not quite right, try something different. If something feels good now but less good later, then you are under no obligation to stick with it. I obviously don't know your situation enough to say this is what's happening to you, but I can tell you that a lot of trans and gender diverse people go hard into being the "opposite sex" (which isn't a thing) when we first realize we're allowed to be something apart from the one assigned to us. For me, finding out that I could be not-a-woman was such a relief that I fully identified as a man, and also presented as a pretty stereotypical version of one, for a while. It took time to understand that I could basically do whatever--be a man and wear eyeliner and nailpolish, be not-exactly-a-man without going back to being a woman, etc. So honestly, everything in your letter sounds perfectly normal and familiar to me, from the seemingly-quick changes to the strangeness of new language to feeling uncertain about whether any of this is okay. It's all okay!
K: Seconding literally everything said above. There is no right pace to go about things. I spent a couple years obsessing about my gender and whether or not I was cis or trans and what kind of trans person I was before even discussing it with anyone besides the person I was dating at the time, and then maybe 6 months or longer before I came out to anyone else. Most of that time was spent wanting to make sure I was 100% positive I was trans before telling anyone, because I wasn't sure I was "trans enough." Whatever I figured out from a couple years of obsessive introspection, I could have figured out in about a month of asking my friends to use a different name, set of pronouns, and other language to refer to me. In hindsight, I feel like I wasted a lot of time, because I was a lot happier after I came out. But, who knows, maybe the way I handled it was the best way for me. I am an extremely cautious and overthinking type of person, so I get why I did what I did.
I think a lot of us think we have to wait until we have it all figured out before telling other people, and for a lot of us, that's not realistic. If I would have had to wait until I pinned down what my precise gender was, I still don't know if I'd be out. These days, the most specific way I can describe my gender is that if trans masculinity was a house and my gender was a feral cat, that cat would like to occasionally come into the house and eat food and get cuddles, but would knock over the garbage can and destroy all the furniture and bite people if you closed the front door with them inside. Basically, we don't need to have it all figured out. It's okay to experiment. It's okay if our feelings change over time. Gender is a relationship we have with ourselves, with others, with society, etc., and relationships change over time. We all go at different paces and we shouldn't compare our timelines. As long as we're making changes we want to make (and not due to external pressure or societal expectations, as S said), I think it's fine.
I know I already said I agree with everything S said, but I do think it is worth repeating what ey said about The Trans Narrative. Trans and gender diverse people don't need to pick apart their childhoods to justify their transness or gender diversity. If looking back on that helps you make sense of your gender journey, then that's fine, but you don't need to prove you were always trans or gender diverse and that it manifested in ways other people would expect to see.
To answer your last question, it does feel a bit weird to suddenly be referred to in different ways. Even if it feels good, it can also feel jarring and it can poke at imposter syndrome-y feelings. I've used they/them pronouns for like 7 or 8 years, and recently added he/him into the mix. Only a couple people in my life actively use that set of pronouns for me, so it's taking time to get used to hearing, even though I do think I like it. I'm not sure if the pronoun thing happens to everyone, but it definitely happens to some of us, and it doesn't mean you moved too quickly or are wrong about yourself. From the way you described your feelings in your question, it sounds more like you've got imposter syndrome ("It feels like they’re talking about some other guy, who’s probably a whole lot better at being a guy than I am") more than the identity being wrong for you, but I do encourage you to explore those feelings to see if you can pinpoint the source of the discomfort.
To summarize, there is no right pace to go at and trans and gender diverse people have to adjust to hearing and using our own new names and pronouns the same way other people have to. A lot of it is about breaking habits and building new patterns, and about letting go of the "what if I'm wrong" fear. What happens if you're "wrong" is you realize you learned something valuable about yourself and then you try something else. It's nothing to fear. Gender is a lil journey and we make a lot of discoveries about ourselves along the way.