• transadvicecolumn

I've started questioning my gender. What should I do now?

Q: I started questioning my gender. I don't know which pronouns to use or even if I want to change my pronouns. I have no idea what I want to do or what I should do.

S: First, congratulations! Questioning and reflecting on your own gender is a really important part of life that I think everyone (even people who ultimately decide that they're cis) should do at least a little bit, and yet a lot of people never seem to.

The thing to make sure you remember is that there is no one way to be trans or gender diverse, or to be cis, or to be a particular gender. If you end up settling on a term that feels right, that can be it! Nothing else is necessary to make you that thing, and if it stops matching at some point you can figure out what else fits how you feel. You could decide right now that you're agender or a trans man or genderfluid or whatever, change literally nothing else about your life, and go on as your newly realized gender, and that would be perfectly valid. You could also not pick a term at all if you don't feel like it--there's nothing wrong with being a person who happens to be questioning their gender and that's it. The "should do" bit of this question just doesn't apply, because the only thing you should do is to not do something just because you're being pressured (by media, other people regardless of their gender, etc.) to do it.

There are, of course, any number of things you could do, and so I'm going to offer an incomplete list of things that a lot of trans and gender diverse people find useful or important. Just remember that you don't have to do any of these things, and that not doing them or doing only some of them doesn't invalidate your identity in any way.

  • Experiment with pronouns. I'm starting with this one because you mentioned it in your message. To be very clear, pronouns don't equal gender; for example, I use he/him pronouns even though I don't identify as a man. This is about which ones feel right for you. And you don't have to change these at all--if the ones you've been using feel good to you, then it's perfectly fine to stick with them. You can always try other ones later if you that changes. Regarding how to experiment, is there anyone in your life you can ask to call you a specific set of pronouns to see how you like them? If not, try doing it yourself. (If you're not sure which ones to try, look at the list on Pronoun Island and start with whatever catches your interest.) So for me, I might think or write down "S likes to knit. They go to yarn stores more than is financially responsible." They/them pronouns don't really click for me, so I'd then move on and try different ones. Heads up that even if certain pronouns feel right, learning to use them for yourself will probably feel awkward at first--you're accustomed to thinking of yourself using certain language, and breaking that habit takes time. A lot of people use a mix, like "she or they", while they're trying out a new pronoun set. If you write stories or play roleplaying or video games, assigning pronouns and a name to a character can be a great way to explore how it feels to inhabit those for a bit.

  • Experiment with language. This is sort of the same thing as the first point, in that it's a matter of trying out which terms suit you, but there's also the added element that these are words that do describe your gender. For example, I might think "I'm a man" and that feels weird and incorrect (though it worked okay for a while when I first realized I wasn't a woman), so that's not a term I use for myself now. "I'm nonbinary" is not wrong but doesn't quite get to it. "I'm agender"...well, maybe. I'll have to think on that one more. (I don't actually know my gender right now, apart from "trans," and I'm perfectly fine with that.)

  • Experiment with names. Same process again with what you want to be called. Like the others, this is entirely optional--you don't need to change your name if it feels good to you, and you don't need to rush to find something else if you think you might want to change it eventually but aren't sure right now.

  • Experiment with presentation. As with language, how you look does not equal how you identify; men (trans or cis) can wear skirts, trans women can wear pants and cut their hair short, nonbinary people don't need to have a plaid button-down and and undercut, everyone can do whatever they want forever. If you like how you look and don't want to change anything, that's totally fine. However, playing with your presentation is a really big part of gender exploration for a lot of people, so it's definitely something to try if you feel so inclined. Maybe this means clothing or makeup; maybe it means wearing a binder or getting a new haircut. Try whatever seems interesting and see how it feels! One way to ease into this is to pay attention to what looks appeal to you in a way that seems like something you'd like to try for yourself. If you see someone in a style that you like, try something similar.

  • Absorb trans and gender diverse content. If you're struggling because you aren't sure what the options even are, I suggest doing some self-education. Skim through the Trans Language Primer to learn some of the vast quantity of terms out there. Listen to Gender Reveal for the experiences and opinions of real live trans and gender diverse people living in all sorts of different ways. Read books and watch videos and listen to music by trans and gender diverse people.

You've probably noticed that most of these suggestions revolve around experimentation, and that's because it's what I recommend you do now that you've started reflecting on your gender. Don't obsess over resolving your gender identity instantly; give yourself permission to take your time and try out different things. That's generally the best way to determine what feels right for you at this point in your life, and whatever feels right is what makes up your identity. If anything stops feeling good, you can reassess and try something else then!

K: I agree with everything S said, and it's really hard to think of anything to add. I'm mostly just going to reiterate some things. There is no "should" around how to explore your gender or act once you've figured it out. It's all very individual; there's no checklist or prescribed path. Exploring your gender is an open world game, not a linear game. It can be overwhelming when you're not sure what options (quests?) exist for gender exploration, but I think starting with taking a look at the list S provided and seeing if any of that sounds appealing makes sense. I also want to reiterate that gender is fluid and our feelings in relation to specific pronouns, terminology, names, our bodies, and gender expression may change even after we feel like we've figured it out. It might also never be a solid thing, and something that depends more on circumstances or varies daily/weekly/whatever. Lastly, I wanna reiterate a point S made about kind of more micro-identities or labels. Some people get as far as umbrella terms like trans or nonbinary and don't land on anything more solid than that. Others are like, "I'm trans, non-binary, and specifically neutrois." And some people are like, "Am I actually agender or do I just love the idea of adding yet another identity label to my life that starts with an A?" (okay, maybe that one is just me). You can get as specific as you feel good about, but don't be worried if you don't keep narrowing it down. Try not to worry so much about "should," or about arriving at your destination. Gender is really complicated, and it's even more complicated when we try to negotiate and communicate it through language, clothing, etc.

44 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Q: Every time I allow myself to identify as a trans man I get so scared and anxious of the change I so desperately want that I end up running back to full girl mode. It usually takes less than 2 month

It's very common to refer to using the wrong pronouns as misgendering, but this term isn't quite accurate. Misgendering refers to applying gender incorrectly to someone: for example, describing a pers